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Em Sinfonia    
Em Sinfonia
Those who know Brian Griffin know the man wears many hats. He is a member of not one, but two full-time metal acts, the well-established death metal band Broken Hope and the recently assembled goth / doom group Em Sinfonia. To top it off, he owns and runs his very own recording studio in Illinois, Quali-Tone Studios. Whew, does he sleep, too? As Metal Update found out, Brian never tires in his professional and creative pursuits. This interview was conducted not long after the release of Em Sinfonia's latest opus 'Intimate Portrait'.

METAL UPDATE: The name Em Sinfonia, what does that mean?

BRIAN GRIFFIN: It means "in symphony" in Latin.

MU: What was the reason behind choosing that name?

BG: Actually, it was the idea of Maria, the owner of the label, and she speaks, like, Latin and stuff like that. We were debating over different band names, and she had proposed that one to us. We all thought it sounded kinda cool, so that's why we decided on it. No real major thought was put into it. It was just, you know, it pretty much summed up the music that we were writing at the time, so we're pretty happy with the name.

MU: The studio that you have is called Quali-Tone, is that right?

BG: Yeah.

MU: Is that your own studio? Do you own that?

BG: Yes, I do.

MU: When did you start that?

BG: It started about five years ago. I used to work at a recording studio, locally, and they went out of business. Rather than trying to apply at another studio and get a job, which is really tough to do, I decided to just go out and do my own thing. At that point in time, I had gotten quite a few clients, so I figured I could maybe support myself or maybe just hold down a part-time job and keep doing it on my own instead of having to pay by the hour at another person's studio. So, I just invested, you know, all my time and money to start my own thing 'cause, I knew in the future I was going to want that, anyway.

MU: So, when you started, did you finance it purely through your own income?

BG: Yes.

MU: Did you go to school for sound engineering or anything?

BG: I went to the Recording Workshop in Ohio. It's a six-week course where they pretty much teach you the basics of all the different equipment that you'll encounter in different studios. But, the majority of my training was working at that first studio that I worked at and being an intern for, like, two years. I worked with all the head engineers there and learned all the tricks of the trade directly from them.

MU: So, you've had a number of bands come through there. Have you actually produced other bands' records?

Em Sinfonia

BG: Oh, yeah. I mean, a lot of death metal bands I've produced and recorded. I do all different styles of music. I've done, you know, heavy metal and I did some rap stuff when I was younger. I pretty much don't turn down anything as long as I'm into the music. . . and I like all kinds of music. I don't like just death metal and heavy metal. I mean, if a band's good, I'm willing to work with them. I'm not really all too picky on styles and stuff and being the kind of producer that only works in one genre. I like to expand myself and work with all different styles.

MU: What are some of the names of some of the groups you've worked with?

BG: Oh, a lot of local bands. Some metal bands like Sirus and Spirit Web, Abolisher. I worked with Malevolent Creation on one of their albums. I did some work with Internal Bleeding, Fleshgrind, the Em Sinfonia and Broken Hope stuff and a lotta death metal bands. I worked with a band from Japan called Defiled. I'm recording a band from Colombia in July called Under Threat and, yeah, basically, mostly death metal at this point.

MU: Between being a producer and a musician, do you find yourself particularly drawn towards one or the other?

BG: Well, basically, when I first decided to start playing guitar and being in bands, I kinda figured there might be a point where I don't get successful. And I wanted to do music, in general, for the rest of my life, so I figured it would be a good idea to get into the industry other than just playing guitar - just in case the band I was in wasn't popular. If I couldn't financially support myself, I figured the next best thing I could do is have a recording studio and record bands and, at the same time, be able to record my own music whenever I want to. But I don't really see myself drawn toward one or the other that I like more. One I do for fun, which is being a musician, and the other one I do for a living, which is being a producer, you know, recording engineer. One pays the bills and the other one doesn't, pretty much.

MU: Now, you say you took that sound course. Do you feel that the education you received there prepared you adequately for what you're doing now? Did it get you where you wanted to be?

