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Interview with Myland
27 April 2011
(Interview with Hox Martino and Paolo Morbini by Alexandra Mrozowska)
Melodic hard rock might not be a genre with which we immediately start thinking about Italian music, and we still cannot talk about any serious revolution happening in the European rock scene yet. However, the increasing number of great melodic rock acts from Italy appearing recently might portend some future invasion in a way! Among such promising bands and projects as Edge of Forever, HungryHeart, Markonee and Shining Line, it is impossible to omit Myland. Formed in the early noughties from the ashes of some previous projects led by a drummer Paolo Morbini, the Milan-based band has recently released their third album 'Light of a New Day'. This fact itself was a great reason to catch up with the guys – Myland’s guitarist Hox Martino and a drummer and a band’s founder, Paolo Morbini – and take a closer look upon the band’s history, their current music activity and the plans they have for their bright future ahead.
Let's start from the band's beginnings - how did it all begin?
HOX MARTINO: Well, it all began when drummer Paolo Morbini and singer Guido Priori, together with some wonderful Milan based musicians teamed up to release Paolo’s first solo album in the early nineties. Then, after many years, they worked on the same material in the studio and released a self produced English version of the CD, ’The Time Is Over’, the first ever under the Myland monicker. The sales and buzz around this project were good enough to push Paolo and Guido to team up again and write some new song for a brand new CD released in 2008: 'No Man’s Land'. The album was definitely very successful and the rest is history!
What would you call the real breakthrough in the band's career?
HOX MARTINO: 'No Man’s Land' for sure: I guess that is Myland is still around right now is due to the success of that wonderful recording. When I got hired by the band I remember ‘No Man’s Land’ was right about to be released and although I didn’t play a note on that CD - apart from the bonus track in the Japanese version which eventually came out - I felt extremely proud to be in and have the chance to share with the guys a thin slice of their success.
Now a question to Paolo, specifically - on your official site it is said that Myland at the beginning was actually more of your project in co-operation with the other musicians, than a regular band. Did this situation change through the years? How do you perceive Myland now?
PAOLO MORBINI: Sure, things have changed. We’ve had a stable lineup since the end of 2008 when we recorded ‘When the Love is Gone’ for the ‘No Man’s Land’ Japanese edition, and this of course makes a big difference from how things used to be up to three years ago. Sure I’m still the leading the band, but sure now we can talk about a real band at last, and not just a studio project.
In 2006, you've released your first album, 'The Time Is Over'. As it was the debut album of the band, if you could turn back time now, would there be anything you'd do different on the record? As a few years gone by, how do you judge the band's first record?
PAOLO MORBINI: We’re still very proud of it. The overall production could have been better, of course, but money was tight, and it was more of a step to test waters than anything else. Still the songs are good, and have the right vibe. It’s pretty much 80s oriented, maybe our most 80s record ever, but we have to take in account that all the songs got written in the early nineties, when 80s music was still kicking major butt!
'No Man's Land' was your second album. How do you judge it, especially in comparison to the earlier material?
PAOLO MORBINI: 'No Man’s Land' was a huge, a terrific step ahead. The songwriting had enormously improved, production was perfect with some great international name involved as guest stars here and there. I must say that there’s really no comparison to be made with the previous material actually - 'No Man’s Land' is completely another thing.
There's been a couple of musicians guesting on the second album: Kee Marcello (ex - Europe), Tommy Denander. How do you hook up with the guys? Whom you'd like to co-work like this with in the future - any famous names?
