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GRIN IN FEAR's Marco Scafidi: “We think of us as a melodic Death Metal band, not in a modern way, because melodic Death Metal nowadays is quite different from that what it used to be in the past.”

Interview with Grin in Fear from Marco Scafidi, Sara Mei, Eros Melis
by Thomas Kumke at 20 October 2021, 8:46 AM

GRIN IN FEAR hailing from Sardinia, Italy were formed in 2018. They are a melodic Death Metal band with Thrash Metal influences and their debut full-length album “Legion” was released in July 2021. Metal Temple writer Thomas Kumke had the pleasure to talk to Sara Mei (vocals), Eros Melis (guitars), and Marco Scafidi (drums) about the band, their new album, and Metal in Sardinia.

Hello GRIN IN FEAR, it is a real pleasure and I am really grateful to perform an interview with you for Metal Temple magazine. First of all I hope you and all your families are coming through this difficult year safe and well. How did GRIN IN FEAR come through the pandemic so far?

Marco: Thank you Thomas for having us here this evening and thank you overall for the really kind words you gave us with your review of our album. We really appreciated them. There have been really tough months for everyone during the pandemic, it has been a really tough time for musicians. We saw basically all the venues closing down around here without any really big hope for reopening, so it was a really tough time. It came obviously at the really bad time for us, because we were planning our release of the album during all this time. The pandemic broke everything, but I can tell you that we all passed through this time really well, we did not have any health issues, so we were very lucky.

How did you connect to the fans during the pandemic?

Marco: We did, as we had to do in all the other aspects of life, only connect online basically. For example, we had the New Year's Eve 2020 on Amazon Chime with all our friends. We tried our best to keep things running normally as much as we could do. Actually, I am not a big fan of the online music live streams. I think the only event I attended was the ENSLAVED live stream which was absolutely awesome. I come from a time when we used to watch live music on VHS, so I did not really feel the difference between a VHS and a live streaming concept. Maybe I will have to change my mind in the future.

GRIN IN FEAR was formed in 2018 and is a melodic Death Metal band. Let us talk first about the history of the band. How did it all start and what was the idea behind this project?

Marco: I was thinking about it a little bit before, when we were talking about the fact that drummers and vocalists are the most proficient in exposing themselves during interviews. I feel that this is due to one factor: vocalists are forced to do that, because they are actually the front of the band. Drummers have another role, they usually bear heavy weights and they have to carry the drums. So, they are keen to work for the band. Okay, coming back to your question. I and my wife Ambra \[Deagostini, guitar] used to play together in the past for a long time. For several reasons, we had a little split artistically and we did not play much together for some time. In 2018, we decided to try to put something back together. Ambra is a big fan of melodic Death Metal especially of Swedish bands from the nineties, such as DARK TRANQUILITY, IN FLAMES, and also something more underground like SACRILEDGE. We decided to put something together to see if we are still able to play together and to write some music. Then we started to get members and reconnected with old friends. We had the chance to share the stage in previous bands long time ago, and Sara was an old friend of Ambra. So, we already knew each other for a long time and we tried to put something together. We think of us as a melodic Death Metal band, not in a modern way, because melodic Death Metal nowadays is quite different from that what it used to be in the past. We are old guys, and we try to do things in the old way.

You did not see the faces of Sara and Eros when you said you are old guys…

Marco: I am the old one, and both Ambra and Sara are younger. We also have Maristella \[Spanu], our bass player, who is actually really young. So, we try to keep things younger, but we are not.

Most of the band members have extensive experience with previous bands. Did this help to establish the style and direction of GRIN IN FEAR so quickly? Did you have to change your style of playing compared to previous bands?

Eros: I will start with my former bands. We had three albums with HOLY MARTYR and more than three albums with IRRELEVANCE. Both bands are quite different from GRIN IN FEAR, and I did not have to change a lot in the way I play. Although I did not play in a Death Metal or melodic Death Metal band before, it was not a problem to switch to play Death Metal.

Eros, when did you start playing guitar?

Eros: I started with playing guitar when I was 13 years old.

Marco when you were a child, did you go to your mother and said “I want to have a drum kid”?

