Giotopia, epic story of warriors, demons, wizards, elves and witches, was created in 2017 by multi talented writer, guitarist and singer Giovanni Gio Smet. Debut album “A Fantasy Tale On Music Part I” will be released on May 5th, 2018. Metal Jacket Magazine brings an interview with Giotopia creator, Gio Smet.
In May 2017, you started working on project Giotopia. What was the main concept of Giotopia?
The main concept was bringing my writings and music together. Besides composing music, I also write novels. When I started to work on my next book, I decided to combine it with music and create a big production with lots of guest musicians. Previously, myself and drummer Michael Bauwens did the triple album for our band Gitaron, also with the concept of bringing lots of musicians together and just trying to do something special. It felt natural of doing it the same way, by selecting musicians that were perfect for each part. The result is that each musician plays a character in the epic story.
Giotopia gathers 16 worldwide musicians. Let’s mention vocals at first and their roles.
I do some vocals, besides the guitar and bass parts, as the role of “Egon the Fearless”.
Fabio Lione, singer of Rhapsody and Angra, plays the role of my brother “Egar the Lost Son”.
Ralf Scheepers, known from Primal Fear and ex-Gamma Ray, plays “Waldemar the Veteran”, the mentor of us all.
Carmen Grandi, singer of EGO and Neophobia, fulfills the role of “Dark Elf Falena”.
Ellen Peeters, a new upcoming talent, plays the role of “Princess Aria”.
Eric Tillerot, singer-songwriter of Magnesis, is “Frederick the Witch Devour”, one of the heroes in the story.
Franck “Wolfy” Moondog, singer of Little Fairy Smoke and The BYMZ, plays “Stephan, Lover of Maidens”, the crazy womanizer of the heroes.
Ginny Claes, vocalist of TheGuardian, plays the role of “Maid Ginny”.
Jennifer Thomé, singer of Siren’s Legacy and UNE, is “Queen Vellda”.
Marion-Lamita Peubey, a very talented classical singer and opera composer, plays the role of “Enchantress Lumita”.
Mark Van Luijk, singer of Civilian, is “King Cornelius” in the story.
Sara Vanderheyden, known as singer of Cathubodua and her solo work, plays “Aurora Vixen”, the only heroin of the story.
YGC, singer/guitarist of The Losts, plays the role of “Magus the Forest Walker”, a wizard and advisor of Kings.
Zoya Belous, talented singer of Esperoza, plays “Evil Witch Hardian”.
Then there’s Michael Bauwens, drummer and keyboard player, as “Caius the Swift” and Srdjan Brankovic, guitar player of AlogiA and Expedition Delta, as “Sanvin the Foresighted”.
Musicians are coming from all over the world: Belgium, Germany, Moldova, Italy, and even my home country Serbia. How did you choose who will participate in this project?
I am always looking for new bands and talented musicians. When I really like a singer or instrumentalist, I place them on my wish list. When I contact them, I already have in my head an idea for their specific parts. I just hope they want to work with me (laughs).
Each vocal interprets one character, like in similar projects such as Ayreon or Avantasia. When you started the writing process, did you already know for whom you were writing roles?
Yes, when writing a part for a specific character, I already know how it should be sung and which singer is perfect for that part. For example, I can’t write heroic or heavy parts for “Princess Aria” (Ellen Peeters) as she has a rather timid, soft kind of voice. On the other hand, I know when I write parts for the heroes or battle scenes, I know singers like Sara Vanderheyden, Franck “Wolfy” Moondog”, YGC, Fabio Lione and Ralf Scheepers are perfect for those.
Each chapter was published one by one as a lyrics video. Any feedback by now?
The idea for releasing song by song, or chapter by chapter, for me was kind of an experiment. I wanted to build up the story slowly to the people, so everyone could really role into it. There are people who followed the story from the first chapter and there are others who just got familiar with Giotopia and starting to follow it, starting also from the first chapter, which is great. I kept the final four chapters for the actual release of the full album. The feedback is really positive so far. Fantasy fanatics from all over the world are really into it.
All the musicians come from various backgrounds and all are working on several different projects at the same time. Tell me something about the recording process?
