Terry Wickham: Let’s go back to the beginning. What was it you saw or heard that made you want to play guitar?
Marco Sfogli: It was watching my parents rehearsing at home. Seriously, my house when I was a kid was full of instruments to play and watching them playing was the biggest form of inspiration that eventually led me to follow their path years later. Then when I saw Dream Theater’s “Live at the Marquee” cover and saw John with the Picasso guitar, that’s when I thought “this is what I wanna do for a living”.
TW: When you first started playing did it seem as easy as you make it look now? I ask that because I remember when I first decided to become a filmmaker. I remember thinking about all it is that I’d have to learn. At the time it all seemed incredibly daunting to say the least, but after countless years of studying, learning movie making, filmmaking is now clear to me. Though getting a movie financed is as difficult as ever.
MS: I wouldn’t say it was easy, it was natural. Obviously when I started I didn’t have the technical abilities and knowledge I have now but I do remember paying more attention to details than the average guitar guy around me. Things like the vibrato, the bends intonation and dynamics, this is something that I developed at an early stage copying my heroes first and then creating my own thing.
TW: What was your goal on your first solo album There’s Hope?
MS: I was back from the James LaBrie world tour, I was lock and loaded and got so much feedback from fans who wanted to hear me in a solo context which I felt I’d never be comfortable doing. In the end I never considered myself as a pure solo artist, I feel better within a band, but going back to There’s Hope once I decided I had to do a solo record the next goal was to make it various and enjoyable to the average listener. I don’t like unidimensional records where is shred from the top to the bottom, I wanted to create some dynamics and put all the influences through the years into the songs. It was a good record, have so many good memories about it.
TW: After putting out There’s Hope, what was it you wanted to accomplish on your second solo album reMarcoble?
MS: I started writing songs for reMarcoble soon after finishing There’s Hope. I had fun doing it and for this next one the goal was to write even better songs, with better hooks and maybe a tiny less technical approach. reMarcoble is exactly what I wanted There’s Hope to be, punchy, good hooks and enjoyable (I guess). Plus I think the mix on the latter kicks compared to There’s Hope, I took care of mixing on both discs but I was young and inexperienced when I did my first one.
TW: Your latest album features a wide-range of musical style. Do you map that out before hand or do you let the individual tracks take you where they may musically?
MS: No I just let it flow. As most guitar players it’s either keep working on a good idea or thrash it and move forward. It happened tho that I had some snippets of melodies that I thought were really, really stupid and eventually turned into full songs. Nothing is premeditated tho, I sit down and write when I have something nice spinning in my head. Can’t really write a song just sitting down and forcing myself to write, don’t have that ability and it never worked.
TW: Personally, what’s your favorite type of guitar to play. Metal, shredding, blues, funk, jazz, acoustic or new age?
MS: I love pretty much all the musical styles that you listed, as long as it sounds “musical” and not like a bunch of exercises pasted together. Also, to make a living out of music I think a guitarist must be able to pull out as many styles as he can and to love music at 360 degrees. It’s very very important.
TW: Was guitarist Andy Timmons an inspiration for “The Reaction.” It just seems like you might have been thinking of the former Danger Danger guitarist while playing this song.
MS: He’s one of my biggest influences and although I didn’t want to copy anyone some of his licks are now part of my vocabulary. He’s just too tasty to be described and a constant inspiration both on a musical and personal level.
TW: Your guitar tone in the title track “reMarcoble” reminded me of the beautiful sound of Tony MacAlpine. Any correlation?
MS: I don’t think I’ve listened Tony’s music as much as I would so it’s probably just a coincidence. The goal with that song was to make it as much heavy as I could but still maintaining the melodic approach.
TW: I love the inclusion of the saxophone at the end of “The Forest.” I also enjoyed the video on YouTube where you play both the acoustic parts and shredding lead-work.
MS: Thanks for that! I think The Forest is one of the songs off reMarcoble I’m most proud of, it is the last one I wrote before getting into the studio doing drums and brings some good memories. It is also one of the songs that when played live get some awesome feedback from people. The soprano saxophone is one of those instruments I always loved but I’d never thought I’d been able to use in my solo repertoire, I was clearly wrong. Back in the days when I could spend all my time for listening I was totally into Branford Marsalis, Eric Marienthal and Jay Beckenstein to name a few.
TW: Who is “Father To Son” about? You definitely establish a deep emotional music bond through this song.
MS: It’s a song written for my son Lorenzo. I started writing it when my wife got pregnant, worked on it during the 9 pregnancy months and finished a few days before she gave birth to my little boy. I was never happy with it for some reasons. I’m glad it turned out that way because it’s simple and the melody has some cool vocal qualities. On the other hand “Song of Ben and C.” is dedicated to my daughter Chiara.
