Hugo Flores & Jessica Lehto – Factory of Dreams

Interview by Ed MacLaren

Portugal’s Factory of Dreams is not a band to rest on its laurels. After releasing three consecutive prog-metal classics, producer/multi-instrumentalist Hugo Flores and vocalist Jessica Lehto may have surpassed them all with the sublime and sonic grandeur of “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction”. An epic concept album of the highest caliber, “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction” weaves effortlessly between soaring melodies and savage riffs, tearing at the fabric of its musical universe with searing solos and breathtaking vocals. Hugo and Jessica took some time to talk to Femme Metal Webzine about the remarkable concept and development of “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction”, how to out-epic an epic album and the strange and fascinating impact of lip piercings.
 
With the success of “Melotronical”, expectations surrounding “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction” were understandably high but the new album has delivered another essential sonic experience and then some. Epic is becoming almost an understatement.

Jessica: I’m thrilled that you think so! Hugo has written such excellent music for this album. Of course that goes for all albums, but this is my favourite release so far. Every single track on “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction” has that special something, a nice atmosphere, lovely instrumentation and an interesting story to tell.

Hugo: I won’t argue with anything you guys said – just keep it up! OK, OK! “Melotronical” has got some serious music there – I haven’t decided yet which album is my favorite but they are, in many ways, two different kinds of beasts. “Melotronical” is more direct musically but quite abstract conceptually; “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction” follows “Melotronica”l’s kind of sound but is more epic and progressive, yet the story, for as complex as it gets, is easier to follow. Jessica mentioned a good point, the atmospheres. I think that the new album does have “Melotronical”‘s core type of sound, but it takes bits and pieces from what we’ve done on “Poles” and “Strange Utopia” as well. That makes this album ever the richer in my perspective. All I can say is that it was difficult to top “Melotroncal”. Did we make it? Most people say yes, and that’s definitely a positive thing!

The story of “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction” is one of rebirth and redemption in pure music and sound. Hugo, what was the seed that got you writing in this direction?

Hugo: If we’re condemning this planet that is not ours to destroy, we also destroy ourselves; if that’s an inevitability, due to our inability to learn with our mistakes, may it be done through music in a poetic way that leads people to that rebirth. That’s the premise of the concept. OK, it’s all hyperbolic and ironic, but that’s a kind of poetic destruction that in fact leads Earth to ascend to some new dimension. On my third Project Creation album I want to connect its story to this ascension of Earth and especially Kyra, thus connecting dots between my projects. So, how did the concept start? What started all this was really the need to create something cinematic, such as a novel or film, and put it on a music album. The first scene that came to mind was that of a couple – Kyra and her boyfriend – running away from a collapsing city that was being destroyed by sound waves. These ideas were coming from several different places: first the sonic pulsar stories from my first band, then the idea of this character that was going to lead Earth to its final destiny. Earth would kind of fuse with another astral entity, a hidden star. This star was saddened by the events on Earth, all wars, famine, injustices, so her tears would fall to Earth in the form of sonic pulsars.

As you know, this character’s name is Kyra, and she could be interpreted as a projection of this star’s personality on Earth, or a connection, thus bringing an epic ending to the world in the form of music. The track “Join Us Into Sound” represents that exact idea, and the song “Playing the Universe” is when Earth’s energy is thrown to the cosmos. So, what’s the motto besides the story you may ask? Well, the album is a warning regarding our behavior; we’re just inhabiting this planet temporarily, and nature is sublime but merciless… still we don’t have respect for it. The hidden star is watching us for a long time, gets fed up with it, and goes supernova, taking us on to a new level of consciousness. Supernova… that’s a kind of poetic destruction. In 2010, the novel and movie, we see Jupiter being devoured by monoliths, explodes, and a second Sun is born, that’s poetic destruction. Besides the warnings, the album also has a bright side to it and shows that there is a purpose in the universe; everyone can be important to the history of it all. It also implies that music connects humans with other entities, either organic or astral or whatever you can imagine.

