Had a great time interviewing Michael Lepond shortly before the Glasgow show at the Garage on February 16th regarding the current UK tour and the latest album release, “Underworld”.
So… So far, how is the tour going?
Well, this is show number four, the tour started last weekend, and everything is going really good so far, we’ve been in the UK all this week. And we’ll be here until Friday, when we play London, but we’re really excited to play in Scotland tonight.
Yes, and I’m sure there are many fans as excited to see you. Is there a venue you have liked playing in so far? Except Glasgow tonight of course.
Well, so far all the venues have been pretty nice so y’know they all have their own little character and coolness about them. This actually is the best venue so far.
Well we’re really proud to have you, the Garage is a really good venue, really good sound as well.
About the support bands, have you had any say in the choosing?
Yes we did. It took us months to go through so many bands that wanted to do the tour, so we talked to them, we listened to them and then we finally came up with Myrath, and Myrath is a really great band from Tunisia, and they have a really unique kind of sound, it’s a real middle-eastern metal kind of sound…
Sort of Orphaned Land-like?
Yes very. It’s very progressive and it’s very cool, and then we have another band called Melted Space, and they’re from France, and they’ve been opening the show, and everything’s been going really great so far. All the bands are really nice, friendly, and it looks like it’s going to be a great tour.
So, the current tour is for your upcoming album underworld, what do you think of the album as a whole?
Underworld… I have to say is probably … Definitely one of the best Symphony X albums that we’ve ever done. You know when we were finishing it up with the recording and stuff like that, we looked at what we had and we said “wow, this is really great!” we’re really proud of this, and we were excited to release it and now it’s great ’cause we’re finally able to perform the songs live, and so far the audiences have really loved, you know… All the songs that were played from it and, it’s cool you know… We think it’s definitely one of the best albums we’ve ever done, because what we wanted to do was… People these days, most of the time they just like to buy a single, right? and they don’t care about the whole album.
Yeah, because usually the single is the “good song”
Yeah, they just want to download a single, but what we want to do is we wanted to create an album where you were forced to listen to the whole album because it’s like a little journey. Each song goes into the next one, and by the time the album’s over, you’re mad, because it’s over, they want to go back to the beginning and listen to it again.
Is there a general idea behind the album?
Yes. We like mythology a lot, so we kind of combined “Dante’s Inferno” with the Greek Mythology story of Orpheus, and we just kind of, put them together and made it our own little story, and basically it’s about a guy and this girl, and the girl gets taken into hell, you know… by the Devil and this guy has to go through all the levels of hell to save her, so it’s an exciting story, it’s dark, and it’s also romantic in a way, so there’s a lot of different emotions.
I did really enjoy listening to it as well. Is a concept album in a way?
Absolutely yeah, each song follows the storyline, so if you want to know the story you have to listen to everything.
Do you have a favourite song in the album?
Well… It’ll probably change, like… every few weeks, but right now, my favourite song on the album is called “In My Darkest Hour” and I think it’s track 7 or 8.
Are you playing many songs from the new album tonight?
Yeah, we’re actually…Tonight we’re going to play everything.
Oh, the whole album?
Yeah, and you know…. So far we’ve been doing that every night and it’s been going over really well, so we’ll play a bunch of songs from the new album, then we’ll do some old songs, then we’ll finish with the new album again, and it’ll feel like one little story.
Sounds great! And so you’re doing quite a few festivals over summer, is there one you’re very excited to play in?
Oh festivals are the most fun! We’re going to play “Bloodstock” and also, for the first time we’re going to play the “Wacken” festival, which is you know… One of the biggest ones, and we’re going to play a festival in Spain called “Legends of Rock”, and that’s all in the month of August. So that’s when we’ll be back in Europe again.
Ok, so you’re mostly excited for Wacken I then?
Huh….You know.. Wacken will probably be so big that, it may be too big I think, I prefer a festival that’s maybe a little smaller.
One with a better atmosphere?
Yeah, where you know… It’ll feel more like a family, so maybe… I don’t know I hear Bloodstock is fantastic.
Yes, so I hear as well, and do you have any plans after this tour?
Well, after this tour ends, it ends… At the end of March, our next plan is to play in South America, for about two weeks, maybe? And after that, then we’ll just go to Europe again.
So if there was a band you could choose to tour with, who would it be?
Hm… That’s a good question… We’ve toured with some pretty great bands in our history. Hm… I guess it would have to be a band that I’m liking a lot now… Maybe Ghost, I like them.
