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.:Interviews:.

29/09/2008 – Interview with SYMPHONITY

A new Power Metal band has risen from the Czech Republic's underground: SYMPHONITY (website). Formerly known as NEMESIS, the band released one album at that time, "Goddess Of Revenge". Due to whatever reason the line-up changed and because of name problems this element had to change as well, hence SYMPHONITY. Well, also because they incorporate symphonic elements in their music. Since mid August this year they released a new album, "Voice From The Silence" (review) via the German expert label Limb Music Products. On vocals no one less than Olaf Hayer (ex-DIONYSUS, LUCA TURILLI, MAGIC KINGDOM, ...), whose input and name should help get this Czech band on European rails very fast.

As you could read in my review I was very happy with this release, especially in a time when qualitative (European) Power Metal is hard to find. This interview was about more than why Olaf Hayer joined or why SYMPHONITY signed with LMP. Guitarist and mastermind Libor Krivak was very kind to reserve some time to give detailed answers to my long list of questions.

Symphonity logo

Let's start off with some bio info: how was the band formed? And what caused the name change to SYMPHONITY?

In brief, sometime in 1994 we launched the band called OTTER with my friend drummer Tomas Suchacek. At that time we were rather a group of schoolmates than a regular band. As time went on the line-up changed many times. Also the band name was changed to NEMESIS (not a very original name, by the way). In 2003 the Italian label Underground Symphony released our debut album "Goddess Of Revenge". It was also licensed by Hot Rockin' label for the Japanese market. During the preparation of the new album we were forced to changed the line-up again as well as the band name because bands called NEMESIS are or were perhaps in every country and we had a lot of problems with this name. The brand new album "Voice From The Silence" was released on August 15th, 2008 via LMP in Europe, on September 9th in United States and the Japanese release should be out on October 22nd via Marquee/Avalon.

Did you all take lessons or are some of you self-taught?

I think only some of us have a musical education. I attended a music school and took private lessons on classical guitar for more than twelve years, but regarding the electric guitar I am self-taught. Keyboarder Ivo attended a music school too and later he continued with music history at university. Martin, who plays drums on the new album, passed out of conservatory. The rest of guys do not have a music education. I think this is not necessary to make good music.

There are lots of bands with different nationalities and with you/SYMPHONITY it's not different. How did Olaf Hayer get involved and why did you choose him?

When we were looking for a new singer I sent an e-mail to Olaf with some demos of the new songs, because I'm a big fan of the first album of LUCA TURILLI and I like Olaf's voice very much. He has the perfect colour of the voice for this Power Metal stuff. He asked me for a CD with songs as well as our debut CD. Luckily, Olaf liked it and had an interest to work on the new record. We made a five-songs promo CD and sent it to labels. After we signed a contract with Limb music we finished the rest of the CD. Olaf wrote lyrics to two songs too. In the meantime DIONYSUS split and Olaf became a part of SYMPHONITY as a regular member.

For "Voice From The Silence" you signed with LMP. Since they're famed for being a jump board for Melodic Metal, especially Power Metal, I guess it was obvious to choose them, right? Or did it have something to do with who would have the best offer?

I guess, it would not make sense to sign with a record company that does not take care about melodic Metal. LMP have a good name in melodic ranks and they also have a very good distribution all around the world. This was the most important criterion for us, because today it is not a problem to release a CD, but if the label does not support you via promotion, partners for distribution, etc. the album cannot be successful.

When did you start working on "Voice From The Silence"?

I started with songwriting a few years ago and the oldest song is "Gates of Fantasy", which was played already at the gigs with our former singer and under the old name. On the other hand, some songs I finished when we were about to enter the studio. It means that I had a lot a time for preparation of the material. It was harder work to arrange all the things for the recordings than composing and rehearsing themselves. After all, I am happy with the result and I hope that fans will be satisfied too.

Who or what is this "Voice From The Silence" and how does it connect with the songs?

"Voice From The Silence" does not mean anything deeper, because there is not a concept or common theme. Lyrics for the album were written by four lyricists, so from this point of view the album is miscellaneous. There is a song called "The Silence", it is a long epic composition that takes about ten minutes, so we split it and made some kind of trilogy. The album title has connection to this trilogy, cover artwork and situation, when nobody could hear about us for a longer time. So, now we are back and ready to conquer the world, haha. No, seriously, there is nothing special about this, it is just a title, nothing more.

Voice From The Silence coverThe cover art was done by Derek Gores. Did he get carte blanche or did you give him guidelines?
Which one is the most correct one and is there another reason for choosing this title?

We asked Derek for the artwork when we were still not sure about the album title. After we chose the title Derek brought some proposals and ideas that came to his mind. Since we liked it, there were not too many steps leading to the final concept. The similar situation was regarding the logo. I sent him some working version of band logo via email and then he improved it step by step to fit the overall concept. Derek was very creative and cooperating with him was absolutely trouble free.