As it is clear to me now, all my albums end with a certain kind of ascension to a higher level. I want to believe that but I have no idea if that’s how things work. Maybe I really just hope that after we leave this life there’ll be bigger things to attend to and other worlds to visit, you know? We may even have all have the answers to these questions but along the way we chose to forget about them and just live a different kind of life on this planet called Earth. And this wraps up a big answer! Phewww!

Do you see music as something that is essential to the well-being of the human race? It feels like you believe in that as more than just a simple plot device.

Jessica: I think we all have something to turn to that may increase our well-being, may it be music, movies, books, a walk in nature, and so on. I think it might be about escaping for a while, getting into another world. There are things in society, in general, that might be a bit upside down, and of course life is not always bright and shiny. Having something else to turn to for a moment, however brief, is a good thing.

Hugo: Most definitely. Any form of art is essential to convey all your emotions, ideas, views into something concrete. It is an essential escape from the common mundane lives – it helps the human mind to evolve. And who knows if the worlds we create with our minds when we paint, compose or write, aren’t taking shape somewhere else, just waiting for us to get there. A special part of the cosmos maybe. I think of this often.

You’ve talked about chaos in some of our previous interviews. Is that the essence of Factory of Dreams – achieving the balance between the musical chaos and melody?

Hugo: Life isn’t a straight line. A complete work, be it music, a painting, a film, may also be a representation of a lifetime. I see an album as a whole experience so it has to touch both mayhem and calm situations. I think that subconsciously when writing the music, this is what I truthfully seek, that perfect balance between chaos and bliss. That doesn’t mean that all songs must necessarily have that interplay between calm passages and aggressive passages. Nope, especially with an album like this that tells you a story. The music itself is bound to follow that story, meaning that some songs are totally aggressive and others may indeed feature the balance we talked about right now.

Also, personally I like to try and control myself when things are a bit more chaotic and when things are more calm in my life. Any state of mind and situation must be seen as a good experience that always happens for some purpose and to enrich a person. Humanely speaking, experiencing both states of minds are OK, as long as that doesn’t make you enormously bipolar. 😉

“Melotronical” had such a big sonic impact on so many levels. Did the two of you feel that you had to approach this album differently musically, vocally or in mixing and production to make sure you didn’t create a “Melotronical” II?

Jessica: I wasn’t really worried about that, or even thought about it, when recording my vocals. The music felt different to “Melotronical”, and regarding lyrics it was quite different too. “Melotronical” was a bit more abstract while “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction” was a little easier to grasp.

Hugo: Jessica is absolutely right. “Melotronical” was surreal and abstract, and on many levels so was the music even if I think it has more direct music formats than “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction”. But I must confess that the first ideas I had for the new album’s music were truly for a “Melotronical” Part II. However, with the story taking shape, and everything else like artwork and lyrics, the sound became wider. In the end you do have the “Melotronical” sound core, but very extended and wide. So, to really answer your question, I initially aimed for a “Melotronical” II, but naturally in the course of the compositions and recording process it became much more. I became aware that, indeed, that was the best possible thing for this album: not to be merely just another “Melotronical” but to be a really bold adventure that we still hadn’t seen on any Factory of Dreams album. The result is something fresh I think.

Jessica, you’ve always been humble about your vocal contributions to Factory of Dreams. After your vocal performance on this album, that needs to stop!

Jessica: (Laughs) Well, I’m glad that you think so! Still, I’m never really pleased with my vocals, ever. I always want to do better. Of course, you have to decide at some point that “OK, this is it!” I should go for these takes and stop rerecording. My poor neighbors must be driven close to the edge of insanity at times when they hear me sing the same section over and over again. Of course, it’s a good thing not to be that easily satisfied, it makes me do my best even if I want to do it better.

Hugo: I think that some 10 years from now, Jessica is still going to be thinking that she could have done better on some of the tracks! (Laughs) It’s like that movie with Bill Murray, “Groundhog Day”, when he’s inside a time loop reliving the whole thing, but here it’s on purpose. Gotta do better, gotta do better. One thing we have to establish is that none of our albums will ever be called “Asylum”, or we’ll have the tendency to really get into it and probably stay there due to this fanatic perfectionism. I suffer with it, and it’s like Jessica says, at some point you gotta really put yourself together and just recognize what you did is already good. And in mixing terms, many times what you hear as a little imperfection no one would ever listen to it besides yourself, since you know the error is there. Chris Brown, the mastering engineer and guitar virtuoso, alerted me to this in a few situations and he was right, and took a weight off my shoulders.

