Even if armed with a reflective shield, curved sword and other aids of divine origin, would you have had the courage of Perseus to face Medusa? One of three winged women with large staring eyes, gaping mouth, lolling tongue, flared nostrils and serpentine locks of hair. Your first look would be your last! Perching my hand on Mario Di Donato’s stone shoulder I wonder why he had been captivated so…
Some six stiff years in the Underworld, The Black emerged with another mammoth double album. Why was it so long in the making?
The members of the band have had a bad time due to personal problems. So, none of us, had the mood to compose. Fortunately, over time, we have left behind these difficulties and we have found the will to enter the studio to record our last album “Gorgoni.”
Please explain your fascination with the Gorgon that led to this dedication of musical and brush strokes…
The Gorgons have fascinated me ever since elementary school. Especially Medusa! They are creatures who represent the evil in man and at the same time his punishment. If you look at Medusa, for example, you can remain petrified! In my music, as in my painting, I often speak of the struggle between good and evil. For these reasons, I have represented Medusa in my music and in my painting.
If she represents the female genitalia and the devouring urges of female sexuality, do you share Freud’s view that the terror of Medusa is the terror of castration?
I can say that I share the point of views of Freud. Medusa is the fear of the male before the discovery of female sexuality. The decapitation of the Gorgon can be seen as an attempt to suppress this sexuality. Woman, over the centuries, has often been the object of this attempt.
The soundtrack is suitably dark and diverse. From the very beginning, it conjures creepy visions and the terror takes different forms as the story unfolds. How do you think it feels compared to previous albums?
“Gorgoni” is the album that has the best production of my entire discography. We were able to take advantage of cutting-edge recording techniques thanks to a higher budget. This has allowed me to develop my typical sound.
Three years on, it is rumoured that the band has another two albums in the making! Centred on human phobias, “Metus Ostilis” seems to slot in well the seven deadly sins of “Peccatis Nostris” and the fear of the “Gorgoni” so why is the human psyche endlessly alluring?
I am interested in the fears of man, his phobias and his weaknesses. I watch with great interest at everything that revolves around these topics. I try to convey the emotions I get from these observations in my music and in my painting.
Boccaccio’s “The Decameron” sounds like a deep well of recounted fables through a 14th Century Italian filter. Of the hundred tales told by ten characters, which is your favourite and why?
I like all stories of “Decamerone.” It’s not easy to choose a favourite though. I can tell you that I’m working on new material, which is inspired by 10 stories from it. But I can’t tell you what these stories are, for the time being, it is still Top Secret!
Did you pen the music with a tale in mind or vice versa? And have used quoted Boccaccio’s language in the lyrics or retold them in your Latin metre?
This is my sequence: history, texts and music. I use Latin for texts. The language of “Decamerone” is the language of so-called “volgare” and it represent the Italian language of the 1500s.
Was it difficult to condense the essence of the whole into an album? And at what point did you decide enough ground had been covered to make it complete?
The subject is very vast. It was not easy to compose the lyrics and music. As I told you before, however, this is a topic that fascinates me and affects me a lot. For this reason, I also had great fun doing it! Before entering the studio to record the album there were some things that did not satisfy me and I had to see them together with the other members of the band. Now I think this one of the best albums of The Black!
The Black does not appear to be a prolific live band although did play the Metal Magic festival in Denmark this summer! Please describe your performance, the songs included and atmosphere throughout. Was The Black represented as it should have been in your eyes?
You’re right. The Black plays few concerts. We try to play only in the best places and to select those dates that really offer anything interesting. For this reason, The Black has played at the Malta Doom Metal Festival in 2012 and at Metal Magic in 2013. In both cases, we were very good. Regarding Metal Magic, Denmark is a great place and the people were very warm and welcoming! I was treated like a King and I hope to come back soon to play in those parts. In this particular concert we played songs from “Gorgoni,” “Reliquarium” and “Peccatis Nostris.” Our performance was much appreciated by the public and supported us from the beginning to the end of the concert. I can honestly say that things have gone beyond expectations!
You have also been billed to play with Misantropus at Halloween! Who booked the concert and will you be adapting your set to suit the festivities?
The date of Halloween has been organized by Misantropus. It’s an Italian group that plays a great Doom Metal. They are our fans by many years. They have all my records and our t-shirts. We have become good friends. Long ago I was their guest in Sermoneta (Latina) and they made me visit the artistic treasures of their city. Everything is ready for the concert to celebrate Halloween, a magic night with a religious significance very strong. Our obscure music is very suitable for situations like these.
When not writing and playing music, how much of your days are spent painting? Is oil on canvas your preferred medium?
Music and painting are two complementary aspects of my personality. The two are not mutually exclusive but co-exist. My favorite technique is oil on canvas but I also use many other techniques such as acrylic and tempera… I really like using mixed techniques for painting. This I was also taught at the art school.
I love your style, colours and particularly the darker themes explored. “Dies Irae,” “Infernal Moat” and “Hell” were all crafted in 1980. What are your memories from the times when you were composing them?
All my paintings are a figment of my imagination. I have certainly been impressed by other works of art but I don’t let them inspire me consciously. So when I paint I’m not surrounded by books, paintings or other artefacts. Work only fancy. My inspiration has remained unchanged over the years. Certainly in the ’80s I have made some very important works, but my art has always been very much alive also in later years.
Tell me about your self-portrait! Is your heart in the past or are you a knight of the present?
Metalheads are the warriors of the present! Despite society usually thinking that Metalheads are like criminals, we are culturally and humanly valid people that very often fight for the good ideals.
Looking back over your career, what is your proudest accomplishment to date?
My preferred painting is “Inferno” (1974) because I had opportunity to expose my opera at the famous exhibition F.P.Michetti. I don’t have a preferred album. But if I have to tell you a preference it might be “Infernus, Paradisus et Purgatorium” (1990).
As a man of culture, please describe some of your favourite pieces…
My preferred song is “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin. This song has broken the wall between Rock and Heavy Metal.
My favorite book is “Pinocchio” – the story created for children by Colllodi, an Italian writer! Pinocchio represents the contrast between good and evil. He is a cunning character, a liar but at the same time with a heart of gold and a large humanity. Then he never gives up. It is very strong and in this looks like me. I have a large collection of books and puppets of Pinocchio and I have organised also an exhibition in my city Pescosansonesco…
My favourite work of art is the “Gioconda” for its beautiful shapes and geometries. But I also love a painting less known called “Madonna col Bambino” by Filippo Lippi. This painting was made with oil on canvas. It’s fantastic because the image seems alive!
If you were to design your own coat of arms, what would be depicted, with what motto and why?
The badge should be a wolf’s head in the centre with four lions at the corners. The lion is the symbol of my city, Pescosansonesco. The motto should be “Nunc Et Semper” (Now and ever shall be…)
I have intruded long enough and must let you return to your studio! Thank you Mario. Looking forward to gazing into The Black again soon…
Thanks for the interview! A salute to the readers of your magazine! Metal will never die…
NUNC ET SEMPER!!!
Masters of the Pit #2 (September 2013)
Common Eider King Eider invokes the spirits of long ago. Solemn and cloaked, their ceremony takes shape slowly. The ceiling of the cave is certainly rather high, given the droning passage of the wind, with stick and bone piercing those gusts at intervals. Come “The Dark Winter” and the intensity is magnified a hundred fold. Cymbal splashes and the rapid rattle of wood against taut skin lend a manic edge. The monks become one with icy draughts, the choral vibrato summoning “Litha” for the final rite. Bowed strings bring a beautiful melody. But the atmosphere is fraught. A snarling man beast struggles to purge the demons within. Despair. Anguish. Time suspended. The choir steadfast. On hanging notes, that tension dissipates. Respite for the cast aside?
Enter Rob. You are very welcome in the world of Pariah Child. How are you keeping? Where have you been?
Hello, and thank you for talking with us! I think this year has been challenging, and revealing for all of us. There has been hope, and there has been devastating disappointment. The old world is being challenged, and the new world while embraced by many, is being attacked by those in power. We are being attacked. We are being left to fend for ourselves. We are being left to die.
No doubt this calendar year has not gone quite according to plan. What impact has the pandemic had on your lives and how have you made the time out of time count since lockdown began?
The lockdown has been hard for me and other people who struggle with depression and substance abuse. I don’t think I have made this time in lockdown count, because it has been more about survival. It has been more about self-care and not spiralling out of control into depression and self-isolation.
Please elaborate on your relationship with animism. How does this belief inform your living breathing sound?
Animism informs all that we do. It is the very foundation of our spiritual understanding and practice. Sonically, we channel spirits present during gatherings. We aim to give some sort of voice to those without voice.
Your albums defy convention. For me, they are an experience rather than a collection of songs. So what framework, if any, do you apply to creating music?
We come up with meditative or intentional titles, and build from there. It provides a very intimate exploration of the subject for both Andee and I. We each come to topics with our own unique experience, hopes, and truths, and if we have our own intimate reasons for invoking a piece, it seems more accurate and present. This is true in recording and in live situations.
Vocal elements are woven throughout your work. But my impression is that they are largely wordless. Why is that? Do you find language too limiting? Is sound more all-consuming without the distraction?
If we aim to channel, and we are successful in any way, we feel the meaning and voice, and intention or message will be heard without words. I think what comes out is a type of language, so I what comes out might not be words but transmissions are being made.
You have spoken about striving for simple titles, ones that channel and reflect personal experiences. Dare I say that the poetry of “Shrines for the Unwanted…” almost contradicts that simplicity even if the sentiment is true! Given that this album moved me deeply, would you share its story?
That album came from our first European tour. When we would arrive at a location, we would find sticks and rocks and branches to use as sound sources from the place we were performing that night. During the performance, the branches would break, rock used, dirt… At the end of the night we would sneak away to a quiet spot outside with all of the pieces used and build a shrine in the shadows for all of these spirits forgotten or cast aside… voiceless… unconsidered. We documented all of the shrines in a book. I think we built 25 shrines on that our, hidden all over Europe. I hope some are still standing somewhere, unfound.
For every species of bird, Common and King alike, the nest is paramount. Talk to me about the importance of location. Where is your ancestral home? Or as a shaman leading a nomadic existence does it really matter if you can communicate with spirits wherever you go?
I am a ghost with no one and nothing.
I imagine that the Pyrenees now hold a special place in your heart. Any impressions or memories you would like to share from your time spent deep in the mountains?
Hearing red deer rutting just out of sight in the late afternoon sun…
As “Égrégore” is an occult concept representing a thought form or collective group mind it seems an apt title for the first of two collaborative albums. To what extent did you achieve that elemental goal with Yan?
Collaborating with Yan is simple and easy and natural. I think that we both come from such similar foundations, that intention wise, it was effortless and fluid. We didn’t talk much beyond the initial framework of the concept for this recording. We would meet late at night after his family had been put to sleep… sit in silence for some time… and then start recording.
My copy of “Palimpseste” is in the post so I cannot compare the two movements. From your perspective, how would you describe these differing creative journeys? Has the emphasis shifted somehow with Cober Ord’s participation now more pronounced?
As it is true both Yan Arexis, and Yan H. both originally comprised Cober Ord, it is currently the solo project of Yan H. “Égrégore” sounds more like the creative / ritual / sonic process of sitting still in a space and letting the voices be heard on a slow unfolding time scale. “Palimpseste” correlates to driving all throughout the Pyrenees and exploring caves and streams and forests and Neolithic sites and assembling field recordings and moments much in the vein of musique concrete. I have so much trust and admiration and inspiration for both of those individuals that they will both stay with me and influence me musically and ritually moving forward.
Having never had the pleasure of communing with your live aura, what do you consider essential instrumentation to be able to perform? The bare bones of your craft if you will. I have had a vision that you brought an empty suitcase on tour. Before playing any given gig, you would explore the surroundings and gather together natural elements of the district: sand and shells, soil and leaves, bark or pine needles to sprinkle over the stage, your altar, then played barefoot, grounded in nature, in the moment. Might it work?
That is actually exactly what we do… Ha! I think this concept will be unfolding exponentially in the future into creating total environments or installations for both ourselves and the participants.
Have you a favourite plant?
To what extent do you improvise on album themes on stage? Is there a push pull relationship between channelling and recreation?
All of the arrangements we perform live are actually quite strict as far as framework goes. Framework as skeleton… as the structure that all else clings to for support. There is improvising, and there is being taken by the spirits present. I think the most exciting moments are when we try weaving different themes or sections together and experimenting with overlapping intentions and sonics….
Leaving yourselves open and vulnerable in the moment, have you experienced strange or hostile moods, with or without an audience, when playing? How do you cope with that danger?
I think that when working magic, one should have a framework to operate in that offers the necessary protection. I have my personal system and ritual framework that seems to work for me. With that said, there have been some very intense experiences both live and in private that have opened doors, perspectives, emotions, wounds, both for Andee and myself, and for the participants. I kind of measure the “success” of a gathering by the types of conversations we have with participants afterwards. What went on for them. What opened up for them. Where they went. What was present for them spirit wise…
Returning to the theme of animism, I imagine that you have played in some natural spaces. But how do those energies contrast to the urban environment?
I feel that there are just as many spirits present in urban environments and natural environments… Maybe some are of the same family or clan, and others are unique to location. I feel it is important when going into a situation of channelling or spirit communion to not bring your own expectations or spirits that you work with or spirits from your own place… You have to be totally open to what is going to happen. You have to be totally open to the spirits of that place that want to interact with you. I feel in both places there is sadness and loss and warning.
What was your most striking live experience to date?
L’Homme Savage Festival 2018. The most amazing (festival) experience I have ever been witness to. When we got done playing, I looked up and 300 people were in various states of trance… sitting… lying in the grass…. a fire built in the middle of the audience. One of the most beautiful experiences of my life.
