Enter The Macabre Circus If You Dare... Roberto Speaks Out.
Italy's has some fine metal bands and of recent I interviewed Simone from DGM, now it's the turn of another long lasting metal band 'Labyrinth'. This band have been around form many years now having formed back in Massa in 1991.
Originally formed by Franco Rubulotta (drums), Luca Contini (keyboards), Andreas Bartoletti (bass), Andrea Cantarelli (guitars), Olaf Thorsen (lead guitars), and vocalist Fabio Lione (now with Rhapsody & Angra). The band recorded a couple of demos and it wasn't long before they recorded their debut EP 'Piece of Time' with new bassist Christiano Bertocchio, who replaced Andreas Bartoletti.
With the EP firmly off the ground it wasn't long before the band were releasing their debut album 'No Limits' released through Arise Records, and this album really did shock the Italian scene with the very melodic music and very powerful vocals by Fabio.
Now the band had established themselves the band soon entered the studio for their 2nd album 'Return to Heaven Denied' with new front man back then Roberto 'Rob Tyrant' Tiranti to be their front man and what a great repalcement. After following Fabio's footsteps the band needed a powerful front man and Roberto was the perfect choice.
With 8 previous albums the band are even stronger now with this stunning current new album 'Welcome to the absurd Circus' which was released only a months ago. I managed to catch up with front man Roberto to talk about the bands history and of course the new album. It's been something like 15 or so years since the last interview.
So sit back crack a beer open and listen to their new album as you read this.
Id like to thank you for talking you're time and and doing this interview. We have met before at Dynamo festival in 1999, I am not sure if you remember that? What recollections do you have from that festival?
"Yes I do remember meeting you, it was a great festival. We arrived about 10pm and there was a big band on before us that arrived late as they had problems with their flights. So we were asked to play in a better position which was great for us and it was amazing."
It's a question I ask plenty of musicians to get the ball rolling, as a singer which singer inspired you to become a singer? Also did you play another other instruments before becoming a singer?
"Well I started to singer when I was really young and I knew I would be a musician that would record albums in years to come. I put all my strengths and energy into music when I was about 11 or 12 yrs old, then when I was 14 I joined my 1st band in 88 and at the same time I decided to talk some lessons to improve my voice techniques and in 89 I left this band and I joined one of the most important Italian Heavy Metal bands called 'Vanexa' and I was like 16 yrs old and it was a dream come true. With them I recorded an album roughly in 90-93 and the album was released in 94 which was a self titled album.
After that everything was amazing and in 96 I joined a Prog Rock/ Pop band called 'New Trolls' and in 97 I was asked to join Labyrinth and this band was and still is my 1st choice and that is why so many people around the world know my voice, and so I am very grateful to Labyrinth for giving me the chance to join them, I am honored.
In 2013 I was asked to join Ken Hansley who was with Uriah Heep we recorded one album called 'Trouble' in 2013 and a double live album which was released in 2019. Sadly Ken passed away last November 2021 and I am still sad by this and I know we will never play this music again live together. I also have another band which are called 'Wonderworld' and nowadays I have lots of projects I have done and still do. I also am a teacher of vocals coach and I also do some producing, nothing famous of course.
Getting back to the question about singers who have inspired me, well I would have to say Ian Gillan, Rob Halford, Geoff Tate, Robert Planet, that world and that movement and that kind of music really inspired me. If I had to talk about other influences I would say Freddie Mercury, Eric Martin, Geddy Lee, Sting, Stevie Wonder for me is one of the finest singers."
Is there any family members who are also musicians or is it just you who became a musician?
"No actually my father pretended to be a musician, but he is actually an artist and painter. In our house we never had any musicians and my father was a fan of Rock music and I need to thank my parents for that. The 1st concert I attended was in 73 as my parents took me to see Deep Purple my mother was pregnant and I could hear it inside her (laughing). My father use to buy all the great records when I was very young so bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Queensryche I knew about at an early age.
My grandparent's were also involved in music, but as I told you nobody was a singer but I am really into to music thanks to my parents and grandparents. My mother and grandparents use to listen too a lot of Classical Music and that is another side of music I really love."
I recently interviewed Simone from DGM and I asked him why Classical music is so much involved with Heavy Metal, I mean why do Italian bands have so much Classical influences?
"I really don't know? I think it is part of our roots, Italy has a lot to do with Classical music in our history. It also has a lot to do with Opera singers and music. I think it is to do with our DNA, and we are proud of this DNA that is for sure in our singing and also in our composing that we have this attitude, sometimes it's a little trademark for Heavy Metal music."
Does it get on you're nerves when people class you with this Classical stigma?
