BLIND GOLEM recently released A Dream Of Fantasy, one of the best albums of 2021. Heavy Metal Webzine (HMW) had a very interesting interview with the bass player of the band, Francesco Dalla Riva.
(HMW): Hi Francesco! Congratulations for your great album! Tell us, when was the first time you ever listened to ‘70s hard rock? Which band was it and which song?
Francesco: Well, I always enjoyed music as a young kid but the first hard rock band I listened to must have been AC/DC, back in 1986/87, through my older brother, and the song was probably ‘TNT’. At the same time I was also discovering the music of Saxon, Iron Maiden and then, as a revelation, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep.
(HMW): When and why did you decide to create BLIND GOLEM? Who are the other band members?
Francesco: The idea for Blind Golem came after I started playing bass in the band Forever Heep, a Uriah Heep tribute band, of course, back in 2013. I enjoyed doing that so after a while I started toying with the idea of writing original material in that same or similar style.
In 2018 I had enough songs ready so I asked the other guys in Forever Heep if they were interested in taking the band a step further. Some of them were, Silvano and Andrea (guitar player and singer, respectively) so we formed Blind Golem together, inviting Simone on keyboards and Walter on drums. We’d known them for a long time, having played together on several occasions.
(HMW): Did you play in other bands before BLIND GOLEM? If yes, what bands were they?
Francesco: Sure I did! I started playing bass in 1988 and I’ve constantly been playing in bands since, sometimes with more than one at a time! The most important one was Bullfrog, a hard rock power trio in which I also used to be the singer. We released five albums of original material and played hundreds of shows in Italy.
(HMW): In your compositions, it seems that BLIND GOLEM transform ‘70s hard rock in a way that we could call ‘70s hard rock of 21st century. In your opinion, what is the element in your music that makes it really authentic? Is it the chemistry among the band members, is it the inspiration, or is it something else?
Francesco: Good question and not an easy one to answer to. I’d say that passion is probably the main ingredient. Authenticity in what you do. You can’t be fake in the kind of music that we play, you have to feel it. This comes, I think, after decades of listening to this type or rock, going to concerts, investigating other bands.
This means that we may not be the most technically gifted players the world has ever seen, but we do know clearly what we’re trying to achieve, in terms of sound, dynamics, songwriting.
(HMW): What ‘70s hard rock bands do you admire and/or are an influence to BLIND GOLEM?
Francesco: Well, the most obvious name is of course Uriah Heep but I think that, in our music, you can find echoes of other, less obvious references, like Magnum, Asia, Lucifer’s Friend, Birth Control. Deep Purple and Rainbow are other natural musical references. My personal tastes are even wider than that as I listen to a lot of prog rock and melodic rock, blues, and classic heavy metal.
(HMW): Tell us about Ken Hensley’s (R.I.P.) participation on the album. Tell us the story behind this cooperation.
Francesco: I met Ken in 2012 when, with Bullfrog, we got to open one of his shows in Verona. Later, with Forever Heep, we had the honour to be his backing band in several occasions in Italy, Austria, and Germany. The last time we played together was in the summer of 2019 and I mentioned to him the idea of recording the Blind Golem album.
He was enthusiastic and very supportive about it and said that if we ever needed anything, suggestions or whatever, he would have been willing to help. That was fabulous for us, and when the album was almost finished we sent him a few tracks, basically giving him ”carte blanche” to do whatever he felt was appropriate.
He chose the song “The Day Is Gone”, which, accidentally, is also the first song I wrote for the album, as he felt inspired by the melody. We asked if he also wanted to sing it but, very humbly, he said that Andrea’s vocals were great and he couldn’t have done a better job. So he played Hammond organ and the slide guitar parts.
(HMW): Tell us about the album lyrics. Are they fantasy lyrics? Do you believe that using fantasy you can better symbolise today’s situations?
Francesco: the lyrics for the album are sometimes fantasy related but not that much, more often they come from observations, thoughts or even books that I read (like in the song ‘The Ghost Of Eveline’) but always told in a metaphorical way. Beside that, we also always try to put the sound of the words first, rather than their meaning or message as I think that vocals should be treated as another instrument in the band and not something that preaches standing on top of a musical foundation.
