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toroddfuglesteg View Drop Down
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    Posted: August 20 2010 at 13:43

Minstrel.... who ?

Answer: This RPI band is actually one of the highest rated bands in ProgArchives if the average ratings of their two albums is taken into account. Their two album is honestly excellent and Minstrel deserve a bigger audience in ProgArchives. 

I got in touch with their singer Mauro for their story and this is what he had to say. 


I believe ProgArchives biography on Minstrel is pretty accurate...

Thank you very much! I’m very happy to see on your website so many information about the band: it’s very important for us.

....But why did you choose that name and which bands was your main inspirations ?

Minstrel is an “hystorical” band of the Bergamo district (nothern Italy) born, as one can read in our biography, in far away 1991. At the time the group born as a cover act of many metal and progressive metal bands, Iron Maiden, Dream Theater, Whitesnake, Queensryche, Helloween among others. We needed a simple name, easy to recall and which was able to give a shot of the stylistic melting-pot we offered at the time: Minstrel was the natural result. Maybe for the public that started to follow us, or emotional link, or for idleness, the name remained the same.

The sources of inspiration are uncountable and changes as the years go by. Anyway, summarizing, every member had always the opportunity to bring in the band his musical inspiration, often opposite it the other’s. To have good results in our songs has always been difficult for that reason, we had to work to build a common code, that contains different ideas.

For example: when I (Mauro, voice and piano) write a song, I often have in mind the operatic harmonic solution and chant that I studied and teach. Giampaolo (drums) comes out from the jazz school with a cultural background of ‘80s – ‘90s progressive (Fates Warning, Dream Theater, Queensryche). Michele (guitar) adores the vibrato of Malmsteen and the touch of Jimi Hendrix. Alberto (bass for Ahab) comes from fusion and jazz experience.

…for all tastes!

Over to your releases. Please give me your (long or brief) thoughts and lowdowns on.......

New Life from 1997 

New Life (1997) was the first demo with a selection of songs from the band. In the tracks, choosen between the ones writed and arranged in about 3-4 years, you can hear the change of influence I stated above. In “Tell me why” you can find riff in Maiden-style; “New life” is the first suite-attempt, with a most rock structure rather than progressive (à la Savatage); “Alone with your shadow” and “Winter” are two semi-ballad that show some progressive reminiscence, in arrangements and use of complex time signatures; “Clocks of Chernobyl”, concluding, was our first attempt of prog piece. Listening to it now I can say that you already hear in it the theatral impact of our music: the structures was constructed with apparent theatral aim. Faust was about to born…

Is there any plans to re-release this cassette on CD/digital download or to release it's songs on other albums ?

Surely an interesting perspective, but not easy at all, I think the original master is impossible to find, you know. Our drummer, I guess, has some of the copies at home, that’s all. Anyway the music in that demo at some point can’t really be proposed, it has a big worth as personal memory, even if some good ideas were already there, Our record company asked us a copy for its archives, we’ll see if it’s worth to publish that material on cd.

Faust (2000)

Faust was recorded, mixed and burned in less than a week. We play the songs just once, with a few retouching, for the little time we disposed because of the budget. It was there that, if an other album ever come, we would have managed on our own. It was a luck that technology ITB helped us. Faust was an ambitious project, maybe too much ambitious for the means at our disposal, but we were driven by the youth spirit and the will to walk new roads. Many people liked this album: for the highly-theatical foundation, for the various voices in dialogue, for the baroque arrangement. We find that some moment are too pretentious, but on the other hand, we’re always too much self-critical.

To bring Faust live was really a big mess, above all because of the many characters involved. It was for this reason too that we decided that the next concept had to be a monologue!

Ahab (2009)

Unlike for Faust, the structure of Ahab was clear from the beginning: we know where we needed faster tempos, where to slow down, where to stop and where push up again. The song born on a precise plot and it wasn’t easy at all, although very fun, to ménage the dynamics! There are some common points with Faust: the narration of a classic, the use of Italian language, the music at the service of the theatral action. Many are the difference: use of heavy (almost metal) riffs, sound and production ménage in the American way, absence of dialogue. For listening Ahab after Faust you need to think that the two albums have 9 years in between, in which everyone of us did different musical research. More over, the spirits of the two main character are really poles apart: from that two poles-apart-album are born!