BG: I think so. I mean, when I went there, I knew absolutely nothing about the recording studio. When I came out of there, I had some knowledge of, you know, the basics, like microphones and recording consoles and different forms of outboard gear. I mean, before I went there, I didn't know what I was getting into. They kind of helped guide me into learning the equipment aspect of it - not so much how to record a band, the technical stuff. Once I got out of there and I was an intern, then I learned all of the different tricks that you have to know and how to get different sounds. So, it helped me out in the technical side. It was kind of a crammed course for six weeks. But I've heard that there are other courses like that in Florida where you spend thousands and thousands of dollars to go there for a year or two, and you don't gain any more knowledge than you do from a quick course or from reading a manual. So, I think I made the right choice and took the crash course and went into a studio. I mean, when you go into a studio at first, you end up working for free for a couple of years just to learn and build up a client base. That's pretty much the test right there - if you're willing to stick it out as an intern and work for free for a long time.

MU: How do you view your role as a producer? Do you stick to the sound side of things or do you give these bands suggestions or pointers about song arrangements or parts or solos? How involved do you get with that?

BG: Most bands that I record pretty much have an idea of what they wanna do, and I usually throw my ideas at them, and they're pretty willing to accept most of 'em. But, as far as the arrangements and stuff like that, most of 'em know what they wanna do. When I produce my own bands, obviously, most of the decisions are left up to me. It's basically more sound engineer, I guess. There have been certain bands that I've helped arrange songs and fill in cool ideas for them to make a song better than what it actually is, but, usually, we end up using the songs as they have 'em. Anything that I suggest to them is just icing on the cake, more to add to it. So, I get involved with every band, but whether or not we use all of my ideas, I leave up to the band. I don't really force my opinions on anybody. They usually all end up using 'em because after we experiment with them for a while, they understand why it should be that way.

MU: As far as the sound production you get when you produce your own records for Broken Hope and Em Sinfonia goes, with the resources at your disposal, have you been happy with the general sound? Do you feel like you're getting the kinds of sounds you want with the stuff you have?

BG: Well, obviously, we'd like to get better sounds all the time. We don't exactly have a multi-million dollar studio with all of the bells and whistles that a lot of these bands can afford to record with, but what we get out of the small studio that we have, I think, everybody's been pretty happy. I'm pretty happy with it.

MU: How often do you update your equipment? Are you constantly upgrading things?

BG: Yeah, I'm always buying stuff. I mean, some of the big-ticket items, like the console and the tape machine, are hard to come by, you know? You're talking like twenty-thousand dollars a piece. I don't make quite that much money, but I'm always, like, updating my computer software and outboard gear, compressors, gates, different kinds of effects, microphones - you know, the stuff that I can feasibly afford. I'm always upgrading musical instruments, equipment for bands to use and stuff, but as far as, you know, the bigger things, they've pretty much been in place since I started. There's really no need to upgrade 'em because they're still used in major studios.

MU: Do you use the Pro Tools software?

BG: No, I don't.

MU: Have you tried that before? Do you not like that?

BG: I do like it, but then again, that's another very expensive item. I mean, it's like fifteen grand just to have the basic setup, and all it's basically used for is editing and pretty much enhancing stuff that, in my opinion, I feel that the musician should already be able to be playing on the tape, rather than take what they play on tape and dump it down to a computer and make it sound better. I mean, a lot of cheating goes on with that. Most places that use Pro Tools do it for mastering purposes, and I don't do mastering at the studio. We just do the recording and mixing of the project, and then we go up to a different mastering studio and have it mastered there. Either I do the mastering on the equipment at the studio there, or I hire another mastering engineer to do it. I have all kinds of different computer editing software, like Cakewalk, which is almost the same as Pro Tools and soundboards for editing stuff, but Pro Tools is like a multi-track format, which I'm totally analog at the studio. I like to keep it that way because I feel the sound is better.

MU: You say analog sounds better. In what way, specifically?

BG: I think it sounds less sterile. I think it has more of a live feel, more low end. Analog was the first original way to record, and now that everything is digital, sometimes you can tell the difference between a digital recording rather than an analog recording. A digital recording sounds really clean and sterile, whereas the analog gives you more warmth and the more live feel.

MU: What about your personal musical influences? What kind of stuff did you grow up listening to? What stuff do you listen to now?