How important is cover art, in your opinion? (For SYMPHONITY and in general)

I think cover art and overall the booklet is very important in these days, because it is something extra that people buy with the CD compared to people who download albums in mp3 from the net. Often it is even not a problem to get an album from the net in lossless format and burn on the CD, but fortunately a lot of people still like reading the lyrics and informations in the booklet while they listen to the album.

The mix was done by Sascha Paeth, known for his work with ANGRA, RHAPSODY (OF FIRE), KAMELOT, EDGUY, EPICA, and many others. Well, he was the second one to mix it, as the first mix (not by him) seemed not good enough. Can you tell what happened and why Sascha was contacted later?

Actually, it was not so easy way to (get) the final result. You are right that there was another guy from Germany who started to mix the album, but after the first two songs we stopped the cooperation with him, because we had very different expectations about the overall sound as well as the sound of particular instruments. After that we asked Sascha for the mix. He wanted to check some songs before he agreed to do the mix. Fortunately he liked the stuff and took the job. We are all, from band and label, really satisfied with Sascha's mix and this is very important for us. We chose Sascha because he is one of the best in the world and Olaf has known him for years as well as Limb has.

What was it like, working with Sascha?

I can say that Sascha is an absolute professional and very nice guy. He worked alone, there were only a few consultations via e-mail. He fully filled my expectations and his mix is powerful and clear. We met Sascha at the end of the mixing process at Gate studio, where we sat down for a moment and had a beer. At that time he was very busy due to preparation for the AVANTASIA tour.

You produced the album. Is it better to keep this in-house than work with an external producer?

I am not sure about this because we did not work with an external producer until now. Maybe it will be better, because someone outside can look at things from different perspective and distance contrary to band members. On the other hand this guy should be on the same wave-length like the band in both music and human aspect. I mean, a good spirit without fights about basic things is needed.

I guess with one album, as SYMPHONITY, you'll stay in the Czech Republic for gigs and wait for a second album before going abroad, or are you in contact with other bands to team up for a trip to other countries?

We would like to go for tour as an opener for some better known band and we also would like to play at some bigger festivals in Europe. Of course, it will depend on the sales and many other things. Except the songs from "Voice from the Silence" we are going to play two or three songs from the "Goddess Of Revenge" album. It could be interesting to hear old songs with the new line-up, so we will see.

The music has clear similarities with STRATOVARIUS, SONATA ARCTICA, RHAPSODY (OF FIRE), and others. Are these the kind of bands that formed your taste in Metal or (Melodic) Power Metal in particular?

Of course, I listen to these bands a lot and on one side it is a compliment when someone compares us directly, on the other side we should find our own way, which is not so easy because the PM genre has quite tight boundaries. At the beginning of their career all mentioned bands were also compared to their idols in reviews but after some time they found their own face.

Continuing about these bands or Power Metal in general - I would like to know your opinion about this:

-- a) Some bands got big with this style (EDGUY, STRATOVARIUS, SONATA ARCTICA, AVANTASIA, BLIND GUARDIAN, FREEDOM CALL, HELLOWEEN, and more), but over the years they turned softer, more Hard Rock influenced. I like Hard Rock, but isn't it like betraying your fans when straying away from something that made your name and fishing for a more commercial approach? Wouldn't it be better to use another name for that?

-- b) Newer bands in the (Melodic) Power Metal genre are labeled as such, but the songs lack heaviness, roughness, due to a very polished production that eliminates anything that has "Power", thus also making it Light Metal. The use of keyboards also plays a big role. I told you several months ago - when adding you on MySpace - that you/SYMPHONITY reactivated my interest in Power Metal, since that's my favourite style, but the past few years I haven't found that many interesting bands to continue the legacy of the bigger names. Therefore I turned to extremer genres like Thrash, Black and especially Death Metal. What's your view on this, the superpolished productions or Soft Metal that has sort of replaced Power Metal?

a) It is hard to say. Maybe it has something to do with the musicians' age, when you are already not so excited about things that everyone is expecting from you. When people get older they often prefer a softer side of Metal music, more Hard Rock like. For me it is the same. In the last years I listened to many Hard Rock or AOR bands and projects like PLACE VENDOME, GOTTHARD, BROTHER FIRETRIBE or PINK CREAM 69. But, I still listen also to the Power/Speed Metal bands, of course not to every band, I am quite a demanding listener.

b) I think all Metal genres are more blended than before. There are not so many true Power or true Black or Death Metal bands. Of course, there are some, but much more bands play music with elements from other Metal genres or with non-Metal influences. In our music you can also find themes from other music styles and I think this can be interesting for a listener, but it is still Power Metal, I hope. You wrote "superpolished productions" or sometimes we can say "Power Metal with Pop elements". Hmm, I think they can live abreast with heavier genres. By the way, I also like a lot of pop songs, so I do not have a problem with this.

