In-depth Interview With Tommaso Riccardi Of Fleshgod Apocalypse

Interview by Jason Williams

Rapidly rising Italian symphonic extreme metal band Fleshgod Apocalypse recently concluded the ‘Conquerors Of The World’ North American tour, a co-headlining run with Greek extreme metal force Septicflesh and support acts Black Crown Initiate and Necronomicon. The band put on a typically fiery performance at the House Of Blues Sunset Strip last Tuesday July 8th, and our man Jason Williams was on site to cover the show for us. He sat down with vocalist/guitarist after the end of Fleshgod’s set for a detailed one-on-one conversation. Extreme metal fans, read the interview below and introduce yourself to the righteousness of Fleshgod Apocalypse.

This is a very interesting tour, Fleshgod Apocalypse co-headlining with Septicflesh. How’s it been going so far? They’re a band that’s been around a long time but a lot of newer fans may not know of them.

Of course. But, I think what is really working is the package itself, the fact that we’re playing together. Our music compensates in some way and in some other ways there are many similarities, so I’ve read a lot of people that listen to Fleshgod and is interested in Septicflesh and vice versa. And this is really good because this worked in Europe. We did a European tour last year and it was super cool, so this is why we decided to do more stuff together with Septicflesh. We’ve been doing Australia lately and this one is working very good as well, even more than expectations. We were a little bit, I don’t want to say ‘scared’, but obviously it’s the first time we’ve done a co-headlining tour here, and we didn’t know exactly what to expect but the good thing is, that it’s going even better than expectations. And even tonight, great show, great reaction. So I think it’s cool, because in some ways, there’s more old school fans that know Septicflesh and they’re even getting to have new fans. On the other hand, there are people who know Fleshgod that still didn’t know the existence of Septicflesh, because they stopped for a while and then restarted again. So there may be some younger fans that still don’t know the band. But this is what is good about having a good package. You’re making new fans and it’s good and working for everybody.

I was going to say as well that Fleshgod has had more exposure. Last year, you were main support for Wintersun, who’s been around a long time and especially lately, a big deal in the States. How does that compare to when you were on the early slot for Summer Slaughter previously, and did you notice after the Wintersun tour that your exposure and promotion increased and that the band is doing well in the States? At the last Wintersun show here, Fleshgod had nearly the same reaction from the crowd as Wintersun.

Yes, of course. That was a very, very important tour. On one hand, the fact that we had this direct slot opening for Wintersun already made us understand how things were moving. And actually, we had the confirmation from the crowd reaction, which was great. A big percentage of people that were coming for Wintersun were interested in Fleshgod. Actually, everybody coming to the show was aware that Fleshgod existed and wanted to come for both bands. So that obviously was really great and it meant that the work we did before really work. And on the other hand, of course, it gave us even more exposure. And I think the fact that today we’re here doing a co-headlining tour and it’s working like this, it’s also due to that tour, beside all the other things that we did, of course.

You have a new member in the band, as of last year. Your soprano singer,  Veronica, I’m going to butcher the name, Bordacchini?

(laughs) Bordacchini.

She’s only a live member, I believe. Talk about how she came in and brought into the band for live settings.

Well, the thing is, we started with the idea of having operatic vocals. Already, in ‘Oracles’, there were some parts. But just some intros, outros in which we had some operatic vocals. But there was another girl previously. In ‘Agony’, we decided to have some main operatic vocals into the songs and started to work with Veronica. We found ourselves very comfortable with that and we found her to be a good decision. And she’s also young, so this is a very good thing for her. And it’s a decision to grow up and have a good chance out there. So when we realized that it could be, you know, cool to add even this element to the live show. Because we like to bring a show that’s theatrical, it’s visual, but it’s also that there’s true music into the show. The fact that you have to use samplers for orchestra, obviously it’s something you cannot do anything about that. But all the rest, the fact that we bring in the piano and the fact that we have Veronica makes, in my opinion, the show much more real. And it’s something that got lost in the last 20 years maybe, it’s cool to see that even that if you’re playing extreme music we really can show that we can play that music live and not just on the albums. Because now it’s so easy with technology to do a lot of stuff. But then you have to see how it is in the live show because that’s what makes the difference. So we brought her because we really think we could add even something more to the show. And it’s working really well, so we’re thinking to keep this lineup on the live shows, probably forever (laughs).