There must be more ideas, perhaps even fully formed albums, bubbling towards the surface. Where will you go next?
Live installations…. 10 hour overnight dream performances where as people sleep, we try to influence their dreams.
Have you been reading much lately? Enlighten us!
Cormac McCarthy, Georges Bataille. Also the Baedan Journals.
We have come full circle. If you can find the words to express your parting thoughts cast them now…
Thank you for taking the time to present us with such thoughtful questions! May these times bring about community which we never imagined. May it open our eyes to the care we might give outside of ourselves. May it expose those who would do harm. And may it shine light on all we take for granted, so that we move forward in a different manner.
To be expanded in tbe next print publication of Pariah Child…
Seldom will an exclusive interview be published online before it has graced the pages of Pariah Child. But for this very special artist I’m prepared to make an exception. From humble roots way back in 1988, Tony Tears has blossomed with aplomb. A living, breathing embodiment of the Italian Dark Sound, the catalogue is as stunning as it is diverse. With an EP and full-length album released in little over the last twelve months, the band has just entered the studio again to record their next LP. To celebrate and reflect upon this hive of activity, Antonio spent a couple of long evenings casting a little light and shade on his evolving esoteric path…
Welcome Antonio, to the shadowy realm of Pariah Child. Artistic minds are often considered to be troubled. Would that be true for you?
Hi Danny, thanks for the invitation in Pariah Child. Yes, definitely. I consider myself a person who lives on art and artists are all a bit problematic or if we prefer “a little crazy”. In my art forms, the one that most represents me is definitely music. I come from a family of musicians and poets.
As a child, were you more attracted to the mediums of drawing and painting or creating music?
There have always been artists in my family. My paternal grandfather wrote poems, my father is a painter and was a great guitarist. He played in Rome in the golden years of Italian music. I mainly took up music from my father. Also painting. So, I would say that the form of art that most represents me is definitely music.
How did your fascination with artistic expression develop as you grew?
It was a spontaneous path. When I was very young I liked to draw, and the drawings that came to my mind were things related to imaginary landscapes, mystical creatures and things like that. Over time, my maternal great-grandmother, believed to be a country healer (well known in Abruzzo), realized that I was a child with some particular “gifts”. She told my mother I had mediumistic skills. In the meantime, while I was advancing in mediumistic drawing, I was starting to take guitar lessons from my father. I was 11 years old. It was actually the guitar and music I preferred to do. I realized that this was my true art form. However, over the years I carried on with both. Let’s say that drawing (today oil painting) is more of a personal form of mediumship; that is, to “materialize” what certain Entities teach and communicate to me. The same is also true with music of course. They are two different but equally mediumistic art forms. I like painting because it is intimate and solitary; the other (music) is more to be followed and in a group (for this purpose more demanding) but music, once made, it’s the best for me. There is also another form of art that I have been doing since I was 6 years old: martial arts. This always helped me to develop self-control and a development of inner energies that serve me a lot also in my esoteric life. Everything has gone hand in hand over the years.
Why were you (and why are you still) driven to create? Is the urge unexpected with unseen force or are you a master of destiny expelling inner visions as and when you see fit?
I lead a fairly reserved life. In fact, I don’t like social media. They are present, but I don’t spend much time there. The main reason is because I love real life; in contact with nature and with certain forces that I have always been able to perceive. On a low level, they are often considered to be larvae, or troubled souls of the dead and the like. For some time now, I must have contacted some evolved Entity; perhaps thanks (also) to some successful magical practices. So, I will not be here to say with who knows what torments (because it is not true) but I have seen the results of these rites and fortunately with very positive implications. This means that the tormented Entities always intrude and in the past I have made some mistakes, in some cases it can be dangerous, but I have reached a level of preparation that these low “Entities” can come away with little. So, I follow “teachings” of Masters who often confirm me in everyday life. Universal masters who go far beyond the conception of the man of good and evil; they could be the face of the same coin. I put their teachings and (tangible) confirmations into music. It can be said that I follow what they tell me but above all what they make me live, and since the messages should be transmitted, I pour their communications (or teachings) into my music. The concept that could be the face of the same coin, is my belief, and derives from the fact that, in years of studies (and practices) I have always stumbled upon books where even certain Demonic Entities could be controlled (not easily) to solve personal issues yes, but also for the sake of other people; very special books on magic. I compared them with other knowledge such as Allan Kardec’s books on Spiritism; I am quite attached to the spiritual concept of Kardec (not only to him anyway) and if at the beginning it seemed different from some magical things, studying it in more detail I understood that in reality it could contain issues that also centred on demonic Entities and other Entities that can be evoked with Practical Magic. What may lead you astray on Kardec, is that its first-run philosophy may seem a little too religious but if you are very careful you will notice that it is not so. Many high Entities in his books say they had to speak that religious way because otherwise many people wouldn’t understand, and that says a lot. The very concept of Duality in universal forces (which everyone can call whatever they want) is a real question and is truly lost in the mists of time; it happened in the first Egyptian dynasties with the concepts of Red Dragon (Ra Hoor Kwiut) and Black Dragon (Hoor Paar Kraat) which is the opposite side to the Red Dragon, that is its Entity opposed (but face of the same coin) from these ancient concepts the religions have taken (all) something and incorrectly rewritten. So, Kardec’s philosophy applied to ritualistic magic (trying to make it as correct as possible) is the path I have been traveling for many years and it has led me to firmly believe in certain things and to bring them to music; most of the time they are the ones who tell me what to do; besides it is I who decide what to do. I would say 50% of the two.
How does this process of creation help maintain your psychological balance?
Even if it is not easy to control certain Entities, in the past I have suffered and erred a lot but today I have perfected these matters and I can only do constructive things. This means that I can pass from being a calm and positive person to something opposite; in spite of this, I manage to be fairly balanced and the music, once I have made my album, it is like a seal, I can perceive its magical and particular essence, there is truly something that goes beyond music. This helps me to channel energy better and to give me a beautiful artistic balance but also of life. There are three aspects that in my life are indivisible by now, they are: the Esoteric experiences, the Music and the realization of these two things (linked together) to live life in a total and balanced way.
To what extent has this relationship changed over the years as you have become older and dare I say wiser?
I could say after being initiated by my great grandmother at the age of 15. But I do not want to be accused as someone who exaggerates or who invents goodness knows what story, so sorry I will try to keep it brief. At the time I was already doing some spiritualist séances and I was wrong. I was persecuted by certain Entities that frightened me. I was very young then, it took a few years to get those Entities out of my way. One person literally saved my life. From there, instead of giving up and abandoning certain subjects, I deepened them and slowly resumed practicing. Even after correcting myself, I made some mistakes, but minor ones compared to the past. I understood that spiritualism could be practiced (with greater results) in a different and less risky way by doing other mediumistic forms compared to spiritualist séance. I dedicated more time also to Magic, which is equally important and in a certain sense linked to the first. I started everything at 12. At 15, there was a mistake of mine, I recovered and started doing things in the right way between 20/25 years; but as my great-grandmother said to me, I was predisposed for certain things from birth. In my life I have been initiated into the esoteric world three times (even if it would be enough once). the first time since my great-grandmother when I was 15 years old (very young), the second and third time in more recent times by two important people; one is a Master who has special gifts, very mediumistic and Reiki, the other a Master of Magic and Demonology (and everything that is more related to the esoteric Magical world). As you can see, it’s not a game for me and I’ve always believed in it. You will have noticed (and it is no coincidence) that it is already twice, even in the previous question that the number “3” returns in the most important things in my life; this is proof that certain forces are always there (even at this time). In fact, the Esoteric Magical Master just mentioned above, revealed to me that my vibratory number was “3” and that I had to notice in my life how important it was; a vibratory Entity is associated with it (let’s call it that), that’s all on this question. Believe me, I have not exaggerated anything, in fact, I have minimised.
Your sixth album, “Demons Crawl At Your Side” explores the themes of possession, madness and torment through demonology, film and art. Why does this fascinate you so?
“Demons Crawl At Your Side” was made in a period where I was “attacked” first hand. You must understand that when you have known certain forces and have been in some way part of it (even with mistakes of the past) when you improve yourself and as much as you come out of it, you become even more sensitive and receptive. At that time, I saw and felt these (unfortunately negative) Entities around people; I breathed their nefarious energy and they on several occasions made me understand that the very fact that I perceived them bothered them. When you feel these things, it happens that people, on the street (led by these Entities) challenge you, annoy you, and commit all sorts of things that can lead the human being to commit from the most annoying thing, even, to atrocities. It was an experience that led me to believe that (especially today) possessions are real and take place in a subtle way (even when we don’t notice it). It is not necessary that a person necessarily has to vomit green, blaspheme, and twist to suffer a possession. Certain dark forces feed on the ignorance and indifference (superficiality) that the human being has towards them. Many schools of spiritualist thought maintain that in order to remove certain negative forces one must be indifferent to them. I don’t totally agree. What is certain is that if one knows it can prevent, knowledge leads to shielding itself, vice versa, no, because you become vulnerable. I know, an exaggeration may appear; because then all people should be interested in these things, but in reality it would be enough to understand. The fact is that unfortunately today people don’t want to understand. It’s not nice to understand, better to live in a caged world. This generates true evil, true possessions. So, “Demons Crawl At Your Side” is a very painful, dark, but equally Heavy Metal album. I’m proud of it because the mix of everything I’ve done better in my project and band since 1988 (year of foundation) is just right. The choice of the inserts taken from the films: “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”, “Demoni”, “Devil Dog” and “Omen III” were intended to make the atmosphere that permeated the album more sinister and real. I can guarantee you that the choice of these films is less superficial than it seems. These films reflect real facts, and also reflect the ambiguity of real evil. Actually I am fascinated by the esoteric search for man; the positive aspect of Darkness, since Darkness also has its positive end. However, being involved in certain things, when you come across negative energies that attach themselves to indifferent (negative) beings and are attacked by them, you cannot help talking about it. Based on what happened to me (and it often happens) I made a painful Album, a seal (for me and for those who know how to get into it) because I fought against these forces. “Demons Crawl At Your Side” is a fair balance between Italian Dark Sound and Dark Music in the true sense of the word. A complete album and one that has been lived.
Trauma comes in many forms. What is your earliest traumatic memory?
In spite of the esoteric events I already described, my first trauma arose from another matter. You must know that I have a congenital disease that even if it is a nonsense, it was something that was noticeable as a child and was for a short time a cause of suffering (or trauma if you prefer). This “disease” is Microtia, a deformation of the auricle of the left ear, the same that Paul Stanley of Kiss has (among other things, I love Paul Stanley as a guitarist, as well as Kiss). As a child, as I said, for a very short time this deformation was noticeable and I knew the first forms of human malice, the other children (but often also “adults”) made fun of me. I remember that we ended up in many fights, but then I suffered a lot and cried. As soon as I grew up (shortly after) I didn’t care anymore, I realized very soon, that nature had deigned me with a fairly pleasant aspect and that I didn’t miss my first girlfriends and satisfying human relationships. As soon as I came of age, I began a series of surgeries which led me to have a practically normal ear within several years. Today, little is known and thank God, I wear my almost 48 years very well. So, there are no more traumas. However, as a child for a very short period I suffered a lot.
Mental health has really only become a bigger issue in the public consciousness in recent times. For some though, it remains taboo. How has Italian society coped under the rule of the Church and State?
As I said before, when talking about “Demons Crawl At Your Side”, the wider population (including Italy) for several years now, prefers to live in an illusion. In a world that runs fast and doesn’t want to stop. Years ago I made an experimental Dark Sound Album entitled “Vortice” and yes, it spoke of the Mayan prophecy, for many this prophecy did not come true, falling into error because in 2011 the axis of the earth (if only very little) moved, this shift made many things change both materially and also psychically . From there, human beings did not take anything into consideration, did nothing to understand, and began a real free descent towards all kinds of sufferings (climatic, violence, up to reaching viruses, the last one COVID19) and everything is tied together. The saddest and truly malignant thing (the only real evil existing in the world) is that the “powerful”, the political class and even the church are the cause of these things, for the simple reason that many know but for various reasons (including economic interest) they want to keep them hidden. However, by now, many things are before everyone’s eyes and (if you want) if the human beings were more united, united between the “simple” and “common” people, the powerful class (clergy and politicians) could not ignore us. However, that’s just what they don’t want. I am of the idea that even they are possessed by the one true and authentic evil. I never believed in the speech of conspiracy theorists that the powerful “use” occult powers (occult in the true sense of the word) only as an excuse to ask for political purposes and for money. The money god is more important to them. Although I agree with the fact that politicians and the church itself is interested in the God of Money, for me, there is something much bigger and less rational behind all this, I am convinced.
Speaking of troubled minds, how and when did you discover the works of Alfred Kubin? Please elaborate on the lure that draws you in…
I met him in a book of art that my father owned. Although he has always done it out of passion, my father is a very good painter. He has had several requests to sell his paintings in some exhibitions but always refused. Anyway, I realized immediately, looking at the works of Alfred Kubin, that he was a “visionary”, or rather: he saw things as I think they really are. In his works the world of dark figures mixes with man’s atavistic fears until he lives with them and they are made to appear almost like a normal thing and not entirely to be feared. The real terror is to let these same figures take you somehow. A bit like saying that the figures of an unknown world are there. They observe you. If you want to live with them you become a unique world. If you are afraid of them they can drive you crazy and lead to death before your hour. You will have already noticed (if you noticed) the similarity of what I saw in his works and the album “Demons Crawl At Your Side”. Initially one of his works “The God of the Snakes” was to be the main cover of the album, but then we opted to use our photo with the masks and we put this artwork inside the CD. I really like his creations.
