Italy's own fantasy fanatics Rhapsody is a band that no longer needs an introduction. Quickly establishing themselves as one of the leading and most unique power metal bands in the world, further accomplishments such as touring with epic metal veterans Manowar and a guest appearance by Mr. Saruman (aka Christopher Lee) have made them a household name for metal fans worldwide.

Tartarean Desire Chief Editor Vincent Eldefors discussed their recent live album and plans for a new studio album and DVD as well as solo plans with frontman Fabio Lione on January 19th, 2006.

How are you?
Fine, thank you, and you?

Yeah, me too. You have recently released your live debut, are you satisfied with the way it came out?
Yeah, of course, because we tried to give a tribute to Canada because when we played the shows in Canada in the summer I was surprised about the reactions of the people. It was like when we played in Europe, we played these two sold-out shows and I was also trying to speak French [laughter]. I did my best and they appreciated it so we decided to release this live CD, the first live CD ever for the band, and just give this tribute to Canada, you know, because the two shows were really successful. It was something natural, you know.

Ok, so the idea came after the shows?

What has the media response been like so far?
Well, I was surprised because sometimes they talk about Rhapsody as a studio band or something like that because we use samplers for choirs and orchestra. To me it's kind of strange because a lot of bands have done that such as Queensr˙che for "Operation: Mindcrime" so it's almost impossible to play every show with a real orchestra and it's also very expensive so we must use samplers. If we don't do that we will lose a lot of elements in our music and a lot of songs will sound totally different but I don't see anything bad in that. With this live CD all the people are talking really good about the result. They say "the band is better now, the band has improved a lot throughout the years". Well, it's true but it's not true. It's just that we have never released a DVD or live CD before so a lot of people don't know us, they don't see us. What I like is that we chose one complete show and not songs from different shows. What you can hear is a complete show and you can hear that it's real because the sound is more aggressive, my voice is sometimes more aggressive. This is something that I like.

Do you think that you will ever be able to perform with a live orchestra?
It's not easy but maybe it will be possible one day, something like a festival. It would be very nice.

What do you think about touring in general?
Well, it's nice because you can share emotions, you can share different cultures and see a lot of countries so you have a nice experience. And then for the band it is important because we stayed three years without touring which is really bad for a band. A band needs to play, needs to be together on stage and feel the atmosphere between the crowd and the band. We are very happy to be back, we played North America and two festivals in Europe. In March and April we will play again with Manowar in Europe and in the summer some festivals and then in October we hope to do a headliner tour where we can play in some countries that we can't with Manowar. We'll hopefully play France, Japan, Scandinavia...

Where do you have most of your fans?
It depends..., Germany of course is very good for Rhapsody, France, Japan, South America is amazing. And Canada, we didn't know but now we know.

Which is the best show or tour you've done so far do you think?
The best tour was maybe the North American one because we didn't expect much. We expected to play in small venues in front of 300 or maximum 500 people and when there are a couple of thousand at every show it's much better than you were thinking before. It's almost like in Europe so as a tour this North American tour was probably the best and the Japanese tour we did in 2002. As a concert I don't know..., maybe this Canadian concert or the Earthshaker Festival.

How is it different working with Magic Circle compared to Limb Music?
Of course it's different because I think about the cultures. They are Americans most of them and they have the experience of a band of 25 years like Manowar. It's also a bigger company and they give us good possibilities. With "Symphony Of Enchanted Lands - Part II" we had a real orchestra for the first time and also Mr. Saruman - Christopher Lee - with us and it was a really nice experience. We have to thank Magic Circle for that for sure.

Was it difficult working with a real orchestra for the first time?
Not like we thought, it was easier than we thought and it was a really, really great success.

How did you get in touch with Joey DeMaio in the first place?
Well, this was a coincidence because the Manowar guys were playing three shows in Italy in 2001 or something like this. They needed a keyboard player and they were thinking about Alex, our keyboard player, so Alex went on stage with them in Italy, three shows, and they started talking and this was the beginning of the connection between Rhapsody and Manowar. We also like Manowar since many years and Neil [Johnson], the guy behind our videos, he was working for Limb but he was also working with Magic Circle so we have some points in common and in the end our contact with Limb was almost gone so we said, why not?

