Interviewed by Dave Palmer
I recently had the chance to work some stuff on the Magna Carta label which is always quite good. Totalisti is on of the more unique artists on that label in my opinion. The band have some progressive edge to them which is what you expect from the Magna Carta label, but they also have a more modern edge to them that will allow them to compete with the metal crowd in the current scene. I grabbed the opportunity to chat with drummer Tom Taitano recently and have him answer a few questions as well as intro the band for people who may not know who they are at this point. Hope you enjoy the read!
Heavy Metal Resource: Hi Tom, thanks for the interview, lets get started! I wanted to start this off by asking you to give the readers a brief introduction on Totalisti.
Tom Taitano: The band started about 7 years ago. At the time there were a couple of different members and it had a different name. We worked on some stuff for awhile and then Mark came in and they changed the name to Totalisti. At the time, 3 of the guys were like 16 years old. Mark was in his early 20's. They were just kind of doing the garage band thing, just playing around and having a good time and the band kept evolving and kept growing. They made their first album, it was cool. They made their second album, it was cool. I think it was in '01, I joined the band. In '02 Eric joined the band. We are now finally on our 4th album.
H.M.R. : So looking at that, this is the 4th overall album, but the first with the current lineup. So out of the original lineup and just to keep things straight, how many are in the current lineup?
T. Taitano: Mark and Ben, 2 of the founding members are still in the band.
H.M.R. : I was browsing through your website the other day and noticed that you list your influences were posted on the front page. Just for the sake of people being introduced now to the band, can you tell us who they are?
T. Taitano: I think we are pretty much influenced by everybody. Maybe that's kind of a cliche' thing. There are so many great bands out there. With our band we try to incorporate many different sounds and styles. For instance, Soilwork, Killswitch Engage. I'm a huge fan of Meshuggah and Tool. I do wanna clear it up though. When people see our influences, they expect to here some Extol or Demon Hunter. What I mean to say is that these are the bands that inspired these guys in the beginning. It's what made these guys wanna be a band.
H.M.R. : Looking at the classification of the album and with Scott Rockenfield's name being a part of it, I think that people are gonna get a stereotypical view of what the album may be and in alot of ways they will be wrong. There is no doubt that there is a progressive element to the music. There are areas with definite progressions, but there is a little more going on here.
T. Taitano: Right, it's not like your typical progressive like Dream Theater or Rush. It's also not like Magellan or Porcupine Tree. We think that's why that term has been used about us, it's something that makes you think. It's not really that mainstream or that commercial. There's some stuff in there that really makes you think about it. The fact that it is risky is why it is progressive.
H.M.R. : The term that came to mind for me when listening to it was aggressive progressive.
T. Taitano: I like that term, I wanna use that.
H.M.R. : I think it fits though. The band isn't necessarily a precision based band more than an aggressive band. Anybody who understand progressive is gonna get the point with the album. As I listen to the album, I also think that it grows with each listen. How would you gauge the fan response to the latest album at this point.
T. Taitano: So far the reaction is really good. As far as a band that has been together as long as we have, for around 7 years, it can be a hard thing to keep the fans happy. They always want more and are asking for more. When we wrote this album we were definitely keeping our fans in mind. We were trying to give them more of what they wanted as far as the vocal harmonies and they love it. Almost everything we hear is positive. Everyone says the band has taken on great maturity and a great direction. So far so good, old fans.. new fans.
H.M.R. : I know this question is going to be redundant. You've probably been asked and will be asked in future interviews. Tell us about the connection with Scott from Queensryche. How did you hook up.
T. Taitano: That was entirely Pete Morticelli. Scott and Pete had know each other for some time and talked about things in the past. It was just a natural progression, hey we've got this band, they've got a really unique sound. Why not get Scott involved. We live very close to one another. He is over in Everett or Millcreek and we are in Enumclaw, so let's see if we can make something happen. That was entirely up to Magna Carta. That was definitely their card.
