Kingcrow – Interview – ‘The new album will be a sonic adventure’
Those familiar with the Blog Of Much Metal will know that I enjoy championing those bands that don’t tend to get the exposure that they deserve for one reason or another. That’s why today I bring you a full, in-depth interview with another band worthy of more attention: Kingcrow.
Originally hailing from Rome, Italy, Kingcrow are comprised of Diego Cafolla (guitars), Thundra Cafolla (drums), Ivan Nastasi (guitars), Diego Marchesi (lead vocals), Christian Della Polla (keyboards) and Francesco D’Errico (bass). Broadly speaking, the talented sextet are a progressive metal band but they manage to encompass many other influences within their sound. I reviewed their fourth album ‘Phlegethon’ for Powerplay Magazine and although it took some time for the magic to take full effect, perseverance paid off and it’s one of my most-played albums of recent years. Last year’s follow-up, ‘In Crescendo’ then took the number 6 spot in my 2013 Top 20 such was its overall quality and the enjoyment I derived from it.
After being teased via email for being one minute late for the interview, I turn on Skype and am greeted by the warm, friendly voice of Diego Cafolla, the co-founder, guitarist and principle song writer for Kingcrow. I begin the interview by asking Diego for some history behind Kingcrow and am rewarded by one of the longest and most detailed summaries of my career.
“I started the band with my brother Thundra in 1996. It was a long time ago and we were very young. We just started playing together, playing other band’s stuff. We were a kind of schizophrenic band because we were playing everything from the Beach Boys to Sepultura, because I was a big fan of them. We also played all the classics from the 70s and the 80s; Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, everyone really. It was weird”, he laughs warmly.
“I started to write my own songs almost immediately. I guess it was sucky stuff”, he continues self-deprecatingly, “but I just started writing. As the time passed, we began to play more of this stuff. I suppose it was weird metal stuff; kind of a mix of British heavy metal and progressive rock. This is because I discovered rock music through my Dad’s vinyl collection. ‘Made In Japan’ was a milestone in my musical growth. But the first record that I can remember that I really loved was ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ by Pink Floyd. I still love it and I love Pink Floyd – they have had a big impact on my song-writing. I would say that this is quite recognisable in Kingcrow.”
After a brief interlude where the aforementioned Pink Floyd album, as well as a number of other ‘classics’ are discussed, Diego continues with his account.
“Over time, we had thousands of line-up changes. I consider the first three records, (‘Something Unknown’ (2001), ‘Insider’ (2004) and ‘Timetropia’ (2006)) to be long demos because I was just experimenting with really different stuff as a song writer. Even if I am the main songwriter, I want the other members in the band to like the material that I write. The lead singer at that time, Mauro Gelsomini, was much more into hard rock and classic heavy metal. I was more into progressive music but I forced myself to write more in a style that pleased the singer. But at the same time, I did try to experiment a bit.”
“We then had a hiatus, a pause and I wrote ‘Phlegethon’ just for myself because I thought that the band was gone basically. We opened for Iron Maiden in Italy but after that gig, the band stopped playing. It was like the band felt that they had reached the highest point that could be hit. I kept writing though because I can’t stop; I write about one song per day.”
“I contacted the guys and told them that I have an album ready and that we should record it because I thought it was very good. We recorded the album over about 12 months. It was a very relaxed process with no deadlines. We recorded the album in our spare time, just for fun basically. At the same time, the Mauro was not sure about the material. He tried to record one song and I wasn’t happy with the result because I felt that the album needed a really good singer. A friend of mine passed me a recording of Diego Marchesi who is our singer now. The recording was of him singing in a musical because at the time, he had no background of hard rock, metal or progressive music. I loved his voice and so I called him. I told him that I had this record that was nearly finished and if he came to the studio, we could try a few songs. I immediately loved his voice and asked him if he was interested in joining the band. He was excited because he liked the music, even though it was a new style for him.”
“I sent out some extracts to management companies and record labels. I received a response almost immediately from Intromental and a deal was signed with them. After a few days with them, we signed for Scarlet Records. Right after the record was released, it was really well received from the press. We got an offer for a European tour with Redemption and then we went to America for Progpower USA. So it went from the band almost splitting, to touring and playing on an international level.”
