|Interview:||VISIONS OF ATLANTIS|
For the newest album „Wanderers“, the Austrian Symphonic Metal aesthetes this time put their more mature skills to the test with once again increased dedication and love. On top of that, Visions Of Atlantis added the new, multi-skilled throat professional Michele Guaitoli, whom insiders already know from the Italian bands Overtures, Kaledon and Temperance.
As a male counterpart to the beguilingly feminine performance of singer Clémentine Delauney, Guaitoli creates an additional, highly atmospheric appeal. So it is a matter of honor that both artists now have their say. Clémentine starts.
How are you at the moment?
Clémentine: „I am very happy and excited about our album release, pretty tired by our summer activities but all in all, very happy to play so much, to be so busy with the band, as this is what I always wanted to do!“
How satisfied are you with the success of the previous album „The Deep & the Dark“?
Clémentine: „More than satisfied! It went beyond what I ever imagined.“
I enjoy pretty refreshing, emphasized emotional and natural-hearty Symphonic Metal sound with the most well thought Visions Of Atlantis structures so far on „Wanderers“ … what do you think of the new album?
Clémentine: „Our new album starts where we stopped with the previous one and takes us further in every direction. It is more diverse, richer, more colorful. We pushed the production further too, it is more powerful, vibrant. I think we improved on many levels and the final result is of higher quality.“
Please describe the main musical characteristic of the upcoming release with your very own words!
Clémentine: „‚Wanderers‘ is a pure piece of Symphonic Metal with a twist! We are pushing the limits of the genre, changing the singing and tempos in order to widen the definition of what ‚symphonic‘ or ‚melodic‘ Metal is. From long epic tracks, to mid-tempo universal Rock ballads, to highly energetic songs, each song shows a different aspect of our band and music that we want to be always rich, diverse, from heavy orchestral arrangements to pure intimacy.“
What is the most important for you on the new release?
Clémentine: „I was way more involved in everything regarding this new release compared to the previous one. From artwork to pictures, outfits, themes, songwriting, to even choosing the album title … ‚Wanderers‘ feels like a real outlet for my creativity and self-expression. I feel so connected to it. For me, this is the most important thing, that what you deliver feels like a real part of true self.“
What kind of emotions dominates the new songs?
Clémentine: „Romantic desire for new horizons, travels and adventures. Faith in the universe, in our instinct when we are connected to ourselves, excitement for what is to come!“
When did you start the songwriting this time and how did start the song-beginnings of „Wanderers“?
Clémentine: „We started to work on new material very soon after we realized ‚The Deep & The Dark‘ was a success and catching our fans’ attention. We worked in the same way, sending ideas back and forth with our producer, Frank Pitters until the songs started to get into shape during the fall last year.“
Who wrote the main part of the new songs and how long was the work in total for all the material?
Clémentine: „It is a team work. Most songs are a collaboration between our producer and I. From a song basis, I work on a vocal line which makes the song evolve as well. This time, Michele wrote 2 songs, I wrote 1 and ‚Nothing Lasts Forever‘ was a collaboration with other songwriters who we love the style, in order to bring more diversity to our album.“
What have been the hardest or most difficult passages of the songwriting-process?
Clémentine: „The hardest part is to make sure the main melody stands out. We love melodies, epic choruses, phrases that are exalting to sing along. And these are the hardest to write. On some songs we worked a lot on the melodies to make sure they were bringing the song to the level where we wanted them.“
Was it harder for you than usual to record these extremely soulful songs?
Clémentine: „On the technical level, yes because some of them were a challenge vocal wise. I had to step out of my comfort zone, explore the limits of my own voice and power and it forced me to give even more of myself, which is very rewarding for a singer. I improved my skills since the recordings of ‚The Deep & The Dark‘ and I was very happy to be able take up the new challenges the recording of ‚Wanderers‘ brought. It was also very important for me to be able to interpret these songs in the most genuine way. I had to let go of everything, connecting myself to my pure emotion and intention only, letting the voice being just the messenger of what I wish to express out loud.“
Be so kind and explain the main thematic background behind the new album title „Wanderers“.
Clémentine: „This album conveys the spiritual journey that Thomas and myself are going through since some time now. Knowing who we truly are, finding our own truths, defining ourselves with our own words and not through anyone else’s definition or expectations. We do consider ourselves ‚Wanderers‘, willing to get lost in order to get closer to our true self, willing to go on adventures, pushing aside the values, education and habits that are not ours. We wish to break up with the common life cycles, opening our hearts and mind, welcoming change as something that makes us evolve and grow.“
You are again presenting different stories about maritime fantasy themes, but also the process of self-discovery ... what preceded the latter?