H.M.R. : Okay. I would have thought it would have been more of a Washington connection.
T. Taitano: What I have found is that Peter knows alot of people. Between him and Mike Varney, they can pretty much track down anybody.
H.M.R. : I guess I'm still curious though how they came up with Scott.
T. Taitano: Well, there was some history there as well as a budding business relationship going on there. They had talked about some things and Peter had expressed some goals. Scott had also expressed some goals about dipping his hand into production and and getting more involved in the local scene. He works with several local bands right now. The other bands are independents that he works with. He also has his own side projects as well. He really loves music and wants to experiment with every aspect of it. I think what happened was... for us we didn't have alot of connections as far as studios or producers or anything like that. Peter had approached Scott saying 'hey, I've got this band, are you interested?'. Scott said he wanted to go check us out. He came out to one of our band practices and really liked what he heard. He gave it a couple of days and thought about it and said he wanted to be involved in the project. In the end I think it was our sound and our style that really drew him in. Initially though it was Peter that got him involved.
H.M.R. : Okay, cool, I think that explains it then. That takes me to the point of asking you how you got the deal with Magna Carta. Magna Carta is known for alot of progressive that is more typical progressive such as Dream Theater although they aren't on the label, but stuff like that.
T. Taitano: Oh believe me, I know all about Magna Carta. I have been a fan since '97 when I picked up my first Liquid Tension Experiment album. I have been fairly familiar with Magna Carta. To be honest with you, I was very intimidated when they approached us about signing. They way we signed was Peter Morticelli and Mike Varney own Magna Carta and are Magna Carta and we were doing a show in Everett about a year and a half ago. It was a Thursday night and there was nobody there. Only like 4 people. All of the sudden this guy comes walking in and sits down in the back. As the set progressed, he just kept moving closer and closer. He approached Mark after our set and they went off and talked for about an hour and a half. Turns out it was Mike Varney. He was interested in getting us involved in Shrapnel. Later on down the road it moved away from Shrapnel over to Magna Carta.
H.M.R. : I'm betting that you guys have a really good live show. It is so hard to get signed these days and for those guys to get really serious about signing you....
T. Taitano: I think we are a band that understands. I remember when I read Gene Simmons' first book 'Kiss and Tell', one of the first comments he made in that book was that alot of people focus on the word music, but not the word business in the term music business. When I read that several years ago, I really took that to heart. It's very true. With the term 'music business', you've got to invest in both. One of the things that we do when we do our shows is, we never drink before a show and for us it is business. We're really really focused. The reason we are there is for the music and for the fans. Our stage show I would say is very good. We hit hard and when we start, we don't stop. There are very few slow songs, as a matter of fact we don't play 'Whispering' currently or 'Shameless'. We just go as hard as we can with as much energy as we can and then, after we have done our set, after we have talked to some of the fans and after we have packed everything up, then if it's time to sit down and have a cold one, then we do.
H.M.R. : That's fair enough, that is the way to a fair show for the fans and is honorable. I was going to make a point about the Magna Carta roster and how many bands you were familiar with, but you kind of covered that already.
T. Taitano: Well, I can certainly name off a few. Black Light Syndrome, Liquid Tension Experiment's 1 and 2, I have Jordan Rudess' first album, I've got some of the Derek Sherinian stuff and I know there are others. So actually I do have quite a bit. I would love to have the entire catalog actually and maybe someday I will be able to do that. I have quite a variety of their stuff.
H.M.R. : That's cool. I have quite a few albums from them as well. It's all pretty good stuff. Upon listening to your album, one of the things that stood out was the fact that there was some dark stuff. At the same time it also has a bit of a mainstream, for lack of better terms, sound. Maybe I should call it a more modern edge to it. As mentioned, there are definite progressions in the music as well. Give us an idea what inspires this band when it comes time to write music.
