2010 has been a landmark year for guitarist extraordinaire Francesco Artusato; within months he joined forces with California’s extreme metal powerhouse All Shall Perish and released his debut solo album Chaos And The Primordial. The new release is a reflection of Francesco’s growth over the past years both as a composer and guitarist, showcasing dense, rich layers of melodies and some of the most articulate playing in the business.
Guitar Messenger is proud to have worked with Francesco over the past few years – check out his column titled ‘Technical Difficulties.’ We recently caught up with Fran at the Worcester, MA stop of his tour with All Shall Perish as part of Summer Slaughter 2010:
IC: You recently joined All Shall Perish. Can you tell us how that came about?
FA: It all happened very quickly – I got this email from the previous tour manager of Divine Heresy. He saw me play about a year ago at a show, and he asked me: ‘Do you want to try out for All Shall Perish?’ I said: ‘Well, of course.’ So he got me in touch with their manager.
He sent me some material and told me: ‘Do videos of all of the most challenging parts.’ I did it, and they were really happy. He sent it to the band, and then a couple of days later I was in Oakland – I jammed with the band. I was hanging out with the band and everybody was cool, we were talking and having fun and playing. So that’s how it all started.
IC: Replacing the previous guitarist Chris Storey was a big gap to fill in the minds of devoted All Shall Perish fans. How have they been receiving you?
FA: The fans are great. I have to say, every night I get somebody coming up to me and saying: ‘Hey, Chris Storey and you…’ Of course they’re going to compare. Chris Storey has got incredible technique and is a very good player, so I had to learn very difficult parts, and some of the techniques I was not even used to using or playing. So it was definitely challenging for me, also, because I had to do everything in two weeks. But the fans are great. They haven’t given me a hard time at all.
IC: You had a lot of material to cover in just those couple of weeks. What was it like learning the songs?
FA: Oh, yes. In the beginning, we thought I had a little more than a month, because we were going to start with Summer Slaughter. But then they had this other tour, the last four shows for the Danzig tour – so basically I had two weeks to learn ten songs. So that became my job for two weeks.
IC: With All Shall Perish keeping you busy – you’re going to be out on tour a lot with them now – where is Hiss Of Atrocities at? What’s the future like for that band?
FA: Unfortunately, Hiss Of Atrocities is something that we, especially Roy [Lev-Ari], the other guitar player from Hiss Of Atrocities, and I had to put on the side. It was very difficult to get through all of the changing members and then all of the things that happened after touring last year – it made us want to take a break. I hope maybe in the future we’ll do something together again – who knows? I’d like to, because we were writing music already for the second album and I was very happy with that. It’s going to suck if we never get to record it.
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IC: Definitely, I would love to hear that. Going back to the All Shall Perish side of things – are you looking to execute Chris’ parts exactly, or do you put your own touch on them?
FA: With my technique, the way I would approach those parts, I would probably do something different. But since I just joined the band, I think it’s important for me to prove that I can do them [exactly], and that’s what the band wants me to do. For the future, we’ve already started writing new material, and that’s when I’m going to do my things, without changing the style of the music – because that’s the style of All Shall Perish.
For now, it’s challenging for me because I’m trying to sound like… I have to pay attention to the way that it was performed before. It’s different in terms of articulations, and it’s a different touch. A couple of things I’m playing a little different, but probably not a lot of people are going to notice, but I notice.
IC: You’re going to be a full writing member with the new album. Can you tell us about the direction of some of the stuff that you’ve started writing?
FA: It’s going to feel like an evolution of the past albums – a lot of that material rebuilt with the new band. I love it – what we’ve been doing so far, what we’ve been writing, it sounds awesome. I can’t wait to have it complete and have songs that we can play in the studio.
Something new for this album is that we’re going to start using 8-strings, too. We don’t want to just move to 8-strings and play everything on 8-strings, so it’s probably going to be like half of the album 8-strings and half of the album 7-strings. We started experimenting with some longer forms – songs that are maybe five or six minutes, but mixing great, powerful breakdowns with other parts that are really fast and technical and really heavy grooves. That’s all going to stay – that’s All Shall Perish.
