The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
Michael Lepond Symphony X - Interview
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After 22 years, progressive metal titans Symphony X finally tour Australia in October. With a career spanning 9 albums including their latest effort "Underworld", Aussie fans are in for a real treat as we find out in our interview with bass player Michael Lepond ahead of the tour.



Andrew: It's great to be speaking to you, much appreciated. So how's things with the band?

Michael: We're doing good! We're actually going to leave tomorrow night to Sweden and we're going to play this Sweden Rock Festival this weekend. It will be a fun little weekend, we'll come back on Sunday and we're really looking forward to coming to Australia for the first time. It's going to be amazing!

Andrew: Yeah and what boggles me is the fact that you guys have never been over here before after all these years so it's good to finally see you coming over here. How are you guys feeling about your first time in Australia? It must be exciting for you guys.

Michael: Oh yeah we're so excited! We've wanted to play Australia from the very beginning but it just seemed like any time there was some offers going on, things just fell through for whatever reason. So when I finally got the news that we were going to play Australia, I was really excited and it's [the] perfect time. The band has never sounded better live, we're really sounding great so it's definitely going to be a couple of great shows. Every time we've talked to other bands, they say the Australia fans are just fantastic and full of energy so we're looking forward to it.

Andrew: I know you only have the 2 shows this time around and I guess for a lot of bands who come here for the first time, they only do 1 or 2 shows as a bit of a taste tester so to speak to maybe come back again for a full scale tour. Is that the idea behind this tour or was it just a scheduling thing where you couldn't do more shows?

Michael: I'm not quite sure what went on behind the scenes with the promoter and our manager but we're just grateful to get over there at all, finally. I think it was a good time because we're going to play in Japan at the Loud Park Festival and then from there we're going to come to Australia so it should be 2 really great shows. I wish we could do a full tour of Australia and hopefully in the future that may happen.

Andrew: I'm not sure if you are aware of it but the promoter is certainly aware of it, but over on the west coast of the country there is a lot of fans trying to get a petition going to get you guys to come over to Perth. I guess this is a good opportunity to say a few things to the Perth fans to getting the petition rolling, do you have any thoughts on that at all?

Michael: Yeah I mean if the Perth fans really want us over there, who knows? I mean if we're already going to be on the way to Australia, there's no reason why we can't just play another show. Because honestly after the Australian gigs, we would be just coming back home so it's not like we have to go anywhere else. So to everyone out there, if you can get a petition to have us over there, boy that would be fantastic and would be an incredible compliment and we would be honoured to play for you.

Andrew: Yeah absolutely, hopefully we can make it happen. Now you mentioned before that you are pretty excited about how the band is at the moment and things are sounding really good, I remember talking to Russell (Allen, vocals) last year about the latest album "Underworld" and it seemed like you guys were pretty optimistic for the future and excited about the new material. I know you guys have been on the road since the album came out so how have the new songs been going over with the fans so far?

Michael: Yeah you know, with this new album it's really been fantastic playing these songs live because it seems like we've finally did a record where our older fans and our newer fans both really embrace it so everyone is really excited that we're playing so many songs off the new record. The first thing we did to support "Underworld" was we did a co-headlining American tour with Overkill so there we gave a taste of the new record, we played a couple of songs and it went over really well, even with the Overkill fans. Then we did a full 6 week tour of Europe and we noticed that we were packing all these places where we had never packed these places before so it really seemed like "Underworld" really got all our older and newer fans out to the shows, so that was really killer. And then most recently we did 5 shows over in South America and they also went over really well with the new material so the reception for "Underworld" has been phenomenal and we're really excited to bring the show to Australia.

Andrew: That's great to hear that everyone is responding to the album really well. I guess the new album has been a bit of a gateway to the band in some way by the sounds of it.

Michael: Yeah we were really excited when we finally heard the album all the way through and all the mix and all that stuff. The reception has really been better than we could of dreamed, it's bringing so many people out to the shows and I think like I had mentioned before, I think it's an album that our older and our newer fans can really get behind. I think if you haven't heard Symphony X before and you just listen to it for the first time, it has a lot of different styles of music on there, a lot of hooks, a lot of catchy melodies so I think we're picking up some new fans as well which is great after all these years. So everything has been positive at this point.

Andrew: That's great to hear! Now that this will be your first time coming to Australia, will the setlist be a little different to what you've been doing so far? Maybe playing some more of the older stuff or will you still be focusing a lot on the new album?

Michael: Well we haven't talked about the setlist just yet, right now we're just kinda focused on the European festivals we're doing over the summer. But yeah I think it's probably a good idea that we give the Australian fans a kind of greatest hits kind of tour because we've never played there and I think they should hear some new stuff, some old stuff, something really well balanced.

Andrew: What's the idea behind the shows today compared to how it was when you first started? Has many things changed at all or do you still have a certain thing that you do for every tour?

Michael: Yeah as we get a little older, we kind of fine tune things. When you first start touring it's always a learning process, you just go out there and do it and some things work and some things don't. I know on past tours sometimes we would play one set one night and then on another night we would throw in some different songs but we kind of stopped doing that because we found that when we were doing that kind of stuff, I think sooner or later in the tour we would kind of favour one set and then we would just do the one anyway! So things like that, it's just an example where some things work and some things don't. You learn where to put fast songs and where to put slow songs and find a nice balance to keep the energy up and you gotta know when to let the energy come down. So it's just a learning experience but I think we've gotten it down to a pretty good science at this point.

Andrew: There must be certain songs in your back catalogue that you must play at every show right? The staple songs in your setlist.

Michael: Yeah there are. Usually there's a few songs that the fans always want to hear and most of the time we have them in the set, sometimes we don't. But that's such a hard thing to do, to pick a set for a tour because it's impossible to please everybody and you're always going to get someone that says, 'Oh well you didn't play this song tonight'. And it breaks my heart and I would say, 'Oh man we didn't rehearse it, can't do it tonight'. So we just try to gauge how the fans are reacting and try to pick the setlist that way.

Andrew: Yeah I guess with every new album that you write and reocrd, that must be getting harder and harder as the years go on.

Michael: Oh yeah! We've built up so much material and different fans love different albums for different reasons and different countries love different songs, you just gotta try to take an educated guess. But I find that if you just put on a really great show, all that kind of stuff goes away and people will just enjoy themselves.

Andrew: Is there one particular song that you are aware of that every fan around the world seems to really embrace the most out of all the songs that you have?

Michael: Well I guess if I had to pick a song where we come out and the fans scream for the song, usually any time we come out for an encore the fans usually scream for "The Odyssey". They want to hear "The Odyssey", they don't care how long it is, 25 minutes, they don't care, they want to hear it. Many times we have it ready to go but there are some tours where we don't have it but basically anywhere in the world, that's the one song if I had to pick that everybody just wants to hear live.

Andrew: Yeah I don't blame them as that song is pretty epic, it's a great song. Hopefully we can hear that in Australia as well [laughs].

Michael: Yeah that would be great! Maybe we can work that into the set.

Andrew: Well as I said, it's fantastic to finally see you coming to Australia. I know the fans really appreciate it so thanks for your time today and have fun on your weekend tour!

Michael: Thank you so much! Thank you for the great questions and I guess we will see you guys soon!


October 11th @ Max Watts, Melbourne
October 12th @ The Metro Theatre, Sydney

Tickets and tour details can be found at Soundworks Touring.

Read our interview with Russell Allen HERE

Interview by Andrew "Schizodeluxe" Massie on June 9th 2016