Interview with Michael Romeo
Progressive Metal has vast become 1 of the most popular genres in Metal of recent years, more so in the last decade. Originally this type of music originated form the likes of Yes, Rush, Genesis, Marillion, King Crimson and so on.... If it wasn't for Dream Theater, then the metal side of the progressive world wouldn't be where it is today. Since the days of Dream Theater, many other bands have appeared, such as: Fates Warning (who are yet another major influence in the prog metal scene), also Psychotic Waltz, Evergrey, Vanden Plas, Enchant, and now Symphony X. This band hailing from New Jersey (USA) are a awesome 5 piece who have taken the Progressive Metal world by storm in the last decade. Signed to German label Inside Out, these guys have released some incredible releases with such albums as 'V', Damnation Game', 'The Odessey' and now their recent release 'Paradise Lost', which is yet another powerful addition to the bands catalogue. I caught the band on their last tour as support to Dream Theater to ask Mike Romeo the following question. There is what he had to say to the following questions.
How success was 'The Odessey' album for the band, it most of been a huge success in some way or another
"Well in the course of 5 years since the last album it did really well outside of the U.S., but over there it was a little slow going for some strange reason. We did a tour called the 'Gigantour' with Megadeth, Dream Theater, Fear Factory, Life Of Agony, Nevermore, we did a tour with Blind Guardian in the U.S. and both tours helped us out a lot. By 2005 the album had been out 4 years."
Which songs from 'The Odessey' stood out for you and why?
"Well I would have to say that the title track was a major song for me and the band, its a great song to play live too. I also like 'Inferno', and I feel that the songs from that album are really good. The album is a ripping album and we just love that record."
Just how did you get on the 'Gigantour' tour? I know Glenn & Shaun Drover, maybe I told them about you.
"Hey you never know man!! Well Glenn & Eidolon would come up to our shows in Canada, so we kind of knew them from years before. I played a guitar solo on the last Eidolon album, but I never heard the album because they never sent me a copy."
If you didn't know Glenn Drover do you feel that you may not of got on that tour?
"Well yes we could of done, because the main guy is Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater because he really put in a good word for us and they told Dave Mustain and the rest of the team that we would be a great asset for the tour. It was a great tour to do. We played about a 30 minute set on that tour and the crowd loved us. it was a blast to do as well!"
Did that tour only happen in North America, didn't it go to South America as well? There was talk about bring that tour to Europe and the UK as well in the future.
"Well we got as far as Canada on that tour and after that it was finished. I'm not sure about it coming to Europe & the UK in the future, that is something that would need to be talked about."
Moving on, why hasn't Symphony X done their own UK & European tour, as you have enough material to headline your won shows, please explain!!
"Well I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that this new album took so long to record and doing the tour with Dream Theater also is a great experience for us to be playing these type of big venues for us. They asked us to come on tour with them and do the tour so here we are!! I think we will becoming back in 2008 as we now feel that are have had some good exposure for us to be headlining now."
You also did your own solo album, would you ever consider doing another solo album in 2008?
"I would love to record yet another solo album in the future. It can be difficult at times because it hard to write stuff when your on a tour bus but I will try and get another solo album together within the next year or so."
In between 'The Odessey' and the new album there has been a huge gap between both releases, what with Russell doing his own solo album, the Jorn Lande project, what did the rest of the band do?
"We didn't start work on the that' album till we finished the 'Giginatour' tour we were talking about a new record months before that tour. We did try to write on the tour bus, as I brought my laptop with me and guitar and I just could not do it as there was too much going on, too much noise etc... We also did a Queensryche tour in the U.S. which was only 3 wks but it was coo to do. After the Giginatour tour we really had to get the album recorded and finished. So by then it was the end of 2005 and so we also had so much pressure to really made us knuckle down and record this awesome new album. When Russell did the solo album and the Jorn project together it really didn't effect the recording of the new album. When we talked about the new album, we talked about it been a heavier album and the band said it needs to be more of a guitar driven album and a little more aggressive. So that meant I had to write 99% of the album so I went away and did my thing and recorded what I had. If somebody in the band wants to record a project or solo album that's fine, but if it effects the recording of the next record then we don't do it. I would have some basic ideas and guitar riffs recorded and I would play them to the band and work around those ideas and sit down with Russ and try to get some lyrics to the riffs then we would go into the band mode and get together for try to get them songs worked on."
So I guess you write all the music and Russ write all the lyrics for the last album?
"Well no, for this album every album is different. Everybody in the band has some kind of contribution, but Russ and I went through the songs for a week and started to piece the songs together and we usually do a lot of that."
So I guess it was a long period of time to get this album together for the 'Paradise Lost' release?
"Yeah it was to be fair, we knew that The Odessey' had done so well and we knew we had to record an album were the songs were strong and production is good and a good record. So it did take some time to record."
As you seem to record your albums in your own studio called 'The Dungeon', would you ever consider recording outside of your studio to see if you could get a different vibe for the next record& also use a different producer?