BG: When I grew up, I was listening to, like, Iron Maiden. I didn't get into music until. . . I got in late, probably my early teens. I was listening to Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, AC/DC - the thing of the times, like Def Leppard. Then I progressed in the late 80's and started listening to thrash music like Testament, Forbidden, and nowadays I pretty much listen to everything. To me, whatever sounds good is whatever I'm into. I listen to radio stuff. Some of my favorite bands nowadays are, like, Lacuna Coil, The Gathering, Theatre of Tragedy. I'm more into that kind of European metal sound, like Dark Tranquility and In Flames.

MU: Have bands like Lacuna Coil, The Gathering and Theatre of Tragedy influenced Em Sinfonia's sound?

BG: The bands that I like to listen to, I don't really think that we sound anything like them. I'm sure that there's aspects of our music - you know, having the female vocalist and stuff like that where people can draw a similarity, but as far as us sounding anything like that - maybe back in the beginning of Theatre of Tragedy when they had the heavy male vocals. . . Nowadays, I think Lacuna Coil and The Gathering and Theatre of Tragedy have pretty much gone more mainstream, sorta towards rock, and we're still kind of like underground metal. We still have the death metal vocals and the heavy guitar riffing, as opposed to just where the guitars are more in the background with their music.

MU: Would you ever consider following that kind of lead and going more in that direction yourself?

BG: Oh, that's what we originally wanted to try, but then we started writing the music and it just formed on its own and became. . . we got our own little identity. Obviously, those bands are great. Nobody can top them at what they do, and that's why they're so popular, but I feel that we went in the direction that naturally formed for us. If we were to sit there and try to be like those bands, I don't think we could ever really pull it off and be happy, you know? We'd always be compared to those bands, which sometimes we still are. We're always changing, I mean, our album that we just put out compared to the EP that we recorded three years ago is way different. I think the new album is more up-tempo and more metal than the old one. The old one was more like a doom feel where it was slow. So, things evolve as we go along and, who knows, maybe we might change more in that direction because those bands when they first started out, they weren't anything like they are now. Bands always grow and change in different directions.

MU: Do you ever listen to doom bands like Solitude Aeturnus and Candlemass?

BG: Yeah, I listened to Candlemass back in the day. I don't remember what the album was called. I think it was called 'Nightfall' or something like that. That was one of my favorite albums back then, but I don't really listen to bands like that anymore.

MU: On the new record, you cover Iron Maiden's "Revelations". Was that your idea?

BG: Yeah. I've always been a Maiden fan, and we tossed around the idea of doing a cover. We went through all sorts of different ideas on what we wanted to do, but we needed to pick a song that was older. We wanted to pick a song that wouldn't be typical like "The Trooper" or "Flight of Icarus" or something like that. We wanted to pick a song that would be off-the-wall, that nobody would expect, and be able to incorporate keyboards into it. Some of their music is just straight-up guitar riffing, and you can't really incorporate too much keyboards. With "Revelations", it had a lotta clean guitar parts, so we just replaced that with the piano and we thought it sounded cool, so we decided to go with that song.

MU: Were there other songs that you guys tossed around?

BG: Oh, man, we were gonna do AC/DC's "Back In Black". We were gonna do a song by Missing Persons. I forgot what the name was. Those were two that were high on the list, which we might still do someday. But I think in the beginning it was just more or less talking and throwing around ideas. We were gonna do a song by Kansas, but then we decided that, if we were gonna keep it metal, we needed to pick it from a metal band. If we were gonna do a pop band and try to make it metal, we might not succeed in making the song better than what it was - not saying that we did that with "Revelations", but it was easier for us to make "Revelations" into an Em Sinfonia style because it was already heavy.

MU: On the "Revelations" track, the bass is covered by a guy named Jason Helman. Is that correct?

BG: Yeah.

MU: Where do you know him from?

BG: He used to be in a band called Morta Skuld. They're a death metal band from Milwaukee. The drummer for Em Sinfonia was in a band with him at that time we were recording. They were in a local band where they would play out every now and then, but I've known Jason for years. Larry, our drummer, brought up the idea of having him play bass because me and the other guitarist for Em Sinfonia play the bass on the album, but we didn't want to do it for the cover song. We wanted a more accomplished bass player. We're not really bass players. We just did it on our music because we knew the music, and we knew how we wanted it to sound. But as far as trying to pull off the Steve Harris style, we wanted a bass player that could actually pull it off, and I think he did a pretty damn good job on it.