The painting adorning the reverse of the album sleeve is by no means his most grotesque or unnerving. Whether it’s a demon haunting or a tortured soul almost pleading, I cannot say with certainty. The line is blurred. How does the image resonate with you?
The figure is clearly a Monster (or a Demon if we want). If you observe the fingers, his hands are pointed and are placed in a position that seems to want to launch an attack on those who are observing him. The rest of his body is like a giant crawling snake body. His face, however, seems to hint at a smile.
It’s that expression that I find so ambiguous!
So, in me, it has always seemed like something with a human face that tries to please but that at the right time, crawling next to us, can launch a deadly attack. All this represents society, as it is in its majority, that is, possessed and always ready to act under the influence of these true negative forces. I saw in that work everything that could represent the meaning and deep meaning of the album.
And what are your thoughts on “The Other Side” by Kubin and the way in which his nightmarish novel dips into the subconscious?
I don’t like to tell lies (if not strictly forced) and I never magnify things. On the contrary, I tend to simplify things that really happened to me. Therefore, I will tell you that I am not a great reader of novels. For heaven’s sake, I don’t deny that they contain funds of truth, but personally I prefer books and real culture over novels. I read some novels I read from the classics of E.A. Poe to those of “Carmilla” by Sheridan Le Fanu, “Dracula” by Bram Stoker, the ancient novels about Ghosts and so on….
As for Kubin’s “The Other Side”, my singer told me about it and I must say that it is in line with my esoteric thoughts. I like the way of describing these worlds that man initially sees as dangerous but then in the end they are truer and less dangerous than man himself. Indeed, the man in these worlds seems like an intruder, fantastic! But I know Alfred Kubin more for his works of drawings and paintings.
It’s intriguing that your front cover depicts the band in demonic masks and on the back cover you are all unmasked. Are you deliberately tapping into the different faces of madness? Possession? Schizophrenia?
You see, today, many bands (besides make-up) have started using masks; I could name a lot of band names, but one thing I’m enormously proud of is that we Tony Tears used them first. In the year of foundation and the first demo “Strane Sensazioni” (in 1988) there was already the photo with my mask. I was 15 years old and already a lover of Rock / Metal music. I followed a lot both the Italian scene and the foreign one, thanks also to my older brother (who kept me updated with the Italian bands) I must say that there was really no one who used the masks, only Tony Tears. Even if someone can say that ours was a project still in its infancy, I say that in any case I already existed. What does a young project or young band have to do with it!? Even Death SS (if we go to see it) from 1977 to 1987, until the release of the anthological record of Minotauro Records did five concerts (if I remember correctly) and a couple of semi-official demos, let’s say that even if the name spread much in the area of Romagna and around; then little was known about them. Still, time has given it back its historical merits, and today we know that Death SS have unique make-up and they are a unique band in the world (for skill and historicity!). Their definitive crowning which consecrated them was from the album “In Death of Steve Sylvester”. I took them as an example because they are (of course) among my favourite bands ever. I love the old and new Death SS! My story (our story as Tony Tears) is very similar in some ways to that of Death SS. In 1988 I had made my first demo (inside it there was the photo of the very first mask…) therefore, without a shadow of doubt, the first Band in Italy to use the mask and not the classic make-up was us! By now, fortunately, in Italy and abroad among those who follow the genre, (and having now made several official albums) it has become known the truth about the Tony Tears masks.
This preamble on the History of the Masks of the Tony Tears it was necessary. For us, the masks are a very heartfelt thing, and I have to take a small step back in telling you that, thanks to my culture (but also practices) linked very much to Spiritism by Allan Kardec and also from other schools and forms of thought I have always firmly believed (since a young man) in life after death; although I am convinced that the life we are living (living now!) is equally important. Indeed, it is from living the present that the great reparation of our Soul starts. Precisely because the soul has a great free will (as well as man in material life) every Tony Tears mask is destined to change. Over the years, between used masks (at least twenty), the unofficial ones (made but used very little) I have created fifty different models of masks (the average of one per year since I was born …). In addition, I designed another hundred never used. The masks in Tony Tears, as I said, are changeable, because every Tony Tears Album is changeable, each of our periods is changeable, the Magic itself is changeable, the soul is changeable (especially the soul). Hence, in Tony Tears the mask always represents and will represent our changing Soul, because this is the way, in the world parallel to matter, that Extrasensory world (both of souls who reincarnate but also of already existing evolved Entities). So, for me (for us), our masks are what we truly believe in, our true face, our true experience and life condition. However, precisely because we truly believe in what we do, we have never hidden our true face; just like in “Demons Crawl At Your Side”. This decision has the significance of the fact that, with or without a mask, we (the human being) always have “hidden” sides which, if not accepted and elaborated, can lead him to madness and his death (before the times foreseen by the Karma). So, this condition will not lead him to a healthy madness (the artistic madness in being different from the mass of ignorant so to speak, that would be a healthy madness…) but an anguished madness, of fear, of torment. The more man rejects certain things that his soul claims, the more he is forced to fight you one day. It is inevitable. Understanding them as soon as possible and accepting them, understanding them, helps a lot. Here is explained the fact that, as much as we use our masks, we do not hide our true face; whether we use them or not, we are always ourselves. We are True. Always!
Please elaborate on the creation of your masks. Which materials have been used? How much preparation was required to make a mask? From the fifty pieces, have any been particularly important representations of your evolving self?
The preparation comes from sketches on drawing. After that, I purchase masks from any theatrical shopkeeper. The masks, therefore, are very simple materials. They can range from (classic) plastic or papier-mâché ones. The latter are certainly more professional, but not easy to find. The colour must represent the soul, therefore, from the first mask of 1988 up to those used to date, I chose white and black. White is the sum of all colours. In an esoteric sense, therefore, for me, white represents the experience of all reincarnations up to absolute purification. The black masks, on the other hand, are the absence of light. In an esoteric sense, it represents the black soul who, having had no light (light in the sense of spiritual search in life, or a life devoted to true evil), pays the consequences also as a soul, retracing the same sufferings in the Soul. The concept of Black may appear similar to White (in a certain sense it is) but, nevertheless, it has a meaning more than souls (or Entities) linked to the earth and in a certain sense more “rebellious”. In any case, the choice of one or the other of the two “colours” is often chosen for an aesthetic taste combined with a design to be used on the masks and not specifically linked to the meaning of the two “colours”. (Black and white are not even colours). There is no fixed rule in choosing a colour or a mask model, they represent Change. Change in the meaning of each album. As each musical album is different, the Mask is different too. In the past (on some rare occasions), on some album there was no photo with the mask. However, there was also a mask dedicated to that album. For many years I applied to my masks only paints (acrylics) with drawings of tears. Even if, at first glance these tears seemed the same, from observing each other you should understand that they were different in the design (and also in the meaning). Over time, improving my techniques on pictures, I also improved the operating techniques on masks, and in more recent times, I also applied clay objects to them. For example, the type of mask used for “Demons Crawl At Your Side” which is certainly one of the most beautiful models ever made. Obviously, since the masks in the Tony Tears are changeable for each album (for a meaning of Occultism and Esotericism) I have never made expensive masks. However, I have always tried to make them as professional as possible. For the latest “solo” album, the Darker Progressive Electronic “The Wail of the Elements” I chose a beautiful Steampunk mask (one of the first science fiction forms born in the Victorian era). I chose this because it aptly represented the human being who tries to evolve until he reaches a point of no return, just as it is happening (really) between man and nature. The Steampunk mask chosen for “The Wail of the Elements” (for example) has not been retouched or modified. I liked it as it was, and I used it without changing it. It was the first case in my entire discography and since the Tony Tears project exists (1988) that this has happened. In other words, to make you understand, there is no fixed rule in the choice of masks.
The time of realization, usually can go from a week to almost two. Again, it depends, if the masks are only painted. Usually a couple of days are enough for the draft of the drawing, and five days to paint the masks, even several times over, in order to give the right colour chroming. Instead, if (besides carrying out what I have just said) I have to add objects with clay, or objects of all kinds, the time doubles and it goes to almost two weeks. Sure, the choice of masks is made on the basis of a belief strongly linked to my esoteric experience and it is not a sham; as someone does (and tries to copy us without admitting it). But the history and name speaks for us. From the fifty masks created, some were double (or second choices). However, all were representing a specific musical and extra-musical period that mirrored us. There will be some fabulous masks for the Band’s new album (already in preparation), but I can’t say more at the moment.
Tony Tears has multiple personalities. Your discography blurs the line between solo works and having a fully-blown line-up. The pattern is not even chronological! How does the differing chemical balance of minds suit you?
This is your opinion. In reality, I tell you that it is my way of understanding esoteric and occultism. I have a well-marked path, and it is far from having multiple personalities; if anything, I am consistent. It is true that I combine “apparently” different currents of thought but I have learned to bring them to my “advantage” in life. I love being consistent and what I just explained is proof that I am. The same applies to the record chronology in the “apparently” different genres. Over the years I have made “solo” albums where I played everything, albums where I ranged from more Metal songs with Martial rhythmic sections, in Kraut Rock style, to more extensive music with Industrial and experimental sounds when the Industrial did not yet exist; as an example I would say the 2000 CD “Fears and Sensations …” although the recording was not very modern, it had its vaguely industrial experimental Italian Dark Sound charm. This was repeated after, with the album “The Reality Before All”, although from this second album the sound began to be definitely more professional. “The Reality Before All” was an album with longer suites, while in “Fears and Sensations…” (with the exception of the last song) they are all catchy songs. Despite this apparent diversity between the two genres, personally, I don’t see a lack or a melodic diversity in the two styles practiced by solo Tony Tears and Tony Tears as a band. In both styles there is always something recognizable and in both there are two essential characteristics in the Tony Tears band, namely: the melody and the compositions are two very important things, they will never be missing. So, the difference is only in the length of the songs that goes from those more Anthem Rock to those more Dark Electronic Progressive stylings. In singing we range from Italian to English, sometimes I leave my most solo albums wholly instrumental (but it’s something I’ve been doing since 1988). So, there is always a great compositional and melodic arrangement capacity in my songs and in my albums in general. The very fact of defining the more soloists and the others as a band, is given only by the fact that the fixed Band is used to play live and to make most of the favourite songs by myself, or the Dark Sound ones with a formation behind. In fact, the so-called “solo” albums are because, there, I find myself doing (as in the past) all by myself. One day, when we have a keyboard player in training, also the songs from the “solo” albums will be reproduced live in the Tony Tears Band. Therefore, Tony Tears’ discography understanding be done by inserting both the Albums played alone more in the style of Electronic Dark Progressive, with the Albums where more is done Metal with the Band. The difference is not in proposing something very different from one another; even in the Albums with the Band there is no lack of more atmospheric songs (even if combined with Metal and they are much shorter). The so-called “solo” albums are not minor or simpler than those with the band, they are not a filler or something very different from the things done with the band, they are (in reality) to be considered all Tony Tears albums. I can guarantee that in many “electronic” Albums (so-called soloists) by Tony Tears there are musical finesses that if you don’t know how to play will never be able to do, there is great music inside them. As you can see, also on a chronological level there is a unique and coherent path. The so called solo albums are born from personal ideas that I feel I can use in music in a totally solitary, but there is no musical difference, we are always consistent. Our minds are on the same wavelength, also because, when I make my “solo” albums I don’t keep the band still, we are always active, and they are excited to play in the Tony Tears.
Apologies for the interjection. But on that thought of training a keyboard player, have you already played live as Tony Tears? Will this become a priority in future? How do you envisage the ideal presentation of your works on stage?
Here in Genoa, it is difficult to find keyboard players and bass players. Maybe more so keyboard players. In my project and band, the majority of fans see me as the guitarist of the Tony Tears. I hardly see my band with two guitars; I wouldn’t even like it, because, having a very particular touch, I want to remain the only guitarist. I’ve always rather imagined the Tony Tears Band with a good keyboard player. However, the risk of finding a Power Metal style keyboard player is there. Precisely for this reason, we are looking but with great caution and without haste. Among other things, in Tony Tears Band (always) I deal a lot with keyboards, therefore, as we now find it, any player should accept the condition of dividing the keyboards with me (at least in the studio) and this makes the matter even more difficult. On the other hand, thanks to the technique and the harmony that we have as a Band so far, we are able to make up for the absence of both a second guitar and a keyboard player. Both our former bass player and the new one have always done a great job of bass, both for power and for filling, which makes our songs explosive (in the true sense of the word). Anyway, to answer your question, yes, we have already played live. In 1989 there was the first concert, even if in an unofficial way, in the sense that there were no albums but only demos, therefore, the members of that band of kids did not have time to study the pieces. We had a concert with masks, sets, however the songs were Dark / Doom Metal improvisations, more or less sketched in the rehearsal room. In the same vein, there were other concerts in the 90s. For many reasons, in the following years I dedicated more time to bands to play live, but the idea of bringing a fixed line-up to Tony Tears has existed in my mind since the project was born in 1988. Although I made several albums first like Tony Tears, the difficulty of having people capable not only technically but also within the project with the right frame of mind (since it is not just music) pushed me to wait and not to be in a hurry. For this reason, there were no concerts before the last period that goes from 2019 to today. I repeat, as Tony Tears (myself) in other bands, I played a lot in all eras and this made sure to keep the name of Tony Tears alive. This meant that when Tony Tears (Band) played, it was like we had always played and in a way it was the truth. From 2019 to today, we have played three very important concerts. One in Parma at the Obscura Doom Festival, in its sixth edition, with: Ferum, Chains, Night Gaunt and Messa. Many people in the audience came especially for us. Then, we played at the Carignano Theatre in Genoa on a large stage, with Rebels Under Rain, Deathless Legacy and Freddy Delirio And The Phantoms. Finally, we played at Angelo Azzurro, also in Genoa, as Headliner. Angelo Azzurro is the most Metal venue in Genoa and although we were at the end of the night and thought no one would come; the place was full of fans. We were stunned. We didn’t think it could happen because nearby there was a concert by a well-known Metal band. Yes, from now on, it will become the normality that Tony Tears will play live. Believe me, it was a fire that burned under the ashes, since it was my will from the time when I was a kid, when I started with my first official 1988 demo “Strane Sensazioni”. The sets of the Tony Tears will always be particular, the feel never tacky. In the three concerts that we played, we brought my esoteric paintings, our masks, statuettes that David and I use (also for our rituals). We have not managed to bring everything completely. In the future, we would like to enrich our stage decoration further, but I don’t want to make suggestions for other bands to copy. I will keep it secret for now…
Having released two albums as a trio in three years do you feel more cohesive as a group? To what extent do you think that this partnership made “Demons Crawl…” a stronger album than if you had tried to execute it alone?
