5 Questions with Matt Moliti of Dark Empire

Say hello to one of our newest endorsers, Matt Moliti! Besides being a technical monster (as evidenced below), Matt is the mastermind behind Dark Empire. The NJ progressive/death metal band is getting ready to open for White Wizzard, share the stage with Raven at this year’s Pathfinder Metal Fest, and has recently decimated audiences on the east coast. Peep the “Vigier On Tour” tab for more dates and specifics. Matt took some time to answer a couple questions for us. Enjoy!

How would you describe Dark Empire?

In the simplest terms, we are a Progressive Metal band. I like taking varied influences and mixing them all up and seeing what comes out, not liking to limit myself to one easily pigeonholed sound. So in one tune you may find heavy death metal inspired riffs and shredding guitar solos and in another tune you might find layered acoustic guitars with oldschool mellotrons and odd time signatures. And sometimes you’ll find all those elements in one song. We’ve definitely evolved over the years, but the one consistent I see is that there is always a vibe of extreme and classic metal influences coming together.

Why Vigier? Why 7 strings?

The first Vigier I ever played was when I had the pleasure of taking a private lesson with Ron Thal maybe 6 years ago. He let me try out his “foot” guitar. Ever since, I have always been impressed with the playability of a Vigier. There really is nothing like it. I’ve definitely played guitars that come very close, but the sheer stability of the neck is unrivaled. It allows you to get the action insanely low with the same feel across the entire scale length, which really is great for me, because much of my lead style is based on legato and right hand tapping. Its literally like playing on air. And the stainless steel frets also make bending and vibrato effortless, they feel like silk. Anyway, I have some other friends who also happened to be Vigier artists, one of which being Christian Colabelli, who is a phenomenal guitarist. Upon having a vacant live 2nd guitar slot in Dark Empire, I asked if he’d like to play with us and he very enthusiastically said yes. Next thing I know, our album is in the hands of DJ Scully and I’m now proudly playing a Supra 7!
The switch to 7 strings occurred because I had been listening to more and more bands that were tuned to B and lower, and I really wanted to be able to write in that register without sacrificing the higher range, so a 7 string really was the only option. I tune down a whole step as well, so my lowest string is an A. I actually made a conscious decision to not just write around the open low string either; I like to treat the extended range as simply that, extended. If I want to or need to go that low, its there. Since I don’t just go for the lowest possible note all the time, some guitarists might listen to Dark Empire songs and think I’m switching between several tunings, but its all on a 7 down a whole step. Our most recent album, From Refuge to Ruin, is also the first to feature 7 string guitars.

What above all else makes you reach for your instrument? A particular thought or mental state or activity?

On a daily basis, I just enjoy playing because its fun. I love working on new musical ideas or licks, or just jamming on some riffs. And since the Vigier is such a joy to play, all it makes me want to do is play more. When I’m in writing mode, I get inspired by a lot of things, but I like to find much of my musical inspiration in the Prog Rock music of bands like King Crimson, Genesis, Kansas, and Rush. I like writing late at night, with a good cup of coffee by my side. I just feel most creative at that time. Its not unusual for me to work from midnight until 6 or 7am. I haven’t written with my Vigier yet, but I plan on starting work on more Dark Empire material this winter.

Matt Moliti and Christian Colabelli of Dark Empire

What projects do you have going on besides Dark Empire?

As far as original music, nothing at the moment, although the idea of doing a strictly solo endeavor has piqued my interest recently. I think I’ll at the very least want to get another full length Dark Empire release out before that, but I can definitely see myself doing one in the future. I know there are things that I enjoy musically that wouldn’t really fit in the Dark Empire realm, so it would give me an opportunity to delve into that. On top of that, I’m a pretty in demand guitar teacher, and I currently teach out of the School of Rock in Chatham, NJ. For those not in that area, I also give webcam lessons via www.bandhappy.com (www.bandhappy.com/profile/darkempiregtr)

If you could create an “All Star” band with yourself on guitar, who else would be in the band (living or dead!)

Wow, that’s such a tough question, because what do you base your choices on? I’m going to go with who would make the most interesting writing partners:

  • Dan Swano: 2nd guitar
  • Tony levin: bass/stick
  • Martin Lopez: drums
  • Tony Banks (circa 1971-74): keyboards
  • Ronnie James Dio: vocals

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Tags: christian colabelli, dark empire, excalibur supra 7, matt moliti