MU: Between the first record, 'In Mournings Symphony' and the new one, the line-up has been totally re-arranged. What was the main reason behind that?

BG: Well, when we did 'In Mournings Symphony', it was just something fun that me and some friends wanted to do. We didn't intend on getting it signed to a label. We didn't intend on, you know, trying to make it a full-time band. It was just something fun to go into a studio with, and after we did it, we let some people hear it. Maria from Martyr decided to talk us into putting it out, which we thought was cool 'cause we kinda wanted to see what would go on with it. It got a little bit popular and we got talked into doing a full album. At the time, everybody was cool with it, but then once we got involved in rehearsals and writing, some of the other people that were involved couldn't commit the time to do it. Paul and Mary were already in Novembers Doom, and they were doing the Novembers Doom record at the time, and they couldn't do two bands at once. The old singer, April, couldn't really conform to the new direction that we wanted to go in. We didn't want to stay with the 'In Mournings Symphony' style. We wanted to pick up the tempo a little bit and make it moving a little bit more. So, she pretty much decided on her own that she couldn't do it, either. So, nobody got kicked out. There were no bad feelings. It was just a matter of people wanting to do it as a full-time thing, and the people that aren't with it anymore just couldn't commit the time to do it. The core people that did 'In Mournings Symphony', that wrote all the music, are still on the album. All of the people that aren't with the band anymore are all the people that came in late after the music was written, and we just asked them to perform on that EP.

MU: Your new vocalist, Bunny, I gotta ask, where does that name come from? I know that's not her real name.

BG: I know, everyone asks that, but it is her real name.

MU: Really?

BG:Yeah. It really is. I asked her that, too. Everyone asks her that, but it is her real name.

MU: Where'd you come across her?

BG: Actually, when April decided that she couldn't do it, I decided to take out an ad and two days after I put the ad out, she called and she was interested in it. She's from Los Angeles, and she was in rock bands out there. She had no idea what we sounded like, but she wanted to get into a band that was already established and doing a record and writing music. She came up and, after going to see several other bands that she was deciding to join, she thought that we were the tighter band out of all of 'em. We had never heard her sing, and she brought a tape from when she sang with other bands in LA, and we pretty much decided that she had a cool voice for it. Although it wasn't her style, we knew that her voice would work with, you know, with a little bit of guidance, it would fit into our style. Ever since, everything's been goin' cool with her.

MU: When you were looking for a new vocalist after April, did you go through any other candidates before you finalized on Bunny?

BG: Actually, no, not myself. I didn't because, at the time that April quit, I ended up going on the road with a band as a tech. While I was gone, the other band members were auditioning people while I wasn't here. When I got back they had auditioned, like, two or three people that they didn't feel would fit the style. Bunny was actually the first person that I ran across that I was there for the audition, and I automatically thought she fit the part. Not only her voice was cool, but she has, you know, dedication. She's totally into the band, and she does promotion-type stuff. She's not like a lotta singers who will just sit back and wait for things to happen. Bunny actually gets involved and writes music and helps the band out in other ways, too. So, I just liked her enthusiasm as well as her voice.

MU: I haven't heard the first record with April, but Bunny is pretty much the lead vocalist on this new record. To have clean female lead vocals, was that something you definitely wanted to stick with the whole time, or did you think about getting more death vocals, or was that part of the plan?

BG: Yeah, the plan from the very beginning was to have clean female vocals. That's what I always wanted to have. So, yeah, I mean, the male death metal vocals was secondary, 'cause when we wrote the music the first time around, we didn't even plan on having that style. Then I recorded Novembers Doom, and I kinda liked Paul's voice, so I wanted to see what it would sound like on our album, or on the first EP, and it worked out really cool with April. It was always our intention to have a female lead vocalist, and the only reason we kept going in the direction of the death metal vocals after Paul decided to leave was the fact that that's how we got popular. So, we didn't wanna just totally drop it right away. We wanted to continue to do it, but I think the direction that we're probably gonna go in in the future is probably going to be scaled down on the male death metal vocals and concentrate even more on the female lead vocal.