In reality there are three titles when counting “Follow The Signs of the Times”, “Demons Crawl At Your Side” and the vinyl EP celebrating thirty years of the project (and band) Tony Tears. So, the works with the formations are from 2015 to 2020. Even in the past, there have been guest musicians in different works. So, as you can see, there has always been consistency (even in trying to establish training). The things I did totally alone, were just the Dark Electronic Progressive works, because I liked it and it was a job that allowed me to do it. Today we are very cohesive as a band and as a group, and by group I mean the things just explained above. Today Tony Tears is a team, therefore, necessarily, it is better than doing things alone; but they are two different things as a way of understanding the works, so the thing is not comparable (in measure). Both things are important, even my so-called “solo” works have evolved compared to those done years ago. To give you an example, while I’m writing this interview, my latest album “The Wail of the Elements”, an album on the electronic dark progressive style, has been released for less than two months, yet, compared to previous works, it is ten spans higher. I have improved exponentially in terms of sounds, recording, mixing in these types of works (which I do totally on my own, including mixing, everything). I am very proud of “The Wail of the Elements”. If I had done “Demons Crawl At Your Side” alone it would have come out equally beautiful but different from thinking of it as a Band. Instead, thinking about it for the Band, a great album came!! And that’s okay so…
The names of your esteemed colleagues should be at least vaguely familiar to those with even a passing interest in the Italian Dark Sound. Please tell us how and when you met. What brought you together and how have those bonds strengthened over time?
Two old friends who understand me and follow me of many years (since the early 90s) are: David Krieg on vocals, and Lowrence Butleather (Lorenzo Mapelli) on drums. David, I met him in the very early 90s in the Black Widow Records store. Lawrence, on the other hand, I met him in the company of friends always in the very early 90s. They are the friends and musicians I’ve been playing with for the longest time. In addition, there is always a long-time friend and Tony Tears fan; that is, Regen Graves of the Abysmal Grief. Regen, I met him at “The Black” concert in ’98 where with Abysmal Grief, they rang on the support. For a short time, he played bass with us, then he decided to devote more time to his band (and we understood it). Regen remained as a helper; sound engineer, and graphic aid. Regen is also very good at graphics. I, however, in the graphics I should improve a lot. I have a lot of taste in the choice of covers but the result that Regen obtains with graphics, light effects and title logos, he is always excellent, we often leave this task to him. He cares for us and is happy. Then, there is the second female voice, which is my partner, that is, Sandra Silver (Sandra I don’t think she needs any introduction, also considering her vocal past with Paolo Catena and some performance collaboration with Steve Sylvester). I met Sandra when I was a boy (in the 90s) when I went to visit Paolo Catena at their home; I saw her again after years at a martial arts internship (which I have been practicing since I was 6 years old) I immediately snap the spark between me and Sandra. Only after a few months did we decide together that we could embark on a journey with the Tony Tears. Personally, I have always believed in Sandra Silver a lot, I have always supported her, since her works with Paolo Catena. Then there is the new and definitive bass player: he is a fan of ours, at our concerts (in Genoa) he has always been in the front row. A young boy but with a great interest (and culture) for the esoteric, in addition, has an exceptional musical culture for his age. This boy is actually a guitarist of a very good Genoese band, but he also has a passion for bass and plays it great; he is a young boy (the youngest of the band) but he brought great enthusiasm and a breath of freshness, it took! Then there is the girlfriend of David Krieg (Lisa) who is a good designer and author of paintings of various kinds. Lisa, created the design of our T-shirts. There’s a kind of team behind the Tony Tears today, and that’s a great thing. Each of us has a partner who can do something and everyone can bring ideas inside.
We have already touched upon the Italian Dark Sound on multiple occasions. As a native, please explain what it means to you personally…
In my opinion, the term Dark Sound cannot be reduced to something restrictive like Doom. Traditional Doom Metal (which is then the classic Dark Metal) is the real Dark Sound; Trouble, Candlemass, Manilla Road, Sarcofagus, Witchfinder General, Angel Witch and Demon; but also Iron Maiden in many moments, Judas Priest, MercyfuL Fate, King Diamond, Saint Vitus and many others. In Italy, our historical Bands of true Dark Sound includes Jacula, Antonius Rex, Goblin, Mario Di Donato with The Black and Requiem, Death SS (also the modern one of the last period), Paul Chain (with all its variants of name), Black Hole and Run After To (never mentioned, yet very good). All these foreign international bands have contributed to the Dark Metal world in all its forms. As for the Italian bands, the same is true; and in fact, you want our esoteric cultural tradition, you want the popularity of all our bands just mentioned, but I think I can say (without a shadow of a doubt) that Italian bands are second to none, and are well known and appreciated by now all over the world. Tony Tears, by name historicity, beginning of the project, and bands (1988) are not very second compared to the historical Italian bands. Indeed, by now, in various reviews and interviews we are seen as a band of the time (rightly in my opinion), as well as for the year I started (1988) also because Tony Tears Sound takes a lot from the old school of Italian style; even if we managed to put it, sometimes, into modern contexts. For me, therefore, this genre (and this tradition) transcends myself, goes beyond music itself. Tony Tears’ music is a continuous change and evolution of my esoteric experience poured into music, something so profound and lived that it cannot be described in an interview. However, I don’t like having the Doom label (as it is understood today). Today, this term refers to something slow, spasmodic, even too much in my opinion. Tony Tears is not like that. Our melodies are always open (they breathe), even when they are very gloomy. Obviously, in Dark Prog Electronic style music, music is more atmospheric, but the melodies and composition are many and open. In the Metal pieces, we have here and there some calm but never excessively slow moments I don’t like excessively slow music and I don’t like the opposite extreme either. For this reason, I am a lover of Classic Metal (and classics) rather than Doom as it is understood today. For me, the Italian tradition is not Doom as someone else might understand it. If I listen to the “slower” things of the Italian bands mentioned above, they are never excessively slow. If you hear Tony Tears’ things, they are not overly slow. By slow, I also mean songs that are half an hour on the same notes that make Rock repetitive with: drums, bass, guitar, voices. Personally, I could never do such a thing. For me this is to force something. In fact, the labels that some reviewers give to bands always leave the time they find. Some labels have been attached to us, such as Doom or simple but fascinating music. I don’t agree with these labels and statements, because: first of all, Tony Tears is not canonical DooM and we never want this to be and secondly, our rock music, like a band, our songs more stage, are deliberately more captivating. But I can assure you, in the middle there are many of those musical and technical subtleties, which if a person does not know how to play he will never be in able to do them. I have studied music from a lifetime, and I continue to study, therefore, I tell you these things as a competent musician and not an amateur. For this reason, a band like Tony Tears wants to get out of the discourse of labels, because they are always made by those who have a very limited vision of music; I’m sorry to say it but it is so.
Look at The Black, who now make reputable Dark Metal and with “Gorgoni” they have taken a monstrous step forward, yet there are those who continue to catalogue them as cult bands, when (instead) they have gained (especially with this album) a place among the most important bands of Italian Metal in general and not necessarily in Dark / Doom alone. Look at the ridiculous criticisms that some make of the new Death SS, saying they have marketed, only because they have “detached” themselves from the traditional Dark Sound of the first seal. But why, sorry? Has the band Death SS not always made a dark and gothic Dark Metal? I think so. Was it supposed that the new Death SS would remain the same like almost forty years ago? Absurd! This is what I mean. Those who make music do not care (rightly) about the opinion of the few who would like to relegate a musical genre to worship. There are bands that want to get out of the cult logo (or label), and it will seem strange, but Tony Tears is also part of this movement. The new album (now in preparation) is a big step forward in this sense. I know someone will be disappointed. Patience. In addition to those who understand us (among old fans) we will gain new fans. We cannot remain anchored to someone’s thought. From birth, Tony Tears was already projected to evolution and a proof of what I say lies in the fact that if somebody listens, in a chronological sense, right, our albums (our discography) they will notice what I am saying. We have gone from making a Dark Sound Metal to experimental electronics, a little old-fashioned perhaps (but made with our style) with technical improvement and increasing recording capabilities, therefore, it is not surprising. One thing is certain. Tony Tears will always be sincere in what they propose, wanting to make a qualitative leap does not necessarily mean marketing yourself. That’s what was said about (new) Death SS and it happened to many other bands; statements and “accusations” made by those (few but don’t give up) who would like to have a Doom job (Doom as it is understood today). It seems like they are a distressing machine that cannot stop. So for me, the Italian Dark Sound tradition meant having loved (and having lived) the bands mentioned earlier. But having a project and a band (Tony Tears) that existed since the age of the bands mentioned above and being (us) changeables (changeable by our nature), we cannot remain anchored to canonical Doom, it has never been like this. Evolution is an important thing, often the difference between professional bands (even in the Italian Dark / Doom) and those that are not, lies precisely in this difference. Tony Tears is part of the Italian tradition and we will always be proud of it. We also look at the evolution, both in the most theatrical songs (Dark Metal) and for my solo works. “The Wail of the elements” is much more professional, modern and powerful as a solo album compared to things done years ago, but it is consistent with an Electronic Dark Prog style I’ve always done. Our tradition is wonderful and second to none. Tony Tears is part of it…
To be continued…
What does the name conjure in your mind? Death? Pain? Suffering? Melancholy? Well, that would be a beginning. But it goes deeper than that, at least six feet underground, for the founding principle of the band was to explore the relationship of inner spiritism with the world beyond. Their tools have been the thorough study of occult texts and divination of the deceased. This brew of funeral mysticism, necromancy, horror cinematography and literature are, in turn, reflected in the lyrics and the music becomes the soundtrack to that story. Their guitarist, sometime drummer and lyricist, Regen Graves, will begin the initiation…
Greetings Regen, the time has come. Are you prepared?
Hi Danny, I’m glad to answer your questions.
Please begin by introducing the trio at the heart of your craft? How, where and when did you meet? What initially brought you, and has kept you, together?
Abysmal Grief was born as an esoteric band in 1996. At that time I was deeply into Horror and Dark Metal, and I wanted to create a project in which I could express my passion towards Occultism and everything concerning Death and graveyards, the most wonderful places in this world. I changed many musicians but finally the line-up was stabilised with the arrival of Lord Alastair, on bass, and Labes C. Necrothytus, on keyboards, and soon after, lead vocals, two guys with the same passion for the Dark sounds and Death. Since then, many musicians joined and left Abysmal Grief for different motivations, but we continue walking together on our path towards the End.
Abysmal Grief is a distinctive and fitting name. What was its source?
I simply wanted a name that could express the main subject of our style, something that could remind you of the main feelings about Death and Sorrow. I don’t remember how it came out, surely turning over and over again the pages of my English dictionary…
Not that many moons ago, the band released the “Mors Eleison” MLP on I Hate Records. How was that partnership forged?
At that time, I had these three or four songs that I wanted to record in the same release, and as Horror Records was too busy I decided to contact Ola to ask if he would be interested in this kind of material. They were enthusiastic about it, and suggested the 12” format, so we entered our studio and recorded the “Mors Eleison” MLP in three weeks. It remains a very important work for us, like a manifesto of our musical concept.
Given that the label rarely releases vinyl and the band had, to that point in time, been primarily concentrating on demos and singles, what led you to the superb, yet dying, format of the mini-album?
In the beginning. our idea was to record simply a sort of maxi-single, but when the songs were ready to be recorded, I found out that it had to be something more important, so, according to I Hate, it became a MLP, not a CD simply because we hate that format!
The gatefold is visually striking. Please explain why you opted for “The Death and the Maiden” painting by Marianne Stokes to adorn the sleeve.
I found this painting quite casually and liked it soon because in some way it reminds me of the image of the Annunciation, even if in this case, the Angel is Death, giving it a grim meaning, only better…
What does the title mean? To what extent does it unify the artwork and the music within?
The meaning of “Mors Eleison” is something like “Death have mercy” and expresses the fear of most people facing Death, just like the figure of the maiden on the front cover.
Your rendition of “Occultism” by Paul Chain is more than commendable and it seems an appropriate choice for your ends. But were any others, such as, say, “Mortuary Hearse” or “In The Darkness” considered? Perhaps that particular song and the legendary composer behind it carry a special significance?
I soon chose “Occultism” because it comes from my favourite Paul Chain vinyl, “Detaching From Satan” MLP, which I consider an absolute masterpiece of Esoteric and Spiritualist music. I always had the idea to play a cover of Paul Chain but I waited to be really ready and with the appropriate magical preparation to write the lyrics. The realization of the “Mors Eleison” MLP was the right moment and the perfect concept for it.
Was it an arduous task to replace the phonetic lyrics with your own words to fit the metre? Out of interest, did Labes C. Necrothylus have a go at imitating those phonetics before you lifted the quill to begin that process?
I had no problems about those lyrics. It came quite naturally, Both Labes and I have listened to this song for many years, and we really made it ours.
