Good afternoon! I had the great pleasure of seeing Austrian symphonic/power metal band Visions Of Atlantis at the Metro Music Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah on March 10th as they opened for Dragonforce. Unfortunately, the rest of the tour has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 issue. However, while I was at the show, I was lucky enough to sit down with the very personable, very jovial, very friendly Italian vocalist Michele Guaitoli to discuss Visions of Atlantis, his other band Temperance, as well as music in general. Here's that interview... enjoy!
B&T: I'm here with Michele Guaitoli of Visions Of Atlantis and Temperance... and several other bands as well.
MG: Well, right now only those two, [laughs] but I've been playing in other bands for quite some time.
B&T: It seems that you are one of the hardest working vocalists out there. It seems you've always got a project going.
MG: You are not the first one telling me this... and something I appreciate. I try to keep myself busy. [laughs]
B&T: So you are on tour right now with Unleash The Archers and DragonForce and just came to America, what last week?
MG: Yes, just five days ago.
B&T: How's the tour going so far? I know it is early...
MG: Yes, the first shows... everything is rushed. Everything is quick. You have to understand how everything is running during the day, the schedule, but I think that the atmosphere is amazing! DragonForce is super friendly and Unleash The Archers are an amazing band and they are friendly and extremely kind on every aspect of this tour life. So everything is running really smoothly. For now we have no issues and nothing is going wrong and this is lucky because Visions Of Atlantis usually has stories to tell. [laughs] Yeah, we I mean we had our share of issues before because we... the visas arrived on the last, last minute possible. Clemmy [vocalist Clémentine Delauney] got hers the day before we had to leave!
B&T: Wow! That's tight! And if you don't get those, you aren't going.
MG: I mean the other option we would have thought about was performing the first show without her, but she is the soul and life of Visions Of Atlantis so it would have been really, really hard. It happened to Delain too. Delain started their last North American tour without their drummer. Sometimes we have this thing that has to be settled before something happens, yeah.
B&T: The new album came out not too long ago, last summer... "Wanderers"... a fantastic album!
MG: Thank you!
B&T: So tell me a little bit about... in terms of songwriting, is that a collaborative effort? How does that work as far as the band members?
MG: Well, actually, this has been the most collaborative Visions Of Atlantis album in years. Umm... "The Deep And The Dark", the last one was mainly written by Frank Pitters. He's actually, well, we call him the producer, but he's been the keyboard player for Visions Of Atlantis for a long time. He just never wanted to perform live. He wrote music for the entire "The Deep And The Dark" and for most of "Wanderers" too. But this was the first time I was involved. I wrote two songs: "At The End Of The World" and "A Life Of Our Own" and Clemmy wrote all the lyrics and she was the main lyric writer for "The Deep And The Dark" together with Siegfried [Samer], the previous singer of Visions Of Atlantis. Plus, we had the lead singer [Hannes Braun] of Kissin' Dynamite jumping in for one song. "Nothing Lasts Forever" he wrote. He helped Clemmy with the lyrics... Well, Clemmy changed the main terms, the topics of the lyrics to make it fit the entire concept of the album, but it started as a collaboration with the guy from Kissin' Dynamite. And at the same time, he wrote all the music. So three people involved in the songwriting musically-wise and just Clemmy for the lyrics. You know Clemmy has her own view, her own direction considering this environment, this world that we want to create and want to bring our fans into. When there is someone with such a clear idea, the best thing to do is to follow her concept.
B&T: It really is a wonderful album. It is very cohesive, beautifully written, and beautifully executed. I can't stop listening to it. I listened to it twice today at work!
B&T: It is a just a wonderful album. Same with Temperance as well!
MG: Thank you!
B&T: Yeah, the new Temperance album ["Viridian"] is phenomenal! Really off the charts! I'm really hoping Temperance will come to America someday.
MG: It is just hard you know, because... not only because of this visa thing, but also it is hard to get offers for... to be in the USA. We can say it is a roll of the dice, you know? It took Visions Of Atlantis 20 years. [laughs] They were here before with Epica with the old lineup. Only Thomas [Caser] was here from the current lineup. But it is hard. Last year we had some discussions. We had some options, but they never turned into reality. This is really the first time we had a chance to be on the road in the USA and we took it like [snaps his fingers] in the blink of an eye. And for Temperance, it pretty much is the same. Right now we never had a real offer to get a tour in the USA, but it is better now because the band is smaller and this new lineup that we have with Temperance just released an album and this and the first one came out on Napalm Records so we just started to live the real [laughs] music business world. So there's time. We are all young so [laughs] we are positive.
