Symphony X guitarist Michael Romeo has just released his first studio album, War of the Worlds Part 1. Packed with plenty of out of this world riffs and some seriously cinematic orchestration, it's certainly been worth the wait
Photogroupie talked with Michael from his home on the day of the album's release.
PG: HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE MADE AND LAUCHED YOUR FIRST STUDIO ALBUM – WAR OF THE WORLDS PART 1
MR: It's great, it's been fun. I've thought about doing a solo album for a while but I've never really had the time because I was doing a lot of stuff with Symphony X. Last year we were taking a little break so I thought I should do this solo thing. So I called some musician friends of mine. We had a good time making it and I was trying to do something a little different. It's cool, it's out today and it feels like I've accomplished something.
PG: TELL ME ABOUT THE PROCESS OF WRITING AND RECORDING IT.
MR: I knew I was going to do it at the end of 2016, so I knew I'd spend the whole of the following year on it. So about the beginning of 2017 I started putting a couple of ideas together and figuring out what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted a lot of riffs and guitars. I wanted songs, but still some instrumental stuff in between. I'm a big fan of film music: John Williams, Hanz Zimmer and all these guys, so I wanted to do some of that with the orchestral work and even some of the synths and electronic stuff. So I was working all that out for about five months and by the spring we were doing drums and throughout the summer doing some recording. That was the timeline. It's work, but it's enjoyable work. I enjoy creating and trying new things.
PG: WAS JEFF WAYNE'S MUSICAL VERSION OF WAR OF THE WORLDS AN INFLUENCE AT ALL?
MR: Not really. I was aware of it, but I didn't go back and listen to it. That's more of a retelling of the real thing. Even with the lyrics, I didn't want to do that. I mean had that (War of the Worlds) as a back drop, but I didn't want to do a retelling. I wanted to mix it up so that each song was a little bit different. I remember I was working on lyrics with Rick (Castellano) and we didn't want every song to be about Martians and ray guns. The lyrics transformed a bit so we thought maybe it's not the war of planets, maybe it's politics and all kinds of conflicts; so there's a little bit of a different interpretation there.
PG: YOU ALSO PAY HOMAGE TO FILM SCORE GIANTS BERNARD HERMAN AND JOHN WILLIAMS ON THE ALBUM. HAVE YOU ANY AMBITIONS TO WRITE FILM SCORES?
MR: The last couple of years I've been looking into it. Actually I did a film, a small independent horror film, but I'm not supposed to say much. But I've helped as orchestrator on some other projects, so I'm doing some of that too. It's a totally different world, but it's fun.
PG: YOU'RE QUITE INTO YOUR HORROR AND SCI FI, WITH EDGAR ALLEN POE BEING AN INFLUENCE ON THE DARK CHAPTER ALBUM AND OF COURSE HG WELLS ON THIS ALBUM, WHAT FACINATES YOU ABOUT THOSE SUBJECTS?
MR: I don't know. It probably comes from when I was a kid, the movies I liked and the music too. I remember being really young and seeing films from the 60s Mysterious Island, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and some the Hitchcock films. It was just something about the music and that fantasy adventure, horror and adventure. Then there was John Williams with Star Wars and Jaws. Great films and great music. They were just the films that I grew up with. Whenever I write something I'm always thinking of something in my head: “what can I say?” or “what's the picture I'm seeing?” so that I can tell the story.
PG: THERE ARE LOTS OF DIFERENT MUSICAL ELEMENTS ON THE ALBUM, INCLUDING DUB STEP, WHICH A LOT OF NU METAL BANDS HAVE STARTED TO INCORPORATE. WHAT MADE YOU BLEND THOSE SOUNDS INTO THE ALBUM?
MR: There's a few points like that on the record and I think that's a (Hans) Zimmer thing; that pulsing it's a little cinematic too. Robots has more of the dubstep in it. My kids were listening to it, I don't know much about it, I'm a metal guy. As I was listening to the bass drops I was thinking “that's pretty freaking heavy for all electronic and no real guys.” So that just stuck in my head. I do like it, I thought I'd put some guitars in there, an orchestra and mix it up and see what happens.
PG: PART 2 IS BEING FINISHED OFF IN YOUR STUDIO AT THE MOMENT, CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT WHAT WE CAN EXPECT FROM THE NEXT CHAPTER?
MR: The real reason there's two was when I first started writing I had all these ideas for the orchestral bits, the themes, the riffs and songs, and every day I was writing. At then end of five, six months I went back and looked at everything and there was two hours of stuff. Even then I knew that it would probably be two parts. I didn't want to make it a double record, it would be too much. I just wanted to concentrate on the first batch of songs. A lot of it (Part II) is finished. As it was written at the same time everything has the same vibe. Obviously the songs are different, but the overall themes and variations coming back, that runs through everything. It really is two parts of a whole.
PG: WHAT'S NEXT?
MR: I've been talking to the guys in Symphony X and trying to figure out what we are going to do next. And of course finishing off Part II of this solo album. Right now I'm just taking it day by day. I'm taking a deep breath now that the album is out, cleaning the pool and the yard and doing all the family stuff.
PG: ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SAY?
MR: Just a big thanks for the fans that have been there for many years and who've let me be able to do this.