Wind Rose are perhaps less known in Italy, but they have already made a name abroad. I was able to appreciate their repertoire during a tour side by side with Ensiferum and Ex Deo (here’s the live report from the Vienna gig). Their affability allowed us to meet another time and to organize an interview focused on the topic of life on tour. Here is the background of the perhaps most satisfying experience for a musician, explained by guitarist Claudio Falconcini!
Dear Claudio, thanks again for your availability! So, tell me: three albums and three tours with bands like Ensiferum, Eluveitie and Finntroll. At which step do you consider your band is? In progress, established, at the beginning …?
I think we have not started yet. Or, better, it depends on what you mean with “to start”: for me, it means having an activity that allows you to move forward without major concerns, maybe doing something on the side to support it, but having it as your main focus. And at the moment, this is not the situation yet. We did it as a hobby, but at a certain point we wanted to do things seriously. We decided to leave our jobs and do a month and a half tour. Of course, there will be difficult times, because we earn some money but not enough. However, the prospects are good, because from now on we will have Maurizio Iacono (Kataklysm and Ex Deo’s singer) as a manager, which has suggested us to bite the bullet now and go further.
That’s why I say that we are at a starting point, although we have already done some tours. In the very beginning, no one counts anything and has to pay to join. This time with Ensiferum we didn’t have to do it and it was already a result. Until now, in a certain sense, “we’ve been joking” and now we start. Of course, there were a lot of expenses, also because we had a separate bus, but traveling with Ex Deo’s backline we spare a little.
We traveled with Finntroll and Eluveitie… but it’s something that anyone who wants to invest can do. This system is called “pay to play”, but after all it is the audience who decides if you’re worth something.
Interesting! Can you explain to us how a tour is created, and in particular what are the steps to do? On a personal level, when did you come up with going beyond the premises of Pisa and surroundings?
It happened in 2013. We had just released the first record and it was clear that the few people who listened to it liked it. We decided to invest in the project, so I looked for some support dates to some bigger bands. I found three of them in Spain with Wintersun. On that occasion, we also met the Spanish local promoter, Juan Antonio, who then called us again two years later with Ensiferum for seven other dates in his country. As soon as that, it was no longer a “pay to play” service. We met Ensiferum again in Japan. There, someone proposed us for this tour with them and Ex Deo.
But, more generally, it works like this: every band has a booking agency, the biggest are Rock Nation and Continental… they contact the local promoters by sending the band’s promo, mentioning if you have an album that is about to come out. The local promoter then contacts venues. Depending on the interest, you sketch the tour with all the interested places and dates. The next step is to choose support and guest bands. In the case you have seen, both bands together with Ensiferum were guests, so we both were part of the tour. Usually, you see more support bands, which maybe have to pay.
I do not regret this system, however, because it works and is an advantage for those who still have nothing to offer, not yet. Moreover, these bands join dates which are just done and finished. The least one can do is to pay for this service.
And anyway there’s a selection, I guess …
Of course, we sent our promo. It’s quite simple to get it, but you have to play in an acceptable way and not be too out from the main genre. Obviously, this stuff does not have fixed rules, I’m speaking about my experience.
And there are also the technical details, which I think are also interesting. For example, the biggest bus rental companies are German, so usually all bands fly to Germany and from there they leave by bus. Some start from Poland. There are no companies in Italy, however, and it would’t worth it. In fact, we were on two buses, one German and one Polish. Ours was the smaller, just for the five of us and the driver.
Then there are those who have a crew followint them, and those who don’t. The merchandiser can be in common or not. The main band also brings the mixer along and you notice it when at the end of the show everything is empty and the light management desk is also taken away. There may also be those who manage the monitors. In short, there is a lot of technical organization. Both Ex Deo and Ensiferum had a fairly large crew.
But as always, there are advantages and disadvantages, also in doing a tour… speaking in terms of numbers (on Facebook or other platforms), what did this tour involve?
We left with 41.000 and returned with 44.000. It’s not bad, even if not colossal. The boom actually happened with the “To Erebor” clip. Just 50 seconds of video, but it became viral and we had 1 million views. Then I invited manually every user, one by one, to take a look and put a like on our Facebook page. Of course, we must take into account that those are not the real fans, the two figures do not match. However, it suits us to have a page with many fans. Consider that in May 2017 we went from 7.000 to 24.000 in five days, while we reached those previous 7.000 in seven years. Exponential! But since we didn’t make statements on the new album now, the numbers are remaining quite the same, but it is absolutely normal.
However, for a band like us the difficulties are around the corner, because you have to bear so many responsibilities, without a tour manager who can fix all for you, like breakdowns or mix-ups. For example, it happened that the vehicle broke after the tenth date, and fortunately the driver – who was also the owner of the company – managed to send another bus and not let us lose the date. He practically acted as our tour manager by finding this solution, but he didn’t have to!
Then we were even robbed, during this tour… only personal items, because they stole from the bus and not from the trailer. But it would’t have happened to a big band. Big bands have more drivers and go on until the end, while we had to stop and sleep in a service area.
For big bands the question is different. The main problem is being constantly away from home: if you have a family and another type of life, things get complicated on a personal level. Other issues have been overtaken.
These are the difficulties, and concerning disadvantages… the truth is that for a band like us there are no disadvantages! You only have to gain from it. There is only the economic disadvantage if you have to pay for it. Of course, it’s harder to write new songs in the meantime, especially for us because we had to do everything without having a crew. But if you have it then you can write, with more focus and time. Some say it could be done after the concert… but you are already five people who have to take a shower, and then we still have to go to the merchandise to make ourselves known and to become familiar with the public.
