Question Of Madness from Chicago, Illinois, USA, have released a magnificent debut album which is already stuck on the top of the list of the best Metal albums that I have heard lately. Well what about some Epic Doom Metal combined with some US Power Metal? This is the basic idea around the band, but a little more listening into their music would make you realize that this band carries something really special on their music. The obscurity of the Epic Metal of the 80s, the mystery of the classic Doom Metal albums we have loved and much much more... Their powerful songs, their passion and the great voice of Albert Rybka -Kategory V- would make you worship this release for sure. Well an interview with their bassist Alfonso Polo would bring int the foreground many interesting information about the band.
Well it seems that QOM are based on a family affair thing on members of your older band The Chasm. How is to work with the old folks again and please let me ask you why you left the Chasm back then?
It's always a pleasure working with my brothers from The Chasm. We've know each other for so long and, most importantly we all have similar backgrounds and come from the same school of metal. Needless to say this made the whole recording process really easy. Not quick... But easy! Ha ha ha...I didn't have to spend time explaining how I wanted "this or that" done. They knew what to do, since to an extent, we had the same vision of how THE DARK CORNERS OF THE MIND (T.D.C.O.T.M.) was supposed to sound. The environment at the studio was very relaxed. We're a big family. Now, the reasons why I left The Chasm was because I really wasn't enjoying myself anymore. Just to be clear, I don't mean that I wasn't enjoying being a part of The Chasm. Personally, I'd grown tired of the whole music business altogether. The practicing, recording, touring, had all began to wear me down. I've been doing this for a little over 25 years. I started my first band at the age of 13. So I guess I was fed up. Also, around that same time I started to develop mild depression and anxiety. So I guess all three of those things sort of hit me at the same time. The anxiety, depression and me getting fed up with everyone and everything. So instead of quitting the music business for good, I decided to take a break from the whole thing. From 2003 to 2009 I put music on hold and started a family. I continued to go to shows, buy music, I did some jamming every now and then but nothing serious. I also did a couple of shows with The Chasm and Ancient Gods but that was it. In my spare time I was already beginning to create riffs for my "future solo album" which at the time was still untitled.
I would be very happy if I got the mighty voice of Albert Rybka in my band, how you came in touch with him anyway?
I met Al at one of those few shows I did with The Chasm after I quit the band. The Chasm didn't have a steady bass player so they asked me to step in for a few shows.. We played with Possessed that night and one of the opening bands for that show was a power metal outfit called Bavmorda which was Al's band at the time. By the time we did that show I already had HOLLOW CAVES complete, and I had the LuxInframundis contract secured. In the beginning of the whole QOM project, I wanted to use Death Metal vocals for the album, but Daniel Corchado (who was working as QOM producer) convinced me of using a clean powerful voice instead. So I was pretty much scouting for singers in the Chicago area. When Al got on stage and I heard him sing, I knew he was the right guy for the job. At the end of the Bavmorda set I approached him and shook his hand and that was it! I never even mentioned QOM to him.. I just said "Good job" and that was it. About a year later I got in touch with him through Myspace and the rest is history...
And yes those two previous questions are slowly driving to the basic one? When, where and under what circumstances question Of Madness were formed?
Since the late 90's I had the idea of doing a solo album. At the time I was still playing with Angeles Del Infierno (ADI). But in between tours I wasn't doing anything musically. So one day I had the idea of doing a solo album, but I never took it too seriously. It was one of those "it would be cool" moments. Fast forward to 2008/2009. That's when I got the music bug back in my system. At first, I wanted to do a Death/Black Metal album. But I've always been aware of my limitations as a guitar player in general, so I dropped that idea very quickly. I'd always been a Doom metal fan so I thought, why not go slower and heavier instead of faster and chaotic? And thus, QOM was born.
You were in Angeles Del Infierno and The Chasm before, two total different bands in total different styles... you ended up to your own saga under Question Of Madness. So I guess that this Epic Doom Metal was always the style you wanted to play? and ok it wil be a good idea to share some info about your other bands as well, people want to know your saga before the QOM final (?) chapter"....
