When he’s not tearing up stages around the world with All Shall Perish, Francesco Artusato is hard at work on his own music. Since the age of 19, the guitarist has dabbled in everything from metal to jazz to classical music. By combining technical proficiency with a love of composing, Artusato was able to assemble his first solo album, ‘Chaos and the Primordial.’ Overflowing with legato runs, speed picking, chromaticism, and odd meters, the record establishes Artusato as not only a dexterous shredder, but a talented composer.
Francesco was kind enough to put his practicing on hold for a few minutes while he spoke with Rock Edition about his debut solo effort, Berklee College of Music, All Shall Perish, and Mayhem Festival. Check it out below.
I remember reading somewhere that you started playing saxophone at age 14.
Yeah, that was my first instrument.
And you switched over to guitar at age 19. What made you pick up the guitar?
Well, my family is a very musical family. The whole family is a bunch of players and singers. My cousin is actually a jazz guitar player in Italy, and my brother plays piano, guitar, and sings. So there were always a bunch of guitars around the house. But, for some reason, I never picked one up — I don’t know why. I guess it was because everyone else was playing guitar, so I was like, “I’m not going to play guitar!” But, during that time, I was also really into sports and martial arts. At one point, at the age of 19, I got injured. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to move around much for a few months, so I picked up a guitar and tried to learn how to play. That’s how I started.
So you just fell into playing guitar by accident?
Yeah, that’s it.
Nice. When I was growing up, I was really into Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Jason Becker, John Petrucci, Paul Gilbert, and Eric Johnson, to name a few. Did you listen to a lot of those guys as well?
At the same time that I had my injury, I started to listen to those kinds of guitar players. Before that, I was more into classical music. At that time, because of the records that my brother would put on or for whatever reason, I started listening to Steve Vai, Dream Theater, Satriani, [Yngwie] Malmsteen, etc. Plus, with my cousin, I would listen to a lot of jazz too. Of course, I became obsessed with those guys. They all take the guitar to such an extreme level.
Absolutely. I actually became so infatuated with their music for a while that I had no interest in songs or records with vocalists.
My listening habits have come a long way since then. [laughs]
I was definitely kind of the same. Even if a song had a vocalist, I would always skip right to the solo.
It’s clearly the best part! On a different subject, I recently learned that you went to Berklee College of Music. What did you major in?
At the beginning, I thought I was just going to go there and play guitar. But, I’ve also always loved classical music, and I really wanted to study composition. Being a composer is a really tough career though. I thought film scoring was a great way to put things together. We focused on composition and writing for orchestra but we also learned about recording and editing software.
Were the skills that you learned at Berklee helpful when it came time to write ‘Chaos and the Primordial’?
For sure. One thing I actually want to develop even more are the arrangements and textures. When you see a classical score, all the voices have a different place and sound, which makes it easier to blend everything. With an orchestra, you can have all these different instruments playing different things. But, f you have 15 different guitars playing different things, it’s just going to start sounding chaotic. That’s something I want to learn how to control. I just want to be able to create more and more layers.
Did you have an ultimate goal in mind when constructing the album?
Well, it all started with me writing a few songs as an experiment. I got to a point where I had enough songs for a whole album. Once I had enough, I went over everything, re-recorded everything, changed parts, and make it sound like one album. If you’re recording something today and then you record another song a year after, those two songs are obviously going to sound very different. I wanted everything to sound together. If a listener was listening to my CD they might not notice it, but I would definitely notice it. Anyway, I just started collecting more songs until I got to the point where I wanted to create this whole album. Like the title says, it was kind of a chaotic way to put an album together. I never planned to write a full album from the beginning. Now, when I’m going to do the second one, I’m going to do it slightly different.
Tell us about the song “Pour L’ egyptienne.”
It’s by [Claude] Debussy. He’s one of my favorite composers. A lot of his music is impossible to rearrange for guitar just because of the wide range of notes. This piece in particular is part of a collection of six. I started working on it and transcribed the whole piece so that I could adapt it for guitar. It came out in a way that made me think that it would fit nicely in the middle of the record, just to give it a break. There’s a lot of technical material, so having something in the middle that would give a break was nice. Also, when a lot of guitar players work on a classical piece, it’s usually really shreddy. I wanted this to be more about atmosphere. I love Debussy, so I thought it was perfect.
There’s quite a bit of chromaticism in your playing. Is that something that you’ve always messed around with?
It’s definitely part of my playing. It’s not pushed as much when playing with All Shall Perish just because it’s such different material. It is part of my style a lot though. I’m a huge fan of many fusion and jazz guitar players and musicians in general. It’s just what I like to hear and what I like to play.
Speaking of All Shall Perish, you guys will be heading out on the Mayhem Festival in July.
Yeah, we’re ready for Mayhem. It’s very important to us, and I’m looking forward to it.
Any plans after the tour?
After Mayhem, I think we’re taking a small break. We have tours in October though that are not officially announced yet. It’s definitely going to be a busy year. We’re already talking to booking agents about 2012.
Nice. Will fans also be able to see you out on a solo tour any time soon?
We’re actually trying to get some clinics happening. I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon though. I’m way too busy with the band. I really don’t know if I’m going to have time to tour with the solo project, but I’d love to do something like that next year. I’ll probably have to hire at least two guitar players to play the music exactly the way it is on the record.
Pick up Francesco Artusato’s new solo album Chaos and the Primordial.
For All Shall Perish’s upcoming tour dates, check out their Facebook page.