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Tragedian's Gabriele Palermo: "Everything I know about music production I owe to Kai Hansen, he taught me how to really listen to the value of frequency and the space and time that's in between"

Interview with Gabriele Palermo from Tragedian
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 14 December 2020, 9:41 PM

Between the everyday struggles, especially due to the situation at hand, and of course, the cosmic, what is there beyond the bright stars in the vast depth of space and time. When thinking about it, there might be a few connecting dots, drawing the two themes closer together, for a creation of a fine mix of reality and imagination, yet with a moral. The German Tragedian were always on that thin line, and for the pandemic year, they unveiled an effort that is more than merely walking the walk of Power Metal. Steinmetal chatted with founder Gabriele Palermo about the new "Seven Dimensions" album, cooperations, new singer, general feel of the material and more…  

Hello Gabriele, it is awesome to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing in these troubled times?

Hello Lior and readers of Metal Temple, during these troubled times things have been rather well and with either luck or the presence of a guardian angel there have been no deaths or illness with me or amongst my circle of friends. Since the lockdown started I've been rather productive in my home studio working on "Seven Dimensions", songs for a new project with Wade Black (ex-Crimson Glory) called the Wade Black Project. I've been dabbling around with some instrumental material ala Joe Satriani, Greg Howe and the golden era of Shrapnel Records.

From what I have been hearing, the situation in Germany, even if more or less sustained, isn’t that well. How do you perceive this pandemic? Do you see any end in sight?

The situation feels like a bit like a rollercoaster ride. We shut down mid-March and reopened slowly around the end of April and the numbers of infections went down quite a bit. Then in June the borders to travel within the European Union opened and the summer was somewhat normal except no concerts. But outdoor bars and pubs were. It was a relief that the option to go somewhere again was there instead of being cooped up in one place all the time. I perceive the situation a bit uncertain at times, yes there is something in the air making people sick, yes there is an invisible enemy were fighting, that's the reality. What doesn't make sense are some of the rules and restrictions being placed upon people and businesses at times and its causing people to go crazy sometimes but what the hell do I know, I'm a musician not a scientist or doctor. Hopefully this nightmare will come to an end soon and its back to business as usual.

How have you been coping with the situation in regards to being a musician in this pandemic period? How have you been keeping yourself busy, other than the new album, in order to not let go of you achieved throughout your career?

Apart from producing "Seven Dimensions" and writing songs for Wade Black, I've been writing and producing film soundtracks, commercial music and video trailer music. For diversion I would either play Call Of Duty with my nephew online or with friends at the internet cafe or if it was a real nice day bike riding and meeting people for BBQ parties.

I don’t know whether to call Tragedian a kind of phoenix or not, because it appears that after nearly each album, you rise again with another lineup, and here we are again. As the band created itself a solid legacy over the years, in your opinion, what makes it harder to keep the line-up together? Is that reason “musical differences” hovers over the band?

A very good analogy and question. When I formed Tragedian, I formed it as a band with other musicians who are into the same bands as myself and share the same vision as to what a successful band should be, not a solo project where I'm paying people to play whatever I present them. Regarding the various line-up changes, well everything happens for a reason. In a nutshell out of all the past members, only one member left on really bad terms to the point no words or glances are exchanged. One singer and bassist were dismissed due to unprofessionalism and the rest parted ways due to family or job commitments. It will always be hard to keep any line up together if all the members are not driving on the same road together.

As one of the new recruits to the band, you brought a young Venezuelan singer, Joan Pabón, to take the reins of the vocals. To be honest, I thought that since this is the band’s fourth album, you would be in to bring in a rather more veteran frontman. Nonetheless, Mr. Pabón proved himself to be quite a talent through the new release. Where did you find this guy? Did you have any chance of selection or he was right there on the spot for the taking? 

As we were about to start writing "Seven Dimensions", Alex left the band to become a family man and he didn't want to be away from home on weekends. Wild Steel from the Italian power metal band Shadows Of Steel was supposed to join us at the recommendation from Ice Warrior Records but opted out when he found out Tragedian wasn't a hobby band. In early 2018 after arriving in Hamburg, Joan connected with me on Facebook and we started communicating. He sent me links to his previous bands. As we were without a singer, I started making a list of potential singers to fill the position when it dawned on me, there's a power metal singer in Hamburg looking for a band. So I called him asking him to come down. Two weeks later we were in the practice room playing "Turn Back Time", "Conquerors", "Reach For The Sky" and "The Devil Calls You". As we played I payed close attention to his delivery, movements and attitude. After the session we had a talk and besides that we both share a South American heritage, were both into the same bands and had the same vision as to how a band should sound, operate and work. That was the moment I knew I found a suitable voice for Tragedian and didn't have to look elsewhere.