This is true not only for smaller bands, in fact even Ex Deo / Kataklysm and Heidevolk are very “fan friendly”… and I think this will please those who follow them.
But let’s talk about memorable episodes instead. What can you tell us?
In general, it was a quiet tour. Clearly, we had fun because it’s great to be among friends. We will remember that someone robbed us, of course.
And the “Power Metal Friday”… that we will remember! It went like this: Ensiferum decided to create this particular day of the week… in which everything’s like any other day, where one drinks in the same way, with the difference that he has only to listen to power metal! It was fun also because our bassist played for two quite well known bands in the power scene, Vision Divine and Labyrinth. Some people in the crews really liked these two bands and so they always called us to join the party. The problem is that we are not strong drinkers like the Finns! So at one point we had to escape them, otherwise we would be smashed up! This day became basically a must of the tour even though it was not anything special!
But then there was a special moment for us only, so not with the other bands. We were on a camping site in Switzerland, on Lake Constance. We had the camping spot right by the lake, so we brought chairs and a table. We stayed there with music and Polish vodka. Three hours in silence, enjoying nature.
We talked about difficulties on tour… can you explain the difference between tours and the single dates?
Well, it would be much more comfortable to make only two dates a week – and if you have a family, it would be really better – instead of having 40 show in a row. But obviously economic and logistic issues are involved in the choice. A really huge band like Nickelback comes to my mind: they obviously do what they like, with dates spread across the continents. But those are stratospheric levels, while all the others must adapt.
How is it possible to balance a musician’s life and the everyday one? Is it really feasible?
I think a musician has two totally different lives to cultivate. When you’re on tour and when you’re not on tour. The transition from non-tour status to the tour one is easy, implying a lot of fun. The real problem is when you come home. In our situation, you have to ask yourself a few questions. Personally, I was not really attached to my job. I graduated in computer engineering and I worked for a year as a coder… and day after day I realized that it was not my life and next thing I know, it was time to leave.
It’s absolutely not a piece of cake to manage both lives well. Just think about the fact that it is not easy to achieve stability in a normal life… so when you have two lives it’s even worse! On tour there are no thoughts… at least, I am a person who usually thinks a lot, and on tour I feel very different. It’s a bit like moving out and leaving everything behind. On tour I feel free and without too many obligations. Instead, at home you are as you really are. As I said, the two lives are different and not easily reconcilable, especially if you go back to work in a different field…
Personally, as long as I’m working with the band I will not be an employee in a company. First of all, because I don’t like it, and then because I would like to succeed in graphics, with websites and t-shirts… which I can manage even while on tour.
Only Francesco (the singer) and Federico (the drummer) had fixed jobs in warehouses. But having all the same passion we knew that sooner or later it would be time to leave our jobs. Now Federico will follow the musician’s standard with singing and drums lessons. Francesco will start recording vocal tracks for other bands. Cristiano holds bass lessons. Federico is finishing electronic engineering and in the meantime he gives private lessons. So everyone is setting his life in his own way.
In your opinion, what should a band aim to, to bust into the music business?
The most important thing is always music. But now, as there are so many musicians and it is less expensive to produce… the thing to take care of is your look. It’s not the most important element, because if you have the look but not the music, you have nothing, buti it must be taken into consideration.
It has to be something original, in both areas. Of course, with original music I don’t mean doing something that has never been done before because it is impossible. Eventually, you can do as Igorrr, which uses all kinds of music and puts them in his songs… but another way is to seek originality in standard things. If the ear perceives something as simple, even if behind there’s not a standard arrangement or harmony, it works. We must put ourselves in the role of the average listener who perhaps does not appreciate certain technicalities. Obviously, I’m talking about melodic genres, not in genres like death metal. Even in that field you can break through, but not with “catchy” songs. In this case, the messier, the better.
Speaking about the image, there’s more freedom. In my opinion, going on stage with shorts and black shirt is a thing only for well-established bands by now. Or, you need to stand out to give a different impression, as in the case of Kataklysm and Ex Deo: with the latter, all of them have very well-groomed looks, while with Kataklysm they go on stage as they were dressed during the day. It is what requires their music, a “no-frills” style. We play music “seriously”, but our look can be a bit playful, and that is used to catch fans who do not listen to metal. Many have misjudged us for this, wondering why we dress like that. In part they are right, but for our genre and our contents we need something remarkable to convey the message. It’s not just a matter of marketing, which of course there is, but it also gives you a stronger impact.
Which are yourfuture plans? Do you have something already planned?
As I mentioned before, the real news is that we are with Maurizio. He will be our manager and this is excellent news. Then we are writing the new album, so for a while the promotional phase has slowed down. We will write, record a new product and then go! We should record during fall, we are currently in the demo phase. We have to add another 4-5 songs. In short, the new album should be released in 2019.
And we are not moody artists, it’s not that if you do not get inspiration, nothing is done. We want to work on this thing, so we need to get down and write. Of course, there are people in the environment like Wintersun who take eight years to write something, but they are simply brilliant.
It is usually Federico who writes, but everyone’s hand is needed. And if one is not in a creative mood, another takes over. This is how we work: in a group.
Thank you very much for having explained this part of the musical world, Claudio! I wish you all a good job and I hope to meet you again, maybe on the occasion of a new tour!