Not knowing anything about DEVA I got Federico Salerno, guitarist and co-writer/composer of all the DEVA music to answer my questions. Anders Ekdahl ©2012
Where does this idea of mixing operatic female voices with metal come from?
Federico: The mix came out when Beatrice and I first met and started making music together. It’s not something we really planned, but she comes from classical and opera background and I’m more into prog-metal, so we basically tried to give our compositions just what each of us was really comfortable with. Some ideas looked weird in the beginning, so we had to learn song after song how to make our worlds interact efficiently. But we loved the result and what was coming out was very promising, so we kept following that direction… And here we are!
How closely related is really metal and classical music? How much of the same structures are there in modern music and classic music?
Federico: They appear to be related if you consider that themes, arrangement and dynamics are the key of success for both modern and classical compositions. There are also many differences, of course, depending on the ages and on the authors, both in classical and modern music. In our songs, the aim is not to bring the one to the other, but to create something that could refer to both. In fact, we have to consider also that modern music is an evolution of classical music and that it’s not so rare to hear Mozart or Bach in heavy metal albums. Also progressive music, especially in its very beginning, gives us a lot of examples of modern “suites” (Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer…), so perhaps what we’re doing is to carry on an already consolidated tradition, just in a different way.
When you get together with an already thought out plan for what to play, how easy does it become a band of 5 individuals meeting for the first time?
Federico: In the beginning it wasn’t so easy, but now there’s so much respect for the project that make us comfortable working even in 4-5 people together: we’ve understood that we want to get to the best result for the song and for the band, not for the individual. It’s important to have a good plan before meeting: we always gather with a clear idea of what we need to work on and, of course, before getting together everyone studies the parts on his own. We all come from many experiences with bands, projects, albums and productions, so everyone know how to approach a song and how to give that song what it really needs. So the arranging process is always very natural, especially for Beatrice, Thomas and myself as we have been working together for a while, now. I also know Davide Barbieri (our new keyboardist) from long time and we’ve been composing and playing together in more than a project before he joined Deva, I’ve always found myself comfortable with his musical view. In the single “What Have I Become” you can already hear what he can do
What kind of process do you go about starting to compose songs after you form? Do you come into the process with already finished songs or to you collaborate as a unit?
Federico: Normally, this process starts when me or Beatrice come up with an idea: it can be a riff, a harmony, a melody, a lyric, even a sound or a concept. Then we start working together on the composition section by section (verse, refrain and so on), giving all the ideas an order. It happened also that we met without having ideas yet and developed something totally new jamming or listening to other artists (again, both classical and modern!). After we have a first rough mp3 with basically a guitar and a vocal line, the rest of the band starts giving the songs rhytyhm ideas, orchestrations, grooves, harmony variations, in a word the arrangement. Since we changed line-up after ‘Between Life And reams’, I wouldn’t be surprised if Davide, who is doing a meticulous job on every song, started joining the composition’s process.
Does being Italian and playing this kind of operatic, symphonic metal bring with it any added pressure of really being great?
Federico: I like to think about it as a sort of heritage, more than a pressure, but it’s true that we have a responsibility: our country has always shown to the world great composers, singers, artists and bands. We try to give our best in what we do, but it’s obviously not a challenge. We’re standing on the shoulders of the giants. On the other hand, it’s difficult nowadays to emerge here in Italy, especially if you make this kind of music: a lot of listeners, few venues. It seems our music is luckier abroad, despite of all we said!
I’ve asked several Italian metal bands this but why is it that metal isn?t more respected as a music format in Italy than it is?
Federico: Heavy Metal, like many alternative styles, doesn’t have the mainstream seal, so it’s mainly considered as a sub-category. But it’s a fact that every music shop has got a ‘Hard’n’Heavy’ section and most of the time it’s huge! Big metal concerts are always welcome by italian juniors and seniors metal-heads and internet is full of discussions, forums, fan-pages made by italian guys. Perhaps things will change in the future, but a band like Lacuna Coil (not the only one, though) had to leave Italy, get success abroad and, after years, they started to be recognized also here for who they are. But there are people that don’t even know they’re an italian band, they think Lacuna come from the United States!
I think this is also due to the lack of bravery from some media. They don’t develop, they just take what has been developed somewhere else
I see that you’ve licensed your album to several different territories. Is it easier doing it this way than to have one single label handling all promotion?
Federico: I don’t know if it could be easier for one label to handle all these things, licenses, promotion and so on. What I can say is that I think we’ve been very lucky to get in touch with RNC Music, they made and still make every day an impressive amount of work on ‘Between Life And Dreams’ and on the upcoming album. They’re very experienced, many licences have been done and this is encouraging us to do always better. To be honest I wasn’t sure that ‘Between Life And Dreams’ could have been so interesting for so many labels, but if also some majors expressed positive comments about the project and want to hear the next work, I guess we can be more than satisfied!
What ways are there to get you band’s name heard of throughout the world?
Federico: One of the most important ways, in my opinion, is the internet: it connects people from all over the world, so it’s indispensable for the word-of-mouth of our days. Of course, another important source are labels, that are supposed to promote the artists they’ve signed. Sometimes it happens, sometimes not so much, but when the work of all the people in the different countries is well coordinated, and the quality of the product is good, some results are achieved. Then there are concerts, photos, reviews, interviews, videoclips, articles, participations, radios… All these things can make your name grow, but of course they can’t be isolated: there must be a strategic plan that, once again, coordinates all the efforts. I don’t want to sound too much like a marketing consultant, but today for an artist, for a band, it’s necessary to be very focused on all the aspects of the ‘product’. Especially if you want to make it for a living.
What kind of success have you so far had with the band?
Federico: After the first release of the album, we spent days and days looking out for all the news coming from all over the world about ‘Between Life And Dreams’, so many countries and so many languages talking about us on blogs, portals, social networks… Then the first fan pages on Myspace, Facebook, Twitter: Spain, France, UK, USA, Mexico, Italy… I’m so grateful to all these guys, they have a true passion for music and want to give us the strongest support they can. The licences mean also a lot to me, it’s like another prove that what we do is interesting! There have also been many satisfa_ctions for us as musicians: Beatrice has been welcome by several webzines and magazines as a sort of a new Tarja, as top-voice in the Metal scene; I’ve been compared more than once to great guitar players (for example John Petrucci) for my arrangements and my soloing, and I’m now endorser for Cort guitars and Blackstar amplifiers and effects; I endorse also the italian Triton Custom Cabinets, that build my signature model of cabinets, that we designed for Deva, called ‘FS 2X12’; Thomas also signed a deal with Yamaha and Paiste. Most important, as band we’ve been labelled like the future of the italian Gothic Metal and like one the next big Gothic bands. All this more than a year after the release of the album, when some journalists saw us opening for Trivium in Milan.
We also had to compose a song for an italian Sci-Fi movie inspired to Star Wars, called ‘Dark Resurrection’, but one of the greatest experiences we had, so far, was to open for Trivium in a sold-out venue, it was simply incredible.
What kind of future do you envision for the band?
Federico: I always like to be very realistic and I know that it’s a long way to the top, but I also like to dream about a future where Deva will mean something for the Gothic community and for the Prog lovers. For the moment, we want to come out with a fresh new album, which is going to be very complicated in its structure, so it needs a special kind of work, a different production… We are very positive, since the songs are growing well and we all like very much the shape they’re taking!