Clémentine: „It is intertwined. To me I could never talk about a journey on the sea for itself because this is something I’ve never really done. So, since ‚The Deep & The Dark‘, all my lyrics have this double meaning and all mention of travels generally refers to introspection. I’ve always loved metaphors, allegories and symbols!“
How much do the new songs help you to find yourself more?
Clémentine: „I had to search deep within myself while writing the lyrics. I realized how much I was still exploring myself since this is what I was naturally writing about. I realized I needed a real change. I think about moving to Austria, finally choosing the place I want to live in, I feel this is an important step in order to establish myself in my own life, feeling it’s really mine and not the result of other people’s choices. I realized I’m missing the feeling of being at home somewhere.“
Are there any special visions which raised in your imagination while playing the new song material?
Clémentine: „Yes … I could imagine myself on an old ship, watching the horizon, smelling the unique scents of the sea … at twilight, or at dawn … in general I could feel winds of change carrying my heart away… !“
Is it allowed to ask you about any special influences which led to the new songs?
Clémentine: „It is allowed yes! If I think just about my own approach to creation, I tend to not refer to anything else. I am the result of all my influences. Whether they come from the past or from things I’ve listened to, read or watched more recently. I don’t think about any other song or band or music. I want to make think I am making something new, genuine, connected to my very own creativity. If the external world hears influences that’s their interpretation, not my truth.“
How did you experience the time in the studio this time and how was the work with Frank Pitters?
Clémentine: „It felt very comfortable as we knew each other before and as he knew my voice even better. He really feels like the 6th band member. He understands our band and music direction so well! He is so committed to make us deliver the best material that it is very exalting to work with him.“
Do you have any song or lyrical faves on the new album?
Clémentine: „I love the song ‚Release My Symphony‘, as it is a magnificent piece of the Symphonic Metal that I like the most, romantic, epic, with a lot of space for the vocals! I love the energy of ‚A Journey To Remember‘, the intimacy of ‚Wanderers‘, the ecological message in ‚The Silent Scream‘. Regarding the lyrics it’s hard to tell because they are all from me mostly and I love them all for different reasons.“
Please tell a bit about the line-up situation and the current chemistry in the band!
Clémentine: „We thought we had found our stability with the line-up until Siegi announced he wished to leave the ship last year … we had seen it coming but still we hoped he would change his mind. When his decision was final we dreaded not to be able to find a fitting new male singer. But Michele proved us so wrong. He has an amazing voice but on top of that he is a very dynamic, positive and motivated band mate. The chemistry in the band is the best we ever had. We are friends, we support each other, we push each other to give the best of ourselves and we have a lot of fun all together!“
Who did the new cover art and what do you want to tell about?
Clémentine: „The artwork was made by Peter Sallai from Mortpaint graphics and it is a metaphor of the main message we want to vehicle with this new album. The main ship on the right hand side represents the very coded and traditional life, fitting every social requirements, putting us in predefined places, giving us predefined purposes. But this life had to face troubles (the tentacles of the Kraken) and proved its weaknesses (the fact that it had to ground on a desert island). The two main characters in the front have survived and are now forced to explore a new place. This is when life makes you step out of your comfort zone, when you leave the common paths to explore the wild. To us, this is something positive, this is when you get to know yourself and grow. That’s why this cover is bright and not dark. We want people to feel that even if they go through dark times, if they listen to their heart and stay true to themselves, they will find their way and be happy.“
About the unusual promo shooting on the lonesome beach of Quiberon - please report about!
Clémentine: „I was very lucky to be given the chance to create the whole visual direction for this new photoshoot and for our band image in general. I got tired of the limits of indoor photoshoots and I thought that the genuine message of our music needed the purity of an outdoor décor. The seashore, waves, sunset, rocks and sand was a very natural and coherent environment for Visions Of Atlantis. So I had my boys fly over to Nantes and get to know a little bit of the beautiful Bretagne!“
Where do you see Visions Of Atlantis with the new release in international comparison with other (leading) bands?
Clémentine: „I never liked comparisons. Visions Of Atlantis was one of the pioneers of Symphonic Metal back in the days (19 years ago) and somehow lost itself during its career. Since the release of ‚The Deep & The Dark‘ we came back on the international scene as a quality act, representing the symphonic and melodic Metal genre. We do what we love and we love what we do and we will keep doing it this way no matter what the others of the scene do. I will let people compare if they feel like, to me, it doesn’t make much sense.“
What are you most looking forward to with the new album?
