Francesco Bucci is the bass player for Italian Epic-Black metal band; Stormlord
#1 – At what age did you start playing bass and which players attracted you to the instrument?
I think I was 14, and it was a birthday gift after months of begging to my parents. I also remember the day I bought the bass, it was the 2nd of may: just after the holiday, I was standing in line at the music shop (after school), knowing nothing about the instrument I was about to buy, but I had plenty of happiness in my heart.
I already was a devoted metalhead, so my first heroes were Steve Harris and Geezer Butler for the playing and Cronos and Lemmy for the attitude. But, if I have to choose a name of a bass player responsible for my “big step”, I would have no doubt about it: Cliff Burton.
“Kill ‘em All “ was my first metal album and the feelings I get listening to “Anesthesia” were beyond any description.I was eager to produce that sweet, deep, mysterious sound that was attracting me more than guitar. I’m proud to say that bass was my first instrument, since I’ve (almost) learned guitar later.
#2 – Many fans see musicians as invincible to the same plateaus that bedroom musicians face. What was an obstacle you faced as a player and what helped you push through?
I was never a technically skilled monster, I’m more into groove and tone and, I’ll be honest, I’m just not the kind of guy who spend hours practicing. I love to compose songs and to improvise some riffs, not to study to reach 220 bpm with one finger.
This is a limit when you play extreme metal and when I was younger, playing in a scene with a lot of talented bass players, it was, in a certain way, scarring because I didn’t feel good enough in comparison to people who were able to play Atheist or Cynic parts without any problems.
But the older you are, the wiser you become. So I focused more on more on the sides that I love the most of playing bass: groove, the pulse, the punch, making it my signature style. I’ve worked pretty hard to understand what kind of bass player I am, and to develop my playing in that way.
#3 – The new album “Far” ( X ) has the band weaving in and out of elements of power metal, black metal, death metal and more seamlessly. How did the songwriting process work for this album and did it differ from past works?
Back in the times, most of the songwriting process, or at least the roots of the songs, were developed in the rehearsal room, just jamming to some ideas that we had.
Right now, a lot has changed, especially for this album: we spent a lot of time writing our stuff at home, using some DAW, and then we took the song to Riccardo Studer (our keyboard player), that runs the Time Collapse Recording Studios, to work on the pre-production all together in front of the mixer and the computer.
A little time was spent in the rehearsal room, and even if this process could sound “cold” to your ears, it actually saves a lot of time and allow us to experiment a lot in the making of the song, with solutions that could be impossible to test on the fly in the rehearsal room.
You’ve to understand that most of us have been playing side by side for more than twenty years, so we know our style very well and there’s a great chemistry when it comes to writing music.
After the pre-production was done, Riccardo was in charge of recording the drums, the tracking of the bass & guitars and he put the final touches on the keyboard arrangements.
Nearing the end we went to Outer Sound Studios in Roma (Necrodeath, Novembre, The Foreshadowing, all our albums since 2000), were the voice was recorded, the instruments have been reamped and the whole stuff was mixed by our longtime friend and sound engineer Giuseppe Orlando , together with Riccardo. Then the album was mastered by Simone Mularoni at the Domination studio (DGM, Turilli/Lione Rhapsody etc.).
For the style and the influences, we created this mixture of epic and extreme metal more than 20 years ago, but we’re not tired of developing it yet. Every new album is a challenge, and we always try to expand our sound and to include as many influences as possible, remaining loyal to the roots of our sound. “Hesperia”, the fifth album, was more focused on ethnic and Mediterranean arrangements, with a lot of strange instruments and percussion, while “Far” is more oriented to a bombastic and epic sound.
#4 – I once heard Stormlord described as “what is sounds like when Dimmu Borgir and Rhapsody fighting to the death”, what is the strangest way you have heard your band described?
Your description has its point and I like it, even if I consider the sound of the band to be closer to the epic attitude of Summoning than Rhapsody.
Anyway, we have heard a lot of strange interpretations of our music, since we were among the prime movement of the epic black metal scene and often, in the past, the people didn’t know how to review our albums just because there were so few comparisons around.
Too bad I’ve got a poor memory, so I just remember a review of the last album, “Far”, were the guy was giving a bad mark to the album just because Cristiano sings with the screaming style, while the reviewer was not into this singing style (he just loves clean singing or growl). So, for him, the album has to be bad (and, I guess, almost every other band since Venom).
#5 – There’s epic metal and then there’s being so epic that you use a couple clips of a screaming bird of prey in the intro to “Cimmeria”. I think this is a first for me, who’s idea was this and how did it come together?
Gianpaolo, the guitar player, is guilty of it! He’s the Man when it comes to be really EPIC.
“Cimmeria” was one of the hardest song to deal with in the new album because it has a lot of different sides, from soft to heavy, and each one of them has to be developed in its own way.
Sometimes is easier to plays all the song at break neck speed, so the dynamics is always the same, than deal with a quieter sound.
Anyway, in the end the song sounded so epic and majestic that I felt the need to dedicate it to a special subject.
“Conan The Barbarian” is one of my favorite characters, and Gianpaolo deals with me; we have always wondered what his land, Cimmeria, really looked like.
