Rockoperas are hot, just think about the Leonardo-Project of Trent Gardner, Nostradamus by Nikolo Kotzev or the amazing Avantasia-albums. Now, finally there is a rockopera from the country of the classic opera – Italy of course – called “Genius”. Composer and keyboardplayer Daniele Liverani of Empty Tremor tells me all about this new project.


“In my spare time I write stories, just for fun, and in 1997 I had written about 49 short stories, which were just lying around in my study. So I thought, why not do something musically with these stories. Then I met drummer Dario Ciccioni, who was only fourteen years old at that time(1998), and together we picked up the idea to make a soundtrack of my book. The title of the book was Daily Trauma and we came up with 18 instrumental songs, that were composed and recorded in no time; it was really easy to do! Then I thought, well I might as well make a rockopera out of this, so with singers, to make my dream come through. So we recorded a demoversion of “Genius” with a number of Italian singers. In 1999 I signed a deal with Frontiers Records and they offered me a very considerable budget to make a real “Genius-album”, with rockstars that I could pick, so that was a great challenge and opportunity.”


I had made a list with 30 singers, which I would like to have for my album. I sent a package with all the music and the lyrics to these singers and I asked them if they could call me back as soon as possible if they would like to participate in my project. Bob Catley(Magnum) and John West(Artension)were very much interested, but my greatest wish was that I could get Geoff Tate(Queensryche)to take the leading role of Genius. I sent him all the material, but he never gave any response. But, despite that disappointment I managed to get into contact with another supervocalist, namely Midnight of Crimson Glory. He has always been one of my favourite singers, but he is known to be a difficult person and he was very difficult to approach and reach. After several e-mails he finally responded; he liked the story and he was able to identify himself with the part of “Maindream”. After a few contractadjustments he finally decided to take the job and with that decision he made me very happy. Midnight has always been one of my hardrockheroes, so this was great. There were also a few singers who did not like the idea, among which Kip Winger and Gary Hughes. Mark Boals, John Wetton, Steve Walsh and also Midnight will definitely participate in the following two albums. Furthermore I would like to have Bruce Dickinson and singer Skin of Skunk Anansie for the next Genius-album, but I really don not know if they are interested in joining this project.”


“I chose to play all the instruments – except for the drums – myself because it is my project and I had a clear idea about how the whole music had to sound. That is the reason why I did not use other musicians, so I did not have to be the “dictator” whole the time and tell other musicians how they should play or not. I wanted to be in the driver’s seat for the whole project because it was a great challenge to do everything by myself. I managed to make a mix of different styles of music, such as rockmusic from the eighties and seventies, progmetal, symphonic metal and also some popmusic, for instance in “The Right Place”. Because I worked with a lot of different styles of music I find that this project is completely different from other rockopera-projects such as the Avantasia-albums or the Leonardo-project. I have tried to adjust the character to the voice of the singer, and vice versa. So the role of John Wetton(Mc Chaos King) is musically a perfect example of symphonic rock and so it is perfect for John’s voice. In the first track(“Without Me Today”) I have put in a Jesus Christ Superstar-tribute because that was my first rockopera I heard and liked. I knew then that in the future I would compose a rockopera myself.”


“The music for the next two albums is almost ready and also the lyrics are coming to an end. Part 2 will be released this year and part three will see the light in 2004. If we are ever going to play this enormous project alive I really do not know yet. It will be extremely difficult to get all singers together on the stage, because most of them have bands of their own. However I can tell all the Empty Tremorfans that there will be a new album, which will be released by Frontiers as well. The new album will be more aggressive and it will feature a new singer. In the spring or summer we will go on tour with Empty Tremor and I hope to see a lot of you out there!! “

Martien Koolen