Jessica, Hugo gave you a very lyrical story to sing. How difficult is it to create and arrange your vocal melodies for a story that is very verbally complex and well crafted? He uses a lot of big words! Interhold Portal?

Jessica: Sometimes it takes me some time to get into the lyrics, to really pronounce them with less effort and adapt proper melodies to them and so on. They’re verbally complex indeed, and unfortunately I never have any reason to speak English really, so when English happens in my life it’s only being sung. Because of that I need to work a little more on Hugo’s lyrics when turning them into melodies. There are usually a lot of lyrics for each track too, and Hugo often tells me I can shorten them down if I need to, but where’s the fun in that? I try to keep everything he has written and squeeze it in, instead. If there’s too much text I turn some of it into harmonies if possible. I think it’s important for the story the album tells, that I get everything down.

Hugo: It’s Interholo Portal! And it’s a narrated part!! But for other words applied, okay, I’ve tried and tried, tried to make Jessica for once let some of the lyrics down or rewrite the stuff. I’ve thrown to her complex, strange, bizarre phrases, exquisite words and still she prevails and never backs off. She wins! (Laughs)

You know what the Interholo portal is right? It’s a portal that, through thought energy (based on tachyons or tachyonic particles which are hypothetical particles that always move faster than light), connects to people’s minds, so to increase TV/radio/cinema sensations inside one’s mind. Thus making the whole experience, for example, in the news, more believable and with increased emotions. This is shared collectively between all humans connected to the portal. Smells, tastes, all are also felt thru this portal. Crazy idea, maybe, but it’s cool! Sadness, happiness, are felt strongly by people so they can connect with other people and be engaged on solving what’s wrong with the world, if we apply this to wars for example. If one feels the pain of a devastation this would certainly help to sympathize with the situation and act. That’s what’s missing with this world we live in. We see the horrors, think for five seconds, and then switch to the stupid contest or reality show on TV – and the cozy sofa is right there.

Does being a screenwriter an advantage for you in visualizing the concept of Hugo’s lyrics as well as singing the story in an engaging manner?

Jessica: It’s definitely easier for me to picture scenes to the music now than it was before I started my screen writing education/work. Perhaps that has something to do with the different concepts too, though. “Melotronical” was a bit abstract while “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction” is a bit more cinema-like. I don’t know if there’s been any difference in how I sing the stories though, perhaps my manner of working there is pretty much the same.

Hugo, you said in our last interview that Jessica’s vocals were perfect on “Melotronical”. How would you rate them this time?

Hugo: I’d give her a 10 minus, because she didn’t sing ‘Interholo Portal’! (Laughs) It wasn’t meant to either! Okay, seriously, she’s as good as it gets I’d say. One must see things from the start. “Poles”, the debut album, had some seriously good music and vocals, but both had a great evolution with each new album. I think that from Melotronical forth, it just reached a state where it’s difficult to top honestly.

Hugo, you stepped back from the mic a bit on the album but added some wonderful vocal contributions from Hydria’s Raquel Schuler and Magali Luyten of Beautiful Sin. What was the reason for bring in other vocalists for the album?

Hugo: Before bringing in other musicians, I gotta analyze the whole picture of how the album’s going to be in terms of storyline, concept and music diversity. If having guests adds something positive to the whole thing, then let’s try it. Melotronical was meant to be simpler, so it had no guests, but for this new one I felt that on specific songs a couple of different vocals, and instrumentalists, would work out well and provide a wider perspective and sound range.

“Dark Season” is a very strong song so, a voice like Magali‘s was well suited. I’ve always loved Magali‘s voice, and I thought of having her sing on my projects one of these days. She has tremendous strength, she’s a solid and professional singer, so it was an honor to count on her. I’ve been following Hydra‘s work, they’re very talented, and there’s high quality in everything they do. Raquel stands out from other female vocalists, since she has a perfectly clean, shiny full of brilliance rock/pop voice that a bright track like “Angel Tears” required.

