Are you Dehumanized? Michael Romeo speaks out.
Symphony X have come along way since the early days since the band 1st started out with their debut album 'Damnation Game', with other successful albums were soon to follow. With the bands last album 'Paradise Lost' been a heavier album and also saw the band supporting Dream Theater throughout Europe the band have gone from strength to strength. Now the band return with their new album 'Iconoclast', which is also released through their new label Nuclear Blast, which is also an even darker and heavier album than that of their previous work. It still manages to capture the classic sound that we all so love to hear, with a more darker and sinister twist which really does work well for the band. I managed to see the band live this year which was awesome, just a shame the 'Power Of Metal' tour never hit the shores of the UK, with the likes of Nevermore and Psychotic Waltz also sharing the stage with the band. I managed to have a phone over the phone with guitar wizard Michael Romeo about the tour, and of courser the new album. Here is what Mike had to say to the following opening question, how successful was the 'Paradise Lost' tour for the band as you were the opening act for Dream Theater?
"It was a great tour, we went out with Dream Theater and we played some great venues and it was a great success. We managed to play in South Asia, China, South America, and I am sure we will do the same sort of things this time around. We have just toured in Europe as you know and the album is not out till June 2011 but this was not the proper tour, it is a warm up tour before the album is released. We were hoping the album would of been finished a little earlier before the last tour and we wanted the tour to be closer to the album release."
How do you feel about Mike Portnoy leaving Dream Theater?
"It is very bizarre, shit happens!! Same thing with Judas Priest, KK leaving and I'm a big Priest fan."
OK, lets move on slightly, did the 'Paradise Lost' album sell well for the band?
"I think the sales went up after the tour with Dream Theater, the tour certainly helped a lot. I think that album was the best sounding album we had done and we had Jens Borgren to handled the mixing, and I think he did an excellent job. With the music we always take our time so we took our time with our performances, production and having us on a great tour made it a lot better."
What was the reason for you to leave our previous label 'Inside Out'? It seems like a lot of bands seem to be leaving the label all of a sudden which is a shame.
"Well I think there were some financial problems with the label and I think they were bought out and for us I think we were looking for something different & Nuclear Blast were interested and they certainly do have a great repetition and they have some great bands so we thought it would be a great move for us. (ED: I noticed that 'V' was released on Metal Blade, did they release any other albums for you?) That was only for 1 record, which was released in the U.S. and we were signed to Zero in Japan but they went under so we are just moving on now and I think Nuclear Blast will work out just fine."
How did you hook up with Nuclear Blast in the 1st place? How long is your deal with Nuclear Blast?
"Well like I said we knew Inside Out were having problems and management just put the word out for us, our manager is Gunter Ford who has worked with Grip Inc, Morbid Angel etc... and the label just seemed to be the coolest of the bunch. We hooked up with Gunter as he doesn't live too far away from me and he is close by and he approached us years ago when we were just getting started in Japan and I think we were just checking out the scene back then. Years later he got in touch with us again and we have been working together now for some time. We will stay with the label for as long as we can and as long as everything is cool between us both."
What other labels approached you besides Nuclear Blast?
"There were a bunch of labels, the big independent labels, there were a lot of good offers but we just wanted to get back to our heavier early roots and N Blast just seemed the perfect choice for the band."
OK Mike, if you had to compare the new album to that of your previous albums, which one would it be and why?
"Well I would have to say 'Paradise Lost' because it has the big riffs, and it's a little heavier with choruses and a little bit more darker, whereas this new album is like a man verses machine. I think that some of the elements on the new album are a little different it still have the normal stuff that we do but we were looking for some kind of different angle with a more mechanical sound under the overall music but every song is different."
So why the title for this album 'Iconoclast'? what does it mean and were there any other titles for this album?
"Well we had the one song which was pretty much a man verses machine and technology and it is like a rebuilding of a society around us which is now digital, everything around us is going that way. So we went through some different words and tried to find something that would kind of represent and with 'Iconoclast' which really means some one who will turn down the belief system, I guess one of them are to tear down some religious believes which was not our definition, the next definition was something along the lines of a perceived belief of doing things. Since technology and machines kind of change the way that life is now we thought it would be cool to have a double meaning with a cool twist. So that is why it turned out to be the title track and the 1st song on the album. We were thinking of having an album title with the words 'machine' in the title and I spend a couple of months by myself getting riffs together and some basic song idea's and I guess it was similar to that of the last album and I was listening to stuff on my MP3 player and I listen to a lot of sound tracks and I think it was the sound track to 'The Matrix' and I think ideas came from that with the industrial, mechanical feel."
I presume the album was recorded at the one and only 'The Dungeon', our own studio?
"Yes it was, the usual place. (Ed: What's changed in the studio since we last spoke, new equipment)? Well I am always trying to stay on top of the latest recordings and I'm always investing a little bit of money into new stuff and software and especially with the mechanical vibe of the new album and we wanted something that would get under the music. It would be some metallic sounds or some kind of keyboard sounds which were more organic and digital sounding. We are always trying out some new mic's and pre-amps and I think it is always for the best."
