Unless you've been living under a rock the last few years, you've no doubt at some point or another come across the talents of musician Hugo Flores. With two projects, Factory of Dreams and Project Creation, both which combine elements of progressive rock and symphonic metal, Flores' musical vision is quickly becoming clear. With the release of the latest Factory of Dreams CD, A Strange Utopia, Hugo Flores, along with vocalist Jessica Lehto, is looking to take his vision to the next level. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo caught up with the mastermind behind both bands to talk about his career so far, and especially A Strange Utopia.
SoT: You've been a pretty busy guy these days, with both Project Creation and Factory of Dreams. Can you talk a little bit about the essence of both, which one takes priority, and where you see both going say, 2-5 years from now?
Hugo: Yeah, two projects that take my whole time music-wise, most especially F.o.D lately. Both projects share some similar aspects such as a synthesizer based compositional process, apart from a few songs that were developed on guitar or even through a vocal line. However, they differ in scope and genre. Factory of Dreams is narrower in its music style and may appeal to a wider listening audience I suppose. Its main style is what I like to call atmospheric metal, mostly with Poles really, while A Strange Utopia is more of a symphonic metal album.
The other major difference is within the concept story. Project Creation was built to be a 3 to 4 album story-arc, and F.o.D focus on each album as a unique one, with a story that is concluded with each album.
Project Creation's story is already written and the 3rd cd will follow that storyline. Even though I can sculpt the songs, most lyrics are done by now, and that future 3rd cd will continue on the prog rock and sometimes prog metal genre.
Another difference between both projects is in the progressiveness of the music; Project Creation may be more experimental and progressive and also has a great deal of guests involved.
I see both projects still existing in 2-5 years, and as long as F.o.D's fans keep on listening to us and buying the albums, and we continue to enjoy writing and making music, I don't see why not.
Project Creation's Floating World trilogy will end with the third opus. However I'm not yet certain if I'll use the Project Creation moniker to continue with more albums, 'coz I have more ideas to put into practice. We'll see, it's pretty early still, but it may continue by that band name.
SoT: Poles was released in 2008, and you've followed that up pretty quickly with A Strange Utopia. How successful did you feel Poles was, and was it easy to get back into the studio and create a follow-up?
Hugo: Poles is a grower, and with the second coming of Factory (w/ A Strange Utopia), I see that people are still discovering our music, and especially the Poles album. For example, on youtube there are several fans that created cool fan-made videos of their favourite Poles' songs. Some other fans are making cover tracks too, and, well, this is an indication that we did in fact manage to reach a good audience and it pleases me. So, all I can say to everyone out there is that we certainly appreciate their support either via fan-made vids, comments, word of mouth, all helps and it's really cool.
To me A Strange Utopia is a much more complex album, because its sound is a mix of Poles and Project Creation. So, I also want to see if our fans will enjoy a bit more progression in the music, and honestly I thing they are enjoying that a great deal. It's a push, and I think people must always be given something more complex to get out of that mainstream stuff that is usually found out there you know, that's why F.o.D is most of all a prog band.
To me Poles is a simpler album. 'To me' I state again, coz when I see some comments and reviews, I understand that people thought it was quiet complex, with many orchestrations and layers of music to discover. Oddly enough, A Strange Utopia seems to be more commercial to some people, and I feel it's actually the other way around, so, it's hard to tell…depends on each person's take.
I have so many ideas for songs that to get back in the studio and start composing was a joy, plus working with Jessica is really nice, and was very cool indeed to produce this new album right after Poles.
Composing, creating melodic landscapes, discovering sounds, that's my thing Pete. It's my World. I love to play new synth sounds, try out new melodies and experience new sensations from those creations. With this in mind, I'm positive that F.o.D's third album will probably be the best Factory album I've done. And I still just recorded some very basic ideas on my tracker, but I can already say that every song really clicks on me and really took my mind on a great trip (no I didn't smoke anything weird, 'laughs'). That's a good indication; it happened for example with the song Sonic Sensations on A Strange Utopia.
SoT: Where did you meet vocalist Jessica Lehto?
