Interview by Miriam NocturnalConcerto
Well, it’s time for some Italian bands, don’t you think? So I think that we must give to a piece of the Italian metal history called Skylark some well deserved space. History because are rolling down the street from 20 years and like always there’s the right time for some changes and hereby we present the débutant Ashley Watson that, along with Brodo, we will discuss about their ninth album “Twilights of Sand” and some juicy curiosities about the Far East.
Ashley : Hi, I’m doing great, thank you!
Brodo : Hi to all Femme Metal’s readers! It’s great to be here with you.
First of all to whom maybe don’t know really well your band can you present it with a little biography?
Brodo : Skylark has a long history, we are very close to 20 years of activity. As most of the times it happens to a band with a long history, our music style has gone through some changes during the years and every album we have released is slightly different; however, I can surely say that you can always recognize Skylark sound: the strong combination of powerful and fast rhythm session, the extreme melodic vocal lines, the massive use of keyboards balanced with symphonic and neoclassical atmospheres and a touch of Hard Rock. Thanks to this uncommon combination we achieved a great success in some really important market of Far East, including emerging countries like China where we had the longest Pan China Tour for a Western Band, being also the really first one that have played in some of the most important province’s Capitals like Kunming, Changchun or the really remote but famous Harbin. We also getting a more than decent feedback from South America. We are one of the first band, in the melodic metal scene, that decided to have a female singer performing with a full body melodic voice instead of the more traditional male “front-man”. This was a complete different direction compared with the Opera’s style (such as Tarja) that was already really famous in that period.
Ashley, since you’re the last new member, can you talk about you, your musical training. And connected to this, when was your first contact with the Skylark universe? Despite Skylark, what metal bands do you like or you are new to this genre?
Ashley : I started singing when I was just a toddler but my formal vocal training started when I was 13 years old with a vocal program called Speech Level Singing by Seth Riggs. I’ve been taking lessons from SLS teachers ever since. Apart from that, I like to attend vocal seminars in my spare time. I love learning little tricks to help make my voice better. Aside from my formal training, my family is very musically oriented. My Dad was a professional session musician in the 80’s in the LA music scene so I had a lot of guidance from him. My first contact with Skylark was the summer of 2011. We were recording at the same studio and they asked me to sing the hook for “The Princess and Belzebu” and after that, everything just fell into place! As for metal bands, I am pretty new to the metal scene. My family is a country music family (hence the country band in a later question). However, Eddy has definitely gotten me interested in some metal bands, such as Iron Maiden. I love finding new music and I’m always up for new genres. Although I may be new to the Metal genre, I’ve always been a sucker for hard rock like Aerosmith and Bon Jovi and then classic rock like The Beatles. Apart from the hard rock, I listen to a lot of Pop Rock such as Avril Lavigne, The Summer Set, Taylor Swift, The Jonas Brothers and of course American rock bands such as Paramore.
Ashley, for being so young you’re quite navigate in the show business but the impressive fact that thanks to Gardener Cole you have already recorded an EP with Arrowheart, an all girl country band, what you can say about that experience?
Ashley : Recording with Arrowheart was definitely a great experience. It was a good way to get my feet deeper into the business, and it was an amazing experience working with Gardner. You can always learn something new when working with someone like him.
Well, let’s introduce your ninth album “Twilights of Sand”. What can you tell me about its genesis and lyrics? I know that was recorded in Arizona, USA….
Brodo : “Twilights of Sand” is a record that I’m really proud of. In my opinion, it is, simply, an excellent album, without any “B-side” song. Every track could be a potential single. Even if we released a DVD in the 2009 and a special CD in the 2010, our last standard studio album was recorded in the 2006 and published in 2007. That’s one of the unconscious reason why we wanted to give to our fans something really special. We felt we had prepared 70 minutes of great music so we decided to record in one of the best studio in the world where metal bands like Megadeth, Soulfly and great voice like Alicia Keys have recorded some of their albums. I cannot tell you many things about the lyrics because apart from the main concept (Divine Gates saga telling the marvelous fight between good and evil, White Warrior against Belzebu and so on…) that is again featured in the song “The Princess and Belzebu” all the lyrics are written and cured by Eddy. And he doesn’t speak a lot about it because he thinks that even if every song is born from a personal experience, a personal feeling or a personal dream, everybody has the right and the freedom to exploit his personal view from each songs, creating his own world and feelings.
Scrolling down the site, in the section dedicated to the new album, I have seen that a lot of female/male singers has participated in it. Can you unveil more details about them?
Brodo : Yes, you are right, in total there are nine singers, six female and three male. To tell the truth, nine are the singers present in every version of “Twilights of Sand” but considering all the different versions and their bonus tracks (a full length bonus CD for the European Edition), the number is even higher. Besides Ashley that is the official Skylark‘s singer, the others are guests. The rich 24 page booklet of the album is full of pictures and some special credits about all of them. As it has often happened in the band’s history, the album appears like a rock opera with singers joining us from different States all around the world, covering three different continents: Europe, Asia and America!
“Sands of Time” was written by you, Ashley, what’s its subject?
Ashley : In my mind, the song is about a love interest and how he never really gave me a fair chance. That’s why the main question really pops up; “If I fell in love with the morning sun would you cry” meaning; would you really even care if I fell in love with someone else. However, the song is really up for interpretation so it could be about something totally different to someone else.
I would like do a little step back, because reading your wide discography, the albums that really pop up are the ones denominated “Divine Gates Part”. In a few of lines what you can describe what’s the Divine Gates?
