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vrijdag 20 augustus 2021
VEXILLUM: Real Narrators of Tales

Interview with guitarist Michele Gasparri by Vera in July 2021


Six years after their glorious metal opera ‘Unum’, the Italian five-piece Vexillum graces us with their fourth full length album ‘When Good Men Go To War’. A stunner which brims with exciting power metal, enriched with euphonious Celtic folk influences. This compelling album was made with cautious attention for every single detail. Time to talk with guitarist Michele Gasparri about their newest highlight!






How are you doing? The album has been released for a while now. What are the reactions so far?

Hi Vera, It’s Michele here. Thank you for this interview, we are all good thanks! Yes, our new album was released in April 2021. Together with our label we decided to challenge these hard times and publish it. We are very happy about the good reactions and positive feedbacks we are receiving, on the web through our social networks and also at our gigs. It's the kind of energy we need to get on with our music. The songs are all very popular and thanks to this, Vexillum are taking a few steps forward.



Six years went by since the release of the previous disc ‘Unum’. What happened with you and the band in that time and why did it take so long before new songs could be launched at the world?

Six years it’s a pretty long period, we know, but there are few reasons behind it. We were coming from a very intense and busy period around the promotion of our previous album ‘Unum’, and a little rest was needed. At the same time, our private lives needed attention, we all created our independence, and that took time. Moreover during these six years also the writing process changed a little bit because I took personally care of the song-writing. At last the pandemic came when the machine was running at his best, and it was a punch straight in the face.



When did you actually start writing the material for this new album and what about this writing process? Different from earlier works or not?

Yes, ‘When Good Men Go To War’ song-writing was different from the past, due to some personal reasons for the first time, as I said earlier, I took care of the whole process, and the band joined me in a second time for arrangements. This change in a way simplified the process, but has lengthened its running time. All the songs were written between 2017 and 2019, even if the complete pre-production was completed in 2020.













This should be a musical journey across the sea. Is there a concept or a red thread throughout the album? Can you go deeper into the lyrical themes?

Musical journey is a perfect definition. This album is not a concept, but a collection of stories and we, who tell them, are the main red thread. The style of the album is directly connected to our first two albums; in fact it’s the continuation of the travel we begun with ‘The Wandering Notes’. While ‘UNUM’ was a "stand alone" concept, with its own story and its own characters, this new album has just a setting, an environment, is the chapter of a longer journey, in which our stories are narrated. All the themes are taken from experiences, feelings and encounters, mixed in a no-time medieval style, our style from the beginning. In this album every song tells a different aspect of the main subject, ‘When A Good Man Goes To War’, like in a puzzle every song is a piece of a bigger picture.



When experiencing the general mood of the album (powerful, bellicose, folky) I think of Nordic mythology and Vikings. Is that your main inspiration or shall we see it in a broader way, for example also the history of Rome or Mediterranean topics?

The Nordic atmosphere is one of our main inspirations, for sure, but our musical experience is a long journey so we like so much to grab inspirations, flavours and sounds from other geographic areas. Anyway this part of our sound completes, above all, the atmosphere and the sound of the setting of our album. We often use symbols taken from various cultures, to better explain our state of mind and create bridges between our stories and real folk tales or stories that already exist.



You kick off the album in an impressive way with the lengthy track ‘Enlight The Bivouac’. Can you tell a bit more about this track which includes all trademarks of Vexillum I think…

Thanks for this question. I can say several things about this song. It is our very first “suite” and the best way, in my opinion, to open the album. The first song on every Vexillum album talks about us, about our lives, and introduce the new chapter telling how and how much we are grown from the last album, because we are the real narrators of the tales that follow. It describes experiences and sometimes real episodes set in our music dimension and as you can read the title is a link the previous album, only ‘UNUM’ is an exception. ‘Enlight The Bivouac’ is a very dynamic song where folk and modern sounds are mixed in an Epic result, I can’t wait to play it in a gig! With this song we introduce again the caravan, with its expectations, its troubles, its hopes, its goals and of course its failures. This time I had more things to say and maybe it’s a reason why it’s a long song (laughs). It has two main parts that for me narrate and unite the past and the future.



Naughty question haha… Why did you choose to open the album with it and not as epic final track?

Just objection!!! In our musical genre we are used to waiting for the longest song at the end of the album, as you said, as an epic ending. For the meaning of his lyrics, ‘Enlight The Bivouac’ could only have been the first song, so I thought it must also be a great and epic beginning. In the moment of the decision I also thought about who had "dared" such a thing and I remembered Tobias Sammet in his Avantasia ‘The Metal Opera - part II’, so, with humble, it was a good choice.



It leaps to the eye that Vexillum has a solid line-up through the years. I guess it is based on long time friendship? Any ideas how you achieved that?

We always say we are a clan, a family, as well as a band, and it’s the truth. We are friends before being musicians, and I consider it a “step ahead”, because it’s easier to choose a common goals and , if needed, to find the right compromise to overcome any issue. I have to say that we were so lucky from the beginning. We are a solid band from several years, in spite of the distance, our drummer is from Sardinia and Francesco Saverio lives in Florence, and this permits us to focus anyway to our aims. I can also say that with Dario and Francesco we live in the same place and together we manage a small music centre, we are together practically every day. Our lives are mixed with the band and the band it’s an essential part of our lives.



One can hear a professional piper and flutes player on the album. Can you tell a bit more about Nick MacVicar and about your cooperation with him?