B&T: That's great! Speaking of being young, let's go back in time. How did you get started in music? What inspired you?
MG: Well, you know, in the beginning you are not really conscious of what's happening around you. I remember that my mother sent me to piano music school when I was six or seven years old. I remember that I was not really interested in this thing. I was playing Bach and Mozart. Well, at the beginning you play way easier stuff, but you grow and start becoming your own little musician. I started to play Bach, Mozart, and Chopin. It was fascinating, but it was nothing inspiring. I know it sounds weird, but it was not my world. Then when I was fourteen, fifteen, this heavy metal thing jumped in my life and I was like, "Oh my god! This is another world! Is this music too? " It was hard for me to connect these two sides, classical music and rock music. I was more and more fascinated. And then I discovered that a real band could have a keyboard player too. With my savings, I got my first keyboard and talked with friends to try find someone who had a band. And I started as a keyboard player actually. [laughs] In 2003, one guy listened to me while I was singing and playing for fun and he asked me if I would like to join his band because they were looking for a singer. This band was Overtures, which had been my band from 2003 to 2015 actually when we played the last tour with Temperance. We were co-headlining a small tour in small venues and clubs all around Europe. This is how Marco [Pastorino] got to know my voice and my attitude on stage and when they changed their lineup, I got into Temperance. And thanks to Temperance, I got into Visions Of Atlantis. So [laughs] long story short... [laughs]
B&T: In terms of vocalists, who have been your inspirations?
MG: Well, this is a tough question for me actually because there are so many instances of your life where you are inspired by someone. I guess the first crush I had was with James Hetfield as a vocalist of course [laughs].
B&T: Yeah, you did a Metallica song on the ship on 70000 Tons Of Metal last year.
MG: Yup, yeah, yup! They asked me to sing it and asked if I knew the lyrics. It was a song I'd been singing since I was like fifteen, sixteen. Umm... but yeah, James Hetfield. Now he might not be the most technical singer, but he's one of a kind. You hear two notes coming out of his throat and you can tell... this is Metallica! This is James Hetfield! After him, I remember I had a long fascination with Eric Adams the singer of Manowar. And after that I started to get more and more into power metal... Tobias Sammet, Michael Kiske... you know, the big power metal names are the voices that fascinate me. And actually, DragonForce was one of those bands that when the first record came out I was really fascinated by. I was really looking forward to seeing them live and I had the chance to do it in 2006 at Gods Of Metal in Italy. They were the second band and I absolutely didn't know more than one song (it was "Through the Fire and Flames" of course) and there was this Japanese guitarist throwing his guitar in the air and I was like, "Oh my god!" So now being on the road with them, it is a huge achievement [laughs] for that kid back in the days! [laughs]
B&T: Very cool! Your vocal prowess, especially with Clemmy and then with the members of Temperance... you guys mesh so well. The harmonies are really incredible!
MG: That is great to hear! Well, with Clemmy we had an instant communication of vocals because she comes from the classical world. She loves this theatrical attitude. She loves to act on stage. You will see that in the performance today live. You will see that there is not just music going on, that we are not just a band that plays shows, but we also like to create an atmosphere that can take you and put you in the world of Visions Of Atlantis, this fantastic world without time, without space where you are actually wondering through this world. And our songs make you want to live this experience. It is not just "listen to our music"... it is what we are. And this acting thing... Clemmy has many shapes for her voice. She has a lot of colors, timbers that she can dominate. She's mastering her voice in a fascinating way. As a singer, I have been studying for many years so it is fascinating to meet someone who knows what she is doing and having the chance to actually bring it on stage, it's cool you know? Sometimes you are bound to some rules that are made by the style. With power metal you can only go so far and you have to have this high voice, this feminine voice I would say that is based on high notes and techniques so.. of course it is great, but sometimes it is limiting (with no offense to anyone of course!) [laughs] With Clemmy there is this connection that is amazing and that lets you express yourself in many, many ways. At this time, Temperance, well we are a family. We are childhood friends that have grown together. We have this connection that is pure in what we do on stage.
B&T: So you are childhood friends?
MG: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Alessia [Scolletti], maybe you didn't know this, but she is my girlfriend for five or six years now and she was one of my students.
B&T: Oh really?