MU: On the website for the band, in the news section, I was noticing somebody said there were some problems or delays in the recording of this last record. Can you elaborate on that?

BG: One of the major problems was that we wrote the album with a bass player, but when we went in to record the album he informed us that he wasn't ready yet. We ended up waiting for a couple weeks for him to actually come in and play his tracks. I mean, down in the basement when we were rehearsing, everything sounded cool, but once he got into the studio he really didn't know what he wanted to do. We're all cool people in this band. . . We weren't, you know, like, "Let's kick this guy out and get rid of him and find somebody else that can play it." We let him go through weeks and weeks of trying and in the end, it didn't work out with him. We gave him a choice. We're like, "You can either play it the way we wanna hear it or you can not play it at all." He decided that he didn't wanna play it our way, so he left. Then we just sat around thinking about who we're gonna get to play bass, and after a while, time just started to go by. We said, "Screw it, we're just gonna go in and play the bass ourself and get this album done." So, that was the major delay. Once we decided that we were gonna play the bass ourselves, we just went in there and laid it down and it was pretty quick.

MU: I noticed that you and Sean both get credit for sharing bass on the tracks. Was there any rhyme or reason as to, "Okay, I'm doing this one, you're doing this one." Was there any way you figured that out?

BG: Well, basically, I played bass on the songs that I wrote, and he played bass on the songs that he wrote. So, it was much easier when we went into record because, you know, the reason the other bass player didn't work out is because me and Sean pretty much wrote the songs with the keyboard player, Rick, and we had in our mind the way we wanted the bass to fit into our music. The other guy wanted to have, like, solo bass all the time - like bass runs and bass fills constantly going on - and we didn't think that it fit the music. We decided it would be best for each one of us to go and play the songs that we wrote, so it would come out sounding the way we wanted. Of course, there were suggestions from the other people in the band on what we should do on certain riffs. Just because we played the parts doesn't mean that the other band members didn't have some input on it, but that's why we split it up.

MU: When you guys signed with Martyr Music Group, did Maria approach you first? How did that relationship develop?

BG: She approached us. I was already signed to them with Broken Hope and, you know, I told her what we were doing with Em Sinfonia. She was interested in hearing it, and when she heard it, she pretty much convinced us to do something with what we recorded. She liked it a lot.

MU: Speaking of Broken Hope, the last Broken Hope record was not released on Metal Blade. Was there a reason why you guys broke off with that label?

BG: Well, our last album was 'Grotesque Blessings' on Martyr Music. The reason we left Metal Blade was. . . We got dropped, and their reasoning was that we weren't selling enough records in Europe, but that was back in '97.

MU: Do you like the new situation you have with this label? Are you satisfied with the promotion that they're doing for both Em Sinfonia and Broken Hope?

Em Sinfonia

BG: I mean, there's always room for improvement. Bands are usually never happy with what their label's doing because the label has other bands to deal with. Every band thinks that they're a priority. I'm pretty happy so far with what's going on. I mean, I see ads for us in magazines all the time, and she hooked up with Hammerheart in Europe, and they flew Broken Hope over to do a tour which Metal Blade never did for us. Being on a small label like Martyr and having them hook us up with a tour in Europe was, you know, a step in the right direction. But, yeah, I don't really see much of a difference, promotion-wise, that we're getting with Martyr than what we had with Metal Blade. It's pretty much the same. I see us in just as many magazines. We do just as many interviews and the promotion's going pretty well.

MU: Which band do you feel like you're able to be more creative or more satisfied musically in, Broken Hope or Em Sinfonia?

BG: I think I'm satisfied with both, with what I do with each one. But I think that, as far as being more creative, I think Em Sinfonia wins for that. With Em Sinfonia, you got the male and female vocals. You got violin. You got keyboards. You have different styles of guitar riffing. You don't constantly have blasting drums. You actually have - our drummer, Larry, is pretty good at havin' his own little technique and style. So, I think as far as creativity goes, I think Em Sinfonia is much easier to do that with, for me. Broken Hope's pretty much my outlet to write aggressive music. So, I have fun with both in different ways.