Metal has and always will be epic, in any style. That's what makes this music so distinguishable from other styles of music. Any time you play Metal you have to include elements that will give your audience goose bumps when they listen to it. Something that'll make you want to raise your fist in the air (or the horns) and say FUCK YEAH, THIS KILLS! While I was working on the songs for T.D.C.O.T.M. I just went with my gut feeling of how I wanted the music to sound. It's a little hard to explain but is something that comes with experience I guess. You don't sit down and say "I'm gonna' make this sound this or that way", you just do it. It just happens. In the end I wanted to create a handful of powerful songs that the audience could enjoy as much as I did, And of course get those goose bumps to rise. From the feedback I’ve received so far, I think I accomplished my goal...About ADI and The Chasm? That's a long story.... So, in a nutshell:I joined ADI in September of 1995 and played with that group until the summer of 2000. That's what I like to call my "Rockstar" period. There were a lot of good things that happened during my time with ADI. I had the opportunity to play some amazing arenas in front of thousands of people. I traveled A LOT and partied like crazy. It was a great experience, I learned a lot from those guys. The must important lesson I learned was that THIS after all, is a business. And you have to be very careful with the decisions that you make and the people around you. Towards the end, the relationship turned a little sour so I decided to pack my bags and move on. I don't regret any second of that experience and I'm very grateful to them for the amazing opportunity they gave me. I agreed with some of their decisions and also disagreed with other decisions but hey, I wish them the best. After ADI I joined The Chasm. Great experience also. I recorded on full length album, one EP and a couple of tribute albums. I also learned a lot from that experience. I Especially learned how to LISTEN to music and catch all of the DETAILS of what's going on. We're really brothers in arms. Like I said before, we are a big family. I was with them from 2000 to 2003.
Pretty clever idea for a name, which is the question Of Madness? Ok spread some light about the concept... and yes... who thought about it?
The idea of using the name Question Of Madness was mine. You know, nowadays it pretty hard to name your band ha ha ha! I took that name from a drawing I saw in a book as a child from a German artist called Fons Van Woerkom. The phrase "QUESTION OF MADNESS" sounded so powerful that it got stuck in my head for years. So when the time came to name the project I immediately went for Question Of Madness. And it worked out great with the whole lyrical concept, the concept of the album, etc.
When have you started to compose the stuff for the debut album? Which was the first song that QOM composed?
Hollow Caves. I wrote the songs in the same order as they are on the CD the last one being "The Waters Of Unreality".
You seemed to be quite fast, in a more normal basis a band would release a demo tape / cd-r or something; you drove your band straight into the eye of the storm releasing a full length as your very first release. Why? -ps. is there perhaps a demo release that we are not aware of? Lux Inframundis released the debut album, how you found them? Or have the found you.. or it was just something about that "family affair" relationship haha, spread some light.... -
Where was the debut recorded, in how many days, any funny studio stories?
T.D.C.O.T.M. was recorded throughout various periods of time between 2009 and 2010 at different locations. Mostly at LuxInframundis Studios (some small parts where done at my place). The drums were tracked and engineered by Geoff Montgomery at The Ensomberoom Studios in Forth Wayne, Indiana. Funny stories? Mmmmh, I remember there was a lot of drinking and donut eating. Ha ha ha! Well I'll tell you this much. I like to call T.D.C.O.T.M. the Hysteria of Doom Metal. For those of you reading this that are not familiar with the history of Def Leppard let me give you a quick history lesson. While recording Hysteria EVERYTHING seemed to happen to the Def Leppard guys. Drugs, alcohol, hepatitis, a drummer losing his arm, etc. Well, QOM got its share of bad luck too. Julio became ill, there were blizzards that stopped us from actually going to Indiana to record the drum tracks, musicians going out of town for weeks at the time, musicians having visiting relatives in town for weeks at a time, myself ending up at the hospital ER with a fucking kidney stone!!! Snow, snow and more SNOW. And delays, caused by various different factors. Some of them completely out of our control. It took a whole year to record the album because due to all of this. Plus everyone had different schedules which was one on the major headaches of the recording. Getting all this talent together to record leads, drums, vocals or to do the mixing and mastering. It was a nightmare. It was the usual, "let's record on Sunday... but wait! Antonio can't do it on Sunday. How 'bout next Saturday? Oh no! Antonio can do it on Saturday, but Julio can't." and so on and on. But in the end, all of the delays, problems and other stuff were well worth it.
