Interview Dario De Cicco (Mind Key):

"We feel like a fistful of aliens in the great wonderland of music"

(November 2019, text by Pedro Bekkers, edited by Peter Willemsen)

Mind Key is an Italian progressive metal band founded in 1999 by keyboardist Dario Di Cicco and guitarist Emanuele Colella. They recorded their first demo tape Welcome To Another Reality in 2002. In 2004 they released their debut album Journey Of A Rough Diamond followed by Pulse For A Graveheart in 2009. The band plays prog metal in the vein of Dream Theatre, Shadow Gallery, Symphony X and Vanden Plas. After ten years of silence they returned with MKIII - Aliens In Wonderland, a fabulous album. The new album is a good opportunity for Background Magazine to have an interview with co-founder and keyboardist Dario De Cicco.

Congratulations with the new album, it just sounds fabulous!
“Thank you for your support and availability, Pedro. We are glad that you appreciate our latest album since we're very proud of it.”

Could you please introduce yourself and the band to our readers?
Mind Key started in early 1999 thanks to me and guitarist Emanuele Colella. Back then we wanted
Dario De Cicco
to create a band that sounds like a melting pot of prog metal bands such as Dream Theater, Symphony X, Evergrey and Pain Of Salvation, but with a mature and more song oriented approach inspired by the hard rock genre from the eighties and nineties. For many years I only listened to Iron Maiden and nothing else! My only way out was classical music. However, one day I listened to an album with a bed and a young girl on the cover. That album was Images And Words by Dream Theater and then my musical life changed since I had just discovered prog metal. Then I started to listen to other prog metal bands like Symphony X, Pain Of Salvation, Vanden Plas and Elegy, amongst others and so did Emanuele. Our musical tastes were continuously in progress. Meanwhile, I fell in love with melodic rock, hard rock and AOR as well. I started to listen to bands like Whitesnake, Journey, Bad English, Hardline, The Storm and to all the masterpieces of those bands! I think it was just the right time for Mind Key in those days. Now, here we are with the perfect melting pot of the sounds I mentioned above!”

Would you please explain why it took ten years to release a new album?
“This long wait is definitely one of the weak points about this album, and we are pleased to have the chance to explain the reasons why. Well, Emanuele spent almost three years in the United Kingdom for personal reasons, but he never stopped being in touch with the band that he considered his second family. Anyway, the same thing happened to our bass player Lucio Grilli, who moved to Germany for professional reasons as well and he is still living there. I had to face a severe illness in 2014, but fortunately everything ended up right and now I'm doing better than ever before. In the meantime Aurelio Fierro Jr. became involved with The Voice and his focus inevitably shifted elsewhere for a while. In short: quite a lot of things happened, but we never stopped thinking about accomplishing this album. We have worked really hard to achieve our goal.”

The album is called MKIII - Aliens In Wonderland. Could you explain the title?
Well, it is a perfect mix of different elements. The main elements are simply the following: MKIII simply means “Mind Key, MarkIII because of the involvement of Lucio Grilli on bass and Mirkko De Maio on drums.
Aliens In Wonderland is a representation of our lives beyond Mind Key. Wonderland represents the magical world of the music scene and metal productions. Unfortunately real life differs from our dreams. Just Mirkko and Aurelio work as fulltime musicians. Both of them have their own musical projects beside Mind Key. They are occupied with music 24 hours a day. Mirkko is the current drummer with The Flower Kings, while Aurelio is a great Italian repertoire singer, who has a great live music activity in our Neapolitan territory. I'm a lawyer specialized in the music market, copyright, and intellectual property and a father in private life. Lucio is an IT-engineer. Emanuele is an English teacher, portrait and tattoo artist and also part-time working as a musician. Now you understand that all band members do very different things in normal life, so we feel like a fistful of aliens in the great wonderland of music.”

Could you tell us a bit about the album tracks? Is there a concept?
“No, there's not. Each song tells a different story usually inspired by a movie, a book or a personal or introspective vision. Aliens In Wonderland is inspired by a short novel called A Martian In Rome written by the great Italian novelist Italy Calvino. Hank - The Blazing Eyes was inspired by the great personality of Charles Bukowski. Hate At First Sight describes the emotions of people who judge everybody only based on prejudice. Angry Men was inspired by the great classic movie 12 Angry Men by Sydney Lumet. Hands Off Cain represents my aversion against the death penalty, and Vertigo was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's movie of the same name.”

Did the new rhythm section change something within your band?
“Since the first day we have a good feeling about each other both as friends and as professionals. Lucio and Mirkko are really great professional musicians and they have intensively contributed to the whole composing process. With the previous musicians we just had at a certain point different views about the music and the goals we wanted to reach, so we agreed to split up with neither regrets nor grudges.”

You started as a band being influenced by Dream Theater. What are your main musical influences today?
“Well, AOR and hard rock bands like Whitesnake, Rainbow, Journey, Bad English, Winger meet the new wave of great melodic progressive metal which also include Pagan's Mind, Circus Maximus, Haken, Vanden Plas and other great aforementioned bands.”
Mind Key (L to R): Mirkko De Maio, Emanuele Colella, Aurelio Fierro Jr, Lucio Grilli and Dario De Cicco

Of which songs you have worked on through your career are you the most proud of?
“Maybe you expect an answer like 'I love all the songs I wrote', but that's not the case. However, it is not easy to make a choice, but I think that I'm most proud of the songs I personally wrote. With the only exception of the four songs I wrote for this album - Aliens In Wonderland, Angry Men, Psycho World and Hands Off Cain, I can say that my favourite self-written song is A New Generation. I think it's a great and very inspired track, which I wrote after reading a great book by the amazing writer named Pier Paolo Gasoline. I think the most interest side of this song is the intricate Fugato by a string quartet that you can hear in the middle of the song which is based on the main theme of the song. I'm very proud of it.”

Although your former vocalist Marco Bazile left to join DGM, I hear a lot of similarities with that band. Am I wrong or do you agree?
“Sorry, but I disagree on this point! Please note that we have shared the stage together several times and we are all very good friends, but I think that DGM - which is a great and powerful band - is more of a power metal oriented band, while we are a melodic metal band with a direction towards hard rock and AOR. However, we have a lot of respect for our friends of DGM.”

Will you support the release of Aliens In Wonderland with a tour? Any plans made?
“Yes of course! Planning live shows and a promotional tour is now our main task. We're working on several good opportunities. Let's see what happens! To be honest, it will not be easy since we need to bring people together who live in different places, but Aliens In Wonderland will be played in front of an audience. That's for sure! We are really eager to come back on stage. We have been waiting so long for that and we really can't wait to receive people's feedback during live shows!”

Thank you, Dario for answering my questions for Background Magazine.
“It's my pleasure Pedro, and thanks to Background Magazine for giving me this opportunity.”

More info about Mind Key on the Internet:

       review album 'MKIII - Aliens In Wonderland'

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