MU: Em Sinfonia seems to have more of a European metal flavor. As an American making that type of music, do feel like the odd-man-out?

BG: It's definitely different. It's a lot harder to get shows and stuff over here when it comes to Em Sinfonia, because that kind of music isn't as popular over here as it is in Europe. Most of our fan base, I think, is from Europe. The new record's selling pretty well over there. I mean, I think it works good for us to be an American band playing that style because there's not so many. If we were in Europe, we would just be, you know, in the ocean with all those other fish and have to compete so much. I actually think it's cool, you know? Maybe it'll start a trend. There are bands like Em Sinfonia in the US already. They're just not very well-known yet. We would probably be a little bit bigger if we were all from Europe, because it's more acceptable over there.

MU: You know, being involved in underground, extreme music, especially in this country when that's not the most popular thing to do, does it get kind of grinding and frustrating at some point? Do you feel like giving up sometimes, or do you feel pretty satisfied with and dedicated to what you're doing right now?

BG: I'm pretty satisfied with what we're doing. I mean, I have a lot of friends that are in popular bands that play American style that are signed to big record labels. It definitely gets frustrating sometimes to see bands that I know that are touring the States and driving my car and listening to my friend's band on the radio. I honestly think that if I decided to go in that direction, I probably could, and maybe someday I will, but right now I'm pretty happy with what I'm doin'. I'm kinda dedicated to the two bands that I'm in. It's always nice to be making money and ridin' around in tour buses and being played on the radio. I can't deny, I wish I was doing that sometimes, too, but I started out this way and I'm having fun with it as it goes. So, I'm just gonna play it out as long as I can. It's worked for me so far.

MU: Now, you've been on Metal Blade and you've been with Martyr Music. As far as the independent metal labels go, at least in this country, do a lot of these labels work together? Do you see a sense of community or brotherhood? Do they help each other out? Do you see a lot of competition between them or not?

BG: The labels that I've known and have met people from, I feel there's a lotta competition between them. Like, now Century Media and Nuclear Blast are working together, but, as far as the other labels, there's definitely competition that I've noticed just by talking to people that work at the labels.

MU: As far as the lyrics for Em Sinfonia go, they have an erotic, gothic and romantic connotation to them. Where do you draw inspiration for them? Do you read? Watch movies? Where does that come from?

BG: Really not from movies or reading, it's just basically my thoughts. I've never written lyrics before Em Sinfonia, so I pretty much try to write stuff that I think is cool - stuff that I'm into. Me and Bunny work together. If she comes up with a concept, I gotta try and keep the concept with her, and that's the way it happened on the new album. She came up with most of the concepts, and then I wrote my words to go around hers. But I don't think either one of us really draws inspiration from movies or books or anything like that. We just write what we feel would sound cool. It's not really inspired by anything particular.

MU: When you and Bunny get together to do lyrics, does it flesh out pretty easily, idea-wise? Are you guys able to work together and make a lot of headway, or is it kind of a grinding process?

BG: At first, it was pretty hard because her writing style wasn't anything like what Em Sinfonia is. So, I kinda had to guide her a little bit in the concepts. Once she caught on to what we were going after, it sorta came pretty natural to her. She could write her own stuff, and then when we got together, we'd toss back and forth ideas and ways to sing things and different words to try and use to make a line sound cooler than it had before. But, yeah, I mean, in the beginning it was kinda hard. Now, it's gotten a lot easier, now that we've worked together. It's always hard when you're working with somebody brand new and try to express your ideas and they don't understand it.

MU: Off the website, there's a quote from the April '99 'Promethean Crusade' magazine. This is not your statement. This is the writer's statement I was going to have you comment on. He said, "Capitalism is the artist's number one enemy. It has irreconcilably skewed all of our views on music and art. It has debased our minds so that we cannot separate the real artists from the sellouts." Would you have any comments on that? He was kind of making a stab at the free-market economy, saying how that destroys real art. Would you agree with that at all?

BG: I don't really know what he's meaning by it, but he probably means that a lot of bands sell out just to get on the radio, and they pretty much write what's trendy at the time instead of really concentrating on the kind of music that they started out with. I mean, I don't really know what he's getting at. I don't know if I should comment on it if I don't understand it.