So they knew about Rhapsody from before?
Yeah, they knew Rhapsody from before.

What is it like working with him?
Well, it's a particular arrangement. He's charismatic, a strong man with nice ideas. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's not like everything in life. But I think it's better this way becuase, I mean if you're working with a guy who is always cool and perfect it is also boring [laughing]. In this way it's more like if you have a family or if you have a wife, it's better if you fight sometimes. Always when you fight it will be a better moment.

What was it like singing with Christopher Lee?
Well, with Christopher Lee it was a nice experience because he listened to the band and he really likes the song and the band. He knew that we were Italians, he speaks perfect Italian and he loves Italy so this was the first point that Mr. Lee agreed on. Then I have to say that the husband of his daughter is a really big Rhapsody fan and this guy also runs the international website of Mr. Lee. So it was easy in the end to have a connection with him.

How did you get in touch with him?
Thanks to the husband of his daughter. Strange but it's true. This guy was a Rhapsody fan, he's the guy who runs the website of Mr. Lee and he's also the guy who knows Joey DeMaio so all these things together put Rhapsody and Mr. Lee together.

Are you a big fan of opera music in general?
Yeah, I really like opera like Domingo, Pavarotti, Carreras, things like this. Then, if we're talking about me I listen to many, many kinds of music [laughter], not only heavy metal. I really like Depeche Mode, U2, Cream...

Are you inspired by opera singers as a singer or mainly rock singers?
Yeah, for sure I'm inspired by that. I am always trying to put the opera touch or soul into the heavy metal field. I don't like these singers who always sound the same with a high falsetto voice. Sometimes it's cool but when you listen to ten songs with the same sound and always the same voice, to me it's a little boring. That's why I like this band because the music of Rhapsody gives me the possibility to sing like in a theatre, to tell a story and put passion and heart and something more into it, not just scream like any power metal singer can do.

Have you ever done singing in a theatre or just in bands?
I did one time in Italy, yes. It was a musical - "Jesus Christ Superstar" [laughter]. It was very fun because it was like opera. I remember the singer who did Jesus, he was really good. I don't remember the name but I was very impressed. Then I was young, I was something like 21, 22... I did only a minor part, not Jesus or Judas... That was a nice experience.

Who are your favorite singers of all time?
Oh, there are many..., Freddie Mercury, David Coverdale, Joey Tempest, Ronnie James Dio...

You have been working on a solo album for some time now?
Yeah, it will be my first solo album. I will of course try to do something with a metal touch but not only metal, also classical, opera and hard rock. I hope the Rhapsody fans will like it and I have been working on it since two years. I have six, almost seven, songs ready so I hope to be able to release it next year. I used to sing in some bands in Italy - Athena, Labyrinth, Vision Divine - so I think now is the right moment to do something by myself. Every time I was a singer of a band I started the band with the first album, composing vocal lines, lyrics, you know, and then, for one reason or another, I left the band, except for Rhapsody. Then they continue which is good but it is also not good because I give them the possibility of a second album, a third and so on [laughter]. I have received some proposals from bands who want me to sing with them but I am thinking, I've already done this for three bands. It's better for me to do my first solo project.

You don't regret leaving any of the other bands?
No, I have my band, Rhapsody is definitely my band. If I have a good solo career I will be happy also to do solo tours and a solo band.

What is your opinion on the Italian metal scene as a whole?
The metal scene is better than before now because it's more open and it's easier for the bands to play live. We have better studios and better sound engineers. Of course Germany and Scandinavia are still in a better position I think. You have much more bands, more studios. It's not only the metal music, it's also a culture. You have a strong metal scene. In Italy the pop scene is really, really strong. When you have Eros Ramazotti, Andrea Bocelli, this kind of singers, it's almost impossible for a metal band to get in the chart. This is possible in Scandinavia I think and in Holland... In Italy it's different. I remember when Rhapsody were in the chart for six weeks. It was incredible, first time something like that had happened. Of course not the first place, or second or third but something like 20-25 but still, considering the pop country that Italy is, it's a lot.