(HMW): ‘70s hard-rock quality music is missing from nowadays’ rock and metal scene. I mean, this combination of melody and dynamic is missing. Why does this happen in your opinion? In general, melody is missing from today’s rock scene. What was the exceptional element the ‘70s era use to have, and today’s era has not?
Francesco: Wow, we could talk for hours about this, as we sometimes do at the end of our rehearsals! I don’t necessarily think quality rock music and creativity is missing nowadays, it’s rather the audiences that aren’t there like they used to be.
Nobody is selling records today in the same numbers as they used to do, but not because people are downloading them. It’s worse than that: young people today are simply not interested in rock music like we used to be. Society has changed drastically also in this field. The “exceptional element” that you mention is probably a certain innocence they had in the 70’s, when rock music was felt as something that could really change the society.
To a certain extent I think it did, but today it’s not like that anymore. Rock music is just another thing to sell, to a market that’s getting smaller by the day.
(HMW): Have you noticed any other remarkable ‘70s hard-rock bands in today’s scene? And, if yes, which are the most important ones in your opinion (if any)?
Francesco: Sure, there are tons of bands producing great music, apart from old bands continuing their legacies. First names coming to my mind are Gov’t Mule, Neal Morse and Spock’s Beard, Thunder.
(HMW): Do you believe that there could be a ‘70s hard-rock revival nowadays, a new wave of ‘70s hard-rock, or you believe that the specific period will never be as glorious again as it was back then?
Francesco: I don’t think there will be any revival, for the reasons mentioned above. But I think that there will still be amazing bands and musicians like in the 70s, just with smaller audiences. Hard rock nowadays is becoming one of the many musical niches, like jazz, blues or folk, but it’s not the main youth language like it has been until the 90s.
Francesco: Andromeda Relix is a small and passionate label that was born in the 90s thanks to Gianni Della Cioppa and Max Bettinazzi.
Gianni is an old friend of ours and with Bullfrog we released three albums through them.
Years ago, I mentioned to Gianni my dream of a band like Blind Golem and he expressed his interest for the project, so when we were ready it was only natural to release the album through them.
(HMW): Which are the five most favourite ‘70s hard-rock albums of all time, according to your taste?
Francesco: My five favourite albums could change everyday, but right now I’m gonna choose Rainbow’s Rising, Rush’s Permanent Waves, Blue Öyster Cult’s Secret Treaties, Led Zeppelin’s Houses Of The Holy, and Bad Company’s first album.
(HMW): I will tell you the names of some musicians. Just write me a couple of words, your opinion for each one of them.
(HMW): Ken Hensley– (Francesco): a master songwriter, musical hero of mine.
(HMW): David Byron– (Francesco): extraordinary and gifted singer, full of passion and emotion
(HMW): Ian Gillan- (Francesco): the prototypical hard rock singer, funny guy as well
(HMW): Robert Plant– (Francesco): with a vocal timbre like that, he could only become a rock god!
(HMW): Michael Schenker- (Francesco): tormented genius, one of the best guitar sounds ever!
(HMW): Rory Gallaher– (Francesco): along with Blackmore, the best Stratocaster sound ever!
(HMW): Jon Lord– (Francesco): the ultimate Hammond player
(HMW): Which are your future plans? Did you played live recently? Will there be any live dates in the near future?
Francesco: Yes, we played a few shows in Italy to support the album release and they went really well. It was great, after such a long period, to be able to play this music on a stage in front of an audience.
But the immediate future for us is back in the studio: we just finished recording a song for a special tribute album that we’ve been asked to participate to with a cover song. This should come out in next February.
In the meantime, we are pre-producing and arranging new songs for a possible second album. Some things were written at the same time as the first record, other ideas came later but we have a lot of musical ideas so the main problem now is deciding what songs to leave out! The plan is to enter the studio next spring. Let’s hope!
(HMW): Please, end the interview as you like. Is there any special message you want to deliver to all your fans?
Francesco: First of all, thanks to everyone who bought the album. We didn’t expect such a reaction to this music. It’s great! And if you haven’t bought it yet, it’s still available on vinyl as well, a lovely double gatefold record like the classic ones! Of course, you can get in touch with us through our Facebook page. Rock On!