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Michele Guaitoli (Overtures)

Interview with Michele Guaitoli from Overtures
by YngwieViking at 02 August 2013, 4:22 PM

In an age where it is uncommon to find bands that can so effortlessly stun your senses, OVERTURES breathes fresh inspiration into the Metal world with their fearless experimentation and musical ingenuity. After much turmoil in their lineup, OVERTURES can finally celebrate as they are just reeling off the success of their latest release “Entering the Maze”. Vocalist Michele Guaitoli takes time off his busy schedule to candidly tell Metal Temple’s YngwieViking about making music from the heart, and even throws in some valuable advice about being in the business.  

Hi Michele, first of all, congratulations!!! I think that “Entering the Maze” is a winning and interesting album. As a fan of Prog & Power Metal in general, it was for me a real treat. What will be your words to describe it?

I think that this albums 'sincerely' shows what Overtures is now. It is a big step forward from 'Rebirth' from every point of view: better production, better choices with the sounds, better performances, more feelings and passions during the recordings and, last but not least, we have an important concept: the whole labyrinth thing, that leaves something more than 'just music' with this CD.

Can you first tell us about yourself, your background as a musician, and your past or recent involvements in other bands? I want to know everything…Go!

Well, I am really into music. I started to play the piano when I was only 6, and at the same time I started singing in a child chorus… and this truly was my first singing experience. I studied for 8 years then started to play guitars too, self-taught. In 2002 with this knowledge and skills, when Daniele Piccolo asked me to sing in his newborn band (yep, Overtures is my first real band), I accepted and realized that I really had to take some lessons. At the same time I got fascinated by studio engineering and started to work on it on my own, buying my first instruments and recording for free my first demos. After four years in a music school here in my hometown, I got in touch with Michele Luppi (Secret Sphere, ex-Vision Divine, ex-Thaurorod) and started to study with him and he really changed my world. I got a diploma in modern singing just a few years later and in the meanwhile I studied audio-engineering in an Italian University. Year after year I got more and more involved in the huge world of music and now this is my job: I teach singing in two schools in Italy (in Gorizia and Udine), I run my personal studio in Udine and this is how I live. For sure, Overtures is my first band, but they are not the only one. I've been the lead vocalist of Hammered, power metallers from my hometown (funny, now Adriano Crasnich is the lead guitarist in this band, but I am no longer singing with them); I've been singing with a small band named Mindblast where I also play guitars (heavy-metal covers from Iron Maiden to Manowar); I've been singing with “Off & Brau Sisters”, a huge 13-element project covering Hard Rock and Heavy Metal monsters from AC/DC to Led Zeppelin to Metallica to Rage Against the Machine; I've been the lead singer of the Italian tribute band to Deep Purple named 'Rain', and I also featured in a huge amount of projects as a guest. I recorded medieval songs, 50’s folk music, some rock music and even some classical music. I do sing in a small chorus for years as a tenor and actually I have an official side project, Future is Tomorrow, with which I’m up to record the second full-length album. We play something that can be called Symphonic Metal.

You seem to take the meaning of the lyrics quite seriously, can you tell us more about your way of operating when it comes to writing?

A song is made both by lyrics and music. A song without lyrics is a half-song, some lyrics without music makes a half a song too. While writing, my opinion is that it is very important to be sincere and follow your nature. I have to be in certain conditions to write, to 'feel that something has to be said'. I can't force myself to write, but fortunately I have a lot to say, and “Entering the Maze” gave me a lot of space on this side where there is so much to be discussed about the actual society and all the things contained in the labyrinth it represents. What I generally 'see' in my mind are images and concepts. Once you have found the best way to express those concepts, as well as established how to be clear, direct and stimulating for the mind of the listener, the game is done. This is not always easy, but it is very important. I really want people to think about what Overtures is telling them. It would be a shame to listen to one of our albums and getting to the end without something more than before.

In my review for your new album “Entering The Maze”, I stated that you provide besides a very good vocal performance, a real mastery concerning the technical side as you are the producer and also the engineer for the album. What is your feelings about this quote?