Clémentine: „To go on tour! To play new places, to share our music and our message with more and more people!“
Now it is the turn of singer Michele Guaitoli.
How are you at the moment?
Michele: „I’m definitely doing great! This is one of my most-productive years ever and my schedule is plenty of shows, studio sessions & activities … it really seems to be a positive year!“
When and how did you find the way in Visions Of Atlantis?
Michele: „It was August 2018 when Siegfried wrote me telling me, privately and confidentially, that he was not able to deal with the band’s growing schedule anymore due to his daily job. We got into each other due to the Symphonic Metal Nights IV that, at that time, was already announced. The line-up of that tour had Temperance, Dragony, Visions Of Atlantis and Serenity and I guess this is how Visions Of Atlantis got into Temperance and discovered me as a singer. Siegi asked me if I could be potentially interested in joining Visions Of Atlantis … and of course I was. He immediately put me in touch with the rest of the band and after having recorded a couple of demos I was invited to join them for a few shows, in September, opening for Kamelot. What else can I say? I really think that the chemistry on and off stage was something that we could feel from the very first moments together … and here we are!“
In which other bands will you still be active as a singer? Overtures? Temperance? Kaledon?
Michele: „Visions Of Atlantis is an almost-full-time commitment so it would be really, really hard to keep all the projects active. When I joined them I already knew that I would have to quit or at least stop for a while my activities with some of the other projects I was involved. Temperance are an extremely important part of my life, we just signed with Napalm Records for the release of a new album and ‚Of Jupiter And Moons‘ really brought us to a further level, so there’s no chance at all for me to quit them even if Visions Of Atlantis have a priority for obvious reasons. Overtures it’s a project that I’ve been carrying along for almost 15 years but the more time passes by, the more I realize that there is no way at all to make it live anymore. For now I can clearly say that the band is not active anymore and even if I miss performing some of the songs, I guess that the ‚cycle‘ of Overtures has now come to an end. Kaledon is another big question mark. The band itself, after more than 20 years of activity, is playing less and less. I joined them a couple of years ago with different perspectives, but things turned out to be harder than expected on the touring side because of daily jobs, families and personal commitments of almost all the other members. I am a live musician and I cannot live without performing on stage, and this is something that is seen differently in Kaledon. If there will be a new album and if the band will keep on being active on the paper, I guess it will be with another singer: I’m in daily touch with all of them and we’re still in a great relationship, but professionally speaking we have different perspectives. In a few words … Temperance and Visions Of Atlantis will be the only line-ups where you’ll see me performing live and in the studio, and of course I’ll be on stage with ERA too as a performer.“
How did Visions Of Atlantis take you into the line-up as a singer on human level?
Michele: „Every band is made of different personalities. A band works when each one’s attitude fits and dovetails with the other’s and standing to this ‚concept‘ I really do believe that I was the missing piece in Visions Of Atlantis. We immediately started to get along extremely well all together, but the more time passes by the more we feel like we were missing each other before, not only on the professional side, but also on the human side. Right now we perfectly now that we can rely on each other for any need, no matter if it’s something technical or professional to be achieved on stage or a favour to be asked during our daily life.“
Were you nervous when it started?
Michele: „I know it’s disappointing, but nope. I am an extremely rational guy and I tend to be really aware of my weaknesses and my strong points. Before the very first shows with Camelot in September 2018 I remember Thomas asked me if I was nervous … and I clearly remember his face when I answered ‚not at all‘. Excited? Yes. Happy? Absolutely. Nervous? Nope! I love this life, I love music and I really do believe that the stage is where I belong. I feel the need of playing live and performing and having the chance to do it with such an amazing band as Visions Of Atlantis can only bring me to happiness!“
How did Visions Of Atlantis take you into the line-up as a singer on artistic level and how did you settle into the band?
