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10 Quick Ones with DAVIDE TISO from HOWLING SYCAMORE – December 2017

According to a recent press release: “Multi-talented guitarist and producer, Davide Tiso (Ephel Duath, Gospel of the Witches), recently announced the formation of his new extreme progressive metal outfit, HOWLING SYCAMORE. The band features the seasoned talents of Watchtower and Dangerous Toyssinger, Jason McMaster, and drumming sensation Hannes Grossmann (Necrophagist, Obscura). The album also features special guest performances by Bruce Lamont (Yakuza, Brain Tentacles) on baritone saxophone, plus Kevin Hufnagel (Dysrhythmia, Gorguts) and Fester (Burials, Humorous) on guitars. HOWLING SYCAMORE will release their self-titled, stunning, avant-garde extreme progressive metal album via Prosthetic Records on January 26, 2018. Pre-orders for the album in digital, compact disc and limited edition silver vinyl LP formats are available here: http://smarturl.it/howlingsycamore”  We get Davide to answer our 10 Quick Ones about new music, his influences, and more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets the band put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

My latest release is the debut self titled album of my new band Howling Sycamore. I guess that, due to the experimental nature of this music, and being this the band’s first album, a few listening are necessary to get into the project and yes, there are hidden nuggets here and there to be found. Howling Sycamore started in June 2016 when I was asked to write guitars for the extreme metal band of an acquaintance. The drums parts for the project were already recorded, with defined structures and accents. Having only drums to rely on forced me to use a completely different point of view when writing my parts. The material composed pleased both parties but it didn’t really fit with the project it was intended for. I felt that the songs could have grown into a much more ambitious project and I decided to use those guitars to start my own band. Having the guitar ready, at first it was a matter of finding the right drummer to lay down solid foundations for the songs. After few weeks of scouting, I approached the amazing Hannes Grossmann (ex Obscura, ex Necrophagist) to play drums on the album. When contacted Grossmann was excited about the project and ready to learn the material. After a few weeks he started recording at his own studio, Mordor Sounds, in Nuremberg, Germany. Once I got the final drums I wrote the bass parts based on the drums’ feel and re-arranged some of the guitar parts. Scott Evans (Antisleep Studio, Oakland, CA), who was involved in every step of the production from the early stages on, had the idea to contact the ex-Watchtower singer Jason McMaster. McMaster accepted to sing for the band after listening to a guitar and drums preproduction. It took approximately a year to rework and record the album, during this time some special guest musicians had the chance to contribute to the songs: Bruce Lamont (Yakuza, Brain Tentacles) on baritone saxophone, Kevin Hufnagel (Dysrhythmia, Gorguts) on guitars, Fester (Burials, Humorous) on guitars.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I was in high school, I got invited to a birthday party. Not many other kids showed up. A younger kid I barely know said out loud “shall I go home and pick up my amp and guitar?”. Everyone present in the room cheered up. The kid came back after few minutes with a white Washburn and a 40w Marshall combo. He plugged the guitar in the amp and started playing some metal riffs. That was the moment I felt I needed to become a guitar player. My whole world changed that night. The morning after I was at this kid place, learning how to hold the guitar pick. He started giving me lessons on a classical guitar, few months after I got my first electric guitar and the same 40w Marshall combo he had. We eventually finished forming Ephel Duath together.

3. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Let’s do four. Here are the four guitar players that probably influenced me the most:

  • Robert Fripp: the master of appealing dissonance. I learned so much about guitar just watching videos of Robert Fripp’s hands while playing.
  • Tony Iommi: the heavy metal guitar player. The godfather of the heavy metal riff. Every metalhead is in debt with Mr. Iommi. What a touch, what a sound, what an incredible riff maker.
  • Chuck Shuldiner: the man that brought technical guitar playing into death metal and created a new path for the whole scene itself. RIP.
  • Gustavo Santaolalla: this gentleman’s soundtracks have open my eyes about what a simple guitar arpeggio can do. This phenomenal musician can bring me to tears playing only five notes.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be?

Michael Gira. I would love to go in a studio with Michael Gira, press record and just play with him. Or, if that day Michael doesn’t feel like playing, I would just be equally happy to have him as a producer.

5. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before?

Howling Sycamore born from the stubborn will of putting together extreme metal drumming, layered, down-tuned guitars and old school prog metal singing.

6. What’s the best thing about being a musician?

Being able to channel different emotions in any art form is such a cathartic experience, I wish everyone had the chance to experience it. I’m proud of myself for caring enough to figure out early in life which was the art form I was more naturally inclined to. It has been pure joy ever since. Life can be so hard at times but music is always there to lift me up, even from the deepest holes I fall into. That to me is the best thing about being a musician: to have such powerful ally at my side.

7. When the band are all hanging out together, who cooks; who gets the drinks in; and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

This is the first album we did with this formation, and it was done sending files one another. I’ll probably be able to answer this question when’ll get together to play live.

8. If you weren’t a musician, what would be your dream job?

Sound engineer. My dream job would be owning a studio and record bands all day but I guess this is still a musician related kind of job so I should pick something different. When I was a kid I wanted to be an architect, I wanted to project houses. Sometime I wish I had pursued that career but truth is that at a certain point in my life music took over pretty much everything, including my studies.

9. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over”?

It was 2005, Mike Patton wrote me an email saying: “your label sucks”. He was interested in signing my band to his own label, Ipecac Recordings. Some members of my band didn’t feel comfortable jumping ship, mostly for fear of the possible repercussion: trying to get out from one of those 5 album record deal can get tricky. I felt like respecting my bandmates point of view, I wrote to Mike saying I had to refuse his offer. I think that was the biggest mistake I did in my career thus far. Signing that record deal could have given us the chance to open some doors into the experimental scene and probably start some interesting collaborations.

10. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

I would have loved to be a fly on the wall during the self-recorded, one day long session of the haunted Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen. That album has such an unique vibe. A very successful mainstream rock artist close himself in a room to record on a four track demos of the darkest songs of his career. He then try to re-arrange the songs with his world class backing band and eventually give up because the vibe is not there. Somehow is able to convince his major label to release the demo as it is, including chair cracking noises and background interferences risking a total commercial flop. How beautiful is that?

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10 Quick Ones with DAVIDE TISO from HOWLING SYCAMORE - December 2017

Filed Under: Interviews

About the Author: ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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