TW: Did anyone else choose reMarcoble as Best Album of 2013. For me the deciding factor was, which album did I play the most in 2013. reMarcoble won that by a landslide.
MS: Not really, hahaha. I was flattered when I saw that There’s Hope was voted as best instrumental record from Guitar 9 in 2008 but no, I’d never imagine reMarcoble would be best album in 2013 as well. Thanks, I appreciate.
TW: Your work on the James LaBrie albums have been nothing short of astonishing. Looking at the three albums you’ve put out together, what is your feeling regarding each one?
Elements of Persuasion
MS: Some cool memories about Elements. My first pro record with some of the best musicians, I was young and did of course some mistakes but is one of my favorite records still to this day and also the chemistry we got together was pretty tight. The first time I met James, Matt Guillory and Richard Chycki too, unbelievable experience. We recorded it in a cottage in Canada with all the freedom of “living” in a studio.
MS: Static Impulse was a lot of fun as well. We recorded it in Sweden, all the band but James who tracked his vocals from Canada. So many funny moments, the songs were heavier than ever and the concentration in the studio was quite high. First time with Ray Riendeau and Peter Wildoer, two amazing musicians and human beings. I remember being literally surrounded by amp heads and pedals to find the right tone for each song, I even gave some help tracking basses in the studio. Workflow was super tight but when you work with some of the best cats in the biz everything else comes second you know.
MS: This one was the first record we did everyone on their own. I recorded guitars in my home studio, Matt did his keyboards from his studio and so Ray and Peter. Matt set the bar so high with his demos, and the contribution from Peter Wichers on both songwriting and guitar parts was unbelievable as well. On a personal level it was a bit cold because there was no interaction between band members but I think both the songwriting and the overall sound made this the best record we ever pulled out. From a technical standpoint I guess even the other guys would agree this is the most insane JLB record so far.
TW: When you play on those LaBrie albums, who do you play off of? Is the drums or Matt Guillory’s keyboards? Or do they play off you?
MS: Usually I play what Matt writes. He’s really good on guitar and likes to write all the riffs by himself. I’m totally cool with his workflow, it always worked and I guess is the only way to make a record consistent despite the fact that we live so distant each other.
TW: I really like when you guys mix it up. What’s been your favorite songs so far with James LaBrie and why?
MS: Hmm. I don’t have a personal favorite, I mean all the songs I did with James brings some cool memories that would be impossible to list just one. But if I have to pick one, for a reason that is obvious, would be Slightly Out of Reach from Elements of Persuasion. Because it was the song I was auditioned with and that got me the gig. That song, the way it’s on the record, is exactly the way I sent the demo out to Matt in 2004. I just played it again in the studio but all the parts and the lead are exactly the same.
TW: When I think of the greatest guitarists of all-time, I have moments of when someone just blows me away. For me, it went from Hendrix, Page & Iommi to Eddie Van Halen. Then a few years down the road along comes Yngwie Malmsteen who just floored me the first time I heard him in Steeler & Alcatrazz. Later Timmons, Petrucci and Buckethead made big impressions on me as a listener. How about you?
MS: Wow, so many! Well I was born in the 80’s, the golden era for electric guitars. Eddie Van Halen and Joe Satriani made it for me at the very beginning, so most of the Shrapnel solo guys and bands like Europe with the amazing Kee Marcello, or Winger with Reb Beach. Later on I was totally into Dream Theater which, you know, left a big mark on me. Also Toto, the first time I discovered their music was a bit late but I fell in love with the arrangements and Luke’s playing. And of course, the immense Andy Timmons who’s the guitarists’s guitarist to me. These days I don’t listen to a lot of instrumental stuff, of course there are a few jaw dropping players but I’d rather listen to new bands (or favorite oldies) than solo players.
TW: What’s next? When can we expect your next solo album and what might it be like?
MS: I’m very busy these days doing sessions and clinics that it may take some extra time before a new solo release. There are no plans yet and I don’t have any new music written for another disc plus I still enjoy playing songs off There’s Hope and reMarcoble. But there will be at least one more for sure!
TW: Any future plans with James LaBrie?
MS: You know James is busy as well touring with Dream Theater, that is his main gig and this said we really hope we can bring his solo material on tour at some point. It’s just a matter of setting things properly. Not sure when but it will happen!
Thanks for talking to me Marco. You are one of the most brilliant guitarist players on the planet and I can’t wait to hear your next musical endeavor.