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InterviewsA Few Words with Tommaso Riccardi of Fleshgod Apocalypse

Posted on Sunday, December 18 2016 @ 08:05:57 CST by Pete Pardo
Heavy Metal

Staff writer Carl Sederholm recently sat down with Tommaso Riccardi (vocals, rhythm guitar) from Fleshgod Apocalypse. The band is currently touring the United States with Epica.

Note: In transcribing this interview, I made a few minor changes in phrasing and in grammar so that things would read as smoothly as possible. All mistakes are my own.

SoT: You guys are currently on tour with Epica, but you are breaking off for some headlining shows along the way. Is that right?

T: Yeah. Because we have a few days off, so we decided to fill as much as possible, to keep being in shape. It depends on the band. We prefer to go and play every day and then make a big stop here and there. Some bands prefer to do two days, three days, and then take a day off. For us, that breaks the vibe a little bit so whenever we can we try to fill in more shows. It's always good. Since we're here, we have fans in many cities so it's good to have the chance to hit as many places as possible.

SoT: That's great. Are you playing a longer set on these headlining stops?

T: On the larger tour, we are playing 45 to 50 minutes. On these shows, we do a fuller set, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

SoT: Awesome

T: That's the formula we like. We thought about playing even more than that but for the kind of information that our music contains, we think 1 hour and 15 minutes is the perfect timing. It's a long set with a lot of songs but it's not too long or too oppressing. It's a good time.

SoT: Let's talk about the new album, King. It seems to have two overlapping themes: how to live in difficult times and how be true to a core essence of ourselves, something represented by the figure of the king. Tell us about these themes a little bit.

T: Yeah. The two things are strictly connected. We always liked to talk through what happens inside people, especially the way that makes us relate to the rest of the world. Most of the time, we've covered personal relationships or the way we feel about ourselves. In this case, we were inspired by the fact that it looks like we live in a particular historical time in which there are so many things that are changing in our culture. There are many cultural fights between people living in different parts of the world.

Also, all the technology that we have can be a positive thing in that you can connect with others more easily but it's also giving us many little addictions that add up. The cell phone itself is that way. All these addictive things are the dark side of the world we live in today, I believe. It's so easy to get lost, to forget what is important. It's important, first of all, to be able to sit for an hour with someone that you love not needing to always be distracted. In a way, everyone has a little bit of this addictive behavior but its important to fight that off as much as possible but the problem is that its also a big part of the population that is sickening in some ways. It's so easy to for all this information and other things to distract us. We also have so many cultural difficulties across the planet. People easily get scared and they forget about the really important things. The King on the album is the part of ourselves that we were when we were born but that we cover up with many things. But it is still there. We can still remember those things and say, it's OK, it's normal, we cannot stop it, there's an evolution, but you still need to remember to be there, to be present, as much as possible.

SoT: It reminds me a little of Thoreau's book Walden, of the need to think and to rediscover who you are, your priorities. We need to learn how to live in a distracting and crazy world. The King on the album represents our ability to learn how to cope with it all and to grow.

T: Yeah.

SoT: I really love the cover art for the new album. You worked with Eliran Kantor on this one. Did you ask him to do something specific or did he come up with his own design?

T: We gave him the idea and it was really interesting because I really think it was cool that there is an artistic value in the way he worked. It was not just us telling him exactly what we wanted, this detail here and there. It was more like we told him the story of the album and we told him we wanted a picture to represent the kind on his throne. But then, we talked about how this king was, the fact that this guy represents this part of ourselves, this old world way of being, the true values and that this world is endangered because all the other characters in the court represent the things that would put everything in doubt, that would try to tear his power down and to put an end to that world and go into perdition basically. He is someone who is really old and tired. He fights for his values and he wants the commonwealth. He believes he's a king that can make people live good lives but he's so tired of fighting that he's almost ready to surrender. The good thing is that from this image that we gave, Eliran came up with the picture and I really, really like the fact that in his eyes you can really see that.

SoT: Eliran Kantor is a really good painter. His cover art is always fantastic.