I read it, and I am SO gratified by your words! You know, working in studio on an album means spending a huge amount of time 'creating' the right sound. A bad recording session, mix or engineering could ruin the entire work, but it is also extremely important to reach a sound that represents the band. Overtures' sound can't be similar to that of Edguy or Blind Guardian or anyone else, and it is not just a matter of 'voices', but also of a balance between all the instruments. What I always say is that no one knows what we want better than us, and since we are able to work on our sounds, we really have to do this job. The studio engineer should be the sixth member of the band, and he has an extremely important role in all the production. If the studio engineer IS one of the band members, this problem disappears. In any other case, you really have to trust this guy a lot to work with him.

I also wrote about the turmoil concerning the changing in the line-up. Can you introduce to us the new musicians?

At the end of the games, the only new member is Adriano Crasnich, who substituted Daniele Piccolo. But it is true that we had some troubles over there. After the European tour of 2012, Marco Falanga had some problems (he already did not tour with us), and those problems become bigger and bigger. In the end, he sadly had to face the truth and realize that he couldn't give the right time to the band anymore. At the same time, Daniele Piccolo had already told us, years ago, that one day he would have to quit the band. Daniele was studying to become a doctor, and we knew that a day would come where he would have had to leave the band and take care of his job for something like 12 hours per day, leaving no time for playing as a professional. That sad day came, and we found out that we had to find 2 new guitarists. This was shocking at first, but after some auditions, we found two great guys, Stefano d'Amore and Adriano Crasnich had the perfect skills and attitude to get into the band. Both Stefano and Adriano did great work in the studio and you noted it in your review. But just a few months after the album recordings were over, I know, we are unlucky, Stefano had troubles but at the same time Marco Falanga solved his and he was so happy and ready to come back! I feel extremely satisfied now. Marco is one of the founding members of the band, and we're like brothers. Having him back is wonderful (Stefano is an extremely great musician, but you know, me and Marco grew up together and we're kinda bonded by blood). At the same time, Adriano is a terrific player and has a wonderful attitude! One of Daniele's main selling points was his physical way of playing on stage: he was wild, energetic and charming. Adriano is slightly different, but still wild, energetic and charming. I really couldn't find out someone better to replace Daniele and now I feel like I never even had to change my line-up!

In the same review, I also pointed out a few similarities between your voice/singing style and the great Fabio Lione. Did your famous compatriot influence you in one way or another? Also, where are you coming from as far as vocal influences are concerned?

Well, I still remember when I was 15 one of my favorite songs was 'Holy Thunderforce' from Rhapsody (of fire), and I have wonderful memories of spending many winter holidays listening to 'Rage of the Winter', 'Emerald Sword' and other Rhapsody songs in general, so I assume that Fabio surely is one of my 'influences'. But you know, I was a kid. I walk on other roads now and the last album of theirs I bought was 'Power of the Dragonflame', released more than 11 years ago. It is not that I don't like them anymore, but I simply got involved in something else. Truth is, I really don't want to sing like someone else. I like how Tobias Sammet sings, I like how Roy Kahn sings, I love how Russel Allen sings, or Jorn Lande, but this list could last forever. What I try to do is use my voice to fit into every song. If I feel that some sounds can be great for 'The Maze', I use them, and do the same for any other song, trying to make every one of them different, because my opinion is that the main fault of some singers is 'singing the same way' in all their albums. Every song has its own life and soul, and a good singer has to do his best to feel it. The names I said before are definitely names that succeed in doing this, but there are many others on this list (as said the list could last forever, and surely Fabio Lione is a singer of great expression, I would never make anyone think that I don't think it). What I do not do is try to duplicate them; many of them could have taught me how to make a specific sound, but surely not an entire song. One of the main teachers I had is Michele Luppi (and I will say thanks to him forever), but I 'sound' totally different from him (or at least, this is what I think).

About your voice and your vibrato style, (it has evolved very much for the best of course) do you have a special training? If yes, please can you reveal the trick?