I pick with detail every vocalist, and before contacting them I must hear their performances several times before a decision. Also, I obviously want to get a feel of what they think of Factory of Dreams‘ music or another of my projects before anything. This helps to get into the mood and guarantees that everyone is enjoying and having fun with the music, that’s what matters.

You also brought in an arsenal of guest musicians including violinist Lyris Hung, ace guitarist Chris Brown and keyboard virtuosos Tadashi Goto and Shawn Gordon. Great standout performances on an album filled with highlights. Did you have specific reasons on bringing each of them in?

Jessica: I think all the guest musicians and vocalists really contribute with something great to this album. More voices mean more diversity; Raquel’s voice is a perfect match for “Angel Tears” just like Magali’s voice is perfect for “Dark Season”. The violins performed on the album are breathtaking, and the guest guitarist and keyboardists bring a lot of highlights as well.

Hugo: Tadashi‘s solos are crazy, everyone knows that by now. And by that I mean, crazy amazing! I know him from the label, Progrock Records. As Shawn Gordon contributed with great melodies and atmospheres, Tadashi brought some of the fastest and technically insane synth solos I’ve heard.

“Join Us Into Sound”, for example, has got a fantastic solo by Tadashi, and when the double kick drum hits you in conjunction with the edgy guitars, the synth solo just hits you in the face with a very distinct, penetrating sound. Love it! And Lyris, well she’s fantastic! “Seashore Dreams” riffs are absolutely stellar. You can feel the power as soon as it starts. What’s great is that Lyris can do very melodic sections with lots of feeling, and then furious and very well-played parts like the first “Seashore Dreams” solo. On “Neutron Star”, the violin sets the mood on a particular part of the track. Back to “Seashore Dreams”, the version on the album is the extended version that features more violins solos and instrumental passages. There is another version of the track that was made specifically for the brand new videoclip.

As for Mr. Chris Brown, well the man is just amazing technically and most of all he gets into the mood of each track very well and never does the same guitar solo which is what an album like this requires. He’s basically flawless and delivers. You know, when you work with someone for a long time on previous albums and it all just works out so well, I try to keep up the collaborations. Also, he’s the mastering engineer for most of my albums. If we listen to the raw mixed track and to the final result, the difference is huge. Mastering is indeed an art and extremely important. Everything stands out greatly with Chris‘ s works.

Hugo, what synthesizers are becoming your go-to instruments for composing and recording? Does the music inspire the sound or do the sounds inspire the music?

Hugo: Sounds do help a lot, but you gotta know what you’re in for and what type of sound and melodies you want to play, depending on what you’re looking for. In fact, I gotta choose the instrument or sound according to the mood I’m in for composing. After that I let imagination take over, and the sounds inspire you and helps to create the melodies. I got a lot of synths, both hardware and software, namely the Roland Juno-G, some Korg synths too and VST plugs like Spectasonics Ominsphere for example, that did some of the spacey sounds.

After listening to all four albums back-to-back, it’s an amazing musical evolution. What comes to mind when you reflect on your collaboration over the last five years?

Jessica: When I first got in touch with Hugo I had never worked with music this complex before. The first time around was a bit of a struggle – recording for “Poles” was a new experience entirely. Since then it’s gotten easier with each release. It’s still difficult and challenging, but definitely a lot easier than it was to begin with. I suppose it helps to know Hugo better by now too, both work-wise and friendship-wise.

Hugo: I like Jessica‘s pony collection and her crazy bunnies… Oh, creating music with her is also cool, yeah. It’s been a rich experience, we’ve evolved musically and vocally with each new album, and that’s something to highlight. The fanbase increased, and most of all, the fun, strength and will to keep on making music is there. Jessica is a sweet person, a nice friend, and we get along well. So, doing this with her is a great experience! Also, she helps quite a lot promoting the music, and that’s great teamwork.

Booklet artwork is essential to crafting a visual companion to the music – especially a concept album. Venefica Luna did a great job. How did she get involved?

