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KINGCROW: When the Crow flies again...

Interview with main composer, guitarist and backing vocalist Diego Cafolla of Kingcrow by Vera in June 2010

Kingcrow has been around for quite a while now, but working their way through the Italian underground they have become a band you cannot ignore! I got to know the band with their excellent sophomore album ‘Insider’ and since then got stuck on them: their intelligent approach of the progressive rock scene has resulted in magnificent albums like ‘Insider’, ‘Timetropia’ and now ‘Phlegethon’, another deep-draught effort about human struggles transferred into exquisite progressive rock. This band deserves a place on high-rated progressive lists! If you don’t believe me just have a listen to their MySpace
We had an update about things going round with founder member and main composer (also guitarist and backing vocals) Diego Cafolla and we would like to share it with you!

It’s been around three years since your previous album ‘Timetropia’ came out. So let’s pick up the thread around that time. Did ‘Timetropia’ give you any achievements in reaching a broader audience, more success or playing in better circumstances? (since it was first release on a proper label)
Yes, ‘Timetropia’ was very well received by the press, so it gave us a certain visibility which allowed us to play in some of the biggest festival here in Italy. We opened for Iron Maiden, Fates Warning, Cynic and so... It was really a good year for us from that point of view. Unfortunately, on the other side, Lucretia Records was closed for bankrupt and the album suffered of a bad distribution. The album sold well, more than the previous one but, as you can imagine, we expected maybe a little bit more from it.

I remember you had already some ideas for a successor when we had interview in March 2007, but when did the writing process for ‘Phlegethon’ started intensively? And who were the main composers?
Yes, I think at the time there were some riffs in my “musical drawer” (haha)
As always, I have written the music and prepared the pre-production of the album, playing all the instruments - beside drums - in my own studio. Then, the other guys join in the process and we started to work on the arrangements. Sometimes the song stays the same with my original arrangements and we will record it how it is in the preproduction version. Sometimes, if we think some things could be better, we try different arrangements. I think the writing process took almost six month. Then the recording sessions (yes, we arrange the songs during the recordings of the album) took more than one year. We’re almost paranoid and consequently we need time. So I have written all the music and the vocal lines but we worked all together for the arrangements and the words. It was an enormous amount of work. For example, I remember spending two whole nights with Ivan only for his solo section in ‘Lullaby For An Innocent’. I’m a perfectionist and the same goes for Ivan...the same was for Cristian and I was working a lot on the synth sounds. We’re almost paranoid about our music !

First thing that struck me was that you have a new singer. When and why did Mauro leave the band? (but he still contributes in writing story, isn’t it?)
We were in the middle of the recording sessions when Mauro left. He was not so involved in the band at the time ‘cause he was concentrated more on other personal things. The ‘Timetropia’ tour ended in June and then I’ve seen Mauro after five months from there, when we were starting the vocal recording sessions for the album. It was obvious to us that he was not so much involved in the album and we were not so happy with his performances. So we sat down and we talked about how to do things better for all...and he decided to leave. I’ve previously prepared the storyline of the concept with Mauro and he has prepared some pieces of lyrics that we have used in the album.

Finding a new front man is sometimes not so easy. How did you meet Diego (the excellent new vocalist) and can you tell a bit more about his background and the moment he entered Kingcrow?
Diego was introduced to me by Stefano Tissi, my best friend and our lead vocalist on our first album ‘Something Unknown’. He gave to me some songs out of a musical in which Diego had a leading role and I was impressed by his voice. The day after I called him by phone and I invited him to my studio (there is a video on our Facebook’s page of that day, with his first performance on one of our songs). He never sung in a prog rock/metal band before and it was very excited to have the opportunity to join Kingcrow.

What does he think of my thoughts that his singing reminds me a bit of Genesis, grunge singers and Mats Levén now and then?
I think his voice is very versatile with a very wide range, both technically and emotionally speaking. Some says there are some Chris Cornell “colours” in his voice, and I think you are not so wrong 

You also added a keyboarder, so any more words about Cristian Della Polla and your decision of having a permanent keyboard player would be nice…
Cristian helped us at a session in the ‘Timetropia’ tour. We’ve always used some keyboards in our records, played by me, but on stage I’m busy with guitars and backing vocals, so when we felt that keys and synths became relevant in our soundscape we invited Cristian to join the band as an official member. And it was the right choice for sure!

You took the challenge to write another concept. Can you shine a light on the lyrical context or some guidelines to get deeper into this mystified story?
The concept of ‘Phlegethon’ is, above all, about how much our life experiences, especially in our childhood, affect our personality, and how much they determine the people we will be growing up. So there are two main characters in the story, the two you can see on the cover of the album and the story is about their life. I prefer not to explain the whole story because the first listen of a concept album with the booklet in your hands is always a special listen...and I hope it will be the same for our listeners out there hehe…

Is there a moment in your real life that gave rise to the idea of this story (or a news fact in the world)?
No, this time we just wrote something we think is interesting in some ways...something to think about. Obviously there is an entertaining factor too so ‘Phlegethon’ is another Psycho-Thriller in the usual Kingcrow style…

I remember you have built an own studio. Is that the Sound Under Pressure studio where the album is recorded? And since you produced the album yourselves, can you tell us about the recording process?

Yes, the SUP studio is the one I have built with my brother Thundra in my home. We recorded there the last two albums and I think is the only way we can produce our music right now. As I said previously, we need a lot of time for the recording-arranging-mixing phase of the process. The only way to archive that is to work in our studio, far from too much pressure and with the possibility of retrace our steps if we are not totally satisfied with the results. For the mixing we worked with Giampiero “Papedroga” Ulacco, a very talented guy.

