Vanishing Point is a band I first came across on a trip to Melbourne with Sentinel Daily Editor, Scott Adams, as we ventured to the Victorian capital to see the one and only Iron Maiden play their first Australian tour since 1992 on the Somewhere Back In Time tour in 2008. Supporting these legends was an Aussie power metal band known as Vanishing Point. I was blown away by the symphonic yet powerful sound coming from these guys, they had a big expectant crowd in the palm of their hands as they worked their way through the brilliant set. Setting these guys apart from other bands in the genre was the amazing voice of their lead singer, Silvio Massaro. Tonight I am getting to chat with this amazingly talented singer about a number of things including their upcoming album – Dead Elysium, the new band members on this album, the current COVID-19 situation and the impact across the world, society, economy, mental health and whole range of things…
Despite the gravity of the situation Silvio is able to maintain a positive outlook on the whole situation as at one point he looks at the whole lockdown situation by answering “Well I guess it’s given me a bit of time to catch up on the things I’ve always wanted to do but never had the time.”
So onto it: “My name is Silvio, I am in a band, I’ve got a new album, let’s do it!” (laughing)
You have a new album, Dead Elysium out later this month and according to Sentinel Daily’s Ferry Templeton, it is an absolute beauty. I’ve caught a couple of tracks already in Salvus and the title track so am eagerly looking forward to the release. You must be excited for the release? “Mate, definitely excited for it. It’s been a long time coming for us, I think it’s almost six and a half years between releases. It’s been a combo of so many factors put in play that has held us back from releasing a lot sooner than what we would have liked to. But, yes, so ecstatic to finally release it at the end of the month. Feels good… Feels GREAT”.
You’ve recently signed with Octane Records who are releasing Dead Elysium, how did the change come about? “Prior to this release we had been doing most of the work ourselves with every release done in Australia. It got to a point for Chris (Porcianko, guitars) and myself mainly who do all that kind of work where we said, ‘you know what, let’s handball it to someone else who can probably do a better job than what we could’. It’s one of those things where you have to relinquish a bit of control to people who are capable of doing their job. After a while we got talking to the guys from Octane, who sounded like they were more than capable and we thought you know what for this release, let’s do it. We’ll hand it to these guys and see what they can do. It gives us a bit of time on our hands and have someone else help support the promotion of it to the masses. Apart from doing stuff like this of course”.
Can you run me through the writing process undertaken for this album? Was there anything different compared to previous releases? “Different in the way we wrote the album? This time around Chris has pretty much written most of the album. This was due to the fact that I had become pretty ill on a couple of occasions. I was hospitalised for some time, didn’t have the strength, or the ability to be working on any music or anything like that. That took a long time for me to get back up on my feet again. Once I did, I then suffered the loss of my father, he passed away and I was still in that process of healing when a year later my mother passed away. So in between copping all that I got sick again with something completely different. It was called a vocal granuloma, it affected my vocal chords, literally shut down my ability to sing for at least a year and a half. Part of that process recording the album was a lot different. Previous albums we were able to write it, jump in the studio and away we went without too much hiccups. But the last four or five years it’s been a battle to get it out. Very difficult”.
That really puts in context to how excited you were when I asked you that first question. I can understand that so much more now. Lyrically, what has been your inspiration for the album? Is there a particular theme or was that all through Chris as well? “The process going through all that, me going through the tough times and Chris writing all the music… There came a time when we were able to get together and just work on the vocal melodies and lyrics. That was pretty cool to be able to do that as I could really use my experiences over the last five years to influence that lyrical content that you’ll hear on this album. A lot of raw emotion being put into it, I guess we don’t really have a genre or style when we are writing lyrics. It’s generally our own experiences and what we’ve gone through that we put into it which is generally pretty raw at the same time”.
The band has a completely new rhythm section for this album (Gaston Chin (bass) and prodigy drummer Damien Hall), but listening to the couple of tracks the transition seems to have been seamless. How are the new guys fitting in? “They are fitting in really well. Gaston is a phenomenal bass player and really good at what he does. He impressed us pretty much in the first couple of meetings that we had with the guy. A very quiet and reserved fellow, but big on bass. We love that about him. Damien is a young guy, very talented. Can hit those skins pretty hard let me tell you. Very intelligent too. A Lot smarter than I am…(laughs). Having these guys join the band at such a late stage of recording and releasing the album, immediately they, well, they knew what the band was about before they joined the band so they knew the new music was going to be right up their alley. For us what was really important, first and foremost was that we got along well. That is really important too when you are looking for band members”.
