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Symphony X - Australian Tour

HEAVY Mag caught up with progressive metal virtuoso Michael Romeo to talk about Symphony X’s upcoming Australia tour, Romeo’s live rig, solo projects and more.

Get your tickets now
for tonight’s show in Melbourne
and tomorrow in Sydney!

You can access tickets here: SYMPHONY X TICKETS


Congratulations on ticking another continent off your bucket list; it’s a long flight from New Jersey! What do you find yourself doing to kill time while travelling on tour?
When you’re driving from town to town it’s a more relaxed environment; you get to hang out on the road. Flying is more brutal; you’re going for 20 hours at a time so you’ve got to pack movies and music. None of that matters though once you leave the plane, though. Having a good time and meeting fans – now that’s what it’s all about!

Which artists have you been listening to in your downtime? Have any upcoming artists caught your attention?
These days I find myself listening to a lot of stuff I grew up with, like the songs that got me into music in the first place. There’s classic metal like old Sabbath and Maiden as well as classical. Some days I’ll feel Pantera, some days it’s Stravinski. A bunch of guys that we had on the last tour stood out as well. There are just so many good young players out there doing their own thing.

You’re certainly no stranger to concept albums – could you give us an overview of the narrative and themes of Underworld?
We look for a central theme with every release; it really shapes the record. Underworld is full of stories about going to hell and back – literature such as Dante’s Inferno and Orpheus in the Underworld had influence in this direction. The subject matter is really dark, and we wanted the music to reflect that. We also took some influence from some of the earlier records. The riff-writing process was pretty brutal this time around; I felt pretty inspired.

The production in releases since Paradise Lost felt like a leap forward in Symphony X’s sound.  Which software did you use in The Dungeon (Michael’s recording studio) during the production of Underworld?
I’ve always been a Cubase guy! I’ve been using that platform for a long time, and it’s always worked for me. I use all different programs for orchestration and instrumentation because I love experimenting to see what works. Over the last few records, we’ve definitely brought ourselves back to more metal stuff with the core elements pushing a riff-driven approach.

What is your approach towards finding the right live tone? Is it the same as what you use on Underworld? You must have a very large soundscape to cover when you’re the only guitarist on stage.
Sort of. I always add a little chorus to fill out the sound so it’s more like a double track when playing live. Finding the right balance is all in the volume, you’re trying to play alongside so many different elements.

What are you currently running in your live rig?
Years ago I had a crazy set-up with three different kinds of flanges, but it kept getting smaller as time went on.  Now I run light using a TC Electronics G-System with an Ibanez Tube Screamer and a Fulltone OCD. Now and then I’ll add a Boss Acoustic Simulator if the song calls for it.

I hear whispers that you’ve been working on a special CD for the Symphony X fan club. Can you run us through some of the content and how readers may be able to sign up?
Wow, where did you hear that? It’s definitely something we’ve talked about – including old B-sides and offcuts, studio footage, a cool stockpile of secret stuff! [You can sign up for their fan club, Symphony X Worldwide, over at www.symphonyx.com ]

Are there any particular cadences or scales that you have a soft spot for?
I often use classical chord progressions when song-writing and harmonic minor for leads, but it really differs depending on what the song needs. Some pieces push you out of your comfort zone; others really call for more melody and modern patterns. At the end of the day, whatever sounds cool!

Three of your band mates released solo albums in 2014; you probably know where this next question is headed! Do you see a Dark Chapter Pt. II anywhere in the future?
Yeah, I’ve been putting some stuff together. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do if given the time but it’s not 100% there yet. I do a lot of writing with Symphony X, but I still have ideas that pop up at home and on the road.

What would your weapon of choice be in the event of a zombie apocalypse?
[laughs] Well it really depends if we’re talking about fast zombies or slow ones – if they’re slow then what’s the point? If I fall down in the woods, I’ll make sure to get back up. My weapon of choice would have to be shotgun; you better hope there aren’t too many zombies in Australia!

Interview by Luke Ashley


Symphony X will be touring Australia through October 2016.

You can access tickets here: www.soundworkstouring.com/tour/108.php

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