It is natural that all the musicians have a schedule of their own with their respective bands. So I needed to plan everything in advance and keep in mind the order of the story. Many singers recorded at my home recording studio (Epic Tunes Studio) and others recorded the parts in their own recording places. We communicated by social media to send the recordings and discus everything. It sometimes can be slow, with everyone’s busy schedule, but I can say every musician was very professional and did the very best to keep everything smooth.
Have you all gathered at some point at the same place and in the same time?
I believe it’s almost impossible to bring everyone together in the same place. I talked a lot with the musicians that came to my studio and I was almost in contact with the international musicians on a daily basis. I really appreciated their feedback and input. Everyone was very much involved. They studied their role and parts very good. It feels like everyone is part of the Giotopia family.
The album will be released in May. Any expectations?
The album will be officially released on May 5th. It’s always a bit scary and exciting at the same time. I believe we created something very interesting and special all together. It’s the beginning of an epic adventure. I hope everyone can appreciate the many hours we spend making this album.
As far as I know, there will be a book. When do you plan to publish it?
The book Giotopia will be published together with the second album (Part II). I think it will be around the end of 2019. But it’s a little too soon to talk about a specific date.
The whole project is titled “A Fantasy Tale on Music Part I”. Do you have an idea how many parts of it you will write?
To be honest, I have no idea how many parts there will be. The book Giotopia makes room for two albums. But I don’t know if the story will end with the book. A sequel is always possible. I leave that part open.
What are the differences between Giotopia and other metal/rock opera projects?
I try to be different in everything I do, from composing music to writing stories, doing what I really like. I hate following the stream where everyone’s face is in the same direction. I think Giotopia brings something extra with the combination of music and books. I want to create the image that those two factors are very close to each other, completing each other. I want the listeners to really feel the music and picture themselves in the enchanted world which is Giotopia, from the wonderful rippling waters to the epic battlefields.
Due to particular nature of the project, it would be hard to perform it live. Is it possible to hear Giotopia live and under which conditions?
I always say “never say never”. It would be an extremely difficult task to create a live production for Giotopia. I’m taking things step by step though. Let’s see the reactions for the first album and go from there.
Considering that Giotopia tells us a fantastic story of warriors, demons, wizards, elves and witches, tell me what is your favorite book from that genre?
I can’t look past “The Lord of the Rings-trilogy”. I mean, that’s classic fantasy. I’m also into the fantasy writings of Tad Williams, Mel Hartman, Weis & Hickman…
You mentioned that besides composing, you are writing novels. Can you tell me something more about your literature gift?
I always wrote short stories since I could hold a pen. I remember when my father gave me his old typewriter. I spent hours on that thing, writing whatever was in my mind and then I would show it to my father. He corrected everything that wasn’t good or needed to be rewritten. For me that was heaven. Later, my father died and I didn’t write that much. It was around 2012 when I start working on my first book, which was a psychological thriller/horror. I wanted to dedicate the first published book to my father. After that I started to work on my fantasy writings, which would become Giotopia. The thriller/horror book is called “Innerlijk” (“Inner self” in Dutch).
Which is your favorite classic and which is your favorite metal opera?
I enjoy classical music as much as heavy music. It’s interesting to find the link between those. “The Phantom of the Opera” for example is a really intense and exciting peace of art. You mentioned Ayreon earlier. I really am a big fan of his works.
Which classic composer inspires you the most?
I like the romantic composers like Beethoven, Brahms, Paganini… And then the more serious works from Wagner for example
Before Giotopia, as you mentioned, in 2006 you formed Gitaron. The band released two albums by now, both independent. Gus G told me that in XXI century there is no need to have a label behind, since you can arrange everything from your room using social media. Do you think social media can really reach true fans and how helpful social media can be for the promotion?
Yes, I think it’s perfectly possible to do production and promotion by yourself. Maybe you have to think a bit outside the box sometimes, since labels or promoters know the ways and the people. But social media is a big help, when used properly. The Gitaron albums are also self-published ones. As said before, I take things step by step and won’t say I never could be involved with a label or promoter. But as for now, I like to have things close to me, doing things the way I want it to be.
Thank you so much for your time and cooperation! All the best!
Thanks to you Ivona and everyone from MJM!