Well, as said I studied a lot, and I still keep on studying, and I also have to say that teaching is one of the best ways to learn more and more about the whole 'voice' topic. Students show you many mistakes, and helping them and making them notice their own mistakes gets you aware on how to solve them so day after day you get more and more conscious about how your voice works. The main point is realizing that you can improve yourself, as a musician/singer, always. The day in which you stop learning, must be the day you die or stop singing/playing music. Until that day, every day is extremely important. What I do is singing every day, teach 6-7 hours per day and sing at least 1 additional hour on my own. Another very important thing is to know how the entire vocal system works, not only in terms of 'voicing' but also in terms of musical theory and audio-engineering. Just to make a few examples, since you mentioned my vibrato: a vibrato is a variation of pitch, from the main note you have to go down one semitone (unless you specifically want to go down one tone), and at the same time it has to have a specific tempo. A vibrato can be played in quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, triplets etc. Some singers just 'do the vibrato' without considering those things. My main 'trick' is having studied piano and having music diplomas: I can't ignore what I learned and I inevitably think about what I do in terms of 'sheet music' while I compose and while I record a song. This is why I always suggest to my students to learn to play an instrument. Another example could be the 'sound' of the voice I use: a guitar player uses tons of effects to get the right sounds for every rhythm, clean or solo section. A singer has the same work to do, but he has to know how every vocal technique affects his voice. Opening your mouth helps with the 'highs' in your personal 'EQ', there are tons of position of your throat that affects the 'EQ', volume and sound of your voice. The more you know, the more you can choose for every part of the song. This is why “The Maze” sounds different from 'Programmed to Serve', which sounds different from “The Oracle” etc. As I keep on studying and learning new sounds, I will keep on improving myself.

The hardest part is being natural while singing, because on stage and while recording, all of this must come on its own, and the only thing you have to do is, given the right mood, be 'free'. My suggestion: think about all of that and don't think of your voice as 'already good'. No one voice is 'already good'.

Do you think that the technicality and complexity of some song structures or the symphonic parts can be a block for some listeners? Do you keep this aspect in mind while composing, or do you just let the inspiration flow?

I always try to keep the symphonic elements as 'something more', they should not be the main part of one of our songs except for some moments for example in “The Oracle”, where I follow my instinct and sometimes 'let go'. The fact is that Overtures does not have a keyboard player, and I really hope that we will never have one as an 'official member', because we have an amazing and wonderful balance with the actual line up. A new guy could help and improve the band, for sure, but at the same time he could be the biggest mistake ever, and we do not want the risk (same way of thinking of the audio-engineering question above). While composing the symphonic arrangements, I always have in my mind that they should be something that helps the song to be dynamic and expressive, but they never have to be noticed as much as if we had a keyboard player. This is why I personally think that they won't be a block for the listeners. Moreover, you have to consider that almost all the songs were born in the rehearsal room, from our minds, and from our work together: this means that they are born without symphonic arrangements. We complete every song without keys, and we don't say “this one will be good when finished with the synths”. It has to be perfect with two guitars, a bass, drums and voice. Then the arrangements will give “something more”. When a song does not work in the rehearsal room, it is not a song. We use samples because they complete the sound, but we don't hinge upon them.

As a band from Italy, with a plethora of bands out there, what do you think of the Metal scene in your country?

Italy has always been a great country with great metal bands (mostly power metal bands). Labyrinth, Vision Divine, Secret Sphere, Rhapsody of Fire, Arthemis, Elvenking: those are just a few names that really are extremely important in the worldwide power metal scene, and I can also mention Lacuna Coil and Extrema if we detach from 'power'. We really have a lot of great bands. Unfortunately here in Italy you will never hear a metal song on the radio, because most of the people listen to pop music here. Maybe this is why we are that good: we're angry and we really want to work on our projects, even if everyone of us knows extremely well how hard the entire thing is.

Do you take the success of RHAPSODY as a curse or a blessing for an Italian group to want to break big onto the international market?