Are you satisfied enough with the result of the debut? would you change anything if you could?
You're never happy with the end result. There's a few things that I wish we could've taken more time to do. Like the vocals. Al is not happy with them and I agree with him to an extent. I think with a little more time he would've been able to give 110% more. I mean what he did was REALLY good, but when time is against you, what can you do? Another thing about the vocals. I’ve gotten comments from people telling me that they like the album but they think it would've been even better with guttural vocals. That still bothers me. Ha ha ha! I mean, I'm not loosing sleep over it but maybe in the future it would be interesting to do a re-edition with Death Metal vocals. Only time will tell...
In your own words how would you describe the magnificent music trapped in this little masterpiece?
When I approached Dan with the QOM concept I made it very clear that I wasn't going to reinvent the light bulb or that "Alfonso Polo was going to create the new style that the world of Metal was waiting for". I made it clear that all I wanted to do was a "good, enjoyable, Doom Metal album". To be honest I was worried about the reactions I would get to the album. Especially since I was talking about "my solo album" for so long without actually doing it. And on top of that, well, having the The Chasm and Angeles Del Infierno history behind me, well you know, you have to keep the flag very high. I was worried that people were going to be like "This is it??? All this talking and all this time waiting was for this????" Fortunately the CD has been getting great reviews from the media and the fans. But hey, in the end, as long as I'm happy with it, that's all that matters.
"The dark Corners Of The Mind" is the title of the album. Is it a concept one or what? Which are those corners? Can you spread some light about the lyrics please?
As I mentioned earlier, a couple of years ago I started to develop mild depression and anxiety, nothing too serious but enough to search for professional help. After a few months of therapy I came to the conclusion that a good way to deal with my inner demons ("The Uninvited") was to put this stuff on paper or in this particular case on a CD. The human mind is extraordinary. It can take you either to the highest places, or the lowest point of a black abyss. And the bad thing about it is that you never know when your mind is going to, well...break! You could be on top of the world one day and then, without notice. Everything can turn around completely. We are so used to living our lives without any thought about how lucky are we to have sanity, to have "happiness", to live without fears, phobias. I mean, don't get me wrong, I never was in a sanitarium like I wrote in the lyrics for The Waters Of Unreality (“strapped to a bed in this room”). And I never experienced any "Voices" or "demons". People that are really close to me can read through the lyrics of T.D.C.O.T.M, and be able to tell which lyrics are about me personally and which lyrics are there just to make the song more "dramatic". If I was really in a very deep hole, trust me, I wouldn't be doing music at all...
Which bands can we point as your influences? Taking notice of a bands video rehearsing some Manilla road stuff (flaming Metal system wasn't it?) made me think: I am on the right band man!
