Producer, Bassist of Austrias Power-Metal-Force Serenity and all-around musical talent Fabio D’Amore took the time to sit down in a candid (Skype-) Interview discussing the latest Serenity album The Last Knight and the current hardships the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic provides for the music business. If you wish to support the band in these times, head over to their merchandise shop, where they have some special offers:
Shieldmaiden’s Voice: If Maximilian I. was alive today, what do you think he would say about this album?
Fabio: I don’t know… I don’t think we would fit his music taste, but maybe, honorably, he would respect what we did, because we were talking about him. So if someone was writing an album about me and no matter what it does, if it’s good work I’d say „Ok that’s cool!“
SV: What in particular fascinated you about Maximilian the you decided to dedicate this album to him?
Fabio: Well, personally I cannot say much because he is a local hero and last year it was the 500th reoccurrence of his death, that was the main reason the band decided to do this and I wasn’t really familiar with his legacy except for basic information that you study in school. I attended an economical school and so we didn’t pay much attention on his legacy, but he is a national hero [in Austria] and also a local hero in Tyrol. He had his residence here, his father is buried in Innsbruck, he was born in Upper-Austria, so he is an Austrian hero. He preferred it here, so we dedicated the album to him, because there were celebrations being held starting in February all through October, I guess. I do remember when driving back from Sascha [Paeth]’s Studio, that was the last day of celebrations in (Southern) Germany and Austria, so we were exactly on that period while we concepted and finished the album, February to October. In February, when you also visited our acoustic show, that was the first day we talked about that. So it was like we are going to do the album about Maximilian and in October when the celebrations ended, we were done with the mixing around… let’s say October 20th or something so that was perfectly in time with the complete thing.
SV: What differentiates the album to the ones you did before?
Fabio: Many things. I would say the production first of all because we changed the producer. For the first time we worked with Sascha and it was definitely a different approach which i definitely prefer and the way we have done the album was a little bit different concerning his part of the job. And the songs are, in my opinion, way stronger and in some sort of way they are also heavier in the heavy passages and softer in the softer passages. Everything went exactly to the point where it had to go. I don’t find myself listening to other albums so much as I did before. I didn’t listen so much to Lionheart after the release as much or Codex Atlanticus and I do listen to The Last Knight almost daily which is a good sign I think. I mean not now after the tour, because I am a little bit fed up, but I used to do it until the tour for my own pleasure, not just for studying the songs or revising stuff. I did it for my own pleasure which is a good sign for every musician.
SV: What influence did Sascha have on the album?
Fabio: Well, actually I didn’t know him in person before working with him, but since I was a teenager, that’s I think the to-do-thing in your check-list as a musician in this music genre, I did not expect him to be such a nice guy, such a really kind person, honest and direct but in his own kind way which really meets my way of doing things in general and this influenced the process although we were much in a hurry because of his tour with Avantasia and we were late and the tour was coming closer and everything had to be released and therefore we didn’t have much time to expand the production. But I think it influenced positively everything that we have done in that period because of the way he was. Not only because of the professional job that he served, but also the way he personally made us really comfortable on our way to do the things and didn’t put any special pressure on us, for example, even though we had pressure. He still was able to let us work in peace and this is kind of different and not expected from my side from such an acclaimed producer or such an international producer that always worked with the biggest artists in this music style. I was positively surprised, I think the other guys sensed the same, except maybe Chris, because he was on tour when he had to record his parts, so he was recording his stuff in hotel rooms, nightliners and backstages, but that’s his own problem. As for us, at least for Georg and me, when we worked together daily on vocals which is the cherry on top or the main thing of every record, we didn’t get bad feedback from Sascha. It was so smooth
that I was like „Whoa, ok!“. That was the first time for me and I hope he really meant it, I’m sure he did. So that was, personally what positively influenced the record and all the rest came with it. When you are comfortable then you record well and you are feeling more energetic and you want to do your stuff and you want to prove that it’s great and it serves the songs. This therefore equals great songs!
SV: If you say that you didn’t know him personally, how did the idea to work with him come to you in the first place?
Fabio: Ever since I wanted to be a professional musician and you enter this music style then you recognize all the records you are listening to, like Angra, Edguy, Kamelot, are produced by him. So, if you have the chance, you aim to work with such a guy. But you know, as I repeat, I didn’t know him personally, didn’t know that we can reach him, I didn’t even think about that. He produced the latest Beyond the Black Album, so Chris, at one point, brought it into the conversation or even actually called him and asked him if he was interested in producing our new record and then one day I just got the info.
