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Interview conducted July 14 2017
Interview published July 26 2017

"We really respect our own artistic flow and we don't want to stop that."

As the opportunity was in reach, Metal Covenant managed to make an appointment with vocalist and guitarist Tommaso Riccardi of Italian symphonic death metallers Fleshgod Apocalypse when they recently made an appearance at Gefle Metal Festival on the band's first ever visit to Sweden.

Tobbe: You know, a lot of Italian bands have symphonic parts in their music, just like you have. So, why is that?

Tommaso: I think it's really connected to our heritage. And, you know, we're not the only ones, because also, like, Germany and other parts of Europe have a long history in classical music. But probably the mix between that kind of heritage and being very hot-blooded makes it happen, you know. We've been, like, the big power metal current during the mid 90's and there was a lot of symphonic stuff there and we really liked the idea of combining all this kind of heritage with death metal.

Tobbe: So besides that, what does Fleshgod Apocalypse do to separate yourselves from all the other bands?

Tommaso: I think we never thought about having, you know, the need of separating ourselves from others. I guess we just started trying to be ourselves as much as possible since the beginning. We found our formula and we do our thing. It started off with, obviously like everything else, just trying to, like "OK. We want to mix this classical heritage with death metal.".

We've been always big fans of the old school American death metal. And then it slowly became something else and now it looks like that's Fleshgod Apocalypse and we keep doing it.

Tobbe: Previously, or on the first couple of records, you were more a regular death metal band, but you're more, like, bombastic or grandiose nowadays. So why did you actually change the style a little bit?

Tommaso: You know, the crazy thing is that if you listen to Oracles [2009], for example, the very first album, we still didn't have full orchestrations during the whole songs. We had, like, intros and outros, but you can still already find that seed into that, because harmonic progressions, melodies and the guitars were already set into the classical side. There was a lot of neo-classical and classical progressions in there.

And then it came pretty natural to think "Why don't we put an actual orchestra and classical instruments in there?". And then it started, like, developing in that direction and it looks like this kind of idea came out even more with King [2016] in particular.

Production-wise we've been doing a lot of improvements and working with Jens Bogren has been a pleasure. And also improving and learning from previous experiences, into arranging and composing, brought this level in which it is not anymore just death metal with symphonic elements, but it became also something else with a lot of variety. I guess it's just our natural musical development.

Tobbe: And then you have added more female vocals too?

Tommaso: Everything came from, you know, introducing more and more actual classical elements. So it started off with Francesco [Ferrini] touring with us, and not only recording, and having a piano on stage. And then next step was, you know, obvious, to have a soprano in there, so. I hope that next step would be having a string quartet maybe. At least for some shows we have that in our mind, you know. But everything is towards feeding that kind of imagery.

Tobbe: So have you started writing stuff for a coming record yet?

Tommaso: We are on it. We have ideas. There's things coming up, you know. We don't rush it. We'll see what happens. But fortunately there's a lot of ideas coming up still.

Tobbe: So you're not really sure about which direction you will head into the future with?

Tommaso: You know, expect the unexpected. That's what I can say, you know.

Tobbe: Have you talked to the record company on which direction you will try to develop further?

Tommaso: You know, the good thing about our relationship with Nuclear Blast is that we've built up a very good relationship in terms of trust. So we are very intimate in the writing process, so we actually literally keep it for ourselves until a certain moment and they really trust us.

They just let us do our job and, I mean, we let them do their job, and that's a very good thing because then when we go to the promotional side we plan things together. So we do a lot of planning about the promotion before, but on the musical side we just give them things, you know, from time to time when we are getting closer to the recordings.

Tobbe: If you keep on developing your music further in the direction that you're going in now, will it be hard to keep your original fans then?

Tommaso: I know, but still, if you can catch the music deeply, you can totally hear that our roots are always there. And in the meantime we never want to think too much in a commercial way. We really respect our own artistic flow and we don't want to stop that. 'Cause I think that when you start thinking about "OK, but I have to do this because I have to obtain this.", then you get lost. You know, the best thing you can do is just grow the way it's natural to grow.

Tobbe: So what inspires to grow nowadays then?

Tommaso: The world itself, you know. Life, music itself. We listen to a lot of stuff. We never settle on one genre. And I think that's a very good thing, because, again, you know, if you let yourself be inspired by existence, then things just go.

Tobbe: What do you think will be most important for the band then in the coming years? Like for the next couple of records.

Tommaso: I really, really think that the most important thing is that we don't stop ourselves from being human. If we can do that, things can happen.

Tobbe: Is it very important to have fun also?

Tommaso: Yeah, absolutely. At the beginning of the internet era, if you were among the first bands to use that, you had sort of an advantage. But now, everything is flooded again, 'cause everybody is there. So what makes the difference again, like it was in the 60's and the 70's, is the performance, the music that you write.

So now you can really, really see the difference between a band that goes on stage without hunger and a band that goes on stage with that hunger. I think we are really hungry still and that's something that people can catch. I personally concentrate a lot on my life, on being myself more and more. If you can be yourself, then things are gonna happen.

Tobbe: Out of an economic aspect. Is there really a chance to make a living out of your music?

Tommaso: Yes, yes. Maybe it's not the time anymore in which you can get rich on music. But you can make a living out of music and that's the only important thing, because we just want to be able to survive and do what we like. But you can do it. That, I can confirm.

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