I remember the first time I got to see you guys, way back in 2008 when you were supporting Iron Maiden on the Somewhere Back In Time tour. That was my introduction to you guys and I was blown away, I went home and bought all your albums. I haven’t been able to see you since then though I did get close in 2018 – I was actually at The Basement to do the photography for your gig that night, I’d shot the Battle Bard set before getting a phone call that my son was on his way to hospital so that put an end to the night, thankfully he ended up OK. What is the plan for touring once things settle down? “Well we did have shows planned and tentatively booked for the whole East Coast; Canberra was definitely there. Let me be honest, I really enjoy playing Canberra, it could be the venue, the people, it’s quite relaxed but I’ve always loved playing Canberra. When it’s all done and dusted, we’ll be back and playing everywhere”.
What songs off the new album can’t you wait to play live? “Apart from the two that you have heard, Dead Elysium and Salvus, Recreate the Impossible is one we’ve been enjoying playing in rehearsal. Those three are up there in the list, though one song I really enjoy is Free and also The Fall. Those are pretty cool songs to sing. I had to push myself a lot with this particular album. Having lost my voice, I had to retrain myself to be able to get back there and those last couple of songs really did push me to my limits. I was very determined to get back out there and get back to where I once was. You’ll hear it on those songs especially”.
That is cool as you have one of the most distinct voices in the metal scene in my view, when did you first decide you wanted to be a singer? Who was your inspiration? “I think I was around fourteen, I grew up listening to music and decided I wanted to be in a band. You know it’s one of those things when you are a kid you just dream of, so I picked up a guitar and tried to play but I was really crap at that. So I thought let me try drums and was pretty crap at that as well. I think I dabbled in bass for a few months and worked out I couldn’t do that either. I ran into a bunch of school mates who were much better at me on any instrument and they said they were needing someone to sing. I said well I can’t sing but I can give it a try and it just took off from there. I probably had one of the worst voices you ever heard as a kid and I just stuck at it. I reckon anyone can truly sing given enough time and effort and patience. I suppose that is the same for instruments, only difference there is I never had the patience to learn them. At that age my inspiration was bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Aerosmith. In the eighties those bands were at their peak, Blackie Lawless (W.A.S.P.) was one of those guys I tended to look up to a bit. Then your musical tastes tend to change and grow. Then when I hit the European scene there were a lot of bands there that I enjoy too. I just went with anything that sounded cool, I didn’t want to limit myself. I didn’t want to be pigeonholed with this particular sound”.
You guys have been around since 1995 in a challenging and changing environment, what has been the main ingredient of your longevity? “I think I’ve spoken about this with Chris, it’s one of the things that got me started with VP as well. When we kicked off it was about a bunch of guys getting together and having fun. There were no preconceived ideas, it was about getting together, that camaraderie, about having a good time. Coming together, having a laugh and at the same time creating some music. We’ve kept that as the main point throughout the years and that’s probably why we have been around for so long. People have got to have a hobby, that’s my opinion. Some people do sport, some people drive cars, we just do music. I put it down to that. Not expecting too much, just enjoying what you do. We’re investing in something we enjoy doing”.
So it’s not for the money or fame? “If it was for that we’d probably be pretty broke”… (laughing)
I’ve recently been to gigs in Canberra where the capacity is severely limited, and all patrons have to be seated. How much more do you see the music scene changing to get through the current pandemic? “I think it already has. We are seeing a lot more live streaming, more and more bands are trying to be more innovative with how they get their music out there. Whether it be in the form of lyric videos, video clips, the live content is a lot more on-line. You see it from all genres… Rock, Pop, even Orchestral music. I think the music industry as a whole has to collectively come together and try these new ways to get their music out there because people still need it. Mental health is huge and I imagine now with the current situation it is growing as people are locked up at home. For a lot of people music is what is getting them through. It is definitely one of those things we will be doing especially as we want to get our new music out there”.
I saw that the band is behind the Save Our Scene on Instagram, what can people do to help out here? “It’s one of those things where we do really rely on these venues not only to play live but to be the vehicle for the people to be able to come out and enjoy themselves and experience the music in a love scenario. We rely on them, not only the local bands, but there is a large contingent of international acts that come out. If the venues were to close it would mean the end of a lot of those smaller tours out here. We definitely want to back that as much as we can, not just for us but also for the people who love coming out and enjoying a live band”.
Silvio Massaro, thank so much for your time. Good luck with the new release, I’ll be grabbing a copy.
Dead Elysium releases on August 28th.