A producer, friend of mine, asked me, after listening to Ahab: “but…it’s still you?”. The answer couldn’t be but: “of corse WE’RE NOT! How can you be still the same after 9 years?”

Paraphrasing the great director Micheal Mann: don’t look where a man come from, the only thing that matters is where he’s going.

Both albums are concept albums if I am not mistaken. Please explain to us these concepts.

It’s easy: Faust is about the research of a man that for the longing of knowledge loose himself and his life, but after a so-called initiator travel, understand that the real life is not in finding the destination, but in keeping looking for it. Ahab is about the research of a man that for the longing of knowledge loose himself and his life, but he do this till the death, for him and for all his equip: and for such a behavior there’s nothing but damnation and death, even if for us there’s always a basic hope, as shows my son telling the rhyme at the end of the album…

How is your writing and creative processes ?

Every song has a creative process of its own, it’s difficult to give a list of the operation you accomplish. For Faust we wrote very much together, searching together common production ideas. For Ahab, instead, it has been a work of arrangement and production on various musical ideas coming from the band, made by myself and Michele, the guitarist. The reason is easily said: the group, practically, didn’t exist anymore. The members were following since a long time different musical ways, nevertheless in the years we collected a lot of material on the Ahab plot and for me and Michele they were absolutely worth publishing. The other members of the band helped us a lot in that, if not other for trusting in our work as artistic producers. There’s nothing else to say but: thanks, for this.

Most ProgArchives readers does not know your music. How would you describe your music to those here who are unfamiliar with your band?

Do not have any prejudice: Minstrel try pure theater using a music that follows always different musical codes, among all is progressive (sometimes rock, sometimes metal). William Dollace once said: “it needs few word to describe you: Dawn, Death! Dawn…” and in fact isn’t this corse of death and rebirth that we try to describe in our albums.

Does Minstrel play any gigs or are you a studio project ? 

As I said before, Minstrel are nowadays a disbanded group. Naturally we’re all in contact and our former bassist Marco (playing on New Life and Faust) is trying to pull us together again to bring Ahab in some theater in Bergamo. At the moment all it’s in develop, therefore I prefer answer that Minstrel are now a studio project.

Is any of the Minstrel members involved in any other bands or projects ?

Sure! Alberto plays bass with a fusion band called Modal Sound Trio (whose CD was published for BTF in 2008) and in an other jazz bands. Besides we work together in a band where only two rules are in force: we play only covers in acoustic way and we don’t have to rehearse! Michele and Gianpaolo are carrying a parallel project of classical rock music; and for me, I’m writing new material working with two exraordinary friends of mine: the writer William Dollace and the composer Francesco Maffeis, who’s the translator of this interview (thanks francé!) and also my regular organist/pianist when I sing classical repertory.

Well, we keep us busy!

Is music your main occupation or do any of you have daytime jobs outside the music scene ?

Noone of us works only with music. Personally it happens to me sometimes to teach lessons of musical analysis in high schools and I have a chair as singing teacher in Bergamo: but this, in Italy, is not enough for living decently with a family. All of us have a family and to work with music means to sacrifice moments we could live together.

What is your latest update and your plans for this and next year ?

On the Minstrel side there’s very little about. I’ll be waiting to see how the other prepare the eventual live for Ahab and if something happens we will surely make you know, even on these pages. Personally I think my own project will keep me busy for the next year. Now we’re at the pre production of the first tracks, all is raw, primordial. The expressive aims of the songs are clear and defined and this is already a good step.

To wrap up this interview, is there anything you want to add to this interview ?

We wish to thank the extraordinary work of everybody at Prog Archive and who found the time to write words and thoughts on our music on this portal and that through this portal have come to us, even writing us in private for suggestions, listening and discussion. I hope that this interview helps you to understand the reason that drive us to express our vision through music and I wish you all a good way, it’s all one need to make art. As said the marvelous Magritte: “the world is so totally and wonderfully senseless that succeed is not luck: it’s just pure art!”

Thank you to Mauro for this interview

and to Minstrel for their music

Their PA profile is here, their homepage here and MP3s (extracts) from Ahab is here 

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 20 2010 at 15:53
Bravo Torodd and bravo Minstrel, i love Faust!  Clap

Edited by Finnforest - August 20 2010 at 15:53

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 21 2010 at 03:46
Oh man, such a band!

To all readers (and others): get those albums!
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