T: Yeah, because I mean the eyes of a single character on a cover can really tell us a lot. If you make a little mistake in the expression, it won't give the same impression. The fact that a lot of people like it is because the king's eyes are really telling everything inside the story. There are also two or three other things that I really like that Eliran came up with on his own, like the wires that are holding the king up. You cannot even understand if he is alive or dead because his look is so lost and it looks like he's almost dead. Eliran also decided to put the crown to the side and chain it down. There's one more thing that is hard to see but there's a black snake that is sneaking between the king's legs. There's a piece of a snake, like a black mamba, a black snake that is near his legs, obviously representing the theme of betrayal. It reminded me of the artist Hopper who sometimes painted spaces with windows looking out into total darkness. Eliran did the same thing with the curtain on the side here. You can see there are some dark areas; you don't know if there's anybody behind that curtain spying on things. It's really nice. The cover is impressive at the first look but it also contains a lot of subliminal things that you don't see at first look also.

SoT: When you said Hopper, did you mean, Edward Hopper, the American painter who did Nighthawks?

T: Yeah. I really like him. There's always that thing where sometimes things are shiny but then there's always some darkness and it's so pressing.

SoT: I love that. Stephen King really likes Edward Hopper, too.

T: I believe that. Stephen King is great because it's exactly the way he works. Sometimes he brings up the little town that is super cool but behind this reality there is something horrible. That's the kind of idea we're talking about. It's really nice.

SoT: I really love Dario Argento. Do you ever get into his work? Do you enjoy it?

T: Yeah. He's a big part of the cinematographic heritage of Italy. I mean, everyone, especially when we were teenagers, would spend time watching his movies. Absolutely.

SoT: I wanted to know about other metal bands from Italy that our readers may not know very well. What bands would you tell us we should check out?

T: I always say Hour of Penance because they are good friends and brothers. They've been around for a long time. Francesco [Paoli—drummer in Fleshgod Apocalypse] used to sing for them at the very beginning. They are less active then before and they've had a lot of lineup changes. I think that in extreme metal, though, The Vile Conception (2008) is a very good piece of death metal.

There's more. There's this band The Modern Age Slavery that are good friends, I don't know if you know about them.

SoT: I don't, but I'll check them out.

T: I did some guest vocals with them. Those guys are really cool. There not very active nowadays but they've been touring Europe a little bit. Here in America, I've seen a couple of fans wearing their t-shirts.

Then there's this band with very, very, high levels of musicianship called Destrage. They are big in Italy but not a big perception of the band outside. They do this thing that's difficult to describe and that's good. There's a "coreish" side to the music and a death metal side and a lot of progressive elements, some crazy stuff. It's interesting. I would recommend them.

The next band, we're not talking about metal, but honestly they are one of my favorite bands ever. They are getting very big in Italy but we're talking about something in between indy rock, punk rock, and pop. The lyrics are in Italian so it's harder for them to reach out beyond there. The band is called Fast Animals and Slow Kids.

SoT: They're good, huh?

T: Oh, man. Unbelievable. The music is great and the thing is that it is very, very rare nowadays in general in all music genres to find a band that is like that live. You know when a rock band has that something that makes it wild? The albums have really good music, I really love it but that sound the band creates on the albums is more popish but live you realize there is much more—pure violence, but in a very positive mood, especially because they have this guy Aimone Romizi who is the front man and it's incredible. He is my neighbor. He's on the same street where I live, or at least where I lived with my parents. I've since moved away. We grew up, kind of, together. He is seriously one of the greatest frontmen I have ever seen. That band, for everyone who is into other kinds of music besides metal, is absolutely to be checked out.

After I finished recording, Tomasso and I kept talking for another 10 minutes or so. Most of the conversation was off the cuff but I did also learn that the band is very happy with King and that Tomasso sees it as one of the most mature and well-developed recordings the band has done so far. I agree. When I thanked Tomasso for his time, he replied that sitting down and talking—and really paying attention—is one of the most important things we can do. Thanks to Nuclear Blast and Tomasso for making this interview happen.

Carl Sederholm

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