April 29th, 1666
SIGMA - WIN OR LOSE
SIGMA - WIN OR LOSE - SHARK
Milan-based Sigma is a band comprised of veterans of the Italian hard rock scene, but the band now has secured a new lease on life with a recording contract with Shark Records and a brand new album called Win Or Lose. Sigma's drummer Andrew Dal Zio contacted Ali "The Metallian" in order to discuss the band and the concept album. - 15.12.2003
METALLIAN: Andrew, let us go back. The band was formed as a result of a name change. Why was the name Sigma picked?
ANDREW: Thank you very much for the chance to speak with you. At the time we decided to change the band's musical direction and some other elements of the band, we also decided to change the name from Love Machine to Sigma in order to give a more accurate sense of what we wanted. I mean, we cut off a fantastic period of our musical lives because the 'dress' had become a little too small! We grew up with old Helloween, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Ozzy which allowed us to give a maximum of power and energy to the fans, but we also grew up with Motley Crue, White Lion, Dokken and Scorpions which gave us a more melodic stock in our composition. At the end we tried a mix of all these elements, plus the modern technical playing style. We mixed, mixed and mixed and here we are. We know that we didn't discover the mix, but at the end we try to express, as best as we can, our emotions, feelings and atmosphere.
Why the name Sigma? Because, while doing research, we found a tale that spoke of a man who carved the symbol on a stone and the day after the symbol had changed colours and luminescence and even disappeared. People ascribed to this sign a meaning including an appearance by Zeus. So from that day on 'Sigma' had the connotation of power and fantasy. We thought that 'power and fantasy' were the right adjectives to describe us.
METALLIAN: Can you give the readers a little more on the history of the band? Despite the band's output, Sigma is not a well-known name.
ANDREW: I know, but we are working to increase our recognition. The band was formed by musicians who weren't newcomers to the metal scene since we had all been playing for more than ten years in the famous Italian hard rock band Love Machine. We had recorded three albums, done important support shows for Saxon in 1995, Gotthard in 1996 and WASP in 1997.
Then the idea of Sigma began to take shape. The then-vocalist Val Shieldon joined the band in the following January and we started to write the material for our first album. Eleven powerful songs plus a cover of the song Maniac, from the soundtrack of the movie Flashdance, were composed in the September of that year. Sigma then signed a contract with Athreia Records at the end of the year and began recording the album at Rodgers Studio in Mantova in Italy with Dave Rogers as producer and Fabrizio Giruzzi as executive producer for Athreia Records. The year 2001 was devoted to live appearances. Tour Of The Kings was our first set of dates as a support band for the famous Italian band Labyrinth. In June Sigma opened the Gods Of Metal festival, a challenge for the band which conquered the festival hands-down in front of a very warm and receptive audience. For the rest of the year, Sigma continued to give different gigs in different places throughout Italy. We started composing a new album inspired by the novel I Promessi Sposi by the famous Italian writer Alessandro Manzoni at the beginning of 2002. Unfortunately Val Shieldon had to leave Sigma for personal reasons which marked the beginning of the band's long quest for a new singer who was good enough to interpret our songs with the right feeling and the emotion that emanates from the music.
We then met Anthony Pecere who had sung in other bands of the Milan rock, metal, progressive scene. We were taken by Anthony's voice which perfectly suited the heavy metal style, as well as his hard-working attitude. We, furthermore, decided to produce our work ourselves at the Love Music Center in Milan.
METALLIAN: While we are here, can you name any previous bands you have been in?
ANDREW: There is not so much to say because you would have to remember that I am 33 and I have been playing with Love Machine since I was seventeen-years-old. Even though at the beginning we were called Bad Customs and then Thunder 7 before arriving at the name Love Machine.
I was a guitar player since I was ten-years-old playing in a church band. Then I played the bass guitar in a band called The Cyclon and in 1983 I started to play drums in a band called Black Line. I then played in another band called Sharada, but only for six months because I decided to join the band that became Love Machine.
METALLIAN: Can you address Val's departure more specifically?