MU: Well, I'll take it on a different tangent. People talk about musical integrity, and they talk about "true" metal versus "false" metal. I'm the "real" artist and this is the "false" artist. This is the "sellout." Sometimes, to me, it gets a little harsh and a little odd. When you look at other musicians, do you think in these terms?

BG: I personally don't. I think whatever somebody's writing is what they wanna write and what they think is cool and what they're into. I mean, why write something that you don't like just because other people want to hear it? I guess, you know, that's like taking Broken Hope and changing it so it can get on the radio and sell records for record labels. I mean, I think no matter what style of music you write, if you're happy with doing it, it shouldn't matter what other people think. I don't think anybody's "truer" or better or, you know, more popular than anybody else. It's all just what you wanna do.

MU: That word "integrity" gets floated around a lot. In your mind, is there such a thing as musical "integrity" and, if there is, how do you define that?

BG: I think there is. I mean, I don't know how to respond. I think that as long as the musician's playing something that they like, and they're not doing it just to do it and get popular. . . I mean, basically, writing music is writing music, and it's whatever the musician feels comfortable with and is having fun with. It shouldn't matter what other people think. If you're gonna start out in death metal and then all of a sudden go to a rock band and get popular and have people call you a sellout, I think that's wrong, because the reason that you changed and did the new style is because that's what you like doing. People grow, you know? People get older. People change what they like and just because you change styles or you wear makeup on your face and you didn't in the past and. . . I mean, it has nothing to do with your integrity as a musician. It just means that you like something new, and you wanna experiment with something new. I'm sure there's a lotta people out there that think I'm selling out on death metal by doing Em Sinfonia, but it's not that at all. I still like both. I like Broken Hope and Em Sinfonia. I like all kinds of music. It has nothing to do with integrity.

MU: In Broken Hope, Jeremy Wagner is your chief lyricist. Is that right?

BG: Yeah, he writes everything.

MU: Broken Hope has songs like "Necrofellatio" and "Decimated Genitalia." I mean, they're almost kind of funny and then in Em Sinfonia, you and Bunny are writing lyrics that are much more romantic. When you go from Em Sinfonia, where the lyrics are pretty serious, and go back to Broken Hope where it's more of a disgusting, tongue-in-cheek thing, do you think, "Wow, this is kind of corny?"

BG: Basically, I never got involved in the lyric writing with Broken Hope. In fact, I probably don't even know any of the lyrics to any of the songs besides some of the obvious ones, like song titles and stuff I don't really compare the two at all because Jeremy's been writing lyrics for Broken Hope since Broken Hope was started, and I just started writing lyrics for Em Sinfonia. Yeah, it's two different styles, two different styles of music and Broken Hope to me, at times, the lyrics and all of us in the band pretty much admit is kinda comical. It's just the way the band has always been. That's just Jeremy's style. I don't really have any opinions on it one way or another. Jeremy writes what Jeremy likes to write, and he's the lyricist for Broken Hope. Whether or not I agree with it is no big deal to me, because I've never really known any of the lyrics to the band. I mean, anybody that's listened to Broken Hope can, you know, pretty much attest that it's really hard to understand the lyrics to begin with. It's death metal. So, I don't really have one thought one way or the other about which one's better or, you know, how one makes me feel or not. If I wrote the lyrics for Broken Hope and then I wrote the lyrics for Em Sinfonia, I could see how I might have an opinion on both but, I don't know. . . I don't write anything for Broken Hope. If I did write lyrics for Broken Hope, they probably wouldn't be the way they are now. I'm a little bit more serious of a writer, when it comes to lyrics. I don't think I could write lyrics for Broken Hope and have it be Broken Hope.

MU: Sean does some violin on the new record. In the future with Em Sinfonia, do you want to maybe use a small chamber orchestra or something?

BG: I doubt it. I mean, it works for some bands. I think the direction that we're going in now is more straightforward. We're trying to get away from some of the atmospheric stuff. I actually don't even think it would be in our recording budget to come up with anything like that, either. Naw, I don't really see us going in that direction at all. It's cool, like I said, for some bands. It's really cool, but I don't think it would work with us. We're more straightforward.