Oh I see, so would that be, like the best band you think you would tour with?
I think right now, it would be…. I think would be fun. You know, I like that band’s music and I think it would be a lot of fun.
I think you may even discover who hides under the masks! And so, who do you think is the best band you have toured with?
Well, I think my favourite band that we’ve toured with so far would be Blind Guardian. So that was about 10 years ago, so that was really cool, I was a big fan of Blind Guardian, so hopefully maybe someday we’ll tour again.
I think it would be quite a great to have you and Blind Guardian. It’s quite a shame, they are coming here in May in Glasgow and it would be quite a thing.
Oh, that’s fantastic!
If I may go off topic, how does it feel like to stand in front of a crowd? how does it make you feel?
That’s a good question. You know… When you’re on stage, right? And you’re playing, there’s so many people in the audience that are coming to see you, and they know all your songs, you know? And those are songs that you know… Maybe you wrote these songs in your room, and while watching TV or something, but all these people know all these songs, it gives you such an adrenaline rush, it like… Gives you such a high. That there’s really…it’s the best feeling in the world. It’s incredible.
What has been you best gig moment?
Wow… Best gig moment… Wow… I guess, you know… the best moments when we play are when, you know, maybe in the ballads. The slower songs, where you can really hear everyone singing the songs back to you, you know? And that’s like, a really magical moment so… Tonight we’ll probably, you know.. We have two ballads tonight that we’re going to be playing. We have one lighter song from the album called “Without You” and people like that one so they usually sing that back to us so it’s really like, a magical moment, we have the really cool lights going on and it’s a great atmosphere.
So… On another note, what’s your favourite Symphony X song?
Hm… Wow… Well, I think my favourite Symphony X song ever… I would probably go back to an album called The Odyssey, and it’s the title track… The song is called “The Odyssey”, it’s 25 minutes long, and it’s just like this big story, so many different emotions and it’s a really amazing song.
Within the band, is there a certain goal you seek to achieve?
Well, I think what we want to do is, we would just like to be able to do music for a living, you know? we want to write songs and go on tour and meet great people like you guys all over the world, and do it for the rest of our lives, you know? And it’s very hard to do with music because, there’s not a lot of money to be made in music, you have to really… You know, you have to really work hard at it.
Has it always been your dream to do music as for a living?
Yes, Hum… When I was 13 years old, my father took me to see KISS, and I’m watching this show and I see all the amazing show lights, explosions and all kinds of stuff, and that day I was like “Wow, that’s what I want to do for a living!” and then my father bought me a bass guitar, and then I took some lessons and started joining bands, and then slowly but surely, I finally got to this level.
So generally, are you happy with where you are now with the band?
Yes, I’m very happy and I feel very blessed to be in Symphony X, ’cause we’re such a well-respected band. But you know what, even though I’m happy where I am we always want to just keep going further you know…Keep going higher, maybe next year play bigger places.
I do hope you will, you guys are a great band and there is a lot more to come from you guys.
Well, thank you very much.
Something I have been wondering, when coming up with songs, is it difficult to come up with lyrics and the music to go with it?
I think it depends on the song, sometimes you’ll be writing a song and when you’re playing it, it might paint a picture in your mind, so then you know kind of what the lyrics should say. And then there’s other times when you have the lyrics first and then you want to put it to music, you know… It’s like a little puzzle. But sometimes it is hard to think about what lyrics to write, but I think when you’re writing a song, it’s got to paint some sort of picture in your mind.
Which ones turn out the best in general? Lyrics or music first?
Hum… I think at least with the slower songs, it’s easier to write lyrics for them, because it can only be about a few things, you know… Either sadness or…
Yeah, you know that kind of thing. When you have a really heavy song it could be about anything, so that’s the problem with that.
And finally, have you always wanted to play bass?
Yes, I always wanted to play bass, I was never interested in playing the guitar or the drums, I wish I could sing, but I stink at singing.
Because usually people look at the guitars first in bands so they may think that’s what I want to do, you usually don’t hear people who want to play bass, so it’s quite interesting you do.
That’s actually very true, the guitar is like… You know… It’s the cool instrument when you’re up there cause it’s like playing riff and all. the bass player is in the back, but I think my personality is you know… kind of quiet and shy so I like just playing the bass and being in the back and not having all the attention on me.
And I’m sure you will be great tonight. Thank you very much for your time and I cannot wait to see you on stage!
You’re very welcome and I will hopefully see you later.
Photo credits to Fusion photography, Jax, Symphony X.