HOX MARTINO: Yes, we got some guest stars playing solos or having duets with our singer in the Japanese version of 'No Man’s Land'. Back then I guess Paolo and Guido thought that it was a good idea to boost the buzz around the CD they were about to release. They got in touch with those big guns thanks to the web social networks. I think it helped a lot in terms on image. However for Light of a new day we felt that we would have never accepted having anyone playing something instead of us. There is our blood in those songs and the only way to bring special guests in would have been treading over our dead bodies! As you can see Myland made more than just a slight change over three years: from a ‘studio project’, by its nature always open to friends and guests, to a ‘real band’. No turning back. The only additional musician we actually had during recording sessions was Paolo’s girlfriend who happened to be in the studio while we were tracking the backing vocals on 'Flying Higher'. As long as Myland is a real band and has the power to make decisions about things like that we’ll go on this way. So, no more chances for guests, here! Kiddin’ of course!
If we talk about some future wishes, are there any producers you wish to collaborate with in the future? Who you'd like to see behind the soundboard as recording the fourth Myland album?
HOX MARTINO: Well, of course, all the Myland members! Because they are the only ones allowed to get into the studio during the recording sessions: we trust ourselves only, and that’s a fact! then I would like to have Marco Barusso doing the mix and Marco D’Agostino for mastering once again. Exactly the same people involved in our latest CD. No need to look any further when you finally ended up putting together such a winning team, right, haha?
Now let's move onto the newest record Myland has just released, 'Light of a New Day'. The first thing that strikes is the drastic line-up change that happened. How did this affect the recording of an album?
HOX MARTINO: Up to ‘No Man’s Land’ there were Paolo and Guido only, and they used to rely on session men to make things happen. Now we’re a band of five people who get equally involved in writing and arranging all the material. We had regular rehearsals to put together ‘Light of a New Day’. Four hours with no breaks once a week. It may appear not that much but the feeling was very good and we managed to end up having a new song in our hands most of the times when the rehearsal time was over! In about 20 weeks we had our songs done. Then we worked on lead and backing vocals for a couple of months, and finally we dedicated one month and some to the final arrangements and to the definitive lyrics. Furious times, but we really had a blast doing! The musical direction hasn’t changed that much compared to the previous albums. We wanted ‘Light of a New Day’ to sound powerful, dynamic, hard rocking as well as very melodic, with highly sophisticated arrangements. So I would say it sounds pretty close to the previous ones, but ‘with a twist more’, a twist that comes from the new personalities involved. The first difference that immediately comes to bear is the new vocalist, of course. Franco’s voice sounds very different from Guido Priori’s one. I’m not telling you Franco is better, he’s just different, and I think his warm, passionate and powerful style, with some notable blues influences really blends very well with our musical style. Then if you compare the recordings carefully you’ll find out that the new one has much more variety in terms of musical styles explored, and sounds a bit more aggressive too. Moreover, now we have two ballads, where the previous one only got a soft rock mid tempo. So yes, the new one definitely shows a bit more of variety and dares a bit more in terms of songwriting and arrangements. I guess we also made a little step ahead towards modern rock music here and there, though it’s still very much eighties oriented on a general point of view. Finally, as I said before, the main difference is that now you get a real band writing and playing songs.
What's your favourite songs off the newest record and which you're sure to include in your future concert setlists?
HOX MARTINO: We’re gonna play them all in any gig we’re doing: after all we’re the band who wrote them, and we wouldn’t ever accept to sacrifice one of those to let the old material in. Don’t get me wrong, we’re going to play songs off the previous albums as well, but if we have limited time on stage, like one hour or so, we’re gonna play songs off the new album only, that’s for sure. Talking about favourite songs ... well, we love them all. I think that the most challenging one by any means has been the ballad ‘Wherever You Go’. It was difficult to write, extremely difficult to arrange and a pain in the neck to play on stage giving it the right mood it deserves. When we had the chance to hear it in the studio after the master was cut, well, tears came to our eyes. It sounded so good that we couldn’t believe we had been able to do such thing! I really hope people will feel exactly what we felt when they have the chance to listen to the song. If this really happened we would be the luckiest and happiest guys in the world, because it would mean that our goal to hit the hearts of the people out there has been accomplished!
The newest CD is purely AOR, hugely inspired by the classic bands of the genre. Can you name the lyrical and music inspirations that shaped the sound of 'Light of a New Day'?