We know that is surrounded by high and dark mountains, so it’s easy to imagine some proud eagles flying in the sky. That’s why Gianpaolo choose to include that sample, that I love so much.
#6 – What gear was involved with the bass tracking on the new album?
I tracked the parts with my Music Man Sting Ray 5 – limited 2006 bass in my home studio, then I’ve reamped the whole thing with my Ampeg SVT 6 pro together with an Ampeg HLF 410 cab at The Outer Sound Studios, using the EBS Multicop + SANSAMP Tech 21 for the main line, while for the distorted line was used the Darkglass Alpha Omega only.
Then we’ve added another signal completely dry out of the DI, and the last line was digitally amped with CLA BASS plugin from Waves.
#7 – Does your live rig differ from the gear you employ in the studio and does your approach to dialing in your tone also differ?
I try to have the same sound both in the studio and in the live shows. Of course, when it comes to the metal bass, the best choice is to process the lo freq and the hi freq separately, but this is not always easy during the live shows.
Right now, my pedalboard is arranged like this: line 6 wireless g30 – boss tuner tu-3 – KMA Audio Machines Tyler Frequency Splitter (that sends the LO freq through EBS Multicomp and SANSAMP, and sends the HI Freq through Darkglass Alpha Omega)
At the end of the line I’ve got the EBS Unichorus (just for the rare intimate moments) and a boss bass eq geb-7, wich I use just to boost the signal during some moments, or if I’m in need of some freq retouch.
After that, the signal goes into a Radial Stage Bug SB2 DI.
#8 – When it comes to tracking with your Rickenbacker, is it difficult to then match the tone live being that “The Rick” is such a unique sounding bass?
I’ll tell you the truth, The Rick is one of my favorite basses, but was used only for the videoclip of “Mediterranea” because I love the way it looks like.
Since our third album “The Gorgon Cult”, I’m recording and performing mostly with Music Man Sting Ray 5.
I love the combo Music Man + Ampeg, it’s great for the low freq, and my playing in Stormlord had to handle a lot of it, and it’s very clear on the hi ones. This is very important since we’re tuned one step and half below, so my B string is a G#.
#9 – As an Italian musician, it’s impossible not to notice the boom of very talented music software companies putting out high quality products that are popular worldwide. Have you had a chance to try much of what’s coming out?
Yes, my Friend Paolo from Kaledon introduced me to IK Multimedia and Ignite Amps plugins. They sound great and it’s amazing to know that something so cool it’s coming from Italy!
#10 – Bass amp simulation plugins have come a long way the past couple years. Have you had a chance to try any of it out?
I’ve been using Cla Bass plugin from Waves for one of the bass line in the last album, and now I’m enjoying Parallax, from Neural DSP, it sounds very “Darkglassish” and saves a lot of time when it comes to plug in and record some demos.
The improvement in this field is impressive! I just can’t wait to see what the future will bring (I would say, as a joke, that maybe all the bass players will be replaced by plugins, but with plugins like Modo Bass from Ik Multimedia, this is more than an option…).
#11 – With many well known musicians switching to compact rigs driven by Kemper and Fractal, could you see yourself doing something similar for touring convenience?
Absolutely, my approach is smart. Gone are the times when I use to load the van with heavy Ampeg heads and cabinets. Right now I’m playing with my pedalboard only, including the rig that I already told you before, going straight into the mixer and monitoring all with my headphone monitors.
Most complex solution like Kemper and Fractal could be an option, and I love the way they work for guitar, but I use just 2, max 3 sounds, so I’m ok with the way I work right now.
#12 – On the spot, no time to think, name three of your personal favorite recorded bass tones.
I’ll pick vintage stuff, because I’m an old man: Steve Harris (Iron Maiden) – “Powerslave”, Rex Brown (Pantera) – “Vulgar Display Of Power”, Jo Bench (Bolt Thrower) – “Those Once Loyal”.
But I can’t forget people like Frank Bello from Anthrax or Greg Christian from Testament.
Nowadays, I love the sound of Nolly Getgood, formerly of Periphery, and I’m not the only one since everyone seems to copy from him.
#13 – With killer new album out, what’s the next year have in store for Stormlord and your very loyal fans?
After so many years of hard work in studio and in the rehearsal room, we just can’t wait to return on the stage.
Even if our music is quite complex and full of layers, our favorite dimension remains the live show: on the stage we reveal the most aggressive side of Stormlord.
We already played few dates in Italy, and especially the Metalitalia Festival in Milan, with Arch Enemy, Fleshgod Apocalypse, The Crown, Darkane and so on was special.
After the summer we have some shows planned in Italy and, the next year, we’ve some projects for European dates.
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Stormlord are truly unique in a number of ways. Many bands have mixed power metal and black metal before but Stormlord do things to an epic sized degree. They take a more symphonic, over-the-top and dramatic approach with an almost opera meets broadway delivery and somehow still make their stuff crushing. The newest album “Far” sounds absolutely monstrous on a number of levels and the songs are so incredibly well crafted. Normally right here, I would leave you with the links but Francesco was kind enough to do it for me! Be sure to check these guys out!!