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Onofrio, Gianpaolo (Ashent)

Interview with Onofrio, Gianpaolo from Ashent
by Mike Novak at 20 August 2009, 12:07 AM

ASHENT hails from Venice, Italy. Their style is best described as progressive Metal, but their many influences from various genres throughout Metal such as Thrash, Goth and technical Death Metal make ASHENT's music a rich tapestry of sounds. Their most recent album, Deconstructive, was released earlier this year. Onofrio and Gianpaolo took the time to answer some of our questions about their new album, influences and their music in general.

Interview with: Onofrio Falanga and Gianpaolo Falanga from ASHENT

Hey guys, how's it going? What have you both and ASHENT been up to recently?

\[Gian]: Hi Mike, everything is going in an excellent way! We have a deal with Finnish Lion Music and Deconstructive, our second album, has been out since the end of March. We are receiving excellent feedback from people and journalists, so I can say that, until now, this is the best moment for ASHENT.
\[Onofrio]: Yes, it's a good period for the band. We're starting to have a constant exposure and we are certainly very happy to see everyday all this growing interest around the name ASHENT. But I must admit that we are not totally surprised, because our dιbut album also received a lot of excellent reviews a couple of years ago. Of course, Deconstructive is an album stylistically more complex and the people's appreciation gives us the awareness to have worked in the right direction.

How did you both first get into music? Also, which bands really got you hooked on Heavy Metal?

\[Onofrio]: I started to listen to music since I was 4 or 5 years old. My childhood has been full of streams of notes of every kind. I discovered PINK FLOYD at the age of six, QUEEN at the age of nine. In the same period the glam/hard Rock scene overbearingly came into our lives, and I started to be fascinated by the huge sound of the guitar's distortion. MEGADETH is the band that made me love Heavy Metal: when I was 12, I listened to their masterpiece Peace Sells…But Who's Buying, and my life changed forever. To be a guitar player became my aim!

\[Gian]: I started to listen to music very young, with QUEEN and some Italian Rock bands. When I was a teenager I discovered PANTERA, MEGADETH and METALLICA, understanding that music would become the main reason of my life.

What were your first music concerts that you attended and which concert that you have been to would you consider your favorite? Also, what would you say is the WORST concert that you've been to, and why?

\[Onofrio]: Really I can't remember about the first one: probably something of classical music at the famous La Fenice Venice's theatre, when I was at primary school. My best Metal concert probably has been a METALLICA show during the 90s; those guys were still in their golden age. During these last years I've been very impressed by NEVERMORE, OPETH and PAIN OF SALVATION live performances. I attended some weeks ago a CYNIC concert: simply amazing. The worst one? A hip-hop festival some years ago: I really can't remember why I was there…ahahah…

\[Gian]: My first important Rock show was a gig with Chris Cornell, in Milan, a lot of years ago. To be honest I can't remember the best one, maybe a DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN show for the energy that they have on stage. I remember that after the opening act's performance (with the awesome Italian band EPHEL DUATH), the promoter said that the show was cancelled because of stage problems: you can imagine the people's disappointment. But the guys of the band brought their instruments in the middle of the crowd, over the grass, and played only with the monitor speakers, in order to amplify the voice. I saw the whole show a half meter behind the drummer, absolutely fantastic!

Your mixing of the sounds of Progressive Metal with those of heavier Death Metal and Thrash bands is fairly unique. What made you both decide to take ASHENT in this direction? Where there any earlier bands that you wanted to model ASHENT after?

\[Onofrio]: Thank you so much for this compliment. Simply, we decided since the beginning to play Heavy Metal without restrictions. Obviously, the result has been influenced by our favorite music: we love all the Metal genres and we like to play in a clever way our instruments, so the consequence has been to create music well played with a lot of different elements. I think that every Metal style has its noblest bands, from Prog Rock to extreme Black Metal or brutal Death. About earlier bands, everyone of us had old projects but nothing similar to ASHENT; someone came from melodic hard Rock bands, someone from Power Metal projects, someone from Black Metal combos. When I was teenager, I've played for a couple of years in a Thrash band ala TESTAMENT and MEGADETH.

\[Gian]: We've always done what we liked, without any limits in the composition.For me this is the meaning of Progressive: an attitude in the composition process, not a demonstration of technique as many people think. For example, already in our first demo (2003) we had growl vocals mixed with clean vocals. We have no limits in what we do.

Which musicians would you both consider your greatest influences on your instruments? Is there one musician that was especially influential in who you are as a musician today?

\[Onofrio]: Since the beginning, when I started to play, I have been influenced by the Bay Area Thrash Metal scene. Then, I discovered simultaneously the modern Prog, the techno Death Metal (CYNIC, DEATH, ATHEIST, PESTILENCE) and a lot of guitar heroes. As for a musician that I can consider as an inspiration? Dave Gilmour is the classic name; universes and whole worlds in every single notes of voice or guitar. Devin Townsend is the most important recent name. ASHENT play totally different music from him, but his open approach is the most important teaching that I love to follow. That guy can write and play pop, Rock, Prog, Death Metal, industrial and he's always credible and greatly inspired.

\[Gian]: As Onofrio said, Devin Townsend is an important reference for us. He is a great artist and an awesome composer. As bass player and musician I must to mention Jaco Pastorius, I think that, with his music, Jaco has influenced every bassist and maybe not only bass players. Of course, I was influenced also from the great musicians of the 70s and from the seminal Metal bass players as Steve DiGiorgio, Sean Malone or Tony Choy. I was also very fascinated by the Rock scene: for example I love bands like SOUNDGARDEN or FAITH NO MORE. There are so many bands that I love that is very difficult to mention them all.