Nick has been a friend of ours for a long time, I met him in 2010 in a totally casual way and he became my bagpipe teacher here in Pisa. With Vexillum we always tried to add a real Scottish/Celtic sound to our power metal and Nick was the solution, a real Scottish man. Nick is a great musician and multi-instrumentalist, even if the bagpipe is his main instrument, he can play flutes, accordion and piano; he is very active throughout Italy and obviously specializes in Scottish events. He took part also on our second album ‘The Bivouac’, for this new work we strongly wanted it. With Nick we have a natural feeling and he has the ability to exalt and bring to a new level the parts we propose to him. We are thinking to involve him for a special event, we hope very soon.



Are there still other guests on this album?

We can say that we have just a cameo on a song, the orchestral parts on ‘With My Hands’ are played by Alessio Lucatti, another friend of ours and talented musician from Vision Divine and Deathless Legacy. I have to write an important mention for Dario's singing students who joined us to give a great sound to our choirs.



What about the recordings this time? Did you change anything in that process compared to earlier albums?

Little has changed from the past in terms of registration. As we did from the first record we recorded in our studio (Wanna Rock Studio), with the help of our great sound engineer Federico Corazzi. This allows us to record with greater freedom. Despite the problems I mentioned earlier, the production steps were the same as always: the song-writing, a subsequent pre-production completed by the arrangements of all the members of the band, the real session of recording, editing and final mixing. Obviously, I cannot fail to mention again the issues related to the pandemic that have complicated the whole process.













The title track should be the epicentre of the album. This is the moment to explain why you choose for this title and what do you mean by it exactly?

OK!!! (chuckles) ‘When A Good Man Goes To War’ is actually the main subject that we have decided to entrust to our album. It was decided before the pandemic, but it has proved perfect even for these times. It all concerns an invisible, unknown and extremely powerful force that arises from the breaking of a balance, an anger born from the heart of a good man, tired of being patient for a world of subverted values in which he no longer recognizes himself. We decided to make it the main theme because we all recognized ourselves in this particular mood.



What are the main musical influences of the band? Some of them might be obvious, but it would be nice to tell us which bands and musicians inspired you to make music yourselves?

Obviously each of us has his particular reference artists, and each his musical background that together form the sound you can hear. Who comes from Led Zeppelin, who from Iron Maiden, in my case, my passion comes directly from Queen’s Brian May's guitar. Among our direct "metal" inspirations we certainly have Blind Guardian, the chapter ‘The Metal Opera’ by Avantasia, along with other bands we grew up with. All mixed with the magic of Scottish, Irish, Celtic and medieval folk music, a musical genre that has its power in its simplicity.



Until now there are two fine video clips. What can you tell about the making of? Was it an extra challenge to do this in these times?

As you can imagine, being in a global pandemic has changed many working plans and our video clips are no exception. Both are actually very different from the original ideas, and while the first (‘When A Good Man Goes To War’) was recorded directly during a lock down, the second was radically changed due to a new transition to "red zone". The video clip for ‘Sons Of A Wolf’ needed a total change: initially it was meant to be an external video, showing a story in a naturalistic environment, with characters and a real wolf, but it was not possible. Despite the underlying problem I can say that the sudden need to turn everything around was strangely exciting, involving all of us in a machine of creativity, which was able to find the best solution in a very short time, moving the shots inside and leaving space to significant gestures and symbols.



How did you experience the covid-19 crisis? Did Vexillum have anything to delay or cancel due to the pandemic?

When the pandemic exploded in Italy we were in full production of our choirs, and this meant the forced interruption of the album’s schedule. Moreover we had to delete several gigs planned right before the real recording session. The moment of the lockdown has seriously tested all of us, mentally, physically and professionally, and each of these aspects is connected to the other. In addition to Vexillum we are all involved in the world of entertainment and music business, we are teachers in music schools, sound technicians, or show directors and we have practically seen our world, in every areas, suddenly disappear. Like almost everyone in the world, this crisis has changed our lives forcing us to reinvent ourselves, some changes unfortunately in an irreversible way.



For the artwork, you gave the concept to Andrea Butera. Can you tell a bit more about this cooperation and the symbolism of the artwork?

I met Andrea Butera by chance at a comic fair in Milan, where he lives, and seeing him draw live, I immediately thought he was the right artist for us, he’s a super talented painter, and a musician too. After just one meeting we were already on the same wavelength ready to collaborate. The best visual representation of the power of anger that is released by a good man in battle is that of a storm at sea, uncontrollable and devastating, hence the idea of setting the record and the artwork in the sea, on the threshold of a storm. We liked that the anger of the sea was humanized in screaming faces and Andrea managed to make it happen in an absolutely perfect way. In this artwork there is everything, visible at multiple levels of attention. There is the journey, the music, the anger, the destination, the uncertainty, we are there and there are those who will listen to us, the only thing to understand is whether we are on the ship or in the waves.



Is there a chance to play gigs in the near future? What are the plans for the near future?

Although the situation is still hard we have played our new album live in some gigs, and we are setting new dates for the winter period. It would be nice to be able to do a promotional tour in Europe as we have in the past but we'll see. At the same time we are already working on the drafting of new material, we absolutely do not want to spend another six years to release the next chapter of our journey.



If there is something you want to add, please feel free to do it here…

What more can I add? Thanks so much to everyone who will take a few minutes to listen to us or read us and thanks again to you for this opportunity. Stay safe and be patient, only in this way will we soon return to normality. I invite all of you to support the bands you like by going to concerts and buying their records, I assure you that you will make a difference. ROCK!!!










Geplaatst door Vera op vrijdag 20 augustus 2021 - 19:10:12
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