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08/05/2009 – Interview with ANGELI DI PIETRA

The Belgian Folk/Power Metal band ANGELI DI PIETRA (official website) recently released its debut album, "Storm Over Scaldis" on the 8th of May via CCP Records. You can read my review of the album at this location. The listening session report can be found here. The band held a listening session on that day and yours truly was there of course, as you could read many weeks ago. I had an interview planned on that same day and co-founder/guitarist Quevin Marcsson aka Kevin Smeyers took some time to answer my list of questions. The questions were prepared before the listening session, so it's normal you won't see any questions going a little deeper into, for example, the songs themselves. The priority then was writing comments about the album. Anyhow, maybe I can do it on a next occasion.

This interview is obviously long overdue, but as time passes by and you get more releases to review, it can happen that you have to postpone the processing of interviews. I do want to apologise for this, as I usually work on them faster. But I promise not to let audio interviews untouched for so long. Likewise with reviews, but that's a different matter. Anyhow, happy reading. ;-)

Angeli Di Pietra logo

Since on an international scale you're not that known yet, except that your performance at Paganfest probably has had an influence (however small), could you give a short explanation of how ANGELI DI PIETRA came to existence and what the meaning of the name is?

ADP started out as a hobbyproject by Gael and me, two guitarists coming together and jamming a bit. The result looked/sounded like songs, hence the idea to do something with that and form a band. For that purpose we looked and found equally interested musicians, like Kurt (bass). He's been around since the early days. Sjoera as well. One thing leads to another then, writing songs, forming a band, looking for gigs, etc.. and also recording a demo, doing more gigs, recording another demo and now the big shot!

And the name?

Oh right. ;-) Initially we used the name NIGHTCROW. We never played any gigs, but that was the idea at that time. Since the name sounded a bit ridiculous and cliché, we decided to change it by stealing it from a song from RHAPSODY, "Angeli Di Pietra Mystica", which can be found on the "The Power Of The Dragonflame" album. The band was very popular back then, which we found more than ok. Besides, the name sounds well, so...

Angeli Di Pietra bandTo continue about internationale fame: you recently performed in The Netherlands. How was it?

Very nice. It wasn't the first time, though, since we had been there twice already, including at Dynamo, which isn't such an unknown place. This time we played at smaller venues: two times in a small pub with friendly bands. Definitely not a big festival, but nevertheless nice. The Dutch audience does react differently than the Flemish.

Less wild/enthusiastic?

Yeah, they're less excited. They'll appreciate your playing and will remain in the room, but they won't join in in an enthusiastic manner. But if they're staying, you know the concert was alright.

Paganfest last year: you performed with many great bands. Did you learn something from that, how to deal with certain matters and situations?

Not really. Paganfest had a tight schedule and we had very few contacts with the other bands. After our performance we had to clear the stage immediately, load it all into our cars, ... We did stay to see the other bands at work, of course. But everything was so tightly arranged we didn't have time to chat with the other bands. So on that point, we didn't learn much. We did learn how to behave in front of a big audience. Until now I can say that Hof Ter Lo (Antwerp, Belgium) is the biggest venue we've played in and it has been an experience to never forget.

How are songs written in ADP? Does it always start with you and Gael?

Mainly Gael, yes. He's the main composer, actually, writing most of the songs or processing ideas from the rest of the band. When we have a good riff, he listens to it. Lots of work is done with Guitar Pro. We then mail the files to each other and by the next rehearsal everyone can play this or that riff or song. We've been using this system since the last 1.5-2 years now and it works just fine.

And then the lyrics are added?

Yep. The lyrics are mostly added at the end and are completely by the hands of Guy and Sjoera. We've got nothing to do with that.

Has it ever been the other way around? Lyrics first, then the music?

Not yet, but we intend to try that on our next album. Time will tell.

With the new album, "Storm Over Scaldis", you finally managed to sign with a label. What took you so long?

We wrote to many labels at the time of our 2005 demo, but no reaction followed. We had only sent about ten copies, I think, which was of course too little. We didn't want to make that mistake again, so we recorded the album completely. We had the master and made promo copies, have the booklets printed ourselves and made packages to be sent to many more labels, especially those in Western Europe. It was a big project, via e-mail and snailmail: sending packages, envelopes, ... a lot of time went into it and it paid off. CCP reacted positively.

Why specifically CCP?

They were quick and showed lots of interest in our music, which is of course positive. For a debut release it's more interesting to be with a small label. A beginning band can use all promotion and we feared that when signed to a major like Nuclear Blast or Napalm Records, that attention wouldn't be so high, since they're focussing on their big(ger) artists. It's better to be respected with a small label than to be in the shadow of the big ones with a bigger label.

Quevin"Storm Over Scaldis" was recorded in The Netherlands, in the Excess Studios. Any reason for doing it with the neighbours and not here or maybe Germany?