IC: Let’s talk about your solo career and your own material. You just came out with Chaos And The Primordial very recently – can you tell us about how that came together and what the writing process was like for that one?
FA: I’ve been writing for the past three years some instrumental music. I was always involved in project bands, and my need was to also have something where I was the only one writing, so that I could do whatever I wanted to. Sometimes in a band, even with a solo, you have to make everybody happy. When you’re doing your own thing, you’re completely free to do whatever you want.
So that’s how I started writing some of the music. Then I kept writing and writing, and I got to the point where I thought: ‘I’m going to put together four songs.’ So I had four songs in the beginning, and it was kind of like a demo. But then, I had other songs that I thought were really cool, plus I kept writing and I got to the point where I had ten songs, and I just wanted to have the whole thing done – a whole album.
IC: What was the recording process like? What did you use to record?
FA: Right now, I’m using Sonar 8 with a PC. It’s a pretty powerful PC. I have a MOTU audio interface and I go direct. The guitars were re-amped with Engl, Soldano and Peavey. I took everything into a pro studio, SkyBlue Studios, which is around LA – it’s got great gear and the guy is very talented. Basically, I got to have the guitars sound the way I wanted. In the beginning, I didn’t know how I was gonna do it, but in the end I decided I’d program all the drums. I spent a lot of time with drummers that I know, two or three different drummers, messing around with the velocities and trying to create a more natural touch.
I’m really happy with the way that the drums sound. I know for sure that the second album’s going to be with a real drummer. That’s gonna be my goal for the second album. But for now I’m really happy. I got to record bass and guitars – there’s a lot of guitars. Rarely are there two or three guitars – there’s a bunch of layers. That’s something that I love to do. Eventually I’m going to have to play that music live, and it’s going to be a little bit of a problem. Either I’m going to need a loop station, or I’m going to need three or four guitar players on stage – or maybe not play some parts, but it would not sound the same.
IC: I think your film scoring background probably has something to do with the fact that you’re layering so many parts.
FA: I’m pretty sure it does. The fact that I’m so in love with classical music… at Berklee I was studying a lot of composition, which is something I still do constantly. I write classical music, too. I’m currently writing a concerto for guitar. That’s such a big project, it’s for a full orchestra, and as it’s such a big project that it’s taking some time. I don’t want to just have it done. I keep working on it. That’s something that I really like, to create layers. You have a color in mind, or that type of texture, and then it’s up to you how to arrange it. For some parts I like very dense arrangements, so there’s a lot of different instruments doing the same thing. In the case of my solo album, it’s all guitars, but maybe guitars with different sounds. That’s why we decided to use different amps, to create really different distinctive tones. I think the film scoring background, composition and the love for classical music definitely made that characteristic [sound].
IC: You mentioned that you’re still studying composition, and I can tell from your playing that it constantly keeps evolving, also. What’s your process like right now – what are you studying, what are you trying to play?
FA: With the guitar, what I’m trying to do is something that I was trying to do ten years ago, and I’m still trying to do. It’s always about trying to come up with something new and fresh, which is eventually what your style is – and you don’t want to sound like anybody else.
With classical music, I’m not at the level where I can think: ‘Oh, I’m doing something original.’ You have to compete with genius, and it’s very tough. What I do a lot is look at scores and study scores from composers, following the music and making notes – that’s where I see the type of arrangements and the type of colors you can get from that instrument. Sometimes what I try to do is to create those type of colors on the guitar. Sometimes it’s not even possible, because it’s a completely different sound and a completely different articulation. But sometimes you get close to that sound, and even if it’s for two seconds in that song, that’s something that you’re doing that’s a little new.
IC: What’s your live rig like right now with All Shall Perish?
