Interview with Michael Romeo of Symphony X (4/4/08)

So, I know it’s a bit late to be posting something like this, but I found it kicking around my computer and realized it had not been posted anywhere. So, here she is:

Interview with Michael Romeo of Symphony X (Guitarist) – 4/4/2008

On a night at the Middle East (downstairs) in Boston where Symphony X was on the bill with Epica and Into Eternity , I sit in the dressing room/lounge area, waiting with my photographer for Michael Romeo . After a couple of minutes of listening to muddled sound checks, in walks Mr. Romeo, guitar-waving, half open silk shirt-wearing Michael Romeo. At first, I was unsure what to think, until he opened with the words: “Hey there, Michael Romeo. Jordan right? What magazine are you with?” So, I gave him a little preface, and we were off to the races.

[Jordan Munson] – So, we’ve got an interview here with Michael Romeo of Symphony X. So, first off, where did you get your name for Symphony X?

[Michael Romeo] – Where did we get the band name? Uh, well, the keyboard player, me, and the original bass player would pretty much jam in bands in high school. Well, me and the old bass player did at least. We got the keyboard guy later. And we decided to put this band together, and uh, we were writing songs and everything – not even thinking about a name. We didn’t even bother ‘til we had to, when one day we were like, ‘Oh, shit, we don’t even have a name’. So, we started kicking around some names, and to be honest, it didn’t even take much thought. We were more worried about the music, we were more worried about what we were doing. So, you know, the music we were coming up with had the keyboard thing and the guitar, and some classical elements, so the word ‘Symphony’ came up and, so the dramatic thing, you know? So then, somebody said ‘Symphony X’ and we were like, ‘yeah, that’s cool’ it is that kinda thing, and the ‘X’ is the unknown and all the other stuff we do. And so that’s what it was, We didn’t put too much effort into it, and we just went back to writing tunes.

[JM] – So, I read on your biographies that you guys have so many influences, like classical, progressive stuff, some metal and rock stuff back in the day, so do you find it hard to play to all of those influences?

[MR] – Eh, well not really. I mean every album that we do before we start we kinda talk about the direction of the record, you know? With the new record it was more like, let’s go back to some more metal stuff, the real stuff, like [Judas] Priest and [Iron] Maiden and Ozzy and all that stuff. So then for every album we do have a direction. So there wasn’t a need to have any other kind of influences except what is best for the song. And when we were talking about this record we wanted to have more metal tunes and more riffs and guitar-oriented kind of things but at the same time have some of the orchestral stuff you know, like the intro, so there’s a little classical influence on that thing, but you know, it’s a metal tune. It’s always different and you use what you need.

[JM] – So, I noticed all of your albums have their own distinct “flavor” like your last two albums have been themed about epic poems. Do you plan on doing this in the future, making themed albums?

[MR] – Nah, nah, it’s like we’ve been there and done it kind of thing, but it’s cool, though; it’s cool to write like that. Writing more like, for me anyway, you kind of have a direction, and with the material you have something you want to say. So, it is kinda cool, and it is easier for me as a musician, to say, ‘Oh, yeah, we’re gonna do this Paradise Lost thing’ and it’s gonna be the theme of the record, not a concept thing, we’re not gonna say you know, ‘the devil’ and that kind of thing, or try to tell some cheesy story but you know it is more about good and evil and betrayal, an revenge and that stuff so it kind of paints a picture of the music. The riff’s dark, and maybe some choirs, but we kind of did it already, so maybe next time on to something else.

[JM] – So, you’ve compared yourselves to the Pink Floyd’s and the Rush’s of back in the day, being really progressive and pushing the genre. Do you see yourselves down the road, say, 20 years still making records and touring?

[MR] – Well, we’ve been touring for about 12 years now, or something, 13 or whatever the hell it is. I mean, yeah, as long as we’re still passionate about it. You know, and I think we will be, we love what we’re doing. I mean, we don’t think about shit like that. You just have to think ‘Do we feel like doing this?’ or writing, does it do something for you? That’s all that matters.

[JM] – So how do you feel about the Europe tour you just finished up, like, do you think it went well?

[MR] – Yeah, it was good. Everything always gets better I think. You can seethe progress. Doing tours with bigger bands definitely helps. We did Gigantour here with Megadeth and then we went do do our own thing and you could see more fans and its the same thing in Europe. I mean, we always did well in Europe and Japan anyway. We just did a tour with Dream Theater over there, so going back now it was like, oh yeah, there’s a lot of new fans, a lot of new people coming in, it’s always good. And plus, we’ve been touring for a while and the albums were out, there before anyone else in Japan, so we already had a head start. Here we’re trying to catch up a little.

[JM] – How do you feel about the progressive metal and power metal genres these days?

[MR] – I always just look at it as metal, you know? Cause there’s so many bands and sometimes if you try to break it up too much in all the little sub-genres it’s like, like, to me I just look at it as the whole metal thing. We’re all kinda in it together, whether prog metal, or death metal, or whatever hell else there is, it’s our thing and like [Iron] Maiden and any other thing, yeah it’s different, but I try to look at it as a whole. Because then you have Rap and all this other garbage, but the metal thing is our thing. But, yeah, you see a lot of the bands that are doing the metal thing doing well. And you see bands like [Iron] Maiden coming back, and Heaven & Hell, Dio, you’re seeing stuff. I see a lot of younger kids at the shows, kids with the ‘Led Zeppelin’ t-shirts, you know? They’re just finding out about this stuff. It’s cool man.

[JM] – So, for some standard interview questions, do you have any songs that are your favorite to play live?

[MR] – I think I kind of have some favorites, and we’ll try to get ‘em in the set, but usually when we work out a set we try to find the overall set that feels good,you like the flow, we’ll be able to start strong, and maybe come down and play a few mellow songs, and some rockers at the end. We always want some kind of a flow. At that point, it doesn’t matter favorites or not. Whatever song is good. You know, and there are some nights too, where you see the crowd reaction and you know, like, maybe we’re not gonna play this tonight, but what the hell, and the reaction is great, so we’re like ‘shit we gotta play this song more often’. It’s just like we kinda know which one to throw in there. And some we’ll just try. We always try to break it up, too, tonight we’ll play some stuff tonight that we didn’t play last night or whatever.

[JM] - I gotta ask, do you have any crazy stories from the road?

[MR] – {Laughs] There’s just so much, so it’s like… To be honest, it’s not lately either. In the beginning a lot of stupid shit happened, we were young and reckless, we were not… smart about shit, you know what I mean? Doing stupid shit. I think now we’re pretty mellow, we’re pretty comfortable with everything, I mean, there’s always stupid shit that goes on, but there’s not one stories that’s just like ‘My god’ you know? We’re pretty normal dudes, we’re pretty … not too out of control. But we know when to put the reigns on, you know?

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