How popular are you in Italy?
We are popular but the Italian people are strange. When one American is successful all the American people are happy for him because one of them is famous. Italians are the opposite, if you are famous all Italian musicians talk bad about you and your band because they don't like that [laughter]. This is not very nice. The Italian people are a little crazy and strange sometimes.

Have you had any interest from national TV or radio?
Yeah, sometimes we have some offers and sometimes we refuse. I remember one time, it was the Italian national wrestling championchip. They invited Rhapsody to play on TV but we were in a studio in Germany doing "Power Of The Dragonflame". This was so bad because we wanted to do that. When you're in the middle of the work on a new album you can't really leave. But I've still got the number of this guy and I hope we can do something in this direction in the future because it will be something really interesting I think.

Now that you have released a live album do you think there will be a DVD in the future as well?
Yeah, I'm sure about that. Of course we only have a limited edition of the live CD now with a short bonus DVD of 10 minutes. It's kind of a preview to show people what a real DVD can be like that we might release at the end of the year. Now we don't have that much material so we hope to gather more on this European tour and some summer festivals that we will do again with Manowar. So we'll have much more material to put on a real DVD.

Have you written any new material for the next studio album yet?
Yes, we are already working on the next album because it's the best possibility for us to be able to release this album at the end of this year. That's our idea because if we wait until the end of the tour we will have no time and then the album will be released in the end of 2007.

What is the new material like?
Of course it's not totally different [laughter]. We have some surprises but I can't tell a lot about it. I can say that we liked the idea we used in "The Magic Of The Wizard's Dream" single to sing songs in different languages. I can say that we liked this and we want to do that also for the future and possibly on this album. One song on the album we might sing in different languages. And I think the album will be complex but I can't say a lot about that.

Ok, but you hope to release both the DVD and a new album before the end of 2006?
It is our idea but nothing is fixed. It depends on when we finish the album. I could be that one of them is released in September 2006 and the other in February 2007.

A few years ago you had plans for a "Rhapsody In Black" project, what happened with that?
Yeah, it was one idea we had but in the end we decided not to do that because the Rhapsody music is really melodic and sweet and barocque I would say. So "Rhapsody In Black" would be something which is not really Rhapsody 100% but this does not mean that some time in the future we will not think about something like this. It's just that now is not the right moment. We prefer to concentrate on live shows since we didn't play a lot in two or three years so now I think the most important thing for Rhapsody is to play live and to do a new album.

Did you have any music written or was it just an idea?
No, we had three or four songs in this direction of "Rhapsody In Black" but in the end we didn't finish all the songs because we said "let's put this project in the closet" and wait to see when the right moment is to do something like this.

Was it completely different from the music you've released with Rhapsody?
Well, if you remember the song "When Demons Awake" [off "Power Of The Dragonflame"], it was something in this direction with really aggressive vocals and fast music so not really Rhapsody 100%.

Any final message for your fans?
Yeah, I really hope to come and play in your country because I think we've missed your country since three years or something like this. I also hope all our fans will enjoy our first live CD.

What can people expect from your live shows on the Spring tour?
For sure we will have something particular on stage because we are thinking about having some spectacular visual things. We like to give to the people also a visual show, not only something that you hear, something more complete, and we are also talking about set list. I don't think we will play exactly the same set as the last tour, we want to change a little because it's also boring for the band to play the same songs and I think the same for the crowd.

But you will have the special effects for every show?
I think so, it's what we want. It does of course depend on the venue, how big it is, and if the promoter gives us the possibility to use fireworks.

That was pretty much it, thank you very much for this interview and good luck on tour!
Thank you so much. Bye!

Links of interest:

Magic Circle Music