Michele: „It was a very smooth process. Sincerely, they really let me be myself and I think that during the first shows together, before I was officially ‚hired‘, they also ‚studied‘ my personality on stage and my ‚artistic level‘. They never asked me change the way I am, the way I perform on stage or the way I ‚move‘ and ‚interact‘ on stage. Some things just come naturally and the chemistry between band members is not something you can force. I guess we’ve been really lucky. Of course the more you perform with each other, the more you ‚interact‘, and the show grows gig after gig … but there was nothing at all that I was told ‚not to do‘ or ‚not to say‘. Even the on-stage clothing was something I was really comfortable with … basically during the whole ‚The Deep And The Dark’ tour I’ve been wearing the same outfit I had with Overtures but with a blue shirt instead of a red one … singing-wise, I come from the Metal scene and especially with Temperance the singing style is close. Temperance may be more poppy and modern while Visions Of Atlantis is more symphonic and classic, but we’re talking of different shades of the same color. Even in the studio, recording the new album, I’ve been often asked to be myself as much as possible, without trying to reach something I am not. Pureness and honesty always pays, even when it comes to singing.“
How long did it take you to feel that you and the band were united?
Michele: „Two weeks? I’ve been saying this thing over and over in the last months. We are a family now, and we realized it after a few weeks together only. I think we’re really lucky for what we have in our hands today. Even if in less than one year we’ve been together for a lot of time, we’ve been traveling Europe, South America, the US, on a cruise together and there was never a fight, never a discussion. We’ve been sharing rooms, cooking for each other, helping each other during illnesses and tough moments.“
Could you sing the way it was wanted by Visions Of Atlantis or did that have to develop first?
Michele: „Visions Of Atlantis is a really open-minded band. There are no written schemes or given rules. We are a band but we also are five musicians free to express theirselves when it comes to the performance. Everyone of us has a musical personality that is free to be expressed. We also suggest a lot to each other, to try different solutions or to ‚experiment‘ different ways … but no one forces each other to sing or play differently than what he/she is. The same happened with me when I joined the band. I clearly remember Clemi telling me ‚you know what you’re doing and you have your own way of performing, just be yourself‘ when I asked ‚is there anything I could do to fit better?‘ during our very first rehearsal together. I think this answer clearly explains the freedom we have in Visions Of Atlantis. What you see is what we are.“
How did you work together - and how was the mutual sending (email, etc.) of the respective files with the latest results of the songwriting and the individual contributions of the musicians?
Michele: „Well, we are extremely organized. Today’s technology gives you a hundred thousand options to be close to each other even if you’re in different sides of the world. Visions Of Atlantis now has Clemi from France, me from Italy and Tom, Dushi and Herb from Austria. We’re not in different continents, but we’re not exactly neighbourhoods … but thanks to the modern technology we’re always in strict contact with each other. We have a Whatsapp group, a Dropbox folder, a Trello Board, a constant email exchange for the most important things that are not meant to be lost through the hundred messages we send to each other on WA. Everything is quick and we are all in direct contact with each other. When it comes to work on a new song the process is like:
WA: hey guys, you can find the new song in that folder on Dropbox!
WA: ok cool, let me check it out!
—> Dropbox listening
WA: ok, I’ve listened to it, nice shall we do this or this other thing?
…and that’s how the thing goes on and on with videos, pictures etc. etc.
Then, when things are settled and everything is defined, we all catch up and work together, but this is obvious. The new album was recorded in Vienna: both me and Clemi went there to record our parts there, meeting with the other guys. The same happens for the video-shootings, photo-shooting and any other duty … but this couldn’t be different, isn’t it?
You have a lot of experience - how is it for you to sing with such a gifted person as Clémentine?
Michele: „Singing with a ‚new partner on stage‘ is always a great experience. There is no singer in the world that sings exactly in the same way of one other. Relating to someone else, especially in a band where duets and vocal intersections are the core of the band itself is always a challenge. Clémentine has an amazing voice, full of different colours and expressions and somehow this is a power point from my perspective too. Of course every singer has his own timing, flow and swing and I really do believe that the most important thing … the hardest too…is to follow someone else’s ‚flow‘. It took me a while to understand Clemi on this side but the more we performed the more we were tight. The unlucky side of being a male singer in a female-fronted band is that it will always be me to follow her as she’s singing the main lines when it comes to the duet parts. Still, the goal has been achieved and right now I think that everyone could tell that the blending between the two voices is unique. Moreover, thanks to the richness of her voice every song becomes a playground where I can play and shape my voice too. Sometimes we play the contrast game, a sort of ‚the beauty and the beast‘ situation where my voice is dark and aggressive while her voice is angelic and crystal-clear; sometimes we try to reach a connection between us trying to be as close as possible. What it is sure is that singing with Visions Of Atlantis is never boring.“
How did you experience your first, shared live shows?
