Turilli/Lione Rhapsody – Stepping ForwardThursday, 18th July 2019
Luca Turilli and Fabio Lione are well-known names for fans of symphonic/cinematic power metal. During the 1990’s and 2000’s, their work in Rhapsody set the metal scene by storm – incorporating orchestration and choirs to the hilt, setting the stage for a dramatic saga of albums that still stand the test of time today. Seeking to establish a new vision through Turilli, Lione Rhapsody and their debut album Zero Gravity (Rebirth and Evolution), they managed to successfully use a crowdfunding venture to deliver the record they know their fans deserve and want. It’s obvious as the record unfolds though, this is a bold new venture – intertwining progressive, symphonic metal with modern guitar tones, larger than life choirs, and ethnic/electronic elements to usher a fresh forward-thinking outcome that is still expansive and far reaching, but could be surprising to followers of these gentlemen from their previous output.
We spoke with main composer/guitarist Luca Turilli via Skype, and he was very enthusiastic to let us in to the reunion of Fabio, the thought process behind the album, the crowdfunding success, and a little insight into the relationship he’s reestablished plus what the fans can expect when they tour behind the record.
Dead Rhetoric: The album Zero Gravity (Rebirth and Evolution) represents a fresh outlook considering your time writing and recording in the metal scene. Can you discuss the ambition and goals you wanted to achieve regarding this effort?
Luca Turilli: What originally started as a six or seven festival reunion run to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Rhapsody turned into over two years of shows in many parts of the world. When it came to Fabio and I starting things again, we decided that if this was the only chance to get together, we decided that this would be something fresh and new together. We started modifying the logo into a much more modern version, then we talked about the name Rebirth and Evolution, which was clearly our intention. We were going to use the title Zero Gravity, which was supposed to be the band name instead of the album title. In the end, we talked about the new elements before the first crowdfunding campaign – we played all the old hits of Rhapsody for two years around the world. We felt the need to express our heart and soul in a different way, keeping some of the symphonic/cinematic impact that is typical of a trademark for Rhapsody – but combining many new elements. We want to have progressive elements a la Dream Theater, vocal arrangements in the style of Queen, we want ethnic and ambient music, a lot of electronic sounds combined with the symphonic elements of the past. A hybrid style of music that is typical of the movies in the cinema.
It was important to put in also some low-tuned heavy guitars. This is the music we like to listen to nowadays, Fabio and I. The modern production and modern sounding guitars. We wanted to put this in our new incarnation of Rhapsody.
Dead Rhetoric: You mention in one of the video trailers the diversity within the music of this album – incorporating modern elements into your known symphonic/cinematic metal framework as well as low-tuned heavy guitars, complex vocal arrangements, progressive elements, and ethnic/ambient passages plus jazz/romantic piano parts and electronic/dance tones as well. How difficult is it to balance out these various influences to make a cohesive final product?
Turilli: In the end it was easy. We wanted to make something similar to what it was like when you heard A Night at the Opera from Queen. It’s an incredible album, a historic album for many reasons. The variety is the main element for that album. This is what we wanted to do. So the idea was not to make something sound so difficult but something in our opinion that was enriching our album. The variety became the key word for us, after evolution the second word was variety. It was possible because of the special guests, a few songs more progressive, more symphonic, and more operatic. In the end we are very proud of this album, you have to put yourself at the place of Fabio and myself. When looking back at our discography, I have over twenty albums released and something like ten albums with Rhapsody, and Rhapsody (Of Fire), that were focused on the same identical style, heroic/fantasy saga. It was something not many other bands made before. It was also fifteen years of my career, so I was obliged to compose in a unique direction.
For me, the possibility to write a different style of lyrics and different subjects, it is pure oxygen. As an artist, I’m a composer – for me this is the ideal situation where I can express my heart and soul in unlimited ways.
Dead Rhetoric: What did you want to get across lyrically with this album, as you said you broke free from the previous fantasy saga with your older discography?
Turilli: I like to write about positivity, love, life, all these things for us. It’s not cheesy – it’s in the life of every human being. I want to write meaningful lyrics. Now speaking of the different subjects, they relate to the mysteries of life, I practice yoga and meditation for years and years. I have access to the multi-directional aspects of life. It’s natural to speak about all of these things, and we are just doing it in a more direct way. “D.N.A. (Demon and Angel)” – where we speak about the Projection Theory, Carl Jung is a maestro of psychology. We speak about the way we tend to project onto other people the dark side or aspect of the personality. We refuse to accept that as being a part of ourselves. I like to speak about different things – we have a song on here “Arcanum (Da Vinci’s Enigma)” which is based on the secret codes – which is partially inspired by the movie The DaVinci Code. We speak of the mystical aspects of his art. Of course the main subjects of the album with “Phoenix Rising” and “Zero Gravity”, I speak in those songs of the necessity of the human being to ascend to a higher self to reach a higher level of consciousness in the end. This is represented in a metaphoric way – if you look at our artwork, you will see the phoenix rising and ascending to a new level against the dark, futuristic aspect. The material aspect of life in some way.