Has Paul Chain heard this bold interpretation of his work? If not, how do you think he would react?
I don’t think he has heard it, and I imagine he has no interest at the moment in having to do with anything of his past. He probably wouldn’t’t like it…
Was “The Shroud” really recorded as early as 1999? Was it presented unaltered for this MLP and if so, why has it only surfaced now? Do you have much in the way of older material like this that has never been heard or seen the light of day?
“The Shroud” was recorded totally improvised by me in 1999 and I never listened it again for years. Then I found it in a old cassette and I decided to clean it up and put it in one of our releases that could fit in some way with the feeling of ceremonial sorrow that I had when I recorded it, and “Mors Eleison” was the right occasion. I have a lot of other synth/keyboard songs that I have never used, but maybe someday people will listen to it…
“Mysterium Umbrarum” is an intriguing and eerie composition with howling winds and the devilish tune of the clarinet mingling in the background. Would you reveal the general flavour of the lyrics that accompany them for those of us who do not have a grasp of the language? Is some form of rite being undertaken?
This song represents a sort of initiation in which is recited a Spiritist creed based upon the Doctrine of Allan Kardec. I composed this text referring to my studies and it expresses the sum of the Spiritist Theory: In the first part, the Medium introduces himself as the main officiator, while in the second part the adherents expound the creed like a kind of oath.
How did these guest musicians become involved in this particular song? Some may already know Tony Tears from your earlier split single collaboration. But probably not the others…
Tony Tears is a great musician and an old friend of mine. We share the same deep interest in the Occult arts. The other members are musicians or writers from our city who follow and support our message. We are also good friends, and when I asked them to take part in this recording, they accepted enthusiastically and very seriously.
The label pressed 500 copies of the vinyl and in a matter of months, they disappeared from the source. While the band and some mailorders may still have a few copies to spare were you taken aback by the rate at which they were greedily consumed by the underground? Has the feedback you have received matched this level of enthusiasm?
I really didn’t expect this MLP would have met with such success. We were very proud of the final sound and obviously also of the gatefold packaging by the label. But none of us had foreseen that people could react in this way. It represents a satisfying result and proves that our message has been understood.
Shortly after the MLP essentially disappeared from regular circulation your debut self-titled album was released by Black Widow Records. But what our readers may find shocking is that it was recorded the best part of two years earlier! That must have been frustrating. It may even have stopped a weaker band dead in its tracks. What lay behind the delay? Do you think this has hindered the development of Abysmal Grief at all?
You are correct. This delay has been deeply frustrating for us. The album has been conceived, recorded and mixed under very inauspicious influences and we suffered the unprofessional attitude of a lot of people and some kind of ostracism during the entire production process. But I don’t want to go into details, I just can tell you that next album will be entirely produced and managed under my control, including the release date and every aspect of it.
Well, crucially, the album did eventually surface. Please elaborate on the shadowy painting by Laura Campanella, which seems to represent the opening lines of the album. But to whom do the five sets of hands belong and why is only one face visible?
The only visible face is that of the medium, while the other people are shaded in the darkness meaning that living people remain in the obscurity about the true knowledge, which is reserved only for those few who can obtain the answers from the World Beyond. I found this image from an old theatrical show and decided to have it painted for our cover because it represents perfectly the message of the album. She made a great interpretation.
To what extent would you say that this ceremonial flavour, audibly and visually, is indicative of your direction or was it specific to that era and the ideas you were then exploring?
The songs of the album are from different periods and represent, in some way, a sort of esoteric path in which I developed my studies, so it must be considered as a sum of my knowledge so far. The whole work, including music, symbols and packaging have been conceived as a unique concept, which is indicative of our musical and philosophical style.
The short interludes, “Dirges” and “Divination” give the record a continuous feel and fleeting reprieves from the primary songs. But do you think it would suffer without them?
I decided to use these interludes to introduce a more atmospheric tone to the album and I think they fit perfectly with the long songs. They have a musical value and function to give the listener a little break between the long compositions.
What is you favourite composition included herein? Why?
I have no favourite compositions. Every piece represents something personal. I know this is a common answer but it is the true. I couldn’t choose one song over the others.
“Creatures From The Grave” seems to stand at the heart of the album. Was that deliberate or might it be explained by its familiarity from the earlier split single or even its consistently faster pace?
It was a casual decision. The order of the songs, apart from the first, is based on their length in relation to the sides of the vinyl format. I always use this parameter for our releases, as we never consider the existence of the CD format. This is the reason why we will record only 45-48 minutes albums and their structure will always be in relation to the length of the vinyl sides.
Mario “The Black” Di Donato is another cult figure within the Italian underground. How did he become involved with the band and what did he contribute to “The Necromass”?
In the past, we played two concerts with The Black and we deeply respect him. Moreover, we are both with Black Widow Records so it was very easy to contact him and ask for his collaboration. I am proud of his contribution. He is a great artist.
In this particular song, you have branded the funeral rite as the necromass, which you view as some form of rebirth. What do you mean by this? What do you consider to be the purpose of this spiritual existence, if indeed there is one, beyond answering the call of the living?
I simply mean that stupid mankind thinks to rule the world, and all the stupid religions claim to give us sure answers, but we are nothing and our existence here is limited and incomplete. We can only try to get answers from the ones who lived before us and know where we are going. But in my opinion, those who lived are not that interested to have contact with us, and most times their messages are completely misunderstood. This is the reason why we consider Death the only passage to a higher level and the funeral is the last rite that can set us free to evolve…
“In static rest eternal life…” suggests that existence is more than movement. If there is more to life and death than physical form, what then defines being?
This is a good question, and probably we need more than one interview to answer it without falling into ridicule or boring the readers. I think that our physical existence is only a passage in the long way of our soul, and the Death of our body is a liberation. We should define this as a starting point, then everyone can reflect and work out his own opinion about his path, far from stupid religious dogmas.
Do you feel the eyes of the dead upon you wherever you are, wherever you go and whatever you do? Do those stares belong to anyone you had met in this life before they passed to the other side? If anything, what do they ask?
I feel the presence of dead people many times, but it doesn’t mean that I have supernatural powers! In your opinion, what makes most people’s flesh crawl if they find themselves inside a graveyard at night? The fear of some “zombie”, or something similar in typical horror movie style? I don’t think so. We keep Death inside us, as our birth is simply the result of a previous End, and we are made of it, so it is present in our subconscious for all our corporal existence. I like walking through the tombstones and observing the photos of the deceased just because they really communicate with us, even if we are usually too afraid and blind to understand them.
You seem drawn to the colour violet. Is its relationship with death and funerals more significant, more metaphorical, than the picture previously painted by Death SS in their song “Black and Violet”?
In Italy, people fear to put black and violet together, as they are considered symbols of Misfortune. I am attracted by them, as I think every sort of bad influence on my life can raise my spirit, so I surround myself with every kind of symbol and object that could take my existence closer to the End.
On the inner sleeve, it is interesting that you have adopted the symbol of a snake devouring its own tail. Is there ever a definitive end or only new beginnings and endless cycles?
It is an Ouroboros and it represents the continuous cycle of Life and Death. It contains the XIII, which is the number of the Tarot for Death. Together they represent eternal change and the infinite Ends that our soul has to face. There is not only one Death for us, and this is simply great, don’t you think?
Speaking of cycles, Horror Records is about to exhume your “Hearse” 7”single as a limited edition picture disc. I hope the deluxe gatefold sleeve will be retained! Will there be any other changes apart from the shift in format? Does demand remain or is it more important to keep your releases in circulation and gather new followers as your message spreads?
Well, I think that the picture disc won’t have any gatefold cover! Apart from that, there will be nothing new about the songs, obviously. Horror Records decided to release this version as it became sold out in a very short time, and lot of people continue to ask for it. I think it is a good idea, as we have been always very proud of that release.
Two other new 7” singles have already been prepared for release by Horror Records in the coming months, the first of which is a pairing with Denial of God. What unites and separates both bands? In this instance, have you agreed to explore a common theme or is contrast paramount?
The main difference between Abysmal Grief and Denial of God is that we play essentially Doom/Dark, while they are a Black Metal band. Apart from this, we share the same passion in Occultism, Necrophilia and Horror, so I thought it would be great to collaborate with them, and maybe someday we will manage to organize some gigs together around Europe. It would be great. We didn’t agree about any particular concept, so I am just waiting to hear their grim song…
Your contribution to the split single is a fresh interpretation of “Brides Of The Goat”, which originally appeared on your “Funereal” Demo Cassette in 1998. Why have you opted to return to this specific song now and how will this version vary?
“Brides of the Goat” is the only song from that period which we continue playing on stage, so I thought it would be great to record it again with Labes on vocals with a more doomish style, as over the years, we slightly changed the final part of the song during live exhibitions. The final result is really grim and heavy, I hope our old fans will like it.
Do you think that this two-pronged attack provides a valuable opportunity to reach more listeners through the other band? Is that even relevant to you as an artist? Perhaps brotherhood underlies it?
The only reason why Azter and I decided to release this split is the deep admiration we have respectively. We really don’t give a fuck about reaching more fans. This is just a sign of respect and brotherhood between Abysmal Grief and Denial of God in the name of Horror and Death.
The second single will be called “The Samhain Feast” and released at its corresponding calendar date. What can be anticipated from the title track, “Grimorium Verum” on the reverse and the artwork that will house them?
I really don’t know yet if this release will be confirmed or not. Everything depends on the future availability of Horror Records. The songs are almost ready, we are mixing them now, but by the moment everything is still wrapped in a sort of violet mist…
If that were not already enough, readers will delight in the knowledge that the new album has essentially been fully written and recording sessions are imminent. You have described its flavour as less ceremonial, more necrophilic and harsh, yet remaining dark and slow! Does that still allow space for the haunting organs? Would you be willing to unveil a little of any specific songs and their accompanying lyrics?
The organs and the keyboards are a fundamental element of the music of Abysmal Grief! This album will be in the same vein as all our compositions, and musically it is in the exact middle between “Mors Eleison” and “Abysmal Grief”. About the lyrics, they are a little more personal and descriptive than the first album, but there are no conceptual differences. Obviously I don’t want to pre-announce anything more about it…
Once again, Black Widow will help realise your vision. How will the album be presented and when do you estimate it hitting the shelves?
There are going to be no differences of production for this new release. It will be released on LP and digi-pack CD formats again, and I would like it to be available in 2009, which is a very special year for us, being our 13th together. This is the reason why I want the master to be ready before the end of the year: I don’t want to repeat the same delays of the previous album…
Alexander Baal joined your ranks approximately five or six months ago to take up the position behind the drum kit. How is he settling in as an individual as well as a musician
He is an old friend of mine and when I asked him to help us he accepted and soon wanted to become an official member. He is very serious and professional so we are satisfied with his efforts so far and I hope we will be ready to return on stage next Autumn.
If he were to stay for the longer haul, it would surely be advantageous for Abysmal Grief. Not only would it free you up during rehearsals and recording to focus on your craftsmanship, the band can also begin thinking about a return to the stage. Would that be a priority after the completion of the album?
Sincerely, we have never suffered from the deficiency of a drummer, as we never considered concerts as a fundamental aspect of our music. In the last years, I have changed a little my opinion, and this is the reason why in, the future, probably you will see a fourth member in our line up, obviously, only if he is really into the Occult and deserves to play with us…
How would you describe the ideal live representation of the band?
A concert in which we could really evoke something from Beyond. But it will be impossible, I think, in that circumstances we are often involved by the crowd and it is not imaginable to concentrate deeply. But if we can manage to make the people feel our same feelings, it is anyway a great goal for us.
In the past few years, you have played concerts with some of your Italian brethren who also explore dark and brooding sounds, such as The Black, Misantropus and L’ Impero Delle Ombre. But what has been your most memorable performance and why?
The best concert we played was probably two years ago in Germany where people were really mad and crazy for our show, and I must admit we played very well. Azter has the recording of that show. Perhaps, in the future, it will be available in some way… Concert organization outside Italy are more professional and serious than they are here, and it allows the musicians to perform better. This is the main reason why we will prefer going around Europe in the future!
Italy has a rich and dark musical tradition spanning from the late ‘60s to the present day. What is its impetus and why is it so unique?
I think Italy has suffered the influence of the infamous church more than any other country in the world, and it influenced deeply any kind of art. If we speak about music, I don’t consider so strange that many of the great occult bands are from Italy. We usually have a deep sensitivity about mysticism and the fear of Death. It is very sad, but this is the truth…
It might be viewed as quite insular or impenetrable as some bands have opted for their native tongue, Latin or even created a new language through phonetics. That, in my view, is a strength, and diversity should be encouraged. But why does there seem to be less media coverage as well as live opportunities for these great bands beyond your borders?
Well, if you think that the old great bands have notoriety here in Italy, you are completely wrong! Most Italian people never listened to Death SS, Paul Chain or Jacula! The Italian Dark Sound is much more famous outside Italy than inside, and this is one of the big contradictions here.
Please elaborate on the sense of community and collaboration between likeminded musicians. For example, while we have already touched upon those who have leant a hand to Abysmal Grief, you, personally, have been involved with Malombra and Il Segno Del Comando. Do you think such cross pollination is healthy and important?
I think that it is supposed to be collaboration only among bands really similar, musically or conceptually. I would never collaborate with a Death Metal, NSBM or Hardcore band as I don’t like those kinds of music or their message. On the contrary it was an honour for me to collaborate with Mercy or recording and mixing the song of Tony Tears for our split single in 2004. Musically, I am influenced only by those few bands that really share the same esoteric concept of Abysmal Grief, and obviously not only from Italy.
If you had a free hand, would you consider doing a full-blown project outside of Abysmal Grief? If so, what would be its focus and who would you like to be involved?
