Interview Serenity: Fabio D'Amore

Artiest: Serenity

Geïnterviewde: Fabio D'Amore (gitarist)

Interview afgenomen in: Metalzone Vosselaar

Label: Napalm Records

De Metalzone in Vosselaar, een fantastische locatie om een gesprek aan te gaan met een muzikant. We spraken met Fabio D'Amore, gitarist en bijkomende zanger van de symfonische metalband Serenity. Ze traden later op de avond op in de Biebob als headliner, nadat Xandria door ziekte van frontvrouw Dianne van Giersbergen verstek moest geven.

Xandria unfortunately can’t perform, which makes you the headliner. How does that feel?

Actually there isn’t much difference than before because this has been a co-headliner tour. I also must admit that for me it feels great in any case, because I’ve been playing 4 shows with Xandria on this tour as a replacement. So I’ve had to do 2 shows in 1 night for 4 times.

Isn’t that quite intense?

It is, especially because I’m sick. It was quite difficult but I’m feeling proud and the feedback that I get is giving me all the power needed to go on.

So are you going to play longer this evening?

Yes, a little bit. We usually play 70 minutes each, but if one band is missing, we have to play more. At some other shows we also had a headliner position, but even in Vienna I had to play 2 shows, so for me it didn’t change anything.

Let’s talk about the new album ‘Codex Atlanticus’. How did you come up with the concept of Leonardo Da Vinci?

It is something special because we’ve always talked about historical characters in our previous records. This time we wanted to focus on just one character, a special one. I really don’t remember how this came out, we were in a backstage at Masters of Rock in Czech Republic in 2014, we were just discussing, you know, it’s an open air festival in the summer, relaxed after the show. We were just discussing with everyone and Leonardo’s name was already on the table. So I cannot really tell, nobody can really tell why him but he was there already, since that very moment.

Does he hold a special meaning to you or the band?

To me as an Italian, yes. For sure. Many sides of Leonardo have been hidden behind the shadows, he wasn’t a normal man under the spotlights. He had trouble because of his studies, we don’t exactly know a lot about his personal life, you can go on Wikipedia and see a lot of stupid things that are not real… He also spent a lot of time in Paris and he died in Paris. This is even deeper than the country itself because there was no country at that time, no Italy as we know it. So for sure it makes me proud of our culture let’s say. Most of its stuff represent me as well.

How did the recording process go? Do you all write together?

It’s a kind of joint venture, yes. We work like a team, we have our producer Jan Vacik, based in Munich from Dreamsound Studios. He collected ideas and files from everyone, from me in Italy he got vocals and bass, from Chris he got all the guitars, Georg recorded from Austria, … Then we had our orchestral arranger, Lucas Koebl who is in another part of Austria… Basically from 4 places, 3 cultures, we had to work like a team.

And it worked out.

I think so, it sounds good.

You guys don’t have a problem with one person being there and another one over there etc.?

As much as I can say, no.

How would you compare this new album to the previous ones?

As always we are trying to improve our sound and this time we did it in all terms, which means I always think of our sound what are our skills… And I think our skills are vocals, guitar riffs, structured layers of orchestra. We wanted to give each of these sectors even a better step and I think we improved each of these sectors. It’s the perfect thing that we can offer at the moment. Because maybe next record we get even better, but it represents a picture of the moment you concepted the album. You can talk about it but even now already it’s old, the picture of that time is what we want to bring along on tour. So yes, I think we have improved in all our specialties, it’s working better than in the past.

And you’re very happy with the result?

Yes I am very happy with the result, and I think all the guys are. We entered charts in 3 countries so I think this is also the first time in the history of the band. Also the people received it well.

Clémentine no longer is part of the band. Can you explain this choice?

Actually, she just presented her will to leave the band exactly that day that we picked out the Da Vince theme. So it was the backstage of that gig and that was her last gig with us, at Masters of Rock. It was the biggest festival that we’ve ever played, I got to play with my favorite band Dream Theater at the same day so it’s kind of a point in our career, with many things around it apparently. But anyway, she probably expected something different from the band and we also had another way of thinking of her. She definitely needed her spotlight in the band and we didn’t want to change our roots and we actually wanted to go back to our roots, the previous albums being male fronted with some sporadic, occasional guest vocals. And I guess it’s better for everyone, for her and for us. She was the first one actually mentioning this, please do it because it’s better this way. Everything went fair and friendly, no hard feelings. Both sides agreed and it was all fine.

No more guest vocals for her in the future?

Who knows. On the new album we have Amanda Somerville and Tasha. Tasha is on tour with us since some years and for sure we will have other guests appearing, but only in the albums. We don’t think of sticking with a fixed member.

You guys don’t appear to sit quiet for a very long time. On tour all the time with even 2 more dates in Belgium: Durbuy Rock Fest with Powerwolf and Trix with Kamelot. Is there a reason for that?