Will she only be on live shows or will you have her for your next album?

She will be working with us, even like it was in ‘Labyrinth’. We really care about her job as a musician and we have a really good relationship. We don’t want touch the equilibrium of the lineup, because we think it’s a very, very important point. And we think having the stability in the lineup is so important and now we feel like it’s the core of Fleshgod Apocalpyse. And it’s going to stay like that because it has to stay like that, you know what I mean?

I also like to talk about with the new Labyrinth album. This is your third album now and it’s gone a very different and much more symphonic approach with the keyboards.  While on Oracles the guitars did much more of the classical “speaking”.  The riff arrangements and everything with it, while the keys were not as majorly used as they are now. Can you talk about how Fleshgod differed from that progressing to Agony and today?  It was a drastic change.

Yes. It is in one way, but on the other hand, as you were saying, Oracles was the beginning. If this happened after 4 or 5 albums, that could be different. But Oracles was our first “experiment” of the band. We wanted to and already had in mind this mixture between metal and classical music. And in fact, all the progressions, especially the guitar progressions in Oracles, are already based on a lot of romantic and pure romantic progression, even classical progression. So, that was just the start. But we were still looking for our sound actually. And when we realized that our music, the kind of rhythms and blast beats could work well in a orchestral arrangement, we just said to ourselves, why not? We have to try because this is interesting and we want to see what we can bring. And now, I feel Labyrinth is like the 2nd step. We took Agony as an example and a start of this kind of work. And we tried to understand which things were working and which things would be changed and developed. I think Labyrinth is the first mature Fleshgod Apocalypse album, in some ways. The first one that has the full expression of what we had in mind, since the beginning. It’s just that, obviously, like everything it takes time to get there, you know? To get to the idea that you had in mind.

And with Agony being a concept album, you have Labyrinth and have taken another approach in terms of the lyrical arrangements and concepts. Can you elaborate about the lyrics, talking about ancient times, Knossos, scriptures?  It’s also something metal bands don’t talk a lot about these days.

There’s two elements that made us move into that direction for Labyrinth. First of all, especially being Italian, our school system has a lot of classical teaching. And in this, you have even have Greek language, ancient Greek culture, because it’s actually where all the Western culture came from. And even the Roman empire, the republic and everything that happened in our land, came from the Greeks. So that’s like the beginning of what now we call Western Civilization, in some ways. So this is why we were very interested in that kind of mythology, that came from the first real civilization in the Western world. On the other hand, we found that the story of Labyrinth of Knossos, could be a very, very good way to make up, a build up a metaphor. Not only with today’s life, but in general with everyone’s inner journey. Theseus actually represents someone, who has to face his fears and has to overcome these fears. And this is also why, in the (music) video for “Pathfinder”, you can see that the child, that is actually Theseus, is the minotaur himself. Because the minotaur is just a way to represent the deepest fears that everybody has. And those deepest fears are always set in our childhood, so we have to go back and go deep to discover why these fears exist and to work on those fears, and maybe to even kill these fears. We really found interesting that that story was told three or four thousand years ago and nobody know how old the story is, of course. It talks about the same things that we go through today as people.

It gives death metal a much clearer perspective from the outside, because most people assume Death Metal lyrics are very, you know, generic and bloody. But this is a nice positive for the genre.

