2003 saw Italy's Labyrinth release a refreshing (and eponymously titled) disc that featured not only heartfelt performances but songs that spoke as much to unbridled aggression as they did sophisticated emotion. SoT's Jedd Beaudoin caught up with Labyrinth's guitar maestro Andrea Cantarelli some time ago to talk about the album and the love that can only be reserved for a perfectly good guitar.
SoT: What can you tell me about the writing and recording of the new record?
Andrea Cantarelli: I think that the best way for a band to make an album is to work without a producer but with a good sound engineer instead. It's much easier to explain to a good sound engineer what the band wants. We didn't have a big budget, but we wanted to make the best record possible for the money we had. And I think it's best if the band doesn't work in a big studio but still a good studio and that we talk with the engineer a lot about our ideas. It's not too difficult to make an album. The technology's good, so it's not like in the '70s when you had to record an album in a big studio with all kinds of expensive equipment. It's totally different.
SoT: Do you think some of your attitude comes from the fact that the band knows each other better than anybody else and that a producer would have a tendency to interfere?
AC: Yes. We worked last time with Neil Kernon. We made a good album with him. I have a good souvenir but I know what kind of sound we need. Maybe the producer will have a different idea, maybe we'll follow him and maybe that idea won't be the best.
SoT: Well, I was really impressed with the clarity of the guitar and keyboard sounds on this record. How did you go about capturing those?
AC: I started to play music maybe 15 years ago. My dream was always to go on stage and play in front of a lot of people. I think that a lot of guys in recent years play music because Pro Tools exists. I love my instrument, so do the other guys in the band. We play a lot, at home, on stage, in the studio. So, I think that maybe we're not the best musicians in the world but we want to play our music the best that we can. A lot of bands can make an album but when you hear them live, there's something missing. You have to play a lot to make good records.
SoT: There are certain moments on this record where I'm reminded of the purity of some records that came out in the '70s, especially Deep Purple.
AC: Thank you.
SoT: Was that a band that you grew up listening to?
AC: I started listening to music because of bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Blue Oyster Cult. My parents listened to that kind of music, so it's easier for me to listen to that stuff. I like a lot of bands from the '70s and the '80s. There are bands that can make good records in the studio but the best thing is if they can play good live too. I like bands who can do that. I am big fan of Led Zeppelin and I wanted to pay tribute to them in "Leaving This World." We used the same riff as "The Immigrant Song." A lot of people compare us to bands like Stratovarius. That's okay. It's a good compliment for the band but I don't hear it that much. I play music because of the bands I heard in the '70s and the '80s. I don't want to copy any band, of course, but I have my influences.
SoT: Do you use some of the same approaches to recording that bands from the '70s used?
AC: We probably wrote all the songs on this album in two months. We just started to play. For example, a song like "Sit Down" was born because I started to joke with Matt [Mattia Stancioiu, drums] about the sounds of thrash metal music from the '80s. Me and Matt are big fans of that kind of music. So, I started to play a thrash riff as a joke, then Matt played with me and, after maybe 30 minutes we had a song. But, you know, we started to play in 1991 and I think that as time has passed on the guys in the band are mature and we want to play just to enjoy ourselves. That's more important than anything. I don't want to play or write songs for labels. I have another job. It's not easy to make a living from music in Italy and so I don't want to lose the fun of doing this. So, so much of what we do comes naturally. Music is fun. It's about passion.
SoT: What made you want to play guitar?
AC: My grandfather is a piano player and my mother played guitar. So, it was natural. My parents listened to bands like Pink Floyd. They liked rock 'n' roll. So, I started to play maybe when I was really young. Maybe at 10 years old. But it wasn't so easy. My hands weren't big enough, I had a lot trouble but my relationship with music [was strong]. I was born around music [and so it was inevitable that I would play music]. But although I enjoy playing with a band, it's never been my main goal. I just love to play my instrument. I love to play after work or at night when I don't have anything else to do. I can write songs. I have a band I can play those songs with but that's not the biggest goal. I love my instrument first. And that's the same for the other guys in the band. Maybe tomorrow the band will stop but I will never lose the guitar.
SoT: Do you have a special guitar?
AC: I started to play the electric guitar when I was 14 with a Charvel Jackson. I love that guitar very much. Right now, I have a lot of guitars just because I love [Laughs] to have a lot of guitars. I use Jackson, ESP, Fender, Gibson, all of them. Usually, live, I prefer an Ibanez. It's good for playing live. It's not the best instrument but it's comfortable live. Recording, I prefer to use an ESP, a custom one from a shop in Japan. It's a great instrument but it's a little heavy for the stage. I use a Gibson SG for a lot of rhythm parts. I love of the instrument. A lot.
SoT: How do you know when you have the right guitar?
AC: Two things happen. When I go to the shop to buy, maybe a Stratocaster, I know that it's impossible for it to have exactly the right feeling right away. So, you have to play it a lot. But I love the sound of a Fender Stratocaster. Sometimes, I go to the shop and start playing a guitar and it's love at first play. You play it and say, "I love this. This is great." It doesn't matter whether the instrument is expensive or not.
SoT: Do you have guitars you've been wrong about?
AC: I have a Telecaster that was built custom for someone in my city. The first time I played it I loved but after two months it was boring because that guitar's just impossible to play. Sometimes that happens. Like with a woman. That's life.
SoT: What's your relationship like with your instrument right now?
AC: Sometimes I love my instrument. Sometimes I hate my instrument. Sometimes I play my guitar without thinking about what I'm going to play and I just listen for something great. Great for me, at least. Maybe not for my parents but .... And sometimes that happens. But sometimes I get mad because I play and nothing comes out but shit. Then I say, "What is this? I hate this guitar. I hate these strings. I hate the neck. I hate the body." But I think that's normal.
Official Site: http://www.labyrinthmusic.it/