Metalpaths had the honor to talk to Michael Romeo of Symphony X before the show at Lyon, France on 4th of March. Michael talks about what followed the release of the “Odyssey” album, and the story behind their latest release “Paradise Lost”. He also gave answers about the possibility of playing in Greece for the first time ever.
It has been five years between the “Odyssey” and “Paradise Lost”. Why it took you so long and how was all this time for the band?
With the Odyssey was when the most things happened to the band. I mean, it was released in the States and we were getting a lot of momentum in the States and we tried to do as much touring as we could everywhere for the Odyssey. We came here with Stratovarius, we came here ourselves and went a couple of times in South America. And then, in the States we went out with Queensryche, we did a couple of headliner tours in the states and we did the Gigantour with Megadeth and Dream Theater, and we just wanted to do what we never had the opportunity to do, especially in the States, so we tried to take advantage of it as much as we could. We did start the album earlier though. We started sometime in 2004. It was before the Gigantour, but it was hard to write a little and then stop and go touring and then try to come back. It was a situation where there were a lot happening, and we decided, since it has been so long and things where kinda moving along, that we really needed to dedicate 100% to the record. There were ideas and there were a couple little song pieces before the Gigantour, but after that is when we said we are just not going to do more touring and we are going to finish this record. It was definitely a lot of that. Just a lot of trying to do us much as we could.
Did the projects of Russell and Mike Pinella played any role in the delay?
Michael Romeo: They didn’t really interrupt the writing. I mean we were touring and they did it for a fun kind of thing. I did not involve the band.
You got into the US market and now it pays off. You got airplay on MTV and you got in Billboard TOP 200 for the first time, and you are getting bigger and bigger. How to you feel about all these?
I think it’s great, because it never was like that for us in the States. When we started in ’94, or ’93 even talking about it, this kind of music wasn’t… you know it wasn’t happening, and that’s why we got our first record deal in Japan, and made us realise that there are other places where we could do what we wanted to do. So now, to able to do that at home is a really good thing. And a lot of it was because with the Odyssey there was all that touring and exposing ourselves with the Megadeth crowd, the Dream Theater crowd and so on. You know, I think all those things helped. It held the record back a little bit, but it helped us get to that point , like you said, with the MTV video, the Billboard and all these. Plus, the new album, I think is really strong. It’s definitely strong.
I think that the new album is a bit heavier and contains less symphonic parts than the previous albums. Are you trying to get a new direction?
No, no. I mean we try to do every album a little different on purpose so it’s not the same old thing. And yes, with this one we did say we wanted to be a little more heavier, a little more guitar driven, riff based, kind of getting back to the stuff I grew up with, the Priest and the Sabbath and the more old school metal things. But still there are some symphonic parts. And we were talking about John Milton’s Paradise Lost, the poem, as a background for everything, se we knew it will be a little darker. Every album turns out it’s own way, but we always do try to purposely make it a little different. Just like every album doesn’t sound the same and has its own personality.
You used Paradise Lost the poem as a background for the album. Do you read a lot? Do you find the time?
No, not a lot. I don’t really have the time. I did read the Paradise Lost, but after we decided that was gonna be the thing, just to familiarise myself with what it’s about. And also about the lyrics, we didn’t want to write a concept record, we didn’t wanted it to be too literal. We just wanted to capture some of the things it’s about. With the music it is really easy. You can make the music dark, and you can add the orchestra or some of the choirs and you can get that vibe, but with the lyrics we wanted it not to be like a story. You know, Paradise lost deals with betrayal, revenge, loss, power and all these things. We wanted the lyrics to be in way that they could mean two things. You know what I mean? That’s why I read it. Just to know what the hell I going on.
Many of your lyrics (in the previous albums) had to do with mythology and often with Greek mythology. Are you interested in this kind of things?
Even the mythology thing is similar to the Paradise Lost thing. It is something that kind of intrigues you, interests you a little bit, make you think a little bit and you want to go and investigate. In the past, there was some mythology and some religious stuff. I’m not really religious and I’m not an expert in mythology, but you find these things and they pick your interest and you just do a little research just to feel what’s happening and make the music work around these. But there are a lot of things that could motivate you, make your imagination work, and that’s it for me. I mean, that’s why I’m not personally a fan of writing music about something political, or war, or any of this kind of stuff. I like to have something little more hyper-real.
Do you have any plans for when you’re going to write the next album or it’s going to be a continuous process?
We were talking about it now. The hardest thing for me is writing a little and then going on tour for a couple of months, and then coming back to the studio and try to recapture where you were. For me it’s tough, because your mind is in a different place and maybe you lost some of your inspiration. But now we were talking about working on the new record and we have to try to do a little at a time. We can’t take another long period of time off. This summer we’re doing a couple of festivals here and when we get home we have a tour at the States, and after that the summer is kinda open and I think during the summer we will start cracking into some new stuff and see what we have, and then little by little over time try to get it done.
How about making a new instrumental solo album?
A lot of people always ask that question. It’s hard. It’s about time. You know we’re on the road so much, and when you’re home you want to spend some time with family. You know, I have kids. It’s kind of tough to find time. And now with us talking about the new record and trying to get ready for that it’s hard, but over the last years I’ve been archiving things. That’s like, for a solo album I’d like to use this, orchestral things with the guitar, some more guitar oriented things. So yes, I did got something over time, and maybe even this year I’ll try to get it together and try to do it, but it’s always about time. It’s so hard to really find the time.
You are currently touring with Dreamscape and Circus Maximus, a new band that in my eyes has a great potential. What do you think is the future of this kind of music?
I think all that stuff is going to be around. Like in the States the whole metal thing is coming back. I just think it is bad when you lumping something. When you start saying prog metal, this kind of metal…to me it’s all the same. It’s metal and I think it’s going to be around.
You got your first record deal in Japan, all these years you were supported in Europe and finally now you broke into the US market. Is there any of these places where you enjoy more to play to?
Michael Romeo: There are really no favorites. It’s true, no matter where we are. The thing about the States that’s great is that it is your home. So playing in New York for us is a great thing. Our families can come out and see us instead of flying. In that aspect, yes, it’s your home and friends and family are there. Everywhere the people are a little different, but it’s always the same. It’s always genuine; they genuinely enjoy seeing the band, so I don’t really have any favorites.
You are touring extensively for paradise lost, but Greece doesn’t appear to be in your schedule for one more time.
We just did the Dream Theater thing and we came back here for just a little longer than four weeks. It’s kind of a small tour and didn’t go to Scandinavia for instance, we didn’t go to Sweden and Norway and those places. This was a small centralized thing. Greece was always tough because I guess of the transportation always becoming an issue. It is somewhere where we would all love to play, but it always became a financial issue. But then again, right at the point we are, it not really gonna be a problem, because I’m sure we’re going to be back here sometime this year and we’ll get to places we didn’t
So, I’ll tell everyone to expect you in Greece.
I hope. You know, my wife’s side of family is Greek, Ioannides, and I would really like to go there. There are her relatives in Greece so it will be kinda cool. The amount of money for a travel there used to be a problem, but now the things are going really well for us financially too. I think we’ll come back. It has to happen. So, yes, tell the fans in Greece to hang on a little longer.
That’s all. Thank you very much for the interview.
hank you man. That was cool.
Interviewed by: Karagiannis Fotis