"No not really, we do use some of those influences in Labyrinths music but not as much as a lot of other bands from Italy, who tend to use more of those arrangements that are Classical music influenced. I would ay that some of my vocals are more Operatic and I have this idea that I would like to do all of our songs with an orchestra, not so much a new album but to play with a big orchestra."
When you look back at you're previous albums, do you have a favourite album and why?
"Well every album has a particular taste and we are a strange band, because when we do a new album we never plan nothing. We never start an album like 'lets do it like this or like that', we just follow the mood and we just go with the flow and follow our hearts. If I had to pick one it would be 'Return to Heaven Denied', it was one of those album that none of us ever expected it would be that successful. I joined the band when that album had already been written and in 97 when I joined the band I had recorded the demo tape of the full album that Metal Blade listened too and have us in their rooster.
There were 3 songs that were not completed which were 'Falling Rain', 'New Horizons' and 'Die for Freedom'. For those 3 songs I had wrote the melodies and we were young and we we're sharing music together. When Metal Blade said they wanted to sign us it was amazing, and for that reason it is pure magical for me. If I had to listen too the other albums then the self titled album was a really good album for me even if it was the 1st without Olaf but it was great for many reason, and I also love 'Freeman' even if people said it was a shit album and said it wasn't Labyrinth anymore.
This wasn't true we changed our direction a little and another good album is '6 Days To Nowhere', but I also understand our fans what they we're saying. A lot of fans want to hear the same stuff and as I told you I don't regret nothing.
After that we did the 'Return to Heaven Pt.2' album, which was great as it had the return of Thorsten, who is a good friend and a brother to me. The next album that came was 'Architecture of a God', which is a very interesting album and has more of the Prog Metal element to it.
In the case of the new album 'Welcome to the Absurd Circus' we decided to make this a more strong and more powerful album than that of the last album. A little less Prog but a lot stronger & I think we did it.
The album that I love but didn't too well was 'Son's of Thunder', it's a great album but it was the 1st time we decided to have a producer and this time we had Neil Kernon (Nevermore) who is a great producer, but I don't think he understood the band and we we're in a strange period in our life's and that is why Olaf left the band. We recorded this album with a lot of tension and we had the pressure of the album 'Return to Heaven Denied', so it wasn't as easy to handle and that is the reason I don't remember the whole album with love. If I listen too the album now there are songs I really do love because I wrote all the melodies, but like I said there wasn't a great deal of love put into that album."
So how does 'Return to Heaven Denied ..pt.2' sound different from the 1st one?
"Well the concept to this was that I Olaf wrote all the lyrics and I wrote the lyrics to the song 'In this Void', and he wanted to carry on with that concept about an impossible love between a human and a God. We tried to keep in ingredients that was similar to that of the 1st album. 2010 is not 1998 and it sounds like it was played in that moment. For me it makes no sense to try and make a copy album in later years, and the magic was there at the moment in time but not now.
So we tried with our style to have a 2nd part but a lot of people were saying it doesn't sound like the 1st one but it is a sequel to the 1st album. I actually played the bass guitar in the recording session of the 2nd album and we had a different drummer on the album of course. A lot of people are saying the the new album 'Welcome to....' sounds more like the 1st 'Return to Heaven...' release of the 1st one."
I noticed that you have Nik Mazzucconi who use to play bass for Jorn Lande, how did you hook up with Nik?
"Well Nik is a brother and I met him in 2005 in Italy when I was asked to sing for Ian Paice from Deep Purple and we played together with Ian at least 20 times in Italy and many other countries. Nik was my 1st choice in 2009 when we recorded the 'Return to Heaven..Pt.2' but he told me back then he could not do it as he has personal problems going on. So, he said I didn't want to join the band back then and I accept his choice not to join the band. So that is the reason I decided to play the bass guitar on that album. After that we had the bassist form my old band Vanexa, his name is Sergio Pagacco.
In 2016 I called Nik and said to him 'Do you want to join the band?' He was so happy that I called him as it was the right him for him to join the band. I think he has helped us with our music, given us a new lease of life. I think the line-up we have now is the best line-up we have in the band, and that is no disrespect to the older member, they all did a great job."
So you have had you're fare share of line-up changes then?
"Yes we have, when Olaf left the band he asked me to keep the name and carry it on, he wanted to but all his effort into 'Vision Divine', so we kept the name and carried on. You know that bands have troubles with the names and since 2008 we have Olaf back in the band and its is 3 of us that are the core of the band, Olaf, Andrea and myself but we consider the other 3 guys that are in the band now are also Labyrinth, we are a team."
Let's talk about you're new drummer Matt Peruzzi, what band was he in before joining the band?