ANDREW: Unfortunately, Val had many personal impediments - I mean in his private and family life - to go on working with Sigma. These factors lead to his changing his ways because he was a little under stress. In order to be responsible he decided to leave the band as he wasn't able to manage everything. He had to travel 100 kilometres to Milan every time which did not help. You have to know that Val was, and still is, a great friend for all of us and we have a really great relationship.
METALLIAN: Can you address your new album's concept and lyrics?
ANDREW: Well, it is not easy to explain 875 pages of story, but I will try!
Fundamentally it's a troubled love story between a guy, Renzo as described in the song Aria Of Vendetta, and a girl called Lucia, see the song S.O.S., who wonders where Renzo is and how their love will progress while she is at a convent, as a guest, escaping from one Don Rodrigo. In the convent there is a nun who chose to become a sister because her family wanted to marry her to a man she didn't love. This is in the song Lady Of The Tempest. Then there is the classic bad character who doesn't want Renzo and Lucia in love and doesn't want to see them married. He is Don Rodrigo, the mighty master of the town, and his story is narrated in the song Win Or Lose. There is also a priest called Don Abbondio and his song is called Tears. He is walking at dawn, near the shores of the lake, because he is going to see the master of the castle - see the song The Lake - and he doesn't know if he has to follow his master's wish i.e. God's wish and help Renzo and Lucia to get married or the wish of the chief of the town. There is also the mother's love for Lucia. The mother is Agnese and her part is in the song I Live If You. Furthermore, Cristoforo is another priest who before becoming a priest had killed a man for pride. The only salvation for him, aside from dying was to hole himself up in a church as a person who had to renounce his past life, but ultimately this way he finds his rightful place and quiet state in a religious lifestyle. This part can be found in Pride And Forgiveness.
We also have the first soldier and friend of Don Rodrigo. His name is Griso and he appears in Eagle's Den. Griso understands what has happened and leaves the castle and leaves Don Rodrigo alone. The album doesn't just address the story directly though, it also talks about the historical period. One can find songs about the plague, the great disease we experienced in Europe back then, for example. This story-line can be heard on New Brave World. Then other situations like the poor people of that period who had to fight, kill and maybe even die for a piece of bread can be heard on a song like The Bread And The Iron. The happy final song is a composition explaining that the couple marries each other like in a fairy tale. It is called Betrothed.
It was a difficult process, but we did it!
METALLIAN: Does the album have any standouts for you?
ANDREW: There are a couple. Eagle's Den is one. During the recording of its vocal parts we decided to record in a more theatrical fashion. We had imagined that this man called Griso, who is the right hand of the evil chief of the town in the story, was speaking with all his men in an inn proudly of their actions. He started to announce that they have to go. So we tried to record the different voices on this track. This includes the ones who speak and the ones who answer.
The Blind Man is another one. The story talks about a man who has been a bloody bastard for his entire life. He is rich and without any kind of compassion for anyone, but at the end he found his way through a conversation under the holy God's sight. We tried to find out his sentiments and we tried to include them in Anthony's interpretation through that man's thoughts, including who this man was and who this man becomes.
Having said that, there aren't any stand-outs for me. Actually and to be honest, I surely would like to revisit two of the songs for rearrangement! I am talking about New Brave World and Aria Of Vendetta! They should possibly feature different details and sounds if possible.
METALLIAN: A personal favourite on the album is the title-track. Why is this song sometimes called Win Or Lose and sometimes Win Or Loose?
ANDREW: I like all the songs on the album, but the songs I like more than others are The Lake, Tears, Pride and Forgiveness and Aria Of Vendetta. Regarding Win Or Lose... ah... good question! I have to tell you the truth without any excuses! I did all the graphics artwork for the package and the booklet. At the end of the process I thought that I used the corrected English text files, but apparently I was somehow confused among them and at the end, when I sent the masters and the graphics CD to Shark Records, that was the result. They trusted in my job and printed it as sent. At the end, it is not a problem. I committed a mistake and I will pay for the consequences. We have agreed with Shark to re-do the films and the printing for the next pressing. That's all, I made a mistake. It shouldn't have happened, but it did (laughs).
METALLIAN: The worst aspect of the album is the Abba cover version. Why do yet another cover version and why this song?
