The Band: Scala Mercalli
The Men: Sergio Ciccoli (drums); Christian Bartolacci (vocals)
Interview by Vpower
Scala Mercalli is an Italian band with some years already walked in this adventure of Metal. They play a good Metal, with much feeling and with message, with an evolution through time as Sergio confirms and the most important is that they are stronger and more united than ever. They have supported big acts as Wasp or Exodus touring around and now they are preparing a new assault to the old continent. Sergio will tell us this and much more, enjoy the reading.
Hello Sergio, you are the only founding member right now in Scala Mercalli, isn’t it? What are your feelings looking back at those years from the beginning of the band?
Yes, I'm the only remaining member from 1992. At that time we were young and very influenced by the metal of the 80s, that we listened to and followed with true passion. This passion then became the Scala Mercalli, that is playing to give something more than music….a message that could be helpful to every listener. The feelings I remember the most are enthusiasm, euphoria, fast flowing adrenaline, which over the years have never been missing, not even now actually ..they evolve constantly !! They give us the energy to keep moving on!
That sounds great. Is any big difference between the Scala Mercalli of last century and the current one?
The biggest difference is our age (ha aha ha ..) Seriously, as time goes by we have grown and with the experience, we have improved the way we compose and write songs. I think that today we are more able to give different emotions with the same music!
You have just released your third album, “New Rebirth”. Your previous work is from 2009, six years earlier, so the question is mandatory, is “New Rebirth” a new beginning?
Sure, this new work is a new beginning, especially for those who hear and understand the message of this album, but also for us that in the past six years have had to overcome many difficulties due to changes of line-up (for various personal problems the two guitarists had to leave the band) that slowed us down a lot in the composition process. We trashed all the old stuff and reassembled it all together with the new line-up, but despite that, we have always maintained a good live activity, both in Italy and in Europe supporting bands such as Tarja, Wasp and Exodus.
(Christian) : its true it’s our new beginning … this is another opportunity, this album it’s made by our dreams, by our mind, by our friendship
In the end a band is like the life itself, I guess, life inside life. If we had to summarize your style I would say your music is a mix of Heavy Metal, Power Metal and Progressive Metal
Yes, well said! Those are music styles we listen to, though actually we were inspired also by Technical Thrash, to which we are a bit more connected.
One of the strong points in the band is Christian Bartolacci’s vocals. Every time I hear him singing I cannot stop thinking about Lizzy Borden, the guy has a special feeling
Christian is a real leadind light… I played with him for 13 years so I can say that as well as a brother, he is a guy of many resources in constant evolution, a big heavy metal fan and also a great scholar of singing…. he attended many schools, had different teachers and he always continues to develop new singing techniques. He has his own unique and unmistakable sound and as you said before, he often reminds people of Lizzy Borden, and sometimes Dave Mustine and Midnight Crimson Glory as well .. that makes you realize how his voice is versatile and unique
I think the other pillar in your sound is your work on drums in combination with Giusy Bettei’s bass. You offer a continous variety of rythms that allow the guitars to deliver all kind of riffing and solos, Hero of Two Worlds is a clear example of this
Yes, it's true! In fact, what I try to do with drums is working on some classical rhythms while mixing them with something new and as original as possible. Heroes of two World was created from the drums rhythms…I think they fit together in a particular and effective way.I have a great music feeling with Giusy, especially because we are good friends and this is critical for harmonizing together, in my opinion drums and bass generally fit very well to create a solid ground where guitar riffs and solos can be created!
All in all I would say “New Rebirth” is classic Heavy Metal with a modern touch that makes it very enjoyable. Sergio, you think it is more important for a band to develop an style of their own or to compose strong songs even if they sound similar to other bands?
I think that the bands that have become big in the past, in the early 80's, have been those who have created something new, based on what they used to listen to... so first of all I believe that every musician should express in a song what he really feels without being influenced by preset trends. In our case, although we are very fond of classic metal, we try to give a touch of originality in our songs, which helps the metal to be always fresh and interesting to listen to. I don’t think it makes sense after so many years to continue to stagnate always on the usual sounds and compositions, it’s not useful to musicians and it’s not useful to the listener that wants to have always new incentives while being part of Heavy Metal!
So true. What bands have influenced your sound through time?