FA: With All Shall Perish, it’s pretty simple. We’re using the Engl Powerball. I love that amp – it’s the perfect tone for this type of music. Basically, the rhythm tone is just that sound all the way. For leads, on the footswitch there is this contour switch. Basically, it creates a mid-focused type of tone that’s a little warmer, and it’s not as open as the tone we use for rhythms. That’s what I [use].
Right now I’m not even using any reverb or delay. Then I have a Boss NS-2 noise gate and a tuner, and that’s it – very simple. With Hiss Of Atrocities I had a lot of stuff. I had a lot of different tones – clean sounds and all that. With All Shall Perish, it’s basically two different things. That’s all I need.
IC: Aside from everything you’re doing when you’re on stage, what’s a day like for you on tour?
FA: A lot of it is fun. A lot of it is also trying to rest, especially when you play in areas where the heat is really something. I’m like a lizard. I try to be very quiet and not spend a lot of energy, because I want to have that 40 minutes a night where I just give everything. But the rest of the day, you’re very tired. I’m not that old, but I can feel it.
Then [combined] with the fact that you’re not getting to sleep eight hours, and then one night you only sleep two hours – but the day after you’re still at the venue, and you need to be focused to do the things [you have to do] at the time you have to do them. You have maybe an interview, and you have things to take care of.
Right now, it’s not a problem at all. I don’t want to make it sound like it’s too difficult. The other cool thing that we do is: we have a laptop with an audio interface, so when we have free time we write some music. We all have headphones, so there are three or four people with headphones and somebody’s recording a riff, and we write together that way, too.
IC: What’s life like for you when you’re not on tour? Obviously you just put out the solo album and you were getting ready for the All Shall Perish tour. Other than that, how does a typical day go by for you?
FA: Basically it’s music. Since I wake up, I start something related to music. It’s either playing, or there’s teaching involved, there’s learning and studying music, recording, doing sessions – all kinds of things. Before I joined All Shall Perish I was playing in six different projects, so basically I had no free time. I think it’s a really good thing to be very busy with music. The time that I don’t like is when I’m not busy with music.
If I’m working on music eight to ten hours a day, I’m happy – I go to sleep at night happy. So that’s the way I am. I want to be active, and I really want to do a lot every day. That’s the other thing about the tour – sometimes you don’t get to do that. So that’s a little weird, but you get used to it.
IC: Where do you see yourself a couple of years from now, with all of your projects and All Shall Perish? Where do you see your career heading, ideally?
FA: Definitely when you’re in a project like All Shall Perish, you’re very busy. You need to be focused, and you need to be doing the right thing all the time. Even when you’re not on tour, there’s a lot going on. Right now that’s my main focus, of course. At the same time, since I love music so much and not just one genre – I don’t just stop with guitar music or metal, I love just being involved with a lot of different projects and I know I’m going to keep doing that, and using the time the way I feel like [is best].
IC: Is there anything that you’ve been listening to recently that’s caught your attention?
FA: Especially these last couple of months, I’ve been learning music for All Shall Perish and getting my own album finished – mixing, mastering and listening to the album a million times. When I listen to music, at least lately, I rarely listen to heavy music like rock or metal. I’ve been listening to a lot of classical music. That’s something that I always do, but right now I feel the need, because I always need to find the balance.
IC: What is your advice to people who are looking to do what you’re doing right now – following their passion for music, getting out there onto the scene, and maybe joining a band?
FA: Try to be smart about it, because there are a lot of things that you’re going to learn about the music industry that are not just related to playing an instrument. The first time I played guitar, an hour later I wanted to be a famous guitar player. You think that you just practice and that’s all you need to do. The way that the music industry is, that’s one of the elements.
If you want to play in a band, sometimes the hardest thing to find is the chemistry between the band members, and finding the right band members. You see that all the time, the changes in lineups. But at the same time, if you’re a professional and you work in a professional way, I think at some point you’re going to find your space and you’re going to do the right thing. Never give up – it’s never too late. Just work as hard as you can.