Brodo : The saga started with “Dragon’s Secrets” (even if that one is the central chapter of the Saga). Like I said before this story is about an eternal fight between Good and Evil, the Dark and the Light. Many characters appear in the lyrics: some are related to historical tradition like Belzebu (someone might see a religious view but our intent is only historical) some others are simply our brand new creations. They have been interpreted by skilled and important singers from the Italian and International scene. “Dragon’s Secrets”, “Gate of Hell”, “Gate of Heaven”, “The Last Gate” are all focused on this fighting. But there are single songs connected to this theme also in “Wings” and in “Twilights of Sand” for example. For those who don’t know the story already, I have one suggestion: listen to the CDs and follow all the lyrics. For me, a song like “Light”, that is long almost 24 minutes, is one of the most important chapter in Skylark‘s history.
So, we can say that with “Twilights of Sand” the Divine Gates saga is closed, right?
Brodo : Never say never. There might be some more stories and secrets to tell about the Divine Gates saga! Like I told you before, you can now listen to the song “The Princess and Belzebu”. After the coming and the adventures of the Princess of The Snow it might be the time for a new Princess… The Princess of the Desert.
The thing that hit me so much, being an Italian band, that you have a lot of success in the East Countries like China and Japan. Why such explosion? I know that sounds stupid this question but I still don’t understand what worked so well. If we want do a comparison that’s the same that happened to Lacuna Coil in the USA.
Brodo : I’m sure that our melodies and Skylark‘s sound itself are the secret of this success. In every Skylark‘s song, from every album, it is easy to recognize our sound. As I said at the beginning of the interview, our sound is a strong combination of melodic lines together with wide image keyboard and a fast, strong rhythm session. I like your example, but this aspect of Skylark and Lacuna Coil’s career is different in some parts. After they had signed for Century Media, the record company introduced them to the American market, and, mainly, thanks to the work of Century Media they finally got a good success there. Skylark, in the really beginning of its history, didn’t have any record company in Asia. We didn’t have the support of the traditional music business and its standard channels like magazines or radios; our success was born and grown up straight from fans that imported our album from Europe and promoted our music through different ways like DJ event, listening party and the innovative, at that moment, web. In the really beginning of the 2002 the name of Skylark was already present massively in almost every Rock music’s forum even if just one album, ignored by the press, had made the Japanese domestic market only for a limited edition (“Dragon’s Secrets”). Only in 2003, after almost 8 years and after being number one in the major import album charts (happened for several album), we signed a contract with a Japanese record company and, finally, got access to the traditional music business’ channels. And from that moment we have been increased our fan base even more, reaching really important results.
I’ve seen some funny photos on your Facebook Page about the Japan tour 2011/2012 and you, Ashley, sounds that you have enjoyed it a lot! How the Japanese fans welcomed you and what’s the funny fact/thing that happened to you during this tour that you want to share with us?
Ashley : The Japanese fans are amazing and very welcoming. I can’t wait to do our next tour in Japan. When you are on tour and spend so much time with your bandmates, there is a tendency to play a lot of practical jokes. I was shopping in Japan and bought this really cute hat. I came back from the store and Eddy really didn’t like the hat at all. Since he made it clear how much he hated it, I wore it for the rest of the tour just to spite him. It opened up a whole bunch of doors for funny situations. The band members ended up tag teaming me in the hallway of the hotel and stole the hat from me, holding it captive for the last few days of the tour.
Brodo : Japan and Japanese fans are amazing! The Metal music scene in city like Tokyo or Osaka is an everyday life experience, especially in the evening and night until 5 am of the following day. For those who have never been there is difficult to imagine how exactly it is. In the last years I’ve improved my Japanese language enough to be able to talk with many people there and, in the free time, lead the band to some typical and secluded places otherwise quite hard to be reached and, even if you found them, it would be impossible to handle any conversation without an interpreter. I can consider Japan my second home!
Also sorry if I insist, but I’m really fascinated with all that concerns the East. Any curious facts that you want to share, Brodo? I mean how’s the average Japanese fan?
Brodo : The greatest thing of Japan is that everyone can be a metal fans, from students to bank managers. Also, it’s really not a problem if, for instance, a Buddhist Priest likes Metal. There are many examples of this in Japan and I know a Priest that is used to cleaning up around the Temple wearing Death Metal T-shirts.
On the contrary what didn’t work in Italy? There are a lot of really excellent bands but no one have had the real blast, I mean except for the specialized media, no one promote metal…
Brodo : Italy is a great country for science and arts, most of the biggest artist in the history are Italian or lived in Italy for a long period. Two of the very top artists in the music, John Bon Jovi and Madonna, are clearly from Italian families. Rock music in Italy is not well promoted nor in the center of the global scene. For sure, always regarding Rock and Metal music, there is a big difference between Italy and countries like Sweden or Finland where every good bands have had the support of their country. In the North of Italy there are much more possibilities compared with the South: more music schools, more instruments shops, more concert venues and so on. Before, you mentioned two bands: Lacuna Coil and Skylark, both from Milan. I think it gives a good view of the Italian situation.
Instead talking about tours et similia, what are your next plains?
Brodo : After the Japanese market, where the album has been published in January, “Twilights of Sand” is undergoing a releasing process in the other territories and will be sold in different versions. Soon we will reach 20 years of activity and, of course, we are planning something special for this anniversary. From 1994 Skylark we already released 9 albums and we cannot miss the chance to make 10 albums in 20 years! Our fans we’ll get a special present from the band… really soon!
Well, we’re at the end. Please greet our readers as you want!! Thanks for everything, Brodo and Ashley!
Brodo : Thank you so much, it has been a pleasure to share this time with you and with all Femme Metal readers.
Ashley : Thank you for this interview and all your support. I love meeting new fans so I hope to see all of you on the road or on one of our fan pages. Thanks again!