Roberto Potenti & Ashley – Skylark

Interview by Miriam C.

Don’t be afraid if this interview, at first sight, would look long and redundant but believe me, in Femme Metal Webzine‘s tradition, we always have tried to try to peak our readers’ curiosity by proposing interesting interviews and its length, we promise you, is justified by the treated topic. Italian symphonic power metallers Skylark, not so much time ago, have released via Underground Symphony their new full-lenght (probably their last one) called “The Storm and The Horizon” that contains 4CDs in a deluxe edition A5 digibook, so when I tell you that “its length is justified”, you gotta understand me that there’s a lot on the plate. I really hope tho’ that this won’t be the last time that I’ll interview guitarist Brodo and their singer Ashley ’cause they really need to more space! Their music is too much underrated!

Hi Brodo and Ashley, how are you? I hope you’re fine!

Brodo: Hi!! It is a pleasure to been here with you and I would like to say “Hi!” to all the Femme Metal Webzine readers.

Ashley: Hello! We are doing fantastic! I hope you are doing well, too!

Let’s start by asking you, how is born the idea behind “The Storm & The Horizon”? Saying that’s a mere compilation it’s really an understatement…

Brodo: Because it is not a compilation. Some magazines/webzines used the word compilation that is 100% out of reality. “The Storm & the Horizon” is the main BRAND NEW ALBUM of a set of 4 new CDs: “The Storm & the Horizon” itself, “Eyes”, “The Dragon’s Gate” and “The Road to the Light”. All of them have been or will be released as a single package. In the version you hold, we were able to make e really special deluxe version that includes all the 4 albums plus a 50 pages hardcover media book  and we are so proud for having released this great package that I’m sure will be a treasure for many of our fans. More than 5 hours of music, 3.30 h of new recordings moving between new material, remakes totally brand new and some covers revisited in Skylark style. However, as I said, every single album is available also in a traditional digipack or jewel package, with it’s own jacket and it own booklet. Also in this deluxe book’s pages every single album have it own section, with some special contents and special photos that are not available in the standard versions.

Probably sounds a stupid question but it’s not everyday that the listener(s) attempt to listen to a release that includes over 5 hours of music so how they should approach to this fantastic release?

Brodo: This year is the 20th anniversary of the first album release and we wanted to do something really special. We have been working hard for more than 2 years writing and recording the new works, rerecording some old material and we were also able to work with Jeremy Parker, who has been the sound engineer for band like Evanescence, Slipknot, Simple Plan, Trivium and many more; with him we recorded and mixed almost all the songs.

The result of this long great work are over 5 hours of music. We also tried to cover everything connected to the history of ourselves and the music in general. The result is a well balanced mix of different styles and atmospheres, from our traditional symphonic power metal, to some more classic and melodic metal songs, including also really fast speed metal songs and ballads. This package represent really well all the past 20 years of Skylark.

I heard rumors and read reviews in which hey described the release as hard rock or pop. Sometimes I’m wondering if people really listen to the entire records before making some reviews or they just write what hey think in advance. A couple of Bon Jovi covers and a some ballad cannot transform Skylark‘s music in “Slippery When Wet”. Many songs are still played at 150 and more beats, the Japanese covers are reprised in a very fast speed versions.

Besides its exclusive contents, I love the artwork. Do wanna tell us more about it? Who’s the author?

Brodo: I agree with you, the artwork is something extremely important for every our work. In the past we worked with Luis Royo but lately his style has changed to something more ‘gothic’ and we decided to search new artists we may work with. Unlike the past, new artworks are a mix of several artists combined in something special and unique. I personally took care of organizing all the graphic’s parts and create the full artwork concept.

We are really satisfied with the artwork. This deluxe version has a great 50 pages book that contains a lot of photos, all the lyrics and some special content. Everything inside of the package look exactly like an ancient book. Our second album “Dragon’s Secret” is a concept based to a story enclosed in an ancient book, like we did in that case, “The Storm & The Horizon- Deluxe version” looks like the same ancient book and contains, as said, treasures and secrets.

