Interview | Ricky Mandozzi, SCHIZOPHRENIA (Death/Thrash Metal - Belgium)

Schizophrenia is a multi-influenced thrash/death metal band from Belgium.

Formed in 2016, the band's popularity continues to grow, especially in 2023 which is a prolific year for them. Schizophrenia have been touring, promoting their album and their latest EP, and the audience turned out in force. 

Meet Ricky Mandozzi, the band's singer and bassist.


Hi, first of all, I saw your concert at the Grofest in Pau in April with Warbringer and Evil Invaders. This concert was really amazing! I didn’t know the band before this date and it was a great discovery for me.

This concert was part of your “Ravaged Europe” tour, how was the feedback from the audience?

We had very positive feedback, we had a lot of sold-out shows and for us this was our first “big tour”. We played in a lot of countries that we never played before, France for example, Spain, we had an awesome crowd and a ton of fans every night. We came back really satisfied with the outcome, the fact that we had a lot of sold-out shows was a big surprise for us. And the show in Pau was actually really fun, I loved it.

Can you introduce the band to our readers who don’t know you yet?

Schizophrenia is … well, I would call it “extreme” metal band. I guess it’s quite like death/thrash metal oriented but we have a lot of heavy metal influences, a lot of punk influences, we all come from different backgrounds. I guess our music sounds more like … it’s closer to the sound of late 80″/early 90″ death thrash. It’s hard for me to put a label on it most of the time because sometimes we take our inspirations from black metal, sometimes more from prog stuff.

And how did you know each other?

I’m Italian and I moved to Belgium ten years ago to make music, and I started going to shows looking for musicians basically. I joined a band as a singer and bass player and in the same time Romeo (guitars) also joining that band and that’s how Romeo and I met. Then, Romeo and I decided to do something on our own, something different, so we came up with this new name, this new project, and then we found Marty (guitars) and Lorenzo (drums). We wrote the first EP "Voices" and then we had a bit of a stop because Lorenzo had an ear infection and he couldn’t play for like two years. In the meanwhile, we wrote music and then Lorenzo officially joined the band in 2017, and "Voices" came up in 2020.

What is the story behind the choice of the band’s name? Is it a reference to Sepultura?

We are, of course, huge fans of Sepultura and “Schizophrenia” is definitely one of our favourite records. It was definitely inspired by that record but we don’t want to copy Sepultura, we don’t want to sound like Sepultura. Apart from the name we didn’t take much from that album, I guess. It’s mostly a reference to the music we play, something speed, schizophrenic.

You released your last two albums respectively in 2022 for “Recollections of the Insane” and 2023 for your cover album “Chants of the Abyss”. They both got good feedback.

Regarding "Recollections of the Insane", why did you choose the work of Stefan Todorović (Khaos Diktator Design) for the artwork cover?

One night I had this dream in which I saw like a landscape with statues and there was something very creepy and when I woke up I made a sketch of that. And I was like “this is very unsettling and that’s what I want to have on the album”. Then, given a second thought we didn’t really want to do another death metal album with a landscape on the cover. So, we thought doing this with one statue instead, which would be massive and a very dominant as a figure in the picture. And for that we use a reference of the Exorcist movie when the priest is in Afghanistan somewhere in the middle of the desert and he found this statue. And that scene is a very powerful scene, just the statue in the middle of nothing hit by the sun is a very strong image. And so we started to look for an artist that could represent that thing. And eventually we got in touch with Stefan, it was really a pleasure to work with him because he’s very skilled and we are really satisfied with the artwork.

Does this artwork reflect the themes of the album?

Yes, especially the song called "Monolith". If you read the lyrics, that’s the main reference you can find in that song. It’s about this statue that has like sort of magic powers and one of these powers is driving people insane. The thought that’s a strong image with this figure in front of the statue who is like submitting to the statue, surrendering.

Ah yes, like a Lovecraft reference?

Oh yes, kind of!

And, in general, what is your process of creation and recording? What inspires you during the writing process?

