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With Somnent's debut full-length 'Sojourn' recently reviewed, it was the perfect opportunity to follow that up with a chat about the life and times of a solo Death/Doom act out in Florida...

Interview with Somnent.
"I've kept in touch with Giovanni, creator of solo Death/Doom project Somnent since the early days of the band, when the first EP 'Eventide' impressed me as being a good start with plenty of potential. The recent release of Somnent's debut full-length 'Sojourn' was a good excuse to make it a more formal conversation, and find out how things have evolved over the last few years. Thanks to Giovanni for the detailed and thoughtful responses to all of my questions!"

Somnent creator Giovanni A. Vigliotti.

Hey Giovanni, thanks for joining us on Doom-metal.com. Could we start with a formal introduction to our readers: who you are and where you're from?

Hey Mike, itís my pleasure! My name is Giovanni Antonio Vigliotti, my background is Italian and Puerto Rican, and I currently live in Orlando, FL USA.

I'm not sure I could name even a handful of Florida-based Doom bands - is there much of a scene out there?

While I canít really speak for the Florida scene as a whole, Iím sure that there are more Doom bands here, itís just a matter of finding them! I can say however that Florida has a very active metal scene. Especially here in Orlando which gets tons of people moving in and out of the area due to tourism. You have groups of fans for every style of Metal really, but I think the most prominent sub-genres out here are Alternative/Nu-Metal and the various versions of ďcoreĒ bands (Death Core, Grind Core, etc). I do know that there is a small vein of Melodic Death Metal bands that are making it (or have made) out in the scene. If there are any serious Doom bands out here, I sure do hope to run into them one day!

So, how did you get into music in the first place? Any sort of formal background, or were you self-taught?

Well I grew up in a very musical household. My grandfather was a singer in Puerto Rico through the 40ís and 50ís while both of my parents are big lovers of music. I received my first electric guitar for my 12th birthday as a kid. That was my first official introduction into music, shifting from a passive listener to an active listener, and trying to find more complex music that I could learn by ear. I also received three years of formal piano training where I finally learned to read music. But everything else has been self-taught.

And what made you decide to set up as a solo Death/Doom act. When did Somnent first come into being, and what did you initially have in mind for the project?

There are multiple factors that lead to the formation of Somnent and in retrospect its formation has its roots that go much further back in time. In the Summer of 2005 I was visiting my local CD shop and picked up a copy of the Candelight USA Beyond Extremes Summer Sampler. I had never heard of any of the bands on that CD at that point save for a few. Little did I know that this CD sampler would have such a huge impact on me musically. This was my first time hearing European bands like Insomnium with the track ďThe Day it All Came DownĒ and Slumberís ďConflictĒ. I was completely blown away.

After having tried to set up quite a few bands unsuccessfully, I was so down hearted about it, that I took a break from writing music for a good three or four years and decided to focus on my studies. During this time I also kept exploring bands, going to shows, and jamming on my own. It was in my last year of my undergraduate studies that I decided it was time to start trying to write material again. At the end of 2014 I completed the title track for the Eventide EP with no clear plans about what I was going to do with it.

Even though I had always wanted to be a part of a band, due to a tight schedule I simply made Somnent to be a solo-project. While it would be nice to make it a live act, on this side of the pond it has proved to be quite difficult to find like-minded musicians in terms of musical taste. So rather than wait to find the musicians, I decided to pursue things on my own. When I moved to Fort Lauderdale in 2015 for graduate school, I finally settled on the project name Somnent. Itís basically a made up word to represent the physical act/state of sleeping.

Have you ever considered trying to expand it into a full band, either with local musicians or via internet collaboration? Or do you prefer being able to work alone?

I have thought about this quite a lot actually, and even more so now than ever before. However, working alone has its advantages. For example, I never have to worry about when someone else will be able to meet up to rehearse. And I donít have to rely on someone else to bring over a needed piece of gear or to write a piece of lyric or song. This places everything into my own hands, and if I fail to do something itís because I let it slip through the cracks. It might sound burdensome to many people Iím sure, but this is really what gives me the drive that I need. Knowing that Iím basically in control of the outcomes and itís not going to fall apart simply because I couldnít find a drummer to help me create a rhythm for example.

Clearly, it's never going to be easy to take a solo project on the road. Do you have any ambitions towards performing live at all?

More recently I have entertained the idea of searching for musicians in order to try and turn Somnent into a live act. There has been quite a bit of hesitation from my end however. And itís not so much because I want to control every aspect of the project. But more so because now that I work a full-time day job (to pay for my hobby essentially) there is very little personal time except for some evenings and weekends. And personally, I would much rather spend my time promoting the project online or writing new material than searching for musicians and dealing with different personalities, schedules, etc. I guess Iíve become a bit jaded from my experiences in my early years. If Somnent does become a live act, I may opt to search for professional backing musicians if I am unable to put together a trustworthy team. Of course this is a rabbit-hole all on its own and Iím not sure if I am ready to go this route. Both financially and logistically!