So, let’s analyze in detail “The Storm & The Horizon”: well, the first CD is the self titled album and we should considerate it as the real full-lenght here and if we rule out the 3 Bon Jovi‘s cover songs such as “Shot Through The Heart”, “The Hardest Part Is the Night” and “Santa Fe” – most of the songs present in this CD wasn’t previously released, so I’m wondering if can give us more insight about the genesis of these songs…

Brodo: As I said, the Deluxe version contains 4 different album in one special box. Only the front cover and the main title is the same of the single release of “The Storm and the Horizon” . Our first album, far back in the 1995, was “The Horizon & The Storm”. After 20 years we wanted to celebrate it and “The Storm and the Horizon” is the perfect title to do it. The beginning and the end. So the deluxe version contains 4 CDs, which are 3 full-lenght albums and 1 remastered compilation album of some of our most representative songs. This “best of” was published a couple of years ago in South America, Japan and digitally in North America with different tracklist and only in double CDs format. Finally we have the European version with a brand new tracklist including some rarities.

The first CD, as you noticed, is the self titled one and has 18 songs for almost 80 minutes of music. Everything has been recorded and produced with Jeremy Parker in the United States and mastered by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound. The album is the perfect mix of different styles and atmospheres. There are fast songs, classic metal songs, speed songs and ballads, plus some metal version of famous anime songs. The album is really various and it is perfect for everyone that like to enjoy the melodic metal music, with a really high level production. And the remakes, like “Road to Heaven” have different singers and a totally different approach

In addition to the BJB‘s cover there are 3 Japanese songs and I’m referring to “マジンガーZ (Majingaa Z)”, “離したくはない(Hanashitakuwanai)”, “会いたかった(Aitakatta)” and “さんぽ(Sanpo)” that are respectively sung by Mai Shaira and Risa Kimura. First of all, would you like to present them to our readers then I’d like to know more about this songs, do you have any detailed info to add?

Brodo: Mai Shaira and Risa Kimura are two Japanese singers that joined our albums since “Twilight of Sand” in the 2011. Most of the readers probably already remember them for their first appearance in that album. With them had been possible not only to sing English songs but also to add some special songs with Japanese lyrics. I personally consider music more like a combination of feeling growing inside of everyone, the feelings that sometimes are created by the words but most of time are created by the sounds and rhythms; the music sung in a different language, when it is the case can give more impact and makes stronger feelings growing up.

Two songs are the metal version of two famous Japanese Anime, probably known outside of Japan with a different title. The first is the main theme of “Mazinger Z”, in and extremely fast and powerful version, like no one have ever made before; the second is much more known in the world as one of the main song of the animation movie “My Neighbor Totoro” (となりのトトロ in Japanese), that I’m sure is really well known by a lot of people around the world. There is also another song sung by Fabio that is also the English version of the main theme of “Laputa Castle in the Sky”, arranged in a fast power metal version. This song is also performed by Mai in the album “Eyes”.

“Aitakatta” is one of the most famous songs of the female idol band AKB48, rearranged also this time in a really fast and little bit Thrash Metal arrangements but keeping the melodic atmosphere of the vocal parts and the original Japanese lyrics. The last song you mentioned, “Hanashitakuwa nai” is a wonderful love ballad in the perfect style of Eighties Rock Ballad and the title means “I Don’t Want to Be Apart”.

“The Run Towards The Sun” features the vocals of Caro Guedes from Beto Vasquez Infinity, how did you get in touch with her?

Brodo: I’m a close friend of Beto, I met him the first time in Argentina several years ago, now it’s gonna be almost 8 year since we met in Buenos Aires drinking together in a Rock Bar. The funny part is that everyone should expect us to drink red wine and eat asado (traditional Argentinian grilled meat), but, at that time in Argentina, there was a severe strike that last for more than one week; in Buenos Aires during that strike was extremely difficult to find beef meat and we had to drink beer and eat pizza, the only things we could get in that Rock Bar we went.