No, I would love to say yes, but it’s just coincidence. We were just booking tours one after the other and suddenly there was a Belgian date in the tour schedule. It was not planned, there are also other examples like for example we never played in Zolatorn in Switzerland, never ever, always in other cities, but we played there 2 weeks ago, we’re going to play there with Powerwolf, also in the same venue, same city. Those are coincidences, but you know that we love Belgium and we also enjoy playing here. Biebob is also not the first time, Metal Female Voices Fest, Tournai, … each part of Belgium wherever we go.

I think it will make you guys very popular, to get a boost.

I hope so, yeah. I’m looking forward to seeing the result.

Do you prefer small concert venues or festivals?

No I’m actually not a big fan of festivals. I don’t want to be impolite with anyone but festivals are really not my thing. I don’t even think they are the perfect environment for Serenity, because if you’re going to play at huge festivals, we’re going to play really early at the moment because maybe we’re performing together with Dream Theater, Anthrax or those big bands and our music is not really perfect when the sun is shining, it’s smashing up on your face and the crowd is not interested in our kind of sound. It’s also a difficult position for us to deliver our performance under a summer afternoon with 40 degrees and the crew maybe doesn’t exactly know what we need, we don’t have our production, … I’m not a huge fan of festivals. Although I enjoy the time there because you get to see so many musicians, you have a signing session, it’s all polite and all fine but artistically speaking I’m more fan of a tour or  a straight gig somewhere, where we have our production, we know the conditions and we can set our atmosphere, which is inside some kind of historical theme and we have our elements, the lights and the darkness also a little bit, even though we’re not a dark band, but you know what I mean. I prefer a clubshow like Biebob, a full club instead of 50.000 people where a third is not interested or they are drinking beer and screaming Sabaton, Sabaton! They are more appropriate for these kind of big events.

Being on tour so much, do you actually have the chance to visit cities?

Not very much. I would love to because I’m a huge fan of sightseeing. I did it in the past when I could, but especially on this tour with the VIP session in between, it’s not so easy to leave the location. You always have to take a look at the time. The VIP has just taken place for example, so just imagine, you finish the soundcheck and in a while it’s already the VIP time and in a while the show starts, even with the support bands you cannot go out, you have to reserve your dinner, take care of your stuff, you have to dress up, … It’s a really busy schedule.

So Biebob again, what do you expect?

I expect a grand finale of our tour. Unfortunately our Xandria friends will not play tonight, we would love to have partied with them. But they are here and we’re going to have a special guest on stage so we want to have the best ending chapter of this tour possible. This is how it’s meant to be, with the new album.

Do you notice a difference in the audience in different countries?

Yes, even within the same country in different areas. Some areas we really know the crowd. For example in Germany, it’s so big and you get to play the whole country, east, north, south, west, the crowds are so different. We do notice that, especially also between the songs. Some crowds react differently on different styles. We kind of study them also for the next time, to see what works well.

You play a lot of new songs live like Follow me, Iniquity, My Final Chapter, Caught in a Myth and so on.

7 songs at the moment.

Why did you choose those 7, compared to the others? Is it to try them out live?

Mainly this and also we wanted to have a combination of all the new album elements combining them into the tour situation. We have 70 minutes, not 90 like a normal headlining show. We skip just some songs that we will later on propose for some festivals. Some songs are better for festivals like for example Fate of Light or Reason, in my opinion good for festivals as opener. We chose these ones. We sort of made a tryout before the tour, film the show, we had  a release show before the tour and we said yes, this is the perfect solution.

So you had time to experiment which songs would fit.

Yes , in a very short time, but we did it, yes.

The music business has heavily changed over the years lately, for example with social networks and online services like iTunes. How do you anticipate on these changes as a band?

You are in the wrong place for this question here, haha! This is my environment, cd’s vinyls, … Material, not mp3’s, digital. This is the thing. It’s incredible that these days you would say ‘I prefer to buy’, ‘I still prefer to buy’… This should be the only way. A digital thing is not physical, so you don’t own it. And what about our efforts to create that , to print that, to choose the cover and colors, to choose the font, the artwork, … All the money involved on this. I’m not even starting the conversation about the audio quality, I’m a sound engineer so this would take ages. But I’m for example doing this in Italy where I live, I’m doing classes about this. I want to show the young kids or the younger generation to understand the difference between the quality of the physical cd, which is what we record, and what you get on Spotify or any streaming player which is even different from mp3 and so on. The industry has indeed changed and we are suffering a lot from this.

How do you anticipate on that as a band?

We try to, but there is hardly something you can do about it because you try to protect yourself with other stuff, but it’s not working. It has to come from the people, not from bands. From the young generation.

Final question: do you have any favorite bands or albums?

I have so many. Especially in this store I already saw many of them. In this very moment of my career I would say Steven Wilson. He’s still one of my heroes even though I haven’t met him. I respect his creativity and the way he is able to express things that are really close to mind. Not with his personal project but with Porcupine Tree. But I will see him live if I have the chance, he’s coming to the area where I live, it’s already sold out but we are on tour ourselves, too bad. I would be a dream to go on the road together.