Hugo: I found her wandering the streets (laughs)… ok, obviously not, I made her acquaintance….wait, that's too formal…. I Found her at myspace, listened to her music project and immediately realized that her voice was quite unique. It kind of reminded me of Liv Kristine from Leaves Eyes, you know, but warmer and with quite a unique tone. I sent her a demo, and asked very politely and calmly if she was willing to do a test: 'Hey you! I have a song for a new project called FOD, wanna record some test vocals for it or not? If they stink, I'll let ya know and won't bother you again. I need this in 24 hours, pronto'. So, she did, and that was it, she was the only right one for the project really, no one else replied to me either I wonder why hehe… (I really shouldn't have taken a redbull now).
SoT: Symphonic gothic metal has been pretty popular the last few years, especially in Europe and here in the US. Has the success of bands such as Nightwish, Epica, After Forever, and Within Temptation helped push you in this direction with Factory of Dreams?
Hugo: Not really. My goal for Factory of Dreams was to try out simpler music, I had no idea what kind of vocals to incorporate in the project, so, in no way was I thinking of an operatic approach to it or using orchestras as arrangements like some of the bands mentioned. I just sited on my studio for like a week, made 13 tracks, chose 11, and started from there. Later I found Jessica and it's true that the combination of my music with her vocals indeed meant that we could call Factory of Dreams a Symphonic Goth Metal act, but I prefer to call it atmospheric metal in its core . The bands you mentioned, and I really like some of their work, are not as progressive as Factory to me, apart from some Epica songs, and earlier WT, that are really great and instrumentally complex. The use of synthesizers on F.o.D are pushed to the front, thus making it rather different and providing a prog feel to it, along with different structures.
However, your question is very pertinent because I find that some of our fans do indeed come from that background of musical works. So, even though it didn't help that much in making Factory of Dreams, we do try and concentrate some efforts promoting to that audience since indeed Jessica has an operatic kind of voice. But, they must be open-minded about our music as I mentioned.
SoT: How has reaction been so far to the new CD from fans & critics?
Hugo: Fans are really enjoying the new album and supporting the great deal of work that was put into both videoclips we filmed. Most reviews are very good, a few are not as enthusiastic, and in some cases I must mention that Factory of Dreams is not mainstream…simple as that. You can't hear it once and immediately know the choruses or enjoy it all, the music must to be heard several times to get into the thing.
I'm quite happy with the overall media coverage, the awareness that the media's been giving and most especially my attention is to the fans.
SoT: I like the new CD quite a bit, and gave it a very favorable review here on SoT, however, the only real criticism I had was with the programmed drums. Are you considering using a real drummer on future releases?
Hugo: Choosing sampled drumkits over acoustic drums is of course intentional, due to the nature of FoD's sound, plus it's quite practical (but it's not cheap either). It all must contribute to a mechanical feel to the whole sound when I think of Factory of Dreams. It brings the whole sound together. Of course that a real drummer could also play the sampled drums using an electronic kit, indeed, but I also used parts recorded by real pro drummers, not all the time, but like 60% of the time I'd say.
In Project Creation however, I intend to use a real drummer coz that's much more of a prog rock feel to the music.
So to sum up, they're not actually 'programmed', rather sampled drumkits, with sections played by me and other performers, but indeed the intention is to contribute to the genre. But there's a big difference between Poles and A Strange Utopia. Poles is simpler, very electronical, and the new one is much more band sounding drum-wise, and a very special and detailed care was provided to the drums, I must state
SoT: To take this topic one step further, I can totally envision Factory of Dreams going over quite well as a live act. Have you given any thought to actually adding a keyboard player, bassist, and drummer, and playing some live shows?
Hugo: I did take some moments to think about it, yes. But I am mostly interested in telling stories with my albums, composing, recording and mixing, rather then putting it live right now. However it's always a possibility one of these days, if I feel like it. As you mentioned, the act would be great live I'm sure of it!
SoT: Though there's a lot going on throughout A Strange Utopia, your guitar work is always consistent, a nice balance of heavy riffs and blazing solos. Who did you grow up admiring as far as other guitar players go, and who do you keep an eye on today?