ANDREW: To put a cover version was a game for us. We are not interested in what the market says about it. Why S.O.S? Because it is a song that talks about a girl who asks where her lover is and there is a passage inside the I promessi Sposi book where we can find similar sentimental questions. So we decided to insert it into the album. I am really sad to hear that you don't like it like we do!
METALLIAN: On another note, how did the contract with Shark come about? The label does not have a particularly good reputation.
ANDREW: We did a promo demo for Win Or Lose and sent it to the records companies, using Love Music Center Promotion of Karin Evin. We chose the best contract when the replies arrived. Then, and after the management of the details, we signed with Shark Records. Referring to what you said about Shark, I can't answer you in a concrete way. I can just say that I didn't know if Shark had a bad or good reputation. I can say that speaking with the managers of the company we found the right attitude for working together. So we did it! I don't want to seem like a boot licker, but I am sure that this relationship will go well.
METALLIAN: What hit me the most regarding Sigma while listening to the CD was the band's unique sound.
ANDREW: Do you think so? Really? I take this as a really good compliment!
We tried to incorporate many instruments and not only the standard five. We brought in a computer and 35 orchestral elements, taking care of each single one. You know that the more frequencies you use, the more difficult it is to mix them together and to put one with the others you have to sacrifice some of the frequencies in each instrument. We did a detailed job for each track on the mixer. Perhaps to arrive at this kind of mix was the right consequence of this kind of work. I personally think it's clearer in the higher frequencies because 35 orchestral elements give a lot of low sounds. To hear all of them well we did a post-production mastering to make things a little more clear.
METALLIAN: Changing topics again, what is the band's immediate and future plans?
ANDREW: We except to do everything that is necessary for the album's promotion. We are also working in our rehearsal room preparing for shows, because we will be on tour in Europe in March and April. We are also preparing some new material destined for the next album.
METALLIAN: Any details on the tour you mentioned?
ANDREW: No, not yet. I can't give you any details because the booking agency is doing the lineup so we have all to wait, but as soon as we get it we can give you the details.
METALLIAN: Here is something peculiar, the band is Italian, the management is French and the website is registered in the United Kingdom. Are we missing something or are you the pride of the European Union?
ANDREW: ”¦and the record company is German (laughs). For the fact that we are Italian I can't give you a particular answer (laughs again). Our great relationship with Karin Evin started during the Labyrinth tour, as we got to know Karin during one of the gigs. She started to contact us by mail, by phone and she started to give us a hand in organizing all the things a band needs to play. She began to work for us for the promotion of the Promo-CD and now she is our personal manager and promotion company!
The site is UK-based, because we enjoy having it with the .uk at the end. It seems quite distinguishing!
METALLIAN: Speaking of locations, is the band supportive of AC Milan or Inter Milan?
ANDREW: I, Andrew, support the black and blue Inter! But try to peek into Frank's personal page at www.sigmaonline.co.uk/frank.htm and you will notice that some of us have other points-of-view!
METALLIAN: Thank you for speaking with Metallian. Do you have anything to add?
ANDREW: Well, the message is that we would like to come to play in Canada and I hope that we will do it. Maybe if any of the readers want Sigma in Canada, they can get in contact with Karin through Metallian and organize a tour for us here! We surely will come. I know it's impossible because the costs are really high, but I also think that the impossible things are the best things to try to do because if you win, the satisfaction is incalculable and if you Lose then you can say that you tried to do it. So at the end... win or lose!
Speaking of Canada... I will admit that I have never been there, but I would like to be so lucky to get there because everything I have seen in movies, on TV or at the cinema regarding Canada has made me go, 'wow it is a really great and green country of nature!'
I think that every person, once in his life, should be able to see these kinds of natural wonders. Speaking about Canadians... I just had a really deep but short relationship with a Vancouver girl and, believe me, it was Fantastic if you know what I mean.
Thanks again for your support!
Andrew already made mention of the band's web site so anyone interested knows where it is. The band's - Frank, Andrew, Anthony, Pasco and Max - album Win Or Lose is now out through Shark Records. One can buy the album Win Or Lose directly from the band. Please contact Karin Evin at firstname.lastname@example.org. MP3s are also available on-line at www.sigmaonline.co.uk.