Hugo: Venefica! Actually her name’s also Jessica and she did the “Poles” artwork as well, so, I already knew her work. She’s very pleasant to work with, makes everything easy for you and she delivers all nicely and neat on time. I had the urgency to get the artwork for this album done in a few months and she did. We exchanged emails almost daily while preparing the artworks. I presented her the ideas for each part of the story/artwork, she sent her drafts and so on. It was all done that way.

She’s so very talented and proactive. When I had an idea that was just too far out, she always gave me alternatives, never backing down, and the whole package is simply amazing and is way above the standard artwork for any CD package nowadays, since it features around 12 different artworks that provide a clear windows to the story and music. One of my album highlights is that Jessica’s lip piercing has finally made it to an album cover! I’ve been obsessed with it since the “Sonic Sensations” and “Weight of the World” videos for “A Strange Utopia”! It seems to have switched sides though…

Jessica: (Laughs) It’s so fun you’ve been thinking about it at all! I’m glad it was kept around this time, since it’s something I wear all the time. Well, except for when I take care of elderly people – which I do at my extra job. The interesting thing, which was very unexpected for me, is that I’ve seen comments about the piercing regarding our music video for “Back to Sleep” and in some comments about photos we’ve released from the upcoming video for “Seashore Dreams”. Not everyone likes the piercing. Others do, and it’s interesting that people even think about it. And yeah, the image for the cover to the latest release was mirrored – it’s so cool you noticed!

Hugo: Oh my god, Ed’s obsessed with your lip piercing, run while you can! And there’s the new music video now as well! The piercing is great, it’s like Jessica‘s a bionic woman. (Laughs) I’m not helping, I know, damn! Seriously, I like it, and everyone recognizes it by now… Well, not that the piercing is required to know Jessica, she’s just the sweetest person and the camera loves her when you consider all the music videos done by now.

Factory of Dreams’ music is so visual and cinematic it’s almost a crime that you’ve only done a handful of videos. Have you thought about a doing a long-form video for the entire album or better yet a live performance of the album heavy on the visuals that you could record for DVD?

Hugo: Well the latest trailer tries to do that quite a bit, but for 4 to 5 minutes basically. Video and animation are obviously very expensive; doing a one hour video for the whole album is quite impossible financially. However, the trailer we put together gives a really nice view of the whole story, addressing each song/scene. And as mentioned, we’re thrilled to present the full music video that I think people will really like. And its already a privilege to be able to shoot professional videos for our albums, not everyone can really do that well and with such a personal style that Emil Jonsvik‘s videos have.

Factory of Dreams has taken up most of your time over the last five years. Do both of you have any other projects in the works fans can look forward to hearing?

Jessica: At the moment my own project, Once There Was, for which I write music has a fourth release approaching. I’ve had some issues getting it mixed but it seems to have solved now thanks to kind people who don’t seem to mind working with those mixes. I appreciate that tremendously! Thanks Johan, Niklas and Mikael, and Johan in particular, who is working his butt off with a load of tracks!

Apart from that, I’m recording vocals for a new project by Beto Vazquez – it might be too early to mention much about it at this point though. I’m recording vocals for the already mentioned Johan as well, in a collaboration where he’s writing the music. And then I’m in touch with a Belgian composer who’s into more film score driven music, I’ll be recording vocals there as well but also contribute a bit with some music, it seems. With Beto Vazquez Infinity where I’m one of the main vocalists, we recently recorded the album “Beyond Space Without Limits”, which was released in December 2012.

Hugo: In the meantime, I’m working on my third Project Creation album and I’m also listening to demo tracks from three different draft projects I had in mind, so to converge the best songs into one project/album. I still don’t know if this will be another Factory of Dreams album or something new, but it’s going to be exciting.

Making the new album’s story work wasn’t easy because I had to make sure all dots connected and what’s cool is that this story will connect with Project Creation‘s third album. That’s quite an epic task to do, but it shall be done. Go forth!

The two of you are always a pleasure to interview. Thanks for taking the time to chat with Femme Metal Webzine.

Jessica: Thanks for the nice time and for the lovely questions – it definitely was my pleasure!

Hugo: We had a great time Ed, many thanks again, always great to chat with you. Thanks to Miriam as well, of course! To the readers, be sure to pick up our brand new album, and visit our official sites!

 

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