What do you consider the key elements of Doom, and which bands most influenced that for you?

Iím pretty sure everyone has a different answer for what they consider important to the ďDoomĒ sound. For me itís a rather obscure thing, I feel the most important element has to do with the atmosphere that the music creates and the feelings it elicits. Is the music creating images in my mindís eye? One of the very first bands I ever listened to in the genre was Draconian with the track ďShe DiesĒ. Even to this day, very few songs have stuck to me the way that one has. A couple other bands that have accomplished this for me have been Doom:VS, Candlemass, Isole, Summoning, and Wintersun. While some of these bands may not be considered Doom, they all have the underlying element of what I consider to be important to the genre. And every time I sit down to write a song, I try to recreate the feelings that these bands brought about for me in my early years of musical exploration.

And how do you go about your own compositions? Is there any particular order or discipline to how you write, or do you start from more random inspiration and take it from there?

I donít particularly follow a set of rules or guidelines when it comes to writing songs. However, I do tend to start out usually by picking up a guitar and just trying to experiment. If I think Iíve come across something that sounds a little different or something that I find appealing, I will then record to my phone and come back to it later. If it sounds good to me a day or two later then I will try to build on that riff or chord progression. From there, once I think I have some kind of skeleton for a verse or chorus, I will then record a demo with all of the pieces coming together. This demo then becomes my work space for that song until it feels complete. Because of this, I tend to write lyrics last and sometimes I wonít even bother coming up with lyrics for a song if I feel that it might not be a good enough composition. And by good enough I mean, is it something that I would enjoy listening to? Because if I find it boring or distasteful, thereís a good chance that others might as well.

We first heard of Somnent when the Eventide EP came out in 2015. How difficult was it to complete that? What sort of a learning curve were you on, considering you played everything and handled all the production? And did you have a recording engineer, or do that yourself as well?

Eventide was indeed a challenge to complete. I had little to no experience in recording, let alone in audio production. So not only was I struggling to write material, but I spent countless hours trying to learn the basics of what I needed in order to make a listenable set of songs. The only help I received was through the input of friends and family on guitar tones, drum sounds, etc. I also have to give thanks to Jari Lindholm (Exgenesis/Seas of Years/Enshine) as well. He was an invaluable friend and resource while I tried to build my knowledge base.

Somnent - 'Eventide' (Full EP):

As I recall, it was a bit of a task to find a suitable label, but it was released on CD by GSP in 2016. How hard was it to find an appropriate deal, and what was it like working with Vitaly?

Honestly I never intended to release the EP with a label. I had reached out to some of the bigger labels like Solitude and Rain Without End Records but with little interest from them. After some time had passed since the digital release I received a message from Vitaly stating that he was interested in the project and that he really loved the music. The offer he made was fair and he showed a genuine interest, so I decided to go with it. We set up an agreement and the rest was history. For me, working with him and GS Productions could not be easier. I have no deadlines when it comes to putting out a release and I have complete creative freedom. For a project like Somnent this is extremely ideal because for now, I work on music only in my limited spare time. So itís nice to not have the added pressure of deadlines or constraints to music style.

When did you start working on the full-length 'Sojourn'? Having already produced the EP, what was easier - or more difficult - for you this time around?

I began working on Sojourn immediately following the release of Eventide actually. And the verse section of the title track Sojourn, was actually written back in 2014. So some of the elements for this album were already present. They just needed some time and focus to mould them into something tangible. In retrospect however, there was nothing simple about releasing Sojourn. I struggled not only with time management, being a full-time graduate student and working my first full-time ďcareerĒ job. But I also had upgraded almost all of the recording gear! So while I was struggling to find enough creativity to write the songs, I also had to put in time to learn to utilize a lot of the new equipment. In addition to that, I again did not have time or budget to search for an engineer or an artist to do the album art work. So I did the best I could researching the respective topics in order to learn just enough to get by. Overall, despite not having a true deadline, I believe the release of Eventide could have easily spilled over into 2018. Not to mention Florida had a series of close calls with hurricanes. And being in Fort Lauderdale at the time, we were expected to get the worst of the weather. There were quite a few challenges with this release, but Iím quite happy with the end result.

And what would you say are the main differences and improvements in 'Sojourn' compared to 'Eventide'? How do you see your personal musical evolution during that period?

Personally, the first and probably biggest difference from Eventide to Sojourn for me was the types of emotions that were put into the songs. Eventide was kind of an outlet of some darker and angrier emotions. Whereas Sojourn was more along the lines of longing, sadness, and melancholy. The second biggest difference for me and probably also for the listener, is the use of clean vocals in the songs. Once the music was recorded and I began fitting in the lyrics, I tried to allow the songs to develop on their own. And if a moment in a song called for a stentorian growl or a soft whisper, I had to let the music be the guide for that. In no way, shape, or form do I consider myself a singer. But rather, I tried to utilize the vocals as another instrument in order to deliver the appropriate message or feelings for which the song was attempting to invoke. Third, and my personal favourite difference between the two releases, was the more extensive use of clean and acoustic guitars. These elements allowed me to express myself even further, especially since I often feel constrained when only relying on electric guitars to compose a piece of work. With this in mind, while I do enjoy the more traditional Doom sound of slow heavy riffs with crushing guitar tones. I feel that Sojourn was a stepping stone for me musically, from which I was able to push myself further as a developing musician. For example, I put more focus on song structure this time around than I previously had done. Sojourn forced me to push my abilities to the next level, and I hope that this pattern of growth will continue in the future.