Michele: „As already told before I’ve had the luck to perform the very first live shows with Visions Of Atlantis as opening act for one of my favorite bands ever: Kamelot. I was really excited and happy. We played some amazing venues in Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland and I clearly remember that the atmosphere was magic. After that, the Symphonic Metal Nights IV was the following duty … and I have to admit that it was exhausting because of the double-duty I had to commit as I was performing both with Visions Of Atlantis and Temperance. I sincerely consider myself a professional musician: I’m not the guy who complains, who fears the stage, who doesn’t face its duties, who tries to avoid stressful situations. I just think that the more we face tough moments, the more we grow, we learn and we improve ourselves. With this mindset I go through every situation in my life … and this was exactly the mindset I had during the first shows together. I was willing to improve myself, to learn, to prove myself I was ready to make a step forward.“
What do you think of the new Visions Of Atlantis album in general?
Michele: „It’s the very first album that I record with them, I guess my point of view can’t be really impartial! I’m extremely excited, I am absolutely satisfied of what we did and I am really proud of the effort that everyone of us put into it. We’ve been working hard, being extremely peaky and trying to leave nothing behind. We’ve been trying more and more solutions in terms of expression, not only concerning the singing but also concerning the instrumental parts … nothing was rushy and every detail was something we cared for. The songs are more complex than ‚The Deep & The Dark‘ but at the same time we still kept the atmospheres that belongs to this new era of Visions of Atlantis. I can truly tell that the band is more mature now, but the authenticity and pureness of the essence of Visions Of Atlantis is still there! I really can’t wait for ‚Wanderers‘ to be released.“
Do you have any song or lyrical faves on „Wanderers“?
Michele: „‚Heroes Of The Dawn‘, ‚Nothing Lasts Forever‘ and ‚A Journey To Remember‘ are my favorite songs … but you perfectly know that asking this question to a musician is like asking to a mother which is her favorite son. Those three song anyways are the one I would peak if someone would ask me ‚which songs should I listen to to understand the essence of the new album?‘.“
Could you already co-work on the new songs?
Michele: „Yes, and I really feel blessed because of that! I was so proud when the band approved some songs I composed!!! ‚At The End Of The World‘ and ‚A Life Of Our Own‘ are both songs I composed. The lyrics are still by Clemi as for the entire album, but the instrumental part and melodies are ‚my sons‘.“
Did you ever imagine being able to make music with such a well-known band?
Michele: „That’s part of the dream since I was 15-16 years old. If I would answer ‚no, I could have never imagined it‘ I wouldn’t be coherent with what I’ve been fighting for since years! I knew it was hard, I knew it would have needed sacrifices and a lot of work, dedication, responsibilities, commitment … and passion! But when you fight for something, with all of your forces and with strong passion, sooner or later dreams come true … and I am so happy and proud to be where I am now!“
What do you like most about the music of Visions Of Atlantis?
Michele: „This answer goes back to the ‚singing‘ question you asked me before. The atmospheres you breathe when listening to Visions Of Atlantis are just amazing: it’s like reading a book and being thrown into a fantastic world of magic, mysticism and mysteries. Every song is a tale that has something to tell you. As a singer you really can explore your voice with that, song after song. Every time I get on stage a new adventure begins and every time I can try new ways to tell the stories that Visions Of Atlantis narrate. There is not a single time where I ‚live‘ a Visions Of Atlantis song in the same way as the previous one … and shiver after shiver our music keeps on giving me always renewed emotions.“
Which other Symphonic Metal bands do you like?
Michele: „A lot! I am a heavy listener of music and luckily the style I am singing is also one of my favorite styles as a listener. Avantasia and Nightwish surely are at the top of my chart, but I could mention so many other bands I’ve been falling in love with. Kamelot, Rhapsody, Blind Guardian … there’s a huge list.“
What are you most looking forward to with the new album?
Michele: „It may be an expected answer but … playing live! I’ve already said that I belong to the stage and that I couldn’t live without going live. I think I’ll only be satisfied after I will have played 365 days in a year … jokes apart, I really hope this album will bring Visions Of Atlantis live as much as possible in as many countries as possible. I’m still looking forward to playing in Japan and in the USA as it is something I’ve not done yet … but there are so many things in my ‚to do list‘: an headlining tour, South America again, USA tour, Japan tour … let’s see, I don’t like ‚expectations‘, I really do prefer to set myself some goals and try to reach them, fighting as hard as possible, and as always I am ready to fight!“
© Markus Eck, 13.08.2019
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