Interview: Michele Guaitoli – Visions Of Atlantis

Symphonic metal masters Visions Of Atlantis have just completed a mammoth co-headlining European tour with Xandria under the banner of ‘Symphonic Metal Nights’, and we managed to grab a quick chat with co-vocalist Michele Guaitoli before an incredible show in Manchester. Check-in with Meek, below…

Due to the pandemic, the tour had been postponed a few times, during the dark days were there ever any doubts that you would be back out on the road again…

At a certain point, we were kind of doubting the situation! This tour was planned for September 2020, it was then postponed to April 2021 and then even further back to September 2021, and now here we are…now! After it was postponed a second time we were asking ourselves if life as we knew it would return, but right now we are lucky because people are beginning to live again as if Covid never existed, which is not 100% right in my opinion because being careful is extra important. But seeing people gathering again, and being sociable…that’s extremely nice in our eyes.

It’s a concern when you see a major band such as Anthrax canceling their entire European tour due to the rising costs involved with touring, just when the live entertainment industry had picked itself up from the pandemic, here comes a cost-of-living crisis…

And it’s not just bands like Anthrax, I know other bands who have had to cancel because of fuel prices and energy costs, and it’s extremely hard especially when you are coming from overseas like Anthrax. I believe that this is a phase, and it will be completely gone in a couple of years…solutions will be found. We are lucky to be playing sold-out shows when bands are canceling tours…it’s unbelievable, and we are extremely grateful. This is my second tour in the UK this year, I’m also in Temperance and we played last month…it’s difficult, but it’s doable!

You’ve also just completed a full Summer of festival appearances, it looked like you had fun!

Again, it was unbelievable. We have built up great momentum, and we need to keep it going. The festivals were great, we played Wacken, Metal Days, etc, and it was great timing with the new record being released. We had a short tour in May, then the festivals, and now this major tour…the stars are really aligned! We need to keep this going, and we will! We are trying to book more shows, and are trying to tour Europe again in April 2023 – different cities of course – and we are planning something in the US next February/March, so will cover as many countries and cities as we can…until the next festival season! And then we will start writing the next record for sure.

It’s quite a lengthy touting cycle…

Yes, it started in the US alongside Dragonforce for thirty-eight shows, then we had ten shows in Germany, The Netherlands, and Austria, then the festivals, and now this long tour with Xandria, and then it will move on with a headlining tour in the US which will be announced soon. If everything works out then by May/June of 2023 we should have played every playable country possible!

You mentioned the new album ‘Pirates’ – arguably the strongest Visions Of Atlantis album to date – when you are so closely involved with an album, and so immersed in it during the entire process, are you aware at the time of how good the album is, or is it when it’s done and finished that you realise you’ve created something special?

So, I believe that we chose the right singles, but, we read a lot of comments online as we are interested in what our fans say. We have so many channels, and a Facebook fan page called Visions of Atlantis Sailors, we also read the comments on Youtube – even if it is an illegal upload! – so we keep track of what people are saying, and truth be told there is a song on the new record called ‘Clocks’ that seems to be loved everywhere, so we ask ourselves “…does this song deserve a video?…”, it’s never too late, but maybe we should have done something already for this one. It’s not like we regret not choosing ‘Clocks’ over something else, we are just questioning ourselves over this track because people really love it.

What was the moment that gave you the biggest goosebumps when you sat back and listened to the completed album for the first time?

There is a phase before the mixing stage when we have pre-mixes of the record, and when I first listened to the pre-mixes then I was like “…okay this is something special…” that was the moment.

It’s an album that works well in both senses of an album: you can dip in and out of it and still enjoy it just as much as you would if you listened to it from start to finish in one go…

That’s quite a common observation, a lot of people have pointed that out, and it’s a long record…it is over fifty minutes long, and when you press play and then arrive at the end, it feels like it is only half an hour. This is amazing because there are tracks that are seven minutes long and they flow so well. When we chose ‘Master The Hurricane’ as the second song on the album, and as a single, that felt bold because singles are usually three and a half minutes, not seven minutes, so from our perspective it was a strong move having a seven-minute song as a single. Such a strong symphonic metal track and the Youtube views are just as good as the others that are shorter. You don’t get bored on this one after four minutes!