Marco: It worked like that, but the problem was that both, my mom and my dad were not really behind me playing drums, since my parents are not really into music. They are the radio type of guys. So, it was a bit more difficult for me. My father wanted me to play guitar, which is not really my cup of tea. Absolutely not. So, I told them that I wanted to play drums and they told me: okay, have a job for the summer and then you can have your music. That was about when I was 17 years old. I always played Metal and I tried to take lessons, but I am the worst learner in the world. I think I am still working it out until now, I am still learning, still exercising. It is hard work. It all came from a summer long time ago when I also started working, because the summertime job was actually my first job. I played in several local bands, the bands you usually build-up in your neighborhood. Then I had my first bigger band in 2000 and I had my first recording experience, we recorded two EPs. After that I played with Ambra in a progressive Death Metal band called BLIND HORIZON. We recorded a couple of EPs and one full-length album. That was the longest lasting band and we had the chance to play with several bigger bands like IMPALED NAZARENE and DESTRUCTION. It was nice. I can say that the drummer of IMPALED NAZARENE is the sweetest person in the world. Okay, they are evil as hell, but he is the sweetest in the world. Absolutely.

Sara, when did you start with your career as a vocalist?

Sara: I was young. I discovered Death Metal when I was around 13 or 14 years old. I listened to Rock music from when I was born, because my father was a Rocker. Now he is an old and bald man, but in the past he was a Rocker. So in my family, I and my brothers play different music. I discovered that I was able to use my diaphragm during my time at the elementary school. I do not know why, but I was able to make a polyphonic voice and I do not know why I discovered that at elementary school. Then, when I was 14 or 15 years old, I discovered that I was able to growl and scream with my voice and I learned growling by myself. I did not play Death Metal a lot when I was young, I was a vocalist, but in a progressive Metal band. Then I started with the University and I did not have much time, so I was off from the Metal scene. A couple of years ago I felt that I very much miss playing Death Metal, so I searched on the internet and I saw that Ambra was looking for a Death Metal vocalist and I called her, because we were friends when we were young. From there we started.

Your vocals are very aggressive and intense compared to other female Death Metal vocalists. Is this something, you particularly worked on to transport the emotions of the songs?

Sara: I do not know. It is coming naturally.

”Legion” is the debut album of GRIN IN FEAR and it was released in July 2021. How was the response to the album so far?

Marco: The response was good so far. I did not expect something very hot for first album from a band coming out from nowhere, but actually it was really positive from anyone. We did not receive any real criticism on the whole album so far. What we saw is that many people, including you, did not like the production of the album very much, which was actually an experiment we did by choice. Eros can give you some more information on this, since he made all the production of the album.

I am aware that, especially in Death Metal, the production is sometimes made to recreate a certain sound. If I listen to an album, I want to hear every single tune, every cymbal, every bass note, and so on. Some people call this overproduced. I probably underrate those productions with a different objective…

Eros: Well, we started thinking about the production quite a lot and we thought that we would like the drums to sound more natural. If you take 99% of the Death Metal albums nowadays and there is nothing you can hear about the drums, because it is not the real drums. We thought it would be better to record the actual performance of the drummer and not edit everything. So, it was a choice. We started from that and I think everything came out more brutal. I know this is melodic Death Metal, but gave us a rawer sound. It was an experiment and I can understand that people do not like the sound. I think the sound of the album is close to that when you see the band playing live.

The sound of the album is predominantly melodic Death Metal, but not in a typical classical sense. It is faster, more aggressive with traditional Death Metal elements, as well as some Thrash Metal vibes. How do you describe the GRIN IN FEAR sound?

Eros: As a guitar player, I think that a guitar solo has to fit really well in a specific part of the song and if there is no need for a solo, then you have to leave it out. I tend to prefer solid songs, concrete songs, and if a guitar solo is needed, I can provide it. It is technically not a problem to add it to the song. I think in general this album is more straight-forward and more aggressive compared to other melodic Death Metal albums.

You said there is a Swedish influence on the sound. To whom would you compare the album with?

Eros: I would say that the album is mostly influenced by AT THE GATES. I think that this is the band that unifies our taste most. Every band member likes them.

How did the song writing work for the debut album?

Eros: The main part of the songs is written by Ambra, basically the riffs and the song structure. Then we work together to arrange the songs, but I can easily say that Ambra composes the songs musically and then Marco and Sara lyrically.