A lot of people ask that question. Why not in the CCR Studio, which has a certain fame?

Or the Galaxy?

Or the Galaxy, indeed. I don't know why we explicitely chose Excess. It wasn't too far, yet more international than e.g. CCR or Galaxy or any other studio. They treated us very professionally. We had sent letters to several studios and they had the most interesting reaction. Plus, the bands who have already recorded their albums there had a more interesting sound with the one we had in mind for our CD. That's what Excess stood out for. And like I said, big names have recorded their material in those studios: AFTER FOREVER, AYREON, ... bands that are known for their atmospheric sounds, intricate compositions, etc... And we wanted a studio, or better, producer who could realise that. I think that Hans Pieters had succeeded in doing that. We're satisfied of his work.

Did you manage to put your own ideas and desires onto the table or did he suggest the most?

It was a correlation between us and him. In the beginning we had recorded the songs live during the rehearsal and sent them to him to give him an idea of the songs' structure. He listened to those tracks and during the recordings he suggested we try some things he had in mind. But we too pushed our ideas through regarding the sound of things, or the what should come out better, stuff like that. I think we treated each other's suggestiones respectfully.

It definitely sounds good. The lyrics then. What are the songs about?

Guy gave the explanation during the listening session, but in general: mythology, history, fantasy, those kinds of things. Guy and Sjoera have always had a keen interest in history and mythology, which is an endless source of inspiration, be it the Greek or Roman or any other. And that's very helpful to write good lyrics. Plus, we've always said we don't want to be a political band nor an emotional one. There are no personal feelings in the lyrics or music to supposedly give it a dark touch. We just do it for the music and because it's fun. The lyrics are pleasant, the chosen subjects dito, mainly because you can talk about them endlessly.

Maybe it's best to ask Guy or Sjoera, but why Scaldis? To stress the Belgian character?

The Antwerp character. The band's from Antwerp, almost all of us live in this city. We create the storm and the Scaldis is nearby.

Something different now: the rights to the music. Do you own it or does CCP have them?

CCP has the rights to the album, but we own the rights to the songs, lyrics, etc...

Which leads to the next question and this regards Sabam, considering they defend the rights of the artists. Do you see anything of that?

We are registered, but only for copyrights and live performances. The production rights are free, else we couldn't copy our CD to have it pressed in Austria. In which case we had to pay lots of reproduction rights: first to the label, then the label to the press company, the press company to the Austrian version of Sabam and the Austrians then to Sabam themselves. The money would come back to us eventually... after everyone had taken his share.

But do you get money from Sabam?

Not yet, no, because our music isn't played that much on the radio and television. That will soon change, we hope. We'll see what happens.

If not, it's a Fortis investment: lots of money in, nothing coming out. ;-)

Lol, I don't think the big money will come from Sabam, rather from CD sales and merchandising.

But does being registered have its use then?

Not yet, but who knows... some day.

Storm Over Scaldis coverGoing back to the album. Did Marijke get carte blanche for the artwork or did you give her ideas to juggle with?

She made the overall design, but we did help her with suggestions. She had ideas, we agreed or offered changes. The biggest part was done by her: the booklet, the cover, the back. She even made the new logo.

The old material is sold out, has been since quite some time. Any chances you'll re-release them or maybe re-record some of it?

That's undecided at this point. We don't exclude it, as it might be possible to have an old song, in a reworked version, on the next album. But we have enough new material to continue in that direction. There was a style change back then and should we go back to those songs, it wouldn't sound right.

But you could add them as a bonus CD, for example.

Again, we don't exclude it, but that also depends on the record company, if they can finance it.

Any tour plans for "Storm Over Scaldis"?

At the moment it's very calm in terms of gigs. There's nothing planned, except for some small festivals later this year: Occultfest in The Netherlands and Blikfest in Belgium. But we're still negotiating.

How much time does ADP require compared to your jobs, hobbies and other occupations?

A lot! But it depends... everyone's involved. Gael and I are the founders and logically spend most of our time on the band. We also maintain contacts with labels, have put this release together, we write letters, have done promo (also thanks to Marijke, who helped us a great deal). Both of us spend almost all our free time on ADP. The fixed rehearsal day is Wednesday, for everyone. Next to that there are of course the occasional gigs.

And last, the Belgian Metalscene. How can we better promote it?

Everyone keeps saying the scene is close to dead, but...

Not exactly dead, but internationally there are only a few bands that can be named: ABORTED, ENTHRONED, AFTER ALL, GWYLLION getting recognition in Germany. Other than that the list could use many more names.

True, but I wouldn't say the scene isn't doing a good job. It's hard to break through internationally. But in my opinion, bands like CRIMSON FALLS are doing great. That's the first name that came to mind, since they were played on Studio Brussel recently. But I wouldn't say things are going bad. It's crisis for everyone. ;-)

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