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Interview - Francesco Lupi (Tragodia)

Interview with Francesco Lupi from Tragodia
by Daniel Fox at 31 October 2013, 12:02 PM

Italian Progressive Metallers TRAGODIA have been hitting the road and recording music for 17 strong years, and now it’s time for the latest album to make another mark in their illustrious history as a band. “Mythmaker”, to be released on the first stages of November, contains epic lyrics and sounds that brings out the best of Progressive Metal. Guitarist and keyboardist Francesco Lupi sits down with Daniel Fox to take “Mythmaker” and the many influences that made it what it is.

Hello Francesco, how are you? Thanks for taking the time for this interview with Metal Temple.

Hi, I’m doing fine, thank you. And thank you very much indeed also for taking the time to interview me and talk about TRAGODIA.

Let's start from the top! Mythmaker alone contains deep and grandiose lyrical content, and is overall an epic album. From where does TRAGODIA draw musical inspiration?

Well, thanks for your nice words on the lyrical content of the album. Lyrics in metal albums very often pass unnoticed, either because we are generally more “focused” on the musical side of things or because they are conceived to just complement the music. In the case of TRAGODIA, lyrics are really important and it’s always been like this, even in the very early days. I think that it was our first vocalist, Giovanni, who lay the very foundations of TRAGODIA’s lyrical world. As years rolled by it was me taking over the task of writing lyrics, but I think I brought my own ideas and images into a domain which had been there since the first demo-tape in 1998! As you pointed out, both the music and the lyrics on Mythmaker are “epic”. They tell stories or paint pictures - even when there’s no proper narrative structure in them - that relate to past times. We’ve always been heavily influenced by the classical age and especially the ancient Greek world, with its myths and literature playing a big role in the project and happily tying in with the music. Themes such as decline, decadence, and the fall of human societies through the ages mean a lot to us as well. I would say that we are keen on a decadent way to being epic; we sing more about loss and failure than victories…

I think TRAGODIA’s music, especially on the latest album, has a very unique sound. In terms of lyrical content and musical direction, do you guys try to adhere to some sort of proforma that makes TRAGODIA special or do you deliberately aim to evolve with each record?

I feel we evolve in a very natural way with each release and there’s definitely no formula that we try to replicate. What we do is try to mix the different musical background that each band member carries along into a new musical offering. This usually turns into something very magmatic and highly unexpected. Sometimes we just want to please ourselves and try to find different solutions that might raise the musical excitement within the band to a new level. I’m glad that you find our present sound to be unique. We can hardly think of a band that might sound that similar to TRAGODIA. I guess it has something to do with our tastes in music ranging from classic Heavy Metal to early Norwegian Black Metal, just to name a couple, and the way they are all merged into what TRAGODIA is nowadays.

I hear a lot of NEVERMORE in Mythmaker, or at least in my opinion, I do. Believe me, it's a good thing, especially because of how you made this album your own. How much would you cite them as a musical influence? What about other bands?

Thank you for saying that, I feel honoured! Some of us are big NEVERMORE supporters indeed. I guess the guitar riffing could sometimes remind me of NEVERMORE, or the very fact that we have mainly clean vocals built upon a very tight and modern sounding rhythmic session. There are many other bands that played a big role in our musical background. Personally I’ve always been a huge fan of the British Doom-Goth bands of the nineties, especially PARADISE LOST and MY DYING BRIDE, but also KATATONIA and other great Scandinavian bands. I feel that you can still perceive some features of that sound in TRAGODIA, though the can be heavily diluted and merged with other elements.

Luca \[Meloni] has quite a unique voice, and suits the music perfectly. When recording, does the band lay out guitar, bass, drum and keyboard tracking first, and then only record vocals over that? Or are lyrics and vocal melody predetermined?

I would say that most of the lyrics and vocal melodies are predetermined, even though they are generally the last thing to be tracked - or the second last in case we have keyboards to add.. We might just write and add some vocal harmonies at a later stage when we have a clearer idea of how each song sounds, to perfect the arrangements. I feel that Luca’s voice is one of the strongest elements in TRAGODIA’s sound. He’s very versatile and has a highly recognizable clean singing, which fits TRAGODIA’s sound perfectly. Our songs are not meant to have very high pitched vocals, but the guy can also sing in killer Heavy Metal falsetto fashion as well!

I liken Luca's voice very much to that of Georg of SERENITY. This is a shot in the dark, but do you see similarities between you two, or the two bands? If it means anything, I am a huge fan of both.