Skylark and Beto Vasquez Infinity already cooperate in the 2008 and one person of his family has also been a big Skylark fan from years. A couple of years ago, me and Eddy went to visit him in Argentina and we meet Caro. We first met at Beto Vasquez Music shop and then had dinner together eating a really tasty home made pizza, this time with Argentinian red wine!!! Me and Beto have always talked about the possibility to play together in some songs but we play exactly the same instruments it is a bit complicated to make it true. Maybe in the future, who knows…

Ashley, your interpretation of Cindarella‘s hit “Don’t Know What You Got-Till it’s Gone” is simply mind-blowing, there’s a specific reason of why you have chosen to reinterpret this song?

Ashley: Thank you very much! I’m glad I was able to do the song justice. The original version is amazing in its own. When I heard we were considering covering some songs I HAD to suggest it to the band! I had been listening to it on repeat because it had a lot of meaning to me at the time and luckily, I was able to record it for the album! The final product was just unreal and I am just as amazing about it as you are!

Excluding Caro, Ashley, Risa and Mai “The Storm & The Horizon” sees the collaborations of Valerya Vanth, Helena Tironi, Fabio Dozzo and Savannah Ferguson: do you like to spend some words about this fantastic singers?

Brodo: Valerya was also on “Twilight of Sand”, she is not a new entry, even if this time she had more space on the albums. Fabio, I think doesn’t need any presentation. Helena is a really good singer, as well and a keyboard and piano player. She was with us in the recent tour in both roles; it was a very nice experience.

Savannah is totally a new entry. She is an American singer from Arizona. She was working on a recording while we were in the studio and we first decided to try to record a song with her, and , as we were satisfied, we decided to add another song with her. All those singers, together with Ashley and Mai are featured in our latest promotional video.

Connected to the previous question, generally, which is, let’s say, the criteria you on which you establish that particular voice is right for that specific song since you avail yourself of many, different singers?

Brodo: It is a combination of things, especially for singers that recorded less songs with us. The first aspect, that may probably be the main point is the vocal range itself and how the singer uses hers (its) voice in different vocal ranges. This is something that can also be considered as a physical characteristic of every singer and has to be well remembered before making a choice. Depending on this characteristic we already knows which vocal parts can fit and, especially for the voice of the singers we know better, like Ashley and Mai, we already know how to write the songs and how to make the arrangements. The other really important aspect is the color of the voice. Let me make a comparison: just like every great Chef in a outstanding restaurant, every dishes can be cook and prepared in an excellent way, however there are always some special dishes that are the specialties of the Chef. We are doing something similar, trying to arrange the vocal parts for the specialties of our “Chefs”.

The next one is “Eyes” that was released the last year by Moon Records in South America and now it appears in remastered version with more unreleased stuff but let’s take a step back, I know that in Japan was released as an EP. There’s any difference between the Japanese and the South American version, would you like to enlight us about it?

Brodo: The album “Eyes” has been released in two versions, the EP version and the Extended version. The EP version was the same in both Latin American and Japanese markets and had a couple of songs that are not present in this new full-length version. This extended version included in the Deluxe package of The Storm & The Horizon”, contains 15 songs for almost 80 minutes of music.

Some of the songs are new versions of released songs, sung by a different singer and produced with the new team of engineers and totally gained a new power and new life. Also some unreleased songs are also included in the album “Eyes” making it a really interesting and pleasant work. At first, this EP was to anticipate the main character of the front cover of the main album The Storm & The Horizon”, like a single is anticipating the album itself.

Additionally, compared to the old versions in what differs this new version of “Eyes”(the song)?

Brodo: If you mean the song, not the EP, it is totally brand new. We wrote the first version of “Eyes” during the recording session of “Twilight of Sand” in 2011. It was just a 30 second song for piano, voice and lead guitar then we got a video, a presentation for our new singer Ashley and the outro of the album. After that, we decided to evolve the idea in a complete song, the same song that now is included in the new album. Around 6 minutes of music where only the old 30 seconds works just an an intro and connect the previous album “Twilight of Sands” to the new one “The Storm and the Horizon”.