If not explained in former questions: can you explain the importance of the sea (and water sounds in intro and outro?
The album has a circular structure, so the first song and the last one, lyrically speaking, represents the same moment. After the first “scene” of the first song you have a flashback and the story starts, arriving at the same “scene” in the last song. And the sea has an important role in the story.

What does ‘Phlegethon’ mean? Why this title?
Phlegethon is one of the rivers of the underworld, in the Greek Mythology. It is described as a stream of fire and blood. In Dante’s inferno the souls of the people who killed their parents are forever boiled in the fire of the river Phlegethon. Obviously there are strong connections between the concept and the title.

As always the concept is visually caught in beautiful artwork. Who did it and maybe you can give some details or thoughts about the booklet?
The artwork was made by Devilnax, our official designer, with photos by Daniele Mosconi, our photographer. We worked hard on every detail of the artwork and I think is a little piece of art. Those guys are really talented, I suggest to you to check their official sites.

I always wonder how you can be so “progressive” in style while it remains catchy in some way or another. On this album I think you have found the best balance of both, what are your thoughts on this? I don’t know. As a composer, I try to write interesting music and the other guys try on their own to make the same with their arrangements. I have the fortune to work with very talented musicians, and we work hard on our works ‘cause we really love our music and to work on it. I think our way to make progressive rock is personal.

In ‘Lovocaine’ I even hear some Tool influences or am I wrong?
You’re not so wrong. The first guitar riff sounds dark and a little bit “Toolish”. It was perfect for that part of the story, is a kind of “turning point” both musically and lyrically speaking. Originally it was an acoustic guitar arpeggio but during the recordings I’ve played it with that crunchy sound on the electric, more dark and yes, more Tool in some ways. So we decided to go with the electric version…

If people ask to describe your music, what would you surely mention?
Oh this is always a “weak point” in our case. I heard a lot of things about us like progressive rock, art-rock-metal, prog metal, hard prog... for ‘Timetropia’ even “Broadway prog rock”.
I think we are a “progressive” band for the most. We change every album, sometimes we make something “complex” but we try to stay aware to be too much self indulgent about the technical side of our music. We always try to make complex things more listenable to all, not to make something like: “hey listen to that, I can play 200bpm over an impossible odd time signature!” That’s not interesting at all... I think to play our music is way more hard than listen to it (laughs)

Are there new bands or influences you discovered in the last three years? What can we see as bands you like to listen to or could have an influence on your musicianship?
I listen five to eight hours of music every day, of every genre. As you can imagine, it is almost impossible to say how much which band influenced us in that determined period of time. A lot of bands!! We absorb always a lot of influences in our music from a lot of different bands and musical styles. I don’t understand when artists say “I listen only to my music!” Probably my favourite band is Rush. But to name a few artists that I consider very important for my growth as a musician... Rush, King Crimson, Iron Maiden, The Who, Pink Floyd, Camel, J-Tull, Mike Oldfield, Fates Warning, Yes, The Mars Volta, Bartok, Eugenio Finardi, OSI, Frank Zappa, Beach Boys...and a lot more 

Are there plans to support ‘Phlegethon’ with live gigs? In Italy or even abroad?
We are trying to book a European tour with our management Intromental, so maybe next fall we’ll bring ‘Phlegethon’ around Europe!

What were the highlights of playing live for you until now?
I think the whole ‘Timetropia’ Tour was really good.
As single gigs I think the highlight was opening for Iron Maiden at Gods Of Metal. Thousands of people and a lot of them singing our was very emotional.

‘Phlegethon’ also means you left Lucretia Records and signed a deal with Scarlet. Why this move and can you tell something more about your experiences with these labels?
Lucretia closed after bankrupt so we were searching for another label. Scarlet contacted us after listening to some promo-version of the songs. To be honest, as I said previously, I’m not so happy with the work of Lucretia Rec. for ‘Timetropia’.

The album is mastered by Davide Barbarulo in Napoli this time, so no American infiltration anymore this time?
This time I felt the need, as a producer, to attend the mastering sessions of the album. Davide is a friend of mine and I know he is a really talented guy with a good mastering studio. Then, Giampiero Ulacco (the one who mixed the album) and Davide Barbarulo work often together which is a good starting point. We were all together at “20hz20khz mastering lab” workin’ on the master of ‘Phlegethon’.

To continue the story of the bass players: I see that Angelo Orlando is still there, but some of the parts are done by another guy. Can you explain why?
Angelo recorded the bass lines on the album but it was not an official member of Kingcrow. Francesco D’Errico, which now is our official bass player, recorded the double bass on the bonus track, the unplugged version of ‘Islands’.

Recently the world lost two great personalities in metal: Peter Steele and Dio. What did you feel when you heard these news and did these musicians meant something special for you or not?
I think Ronnie was a huge musical influence for me, in my teenage days. It was on of the greatest hard rock singers out there. I loved so much his voice and his work (all of them, Rainbow, Dio and Sabbath) and it was really sad news to read. About Peter Steele, I never really enjoyed so much his music...but to hear or read about someone died so young is always sad.

If there is any other news you would like to share with us, please go ahead…
Thank you so much Vera!

You’re welcome! It is always a delightened experience to find out about your musical journeys! All the best and we’ll keep it touch!

Geplaatst door Vera op zaterdag 12 juni 2010 - 13:30:39
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