“Two years later, we wrote and recorded ‘In Crescendo’. This was a bit of a struggle to write”, Diego offers a little surprisingly, “because for the first time, we had a kind of fan base waiting for something. This was new for me. I didn’t want to repeat ‘Phlegethon’ but at the same time, I felt the pressure of the great response to that record. I was searching for something fresh but that still sounded like us.”
“When I approach writing a new record, I write really weird stuff. It won’t go on the record, but it’s me trying to find something new and fresh. It worked out well I think because I love ‘In Crescendo’. I love the production because it is very detailed but powerful at the same time. Sometimes, if you try to create a powerful production, you lose some of the details in a wall of sound. But I like the mix between the power and the clarity. I also love the melancholic vibe of some of the songs. Following on from this record, we did our first headline European tour and toured the USA with Pain Of Salvation. It has been a busy period.”
My attempts to discuss the differences between ‘Phlegethon’ and ‘In Crescendo’ come across as a little hopeless. Fortunately, Diego is more than happy to step in and prevent further floundering on my part.
“Phlegethon’ is more classic-metal sounding than ‘In Crescendo’. Probably the heaviest stuff on ‘In Crescendo’ is heavier than on ‘Phlegethon’ but there is also more atmosphere and more space within the music on ‘In Crescendo’. On ‘In Crescendo’, the arrangements are better I think and they are more layered, more atmospheric. ‘Phlegethon’ maintains a bit of our classic metal past but ‘In Crescendo’ is the natural progression from that, I believe.”
And with that, we reach the present. I’m dying to find out more about the upcoming album that’s in the pipeline for a 2015 release on Sensory Records and waste no time in asking about the as-yet unnamed work.
“We are actually finishing our recording so I have a good idea of how it will sound”, Diego begins mischievously before qualifying this tantalising statement. “I think it is darker, but it has a bit of both ‘Phlegethon’ and ‘In Crescendo’ in it, plus a lot more. Honestly, I think it’s a big record and there’s a lot going on within the songs. Every song has a unique sonic word and it has something different about it. A friend described it as ‘new Kingcrow’ – you can recognise the band immediately, but there is something new going on.”
“Probably because I wrote most of the record at night”, Diego playfully responds when I question him in more detail about the darker vibe to the upcoming record. “But seriously, it wasn’t a struggle to write; it was a very natural process. You’ll find everything that people think is our trademark sound; the Spanish guitars, the crunchy riffs, the atmospheres. These things will always be there I think.”
“It’s a bit more proggy than ‘In Crescendo’, Diego continues. “The focus on ‘In Crescendo’ was the search for beauty. I avoided weirdness or quirkiness in the search for pure beauty as my reference point was ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’. This time, we have some of the quirkiness back and to me, the new album will be a sonic adventure. You remember these words and you can tell me whether I am right or wrong. Don’t expect something impossible to listen to or really complicated because we try to make complex things sound simple to the listener and to make complexity subtle.”
On that note, I return to the topic of the song writing, asking Diego to expand upon his creative process with Kingcrow.”
“I can play a bit of every instrument and because I have a studio, I have all the instruments there. I usually write at night and it’s like you have a certain mood then. I tend to write when I feel moody and try to capture music that fits the mood that I’m feeling in the moment. I have no rules about song writing; it just has to be in tune with what I am feeling.”
On a final note, I ask Diego about the band’s plans for touring in the New Year. Whilst it’s unlikely that UK fans such as myself will see Kingcrow on these shores, many fans across mainland Europe will be treated to a live show.
“There are plans right now to go on tour in March. I don’t know exactly when we will finish the recording, so I’m not sure how much time we will get to rehearse. But we will hope to play four or five new songs in the set, including the single, ‘The Moth’.”
Trust me dear readers – if you like quality melodic progressive metal, then Kingcrow are a name with which you need to familiarise yourselves as soon as is humanly possible.
Check out my other interviews here:
Jonas Renkse & Bruce Soord – Wisdom Of Crowds