We have all had similar influences, as concerning me, I can say: Iron Maiden, Helloween, Judas Priest, Megadeth, Anthrax
(Luca) So Many and of different styles , if we have to choose, probably the most import are Megadeth(ritmics have been a kid of school to all of us) ; Iron Maiden (melodies) , Symphony X( technique & Classicism) and the strong sound created by Testament (their Productions Above all) .
(Giusy) Iron Maiden ,Metallica ,Helloween ,Coroner, Annihilator, Royal Hunt
(Clemente) Labyrinth, Helloween, Skull Fist, Hammerfall, Running Wild, Judas Priest
(Christian) Iron Maiden Megadeth , Strotovarius, Metallica Queen …
Sergio, as a drummer, you have learnt from ? What are your idols using the sticks?
I was self-taught for four years, also because of where I come from, at the end of the 80’s, there were no schools or teachers to help someone that wanted to do Heavy Metal... then I met Alessandro Svampa, a highly trained and really open-minded drum teacher from whom I took lessons for three years. After that, I carried learning on my own. As sources of inspiration, the drummers who influenced me the most were Nicko Mc Brain and Dave Lombardo, they have two different styles that I have always tried to combine in my playing!
Good references, indeed. Drums is an instrument with less development than guitar, for instance? I mean, once you reach a high level there is not so much room for innovation, in contrast to guitar, for example?
I think it can have its development anyway, depending on what we mean with development. I think a drummer can evolve not just looking for new techniques, but mostly on a composition level. I mean, a big drummer is not just a good technician, but can also choose the right pace for the right song, and find a balance that makes it incisive, that succeeds in making the song communicate to the listener exactly what it wants to communicate. On this point one can still work hard!
Luca and Clemente are the last recruits for the band, they entered in 2013. In a Metal band guitars are a turning point, why the change of the two guitarists at the same time and how integrated they are nowadays in Scala Mercalli?
The former guitarists left the band in different times for different reasons: Riccardo had family and work problems, so he preferred to leave and find his own way. Andrey and his wife have had two twin babies who require most of his time: we all became uncles (and aunt), but we keep in touch and we know he has other priorities at the moment. Anyway we immediately got along both with Clemente and Luca, we quickly succeeded in finding a good feeling both on personal and on composition level. They are good friends in fun evenings too and we always try to spend time together even outside the rehearsal studio: this is really “Metal Band” in our idea. Even if our guitarists have little differences in style, with the right attitude they succeed in combining them as they where one!
(Christian): our new friends are so good and they ‘re a very good person … very good friends … and they are a good musicians.
Yes, by your answers I think you transmit very well thar feeling of friendship. Are you touring around to promote your new album?
We are now Touring in Italy until February 2016, we are planning an European tour in spring, but we have more requests than we can satisfy, and very little time, so we are trying to choose the best ones, but we hope we can perform in Spain too as soon as possible.
Those are great news for the Spanish metalheads. Spain and Italy are near, not only geographically but also culturally, I would say, however is not usual to see bands from Italy playing here or Spanish bands playing in Italy. Why this happens, in your opinion?
I think we have similar metal blood: we are both latin people and very close origins and history, this makes our countries find a good affinity even on a musical level.
For a gig, do you prefer small venues or big fests as Gods of Metal in Italy?
They are different situation, but both beautiful, because when we play in a big festival and there are a lot of people, it is very gratifying to conquer the crowd. But in small gigs we have more direct contact with the public, you can watch their faces and and guess their emotions from their eyes: this is really intense!
Exactly! How do you see the Metal scene in Italy?
Metal scene in Italy is complicated, we have a loto f valid bands, but there are few places to play, and a poor coverage from media: for example, a lot of bands, like us, have found more support abroad than in our own country. Anyway those who stay strong can get a good feedback and are supported by true metalheads. I believe we will have surprises in future…
We will be here to live and tell them. What are your plans for the future?
As concerning to me, I teach Kung Fu and I plan to keep training and playing as usual, as I have done for nearly 30 years ;) With the band, we plan to promote more and more the message of the new album: get ready for a revolution!
A Kung Fu teacher, very cool! I suppose you don’t need security support in your live shows hahaha Thank you very much Sergio for this talk, very amusing and instructive, if you wanna add something…
First of all, we want to thank you for the space you allowed us, and wish you all the best for the future. I just can add that, in hard times like these, music in general, and metal in particular, has the important purpose to reach the minds and the souls of people, and wake them up. This can happen only if we work united, so as we say in our song: “Still United” \m/