Hugo: Thanks! I try not to show off that much, and keep everything quite balanced, plus the way I like to make music and sculpting it, usually tends to keep my guitar work strictly on heavy riffs in conjunction with the pads/synths and bass guitar, and sometimes performing some crazy fast solos. This time, I preferred to reserve room for my guests so they could really shine, like David's melodic violin solos, Shawn's Synths and Tadashi's heavy solos.
I grew up listening to a lot of different music, but as far as guitarists are concerned, Steve Vai is the one that comes to mind, John Petrucci, Randy Rhoads definitely and Joe Satriani. Steve Vai is extremely creative, and a great composer besides a natural talented guitarist touching perfection.
SoT: Though Factory of Dreams is quite heavy at times, there are still plenty of moments that could be considered progressive rock. Do you favor metal over prog, or are you quite happy mixing the two?
Hugo: Above all I love to create melodies on the syntheziser that may really click inside one's mind, starting by mine. This leads me to a genre that is truly symphonic. Behind the synths, I like to apply metal / heavy riffs, so, I'd say I favor metal when it comes to guitar, but prog and symphonic in general.
Overall, it's all very progressively done, and many of my tracks evolve naturally, for example Slow Motion World is an example of that progression, and E-Motions too.
We are obviously talking about the progressive metal side of music, not the traditional or classic heavy metal, that's not really my thing at least while composing. I do like, however, classic metal, but not as a driving force on my compositions.
SoT: How did you happen to get David Ragsdale to take part in the album?
Hugo: I thought that a real violin would fit very nicely on a few songs. I was fortunate enough to count on Shawn Gordon's help for that. I needed a great violinist, so, he gave me a hand by making a first contact with David, and then we exchanged ideas and songs. He's a great musician and contributed a lot to those songs. Inner station and Slow Motion World are two of my favs, and it's also because of the amazing parts he played on his violin! So, you guys out there, be sure to hear these two tracks.
SoT: "E-motions" is perhaps my favorite piece on the CD, probably because it contains everything the band does so well. What are your favorite numbers on the album, and why?
Hugo: E-motions and Voyage to Utopia are two tracks that combine all of the elements from the project. My personal favourite pieces are Voyage to Utopia, Inner Station and Slow motion World. Voyage reminds me of some melodies from our debut Poles, morphs into a heavier piece and continues on evolving into symphonic, then a very electronical vibe and ending in a progressive rhythmic feel.
Inner is big, great intro and then builds into a more commercial, if you will, song, and then back into prog metal with a great interaction between the guitar and bass. Powerful!
Slow Motion World is progression in essence, starts off beautifully and calmly, violin and vocals, and slowly builds up, ending in a tribute to the track 'Factory of Dreams' from Poles with a great violin solo by David.
SoT: Now that we are just entering into 2010, what's in store for Hugo Flores this year?
Hugo: I'll definitely be working on Factory of Dreams third album and also the third Project Creation opus. Don't know which will come first, perhaps F.o.D, but I'd like to spend this year working on both Projects.
In the final chapter of Project Creation the World that has been shown to the Dragonfly, through the Pyramid, will be unveiled, and many of its secrets will be depicted on each track and lyrics. A very special kind of Ocean, a hidden City… loads of new stuff!
As far as Factory of Dreams is concerned, I want the 3rd album to return to the Poles sound, but overall much more powerful and with a greater sense of melody and that sonic sensation I so much enjoy. Every song there will be very powerful melodically.. actually, some will probably be some of the best songs I ever done (at least now I'm quite thrilled with what I'm working on), and they will perhaps please a more mainstream audience even though, as I said, none of my albums will ever be intentionally commercial.
SoT: Thanks again for doing the interview-anything else you'd like to say to our readers in closing?
Hugo: Thank you Pete. SoT has been a long-time supporter, and definitely one of the best prog resources out there. Hope everyone reading will enjoy the new album, the videos and hopefully buy the Cd 'A Strange Utopia', coz that's the only way to help music today. We, the musicians, strive to create one album, and each album takes several years to be created. Hard work. Wasting a whole album, with a download and listening to it within a couple of minutes, like something that is disposable, is a shame. So, up to you the audience to help out, kay?
Thanks Pete and everyone reading the Interview enjoy!