Influences? Too many. There’s Root, Candlemass, Mercyful Fate, Solitude Aeternus, Mayhem, Iron Maiden, Trouble, Black Sabbath, My Dying Bride, Cathedral, Bolt Thrower, Fates Warning, Krux, Ancient Wisdom, Nemesis, Goblin, Manilla Road , Spiritus Mortis, Sigh, Winter, Mercy, Tiamat, Autopsy, Memento Mori, Daylight Dies, Swallow The Sun, Runemagick, Sorcerer, Reverend Bizarre, Concept Of God... But I also listen to other kinds of music. 99.9% of my CD collection is Metal. The rest, well, a little bit of everything as long as it has quality. From Zappa to the Beatles. From Punk to Jazz, classical music, classic rock. Shit! I grew up listening to what my parents used to listen to. I like stuff like Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Angelo Badalamenti, Giorgio Moroder, Cocteau Twins, Ministry, The Who, Yes, Pink Floyd, The Mars Volta, music from the 40's and 50's, funk, etc. All this music is part of what I do nowadays. I'm very proud of my influences and I never deny them. For all you guys in Greece , my mom used to play Demis Russos and the soundtrack of Zorba the Greek at home when I was a child; I love that stuff!
Do you guys live in the same area? How easy or difficult is for you to rehearse?
We all live in Chicago, some in the City some in the Suburbs. Since we started playing live it's been easier for us to practice. Antonio, Al, Luis and Clint live on Chicago ’s South side, I live on the North side but our rehearsal studio is in between..
And what about live shows. I know you have done some. share some thoughts, opinions and strange stories about them. Which ones will be the next?
The live shows have been great. I'm always concerned about the audience reaction, Especially since we've been playing with Speed and Thrash Metal bands. But people really get into it. Especially during the faster sections of the songs. I have a really good band with me too, Luis Ceja from Ancient Gods on rhytmn/lead guitar, Antonio León on drums, Albert on vocals and Clint Davis stepping in for Julio Viterbo on lead guitar. Unfortunately Julio hasn't been able to join us on stage for personal reasons, but maybe in the future it will happen (as far as I know he's up for the next QOM album). In the mean time Clint's been doing great. He's as really nice guy and a very talented musician which I met through Albert Rybka. Our next gig and final show of the year will be on September 30th at the two day long Ragnarokkr Festival which will be held at a venue called BadaBrew in Cresthill , Illinois . We'll be sharing the stage with bands like: Helstar, Cage, Sacred Oath, Skullview and many others. And like I said, it'll be our last show at least for a while. After this show, QOM goes into hibernation mode until the next album comes out unless we’re extended an offer to play on a really interesting show.
How is the Metal scene in Illinois? And if we shall focus to the Doom Metal scene what would you have to share with us? I still remember our talks about live shows with single number of people in the audience... is this the bitter reality or what?
The Metal scene in Chicago is pretty decent. Better that in some other states. We get all major acts coming to Chicago and the suburbs and most of the time there's a good turnout. It's still a little hard for small local bands to put shows together and have good attendance though... When it comes to Doom Metal it's even worse. Ha ha ha! Unless you're a band like Trouble or any other major act there's really not much of a following for it. In my personal opinion, Doom is more appealing to the European audience. That's why there are not as many bands that choose to play this style here in the States...
It seems that although in the US there are still many killer Metal bands, it seems that their real dedicated fans are belong to Europe so I guess that a band has to find a way -label / live / distro or whatever- to break up to the European territory. -Ok internet is helpful but people still need to get your CDs and catch you on stage, at least they would manage to hear your music form the web-... Do you agree?
Definitely! Playing live helps out big time. I’d love to visit Europe again. Especially with my band. Unfortunately it would be very difficult from a logistical perspective. Since I really don't have a permanent lineup. All of the musicians I am currently working with are session musicians and each one of them have their own bands and occupations. Antonio with The Chasm, Ancient Gods and a big handful of projects he's taking part of; Luis with Ancient Gods, Albert with Katagory V, Julio with Shub Niggurath and The Chasm and Clint with his many different projects. I wanted to put a band together since the beginning but I was unable to find anyone to take part in it because no one believed that a Doom Metal band had any sort of future. I had people laughing in my face, LAUGHING, and wishing me "good luck" when I asked them to join QOM . And the funny part is that now that the band has taken off some of those same guys are coming back to ask me if I have any plans for the future and to give them a call and blah, blah, blah! Sorry guys, you missed your chance. That's why the internet is so important for a band like QOM , Since we may not be able to tour, our followers can at least have 24 hour access to our videos on Youtube and stuff. I wont (and I can't) compare QOM with the masters such as Bathory, Dark Throne, etc. Bands that have never did a tour in their career but everyone knows about them. You know, a “CULT” band. When T.D.C.O.T.M. came out, the label only pressed and released 300 copies. LuxInframundis is more of a Death/Black Metal Label and QOM ’s style didn't quite fit in with their roster. So they decided to play it safe and release a small quantity of CD's. And now the CD is SOLD OUT! So from what I’ve heard there might be a 2nd edition release sometime early next year. We'll see. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I'd love to include either the demo or outtakes from the recording.