Symphonity band picture 2008What's the Metal scene like in Czech Republic? Which bands are top, which genres are most liked/popular? I only know ADOR DORATH (a melodic Death/Black Metal band).

Wow, you are definitely the first interviewing journalist who knows at least one band from the Czech Republic! Congratulations:-) The truth is, there are not so many famous Metal bands here and if so, they are rather from the Death or Black rank. In Czech Republic there are very popular bands playing something like "Beer" Rock or Metal and some of them even play in big arenas and sell a lot of CD's. Their success ends at the borders because they usually sing in Czech language. The Power metal scene is very small and most of bands are under small local labels or unsigned. As I said, the situation is probably better in the Black, Thrash or Death Metal scene. There are or were some bands known in Europe. I could mention for example MASTER'S HAMMER, KRABATHOR or still active band ROOT that was on tour with MOONSPELL last year.

What about the national press and radio? Do they pay attention to Metal and in such cases, do they know what they're talking about? I'm not referring the specialised press like Metal Hammer, Terrorizer, etc...

Some radio stations play metal during the day but this is rather rare. More often, radio stations have one Metal session once a week in the middle of the night. Situation n TV is similar. Metal is played in the night and occasionally. Regarding press, in non-specialized music magazines there are only big bands like METALLICA or JUDAS PRIEST and they focus principally on main stream. Fortunately there are some specialized webzines and one big printed magazine Spark. From time to time some new printed magazines entered the scene but only Spark is still alive. Overall, nowadays days, Metal is not so popular music here like for example in Finland, but I can imagine countries where the situation is even worse.

With the market being flooded with new releases - seems like everyone's a musician nowadays - the past few years, does that put more pressure on your shoulders to create an album that stands out?

Yes, sometime I had a feeling that there are more musicians than listeners. :-) It is very hard to keep an overview about the Metal scene even in the melodic rank. The music market is oversaturated by new bands and lots of albums because costs for recordings rapidly fell down with using of "home studios" and everyone has a chance to make his own CD. And therefore, today it is much harder to come to the top. If you want to record a quality album that is above average, you need great musicians, good songs, a record company with good distribution all around the world and of course a little luck. I would say that music industry is in deep crisis and only established bands can release albums via internet because they are already well-known. I do not believe that a newcomer can get to the top only if they share album on the net. It does not work for absolutely unknown bands.

The importance of reviews: just a nice read or do you take certain criticism into account?

Sometimes the reviews are made very precisely and I have to admit "this guy is really good" and it does not matter if the review is positive or negative if it is well done. But sometimes it seems to me that a reviewer does not listen even to the end of the first track. In the internet era, everyone can write reviews for the webzines and I would say that the situation is similar to that, when everyone is a musician as I mentioned above. Only some of them are quality and in this case I am always thinking about the author's opinion.

How has your musical taste changed over the years, from when you were a kid until now?

As I am getting older I am more tolerant to other music styles, but Metal is still the leader. I often listen to softer as well as heavier kinds of like CHILDREN OF BODOM or HEADHUNTER. I like non-metal music too so I am not true Metal warrior, haha. My musical taste started to develop - let us say - at my age 11 and through the years I was influenced by dozens of bands, but I can say that albums I liked when I was a kid I still like today.

When not making music, how do you fill your time (besides having a dayjob)?

Lately, I have not too much free time because I have a regular job. Moreover, I take care of things regarding the band. From time to time I am creating some internet pages, generally, computers are my hobby. I also like to spend my time with my friends. We visit the fitness or more often the pubs. You know, drinking beer is something like national sport in Czech republic similar to ice hockey and we try to be good in this discipline, haha.

One final question: Martin Skaroupka, aka Marthus (http://www.marthusmusic.com/), played the drums on "Voice From The Silence", but he's not mentioned in the Band section, nor in the press release. Was he a guest or is he a full member, but does the website need updating? Since he has his hands full with CRADLE OF FILTH, I guess he was a guest?

Martin was a band member, but currently he is not. I knew already earlier, that he was at some rehearsals with CRADLE OF FILTH at the time when he was still in the band. Now he is a full-time member of COF and it would be difficult to coordinate their tour-dates with our activities. We understand that he follows his dream and we wish him all the best. We are still friends and when we are in Brno we go from time to time for a beer. But the truth is that currently we are looking for a new drummer.

That's it for me. Many thanks for replying to this long list of questions and I wish you all the best with SYMPHONITY and any other musical endeavours you wish to undertake. And of course fingers crossed for some gigs in Belgium or close enough, hehehe. :-) Any final words are yours to add.

Thank you very much for the interview and interest in the band. Some gigs in Belgium would be very nice, we will see ;-) I wish to all your readers a lot of good Metal music. Have a nice time.



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