Kingcrow‘s latest release “In Crescendo” is a real cracker, so to find out a bit more about the band we asked composer and guitarist Diego Cafolla a few questions. He tells us about making music in odd time signatures, his inspirations and the band’s upcoming tours.
I’m not going to ask you to describe your music – if anyone wants to know they should have a listen. What I would like to know is how you would describe Kingcrow, the band, without any reference to style or genre? What are you about, in your hearts? What inspires you to make music?
I have to say that’s a weird first question 🙂
Anyway Kingcrow are a bunch of guys from Italy, playing together what they think is interesting music, more focused on the quality of the notes than the quantity. I started to write music at the same time I started to play an instrument (I started as a piano player then I switched to guitar). So I think to write is in some ways an innate need.
What inspires me? Life.
And I think it’s the same for the other guys.
Your latest record “In Crescendo” is a collection of various styles and endless variety in sounds. You clearly draw on a range of experiences and influences going right back to the ’70s. What music did you listen to in your youth and how big an influence is that?
I always had been a very omnivorous listener. But speakin’ of rock music, I started with a couple of vinyl from my dad collection. “Dark Side Of the Moon” by Pink Floyd is the first I can clearly remember. Another one is “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield which is a huge influence on my songwriting. Then I started to dig metal, progressive rock from the ’70 and electronic music. I had been always in search of interesting music and not that much focused on just one particular style. Anyway the 60s and the 70s are probably the most important decades if we’re speaking of my main influences, even if our music sounds contemporary and not nostalgic . To name few bands that are very important for my background I can say Rush, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, The Beatles, Beach Boys, Faith No More, Meshuggah, Iron Maiden, Camel, The Who, NIN, Massive Attack, Tool, Zappa, Steven Wilson, Mars Volta and a lot more.
Have you always enjoyed playing around with time signatures? It’s usually hard for listeners to pick them – do you do it partly for your own benefit, to make playing more challenging and interesting?
It is just part of my songwriting and it is not a deliberate choice or anything intellectualized. I often write music in odd times signature, it’s true. But I never start from a 4/4 riff or melody and THEN try to make it more tricky and complicated. What usually happens is that I write something, then when I start thinking about the technical aspects I realize it is in, don’t know, 7/8 or something odd. A good example for that was the song “Right Before”. I realize that very weird time signature (in details, most of the song is 7/8 + 7/8 + 7/8 + 15/16 ) when we started to prepare the click tracks for the drums recordings… I prepared a click in eighths, then Thundra started to playing the song on it and we did realize something was not working. Then I said, ok let us put it down on paper since there is something weird going on… and we realized what’s going on in terms of odd time signatures.
I think that’s the reason why our songs are full of odd times but most of the time they are even not recognized by the listener as an odd time…because it’s natural and it is not something simple then overcomplicated for the sake of being prog. I think the best band in doing that, making odd times signature sounds straight, is Rush. They are great in doing that. But I think most of the prog bands go the other way, starting from a 4/4 melody and then make it more “proggy”.
Many people have been involved in Kingcrow over the years and there are six of you right now. Do you think that range of personalities and likes and dislikes has helped with your composing and performing?
The fact is, I am the main composer. But even if I write the songs, I have always in mind the other guys in the band and their personalities. So this influence my choices when I’m writing songs and then at the production stage we talk a lot about what we think it could be better and in which way. I prepare the demos and then let the guys listen to them…so I ask them if they like it or not, and if not why and how they think it’d be better. So I write the songs but are not approved since most of the other guys are happy with them. Then they put their personalities in the final recording and the lyrics, where we work together with the common goal of make the best record possible. As a producer I just try to push them to do the very best they can. So if for example, Ivan is doing his solos or Diego is singing or whatever…I can say “ok, this is good but you can do even better” or “Yes this is good, but what if you try…” . But I want they like what they are doing so I have a big consideration for their opinion
That’s my work as a producer and I am lucky that I can work with such a bunch of talented musicians.
There are rare cases when I have such a strong vision for a song that I can say “ok, I know some of you are still not convinced 100% about that particular song but I think we have to record it because with the final production it is going to be very good. It is just a little bit weird and it requires a little bit more time to dig it”. But I have to say it is something that doesn’t happen from a long time. It happens more often that they think something is good and I am not that much convinced, to say the truth. For example there is one song I wrote , not included on “In Crescendo”, that the guys think is as good as everything else on the record but I was not 100% sure.
When you write the music for your songs, do you imagine the various lines and sounds in your head or start with a melody and build on that?
Songwriting is difficult. There is a huge difference between to put down a good riff and to write a good song. You need to have a clear vision of the whole picture.
So I have a version of the song in my head and I try to make the REAL song as close as possible to what is in my head. And I had never been able to make the two version, the imaginary one and the real one, collide. So I always have this feeling that something is missing and I start searching for what it is. I keep workin’ till I feel the song is pretty close to the beautiful version in my head.
One of the things that makes your music interesting is that there are sounds you only use for a few bars then not again. When composing, do you imagine those sounds then try to work out how to make them or do you experiment with your gear to discover sounds, or a bit of both?
It is a bit of both. Sometimes I know what I want and I try to figure out how to make them…other times I just have the feeling the song or particular passages miss something and I start experimenting with the gear. And sometimes it goes in unconventional ways. On In Crescendo there are a lot of sounds we made with a very cheap Keyboard plugged into an old guitar pedalboard and post processed in the computer. Nowdays the only limit in production is your imagination.
Do you come up with lyrics in Italian then translate them, or imagine them in English? Have you thought about writing any songs in Italian, or singing them in Italian?
Speaking for myself, since also Ivan and Diego writes lyrics, I imagine them directly in English. Because for me the sound of the words is as important as the meaning. If I write the lyrics in Italian and then I translate them in English I’m not taking care of the sounds of the word. And it doesn’t work very well. But that’s just me…don’t know about the other guys.
What particular line, phrase or sound are you most happy about coming up with on the new record?
I’m happy with the record even if now I’d like to change things here and there. But it is always that way. At the moment I’m very proud of the songs Morning Rain and This Ain’t Another love song. I love the way the instruments interacts on Morning Rain, it is a complex composition from the songwriting point of view. This is another example of our use of odd time signatures…that song is all odd times but it is a ballad and no one seems to recognize the complexity in it. So I think we made a good work on it.
What kind of support do you get from fans in your home city? Some of them would have been following you for a while now – how do they like the new album?
We have a good following and very diverse fans here. At our gigs you can find metal fans, alternative fans, prog fans…I think that’s because we have so much different influences in our sound. We’ll play the first gig in support of In Crescendo on March 10. It’ll be the release party, so still don’t know if they like it or not… but I think it’ll be a special happening.
How often do you get to play live?
For the last album we did two European Tours, one with Redemption and the other one with Jon Oliva, we played at ProgPower Europe and Progpower USA plus a couple of shows in Italy. For “In Crescendo” we are going to tour USA and Canada with Pain Of Salvation and then we’ll be playing in Europe…so it is a good amount of gigs.
Your North American tour includes the RosFest Afterparty. Excited?
Yes we’re very excited because we played in the States last year and it was a fantastic experience. Plus we’re goin to tour with one of the most important acts around if we’re talking of progressive music (Pain Of Salvation). And I think to play at RosFest Afterparty will be a lot of fun! We also have a couple of headline shows booked…so we’re very excited!
What do you have planned after that?
I think we’ll be touring Europe and, after that, start to write some new stuff…anyway at the moment we’re focused on live shows.
What football team do you follow?
Thanks very much for your time and for making great music.
Thank you to you, It’s a pleasure.