LUCA TURILLI’s RHAPSODY – The Return Of Mr. Bombastic
July 2, 2015, 6 years ago
BraveWords has been watching guitarist Luca Turilli's career since the release of Rhapsody's 1997 debut, Legendary Tales... back when we were BW&BK and in print only. In the time since then we've covered the band's album-by-album rise to fame, their unexpected triumphant stand in Montreal supporting Manowar (and subsequent trouncing of the headliner), the court case against former management (led by Manowar's Joey Demaio) which forced the band to change their name to Rhapsody Of Fire, and Turilli's confusing but amicable split to form Luca Turilli's Rhapsody. Over those 18 years, Turilli's passion for his art hasn't waned one iota. In fact, his present enthusiasm is downright dangerous given his vastly increased command of the English language since those early days. It kinda makes you wish you could bottle and use it as a Monday morning motivational chaser.
Bottom line is that even if you don't care for the in-your-face happy metal soundtrack bombast of Turilli's music, it's very hard not to like the guy.
Turilli is currently pounding the pavement in support of his new album, Prometheus - Symphonia Ignis Divinus. Fans won't be disappointed, as it features all the epic metal bells and whistles that made him and former partner Alex Staropoli - still with Rhapsody Of Fire - famous. This record just happens to be the biggest, most complex Rhapsody-related outing yet. A far cry from the comparative Super Mario soundtracking of Legendary Tales.
"We were influenced by Yngwie Malmsteen, the Keeper Of The Seven Keys albums from Helloween, and I was really inspired by the original soundtrack for the Batman movie directed by Tim Burton, composed by Danny Elfman," says Turilli, laying the Rhapsody groundwork. "We weren't so pretentious to think that we could create something brand new, but we wanted to create something out of our influences. We proposed something new with Legendary Tales, and it was the record company that decided to call it Hollywood metal. If you can imagine we were putting the classic orchestral elements into our compositions note by note using a keyboard and a sequencer. At the time, those orchestral samples we used were considered the best around."
"You need the best technological support to do an album like Prometheus. When I did the Ascending To Infinity album (2012), the samples I was using were the best around from an orchestral point of view. Since then there have been some amazing string arrangement libraries that have come out, some fantastic brass libraries, and in the three years we've been away I built a studio because I wanted to start composing at the level of someone like Hans Zimmer. If you want to compose at that level you need to have a powerful studio connected to computers. It took a year-and-a-half to build all this, I have a German technician that helped me to connect all the hardware and software, and now I have one of the 10 most powerful templates in Europe. In the end, every morning I wake up the computers, go and make breakfast, come back after 20 minutes, and I have the best, top quality orchestral sounds on the planet at my disposal."
Turilli goes deeper into the process, suffice to say he sounds like your friendly neighbourhool metal IT guy. The way he talks about sampling, orchestration and songwriting in general you have to wonder if he's a guitarist or a classical composer.
"Let's put it like this; people know me as a guitar player because that's what I play when Rhapsody presents our music live, but now that Alex is no longer here I'm composing and arranging the music on my own. I've been working on the new album for the last year but I was only really able to embrace the guitar for about two months, when I had to record my parts. The rest of the time I spent working on the keyboards and playing the piano. That's why you hear a lot of piano parts on the new album. What I'm going to say isn't very metal oriented, but in reality I see myself more as a composer than a guitar player."
He offers a taste of his creative process for Prometheus...
"Most of the orchestral parts are sampled, but sometimes I bring in a real violin because it gives you a flavour that you need on top of all the orchestration. For the choirs, having real voices is so important and in the end those voices are the main instrument. In some parts when I wanted to push the sound I might use sampled choirs and then put real voices on top of that. That makes for a more bombastic effect, absolutely."
Prometheus features guest appearances by vocalist Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear), David Readman (Voodoo Circle, Pink Cream 69) and Dan Lucas (KARO). Given that the album is already stuffed to the gills with classical instrumentation and choirs backing up Turilli's metallic tendencies, it seems a waste to try and fill in tiny holes that might remain with high profile talent. Turns out there's well thought out method to Turilli's madness.
"I didn't realize at the beginning that this album would be over 70 minutes long, and to put out a Rhapsody album that long can be a big risk because of all the information. It's probably more than the human brain can take (laughs). You need serious focus and concentration to listen to this compared to bands like Bad Religion or Billy Talent, and I decided that if I'm going to offer 70 minutes of music there has to be some variety. I had the advantage of having some lyrics in Italian, Latin and ancient Hebrew, which offered a different taste, but bringing in these different voices was amazing for me. Ralf Scheepers and David Readman, both of them have great voices that are very different from each other, and they're super talented vocalists that just spit energy (laughs). They added so much to the album."
During our 1997 interview, Turilli revealed that touring with samples for Rhapsody's orchestral back-up presented a host of pitfalls depending on the situation. The biggest problem was the danger of the mini-disc containing the required tracks skipping if the player wasn't isolated properly. One would think the band has a much easier time of it now seeing as how far technology has come since then.
"(Laughs) Oh my God, no! On the last tour we had some of the worst experiences. As a musicians you just want to go out and play, go and have fun, but we have this technology and it has become very important for us to use video projection. Because we were going out as Luca Turilli's Rhapsody for the first time it was very important for me to have that visual impact. People loved it on tour and it will be our trademark for the future. Of course, when you go on the road and you're preparing for the show - the samples, the projector - and at any moment there's always the possibility that something doesn't work. We did a festival in the Czech Republic and my drummer suddenly says to me just before our set, 'Luca, I can't find the samples! Nothing works!' The guy at the sound desk was telling me they didn't have the samples (laughs). We were missing five minutes of samples and nothing was working, and when you base your show on samples and video projection
everything is connected. They found the tracks at the very last minute, so it's a very thin line between success and failure at one of our shows."
"And, we discovered that having midi-wireless connections with our laptop increased the risk of things going wrong. We're not using wireless anymore. So, my friend, you can see you've touched on a very sensitive subject (laughs)."
Sounds like it would be easier to tour with a real flesh and blood orchestra.
Capping things off, Turilli address the perceived competition between his band and Rhapsody Of Fire. A completely justifiable assumption considering both bands are making the same type of music.
"There's absolutely no competition," Turilli insists. "People are still asking years later about that, in Italy especially, but that's because they don't know me and Alex personally. They don't consider the fact that we were friends before Rhapsody. We've been friends since we were 15 or 16 and we came out with Rhapsody when we were 21. When we parted ways it was because of the work; Alex wanted to have more fun and I wanted to work 25 hours a day (laughs). We weren't having fun together anymore, so we split in a friendly way. People will ask me what I think of the new Rhapsody Of Fire album, they will ask Alex what he thinks of the new Luca Turilli's Rhapsody album, and we'll go out for pizza together and laugh about the journalists asking those questions. We could never be in competition with each other. If Alex were to come to me one day and said that Rhapsody Of Fire sold 100,000 copies of their new album, I would be the first person to be happy for