We wrote the music all together. Obviously, our guitarist came with a riff first, and we all settle down together and found arrangements and everything, it was a group work. For the lyrics I wrote most of them, like 80% of the lyrics, and most of it came from dreams, fears, thoughts. We wrote this record in the middle of the Covid emergency. None of us were working and I spent a lot of time home. And me, personally, when I’m home, in general, I don’t have like a regular routine. I’m a night person, I’m awake at night until very late and I attempt to sleep more during the day, and I spent like countless hours trying to find lyrics during the day. And then when I go to sleep at five in the morning, half an hour after rolling inside my bed I was just waking up and I was like “OK, I got it”. The lyrics for “Onwards to fire” were written at five in the morning. I had spent all day finding lyrics and then I went to bed and I came up with this story. I had to get up and write it down.

We also take inspiration from horror movies as well as actual facts, like real stories. Obviously, in the song, they are not reported as they are in reality, I just take inspirations from these stories and do something else out of it.

Once we had the song and put together the voice and the music, we made a preproduction at home. We recorded everything at home and then we worked with Francesco Paoli from Fleshgod Apocalypse. He’s been our producer, he helped us with the arrangements on the album. So, at some point we basically sent him the songs and he came back to us with an extra touch. We rearranged some of the songs, change a few things here and there and we decided that it was time to record it. For the first EP "Voices", we wanted to sound a little bit like death/thrash, so we wrote the record like that. But for "Recollection of the insane", we just said: “Let’s just write, whatever, what comes out”. You can hear in some of the songs a little bit of black metal influence maybe, and some songs are a little bit more “proggy”. We didn’t really care about the “we want to sound like something”. We just wanted to sound like “this stuff is cool”, so we just kept playing it this way. We didn’t really have boundaries. We just do what we like to do.

About your album "Chants of the Abyss", where you play Judas Priest, Slayer, Morbid Angel, Exodus, GBH and The Misfits songs, why did you choose to make a cover album?

During our live shows, we pretty much always play a cover and we saw that people loved it. We noticed that when we played in some places as one of the opening bands and nobody knew us, playing a song like "Maze of Torment" that pretty much everybody knows really get the attention of the crowd and they remember us because we played that song. Over the years because now, we’ve been playing Maze of Torment like quite a few years, we made it a bit our own, we play it our way and when we decided to record "Recollection of the Insane" we also recorded "Maze of Torment" because we wanted to put it on the album. Then, once we got the mix, we though like maybe this song doesn’t belong to this album. We decided to keep it aside and do something else with it. And then, the idea slowly started to record a bunch of other covers and make a cover EP. It was something fun to do because … we thought about it when we were going to shows and we had eight hours in the car. We listened to music in the car, and we thought, “maybe we can cover this band or this other band”… And then we put together a bunch of songs and we start playing them. We made arrangements and stuff like that, and then we recorded it. To be honest I was a bit sceptical at first because I thought, “Who’s gonna buy a cover EP? And why people gonna buy a cover EP?”. But on tour, we sold it as much as the album.

Did you expect such a reception?

For "Recollection of the insane" I have to say I was a bit nervous when it came out, because the "Voices" EP was well acclaimed by the press, by the crowd. It had a big success, in the underground of course… But I knew that with "Recollection of the Insane" we had something quite different from the first EP, and I know a lot of fans were expecting something more on the same wave as the "Voices" EP. I was reading that on some Facebook groups, forums, that a lot of people really expecting this album to be very much on the same wave as the EP. And I knew it wasn’t very much, except for maybe a few songs here and there, and I knew it was quite different, at least from my point of view. And as we released it, some people left and a lot of people needed two or three more listening. But eventually … we didn’t really get bad comments about it, we grew much more actually. I know a bunch of people who prefer the first EP, but it’s just a handful of people.

Do you already have any ideas for a new album?

Yes, we are slowly starting to work on the new album. But I have only heard like a couple of riffs, we don’t really have songs or anything, just cool riffs. We haven’t really started working on the new album because … honestly, we don’t really have time. We’ve been on the road a lot this year. In January we had to prepare the release of "Chant of the Abyss" which came out the 7th of February. So since the beginning of the year we were working on this cover EP. And then, we started preparing the tour with Warbringer and Evil Invaders, and we’ve been on the road for about five weeks, then we came home and we didn’t really see each other. In June, we’ve been playing all the time at festivals, other shows. July was quite calm and in August we have Wacken, Summer Breeze, Alcatraz and some other festivals. September is going to be busy, October too, and in November we will be on tour again with Krisiun. We are actually fully booked until early December. So realistically, we will start working properly on the new album around December. And we’re going to take a break from live shows.