T. Taitano: Everything comes from life's experience. If something challenging happens to one of us, first and foremost we're a brotherhood like a band should be, so when something affects one of the band members it affects all of us. That's what alot of that is, when someone comes in and say my life really sucks right now so what are my choices and how do I deal with this. Right off of the bat, one way to deal with it is write about it.
H.M.R. : I hear that alot from today's bands. Most tend to go with life's challenges more than the usual rock and roll subjects.
T. Taitano: I think the difference with us from others is we are certainly not like a metal band or death metal band. We're aggressive in nature, but underneath it all it's about trying to find the positivity in the whole thing. Trying to seek some sort of resolution that has a positive effect.
H.M.R. : Recently you put up a video for the track 'Sick of it All' on your website. Are you gonna get some rotation maybe through the video channels with this?
T. Taitano: That I do not know. As far as the video, it just came out yesterday. Peter sent me an email and said let's get this thing out.
H.M.R. : I just saw it there last night and thought it might have been there for a bit.
T. Taitano: Actually yesterday was day one for that.
H.M.R. : (Laughing) I guess that question was a bit premature then. Lets hope it gets into rotation on the channels then. I was curious about the scene in Washington. We all know that it flourished pretty heavily in the early 90's, but how is the scene up there at this point?
T. Taitano: Well, if you talked to the general public and asked them what was in Seattle, they would probably say Jazz. I think the rock and roll stuff is definitely coming back. I'm just not really sure right now. Some of the bands I am hearing are good bands, but they are a bit more straight ahead.
H.M.R. : It's been interesting all over as far as metal goes. So would it be safe to say that Totalisti is not part of a trend or anything?
T. Taitano: No we're not and quite frankly it may have hurt us locally because Seattle is a very tight knit community. You are either in or you're out. Hopefully we'll be able to get in.
H.M.R. : Just outta curiosity, where did the band come up with the name Totalisti, what does it mean?
T. Taitano: Mark came up with that term several, several years ago. It must have been back in '99. What it is is a Greek term, and it means paid in full. There's two basic meanings behind it. Number one is that Totalisti was a receipt that was used back in the Biblical era. When you had a debt, you signed something and it was a Totalisti. The other meaning is when Jesus died, the debt was paid in full. Totalisti causes people to struggle with the pronunciation. We don't care, it doesn't really matter that much to us. Totalisti, it kind of flows. It's pretty catchy when people have it. I think it sounds pretty cool.
H.M.R. : I always bring up touring somewhere in the interview. It's good information for the fans who may want to catch you out on the road. It's obvious that you are playing shows around Washington, but are you going to get out to other areas that you know of at this point?
T. Taitano: Our goal is to definitely get out and do alot more of the original stuff. We'd love to do the West Coast for sure. I have a goal by this time next year, that I want to be saying that we are in California, we are in Arizona, we're in Texas. We'd love to do Oregon and Idaho and all of those places. It's definitely something that's in the works. People are going to see that we only currently have four shows, but we're striving really hard and I think that a year ago when all of this took place, we focused on writing better songs and the album. Bands that we did shows with back then don't exist. The bands that are here today may not be here tomorrow. Now it's a matter of finding the clubs and the bands that we wanna work with.
H.M.R. : So if you could get to tour with anyone you wanted, who would you pick?
T. Taitano: I'll tell you what, there are so many bands. Queensryche would be awesome to tour with. They just got off of their leg with Judas priest, that would be cool. Killswitch Engage would be a good one. Tool would be fun. I like some of the more aggressive stuff, Lamb of God is pretty cool. There is really just way too many.
H.M.R. : Well, I didn't have much more to ask you. I leave this segment of our chat to let you interject anything we may not have covered that you might want to.
T. Taitano: I don't really have anything at all. Did want to say thanks to all of those who are giving us a chance and a listen. I appreciate all of that.
H.M.R. : Ok, well I thank you again for taking the time.
T. Taitano: Thanks Dave.
Be sure to check out the new release 'Slave to None'!
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