Alex, you are known to be a filmscore metalband. Do you watch a lot of movies?
“Yes I do, especially the large-scale fantasy movies like The Lord Of The Rings and King Arthur. Next to that I also enjoy big-budget spectacular Hollywood-productions like Van Helsing and The Day After Tomorrow. But also films from other genres – Gone In 60 Seconds is one of my all time faves – are amongst the films that I watch. I enjoy films from all different genres, although I know that not all films are good. Luca and I are definitely the biggest movie-buffs of the band, but the other members like cinema too. My all-time favourite? I'd have to say The Lord Of The Rings. Because it is so long and fantastic. And I also have a passion for Halle Berry and her films.”
I could have expected that you'd say The Lord Of The Rings.
“When we Rhapsody saw The Lord Of The Rings we were cheering in the cinema. Finally someone composed the kind of film that visualised what we had been working on for years. Of course The Lord Of The Rings was a fundamentally different story, but it shared the epic moments and the great music with the concept of Rhapsody.”
And what about your favourite soundtrack?
“(pauses) That is really, really difficult for me to say because there are so many. But I guess hat I have always had a soft spot for the music of Conan The Barbarian. A very simple soundtrack, actually, but very atmospheric. A classic. But there are many more great filmscores: the original Batman, Starship Troopers, The Omen, soundtracks by Goblin, by Morricone, etcetera. The soundtracks to some films are actually better than the movies themselves, being totally atmospheric, while the film itself – be it the script, the acting or the directing – can be total crap.”
Who is your favourite composer?
“The best moviecomposer, according to me, is Hans Zimmer. But there are many more. Danny Edman, Howard Shore, John Williams… What I like to pick up is the music itself, and not just be fanatic about one name of one composer. Sometimes you have a composer who scores only one mayor film in his whole life, but that single one is fantastic nevertheless.”
You mention Hans Zimmer. Have you ever watched the animation-film Spirit, Stallion Of The Cimarron? The soundtrack was cooperation between Hans Zimmer and Bryan Adams, and the result was a good symbiosis of soundtrack- and rockmusic.
“That is the film with the animated horse, right? (yes – Ferdi). No I haven't watched it or heard the score. I will listen to it someday, but I fear that Bryan Adams is too commercial for my taste.”
Two years ago there was talk about expanding on Rhapsody's world in a number of ways, including a book and a videogame. How are these plans shaping up?
“We tried out some things in the past few years. We are going to take it step by step. Now we have a new management and label, so it is a completely new beginning for us. From here on we must decide how we will expand Rhapsody's world. The first step is likely to be the upcoming worldwide tour, which we will be hoping to become something truly special.”
Your brother, Alex Staropoli, frequently stars on Rhapsody-albums. What is it like to work with a family member?
“Manuel is great, I love him to death. Working with him is always fantastic. That is why we decided to give him more time and space on the new CD. I come from a very musical family. My father and mother do not make a lot of music, but the rest of the family either plays or composes. My cousin is an organist, his brother is a good violin player, my uncle works in the conservatory and Manuel and I play in Rhapsody. So you can say that I have been brought up with classical music.”
Your new album 'Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II – The Dark Secret' is out now. Is it the ultimate Rhapsody-album?
“I'd like to think so, yes. It has all the ingredients we wanted Rhapsody to have from the start. We are so proud of it. There is only one filmscoremetalband in the world and that is Rhapsody. We are proud to be unique.”
If this is the ultimate Rhapsody-cd, then how are you going to top it in two years time?
“By writing even better material. We already finished some songs for the next cd and the material is shaping up to be pretty strong. It is different but exciting. Christopher Lee will be present on the second album too. In fact, he already recorded his parts for the next cd. He is the official Rhapsody-narrator, so of course he has to be back.”
Did you spend a lot of time talking to Christopher Lee, when he recorded his parts?
“Yes. Luca, Christopher and I spent many hours talking about the past and about art in general. He is a very sympathetic person to talk to. Very open-minded.”
And did those conversations also cover his upcoming works?
“No they didn't. When an actor signs a contract to do a certain film, the studio also forces him to sign a contract promising total secrecy about a film until its release. I would have liked to talk to him about the new Star Wars or Return Of The King – which was in postproduction at the time - but contractually he wasn't allowed to talk about any upcoming projects.”
Your videos have been far from impressive so far. Do you have any plans to change that?
“We are ready for more. To us the videos are a visual presentation of the music. The Lord Of the Rings could of course have been the perfect video for our music. Such a project is not without its costs, though. It is all a matter of getting enough money to record a proper video.”
The vocal work of Fabio Lione on the new album is much better than in the past. What happened? At this point, Fabio bumps into the conversation.
“For one, we spent much more time in the studio, which gave me a lot more time to think about the lyrics and the vocals. This gave us time to fit the right words with the right vocals. I also went into the studio with a lot of enthusiasm. Besides Rhapsody I have played in many bands in Italy during the last few years. I have played a lot live and sung a lot, which made me a better singer than before. Also what I really like is that the singer is now a real bandmember of Rhapsody.”
Which is a different situation than in the beginning.
“When I came into Rhapsody I didn't know Luca, I didn't know Alex. Their manager told me that there was this Italian band in the studio that just lost their singer and needed a replacement. No-one was able to give me a demo tape or something, so I flew to the studio without knowing who or what to expect. In the beginning this gave a lot of problems. Face it: we weren't a band, we were a project and I was hired to do the vocals for music that at the time did not suit me. The result of the first album was good, but not perfect. We have now come to the point where everybody in the band knows where we all stand. The composers know the capabilities of my voice. They know that I am not a straightforward metalsinger. They know that I am an opera singer who accidentally got caught up in the metal scene. Now that they know that, they can write music that is much more suited to my voice. So all in all… If you say that the vocals are better, it is a combination of experience and a better synergy in the band.”
Finally, Fabio… You are not averse to lighting a cigarette every now and then. Doesn't that make you an exception, being a smoking singer and all?
“Why, yes, but it doesn't seem to hurt my voice.. Singers with a strong, stable voice are able to cope with smoking much more than someone with a fragile voice. Take Geoff Tate, for instance. He has smoked for years without it harming his voice. Even Bruce Dickinson's voice could handle it. I know Bruce doesn't smoke, but if he wanted to, he could do it. It is a matter of balance. The trick is not drinking and smoking too much and getting enough sleep on a tour to give my vocal chords enough time to rest. To me it is not such a big deal that I smoke. It doesn't harm my voice and I enjoy a cigarette. There's nothing wrong with that, is it?”