You say your into all these sound tracks from movies, have you ever thought of doing a sound track for a movie?
"Yes I have had a couple of guys who have approached me about it, I would love to do it but with the band I'm always so busy with the album, touring etc... "
How long did it take to record the new album? Was it a long time period? Do you write the music and Russell write the lyrics?
"Well we usually write a basic idea and then get everybody on board when we have decided to use the cool ideas and the music and lyrics just grow and Russell and myself get together and bounce ideas around between us. With the lyrics there were a lot of different avenues to take and it's usually the music that comes first and we just work around the music really, like most bands tend to write."
Which songs from the new album do you like and why?
"That's a tough question, we all thought that every song on the album is special to us, I think every song is strong in their own way and I love the song 'Iconoclast', which has the little bit of the prog thing going the usual thing we do but different with the machines and texture. I also like the song 'Children of a Faceless God' as it has the big chorus and riffs and lots of guitar sounds and vocal harmonies and very old school."
Moving on, so who did the artwork for the new album?
"Well the artwork was done by Warren Flanagan, who has done artwork for The Hulk, Watchemen, 2012 and he did the last album too. He is a super talented guy and he comes up with the ideas really quickly. I think with the last CD we spoke a few times on the phone and I told the ideas we had this heaven & hell thing and it was spot on artwork and the same thing happened with the new album. We talked a little bit and I think this time around we had some song titles and maybe some lyrics and I think he brought up 'The Matrix' or 'The Terminator' or something like that. So he went his own way and did his own thing and next thing you know he is send all types of different images which were all killer artwork. (Ed: Do you think the artwork and music is very important to combine the 2 together?) yes I do feel it is very important to combine to 2 together, I think it has the contents of the record spiritually and musically and it is not a concept record either was the last record. It is a underline theme and I think we try to do that with every record so the lyrics are pretty much about whatever the concept is in the music and we try to make it fit it ad the same with the artwork. So you can hear the music and look at the artwork and read the lyrics and it all comes together."
I believe there is a Ltd double CD coming out, tell me a little bit about that.
"Well the double CD is the whole record, the complete version as we went in and recorded everything until we felt is was completely finished and we didn't realize how much music we had wrote until it was completely at the end. We had about 85 minutes of songs and we didn't want to cut any of the songs and this was what we wrote so it felt like a complete body of work. We wanted not to cut any of the songs out so we made a double CD as well as a regular version. The label were totally behind us. Doing the regular (single version) was a tough choice of songs to put on it. To us there are all good in there own way."
I noticed when you played here in the UK in March you played 3 new songs, one was 'Dehumanized', was it difficult to pick 3 songs from the new album as teaser songs on the tour?
"Well it wasn't that difficult to be honest, we knew we didn't want to do anything too long or too complex and we wanted to find some songs that we thought on the 1st listen the listener could could pretty much grasp with good riffs, lyrics and vibes, so no it wasn't that difficult at all. (Ed: as you are now on tour in the U.S., are you playing the same 3 songs over there too?) No, we had originally done 4 songs live and they were 'End of Innocence', 'Dehumanized', 'Heretic', 'Prometheus (I am Alive)'. We thought that 'Heretic' was a little too long so we thought about waiting till the CD was out before we play that one again. The songs 'Dehumanized' and 'End of Innocence' always seem to go over really well live."
How well do you remember the show in Sheffield (UK)? was there any great memories?
"I do remember it very well, it was a great show, I think people wanted us to play the Trilogy but yeah man it's way too long for a concert!! I am hoping we will come back there later on in the fall, we will have to wait and see."
OK Mike, the big question is, why haven't you done a live DVD yet and will there be 1 from the forthcoming tour? If so where will be it recorded?
"Well I do think there might be one for this new album, it was always something we talked about in the past and for us it is like whatever we do we want to make it the best we can at that time. We need a good sound venue and stage too so we can record a live DVD with a good production and have a great set of songs so I think with this CD I think the timing will be now. I think it will be hard to find a good venue because 1 song is never enough for us."
How good as the reviews for the new album been so far?
"They have been great!! Really good reviews so far and the label have doing lots of press for us, interviews, advertising etc.. and I think it has been all positive."
How successful was the 'Power of Metal' tour for you, playing with Nevermore and Psychotic Waltz.
"We had a blast, we got along with both bands really well. We have known the Nevermore guys for a long time and we didn't know Psychotic Waltz really but as the tour went along we got to know them better and they are a really cool bunch of guys too, great musicians. There was a great atmosphere between the band and crew. (Ed: I was so disappointed that Psychotic Waltz never came over with you, love their music!) After the tour the other 2 bands went home and we just wanted to do our own little headlining tour here in the UK which was a great move on our part."
So when will we see the band returning to the UK in 2011?
"Well we are talking about coming back in October but we don't know who we will be playing with yet."
Well Mike, great meeting you and speaking to you once again, best of luck with the new album, like always do you have anything to ad before we finish here?
"Yeah, thanx to our fans for their support and love, thanx for coming out and see in us live. We hope you like the new album. Good luck with the website, see you later in the fall Jase."
Thanx to Nuclear Blast and Mike Romeo.