In the press release/info that you have privately sent me over “Eyes” has to be considered as an appendix of “The Storm & The Horizon”, why?

Brodo: Because most of its recording were made at the same time; it is the single who anticipated the album (in its EP version) and  because also the sound for 85% of the songs is the same and the same team worked on both records…..

Although “残酷な天使のテーゼ( Zankokuna Tenshino Teeze)” was previously released, what you can disclose about it and their performers Noriko & Fu-ki?

Brodo: “残酷な天使のテーゼ (Zankokuna Tenshino Teeze)” has been released the first time in this album and is included only in the full-lenght version of the album “Eyes”. It might be more recognizable if I call it the main theme of the Anime “Evangelion”. It has been included in two version, one only sung by Mai and another one sung by a female and male Japanese voices which are Noriko and Fu-ki. Noriko is a Kansai Japanese singer that we met few years ago. In 2012, together with Eddy we played as guest in a celebration event of a Japanese City and this song was one of the songs played. After that, it came out the idea to develop the Metal arrangements and record this version in the studio.

We are proud that also Fu-ki has joined the recording. He might be not well known by his name by his name only, but he is the former singer of a famous Japanese Visual Kei band called BLOOD and with them he performed for several shows in Europe, USA, Mexico and Australia, between 2004 and 2009.

“Feverish” was completely composed by Fabio Dozzi, how this song piece together in the structure of the album?

Brodo: “Feverish” is entirely produced by Fabio, composed and recorded with musician friend of him and outside of the band. The only work that has been done together with the rest of the songs is the final mastering. It is a different song from traditional Skylark material, especially because the production and the arrangements have been done without the band. For this reason we decided to include it in the special album “Eyes” and put it as the last songs of the CD, in the middle between a song of the album and a bonus track. I think for the people that likes Fabio‘s voice, it can be a good song and show them the style he likes to perform and write when is not playing a song composed by Skylark.

“Divine Gates Part V – Chapter I: The Road to the Light” and “Divine Gates Part V – Chapter II:The Dragon’s Gate” close this magnificent release: “Divine Gates Part V – Chapter I: The Road To the Light” was a best of released in Japan and Mexico as a double CDs and in this new revamped version is present only one CD with a different track-list. One naturally wonders why did you have revolutionized the tracklist, did you were unhappy with the previous version?

Brodo: “Divine Gate part V – Chapter I” and “Chapter II” are part of the same long story of Divine Gates but are totally different kind of albums. “The Road to the Light”, that is the “Chapter I” is basically a compilation of a selection of old songs remastered and enclosed in one album. This compilation album is the second compilation album we released after “In the Heart of the Princess” in 2005. We had decided that after 10 years of history of the band it was the right moment to release a collection of the most representative songs of Skylark and so, after 10 more years, we simply did the same.

This compilation has been released in 5 different formats with 5 different track lists. There is a double jewel box version for the Asian market, a double digipack version for the American market with a different track list, a special limited picture disc vinyl release with a selection of 60 minutes of music, a digital release with all the 32 songs of the compilation and now the last European selection included in this Deluxe version package . We are happy with every versions, that are focused on a different market. It is also interested because we have the latest work at remastering by George Marino and the first ones by Ryan Smith who is taking care of Skylark after George passed away in 2012.

“Divine Gate part V – Chapter II: The Dragon’s Gate” is, on the contrary, a new work. It is based on the previously released album “Dragon’s Secret”, however it has been totally re-recorded, a bit re-arranged and sung by a female voice instead of the original male voice. Also this record has been engineered by Jeremy Parker who also made deeper work into the mixing compared to “The Storm and the Horizon”, giving something special and extra that we couldn’t have in the first release in 1997. We wanted this record to sound similar but different and the best way to do that was to change the singing style the studio and, above all, the sound/mixing engineer (and of course the recording studio).