SV: After all the comfortable environment sounding the production of the album, how did it feel to finally be able to bring the new songs to the stages?
Fabio: It was great and it was really refreshing to play at least three new songs although I was looking forward to playing way more songs now, but as you know it’s not possible. But it was definitely refreshing and compared to playing the other songs, and it might be because they are fresh, it was way cooler to play them. It has been so much of a relief to play new songs and also the reaction was quite positive, although we were so close to the release date that it might have been more energetic in April because the people would have had the time to digest this record. For us, as musicians, playing the new songs was really a relief.
SV: With all the positive feedback and the experience of finally playing live, is there something you would change about the album in hindsight?
Fabio: Mhm… Yes, I mean of course every time you do an album, you always want to change something or in hindsight you would have liked to do this or that, but maybe I would have liked to see what’s going to happen with such a good album when there is no pressure. When there is an anticipation and a deadline, then how are you going to handle it? And we were even late and everything was just because of the tour because otherwise you don’t have the material and for the vinyl you normally need even more time than for the final digi-pack and so to provide the vinyl in time for the tour, we had to be done and deliver to Napalm [Records]… I think we delivered around the 21st of October or so and the deadline was even the week before. Also, I often called Sascha on my long drives to my teaching sessions because he is such a nice guy that you can talk about anything you want. So I called and asked if he had five minutes to discuss what he felt like about the result and he said that it was great, the songs are great and for sure we had rush because of the deadline and that’s never good for any part, for him as well and the final result. But i cannot know how much better the result would have been without the rush. Definitely something would have been improved, but we will never know, but if I could choose, that is the thing I would have changed. I think every musician would relate to this, there is always pressure, there is always a deadline which is earlier than what you would have expected and you always say that it’s not going to happen with the next album, but then it happens and it’s even worse than before.
SV: Afterall pressure makes diamonds!
Fabio: Yes, for sure, but as I repeat and as you said in hindsight, you say „If I have enough time how good can this material turn out?“, but you will never know, but you think about it.
SV: Around now you would probably be preparing for your tour with Dynazty, Victorius and Ad Infinitum. How does it feel for you to have to postpone this?
Fabio: Well… Mixed feelings, of course… The first thing I want to point out and I hope the people understand, is that I don’t really like the word „postponing“ because that is not really true. We are just rescheduling the tour one year later, basically. I don’t know if any of my colleagues would agree with me, but I don’t care, I want to speak for myself, also because of the economical disaster behind it. We are not postponing the tour for like three weeks or so. We could have toured again in February and have different incomes and now we can’t, so it’s not really postponing the tour, it’s doing another tour one year later. We have to wait almost a year where we cannot tour, we cannot sell our merchandise, we cannot have our income as musicians and no one is going to refund that. So first things first, I want to point out that it’s postponing for the people, because you have your tickets, so you will be able to come the next time, if you can come, but it’s different for us. For us it’s not postponing, next year we had different plans, way different plans. It feels horrible from that point of view and everything just went all over the place even before we could think of preparing. We would have had, I think, this weekend a pre-production day in one of the venues to improve our show, take care of our lights and all these things didn’t even start. We’ve got put on hold even before we could think about that. The worst part is the merchandise which was already ordered and because of this merchandise we are not even able to pay some of the invoices from the previous tour, so you might understand that that’s not… interesting or that that’s not cool. I want to underline that this has nothing to do with the people, I mean, it’s our problem, but this affects us and everyone around us. We are not a big fish in the market so I think it’s also something important to say and everything just came at the wrong time.
SV: From your point of view, what would be the best way for your fans and supporters to support you now?