MU: You said you're leaning away from the atmospherics. Would you rather be more guitar-orientated? Would you want more keyboards and more clean vocals?

BG: Well, what we're gonna do for the new stuff is we're gonna have - I shouldn't say get away from the atmospheric stuff. We're gonna still have stuff like that, but we're not gonna have, like, keyboard sounds. We're gonna have a lot less keyboard sounds. On the new stuff, there's piano, and synthesizer, and organ and crap like that. That works for us now, but I think now in the direction we're gonna go is more along the lines of sequenced sound effects where we're programming all of our new stuff on the computer, and we're writing all of our music to a click track and laying down all of the sound effects first and then writing the music around it. We're just leaning in the direction now of using sound effects rather than just keyboard passages. I think we wanna take the music and make it more straightforward than it is now.

MU: So, are you guys in the process of writing new music right now?

BG: We've already got four new songs worked out. We're constantly writing, constantly trying to improve. We wrote 'Intimate Portrait' over a year ago. It just took a while to come out, and we've been writing new stuff. We've had new ideas since then. It's not a vastly different direction, but it's definitely leaning less towards the goth sound. It's more towards the straight-up sound with the sound effects, not like sound effects as in, like, lead clips or, you know, stuff like that, but as in, you know, little subtle things in the background, you know, percussion-type stuff that go along with the drumming and keyboard effects, more or less, you know, more keyboard effects rather than, you know, actual keyboard playing.

MU: The guitar sound on 'Intimate Portrait' is very raw, very dry, kind of a throaty sound. On the next record, do you want to keep that sound? A lot of the more gothic-orientated bands have a slicker sound. Do you still want to keep that raw guitar edge?

BG: I think the new stuff we're writing more for guitars. We still have the heavy riffing with the raw sound, but we're adding a lot of different sounds to our guitars like flanges, and choruses, all kinds of different effects. Some of the riffs will have, like, instead of just a straight-up guitar sound, rhythm sound, it's got an effect on it. The new guitar sound that we're gonna use is definitely gonna have a lot more to it, rather than on 'Intimate Portrait' where it just has the straight-up rhythm sound and that's it.

MU: There are a few guys from Broken Hope that are now in Em Sinfonia, right?

BG: Just Sean. Sean was in Em Sinfonia before he was in Broken Hope. So was Larry. Larry's not actually in Broken Hope. He just played drums on the last album. We didn't have a drummer at the time.

MU: Do you have a drummer now?

BG: Yes, we do. His name's Jeff Bumgardner. He used to play in a band called Lead but, yeah, both those guys were in Em Sinfonia before Broken Hope. Larry just did the last album, and Sean joined to play bass for Broken Hope after we did the Broken Hope record.

MU: Speaking of Broken Hope, how do the other guys look at Em Sinfonia? Are they into it, too?

BG: Yeah, they're into it. They like the songs that we've written. They like the album a lot. I mean, it's not something that they listen to all the time, but they respect what we do and they think it's cool. They don't have a problem with me being in two different bands.

MU: You've got your own studio, and you've got two bands you're working on. Do you find it hard to juggle all three together?

BG: No, I get by pretty good. All I do is the studio and the band. I don't really have a hard time. When Broken Hope has a tour, I go and do that and Em Sinfonia understands when I have to do that and vice versa. When I'm working with Em Sinfonia, Broken Hope understands that. Broken Hope's at the stage now where we've been together for twelve years and it's not an everyday thing for us. It's touring, recording, you know, and writing, and that doesn't require all of our time. We all have separate lives outside of that, and I decided to fill up my separate life with music which, you know, I did with Em Sinfonia and the studio. But there's never really a problem, time-wise. I mean, I'm the guy in the band who always wants to do more. I wanna practice everyday. I could probably be in five bands and I'd be happy. I have too much time on my hands.

MU: Do you think you might want to take some of the elements of Em Sinfonia and include that in Broken Hope?

BG: No, the other guys won't have anything to do with that, that's for sure. They won't have no keyboards and stuff like that. I think the new Broken Hope's more going in the old-style Broken Hope, straightforward death metal. But, no, I don't think there'll ever be, you know, elements from Em Sinfonia used in Broken Hope.


review of Em Sinfonia 'Intimate Portrait'







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Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
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