Marco: The lyrics are completely written by Sara. I tried to write lyrics in the past, but since I am not the vocalist, I did not feel that it was really working. So, what we usually do with Sara is gathering topics that are of interest and then we try to develop that, but all the lyric writing is up to her since she has to sing it.

Sara: “Legion” speaks about mental illness, so every song talks about a different mental illness from the past to our modern society. For example “Legion” is inspired by a gospel novel which speaks about a legion of demons inside of a single man.

Marco: Actually the song “Legion” is strictly connected to the intro “MC 5,1-9” which you can hear before. The intro is an extract from the gospel in Latin, not in Italian, and it talks about the first exorcism in the history. Jesus came, found possessed men in the town and performed the first exorcism. This part of the gospel is quite nice, because the story ends that he performs the exorcism, they saw the legion of demons and put them inside pigs and then all the pigs went to the Sea and drowned. I always found this story nice to read, because you can read it in different ways. The entertaining way to read it is that at the time when the gospels were written, the Hebrews used to call the Romans pigs, because they were occupying their land. So, these stories are telling us that Jesus took the demons, put them into the Roman people, and the Romans went to drowning in the Sea. Obviously, the song goes around this topic and looks at the demons in a different way, because we all know demons do not exist, there is schizophrenia and all kinds of mental illness behind those stories of possession. So, this is what we talking about on this topic. The mind is a really interesting topic to look at, because the brain of a man can do really big things. It takes nothing, just a snap of the fingers to completely break it. You may have a stroke, you may hit your head, you may take the wrong pill, and this big machine starts to fall apart and to make strange things. So, this is what fascinated us a lot and we are trying to talk about it in the whole album. We did not think about the album in something totally dedicated to this topic, it just came out naturally. It is not a concept album.

My favorite track is “Brainwashed”. What is yours?

Marco: I can tell for sure that my favorite track is “A Secret Family”. This is actually a gift that we received from a friend, because this is the only song we did not write from the beginning, we just arranged it. It is from a really good friend of ours, who is a drummer from another band. This is one of my favorite songs of the album. Absolutely!

Eros: It is the same for me. I really enjoy “A Secret Family”, it may sound a little strange but because it was written from our friend.

Sara: …and for me as well.

Marco: If you want a different voice, I can speak on behalf of Ambra who instead prefers “Nocturnal Panic”.

So far, you only released a lyric video “Nocturnal Panic”. Is there anything more to come near future?

Marco: There are some secrets in the factory. I hope we can release something in the near future.

I include a little fun part into my interviews. Let us see how it works with all of you at the same time. First, a hypothetical scenario: You drive to a show in the band’s Van. Eros, you are responsible for selecting the music for a three hours drive. Which three albums would you choose?

Eros: Okay, this is a problem for the other members. I would say “Dark Side Of The Moon” by PINK FLOYD, “Over-Nite Sensation” by Frank Zappa, and “City” by STRAPPING YOUNG LAD.

Very progressive choice. Marco, what are your three albums?

Marco: In this situation when I can make others listening to something, I will for sure take “Silent Night Fever” by DIMENSIONAL ZERO which I know it will not last an entire hour, because it is really short. It is more like our album. Then the other choices are quite strange. In the past, I was a huge Black Metal listener, so I would take “The Linear Scaffold” by SOLEFALD and maybe to listen for everyone “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant” by DIMMU BORGIR.

Sara, which music would you choose?

Sara: I like songs which you can sing in the car. So, I go for “Innoendo” by QUEEN, “Dreams – The Collection” by THE CRANBERRIES, and “Cowboys From Hell” by PANTERA. This is my all-time favorite album.

I am your new tour manager and arrange a tour for you. I will offer you the choice of a headliner band and I give each of you a different choice. Eros, I offer you either a tour with OBITUARY or AMON AMARTH…

Eros: I would choose a tour with OBITUARY. I do not really like AMON AMARTH. I also think we have more in common with OBITUARY.

That is a very interesting choice which I did not expect. Marco, I offer you a tour with HYPOCRISY or KATAKLYSM…

Marco: I mean, this is quite easy for me. I really love HYPOCRISY. So I will go absolutely with Peter Tagtgren all the time.