No way man, every band is a blessing for everyone else. The country you come from is totally unimportant. If you think that Rhapsody is a curse because you are Italian too, you have to think that Nightwish is a curse too, because they will 'steal you' some worldwide followers. But music is not a competition. People who listen to Rhapsody would love Overtures, and fans of Nightwish would probably love 'Entering the Maze', and fans of Nightwish and Rhapsody can be the same. Music is wonderful because you are never satisfied with listening to new music, and your nationality counts as nothing. What really counts is to make music with your heart and giving something to your listeners. This is the only important thing. No man, no woman, no agency, no promoter, no label or festival organizer will ever care about where you come from if you have something good. And if two bands are good, this would be great for both of them.

Are there new underground bands that we have to reckon with in the next years?
Maybe some new acts that you want to produce by yourself?

I could mention so many bands on one hand, but on the other hand, I still think that Overtures are underground, so who am I to judge others, both in good or bad? If you want a name, I am actually recording a really good band named Insanity Fair: their lead singer already recorded some choruses for Overtures in Rebirth. They have songs that really touch my heart, and if you want my opinion I think that we will hear about them soon. But I am not a producer or a talent scout; I assume that I can be wrong. Another great band I am listening to is Run Over, my opinion is that they could go on with the sound of Pantera.

Do you plan on touring in Europe?

Yes, sure, but it is too soon to talk about it. We are discussing many options with agencies, promoters, and our label, and we will see what will come out but we will surely be touring again before the next album and hopefully very soon and hopefully for a longer time than the 2012 Euro Tour.

What do you think of the state of the market in 2013? What is your opinion concerning digital downloading, both legal and illegal?

My opinion is that this is not that bad. Illegal downloading lets most of the bands spread their music throughout the world, and gives access to everyone to CDs that could be harder to find. People who love music buy the CDs anyway. If more people download CDs, it also more likely that people talk about you and your band. I know, this brings less earnings from the CD sales, but if a band is good, people will go and see their shows anyway, and only good bands will be appreciated live, whilst bad live performers won't. This is why I really think that labels should work on that side too, or work together with booking and management agencies.

Tell us, what have we to expect from your side in the future?

As said before, the main point now is to get a tour scheduled, maybe as supporters of some bigger act. This would really be important to spread our music. At the same time promotion and additional live activity must be an important side to work on. We already have been confirmed to some summer festival, but we have to keep on working with our management, label and booking agencies to improve all the sides.

What is the last CD you purchased?

Secret Sphere – Portrait of a Dying Angel, but I still have to listen to it carefully so I won't give you my opinion about it ywt. The previous one was Helloweens' Straight out to Hell: great album, sounds like the first Helloween masterpiece!

Please let us know your Italian Underground Metal top five?

1. Run Over – Feel the Anger. We had two shows with those guys, they're great on stage and have a strong impact: this album shows all the goods!
2. Raintime – Flies & Lies. Don't know if they can really be considered and 'Underground' band, since they also passed through Lifeforce Records, but surely they were underground when this album came out. Amazing sound!
3. Phatosray – Sunless Sky. When I first saw this band live, I asked myself: “Why the hell are they playing here and why aren't they headlining a huge festival?” They simply are amazing, if you like Power/Progressive Metal, and Marco Sandron is a great singer.
4. Invivo – Change Tomorrow. This is an alternative rock band, not heavy. Something between 'A Perfect circle' and 'Tool'. They have skill, attitude and amazing songs. Maybe not be my typical style, but a really great album!
5. Highlord – Instant Madness. Another band on the edge between being underground and not. Great Power Metallers, anyway!

Please let us know your all-time top10?