Dead Rhetoric: Were you surprised by how well the crowdfunding campaign went for this effort, with over 1,100 backers contributing close to $70,000? Do you believe this is a medium you will continue to explore for future recordings?
Turilli: At first, it was a big surprise for us because it was our first try. We didn’t know what to expect, but we were kind of obligated to do this because the budget of Nuclear Blast was not enough to offer to go into the studio and be in there for the same amount of months we were used to in the past with Rhapsody and their most well known albums. We wanted to guarantee the same level of quality, so we tried this road. To be able to spend three-four months in the studio like we always did before, we needed something more on top. We collected some extra money, we wanted $45,000 and in the end we reached $70,000. We can invest more money into videos, special guests because we wanted the variety. We are happy about this, we don’t know if it’s something we will do again, if you want to guarantee a minimum level of quality especially in the case of a band like Rhapsody – we were used to spending in the studio no less than 100,000 Euros, something like $115,000 US dollars.
This is because Rhapsody was one of the most difficult bands to be mixed in the studio. The producers get crazy, it would take us three-four months in the studio. We have so many tracks, so many symphonic elements on top of the regular band instruments. That takes forever, I bring 200 tracks of choirs, so you can imagine that as well as recording the real choirs on top of this all. It takes two-three weeks for the choir recordings, and then more time with the samples of my choir recordings, you can imagine how tough it is. We want to highlight the voice of Fabio as the main element of this new Rhapsody incarnation, so we spent just one month on the vocal recordings. We wanted to spend all this time for the interpretation of the vocal lines.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe your friendship and relationship with Fabio Lione is stronger now than it has ever been? What do you think has changed the most in his range and versatility?
Turilli: We have both changed dramatically. In the past, the relationship was good and not so good- we had some fights from time to time. Why? I was living in my hometown and Fabio was living in the middle of Italy in Pisa, the (only) chance to meet when we had to tour and do recordings with the band. So I’ve seen Fabio more in the last two years than in the previous fifteen years. Now there is more interaction and we’ve changed as people, different experiences, different ages. At the same time, our music tastes are connecting us. I’d never imagine that Fabio would love this modern touch. It was amazing and very relaxing for us. We don’t consider what we are doing now as just a project, we consider it a new band.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of your most important moments in your music career – be it specific albums, tours, festival appearances, or otherwise, that will stay in your memory banks forever?
Turilli: For sure, the first moment when we sent our first demo tape in 1994-5 something like that. We received a fax, because there was no internet, I remember it coming from Limb Schnoor of the LMP label. At the time he was the manager of Angra, and they sold 100,000 copies of their debut album in Japan alone, and previously he was the manager of Helloween. Imagine (having) this guy in the scene answering us, I remember that moment. The second moment was meeting the incredible Christopher Lee. It was a magic moment, to be face to face with one of your idols, related to cinema, for me Lord of the Rings was incredible. He is one of the most filmed actors in history, wow. Also to find out that he is a great guy that we can respect, because you can sometimes have a bad surprise when you meet your idol face to face. He became our grandfather, he was a gentleman.
Dead Rhetoric: Considering you are one of the main innovators of the symphonic metal scene back in the late 1990’s, where do you see the state of the movement on a global scale?
Turilli: If you refer to the old Rhapsody style, there was a certain level of success that spawned a lot of new bands for that movement. I do think there is a bit of difference though between symphonic and power metal. If you are referring to bands like Nightwish, Within Temptation, they are selling hundreds of thousands of albums – Epica, as our manager is the same as theirs. This kind of symphonic metal is conservative.
When we stopped in 2010 with Rhapsody, compared to the decades before, we were the only ones doing that kind of style. There was an overwhelming effect – symphonic metal is very healthy, whereas power metal right now is kind of underground.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you want to accomplish in this next segment of your musical career? Are there more bucket list goals left to accomplish either personally or professionally?
Turilli: I would like to establish a modern image with this band. When we were younger we lacked experience and we made some silly mistakes. Most of the times, the image took the priority over the substance. As an artist, I have to bring back the substance. Back then we would have an image that made for ridiculous videos, ridiculous photos, some things that Fabio and I are ashamed of us. The second half of our career, the people understood what we were trying to go for. We are making music based on our hearts and soul. Our English lyrics in the beginning are really cheesy, but now with this new band, I love the lyrics and the new image.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve already got plans in the works to tour this release next year. What can the fans expect in terms of a performance from a visual as well as a musical perspective?
Turilli: We are starting immediately playing festivals in Europe. We have an Asia and Australian tour – and in January 2020 we will start touring Europe, South America, and North America. We will bring many new songs and all of the hits of Rhapsody I would say – that fit in a good way with the new material. There are some songs in our catalog that are a little modern, and can fit well in the set lists. There will be songs we won’t play so that the fans can enjoy what Rhapsody (Of Fire) still do, and not invade so the two bands can fit in some way. When it comes to special effects, it’s different because when we come to North America or South America it’s difficult to bring all of that – in Europe we can use and abuse them, but when you travel by plane it’s a little more difficult.