FACTORY OF DREAMS
Questions asked by Jon Wilde, added to Rock Realms 4th November 2009.
Factory Of Dreams is the latest project from the unnecessarily talented Portuguese musician Hugo Flores. On new album A Strange Utopia, Hugo performs the majority of the instruments, programming and production. In fact the only thing he can't do is female vocals - leaving them instead to the silky toned Jessica Lehto.
We caught up with Hugo and Jessica to get their thoughts on the new album and more....
Hi Hugo, is life treating you well?
Hugo: It is yes, we finished our second Factory of Dreams album called 'A Strange Utopia' (will be released on the 17th November - Street date and on the 23rd in a few other countries). We filmed a video clip and now we also did another goodie that fans will certainly enjoy. It will be released this Christmas or a bit before that.
How and when did you originally get into playing music?
Hugo: I think I started playing the acoustic guitar when I was maybe 7 years old, and later started trying out the synths and computer generated music. I was really fascinated by synths because they were able to create such great and innovative sounds, plus reproduce several real instruments; the possibilities were endless, or almost...
Later I did a solo album called Atlantis that got some attention, and then something bigger with Sonic Pulsar and then the epic Project Creation. Now I’m very much focused on Factory of Dreams even though I’ll have to start writing the last Project Creation album, from this trilogy.
Jessica: I started playing the piano/keyboard when I was seven, and when I was 15 I started singing. When I was 17 I wrote my first piece of music and since then the music thing has just gotten busier and busier for me.
What was your first instrument?
Hugo: An acoustic guitar, can't even remember the brand, and then a black electric guitar followed. Again, that was a long time ago so I have no recollection of the brand, but it was a cheap one I bet since I was starting and the odds of destroying the damn thing were too high ;)
Jessica: A Casio CTK-631 keyboard, I think. Very advanced and very lovely sounds, yes indeed ;)
Do you come from a musical family?
Hugo: Not really.
Jessica: Two of my brothers are writing music too, so I suppose it’s in the family a bit somehow.
Who were you early influences?
Hugo: Vangelis, David Arkenstone, the usual pop/rock from the 80s too, Def Leppard, Bryan Adams, then the prog rock stuff Yes, Pink Floyd, and metal Ozzy Osbourne, Devin Townsend, SYL, Dream Theatre, Rush, The Gathering...
Jessica: I don’t quite know if I had that many influences back in the days when I started with the piano thing, but when I started singing and stuff I guess the influences were pretty much what they are now, The Gathering, Nightwish, Within Temptation, Enya and similar.
How did the two of you meet and start working together?
Hugo: I met Jessica at MySpace, listened to her own music, and two tracks really made an impression on me. I sent her a demo I had done for the first album Poles, for the track Transmission Fails, she got back to me with her interpretation for vocals and everything began from there.
Jessica, what is your musical background and training?
Jessica: As I said I started playing the piano when I was seven, and when I was 15 I started singing a bit. When I was 17 I started recording music, and then I also started singing more since I used my own vocals for this music. When I was 19 I took vocal classes about once a week for a year, maybe a year and a half. I would love to take more classes, hopefully that will happen at some point. I am however recording myself very frequently, not only for Factory of Dreams but also for my own project 'Once There Was' and for the Argentinean band 'Beto Vazquez Infinity', so I try to improve as well as I can on my own.
Did Jessica's voice inspire the Factory Of Dreams style?
Hugo: Regarding the debut album, and the main Factory of Dreams concept, the style came first since I hadn't yet chosen a vocalist. At the time I didn't know her, at least not consciously, I could have listened at some point to her voice. I had the basic music lines done, so I needed a good versatile voice that would not only fit well but provide more to the music.
Now, with our second CD, A Strange Utopia, that's a different story. It's more than possible that some tracks and specific melodic parts were designed for her , but it was done quite naturally, so, can't confirm that 100%. I go with the flow. Anyway, Jessica is also an inspiration for my music, no doubt about it, so yeah I guess some tracks were done with her vocals in mind, such as 'Sonic Sensation's, 'Slow motion World', those that do have a stronger melodic sense and are more atmospheric.
If you had to describe the Factory Of Dreams sound, how would you do so?
Hugo: Poles is very atmospheric metal. Strange Utopia is symphonic metal with some atmospherics and electronic sections that melt with the stronger metal parts.
What sort of bands would you compare yourself to, or do you stand alone?
Hugo: When I create music, I have no band in mind, so, if we sound somehow similar it is coincidental.
Jessica: In general I think it’s up to the listener to decide what similarities there might be between one band and another. When you write the music you don’t quite hear those similarities because they are not intentional.
How does the new album, A Strange Utopia, compare to the first release, Poles?
Hugo: Poles is a great atmospheric rock/metal CD, but it seems to be harder for people to get into. I can't really feel this but I understand what they mean I guess. They need to listen to it several times to get it. But Poles was meant to be a simple album, at least the track’s construction/compositions are simpler, which is kind of strange since it seems to be harder than A Strange Utopia to get into like I just mentioned. But it's a very special album for me, some songs hit my mind like lightning, 'Sight Of A Better Universe' is one of those. When you get it, and fall for the melodies, it's hard to escape it or forget it.
