--- Michael Romeo Interview--- 18/Jul/07
Hey Michael thanks for participating in this interview for shred academy, it's truly an honour.
How long have you been playing guitar for now and how many hours a day do you practice now VS the amount you did before you formed symphony x?
- I practiced for a very long time back when I first started and I was listening to many artists such as kiss. Nowadays being in a band gives you a lot of the tools to write music but sure I still practice a lot. I was getting into the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen, Allan Holdsworth and also a lot of classical music. Randy Rhoads was a major influence, so yeah I still practice a lot but not so much as I did back then.
Let's talk about the new album Paradise Lost, the album has been delayed a few times, was this because of not being happy with the final product or just really hard work?
- A lot of issues arose like they do in the recording process, we had the studio flooded, amp tubes blow, and hard drive crashes and so forth so it's just a case of taking the blow and fixing it.
Did you use a variety of tunings on this album, some of the tracks such as domination and eve of seduction sound heavier than others such as set the world on fire and serpents kiss?
- I have kept the same whole step down tuning we have used for years but sure there is a little bit here and there that is in a different tuning.
The one thing that appealed to me was the layout and quality of each song, the album seems to follow a storyline and there seems to be a bit of everything for any kind of metal fan. Is this what you set out to achieve?
- Lyrically it's not a concept record, we didn't want to write a concept record and we were using Milton's poem 'Paradise Lost' for an idea, you know, a little inspiration and it kind of gave us a little bit of direction too, you know, we didn't want to get into this whole Satan and the garden of Eden and the apple and Adam and eve, we didn't want to get into all of that. It seemed a little silly to write a story, and yeah you know, it just wasn't cool. But yeah instead we just used the ideas, you know, the ideas of revenge and betrayal, lust and greed, all these things which are pretty much the core of what Milton's got going on.
So the music... is pretty much the same direction. We did say in the beginning that we wanted this album to be a little more guitar riff driven and song based, you know just a lot of good guitar riffs you know, the songs are based around the guitar. So right from the beginning, just by that alone, the songs were a lot heavier and once Milton's 'Paradise Lost' came in, you know, gave a little bit of focus to some of the stuff and got a little darker. You would have a guitar riff and you would just embellish it with some choirs, dark orchestral strings or bells you know, it did take on its own vibe do definitely a little bit heavier, a little more aggressive and a little darker but yeah we did decide that from right at the beginning and we tried to keep all the music in that realm. But there is some softer songs with the acoustic guitar and 12 string but, there is the classical guitar on one song but still we did want it to have, you know, feel like it was part of a whole but without being a concept record. So yeah that was pretty much what we started out with, that was pretty much the idea.
Lots of other techniques have appeared on this album alongside your trademark whole tone passages, economy picking and tapped arpeggios such as the use of classical guitar and new orchestrations, the intro to eve of seduction sounds like a folk violin part, what made you try out these new ideas?
- You always have to try new stuff, you know. Like you said, yeah there is a lot of the things I do and it definitely appears here and there but I think when you are writing, you are trying to find something a little different or like you said something that sounds like a violin line or some kind of riff so you know, always try find something different. It keeps you being creative, try and push you to find something cool and at the same time it sounds cool. At the end of the day you are still trying to write a song, you are still trying to balance the technique with something that sounds cool and yeah you know just experiment, noodle around. A lot of the riffs the come about by you just sitting there banging on the guitar a little bit, just riffing around and noodling and then all of a sudden you stumble on something you never did and you are like oh wow that's kind of cool, let's see if I can build on that and that is usually how it comes about. Most of the time, most of the riffs and most of the little licks and things, you just kind of stumble on it without thinking about it too much, for me that is kind of what I like to do.
Do you have a home studio? What software are you using, pro tools seems to be the way forward
- I use Steinberg Nuendo, I mean it's just a preference you know, I've tried a lot of other things, I mean the bottom line is, they all basically do the same thing. I just look for ease of work flow. Like you said it's just a home studio and not a multi-million dollar studio, just a couple of pretty powerful PC's one with Nuendo and one with Tascam Giga Studio so just some good gear. Good microphones, some good pre-amps and a few compressors. (Listen to audio for in depth explanation)
One thing that has always bothered me was how you get your tapped arpeggios to sound so clean, how do you do it?