As I told you before, I have a good number of ritualistic synth/church organ songs that are buried among my tapes, and maybe some day I will give them new life… For the moment though, my only project is Abysmal Grief and I really couldn’t tell more than what I am expressing now with my band.
You may have already partially answered this question, but for which musician, Italian or otherwise, do you have the most respect? What is your favourite recording? Why?
The greatest artist and esoteric musician of all the times was Paul Chain. As everybody knows, he is artistically dead now, but his place has been taken by Mortuary Drape, which plays quite a different kind of music but keep the same esoteric aura. My favourite recording from Paul Chain is “Detaching From Satan” although not forgetting “The Story of Death SS” which is a great album, probably my absolute favourite, while from Mortuary Drape, I think “All the Witches Dance” is their best one. I have a deep respect for them.
Music is not your only passion. Perhaps you would describe some of your favourite horror films and directors, literature and authors? What makes them special, what impact have they had on you and how does that eerie atmosphere seep into your own creations?
Apart from music, my second passion is going around and taking photos of ancient graveyards or ossuaries. I like grim pictures, especially in black and white, and this is the reason why I am a big fan of all the old horror movies of the ‘50s or ‘60s, and generally of all those minor directors as Rollin, De Ossorio, Joe D’Amato and many others… Our music has always been influenced by some of those movies, and also from authors as Poe, Stoker, Bierce and so on.
You take your study of the occult seriously. What led you to this path, which aspects have particularly captured you interest and how have you explored them?
When I was younger, my attitude was much more superficial and dangerous. I was attracted by every kind of Magical art, but soon I decided to concentrate on the Dead and relations with them. My intent was just to go deeper into the knowledge of myself and some strange particulars of our existence, and obviously to explore the Death and its deep influence on our life.
Throughout your reading, which occult texts have you found most illuminating and least relevant? Any recommendations?
I read several books about this subject, especially from Kardec, who theorized very well the Spiritist doctrine. Sometimes he is a little too much “religious”, but I consider his “The Medium’s Book” a fundamental text to go deeper into the World of the Dead.
How do you interpret the following?
XIII is the Esoteric Number, the End and the Beginning.
Chains of Death is one of the first Death SS songs I ever heard, and the final act of all of our shows…
Cremation is only a way to avoid the Arrival of the Worm…
Purgatory never existed.
Paradise is an illusion for fools and ignorant people.
If you were a character rooted in the horror tradition, which figure would best represent you?
Probably Death in Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal”. I love that character and all the philosophy behind that film.
If you could ask me a question, Regen, what would it be?
Have you ever opened a coffin, Danny?
Once or twice…
We have reached the End. For now. Thank you Regen, for the comprehensive insights. Clearly there is much on the horizon and Pariah Child will continue to champion your cause. The final words are yours…
I thank you for this very long and close interview, and for your interest and respect towards our music and philosophy. In Death…
When Abandon All Hope was first taking form way back in the winter of 2002/03, there was clearly some strange elements in the Finnish water supply! As part of that first issue of the zine, I tackled the triumvirate of Minotauri, Spiritus Mortis and Reverend Bizarre. Whilst the former two were unleashing some formidable demos Reverend Bizarre was the first to secure a record deal that gave birth to their legendary debut album. It remains a stone cold classic and has been re-released many times over. Here lies that original feature from the vaults…
Hail Albert! Welcome to Doom Metal Hell and another year on this god-forsaken planet! How are things in your neck of the woods?
There are some dark clouds in my sky, but I guess it is quite much the same with most of the people! Some of us are born in sweet delight and so on… This year will bring us as a band our first and maybe last tour, and at the same time, our first gigs abroad, a few split singles and perhaps the next CD. Only time will tell. Right, when there are just few days before our departure to Germany, everything seems just perfect. It gives me strength to know that I will see great bands and drink free beer every day. The return to Finland will be hard, but at least I can have this short time of total madness!
Your debut album “In The Rectory Of The Bizarre Reverend” is one hell of a dollop of Doom in the classic tradition! Did you achieve what you wanted to?
We could have done a bit better album if we had had a few days more for mixing and for vocals, but as the time has gone by I dare say that we achieved quite closely what we were trying to do! At first I was very disappointed about the whole album. I heard only the weak moments! The other guys were a bit more pleased right from the start, I think. To me these songs are closer. I have carried them for so long. It is impossible to record them just the same way I hear them in my head.
The album should have made a couple of laps of the underground by now. Should being the operative word as you had some problems with distribution. What did you learn from this experience? How will you handle future albums?
I know nothing about our future, concerning our deal. I haven´t got too much information from our label. We still have the deal with them, but I personally wouldn´t like to work with them anymore. If we have learned something it is the old fact: read the contract and don´t sign it if you aren´t really sure that it will work out fine. In our case, the sub-label with which we signed was brought down, and we were moved to the main label and now we have been licensed to another label again. Our album came out last spring but it wasn´t available in any shops. The official release date for the second edition of the album was just a few days ago and now I have seen the album even in one supermarket. A confusing sight! But I don´t know too much about these things sadly as I would like to keep as many strings as possible in my own hands!
How have the reactions been from those who managed to lay their hands on it? I have heard nothing but praise! You must be pleased to have made a strong impression on the unsuspecting masses.
Well as you said, our album has been quite much praised everywhere, which is of course a delightful thing for us, after we have done so much work and fought to get everything as we wanted it to be. As I said, I was personally very disappointed when I heard the album for the first time, but after reading all these reviews and hearing all the comments I have begun to accept this album. It is still our child even when it is a bit retarded. We have had such a good response so far that from now on it really doesn´t matter what will be said in the future about this album. In the end all these words don´t mean a thing, as we know what we tried to do, and we know where we succeeded and where we failed. In the future we will try to do everything a bit better. More than I am glad for our personal success, if we can speak about success with the record sales that we have had, even when we don´t know any numbers, I am glad for the fact that Doom Metal itself is getting more respect nowadays. Our album is just one piece of the tradition. Doom Metal is more important than just one band. We are very conscious of ourselves being a part of something bigger.
For those who have been deprived of this Doom masterpiece please describe it to them in your own words. What need they know about Reverend Bizarre?
It is a record full of music that is heavy and slow and has lyrics that don´t deal with marijuana, hot rods, tits or pussies, but death, horror, loss, judgment and destruction. The atmosphere is that of discipline instead of relaxation. This isn´t any chill out music. If I may say so, and I may, this is a very definitive Doom Metal record. The production is good and the playing is decent, not too good, but good enough. What you should know about us is that we know exactly what we are doing; that we truly cherish the tradition of Saint Vitus and Witchfinder General, that we don´t fool around and that we come from Finland which is the land of silent people hardened by the long and cold winters.
There seems to be an underlying sense of irony in the band name for the sermon of the Reverend Bizarre is essentially subversive. But at the same time it follows the tradition of the forefathers of Doom…Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, and Count Raven. Any comments?
There is a certain sense of irony for sure, but what pleases me is that you have noticed the similarity to these other classic names, especially Saint Vitus and Count Raven, which like our name refer to some person. If you had been thoughtless you might have added Orange Goblin, Captain Beyond or King Crimson.
How did you come to choose the painting “Witches’ Sabbath” for the cover of your debut album? Do you think it ties in with the music and lyrics?
I had some other ideas first, and even when I had already thought about this painting I feared that it is too obvious: Someone must have used it already and it was just too well known painting. But when the time to decide came, I thought that what the hell, let´s use it! I mean it just felt so perfect, and in my opinion it is a perfect cover for this album! It gives the listener some visual hints about what is to be heard. In some way it is like a gate to our world. The painting has much cruelty in it, babies are in the stakes and so on, but still it has also much beauty. There is lots of beauty in the most terrible thing in life. I mean right now I feel very miserable, but when I think about this situation I begin to see and feel how sacral is this feeling of emptiness inside. Of course this painting doesn´t tie up the lyrical context in any way, as all the lyrics were written before I came up with this cover art, but actually it gives you quite opposite information. Our lyrics in this album are quite Christian in some way, but this painting is almost satanic, and I am talking about satanic art now, not any religion. We have also an excerpt by Anton LaVey in the page three of the booklet. It is very opposite when compared to the lyrics. I like this controversial thing. I like misinformation and confusion. I want to keep my fellow people a bit aware all the time. Everything can happen. You never know if some lunatic comes and cuts your throat open. It is the same with our music and lyrics and artwork. You will never solve our puzzles that we hide everywhere. I don´t want to explain our means too much. It is more fun for the one who buys our album to think for herself or himself.
“You speak with mystic language utterly with no meaning”(taken from “Burn In Hell”). But the word of the Church was not always so transparent especially when it was shrouded in Latin in the Middle Ages. Do you find it at all surprising that the Church attacked movements such as the Lollards who only wanted to be able to read the Bible in their native tongue?
I don´t! I am not too familiar with these Lollards, but in general the Church needed to keep most of the people outside the very meaning of the dogmas and the doctrines, because it made the church more powerful. The whole idea of the Church and the State comes from the possibility of domination of the not so wealthy ones. Especially Christianity is good for this purpose as it teaches you to turn your other cheek and take what is given for you, even when it means you will be destroyed. In this song I take a role of a real Christian who understands what Jesus really meant, not what the Church wants to teach for people. This person feels anger when watching all the preachers trying to manipulate people and have more money and power. This song is done in the same fashion as Trouble did their Christian message songs. It fights for the goodness. Of course this song doesn´t reveal my own thoughts in any way, except that I do hate all these TV preachers and other liars.
With this “mystic language utterly with no meaning” I try to say that this speaker doesn´t even himself or herself know what he/she is speaking, because it is not important. Important is to speak the right words even if they don´t mean a thing. This is how I see our world nowadays. People speak a lot but they say almost nothing. That is why I try to speak as little as possible. It is hard for me as I have some gifts of speaking total nonsense.
I think many people would be able to relate to “The Hour of Death”. Have you lost any friends or family members to the grave? Why do you think that the only certainty in life is the most agonising to come to terms with even for those people who believe in life beyond the grave?
Yes I have… My songs don´t reflect my thoughts or my ideas about life in any straight way, or sometimes at all. I sometimes take roles, like an author of a book does. If I say in a song something, it doesn´t mean I personally think that way too. When it comes to death and life after death, in some way I feel that when I die, something of me remains here, maybe in some electrical form or maybe in the work I have done. Right now I think that death would be a great relief as I am very tired of this life here. Sometimes I pray that I wouldn´t have to wake in the next morning. So I have thought about death quite a lot. In this particular song the idea is that the loss is so enormous that the person who has lost his loved one can´t bear it. He feels that the only solution is to “be in grave with her, slowly transforming back into dirt”. I can´t say that I have a similar feeling, or that I even have had one, but when I sing this song I can feel that loss inside me. This song touches me very deeply. Especially “remembering the days of joy not so long ago…”
There is the end in every life, this is a fact that makes some of us tremble, or feel depressed, but to some of us it gives hope for a better state of existence. Of course I hope that I would meet a few people when I have gone, but I don´t believe that I will. If I could believe, my life would be less depressing. I am interested in the idea of human life with only this one certainty – we all have just this short period of time here, then we must leave everything. Sometimes this idea of leaving gives me strength. Sometimes I would like to cry.
“War is raging somewhere. Every second someone will die” (taken from Doomsower) is difficult to deny. To what extent do you believe that religion has been the cause of war through the ages? Or is it a veil for humanity’s inherent lust for power?
I guess lust for war and domination and conquering is natural for the human race. Of course religion has had an important part in many conflicts, but when you study these conflicts more deeply you can find out, at least in some cases, that the importance of the religion is just cosmetic. There has been some kind of religions as long as there has been need to bury the dead and explain the forces of nature. To cut it short there has been religion from the very beginning of human race. There has been also violence from the very beginning. It is hard to divide these two from each other, and in another view it is hard to combine them. There would be wars without religion also! And there would be religions without wars. War is a natural process in the history of man, in my opinion. I don´t have to like the idea of war by saying this, but I don´t want to act like some cheap modern Jesus and say that I am against war and violence. That would be quite much same like I am against breathing, or natural ways of dying.
“Doomsower” describes the state where you don´t care anymore what will happen. It is like catharsis. Your own problems need so much concentration that you can shut your eyes for the suffering of others. I personally don´t care what is out there… In some way I have died many years ago. Maybe one day I will care again, but right now all is meaningless, but survival. Day after day, week after week.
There have always been wars and people have been dying because of violence. Take it or leave it. Religion has been the tool of power and oppression, but it shouldn´t be forgotten that religion has been the tool of survival too. Because people have believed in something they have had strength to carry on even when everything has been destroyed by war. Cities have been rebuild, badly injured people have kept fighting because they have believe, at least in something! Right now there are people living in warfare. Religion has strong psychological meaning. I don´t have belief, but I am also ruined. Maybe I could feel better if I could believe. Believe in love or whatever. I believe in friendship, but only because I have some very good friends, who will be with me until the day I die. Maybe in the same way God has revealed himself to some of us and that is why they can believe or actually they KNOW!
I haven´t seen God, or felt Him or Her, but if there is God I would curse that God anyway, as my life has been endless suffering in the spiritual level. I can´t worship God that has possibly decided that I will suffer and some other pigs can have a good life.
The lyrical content of “Cirith Ungol” is based on “The Lord Of The Rings”. What would be your favourite passage from this mammoth book? For me it would be the journey through the Mines Of Moria. The language is so dark and foreboding. My heart pounds in my chest as the company plod on and on. Then it rapidly accelerates once the drums begin to roll in the deep…
That is a good scene, but I personally like the house of Tom Bombadil. Not because I worship this semi-hippie character, but because this scene has so great atmosphere of safety and the horrors lurking outside. Bombadil is a strong character and yet he won´t take part in the action. It is interesting. It gives you a good picture of the strength of the Ring. Bombadil knows how strong the Ring is! The House of Tom Bombadil is like the last moment before the horrors begin. I also like the scene where the fellowship meets the Black Riders the first time. And the scene where they meet Aragorn… It is very exciting when you read the book for the first time. I like all the three books, but somehow the first one is my favourite. It brings you to this world first time and builds a base for the whole story.