We can see that you particularly like the ‘80s/’90s aesthetic, what are your sources of inspiration (musicians, films, authors)?

If you are talking strictly musically, I would say all the early death metal bands like Morbid Angel, Deicide, Slayer, Demolition Hammer. As, for the aesthetic, I think we all go for it, that kind of late eighties and early nineties looks, but that’s not something band related. We just have that image 365 days a year on our own, it’s just like who we are, how we grew up basically. But we kind of like all that horror imagery and that kind of stuff. Painting can inspire us as well. If you listen to the song Fall of the Damned on "Recollection of the Insane", that’s completely inspired by the painting callled Fall of the Damned from Peter Paul Rubens. I’m really into art. Marty is a lot into art as well, and he’s actually the one who that song, the music is all Marty’s music. As for the lyrics of that song, it was written with Marty mainly, Romeo and I as well, but it’s really the representation of the painting. It describes the painting actually.

You still have a lot of concerts planned this year: Belgium, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Switzerland…

Do you already have concerts planned for 2024 and are you going to go back to France?

We have something already for 2024, it’s already booked but France next year is not planned yet, but I hope someday. But, for next year we will not be playing around as much as we did this year. We need to write a new record and record it. We will only have some few shows in Spain and Portugal as far as I know, and then we have a festival somewhere in Germany I think, I don’t remember which one and that’s all I know for 2024 so far. Maybe something else is going to come up maybe, and we might be touring again, maybe not. It depends how as far we will be with the album, because we want to try to release sometime next year before people get tired of listening to the same songs over and over.

Speaking of France, how was your concert at Hellfest?

That was really good! It was my first time at the Hellfest, I’ve never been there before. I was a little bit stressed out because we played around twelve and I thought, “Who the hell is going to be there at twelve?” Because I thought with a festival visitor point of view … the weather was bad, it was raining but it was also quite hot and I was like, “If I got drunk last night, I don’t want to wake up that early to see a band, I’d rather stay at my tent and vegetate all day”. So, we had a soundcheck, we got off stage and five minutes before our show it was pouring rain outside. So I had a look behind the curtain and I saw that the tent was completely full. So I told myself, “Oh, shit, that’s going to be a great show”. I had a lot of fun; I had a very good day at Hellfest. I met a lot of my heroes, a lot of big artists in the backstage. I had the chance to play for a few thousand people, it was really cool. But we played in France for the first time this year and I had no idea what to expect. I’m pretty satisfied with the outcome. The show in Pau was really good, the show in Lyon was also really good, Nantes as well was crazy good. So, big up to the French people!

What is the major difference between playing in festivals and in a club? Which one do you prefer to play in?

I would be a liar if I tell you that I prefer small clubs to Hellfest. On the other hand, I like playing both. The week after Hellfest, we played in this small club in Netherland. We played in front of like 40–50 people. It was a Sunday, and it was fun. I played there before, it’s a super-small club, I have very good memories in that place. If you ask me between that and Hellfest, so yes I would go for Hellfest. But I love playing at clubs like when you have the crowd just there around the stage, you can touch them, you can interact with them and talk to them. Hellfest, of course, as a musician playing on such a big stage is like “the dream come true”. Same in Graspop. But yes, when we play in the club I can go to my merch table after the show and just talk to people, because we are a fairly new band and after people discovered us, they want to see us and talk to us as well. That’s important to me. I like to talk to the fans after the show and have a chat with them, have a drink together. It’s cool and it’s something you can’t do at big festivals because the merch is handled by the festival itself.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if you play in front of ten thousand people or a hundred people. Because I notice that the difference is that if you play for a hundred people in a venue that host a hundred people, you have a packed venue and 99% of the time it’s going to be a great show. If you play for hundred people in a venue that can host a thousand people, that’s going to be a bit shitty. The crowd would be spread apart, people won’t really feel and getting into the show, so they won’t start going crazy, they just won’t move. I’m nervous when I see that because I always think, “Maybe the sound over there is not good or maybe we’re not playing well.” But when the venue is packed, it doesn’t matter if it’s big or small, usually I’m very relaxed.

Any final words for Scholomance Webzine readers?

I hope that we will soon be back to France actually. We had an awesome time last time. I want to thank them for checking us out first, and we will be waiting for them at our shows and I hope to see them all soon !
Questions : Taarna
Traduction : Loucach