As a drummer, you would not go with the Northern Hyperblasts?

Marco: I think it may sound strange for a drummer, but I do not really enjoy the fast blast-beats. I mean, there are plenty of great drummers out there who play maybe 200 BPM or more which is something I will never do. For me, blast-beats have always been something that is not really so fast. I love all the Black Metal bands that did not really go so fast. As I told you earlier, I did not really study drums and nowadays, everyone gives a precise sticker on every type of beats, bomb-blast, hammer-blast, skunk-beats… I do not need the names for things, I do play mostly by heart, what I feel to fit the piece.

Sara, I offer you ARCH ENEMY or DEICIDE…

Sara: DEICIDE! 1000 percent! When I was a little girl, my growls were inspired by Glen Benton.

I guessed it all wrong. Very interesting. The topic is inspirations. How do affect your inspirations things like songwriting, style, or stage performance?

Sara: When I was young, Glenn Benton was my first inspiration, but there were Black Metal bands as well like DIMMU BORGIR. Right now, I think my inspirations come mainly from AT THE GATES and all bands which play Death or Thrash Metal. I think my growls are very deep, and this starts by a song like “Kill The Christian”. When I was young, I was singing “Kill The Christian” in a Christian school \[laughs].

Did they throw you out?

Sara: It was the other way around, they threw me out and then I was singing “Kill The Christian”.

What about the others? How do your inspirations influence you as a musician?

Eros: I have to say that GRIN IN FEAR is not being my first band and I think I shaped my way of playing really in the past. So, if I have to pick a guitar player as a role model, I would say it is Dimebag Darrell, especially in terms of playing on stage or feeling the music. I think he was my role model in the past, then I shaped my way of playing on stage by experience. Today, I do not think that I am inspired by other musicians.

Does your progressive influence affect your way of playing in GRIN IN FEAR?

Eros: I think my progressive influence helped me to shape the way to arrange songs more than the way of playing the songs. I can understand things better when I have to arrange songs for the guitar, the drums, and the bass guitar. The way I arrange songs is maybe is affected by listening to old progressive Rock and also to progressive Metal.

Marco: When I started playing drums, my most favorite drummers were Dave Lombardo and Igor Cavalera. I absolutely loved them. I loved the physical style in their way of playing drums and this is the way I play. I mean, I am nowhere near them, but I feel I play in a very physical way. I am a heavy hitter on the kid. In fact, I have some difficulties in appreciate those guys who nowadays just give the caresses to the drums. I mean, Inferno of BEHEMOTH is a monster. He is a great drummer, but he plays really soft. I mean, for me, it has to be a lot of sweat, a lot of muscular pain, something what the drum teacher will not accept, but for me, this is what you need to do when you play drums in a Metal band. This was what I did when I played in a Power Metal band, what I did when I played in my progressive Death Metal band, and what I do today. It is all about the physical connection with the instrument.

When you say that, I instantly think on Eloy Casagrande of SEPULTURA…

Marco: He is a monster. He is a big hitter, a machine gun! What else do you want more from a drummer?

Let us switch the topic. I searched the Metal archives and I found more than 7000 Metal bands from Italy. There are some well-known bands like RHAPSODY OF FIRE, LACUNA COIL, and FLESHGOD APOCAPYPSE. From Sardinia, I personally only know ARDOURS. How important is Metal in Sardinia?

Eros: With my first serious band, we were here in Sardinia and had quite a few problems with playing. I think Metal is for a very restricted group of people in Sardinia, but there is no scene at all. I can name five really good bands, but there is no scene at all. We needed to go to Milan and live there for 10 years and since then we had much more opportunities to play even in Germany, Spain, Greece, and in the rest of Italy. Maybe it is just the fact that we are on an island, even traveling from here to, for example Germany, is sometimes difficult and very expensive. You have to work really hard to go out of Sardinia and play places like Athens or Rome.

You say there is no Metal scene, but are there clubs and venues for live shows in Sardinia?

Eros: There are some clubs, especially in Cagliary, the South of Sardinia. That is a bigger city. There are a few clubs and sometimes there are some summer festivals in Central and Northern Sardinia, but not many.