Somnent - 'Sojourn' (Full album):

Have you any ideas what might come next? Did 'Sojourn' leave you with some fresh inspirations to follow up on, or was it a more-or-less self-contained entity?

Well, from a personal standpoint Sojourn was the closing of a chapter in my life. There were some personal experiences that occurred up to, and during the writing process of Sojourn. And this album is a reflection of that. So in that sense yes, Sojourn is most definitely its own self-contained entity. Musically however I feel that this is just the beginning of me exploring a genre that I personally love and enjoy. And I hope to expand and build upon the influences that inspired me to begin playing this style of music in the first place. That being said, Sojourn has left me wanting to take the music in all sorts of potential directions. But the fun part will be taking all of these ideas in the future, and bringing them together to form what will hopefully be, a unique sound experience.

I always like to give people the opportunity to have their opinion on what we write put 'on the record', as it were. So, having reviewed both 'Eventide' and 'Sojourn', are there any comments, good or bad, you'd like to make on those?

My only input would have to be, keep doing what youíre doing! I feel the reviews are fair and sincere with lots of thought behind each one. Honestly, we need more of this not just in the Doom scene, but in the world in general.

Have you had much other coverage or feedback from press or public? How's it been received, generally? Any idea how sales are going?

Honestly there has not been much press coverage for the current release and this is most likely due to me being not so business savvy. However, those that have heard or covered the album have left nothing but great feedback. Hopefully with time it will gain some more recognition. My current plan is to evaluate the areas which were overlooked for this release and basically not repeat the same mistakes the next one!

On a more technical note, what equipment do you use in the studio? If money was no object, would you want to upgrade any of that, and what would your ultimate set-up look like?

As far as instruments go I have a very small selection of guitars that I use for my recordings, each with its own purpose. This includes three electric guitars, one bass, and one acoustic. The guitars are an LTD MH100-QMNT with Seymour Duncan pickups, a Solar A1.7ET, and an Ibanez RG-8. My current guitar amps are a Hughes and Kettner Grand Meister 36 and a Marshall MG100. Both are used through my Marshall MG 4x12 which is a bit of a Frankenstein of a cab. It currently has one Celestion Vintage 30 speaker, a Celestion Vintage 60, and two Marshall MG series speakers. Even though Iím pretty content with my current set-up, Iíd eventually like to upgrade to an Apollo UAD interface and maybe get a bigger desk. Thereís hardly room for my mouse and keyboard!

And on the production side, what do you use for recording/mixing/mastering? Does that give you everything you need, or is there more you'd like to be able to do?

All recording/mixing/and mastering is done ďin-the-boxĒ at my home project studio. I have a small assortment of microphones as well but my main players are a Sure SM7B for vocals and a Line Audio (Sweden) CM3 microphone for guitars. Everything is routed through a Scarlett 18i20 to Pro Tools except for vocals which are usually tracked going from an ISA Two mic-pre to a WA-76 compressor. This current set-up has everything I need to make recordings at home with the exception of recording live drums. I have the inputs, but not the space!

What's your goal with Somnent and/or with your own musical development? Do you have any kind of clear destination in mind, either in the band's current format or with a change of direction?

Originally when I started Somnent my goal was to create a project that did not focus so much on being a pioneer of the genre. But rather, I put focus on simply trying to create great music within one of my favourite genres. However, being a guitarist by nature I am always trying to improve my abilities both in technique and song composition. That being said, I think Somnentís sound will develop and possibly morph over time as I continue to try and push my own boundaries as a musician.

So, what else occupies your time outside of music? Is there anything you'd particularly like to be doing, given a free hand to indulge?

Well, my current day job as a data analyst in the healthcare industry occupies most of my time so really my free time is spent doing music! However, outside of music I enjoy getting out and going for runs either around the neighbourhood or at the gym. It provides me with a chance to stop thinking and just focus on the moment. Additional activities I enjoy are reading (both for fun and for information), drawing, and learning more skills or technologies that may be valuable at work.

Well, that's it for my questions: thanks for your time Giovanni, and I hope they've given you the chance to cover Somnent with some thoroughness. If there's anything else that you'd like to say, please feel free to have the last words...

I would like to say thank you for arranging this interview and for all the work you and the rest of the team do at Doom-Metal.com. Iíd also like to say thank you to everyone that has shown interest in the project, the support is very much appreciated!

Click HERE to discuss this interview on the doom-metal forum.

Visit the Somnent bandpage.

Interviewed on 2018-03-23 by Mike Liassides.
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