HOX MARTINO: If I had to define our style ... well, it might appear kinda crazy but I think this works well: think about having Van Halen, Sammy Hagar era, jamming together with Toto during their Isolation and the Seventh One era, and you’ll get a rather clear idea of what the Myland sound is all about! Lyric wise we didn’t relate to any particular band or artist. We just wanted our songs to be catchier than the ones we had on ‘No Man’s Land’ in terms of meaning. Often we got emails from the fans asking for explanation for this or that song off ‘No Man’s Land’ because they felt there was kind of a missing link to get the complete message, and we realized that their meaning seemed to vanish anytime we tried to catch it. So we wanted the new ones to have more focus and a clearer meaning straightaway: it is definitely easier to understand what we’re talking about now.
'Light of a New Day' is, in my opinion, one of the best albums of the year so far. As there's a coupla Italian groups into a polished kind of melodic hard rock/AOR, weren't you afraid of being compared to such acts as HungryHeart or Edge of Forever? It seems this genre of music is getting more popular in your country recently.
HOX MARTINO: Oh, thank you very much for the kind words! Well, Italy has always had a strong, though underground, rock/metal scene - unfortunately nobody, apart from a very limited number of bands – though I can remember of Lacuna Coil only now - really managed to get over that kind of underground status despite the great talents that our country was able to provide. I think we should put the blame on both ourselves as musicians - who always moved war each other to win nothing more than a sandwich and a beer rather than getting united to co-operate creating events and festivals to take the music scene to the next level - and the record companies, who have always been, and always will be absolutely unprofessional compared to the German, UK or US ones. The only successful bands coming from Europe main land are German: there must be some reason for this to happen, right?
In general, how do you judge both Italian and European music scene at the moment?
HOX MARTINO: As I said before, there was a time in Italy in which we thought that metal as a whole could have made it big in our country as well. It was around the early 90s. Then everything changed, and the rock/metal scene slipped back to the underground status I told you about before. It’s still very strong, with several great bands playing their hearts out and making outstanding CDs, but unfortunately the lack of professionalism which affects labels, venues, managements, local administrators ... it’s a drawback very difficult to get over for the bands. That being said, I must admit that bands have their own big faults as well. It’s pointless to fight each other while you could get much more supporting each other, right? I think in Europe things are way different: absolutely more professional. Business wise we have lots to learn and do to reach the level we can easily see in Germany or in the UK.
What are the other music activities you're busy with apart from playing in Myland? Please, tell us a bit about it.
HOX MARTINO: Actually some of us are involved in musical projects that have nothing to do with Myland, both in terms of people involved and in terms of music played: I think Franco Campanella plays in a post-thrash metal band and I’ve been playing in a Jazz-fusion quartet for 15 years. No other melodic hard rock side projects as long as we are Myland members. It wouldn’t be fair towards both the fans and our band mates.
What are your further music plans? A tour with Myland, or maybe another record to come?
HOX MARTINO: We already have several local gigs planned here in North Italy to keep the momentum high. Also, the guys at Point Music will do their best to book a few showcases in Germany for us. Nothing’s confirmed yet but we know we’re gonna have some serious support from their side for sure! Then in June we already booked for a wonderful open air festival in Banja Luka, Bosnia Herzegovina. Then we have some contacts for some gigs in Romania. We’ll see what happens! Check out www.mylandmusic.com and www.myspace.com/mylandrock anytime to keep you updated! Right now we’re working on a bonus track for the Japanese edition of 'Light of a New Day', whose offical release should be scheduled for May 2011! Of course we’re gonna do another album, but I fear it is really too soon to talk about this. We still have to recover from the recording session of our latest one! Hahahaha.
Is there anything you'd like to add in the end, maybe a few words to our readers?
Well, I would like to thank them all very much for the passion and for the great support towards good music. Hope they’ll listen to our record and let us know what they think!
Orazio ‘Hox’ Martino