Yeah, I think it’s lyric wise, it’s exactly like, on the show and the theatrical part of our show, it’s just that we are trying to bring our style as something that goes completely beyond death metal itself. And it takes inspiration from many different things that we like. So, at this point, maybe you cannot call it only death metal, but it’s something more. It’s something more of a mixture between things, it’s just because we try to bring our personal view and our personality into our music. And not only from the strictly musical point of view, but also in the lyrics, also in the show and everything that we do because, we really feel that it is important to do something that is personal, to leave a trace in the genre and not just play random music, you know what I mean?

Speaking of your inspirations and influences, who can you mention that really inspired you, not just in Fleshgod Apocalypse, but in terms of your whole musical career?

Well, for the classical music side, me personally, my favorite are all set into the period that goes from pure romantic to older romantic period until the end of the romantic period, which was the 19th century. I really love (Niccolo) Paganini, Paganini is my idol. And I think we have a lot of that in our music. But of course, Mozart, Beethoven, (Johannes) Brahms, (Konstantin) Romanov, and also (Gustav) Mahler, that was actually the last of the symphonists. But it’s cool to see that he was like a passage between the Romance period and modern music. And I really think that, especially in Labyrinth, I find that a lot of orchestral arrangements that Francesco (Paoli, drummer and founder of Fleshgod Apocalypse) did, are also inspired by a lot more modern stuff, like even composers from soundtracks of motion pictures like Zimmer and John Williams. We got a lot of that stuff too.  So it’s kind of a mixture of modern and older stuff from the symphonic point of view.  And of course, especially in our riffing and our drum arrangements, there’s a lot of the old school death metal. A lot of Morbid Angel, a lot of Cannibal Corpse and it’s so different from the melodic point of view. And you know, of course, every one of us have favorites.  We don’t just listen only to metal and classical music. I’m a super big fan of the grunge scene from Seattle of the 90’s, like Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, all that stuff. So I really love that kind of music. I also listen to jazz a lot and I’m pretty much the only one in the band that does because the rest of the guys don’t like it that much (laughs). But I really love it. I love Duke Ellington, I love Charles Mingus, I love Jungle Train, whatever, you know? I really love jazz music, so it’s totally different and it’s probably what fascinates me that we’re much more as classical musicians. We played this show and it’s exactly the same everyday. I’m very fascinated by the fact that these guys, just express themselves (snaps fingers), right there, you know? Just improvising, it’s so different. And I always think that probably when I’ll be older, I would like to try it. Just because, I think it’s a pretty interesting feeling.

It’s never too late.

Yes, yes (laughs)

Kind of off the music, Fleshgod recently did some YouTube videos, of some “Cooking with Fleshgod Apocalypse”.  A lot of people liked it and it’s very interesting to be able to see a whole side of a band that you usually don’t get to see. Will there be any more works in the future?

Actually…we didn’t think about doing more. But probably it would come, because it was really natural. And actually, it was meant of course, to give also a different view. Because I think people are interested in knowing the people beside the band, you know what I mean?  It’s not just onstage and that’s just one thing, but we find it really cool, also to make people know who we are. And on the other hand, it was also very self-ironic because there were also a lot of people complaining about the fact that we put out the pasta and wine. I really don’t understand that, for real. Because if pasta doesn’t have anything to do with music, what does a T-shirt have to do with music? It’s just that we really liked the idea of exploring something that’s so Italian, that’s so ours. Mostly it’s because people from other countries, don’t understand that, in Italy, the food is not just not just a way to feed yourself, it’s a real cultural thing. So it is important for us. I mean, for me, cooking is an art expression. It is. So I really enjoy when I go to some place where I know that there is a super, super good chef. And I enjoy that exactly as if I was listening to my favorite album, you know what I mean? It’s something beautiful. So we just wanted to, you know, explore that idea. And also, even in the merchandise that reflects who we are aside the band.  That’s it. So I think there could be a future for that, too.

I think we’re all looking forward to that. Anything you’d like to say for any of your fans in LA, around the world and for the rest of the tour?

Be yourself. Only way to reach your dreams is respecting who you are, always.

Related: Gig Review – Septicflesh & Fleshgod Apocalypse Play At House Of Blues Sunset Strip

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