After being part of the IceWarrior Records label for quite some time, ever since your sophomore album if I am not mistaken, you decided that it was time to aim higher and signed with Pride & Joy Music. What did you find in this fine German label that no other could fulfil for your needs? How do you find the label’s vision for your new release?

Yes, we signed on with Ice Warrior Records prior to releasing our second release "Decimation" and stayed with them until we concluded all activities regarding "Unholy Divine". Two releases and five years working together we went as far as we could with Ice Warrior's resources. Upon Completing "Seven Dimensions", I sent the master out to a few labels and we received a few offers as well but under recommendation from our friends in Terra Atlantica I got in contact with Birgitt Schwanke at Pride and Joy.

What I like best about the label is that they still operate somewhat old school with the label and promo agency handling the business end while still working closely together with the band. After deciding to work together with Pride & Joy, I went to the office and met with Birgitt personally and had a nice personal and business talk. The mood, atmosphere and vibes were all positive as we looked forward to our collaboration and especially towards the new album.

Talking about the new release, the band’s fourth album, here we are with “Seven Dimensions”. For a moment there I noticed a glimpse of Sci-Fi driven influence, however, there is also that spirituality all around that cannot be denied. Narratively speaking, what was your vision towards what “Seven Dimensions” stands for?

The original draft of the artwork had a stargate looking circle in the middle but since our lyrics are more fantasy / esoteric inspired, it was replaced with a glowing orb and vortex. The spirituality atmosphere will always be there due to some of the other members and myself having an interest in the occult and paranormal. Although I have partaken in séances, Ouija board sit ins and experienced astral travel, it doesn't mean I'm a Satanist or that I practice black magic like many thought after the release of "Unholy Divine", it's something more of a subject I'm fascinated with. My vision of what "Seven Dimensions" represents is diversity with the music styles and to take the listener on a different journey with each song.

Even though it is a bit hard to comprehend whether there is a connection to our own reality through the songs on “Seven Dimensions”, how can you shed some light on that? Is there such a connection with the present?

Yes, the song subjects this time around are a bit closer to home but with a spiritual vibe that anyone can relate to them on a personal level. The lyrics were written by myself and bassist Dawid Wieczorek and it seemed more natural to write about inner feelings, battles that we as people face in our everyday lives, rising from the ashes, new and lost love and defeating the odds at all costs.

My overall regards to “Seven Dimensions” is the prolonging and maintaining of the late 90s and early 00s European Power Metal, on its might and glory. However, the music inspires more than merely speeding and high colored keyboards, there is a strong sense of drama, I could also argue upon romanticism. How do you find the band’s development through this album?

We definitely reached the next level with this release both in terms of production and performance. Apart from myself and Nicolo, we were joined by a new singer, bassist and keyboardist who definitely brought fresh blood and attitude to the band. As the writing commenced, the ideas flowed freely and work ethnics amongst us as a band was never so smooth. Not only was I able to write a 4th album without repeating the first 3, I also took my productions skills to the next level. In the beginning, I took my hand at producing by using my favourite recordings as reference but by the time we started recording "Unholy Divine" I was spending a lot of personal time with Kai Hansen whom I asked to co-produce the album with me but due to various commitments he was unable to commit full time instead he stayed on as a project consultant and guided me through the production. Everything I know about music production I owe to Kai Hansen, he taught me how to really listen to the value of frequency and the space and time that's in between.

In light of the band’s musical directive on “Seven Dimensions”, what uncanny elements do you believe that the band brings forward with this album? In particular, in a market, such as the European one, that is no stranger to melodic Power Metal 

I always said and believe for an artist or group to go forward, they must remain true to their fan base and to the music direction the music style that brought them acclaim. At the same time the envelope has to be pushed to advance forward but not too hard, step by step. With "Seven Dimensions" we added some new elements such as female backing vocals, duet versions with female voice and slightly different song structures and arrangements. Definitely a step forward but no too far out from the normal environment.

What kind of inspirations came through you while the songwriting process was taking place?

Like any true artist, I write musically and lyrically what I am feeling at the moment. Many emotions and feelings were flowing around this time. Feelings of isolation, new and lost love, dealing with death among friends and loved ones and new found life and freedom.

How did you find the involvement of the band’s new members in the process of the songwriting? Did you let them in more in order to create a plethora of directions and approaches?