What is the next step, a good paid witness told me that you have already thought about the title of the follower album, but what about music? Have you started to compose? Would it be a concept one or what? When shall we expect a release?
Yeah, I have a title and so far I have one song that is almost done. I'm looking forward to recording a new album although I think this one is going to be a real challenge for me since T.D.C.O.T.M. set the bar really high (at least for me of course). But in the end that's what it’s all about. You gotta' be able to go one step further with every recording. We'll see. I'm very self-critical about my music. That's another reason why it took me so long to come up with the music for the first album. I was running back and forward to the drawing board constantly. I have a very "weird" way of making music. There are days when I want to jump out the window because I have absolutely no ideas for songs. But then there are days when I get in "the zone" and I start working like crazy. Some of the songs off T.D.C.O.T.M. I wrote in just two or three days. At this point I think it's a little early to know what the album will be about even by having an album title ready. I don't think it will be another concept album. More likely it'll be separate songs each one with a different story or theme. One thing's for sure. The album title is really powerful (if I may say so myself) so obviously the music and lyrics will have to be really dramatic and epic...
Are you going to work with the same label?
More than likely yes. Daniel Corchado was a key piece in the whole creative process of T.D.C.O.T.M. He did a great job as a producer by giving me ideas of how to make the songs even better. He was doing what a producer is supposed to do. Julio also helped a lot with adding ideas and stuff. I guess such a great team only comes when using LuxInframundis Productions.
Are you listening to Metal nowadays? any bands that you may want to pick up and refer to?
Of course; I just can't function without Metal! Ghost is the shit! Inquisition, Voivod, Obscura, Devin Townsend Project, Burzum, Watain, Enslaved, Enforcer from Sweden . Wow, too many to mention. I'm not that much into that new wave of Thrash but some of the new bands are really good. Diamond Plate for example. But most of the time I listen to all those good old classics. Nothing like a good dose of Sodom , (early) Sepultura, Destruction, Atheist, Nuclear Assault, and of course Slayer or Maiden to get you in that headbanging mode.
Any other valuable bands form Illinois area to suggest us?
Diamond Plate are awesome! They are really young and their musicianship is incredible! I wish I could have played like that when I was their age. Nachtmystium is also a great band; Blake is a really talented musician. He's been doing a great job taking Black Metal to the next level. High Spirits, Super Christ, Ancient Gods, The Chasm of course, Dawnbringer...
I noticed someone on the band wearing a Marduk t-shirt on those rehearsal videos, if they ask you to tour with them would you go?
That was me wearing the t-shirt. Ha ha ha! Sure! Morgan is a really nice guy. I met him years ago in Mexico. Basically I'd love to go on tour with any major band, Be it Marduk, Morbid Angel, Candlemass or whatever. But again, I gotta' get me a steady lineup first.
How the hell you managed to put out such a great album? Have you sold your soul to the devil or WHAT?
Wow! That the $100,000 question. Ha ha ha! To be honest with you I don't know. Like I said before, I just played from the heart and I tried to “put on paper” what was in my head and what was going on in my life at the time. If the Devil has anything to do with it well, he did a Hell of a job! Ha ha ha!
Ok its over man. QOM rules! Cheers!
Thanks brother, thank you for your time and support to the band! Cheers!