So, “Divine Gates Part V – Chapter II:The Dragon’s Gate” is the remake of Skylark‘s second album “Dragon’s Secrets” (which was sung by Fabio Dozzi) that was published back in 1997 by Underground Symphony. This new version is performed by Pursing the End’s singer Chiara Manese, would you like to give us some insights about this project and collaboration?

Brodo: Yes, exactly as I said before this album is a totally new remake of the second original album, totally produced after the release of “Twilight of Sands”. When started the collaboration with Chiara, she was basically an opera singer with a passion with metal music that I noticed already during the session of “Twilight of Sands”. During the recording of the album“Twilight of Sands” there were no opportunities to work together but later this opportunity arose. She had joined that band you mentioned above when our recording with her was completed.

In the original idea we thought of having Fabio at the voice but we tried to record with him for several months; unfortunately in all that period he suffered some problems in his respiratory tract and he couldn’t be able to record properly. So we turned a bad news in a good one. At that point, we decided that it was better to change totally the approach and make a “different album” instead of the planned standard remake.

I thought that Chiara could be the right singer for the album and she agreed in recording with us. After the work has finished, she joined a couple of other bands and no one lasts. Last time I talked with her, about one year ago, she told me that mainly she come back to her origins,  the classical music. This album was planned to be released on 2013 but in that time her image changed a lot and we didn’t consider that a good situation for the album and for our fan base and we decided to postpone the release.

If your first full-lenght back in 1995 was called “The Horizon & the Storm”, it sounds that with this 4CD deluxe edition entitled “The Storm & the Horizon” the band wants to close a musical adventure started 21 yrs ago and at the same time celebrate their career by offering to their fans the best musical package ever. I don’t know if my interpretation is right however that may be Skylark shaped the history of metal. Personally speaking Roberto how you forsee the band’s future?

Brodo: The title of the new album is not a coincidence. 20 years has passed since the first album and some more months since this adventure has started. We wanted to make something really special that will remain forever in the history of the band. In these latest 20 years we lived the music deeply, we saw many situations (good and bad), we made the music history of some countries being the first western band playing there or topping the rock charts as only really few other Italian bands were able to do. I started like a young guy and I became a wise man, because of all the experiences I could live and see around me in the music.

The history is usually written by men with power, we don’t have power, we are just musician who made history. Someone can deny that but it is the mere true. Nowadays, I meet people saying that music industry is still healthy and strong but the reality is terribly different. There were some innovation in our world that pushed people far from the music and what we now, it is a real sad and depressing situation for the ones who love music for real.

It is easy to say that we aren’t in the 80’s anymore but we are not also in the 90’s. When I take a train or I walk in the center of the cities, I see something really different. Ten years ago most of people were using headphones or earphones, now that percentage dropped drastically. I didn’t know what genre of music people were listening to but it was music. Now people mainly spend his time to chat or playing game with his smartphone. Music is becoming dull, it is not a passion for many anymore. And were there is not interest anymore, it can’t exist a job, a business and even a simple gratification. What music has been in the latest 40 /50 years is probably dead and finished forever.

In this situation we tried to give the best product to our fans and celebrate the 20 years since the first album and the release of 20 works. In the near future my solo album will be released, the recording of several songs has already started. We have no intention to ruin a story of more than 20 years with a cheap release and a cheap product and, realistically, I think it will be extremely hard to release some more albums with the quality we have in mind. Of course, I really wish the music situation could change and come back to its glory but I’m afraid we are at the point of no return.

Well, I want to really thank you for being so kind and patience with me. I hope both of you have enjoyed this long interview, please greet freely our readers.

Ashley: I wish I was able to answer more of the questions! Because the questions were mostly related to how the records are/were made and regarding albums prior to my involvement I think Brodo (or Eddy) were better at answering those questions. Thank you so much for taking the time to interview us and we will be talking to you again very soon!

 

 

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