Fabio: There are different ways. First things first: Come back to the next tour and keep your ticket, that’s a priority. I think, most of the people will do that or I hope will do that. Buy the merchandise that was printed. I saw Myrath doing this as well with an Indiegogo-Campaign and we have just received tons of this material and it’s around 13.000€ worth of stuff and… uhm… that’s what we have to pay now… So the best way to support the band is to at least buy the merchandise that could have been sold during the tour and won’t be sold because this tour will never happen, like Georg just said on his video. I am going to do a video as well in the next days, I hope, because the people have to understand, and it’s time for the people to start understanding how these things work. It’s not just honey behind the scenes, you know? There are costs and we prepare for even before things start and for sure there are also acts who are taking advantage of this, sad to say, I don’t want to blame anyone, but for sure there are artists who take advantage of this situation and just go „Sure, let’s do a campaign just because!“, but we have advanced finances out of our own pocket to be able to plan a tour and we didn’t even get the incomes from the previous tour yet, so this makes it even worse for us and for everything to go on after all this mess. We have to count how many people are left after this disaster and if measures are not taken before it ends we can count the bands or acts that are left and are able to go on, on one hand after that. That, I cannot say. I mean, we have a tour in February 2021, but how do we arrive there? What about the finances? Maybe we are luckier than others, I don’t want to say that, but we have to think about ourselves as well. It’s a tragedy, in all senses. Healthwise, for sure there is nothing I want to say about it, I am not fighting in a hospital, in that sense I am the last person to be able to speak about that, but if you ask me about our feelings, then it’s a tragedy as well, in our small world.
SV: Do you have any way to plan for the rest of the year during all this? I mean, there was a gig scheduled in Russia for example?
Fabio: Yes. Will this happen? I have no damn idea. Russia is completely silent and not declaring anything so I don’t know if I want to go there like it is now because we don’t know what is going on. Is it safe for us? And we are required to have visas and for this you need an appointment somewhere, but if I am on lockdown, how can I have this appointment? So I cannot get the visa and I cannot enter. I need a working visa to go there, it’s like going to the US or to Japan, so I don’t know. In the short-term, I am pretty pessimistic that anything will happen, because that’s a matter of fact and for the rest of the year we thought about some stuff and we would like to go on. Since we are on lockdown, let’s write music, let’s do something. We have the acoustic album still in the making and it will be interesting to see how we can take advantage of this „spare time“ and to do something we would have done later on. Maybe. You know these are all things that cannot be really decided now because it’s difficult to predict anything. But we will for sure move on on this front. Let’s do something that we can still do from home, but would have done later on. We are already talking about it.
SV: Something you just mentioned and that I cannot let slide is that you are working on an acoustic album. Was that inspired or triggered by the acoustic show you did in Innsbruck’s Hard Rock Cafe in February 2019?
Fabio: No, it was even before. We started working on this acoustic album way before and therefore we wanted to try to play things live and then we did Hard Rock Cafe and Wacken Winter Nights and it was overwhelming, perfect, cool, some of the best experiences I’ve ever done live! Chilled and so nice and you have been there so you know what I am talking about and we definitely want to do more both live and we want to bring the CD out. But to bring the CD out you need to tour and vice-versa, so we were just waiting for the right time to release this, so that we can plan a tour, because we cannot do acoustic shows without having an album because otherwise you cannot get a line of shows. You’d have to at least play, you know, one show here and one show there or otherwise you have so much cost doing another show at another time. At least we wanted to do some weekend shows like Friday, Saturday, Sunday. With the CD that’s possible, also budget-wise. When there is no possibility to budget that, as you could see we would have to pay extra musicians, that won’t be possible. It’s not all about us and these people have to be paid. With more people you need more hotel rooms and all these things. We want to do it again and the our curiosity about the shows was answered, but for sure we would need an album, which we have, it’s there, it’s composed, it’s done. Not done recording-wise, but pre-production is finished and was already finished half a year ago. The question is now because of what is happening in the world, where do we schedule that? This is what we are talking about at the moment
SV: Do you have goals, apart from what we just talked about, both personally and with the band that you want to achieve?
Fabio: A short-term goal would be to get out of this mess right now. I would just like to go back to normality, although it will never be normal again. That’s, I think, a lesson we will have to learn. With that said, I for sure would have liked to tour earlier with this album and now we have to wait, so I really hope The Last Knight stays on the flow for a little bit longer. And I would like to play in other places that we have never played, for example going to Asia, which we already talked about these days and reaching new markets, both live and with the CD. Personally, I am also concentrating on my productions and there is much going on and again, this stop now isn’t favorable to what I am doing, in the studio as well and with other acts or with other projects. I am first of all hoping that this is coming back to normality, that’s a priority now, that’s the main goal. After that we can consider everything else
SV: If you could have one final message that you want to get out to friends and supporters in these times, what would it be?
Fabio: Stay healthy, don’t leave your house and support your bands if you have the finances. But first of all, support the hospitals and all the people who are taking care of us because the next person could be you or your relatives. So if you have, let’s say some numbers donate these things to them, help them by staying at home and spreading the message and help them to work in peace. And if you have some finances left, support your favorite bands, which are all affected by this huge tragedy.