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Michael Romeo (Symphony X)

Interview with Michael Romeo from Symphony X
by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos at 24 April 2008, 5:28 AM

Just before SYMPHONY X's excellent show at The Pearl Room in Mokena of Illinois I got the chance to have a really nice talk with the guitar virtuoso Michael Romeo. Honestly, I had an excellent time talking to Mike who is a straightforward and down-to-earth person!

 Before getting in the North American tour you have been to Europe, how did it go?

Yeah we did a two month tour with DREAM THEATER that went really great. We went to places that we had never been, a lot of bigger venues and very good arenas. So, a lot of people saw us who did not know SYMPHONY X and actually their response was very good and we are thinking of getting back to some of these places.

 During that tour did you ever think that the fans would compare SYMPHONY X to DREAM THEATER?

I think yes, because there are some similarities between the two bands due to the fact that we share the same influences like RUSH or ELP and other bands. I consider them more of a Progressive Rock band while SYMPHONY X are more to the heavier stuff.

Now you are touring the US, can you find differences between the European and the American audiences?

In every country the audience is a little bit different. One thing that I noticed here in the US is that a lot of younger kids are coming to our shows. So, this is one difference that I could find.

What are your plans after this tour?

I think we have almost 3 weeks after this tour and then we will do some summer festivals in Europe. After that, around July or August, we have nothing to do, so maybe we will start thinking of the new album and get some basic ideas. It’s good you know to have something in your mind before start working. We don’t want to be forced to make an album.

Does this mean that you have nothing in your mind for the next SYMPHONY X album?

Actually, we have a lot of good things from the last album that we didn’t use. Maybe we will go through this material, keep the cool pieces and work some songs on them. To be honest with you we don’t know what we are going to do.

 I think Paradise Lost sounds heavier than your previous albums; will you continue in this heavier pattern?

Yeah, this is exactly what we wanted to do with Paradise Lost. Personally, I wanted an album just like the ones that I used to listen to when I was a kid and I was buying JUDAS PRIEST or BLACK SABBATH albums. I wanted the album to have heavier guitar sound, good riffs and a good flow. Every song has its own thing in Paradise Lost. That’s what we went for and turned to be successful so why change it?

Do you think that this success will add pressure on you for the next one, in manner that you have to compete yourselves?

A little bit yes. You always want to do something better and even different or at least at the same level. But yeah it is tough and add to this the fact that you a have limited time. It’s not that we are trying out-do anything but we have in the back of our heads that it should be good.

You have also changed the lyrical content on Paradise Lost. You moved from all the Mythology stuff to more down-to-earth subjects. Did this happen on purpose or it just happened when you were writing music?

I think that we did that stuff and it was time to do something different. We wanted to do something on John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost but not do a concept album and follow a certain story line but to be more personal.

You have also added some aggression to the vocals. Was this your decision or you talked it out with Russell

All the band members knew how the album would sound; it would be more guitar driven with more aggressive riffs. So, it came naturally and it was the right thing to do. We did not force anything to happen and just happened though our work.

 So, can you say that Mike Romeo is an easy person to work with?

Mike Pinella overheard my question and stepped in No he is not (laughs). Seriously now, he is ok to work with!

You are saying this because he is in front of you…

\[Mike Romeo] more laughs Yeah, sometimes I am a good person. Ok, seriously we are getting along and at the end of the day we know what is the right thing to do.

Taking into account SYMPHONY X’s back catalogue how difficult is to choose the songs for the setlist?

Yeah, that is difficult. This is where we do argue on  (laughs). Everybody has a different favorite song but yet again in the end of the day we come up with a setlist that satisfies everyone. We are taking fans’ opinion into consideration; you know we had a recent poll in our website where the fans could choose the songs for the setlist. It’s funny though that everyone’s pretty much likes the same songs.

Do you have any plans to release another solo album?

I definitely want to do another one. You know, I have a lot of stuff that I like and for some reason we haven’t used in a SYMPHONY X album. From time to time I am working on these and maybe I add something new. So, I have plenty of material that is just standing there. It all comes down to the lack of time; like the last year when we were really busy! It will be just fun to release all this, someday I hope.

What about an instructional DVD?

I did one in Japan 10 years ago I think but I  still want to do something new but I don’t what exactly. I want to make something that will cover everything theory, technique, improvisation etc. A DVD that I would like to have when I was young trying to learn music. It’s of course matter of time again…

 Is there any SYMPHONY X song that gives you a hard time to perform on stage?

thinkingmmm I was dreading of playing live Eve Of Seduction from the last album. You know, in the studio you get as many takes as you like and then keep the one that sounds magical. It is sometimes difficult to re-produce that moment on-stage. So, in this song there a chromatic thing where the pick does a certain glissando and this I had to do some additional times in the studio to find the right and smooth sound. It’s all about the phrasing and not just the technique and that is tough to do on-stage where the lights are out and without dots in my guitar, I don’t know where I am… (laughs)

If you had to give one piece of advice to the new guitarist what would it be?

I’d say try to listen to several kinds of music and don’t get stuck in one guy. You don’t want to be a clone thing. Listen to as many stuff as you can to get all the pieces you like and build your own style.

What about theory?

I am definitely into studying theory.

You have a classical background though…

Yeah I still study as much I can and try to learn new things. I think theory is important. Yeah you play by ear and eventually stumble on these things and try to figure out what to do. But I rather no; I want to know what sounds best and what for example chromatic scale to use and not just guessing. It also helps the song writing to find the fitting key or chord.

Will you ever going to play live in Greece?

It is something that we want to do and you have to know we have discussed it for a couple of times but mainly due to the cost of travel we still haven’t. I think that now we have come into a point that it should not be a deal.

So, can we say that you will come in the next album?

No man, I am talking about this record. We have some more tour dates ahead of us.

Ok thanks Mike for your time you can close this interview by yourself.

Ok, I just want to say to the fans in Greece thank you for your patience and we will be there and have a lot of fun.


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