Since Tragedian formed I always granted and encouraged artistic freedom to all the participating members. That what made every line up and album special till now. We are 4 cooks with a head chef in the kitchen preparing the main dish with everyone adding their own personal touch and spices and I'm there to overlook that everything is in place.

Starting with a hell on wheels' kind of tune, I was bound by “Darkest Of My Days”, like a storm rampaging everything in its path, swimming in melodies and classic Power Metal riffery. What can you tell of the general feel with such a track? Do you believe that we are missing these kinds of energies in Metal music nowadays?

The music was written first and the lyrics were added after to cater to the feel and atmosphere of the music. The lyrics totally fit the vibe of the music in terms of words, delivery and conviction. Regarding the current state of metal, the energies you mention are there amongst a few new bands there that emerged in the last few years such as Beast in Black and Sons Of Apollo but from time to time I question veteran bands who had a great start and had a good run until a key member was out, changed producer or music direction and the momentum died. Then the same bands are away for some years, get back together and try to relight the fire to most of the times to no avail. A few reunions that produced strong comebacks were Deep Purple with Perfect Strangers, Black Sabbath with Dehumanizer and Crimson Glory with Astronomical.

The album presents two of the best balladries I have listened to in a while, which one of them encourages positivity, actually warms up the heart, and yes can be teary, with a powerful duet that is so beautiful, and that is “Forces Of The Light”. It appeared that there was no need for heaviness, just a piano and two amazing voices to do the work. Please share your thoughts about it and how did you know that this was it after completing it?

On the last album there was no ballad due to the direction the songs took but this time a ballad was called for. This takes us back to what I said about pushing the envelope. I first asked myself "what haven't we done yet", then the idea hit me. Let's produce a ballad with just piano, orchestra and voice, no need for the heavy guitars or the thunderous drums and bass, just the pure essence of the voice and the surrounding background music. One the backing tracks were complete, all that was missing were the voices. Once I got the vocal tracks and I started piecing it together, I immediately got the chills and I was at a loss for words. Although I'm well versed in producing and mixing, this song was really special and delicate, I turned it over to Eike Freese (Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Status Quo) to mix it to perfection. Once I received the final mix, I knew we had it.

The collaboration with ex-Savatage / CircleIICircle singer, Zak Stevens, was no less than an enrichment to Pabón’s great voice. How did this joint force come to be in the first place?

As the songs were complete, I had the idea to add a guest singer or 2. The first guy I had in mind was Chris Harms from Lord Of The Lost but he wasn't really feeling it properly to sing it. Steffi Kröger, a very good friend of mine and organiser & promoter of T.T.F. Hamburg suggested Zak, one because she's a massive Savatage fan and she remembered me telling her I knew him personally. I first met Zak Stevens in 1991 when he was living in the east coast singing for a local band called Wicked Witch. I was going to see the band on a regular basis until they announced he was joining Savatage. I've been running into him on and off since 2005 and we always had a few beers together and bullshitted for a while, so I presented him "Forces Of The Light" and he quickly jumped on it and the rest is history.

Since there is no live scene to promote the album properly on any form of stage in front of people, there has been a rise in the live stream foundation. Any thoughts about the matter? Do you agree that it should be the way for at least until culture will return?

We actually to part in a live stream series presented by the Markthalle in Hamburg, Germany:



The overall idea is not bad at all and we actually received some merch orders via the livestream as a form of support from fans of old and new. It somewhat reminded me of the early 80's when bands played from TV studios on the Friday night video show or on the old headbangers Ball. All in all it beats doing nothing and it gives the fans something to see but it was strange as hell playing an empty hall with only the sound and light engineer and the camera crew but the idea is not bad until we can tour again.

Where do you see the band going in the next couple of years? Any predictions of perhaps a new album would be sooner than thought?

For starters I would love to work with this current line up until the end of its career, by far the best regarding chemistry, loyalty, musically and comradery. Of course we have our small differences here and there and pick at each other but that normal. Since we are not able to perform live at the moment, we already started writing the 5th album and plan on delivering it to the label by mid-January 2022 and keep the machine going. Hopefully the world is somewhat back to normal by then and we can tour again.

Gabriel, I wish to thank you for this interview and for your precious time. You nailed it with “Seven Dimensions”, and it was fortunate for me to listen. Cheers sir.

Your very welcome, it was my pleasure. I'm glad you enjoyed the new album, stay safe and healthy.


 



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Edited 24 September 2021
 

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