"I am not sure if we would ever record outside our studio, that's a tough question. We do have a cool vibe and sound in our own studio and we know what sound we want and we have the right equipment to do this. We don't have to worry about the producer or a band member getting tired, I work on the board, so we don't have any worries. There is no pressure for time and we all know what we want. We can then decide on what we feel about each song on the album, if we like the sound or not. We know what we want so we are happy. We always bring in a guy who can mix the album for us, as I don't feel like I could do a good job for the band. and record."
So what's the hardest part to record an album, producing or mixing?
"Well for me I would say, mixing because it is like you spend some much time writing the album and then recording everything and then when it comes for the time to mix the record it is hard for you to step back and listen to everything to make sure it is a perfect sounding record. So I think it is always good to bring in a guy and let him listen to the record and let them listen to the demo as well as ask them to bring the rawness of the demo put on the record but with a cleaner sound and more solid approach. We had Jens Bogren who has worked with Soilwork, Amon Amarth, and he has worked with a lot of heavy bands and we thought that this is one of the type of albums that needs a heavy mix so we asked Jens to help us out. I do feel that this album is a lot more heavier but still manages to keep the progressive side to the band."
Who came up with the title for the album 'Paradise Lost' and were there any other titles for this record?
"Well we didn't have any titles for the record, but we did have 3-4 songs that were pretty much done with recording. So we started talking about doing yet another big epic like 'The Odessey' and a lot of the music on the new record was a lot more heavier and darker so we started looking for ideas. We feel that the album has a gothic & religious type of side to it. So we came across the Milton 'Paradise Lost' which seemed cool, and we listened to the songs which came across very dark and with the church bells we knew we had the perfect album title. The over thing is pretty much about revenge, betrayal, lust and all these kind of things and it seemed to work out really well. We decided not to write long songs for this record but we wanted them to pull together."
Looking at the art work for the album I see a iron angel kneeling on a cliff side, please explain more and does the art work reflect the title of the album?
"It's the whole fallen Satan
thing with the angels and demons, the good and the bad. A guy got in touch with
us and said he'd like to do some art work for the album. We were like 'Yeah what
ever dude', and then it turned out that this guy is the real deal and he does
stuff for major movie pictures. He said he was a fan of our music and I'd like
to be involved in the new album. We were a little skeptical about him at first
as we didn't know anything about him. This guy is a pro artist and his name is
Warrel Flanegan, and I had 1 conversation with him and I told him that the new
album is darker and heavier than the previous releases. A couple of days after
chatting to him he sent us this big piece of artwork of a modern angel with
metal wings and it was a dark cover. Every day he kept sending more and more
stuff and we ended up having too much stuff for the booklet. So it was hard to
pick the right material for the booklet. It is a really cool fucking artwork
booklet, you have to see it to believe it man!!"
Tell me a little bit about the bonus DVD which comes with the CD, live performance stuff right?
"Yeah that's right, the footage of the DVD is pretty much live raw material of bootleg stuff we did over the years. It's all camcorder stuff we most people love more than pro stuff. The sound is pretty crappy but its pretty awesome stuff man!!"
How do you compare the new album to the previous album in sound, to me it sounds a little more drier, not as clean in sound. Why was that and was it done intentionally that way?
"Yeah it was done that way to be honest, I think that it was meant to be more intentional and to make this album more duller in a way. It is polished but we didn't want it to be too pretty, we wanted it to be raw and rough."
What's your favourite songs on the new album and why? Any least favs too?
"That's a tuff question as they seem to keep on changing from time to time. I like 'Set The World On Fire', 'Serpents Kiss', I also like 'Domination', I like all the songs but they stand out the most for me."
Have you ever considered doing a promo video for this album, if so for which song? Also will you be doing an official live DVD in the near future?
"Well we have spoke about doing one, and we have done 2 videos which are 'The Serpents Kiss' and the 2nd one will be 'Set The World On Fire'. We would love to do a live DVD, but the thing with us is, that if we are going to do it then we have to do it right, the best we can be. I think now we have the money & we are playing some good shows with good sounds and good venues and for our own tour and production I feel that the time could be right for us."
Are you still happy with Inside Out Records?
"Well we are happy with the label, our contract is almost over but Inside Out have now signed with SPV so really we are signed to SPV and yeah we are happy."
Have you been getting good reviews for this album?
"Yeah so far they have been great and thanx for the awesome review you gave the album too Jase, cheers bro!! Everybody in the press so far seems to like the album, so we are happy too."
You have played the Prog Power U.S. before, would you ever consider playing the UK or European or Swedish 1 if you were asked?
"Yeah for sure we would love to play any of those, especially the UK one. We played the one in the States, and back then it I was just starting out and it was very small but had a great atmosphere. We never ask for too much money for a show, but we know how much we are worth."
Well Mike, thanx once again for taking your time out and for doing this interview, best of luck in 2008 and the future, I hope we meet again soon. DO you have anything to say before we finish?
"Yeah thanx for the interview Jason, hope we meet again soon. To our fans, thanx for waiting so long, we hope u like the album. Come and catch us live if you can sorry for the long wait."
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