Marco: I live here for almost 10 years and I can see it from the outside. Sardinia is a big island, but I can tell you that you can find here less people on the whole island than in a quarter of Rome. There are about 1,600,000 people, but with a lot of very small towns. So, it is quite difficult for something which is not really mainstream like Metal. Nowadays, you can find interesting locations. I discovered recently that in Oristano, which is one of the bigger towns in Sardinia, there is a little place with a little truck for preparing rolls and selling beers, where they put together something like a little festival. However, better organized venues as there are for example in Rome are really difficult to find. There are obviously less people and less opportunities for everyone. We have to work hard, take the plane, take the ferry and spend several hours on the ferry.

That is my next question. How does it affect a young and aspiring band like GRIN IN FEAR? Would it not be better for your career to move to the main land?

Marco: Unfortunately, I think so, but we all made the choice to live here. I mean, Eros lived in Milan for several years and he chose to come back to Sardinia. Ambra and I lived in Rome and we came back here. So, it is a choice and we will work on that choice. Before the whole pandemic situation started, we were already thinking about making the step and traverse the Sea, because obviously we have to do that. I mean, I never intended that GRIN IN FEAR is something like a garage band, otherwise I would not have recorded the album. I think it will be difficult to manage this kind of situation, but we will be really happy to do that. I think it is always worth the price. Certainly, bands from younger people will find it more difficult, but from time to time there is always something interesting to work around this thing. For example, there are guys from a little village in the center of Sardinia and they organize a really nice festival Rock’n Bol for a few years, calling at least one big band from the Metal scene. At the lastest Rock’n Bol, we had the chance to play, with the headliners being JINJER and MARDUK. The year before, there was CANNIBAL CORPSE. So, really good and big names and those guys always allow local bands to support the bigger names. This is a really a good choice, because the smaller bands have the chance to get a bigger audience and that is really nice. I hope they are able to organize it again, because they were the first victim of the pandemic.

Pandemic is a good key word. You released the first single “Put Your Mask On” in 2019, then you played only a few live shows until we all had to put a mask on. Did you see it all coming one year before?

Marco: Someone told us it was our fault. We are very powerful.

The more serious question is, how does the pandemic affect a young band like GRIN IN FEAR not being able to perform live on stage?

Marco: This pandemic situation is a hard strike, because nowadays the only real way to promote an album is to go on tour live. In my opinion, and I am not a social media person, all the things you can do with social media is that you can give some support to what you do in real life, but you cannot leave it only to the social media system. All the musicians, and someone would kill me for what I am going to say, but all the musicians I saw and who had really big numbers on social media had only the chance to make that, because it transformed into a meme most of the time. So, if you only live on social media, you have to reach a target which is not only the Metal community. If you want to reach the Metal community as we want, you need to play live, there is no other way.

But during the pandemic, everything was closed, you could not do anything about it…

Marco: I know. In fact, this made us pause all the things. I recorded the drums for this album in January 2020, so we came out one and a half a year later. If you are a small band, you really need a real life. I hope that this situation will fix as soon as possible. I can see a little light at the end of the tunnel here. This Friday the Domain Club in the city will we reopen and we go and attend the first Metal show since the pandemic.

You have to make up for the last 18 months, but planning during these times is still challenging. Do you have any touring plans during the upcoming months? When do we see GRIN IN FEAR on the roads through Europe?

Eros: We do not have any scheduled plans. Perhaps we play a show here in Sardinia in January 2022. We are looking a little bit at what is going on outside. If something is moving here, we will do something, but there are no plans at all for the moment. We have some songs to work on. I think we will start sooner than later, because if we do not play live we can work better on our songs.

Is there anything you would like to tell to your fans or the readers of Metal Temple magazine?

Marco: I would really like to thank you for your really kind review of our “Legion” album. I was astonished how much you wrote in that review. There are not so many people reviewing albums who put so much effort into that. So, again, I really like to thank you for that and also for the time you spent with us this evening in this interview. I would ask all the friends and readers of Metal Temple to go to our social channels, to Spotify, and all other platforms and listen to our music.

Thank you so much for that amazing interview, I really enjoyed it and I am looking forward to see GRIN IN FEAR live somewhere and sometime in the future.

Marco: Thank you very much.

Sara: Thank you very much.



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