The album looks amazing, the artwork and packaging are stunning, and having a strong physical product seems to be crucial to the band…

In our case, having a strong physical product is fundamental. It still is the biggest market and is what brings the band forward. This discussion is always tricky because there is of course the marketing side of music, and then there is the passion side of music – the emotional side. As a band, when you start travelling and touring around the world, the marketing aspect is important and we cannot hide ourselves. The drive, and the engine, is our love for our music but without an income from the marketing side then we couldn’t travel. Thanks to people buying merchandise at the gigs, we can move on to the next one and if the income allows it then we can make the show bigger…it’s a machine that has to work. The truth is that we don’t live out of the streams, we live out of the physical products, and there are still people who will buy the vinyl, the CD, and the earbooks, with the last album ‘Wanderers’ for instance we had a beautiful 48-page booklet with special content inside, and people loved that. We try to manufacture items that are good to be touched, things that you are happy to expose in your cupboards at home!

It must be quite humbling that in this cost of living crisis not only are people spending money on a ticket, a shirt, and a CD but also selling out the VIP meet and greets…

It is, it is very [pauses for a few seconds] humbling. But we do put a lot of effort into the VIP sessions, I don’t want to point my finger at other bands but sometimes when bands do VIP sessions it’s just a case of shaking hands, signing something, taking a picture and that’s it. But in our sessions, we are performing. We are offering an acoustic show for half an hour, then after that, we have a signing session and pictures, and we chat with the fans. So it’s not like a chain where it is “Next!”…we don’t want a cold VIP session, we want to offer music. What I love is that we have some people who are coming to the VIP sessions five or six times because they want to listen to acoustic versions of the songs. It’s another concert.

They are probably hearing the songs the way that they were birthed – acoustically?

Correct. Every song starts with a piano or an acoustic guitar. We are a melodic band, and our strength is the melodies. Therefore when we write down the first draft of a song it’s usually an acoustic guitar and my voice or Clemi’s [Clémentine Delauney co-vocals] voice, so when we offer acoustic sessions we strip down the songs to where they began! [laughs] If for any reason there is a super-fuck up during a show that might force us to cancel an electric set, then we could play acoustically: Thomas [Caser – drums] has a Cajon, Dushi [Duscha – guitars] and Herbert [Glos – bass] have a second set-up for an acoustic show, and Clemi and I have tambourine and keyboards…so we would just play!

Lastly, recently we’ve had Charlotte Wessels releasing solo material, as well as Floor Jansen, both very different from what people might have expected, if you were to release a solo album next week what would it sound like, and would people say “That’s not Metal!”

I think that it would be an acoustic record. Because I have so much going on in the metal scene that in my specific case I don’t feel that I have to express myself more in the metal scene, but the acoustic world is completely undiscovered for me on the studio side. Clemi has a Patreon page and she has started to release her own songs, and they are not meant for Visions Of Atlantis, there is a reason why she is releasing them on their own…it’s a completely different side, it’s more modern, but it’s still metal. She is releasing modern metal, but still with some symphonic metal, and some ambient aspects, so for each and every one of us it is different. So for me, I would want to dig into the acoustic world, but for Clemi it’s modern metal, and she is really doing it for real. If you are a real artist and you have something to say, then it’s extremely hard to stick to a specific genre. You write a lot, and because of this you find yourself…and I don’t like to use the word “can’t” because everything is doable…but it’s better not to mix up different worlds. Visions Of Atlantis has its own identity, we have our own style, and our own cinematic universe, so if I have a song that doesn’t fit with Visions Of Atlantis then sad for me, but fair enough for the band. And if I propose it to the band then I cannot be sad if they say “You know Meek, this doesn’t fit”. In the case of myself, Clemi, Charlotte, and Floor – don’t be surprised if what happens on a solo career from an artist is different from what they do with their band, we are artists and we can’t control our creative mood. Music just flows through your veins and comes out in a specific way.

 

Interview – Dave

Photo Credit – Stefan Heilemann

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