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Secret Sphere - 2003 Interview with Ramon Messina

INTERVIEW: Secret Sphere (Jun 2003)
Ramon Messina reveals Italys secret weapon in prog metal.


When we think about and talk about Italian progressive metal, usually all roads lead to Rhapsody, or Labyrinth, such is their iconic status in that country. Well, another band has appeared on the horizon, looking to carve out a niche market of their own, and they have some high-powered resources behind them, in the shape of Nuclear Blast Records. The band are Secret Sphere, and they've just released a new album called 'Scent Of Human Desire' (which was reviewed last month in GLORY DAZE). We continue the European assault on all things melodic, by shifting our focus to Italy. So far we've been to France, Sweden, Spain, and Portugal on our tiki-tour for GLORY DAZE in the June issue. A trip to Europe surely would not be complete without a trip to Italy. Thanks to lead singer Ramon Messina for a few words.

Actually, you'll find Ramon mentioned elsewhere this month, as part of the French melodic metal band Alkemyst. Being the near neighbors that they are, Ramon (or Roberto as he is known to many others) is a member of both bands, and judging by his performance, you can hear why.

The current Secret Sphere lineup is:

Andrea Buratto - bass
Paolo Gianotti - guitars
Luca Cartasegna - drums
Ramon Messina - vocals
Antonio Agate - keyboards
Aldo Lonobile - lead guitars

We welcome Ramon to GLORY DAZE. Firstly, how about an intro of the band, where you are from etc. 'Thanks a lot George, and hello to everybody reading this. We're from the north of Italy, very near to the French border. I guess with the latest album 'Scent Of Human Desire', it is difficult to find a good comparison for Secret Sphere's music. We draw inspiration from a number of sources: Queensryche, Queen, Skid Row, and Guns and Roses, but we have a very original mixture of all of them within our music.'

I suppose that just because you're from Italy, it would be unfair to compare you to a band like Rhapsody, who move in a slightly different direction. 'We think we are very distanced from their style and their attitude to music' says Ramon. 'We respect it but it's not ours at all.'

At the moment, the state of Italian prog/melodic metal appears to be in good hands. Helped too no doubt, by a couple of handy labels representing the genre, in Adrenaline Records and also Scarlet Records. Secret Sphere perhaps represent that second tier of Italian HM, now starting to kick in a few years on from Rhapsody and Labyrinth. 'Yes, the scene here in Italy is still increasing, we hope to be a well known name in Italian melodic metal very soon.'

'Scent Of Human Desire' is the band third album ('Mistress Of The Shadowlight' (1997) and 'A Time Never Come' (2001) precedes it). But it is the band's first for Nuclear Blast. 'Yes, it has been a great deal for us, finally the possibility to get something out there which we've been promising for a long time. It's great to have good distribution, possibility of a tour, a video, but above all else, a label with honesty!'

Secret Sphere as can be expected, have improved on those early albums, and the band's lineup has remained stable throughout. I asked Ramon to compare the new album 'The Scent Of Human Desire' against the previous two. 'We started from a power metal base, a very personal sound admittedly. Then through into progressive power metal with some rock influences. Now we have developed to a very rich and creative sound with the new album. There is no apparent link among the three albums. I do know however that the very important guiding line for all of us in the band is that we have always worked with sincerity and passion. So no matter what kind of music we have played, we only compose what we feel is right, and have fun playing it!

Italian bands have this great tradition in applying classical influences throughout the power metal genre. Secret Sphere are no different, though they have moved away slightly from their harder origins, the classical threads remain but with some changes as Ramon explains. 'Now the style is quite different for us. However the classical influences are still present and very well arranged of course, as demonstrated by the careful orchestrations and piano parts for example. As a result there is more space to have riffs and something from American styled metal and rock coming in over the top.'

The new album 'Scent of Human Desire' sees the band cover a range of different styles (power ballad on 'Desire', thunderous metal with 'Still Here', melodic hard rock with 'More Than Simple Emotions' - with female vocals). Only a talented band like Secret Sphere can get away playing all these styles this well. 'All the bands which are 'feeling it' (i.e who are talented.. Ed) can play this sort of music. The important thing is to do what you want without being forced by a manager who wants to make you the new Rhapsody, or the new whatever.'

'In our case, we are the new Secret Sphere, and we are new with every album. As for Rhapsody, they can be a better Rhapsody than any band that tries to imitate them. What it all means I guess is that you can surely be better by just being yourself, from album to album!'

Though Secret Sphere are a rock band through and through, they are not afraid to experiment with other styles. They have shorter rockier pieces or atmospheric moments like 'Daylight'. Ramon prefers to call it open-minded!

As mentioned earlier, Ramon shares his duties with Alkemyst. This must present a scheduling issue for him, having to juggle time and resources to fit. 'Yeah it's not easy but I'll manage to do it. Secret Sphere are my priority as we already existed long before Alkemyst. But there were so many things to say from a songwriting perspective that I wanted to sing with Alkemyst on their new album as well.'

I asked Arnaud Menard this same question: are there any issues for you being an Italian in a French band, considering the competitive nature between France and Italy in all matter of things? 'No, I don't find this a competition at all' laughs Ramon. 'Alkemyst are travellers, from America to Italy, plus they are open minded being French of course. And, they speak better English than French!' he says with a bit of Italian humor.

And as the singer for both bands Ramon, what's the biggest difference between the two? 'With Secret Sphere it is an everyday thing' he says. 'I live with the other guys and we discuss aspects of Secret Sphere's activity every day. It is a part of my life, always present. With Alkemyst, we don't see each other so often but when we do it is like meeting an old friend. So I can say the main difference between the two is that one plays progressive power metal while the other (Alkemyst) plays melodic metal. There is a difference!'

Secret Sphere are scheduled to play the Prog Power USA event in early September. That should be a real 'eye-opener' for the band, and it will be their first excursion to the USA, playing alongside some of prog metals greats (refer the Ad in this issue of GLORY DAZE). It is intended to play some other events there too, if it can be arranged. 'Yes, we are in talks for other gigs there in the very near future, and we will enjoy this trip very much. It is a honour to play alongside the likes of Symphony X, Nightwish, Rage, Evergrey, and all the others who are on the bill.'

The band do have expectations, and as Ramon says, it is really to play their best, to meet many new people in the scene, and to have a great party!. Sounds great to me too, wish I could go! Perhaps next year.

Anyway, Ramon, congratulations on a great album. We hope your stay/relationship with Nuclear Blast is a profitable one, and that the upcoming gig in Atlanta is an enjoyable experience for you and the rest of the band. 'Thanks a lot George, all the best to you and GLORY DAZE. I enjoyed this short interview and hope to make another shortly. See you all soon! For those in the USA, see you at Prog Power USA!' Ramon and Secret Sphere.

Related Articles:

Secret Sphere - 2003 Scent Of Human Desire

Secret Sphere - Interview with Ramon Messina (Jun 2003)

Secret Sphere - 2005 Heart And Anger

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