1.                  Gamma Ray – Somewhere Out in Space: this was my first Heavy Metal album ever. I was 12 years old, so I feel a particular, extremely strong feeling while listening to this album.
2.                  Blind Guardian – Nightfall in Middle-Earth: this is very probably the album that I have listened to most in my entire life, and I sometimes still listen to it even if I perfectly know almost every single sound in it.
3.                  Edguy – Hellfire Club: another album that I've listened to for years and years. This is the album that made me come close to Tobias Sammett's projects, that put me in touch with Sascha Paeth's works (and now I work with him - this is unbelievable) and got me fascinated. In fact the next one is:
4.                  Avantasia – The scarecrow: my opinion is that this is the best Avantasia album ever! The perfect mix between classic Power Metal and Hard Rock. Maybe if I could write music on my own, this is where I would settle.
5.                  Iron Maiden – Brave New World: I think I know all the lyrics and melodies of this album, and also all the solos and rhythms and very probably I can also play most of the songs with my guitar. In a few words: I love this album. You have to understand that I was born in 1985. When Maiden was at their best I was extremely young. Brave new world was the first “'new” album with Bruce Dickinson that I had the chance to appreciate with the right mood.
6.                  Metallica – Master of Puppets: and here we are with a classic album. Metallica may have had their troubles and they may have made some mistakes, we all know it. But we also know that Master of Puppets is a must for every metalhead - this is my opinion.
7.                  Elvenking – The Schythe: it may be because they are friends, it may be because this was a Heavy/Power Metal album instead of a Folk/Power Metal album, but this album from Italians Elvenking, to me, is a masterpiece. With Overtures we've been supporting them a few times, and during some songs I was under the stage like a fan screaming out the refrains. My opinion is that this is their highlight.
8.                  Ayreon – The Human Equation: am I the only one who really believes that this project is not considered enough? My opinion is that this is the best James Labrie, even better than in Dream Theater, and that Arjen Lucassen is a true genius!
9.                  System of a Down – Toxicity: seems like this is the first not-power-heavy album I mentioned. I seriously have to consider some changes in my priorities. I mean: I listen a lot of music, but it seems like my favorite bands are all Power or Heavy Metal bands. Anyway, Toxicity is a wonderful album that puts together great lyrics, great music and great concepts.
10.              Trivium – In Waves: this band is the new hope of Melodic Heavy Metal. I specified it as In Waves but it could have been Shogun or any one of their albums. They are young, they are good, they have wonderful ideas… I love their sound!

Now it's time for the Chinese portrait aka “Le questionnaire de Bernard Pivot”, which is inspired by Marcel Proust. This questionnaire is probably more familiar to English audiences as the one that journalist James Lipton asks at the end of  the TV show "Inside the Actors Studio."

What is your favorite word?

Pizza, it reminds me about…pizza, and I love pizza!

What is your least favorite word?

Pain. I hate this word and all of its meanings.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?

Hope. I think that almost every Overtures song can be connected, in a certain way, to hope. If I write music, if I work and if I smile at tomorrow, it is because of hope.

What turns you off?

Failures. Not only mine, but failures in general.

What is your favorite curse word?

Fuck! I use it even more than I should!

What sound or noise do you love?

The sound of a low note played on the piano. This is something amazing that goes directly to your soul.

What sound or noise do you hate?

Larsen, fuck Larsen, I hate you!

If not yourself, who would like to be?

An Alien! I do believe in aliens. My eternal question is “do they know about us?” As an alien I would have this answer!

What profession would you not like to do?

Architect. You may earn a lot of money, but I think that at school I hated nothing like all the stuff connected to technical designing & co. Not my stuff at all.

Who would you like to see on a new bank note?

Tom Araya! Wouldn't it be great???

If you were reincarnated as some other plant or animal, what would it be?

I'd love to be a bird. I'm very scared while flying, but I love to watch the world from above. Being a bird would solve the problem and help my cause.

If God exists, what you like to hear him say at the gates of Heaven?

“Finally here man, now I will tell you why I let all the shit happen.”

I wish to thank you for this interview and wish you guys the best of luck with the new album and on the path ahead. Anything else you want to share with your fans and our readers out there?

When I close an interview, I always love to say to the readers: guys, you've come to this point… please, make some clicks and give a chance to Overtures! If you stayed with us for all this time, I really think that you would enjoy our music!

Thanks a lot for this interview, it really was a pleasure and fun to answer all your questions, and thanks for your support, from the heart!


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