By the way, for sure the song is based on the book, but when I got idea of doing a song called “Cirith Ungol” it was because I wanted to do a tribute for the band with the same name! I got the song ready and we did the lyrics in one sitting, Peter and me.
How do you think it has translated to film? My main criticism is it is too short. The sense of time is compressed into action only scenes. I guess grim days of nothingness would not make a blockbuster unlike the grim notes your massive monotonous song!!!
Of course it is too short, and I agree with you about the sense of time. In the book you truly feel how slowly the time goes, but in the films everything happens so quickly. These three hours has been the shortest I have ever experienced! Both films could easily be at least four hours. But my friend bought the DVD set of the first film and he told that there are some special scenes, and he also told me there will be lots of added scenes in the second film´s DVD edition. I really liked both of the films. They are very similar to how I figured the whole world and so on. Great acting, marvellous directing and great music. But too short as you said! Maybe they would add our “Cirith Ungol” to the DVD set of the last film. They could edit a music video for it out of the movie!!! Yes. In our song we tried to create this sense of journey and the sense of time! How the days are long and full of misery!One more thing. Before these films I didn´t like Liv Tyler, but now I am almost in love with her!
You mentioned recently coming across the old epic Heavy Metal band Manilla Road thanks to Ari from Minotauri! What is your favourite record from the band? Have you heard the latest output “Spiral Castle”?
Yes, I think it is Ari´s fault that I am nowadays a huge fan of Manilla Road. I may have had the “Crystal Logic” before he brainwashed me, but most definitely I can thank him for pushing me to buy everything I can get!!! Favourite… This is a very hard question, as you know! In some way, I like everything I have heard, but the least I like “Metal” and “Atlantis Rising” but I like them too! Maybe the favourite ones are “Mystification” which is a perfect album, and “Crystal Logic” as it has so great songs and it was my first time, but I like “The Deluge” and “Open the Gates” also VERY much! Great band!!! I haven´t heard neither the “Spiral Castle” nor “Circus Maximus” but for sure I will get them too! And what is this new re-release? ”Mark of the Beast” yes, I have to get it too!
Please share a few words on the “Friends of Hell” Tour with Minotauri and Spiritus Mortis. Do you enjoy playing live? If you could tour with any band past or present who would you ask to join you on the road?
I personally haven´t enjoyed too much playing live, so far, as I am almost neurotic perfectionist. Especially neurotic I am about tuning my bass!!! I don´t like to rehearse for the shows and I am worried about the lyrics. Do I remember them? I guess I would like playing more if I didn´t sing! Other guys like playing I guess. And our last gig was so good that even I enjoyed, and I am quite sure I will enjoy some shows in our Germany/Belgium trip! The audience has a very big role with this thing!
When we had these shows with Minotauri and SM I enjoyed more the backstage activities with the guys, and watching them play! They are great friends and great bands!
I have also some problems with my hearing and because of that playing live and even rehearsing worries me a bit. I damaged my hearing when I was a bit younger. I played in bands that had very high volumes, plus I also played some insane noise music.
The last part of this question is quite easy: Saint Vitus. I get an erection even when thinking about seeing them play live! Well, it will be great to go on the road with Revelation too. They were on tour with Vitus, and now we are on tour with them. After ten years have gone some new band will be touring with us! It is great to tour with Mirror of Deception of course too. But Vitus is the greatest. Trouble would be good too! Vitus, Trouble and Reverend Bizarre on the road and I could die as a happy man! I hope members of these bands are reading this!!!
By the way, I am waiting for a message from Paul Chain where he would say that he wants to have my vocals in the other side of his next album. It would be great to follow in the footsteps of Dorrian and especially Sanctis Ghoram! Paul if you read this, remember me!
Are you looking forward to your first gigs beyond the bounds of Finland? The bill for Doom Shall Rise is an impressive one indeed. I know you are a fan of Oversoul so how do you feel about sharing the stage with Revelation?
For sure, it will be our first time playing abroad and for a REAL Doom audience! Helsinki was a little before-taste but now it is for real!!! I was a fan of REVELATION already when we started back in the mid 90s. “Yet so far…” was one of those few Doom records I had back then! But we never tried to play like them as we wanted to reach even further back to history! As I already told you, playing with Revelation is a dream come true! They influenced me in the beginning and now we will meet them, see them play, have beers with them. Great! Absolutely, I have had some contacts with Dennis and Jim. Dennis seems to like our music.
Will the split 7” with Orodruin (which ultimately became a 12” vinyl) be released in time for this tour? What can you tell us about this new song?
No it won´t be. We will enter the studio 18th April 2003, which is the memorial day of the suffering of Jesus on the Cross!!! This new song, “the Demons Annoying Me” is one of the darkest I have done for Reverend Bizarre. The composition is very traditional in the fashion of Vitus. The lyrics have a very evil atmosphere, and they sound very personal. I won´t tell you how personal they are. Everyone can decide for himself or herself when they hear it! The title has been taken from a painting by James Ensor. This song is one of the latest I have done. I have made only a few songs after this one. You might be interested to hear that all these new songs will be released before our next full-length album. Actually there will be much older songs in our third album.
You have already contributed one song to “At The Mountains Of Madness II”. Please tell me which one it is. What do you think you the other bands and songs on the compilation? Do you think this collective effort is a good means for spreading the name of underground bands?
Yes, we did “Doomsower” just for this compilation in 2000. In the same sessions we did also “Funeral Summer” which was released in Out of Focus compilation (Psychedelic Fanzine). Right now it seems that this “Funeral Summer” will be our track on “Mountains II” too. I don´t know why. Perhaps Rich likes it better. Both of these songs are already pretty old recordings so of course they sound a bit weak, but I guess it will be interesting for people to hear this old recording, whichever one it will be! This early version of “Funeral Summer” is pretty good, and I like “Doomsower” too, even when it is faster than the album version plus my singing isn´t too strict.
I haven´t heard all the other songs yet, but I am sure they will be all great! This compilation is a very important release. I respect Rich Walker very much. He was the first person that gave us a chance to appear on CD. This compilation was supposed to be our first real CD appearance. Well, now we have the album out, but still it is great to be on this compilation. If I had known it takes so long time to have it out, I would have liked to record some new track for it, but still I am happy for this release!
Have you prepared many new songs? How have they developed from those on the album and your demos? Will you be playing them live?
We have all the songs for our second and third album ready. I mean all the music has been written, I still have to do some lyrics. We also have a few songs that will be perfect for some special releases and whole material for a MCD. Most of the songs that will be on our fourth album are also ready.
We have played live so far songs from our first three albums. In our Doom Shall Rise gig, we will play songs from the first and the second album, and same goes with the tour plus we will play some songs that will be released as a MCD someday, hopefully! We have played “Funeral Summer” a few times live, but now it has been dropped from the list. This song will appear on the third album.
Our second album will be bit faster than the first, but the third will be much slower. It seems that the fourth will have a kind of an epic feel to it. But these are only plans of course right at this moment. There will be songs coming from all three of us in the future.
No doubt your demos and rehearsal tapes are long sold out. Might you re-release them in the future? If not are fans welcome to send you a blank cassette for these old cuts? Personally, I would be keen to do so missing out on “Slice Of Doom”.
Well, I have some good news for you and if there are any others who would like to have the songs from the demo. I have already talked with one label about an official CD release of “Slice of Doom” with lots of bonus material including most of the other recordings we have done before the album and one rare rehearsal tape excerpt from around 1995 with the original line-up. So please don´t send us any blank tapes, but wait for this release. It will be a great one. I am personally taking control over the track list, remastering and the booklet. I am happy that these recordings will be available for a wider audience even when they aren´t of course of the same quality as the album material. But they are still essential for the possible fans of our music!
It would come as no surprise to me if you were a record collector. If so please tell me of some of your favourite records. Do you prefer their sound and atmosphere to the CD versions?
I am collecting some records, but I know how bad a collecting habit can get, so maybe I can´t speak about myself as a collector. I don´t have to have the first vinyl editions and such. Witchfinder General is the only band whose vinyl I am hunting! I need “Soviet Invasion” and the original edition of the first single. Most of the doom classics I have on CD. I have almost everything I need. Soon I will get some rare Hellhound gear, promo catalogue and so on. I have all the GOOD Rise Above CDs, all the GOOD Hellhound CDs… I am also trying to find everything from Burzum. I just got “Once Emperor” bootleg. Well, okay, I admit I am a collector. I am collecting also other music than Metal. I like these march bands like Blood Axis and Der Blutharsch. I just ordered a pile of rare compilations including BA songs. I sent money all over the world and I got everything I needed! I have all the missing Der Blutharsch CDs waiting for me in one place. I am still waiting for one rare split w/ Blood Axis and Allerseelen.
I found the original CD version of “Ancient Dreams” some time ago, and “Heavier Than Thou” from a local store, can you imagine? I like vinyl but I like CDs too. I think the Hellhound CDs for example are rare enough FOR ME so to speak. They haven´t been too widely available here in Finland. I am not going to hunt down the vinyl. It would make me mad. Of course I will buy them if I find them by accident!
But I have some rare vinyl such as Witchfinder General, Candlemass, Cathedral and Sister of Mercy (I am not joking). I even have some rare cassettes!!! More than a record collector I am a book collector. I collect occult literature, especially Crowley and such, but also Finnish translations of Lovecraft, Ken Parker books… Ha! Ha!
As I said I almost have all the CDs I need. BUT if some of the readers would like to get rid of the first Iron Man CD and the first Saint Vitus on CD I would be very interested!!! I have them on CD-R and cassette, but still.
One of my favourite records is the re-release of the first Witchfinder General single, as I bought it from one of my heroes, Angelo/Cold Mourning. Along with it, I also boughT the Cold Mourning splits!!! Of course I like my “Death Penalty” on black vinyl and my “Friends of Hell” picture disc, and my “Filosofem” (book version) and many others!!! “Blessed by Sabbath” original demo cassette by Warning… One think that I would like to have is the Burzum demo cassette. I have held it in my hand and I have it on CD-R, but I would pay a great sum of money for that. The copy I saw even had a short message from Varg himself! Written with a pen. Void has the first Paul Chain album in CD format, with slipcase, so I perhaps have to kill him one day. That is the only solution.
If you could only take three albums to your deathbed that you would listen to for eternity what would they be?
Only three! This is difficult. I apologise all the Doom and Heavy Metal fans when I am not choosing only metal, but I hope you understand. Iron Maiden “Piece of Mind” vinyl because it is SO important album for me, and brings me warm memories. I got it after I had been in the hospital when I was about nine years old! Musta Paraati “Peilitalossa” CD, because this album has so deep meanings inside it, and great songs. Finnish Gothic Rock/Futurist classic. The CD has lots of bonus material. Burzum “Filosofem” because Burzum is one of the best bands and because this album has both main elements of Burzum ambient and that other element… Ha! Ha! So it will be essential listening.
I didn´t choose any Doom or March (like Der Blutharsch) as I guess I won´t need it in my days of dying. Hey! If I would be wise I would have said I want to have these following albums, because it would mean that I have had the chance to do them before my dying. Right now I am not so sure if they will ever be recorded: Herven Agal “Cursed are the Weak” and “All Hail Father Winter” and the Reverend Bizarre songs from the “Funereal World” although I would choose the first list, plus I would listen to “Musiikkiluokka” by Leevi and the Leavings as much as I could before my deathbed times!
Albert, I thank you for your insights and more importantly for one of the greatest albums I have heard. May many more follow! The last words are yours…
Thank you for your very interesting questions and all the kind words! Keep up the good work. I hope we will stay in contact and you keep checking out our coming releases! Cheers!
The Heavy Metal onslaught that is “The Isle of Hydra” floored me upon its release. So much so, I decided to hunt down Scott Waldrop, guitarist and spokesman, for this Virginian quintet for a discussion about identity, determination and evolution. If I remember correctly, it was originally conducted in the summer of 2002…
Hail! Metaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!!! Beer!!!!
That’s the spirit! Now with no further ado, the band released its second album in the latter half of last year and you have clearly come on leaps and bounds. The production is vastly superior, which really allows the quality of the song writing to shine through. Are you pleased with your latest recording and do you feel that you have progressed as musicians since the “Curse of the Twisted Tower” album?
Definitely! We’ve finally got a good producer now that knows what the hell he’s doing, Kevin 131 of Assembly Line Studios in Virginia. I think the band has also progressed dramatically as a studio and a live band. The more experience the better! We’ve been playing our asses off all over and this certainly makes the band tighter as a unit all round. I’m extremely pleased with the way “Hydra” turned out but it’s by no means perfect. We’ve all got tons of ideas on how to make the next one better. We want a thicker and more ambient production.
Let’s consider the identity of Twisted Tower Dire. Whilst far from being a new band I think there would be few in Ireland who would be familiar with your music. How would you describe “The Isle of Hydra to them? And where do your influences come from?
“The Isle of Hydra” is a classic sounding Metal album with overtones of modern influence. It’s an uncompromising metallic assault on symphonic power wimps. We’re like a polished and epic version of Tank! Our Metal influences range from Uriah Heep’s “Magician’s Birthday” to Dark Angel’s “Darkness Descends”. If you want a straightforward plug, I’d say anyone who’s a fan of Iron Maiden’s “Piece of Mind” is in the dark if they don’t own “Hydra”. This is what we’re all about! The original true, real and earthy, not digital sound of Metal! I hate all those modern over-produced computer recordings. Fuck that! Black Leather, Iron Maiden and Alcohol. This is all!!!