- A lot of people ask me and they say it is difficult but it's just one of those things you just kind of do and I don't really think about but I did take a look at what I was doing and there is some muting going on with the flesh under my thumb of my right hand. It's just kind of grazing the strings as I go across. (Hear full explanation on the audio)
What is it like playing alongside prog masters dream theater?
- We first played with those guys on gigantour in the states and it was awesome, they are all great musicians and even more important they are all good guys, we got to become good friends. Petrucci is just amazing, the whole band are just monsters. It's good man, it inspires you to share a stage with guys like that.
Are there any plans for a new solo cd from you like the dark chapter?
- Yeah I think this year I am going to commit to doing one because that CD is like ancient, back then I was using an 8-track back then, so yeah I really want to do something and with this record there was a lot of material left over that we ended up not using. This year or early next year I'll start putting some stuff together.
You have changed from ESP guitars and are now using caparison guitars, why this company and what appeals to you most about their guitars?
- I used the ESP guitars for a while and I hooked up with those guys when we were in Japan, we became friends with the band Ever Grey and they were using these caparison guitars and they let me try them out and I thought they played really well. I contacted the caparison people and they said they would build me what I wanted so that for me was the decision. (Hear Michael's specs and ideas on the audio)
Any chance of a Michael Romeo signature guitar?
- Yeah I just spoke to the guy the other day and they are going to go ahead and do it, they sent me some other finishes to try. It's pretty cool man, I'm pretty happy with that.
Both you and Russell Allan have appeared on Arjen Lucassens Ayreon projects, would you ever work alongside him again, what do you think of his work?
- Arjen is a really talented guy there is no questioning it you know, and he's another cool guy, the nicest guy and a really good songwriter too, if he ever wanted a little guitar work or a little guest spot I'd be up for doing that.
Years ago, you did a DVD called the guitar chapter, did you enjoy this DVD and would you consider doing another in the future?
- Yeah I'd like to do another one, I really would you know, the first one I have to admit was a little overwhelming, I was a little nervous at first because it was on a big sound stage and guys with lights and microphones and up on ladders and there is 3 cameras moving around and I was like wow, this was a little more than I thought, it kind of caught me off guard a bit you know. In the future I would like to do one and do a lot more things too, before they were interested in the classical kind of stuff because it was through the Japanese label and Japanese publication of young guitar and they really liked a lot of the classical stuff. There really wasn't anything about theory or chording or any kind of things like that I think are just as important as some Paganini lick so if I did another which I would like to, then I would offer a little more knowledge.
Music theory is an incredibly debated topic about musicianship; being a music student myself I find it incredibly important, what are your views on it?
- Yeah man, for me I think it is really important. I was reading a lot of books because a lot of my early inventions was kind of basic chords and pentatonic, so all my real theory I got from taking lessons for a bit so for me it really helps because if I hear something I like I don't have to worry about working out what chords or scales to go with whatever idea I'm using, the tools are already there.
Symphony X are a very successful band and have accomplished so much, for bands and artists out there, what advice can you give them to get noticed or to even form a band?
- Get with a bunch of guys with the same kind of vision and direction as you and really push yourselves as musicians. (Hear Michael's advice on the audio)
What do you think about Shawn lane, are you familiar with his work?
- Shawn Lane, the guy, you know, it was a shame what happened but he was one of the greatest guitar players in the world, not even that, he was a great musician and more than just a guitar player. The guy's technique and feel was just unbelievable, I mean the guy played piano and the guy played drums, he understood music theory and a lot of different styles of music and yeah man it was just a shame because he was such a talented guy, I mean really unbelievable. I remember the first time I heard him I was like holy shit and I saw his instructional video soon after that and you seen him doing this diminished thing with this gigantic stretch across the strings and it's like holy fuck you know haha the guy is just a monster, Yeah definitely and influence of mine and much respect of his music.
One thing that has got out of hand is music and film piracy, what are your views on music downloading?
- Well it has it upsides as well as downsides, a lot of people discover music through downloading and I myself I believe it's actually better to support the artist and buy the cd because they might need the money to get onto making another, it's just facing the problem at the end of the day and dealing with it.
Any other projects or plans for the year ahead?
- Well just this tour and hopefully on to making a new solo CD.
Thanks for your time, any closing statement?
- Thanks for the interview, you know, a lot of the interviews is a lot about the band which is cool so it's good to get back into the guitar stuff.