"Well Matt played with us in 2015 when a promoter in Mexico city asked us play over there and and to play the whole album of 'Return to Heaven Denied' and our drummer at that time Alessandro Bissa had some problems so he could not play the shows in Mexico.
A friend of ours told us to check out Matt and we had a couple of rehearsals and he was more prepared then we we're (laughing), He is a big fan of the band which helps.
So after the show in 2015 we didn't have a drummer and when we signed to Frontiers they recommended John Macaluso (ex Ark), and he is amazing and one of the best out there. What he did with Ark was outstanding and I love those albums.
Having John on the last album 'Architecture of a God' was amazing and we are so proud of what he did on that album. We did however do a lot of gigs with him in Italy, Japan and South America and so on.
Ark we're a great band with top musicians, I don't think our band quiet suited John as he is above our level so we decided together to go our separate ways, we are still good friends. So we asked Matt if he was interested in joining the band and he did a great job on this album."
So who came up with the title for the new album 'Welcome to the Absurd Circus', did you have any other names?
"Well the title is easy, just take a look around and tell me what you see? If I take a look around now I just see an absurd circus coming from the covid situation, because when everything started Frontiers asked us to us to record it 6 months before the deadline we had. They wanted to release the album last September 2020 but it wasn't easy because it is not easy to record an album during a lockdown situation. When I had to write all the lyrics I just simply just looked around and my hope when it all started last year was pandemic helped us to understand how to live together but then again I was wrong.
I started with an optimistic way and as I can see here in Italy there are too many problems and too many egos and people saying what medicines to use and what not to use. It became a great madness over here and so this became the absurd circus. So the 1st song is the title of the album, and when we found the title for the album we knew we had picked the right one. The lyrics are about what I see around us in the world today. It's not all bad as the last song 'Finally Free', which is a little sign of hope."
Are there any favourite songs on the album for you?
"Well let me say for the 1st time in my live this is an album I have listened too from the start to the end. I am very happy with the end results of the album, but if I had to choose just 2 songs, it would be one strong song and one less strong song they would be 'The Absurd Circus' been the strongest one, and the other song would be 'As long as it Lasts', these 2 songs are songs that people wouldn't expect from the band, the title track is a little more stronger and not you're typical Labyrinth song, it is more like Judas Priest and I sang the verses in a Rob Halford way and it is a long song with some great melodies. The other song 'As long as it Last' is not a typical Labyrinth song either, and it's a love song, a bitter sweet song.
I also loved other songs on the album but there 2 songs really stand out for me."
How long did it actually take to record this album?
"Not that long actually, let me tell you the method of how we record an album. Everything starts from Olaf & Andrea, they take care of the riffs and structures. After this they give all the ideas to me and I do the melodies and lyrics. Of course it is a sharing method as they use to tell me what they thought about my job suggesting which we should use and I do the same with them.
We started to work on the songs from scratch in May 2020 and Matt went into the studio with Simone from DGM, I consider him as another brother and another member of the band.
He went into the studio on August and we all recorded after Matt did his drums. I finished my vocals on 15th September 2020 and I think in 3 months we did everything. The whole album was recorded in separate stages due to covid. We needed a proper studio to record the drums because if you want real drums you need a good room with a great sound engineer and good microphones and stuff like that.
I really hate fake drums on Heavy Metal albums the drums must be real. Everything else was recorded in our own personal studios and we sent the material to Simone to finish off.
We always record together and this time around we didn't and we were worried about that, there was a big question mark, but what we have at the end is just amazing, it sounds great!!"
Would you say that Simone is one of the top producers in Italy at the moment? He certainly is making a name for himself.
"Yes absolutiley, he is a great producer and he is also a great musician. When he does the production and sound engineering he puts it in as he would as a musician, and that is something like gold and has that special touch. Besides that, he knows our history and our music which also is a big help."
Do you think the band will be touring this year? We're all getting mixed messages about this.
"Well it is very tough here in Italy, a lot of people here in Italy and Europe will start tours in 2022 especially here in Italy, last year in July we had a concert with Labyrinth and maybe something could happen this year, but I am not sure about that. The vaccinations here in Italy are very slow so when we get the vaccine things could improve."
Have you any ideas what the next album will be like?
"Well we are not sure what it will sound like, we may go a little more in the Progressive side, but we don't know yet until we start writing the music and lyrics."
Well thank you for taking you're time out and chatting to me, do you have anything to say before we finish?
"Yes, thank you to our fans for their support under these difficult situations. We hope you stay safe and we hope to see you in 2022. Thank you for the interview Jason, be safe.
Thank you to Gary@ Redsands PR and also Roberto for the interview.