One of the changes that I noticed between your debut, Flaws of Elation, and Deconstructed was a maturity and chemistry that comes from writing and performing together as a band. What other changes do you see between those two albums?

\[Gian]: Deconstructive is a more refined evolution of our music. Definitely is a more complex album, in which we have chosen to try different solutions. Honestly, we felt the strong necessity to improve ourselves as songwriters, giving light to different types of songs, surprising the listener through a new stylistic variety. So, we composed songs with a lot of impact but also softer episodes, based on slower tempos. Besides, within the same single song we worked to create a more dynamism between the aggressive parts and the most evocative sections. The aim of this process has been the desire to share a bigger range of emotions. Deconstructive has no restrictions; it's full of different influences mixed together. Flaws Of Elation, our debut, is a more homogeneous CD; after 3 years since its release, I consider it still a good album, very good thinking that it is only our first act. The songs are really good, and you can hear all the characteristics of our sound: great attention to melody, sensitivity to particular harmonic choices, focus on the song and wish to propose complex but never sterile arrangements.

Many Progressive albums feature very long songs, but Deconstructed features songs that are between 4-6 minutes. Was this a conscious decision by the band or did the songs turn out that way by themselves?

\[Onofrio]: I've to admit that it has been a conscious decision. We're totally focused on the songwriting, and our aim consists to create true songs, not only instrumental tunes. Vocals, melodies and song structures are the most important elements for us, together with the harmony choices we studied in order to create the atmospheres of our music; we think that the best way to express feelings and to share emotions with people is a well-composed song, with great choruses and verses. I'm not saying that we don't like instrumental music; Deconstructive has 3 instrumental songs (but the longest one is only 3 minutes) and every other track has its important instrumental sections. First of all, we believed that it's very difficult to maintain the attention of a listener with long episodes; this is a gift of few great artists. Besides, generally we don't use thematic music, where a single theme is modified dozens of times and repeated in different sections or separated songs. We love to give a different personality to each song, and to have a good number of tracks in an album.

Is there a recurring theme or concept throughout Deconstructed? What were the inspirations for the lyrics?

\[Gian]: Deconstructive is not a concept album, but there is a common thread in all the songs, a common theme raised by many points of view: the meaning of loss. This would be the loss of something important for us, the loss of ourselves and our identity, the loss of a love. It's strange but every day we lose something, and this is what we wanted to describe in Deconstructive. The lyrics take inspiration from everyday life and from all that for us is a source of inspiration, even from other arts like cinema or literature.

What would you both say is your favorite band to play and/or tour with? Do you enjoy playing at home in Italy or would you rather play abroad throughout the rest of Europe?

\[Onofrio]: It's full of great bands with whom to share the stage out there. Sincerely, I can't decide. Dozens of classic bands and a lot of modern ones: in Greece the first bands that come in my mind are SEPTIC FLESH and FIREWIND for example, and it would be an honour to be their opening band. Choosing without limitations, it could be a dream to create an innovative bill with Metal bands from every genre. Of course, we want and we will play in Italy and across the Europe very soon. Now we're starting to receive a great feedback from every country and it's time to share our music beyond the Italy's borders.

\[Gian]: There are many bands with which I would like to share the stage. Certainly all the historical bands that marked my childhood. Fortunately, the world is full of really good bands. Playing in Italy is always nice, but every nation gives me different and awesome vibes. We are lucky because we receive messages from our fans around the world and I wish I could play in every country, for all the people who support us.

Onofrio, do you have any advice for someone who is just learning to play the guitar?

\[Onofrio]: Listen as much music as possible! To play an instrument is a complex art and, in my opinion, is something similar to being a writer: before he starts his creations, a writer must read a lot, has to form a big personal culture, and last but not least he must have something to express. Then, he can begin to study the styles that are more congenial and suitable for him. Similarly, a guitar player must listen to as much music as possible and to be open-minded: every kind of music, every style could have something important that should be learned. Do you like Prog Metal? Don't forget to listen to Death Metal bands, avant-garde or gothic proposals, Black Metal, Power Metal. Fusion and classical music are two fundamental pillars but also Rock and pop music. In every genre there are great artists, deserving to be discovered. A musician in general, and in the same way a guitar player, has to develop his taste. The technique is only a vehicle by which you can give life to your creations.

What should fans of ASHENT expect in the future from the band? Any plans for a tour, festival appearances or anything like that?

\[Gian]: We are trying to book shows for the autumn and a tour, in order to play across Europe as soon as possible. We want to bring our music to many people as possible. In the meantime we are working on new material. But now the most important thing for us is the promotion of Deconstructive. So I want to invite everyone to come and see our concerts, I am sure you will not be disappointed!

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Do you have any parting thoughts for the fans reading this?

\[Onofrio]: Guys, support the music you love! Are you curious to listen to our music? Visit our site or our official Myspace page at

\[Gian]: I want to thank all the guys who support us and our music, and send them all my respect. Support the music everywhere and always! Stay Metal.


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