Well, I’m not familiar with SERENITY, therefore I’m not in the position to add any comment on your comparison, but this intrigues me though. I will definitely find out by listening to the band. Thanks for your suggestion! And, yes, your appreciation means a lot!

2013 marks quite an eventful year for you guys. Mythmaker's release marked a change in label to Kolony Records (congratulations for both, by the way). Many bands I know of experience change in their music, some dramatic, when changing labels. Would you say the migration has influenced the writing process much, or was it just a case of legality and business?

Kolony Records is a really proficient Metal label and I’m a huge fan of some bands signed to them, like BE’LAKOR, TO CAST A SHADOW and SECRETS OF THE SKY. We are the least extreme band in their roster but I can’t say that earning a deal with Kolony altered our sound. All the songwriting had been done prior to signing with them. This migration has been a big step forward for us since Kolony is a really focused label with a solid vision and has already displayed highly effective strategies in the never quiescent music business. We are tightly cooperating to push TRAGODIA way further than we ever could in the past 17 years!

I noticed a lot of nice keyboard work in your music. Do you employ session musicians for live shows, or just use a backing track? Have you therefore put thought towards auditioning and hiring a permanent keyboardist?

Thank you, I’m glad you like the keyboards! For live shows, we use a backing track. Keyboards used to play a way bigger role in TRAGODIA’s early days. One of the original band members, Carlo, was in fact a keyboardist. Given the marginalized role of keyboards in present TRAGODIA, we agreed on not expanding the line-up by adding another permanent member nor relying on a session musician on stage: he/she would end up playing just little bits here and there and not even through the entire setlist. Having said that, keyboards have a different and possibly bigger role on Mythmaker than on Theomachy, our previous album. They now sound less orchestral and delve deeper into electronic sounds and arrangements. I think they add some depth to each song on the album, without being too invasive.

I also hear gorgeous harmonized guitar solos and melodies, particularly in “Born under Niobe”. Does you write and play all of Tragodia's lead guitar, or do you and Riccardo \[Tonoli] share rhythm and lead duties?

This is a very good question, since on Mythmaker we had to review a bit our way of doing things in the studio. First of all, Ricky and I, as guitarists, are huge fans of harmonized guitar melodies and solos; we just can’t get enough of them! We also like to harmonize the very rhythmic sections here and there. We’ve always split our duties in the recording studio, regardless of who wrote what. In the past we would personally track the parts and then we would play in a live situation, alternating solos and so on. For Mythmaker, Ricky had to record all the guitars himself (I mean, every single bit!) because some months before TRAGODIA went back to the studio I moved to South Africa and couldn’t possibly join them for the whole production cycle and current activities as well. That’s why we now have a super skilled guitarist, Silvano Richini, who’s taken over my position in the band. On the contrary all the keyboards were done by me and sent over to the guys in Italy so that they could incorporate them in the final mixes.

To me, your lyrical work and song titles scream with the grandeur of epic poetry. Are there any plans for a concept album in the works? If so, would it be an original concept or based on history/myth?

Thank you! I truly appreciate your emphasis on the lyrics, they mean a lot to us. Many tracks on both title and lyrics-wise are freely inspired by some ancient Greek myths and dramatic and epic literature, but in the past we’ve been influenced, among others, by Romantic literature as well. Poetry itself is a highly relevant lyrical topic for the band that I forgot to mention before. As of now we don’t have any plans for a concept album; I guess we feel there are too many stories that have to be told (or retold) before we can concentrate on a proper concept album. I myself am not a huge fan of concept albums, but you never know!

As a founding member speaking for yourself, did you have a general sense of musical direction, expecting to arrive at a destination like “Mythmaker”, or did you just let creativity take its course?

We had no idea we would end up writing an album like Mythmaker. We just let creativity take its course and every musician that joined the band through the years contributed their skills and ideas. We started as a Doom-Goth band, heavily influenced by Black Metal and some of the amazing avant garde bands that were around in the nineties, just to slowly progress into what we are now. It’s been a really interesting and exciting evolution, at least for us!

Francesco, thank you for your time in this interview. It has been a pleasure. I wish you and the guys the best of luck on the road ahead and with the new release. Any last words for the readers?

You are very welcome! Huge thanks to Metal Temple and to you for kindly letting me introduce Mythmaker to your readers. Give Mythmaker a try, you might find it interesting, and please feel free to get back to us anytime to share your feelings about it. That would be much appreciated!


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