MG: Yeah. I think I've known her for nine or ten years now. And the crazy thing is she got to know Marco before she knew me. It was like twelve or thirteen years ago because she was living on the other side of Italy. Marco had a Dream Theater tribute band in which he was singing and she was a fan of this tribute band. [laughs]
B&T: You two joined Temperance about the same time, right?
MG: Yes, exactly. It was a lucky coincidence. She knew him. I know him. I fell in love with her and we started living together and all of the sudden the three roads crossed together. [claps his hands] That's how it went.
B&T: You guys as a trio... that's very powerful vocally.
MG: Yeah, it clearly shows the friendship is Temperance.
B&T: I love the video you posted the other day of you guys in the studio...
MG: Oh, right, the acoustic session!
B&T: Yeah, that is really cool!
MG: Thank you! [laughs]
B&T: What musician or band would your fans maybe be surprised that you listen to?
MG: Whoa... umm... that's a tough question. Right now, I would say Periphery. You know this band? They have this... Periphery or Devin Townsend. I like bands that explore new styles. It is hard to find bands that are giving something new to music. It is kind of surprising to see what these two acts can do. Sometimes when you listen to Devin Townsend you have this song and then another song and they have nothing to go with one another... they build different worlds. He can be super extreme, super light, super melodic, super powerful. And this is one great side. While on the other hand, Periphery is exploring music in a new way, ya know? They have something coming from everywhere. They can be a pop band. They can be jam band. They can be a hard rock band. They can be everything. This falsetto voice that he is using is something new in metal. I like this exploration. So in answer to your question, I would say Periphery and Devin Townsend if I'm allowed to give two names.
B&T: You are you Michele. You can say anything you want.
B&T: What is the future of Michele? What are your future plans? What are you looking forward to?
MG: Right now there are these two streets that I am walking. I'm walking the streets of Visions Of Atlantis and the streets of Temperance of course and Visions Of Atlantis is growing really fast. We are all musicians that are willing to stay on the road as much as we can and we are taking every opportunity. I mean the schedule for this year clearly shows how hard we are working. We have something like 60 or 70 shows and there are more coming if this corona thing will let us stay on the road. It is affecting everyone in the music business right now. The main thing is to continue promoting this latest album because we are finally seeing light and seeing bigger things like this US tour for example. We are playing big festivals. So we must keep on pushing on this because if you drop it for enough just a month, you are gone. Today the world is so fast. People get to know you real fast, but at the same time they forget about you in the blink of an eye. You just can't let them forget about you. At the same time, Temperance is the counterpart of this story. Right now they are on the road with a substitute for me. We found this balance. When I am on the road with Visions Of Atlantis, there is this other guy, Gabriele Gozzi that is jumping in for me. He's an amazing guy. He's a vocal coach in Italy and he really suits the band. I'm following them. They are posted some live streaming videos. It is cool to see that the band is growing stronger even without me. I'm proud of them. When I am back we will have to plan some more touring because "Viridian" has only been out for a couple of weeks and the feedback has been amazing. We will keep on going the same direction if we keep on pushing the album. So we will try to do more.
B&T: I would imagine it would be vocal acrobatics for you, but have you ever considered a Visions Of Atlantis and Temperance show?
MG: It has happened already... the Symphonic Metal Nights in 2019... the lineup was Temperance, Dragony, Visions Of Atlantis, and Serenity. Playing a 45-minute show is not as tiring as playing a headlining show so it was more doable. So yes, this Visions and Temperance thing happened already and maybe could happen again.
B&T: So last question, Michele, your are done with a show, you head back to the bus, what beer do you crack open?
MG: A Leffe... it is just amazing. You know, they serve it in this huge class in Europe that looks like a cereal bowl. [laughs] It is fruity, really fruity and sweet. I have this problem with sweets in general. I'm a sweets lover... cakes, doughnuts, ice creams, whatever is sweet, I like it. So when drinking beers, I try to find the sweet one and Leffe is just perfect. That's my beer.
B&T: And then what album to you put on to pair with that?
MG: I would say "The Scarecrow" from Avantasia.
B&T: Oh cool!
MG: It is the perfect soundtrack for that beer.
B&T: Very cool... awesome! Thank you so much!
MG: You are welcome!
If you are a fan of VOA and would like to help them out in recouping some of the lost funds from the cancelled tour, please donate at the following link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/visions-of-atlantis-tour-recovery-fund?utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_lico+share-sheet.