'A Strange Utopia' is an epic album, very complete and complex, very band-like if you know what I mean. So, it is different than Poles, but like I discussed with Jessica, there are elements that totally identify the Poles' sound and the main Factory sound concept.
What are your favourite moments on the album?
Hugo: The enormous guitar sound in the mid part of 'E-motions', the changes on 'Voyage to Utopia' that create an overview of the entire CD, most of 'Sonic Sensations' song and 'Slow Motion World's' violin solos and overall emotional state. The most emotional one must be 'Sonic Sensations', and I think it really shows what was intended with the lyrics. 'Inner station' may well be my favourite track overall, it's so f%#ing powerful... Jessica’s voice is amazing on 'Sonic Sensations', and 'Inner Station' shows some dialogue between guitar and vocals, which is great.
Jessica: Of course ‘Broken’ is very special to me, since it’s a track I originally wrote for my own project ‘Once There Was’. Hearing the new arrangement Hugo made and the new vocals I recorded for it holds some sort of special feeling to me. I like ‘Garden of All Seasons’, the chorus kind of hits you in the face and I’m for once quite pleased with the vocals I did in the ending parts of that track, it’s quite different from the vocal work I do otherwise and that was quite cool to do. The intro of ‘Inner Station’ is lovely with the two different voices and the beautiful violin. The guitar solo in ‘Vacation in Venus’ kicks butt. And finally I like the overall guitar work in ‘The Road Around Saturn’.
Was the recording process work, pleasure or both?
Hugo: Both. Hard work on the mixing part, almost drove me nuts. Pleasure while composing and while mixing Jessica's vocals with the music. So, a roller coaster of emotions there.
Jessica: As always I really enjoyed recording vocals, the only thing I regret is that I did not have more time so I could work at a slightly faster pace. But such things you can’t always control, right?!
Does anyone else feature on the album, or is it literally you two?
Hugo: This time we have some guests. Vocal 'guest stars' are Zara, Gaby Koss, Antonella, Cheryl Childs and myself. On instruments, Shawn Gordon, David Ragsdale and on violins, Chris Brown and Tadashi Goto. Excellent players and they provided a sense of greatness to the CD and also progressiveness which was the real intention there.
Tell us about the video for ‘The Weight Of The World’... Who made it, where was it filmed etc.?
Hugo: I'm the producer and the director is Emil Jonsvik and it was filmed in Sweden. It was the first video for Factory of Dreams, all went smooth and Emil is just amazing and he just keeps surprising me..
Jessica: Emil is a fantastic director indeed. I don’t like cameras and particularly not ones with a video purpose, but he made it very easy for me. It felt very natural and I was very comfortable as soon as the camera started rolling. Kudos to Emil!
Have you had any luck getting the video played on MTV etc., or is that still a work in progress?
Hugo: MTV is difficult, but the video has more than 20000 plays on the net, was broadcast on National TV Show Hipertensão some 3 or 4 times, was also broadcast on a TV show in India, and hopefully will be on other shows. But, the best is really to promote it over the net and know how to target it.
Have any of your songs been played on the radio? If so, how did it feel the first time you heard one?
Hugo: There are many online radio stations that play our music regularly, plus some national programs that also do it. So, we do have some coverage there which is good. I'm used to hearing it, but the first time was cool indeed!!
Does Factory Of Dreams music translate to the live arena? If so, do you have people available to form a touring band?
Hugo: My main concern and desire is to compose, create and produce. We never know however if that possibility might arrive, but it's not that easy, logistically and as I said that's not my main interest. I'm a storyteller and composer mostly.
Any other artists you’d like to meet or work with one day?
Hugo: Right now, I’d say David Arkenstone would be a great artist to play with, no doubt.
What’s next for Factory Of Dreams?
Hugo: It's still very early to tell. But surely more music of course. I say early coz the street date for the new album hasn't yet arrived hehe so, to speak of more music is vague. But we have more surprises coming, a good one, so stay tuned.....
Are you planning any more solo work?
Hugo: I need to complete Project Creation's trilogy, don't know if I'll do that after a 3rd Factory of Dreams or before. As of solo work, I'll probably incorporate some solo song ideas on one of these two bigger projects.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Hugo: In Utopia maybe, which is a very interesting place to be, maybe more fair, and beautiful (laughs)
Jessica: Hopefully by then I’ve figured out what to do with my future and I'll be happily doing it ;)
What would you list as your favourite albums of all time?
Hugo: Oh that’s always difficult, Quest of The Dream Warrior by David Arkenstone, Nightime Birds from The Gathering, Power Windows from Rush perhaps, but there are many more I’m sure.
Jessica: ‘How to Measure a Planet’ by The Gathering and ‘Fly’ by Sarah Brightman are definitely two of them.
Do you have any interesting hobbies away from music?
Hugo: Cinema, astronomy, some reading.
Jessica: Hugging fluffy pets, watching movies, writing.
What are you up to once you finish answering these questions?
Hugo: Probably compose and try out new sounds on my synths ;) Oh, and watch some sci-fi TV Series.
Jessica: Catching up on emails might be the plan of the day.
Thanks for your time! :)
Thanks again to Hugo and Jessica for their time.