By now a vivid picture should have formed in your mind. Honest, uncompromising Heavy Metal with melody and aggression. The epic flavour of “Piece of Mind” is an apt comparison. I would never have put my finger on “Darkness Descends” but if you listen to the riffing on “The Longing” it starts to make sense. And their depth of influences brought to mind the range of formats on which “The Isle Of Hydra” is available. The album initially came out on CD and Gatefold Vinyl. “The Daggers Blade” 7” Single and a 7” Picture Disc will follow this. There are few who would offer such choice. Nowadays it is often a CD or nothing. I put it to Scott that his taste for classic Heavy Metal inspired the band’s emulation of the classic formats.
Hell yes! I’m a vinyl collector. I’ve always loved vinyl and special releases. A band isn’tout. Vinyl is supreme though. No doubt. I’d love to put out a limited edition TTD beer too! Ha! Ha!
I had been wondering about the choice of the bonus tracks that appear on album. It occurred to me that they might hint at the direction the band is going to take while also wearing their influences in their sleeve. “Beyond The Gate” is an epic rousing hymn and it was put to good effect by placing it after “Dying Breath”. So unexpected! Unfortunately, I had yet to hear the rendition of Mercyful Fate but I was intrigued by the choice. I did not think it was an obvious choice for the band but particularly liked the idea of Tony Taylor tackling the song his way.
Yes, you’re right about wearing our influences in our sleeve. We get a great deal of satisfaction out of paying homage to our mentors, especially if we’ve done the song justice. As for the hidden track, “Beyond The Gate” is a very old song that first appeared on our ’97 demo. We re-recorded it out of popular demand from our closest friends and fans then included it as a hidden track to give them a surprise gift. It’s our way of saying thanks for sticking with us, believing in us, and following us for all these tremendously long, arduous, drawn-out, hectic, stressful and inebriated years!
It is a gracious gift that must certainly have been appreciated. As Scott said the years have been tough. Like many bands before Twisted Tower Dire they have been the victims of frequent line up changes. Bassist, Jim Morad departed after the recording of the new album. Judging by the liner notes he left of his own accord and undoubtedly he will be greatly missed.
When you have a band like TTD, who are completely on their own in a world of conformists and nay sayers, who are constantly trying to beat you down for sticking to your roots and being individuals, it’s hard to keep band members inspired. Line-up changes are just about survival of the fittest. Those who are dedicated to the cause will stand the fight out. We’ve always had one rule of thumb on line-up changes: always upgrade in musician quality, never settle for a second best replacement. If TTD wasn’t able to upgrade musicians over the years we would have fizzled out long ago. We would never let TTD go down the downward spiral of suckiness and then fade away like some pathetic joke. Instead, we slowly upgraded into a titan band. Now we’ve got the best line-up ever and we’re totally ready to conquer the world. Live, TTD has become a fucking Godzilla monster that crushes the stage! As for Jim Morad, he’s one of my best friends. The guy is like a brother to me so I would understand and support him on just about anything. He needed change in his life so he packed up his car, said goodbye to his family and friends, and moved 3,000 miles to California to find himself. I really respect that. It took a lot courage to start out new. The band meant a lot to him but I think he wanted to go out to see what else the world had to offer him.
Jim Hunter of October 31 fame has filled in the slot. Has it been a smooth transition bearing in mind both Tony and yourself have been playing in October 31 since May of last year?
Tony and I are no longer in October 31. We were both too busy with work and our personal lives to play in a second band. We learned that after about a year of rigorous gigging and attempting to balance two very active bands. It was a totally cool and smooth break up though. We’re still very good friends. The past weekend Tony and I got up on stage with October and did “Voyage to Infinity” with them at the Milwaukee Metal Fest. I guess this symbolically was kind of like handing down the torch to the new line-up with our full blessings. As for Jim Hunter, he’s a great friend and he’s fit into TTD perfectly. It was definitely meant to be. Of course Jim is also involved with While Heaven Wept and Revelation as well so it makes things difficult as far as scheduling is concerned. However, we’ve never rum into any real problems. We’re all friends over here.
The bonds of friendship must be strong but I wonder if it ever acted as a double-edged blade. Did it confuse the boundaries between the two bands? How did you know if an idea was better suited to Twisted Tower Dire or October 31?
Well of course there have been hours upon hours of discussion as to what exactly the aesthetics are of each particular band. For instance, TTD is like a majestic army sweeping over epic plains whereas October 31 is like some fucking rabid gnarly beast that rips your head off and stomps on your corpse! Ha! Ha! Anyway, since Tony and I are just back doing TTD exclusively, there’s no concern about the boundaries being crossed. There were a few writing sessions though where I wound up using some TTD riffs for October. They’ll never use those songs but it definitely could have turned into a situation where both bands’ styles began to blur into each other. It is for the best that this didn’t happen as both bands stand alone so well.
Pleased to hear it! I think it will help to keep the creativity fresh. Furthermore, you have been touring heavily over the past couple of years and it shows. The musicianship is tight. What have been the highs and lows on the road for the band? Who have really impressed you on stage? How was the reception on the German tour with Slough Feg?
Yeah, we kept playing better and better on our German tour. We didn’t get too burnt out. The more we travel the more we learn to pace ourselves and take care of our bodies, get sleep and not wind up in the trash. Slough Feg gets my vote as one of the best bands I’ve seen this summer. They toured with just Mike on guitar and he filled those songs out wonderfully. They were total professionals. Even when there were a few awful technical problems they just handled the situations like cool motherfucking cats. I think it’s a travesty that this band doesn’t have the support of a label with more money and contacts. No offence to Dragonheart intended whatsoever. It just irks me to see unique and talented bands get shafted by a money-hungry industry with old farts at the helm obsessed with sales instead of the face of our culture.
It is sad but true that money is often the ever-prevailing element. Have you any plans to return to the UK or is it beyond your financial means? Alas, I missed the Metal Inquisition in Bradford August 2000. The bill looked very promising. What are your memories of that day?
I was absent that day. TTD was just Dave on guitar as I left the tour early due to some nasty health problems. As for returning to the UK we don’t have any immediate plans. We’re thinking about touring Germany and Greece in 2003 after we get our third album out, which is tentatively titled “The Crest of the Martyrs”. We’ll see. It’s definitely a possibility that we could return to Britain in the very near future.
I wonder if we could petition a tour which involved Twisted Tower Dire playing a couple of dates in Ireland although it may depend upon the resources of their label, which is currently the Miskatonic Foundation. Are you satisfied with the effort and support the band has received? Will it also host your third album that I believe you hope to record and release by the end of the year?
Rich has been nothing but a great friend to us and we will always be indebted to the support the Walkers have given us. The same goes for Herman and Andrea of Metal Supremacy Records. These are true friends and good people that are extremely hard to come by in today’s music scene. You cannot upgrade much from relationships such as these but TTD needs to try and find someone with more resources so that we can get to the next level. If we do not succeed in securing such a deal we would be no means disheartened by staying on Miskatonic Foundation. Rich does everything he possibly can for his bands. I’m more concerned with reciprocated work ethic than having a false security blanket.
It seems like a tough target to meet but you know if it’s within the realms of possibility. What will your future hold? What direction will the music take and can we expect more tantalising artwork?
We’ve known for some time now that it’s not going to be so easy to out-do ourselves like it was on “Hydra”. We’ve been preparing new material for well over six months now. Much of the next album has been planned out musically and visually. Of course we’re going to try and do a stunning visual layout with lots of killer artwork. It’s all being planned. No one will be disappointed. The plan is to have a production superior to “Hydra” and write songs that stand-alone from it too. We don’t want to copy the same formula.
Honest, ambitious and the vision to succeed. Watch this space…
“Kosmiche Rituale” opens with hazy hallucinogenic synths. Their strength immediate. Then subtle bass lines lend calming weight. Shamanic drums tap and roll with splashes of psychedelic lead guitar rising overhead. Swelling and circling, the Mantric pulses will consume your body and soul…
Shed your robes, bathe your feet and cast your mind back. You have dabbled with many astral travellers over the years. But what brought together this particular collective in the autumn of 2011?
Lulu: We just came together at the moon base after a Sulatron Label Night festival and then, spontaneously, we decided to make some sounds. And luckily we recorded it!
Describe in detail this Moon Base! How did it look, feel and smell?
Onkel Kaktus: A very comfortable space with 60’s curtains and a creative atmosphere. And the usual smell of cigarette smoke, amps and sweat (laughing)
Lulu: And lava lamps, mindblowing visualized moods, one pink wall, the beauty of all the instruments, smells like hash spirit! Ha, ha, ha.
What is your memory of the mood and flow of conversation up to the point where each cosmonaut took their place in the respective craters?
Onkel Kaktus: Everyone was relaxed, in a very good and creative mood! We just entered the studio, took our instruments and started to play because everyone knew the time was right…
Lulu: And Baba Lali did a great job producing atmosphere of 100% harmony so we were ready to take-off!
And in the true spirit of exploration, some swapped traditional roles! Axes were replaced with sticks or even relinquished for keys. Did this happen organically and spontaneously to further separate the moment from previous jams in other guises?
Lulu: It just happened. We did not control anything but the “thing“ controlled us!
Onkel Kaktus: We were totally caught in that magical moment…
The absence of speech was undoubtedly deliberate. How did this keep the experience pure?
Onkel Kaktus: We are soulmates, so we don’t need many words! 😉
As you swayed to and for in lesser gravity, did you retain visual contact or did you prefer to close your eyes, feeling and following the contours of sound?
Onkel Kaktus: We all closed our eyes and were a part of our sound the whole time. A really magical moment!
What was your highest high on the trip?
Onkel Kaktus: It was the support of our dancing mate Baba Lali! He was very inspiring during the session.
Lulu: Oh yes, the energy of the moment and falling into it…
Why was it painted in orange and black hues on the record sleeve? Might it be reminiscent of caterpillars, butterflies or pumpkins? Or representative of the shift in solar forces at the autumnal equinox when you met to harvest sound?
Lulu: Oh, thank you, my friend.. (chuckling humbly)
Onkel Kaktus: We all love the 60’s and 70’s design. Panton and Space Age. The cover artwork really fits the sound of the record.
It may be folly to speak of linear spheres. But having only shared forty to fifty minutes of said session, will more follow or is that glimpse sufficient enough to comprehend the whole?
Onkel Kaktus: More will follow! We have a great part of that session left and we have plans to release it in 2015. Be prepared…
It had begun to dawn on me that Krautzone was a once off time and place that could not or would not be attained again. That was until I caught wind of another record on the horizon. If this is not part of the same one, I demand an explanation! How and why did you go back?
Lulu: Well, it simply happened again… And will happen again be cause we are addicted to this!
Onkel Kaktus: We met to celebrate the release of the Kosmische Rituale LP and spent New Year’s Eve our way. No sparkling wine. No fireworks. Instead having another session resulting the Superkraut I+II
What is the essence of this “Superkraut” phenomenon?
Lulu: Again, the energy of the moment…
Onkel Kaktus: Well, it’s the same as everything else with Krautzone. We always have a good time and love improvising together. In my point of view, it‘s more than just another band. It’s like a family to me.
Tell me about your cohort bearing the Lamp of the Universe? Given that his past is laced with acid mantras, mystic rays and cosmic unions was it the most appropriate choice?
Lulu: It was a spontaneous idea because we all think there is a connection in mind to Lamp Of The Universe and back again…
Illustrate your personal interpretation of the “Doors of Perception” in any lucid manner you see fit!
Lulu: It’s the sound of floating water in the most beautiful inner landscape you feel inside your soul…
Onkel Kaktus: Yes, I always see mystical landscapes when I close my eyes and listen to the song. It seems that it‘s not from this world…
As my mind races through the past and present, I cannot find footprints on any stage. This is a travesty! Why not?
Lulu: It’s hard to book a gig which can be spontaneous! (laughing)
Onkel Kaktus: It’s always hard gathering the krautheads at the same time. But I hope we’ll enter a stage some day…
Altering mediums, if Krautzone was a film, what would it be?
Onkel Kaktus: Some kind of a 60’s / 70’s Sci-Fi movie…
Lulu: Sepia coloured!!!
I ask because two visual experiences have melded in my recent memory with the record. The first being the soundtrack to “Aguirre, Der Zorn Gottes” with the surreal trepidation of “Stalker” exploring the Zone? Coincidence?
Onkel Kaktus: It is long ago, since I saw Aguirre so I‘ll have to check out if you’re right. (laughing) But I’ve never seen “Stalker“ before…
Lulu: Wow, Stalker, a very dark tristesse you get stuck in… I would prefer Solaris!
Having chased you in endless circles, you are now free from my net! Parting words?
Lulu: MAKE KRAUT NOT WAR!
Onkel Kaktus: MAY THE KRAUT BE WITH YOU!
Never heard of them? Then where have you been hiding? Vincent Black Shadow has a loud, energetic, no nonsense approach to heavy music. Stripped to the bone, they will rock and flatten. If in doubt, take on their second record, “More Deeper” and just see who comes out unscathed. Standing behind the guitar on the right is Dan O and this is how he spilled his guts four years ago shortly after it had been released…
Alright Dan, thanks for taking the time for a chinwag! Knowing very little about your collective background, would you explain how and when you met? What brought you together as a band? Did you have any goals beyond making a hell of a racket?
The band started as a continuation of an old band that Rufus (drums), Dave (guitar, then noise) and I were in with a different singer and bass player. Shit, I’ve been playing with Rufus for the better part of the 2000s. We wrote our first few songs, parted ways with the singer and started what would become Vincent Black Shadow. We just wanted to play shows. No projects any of us had done had really gone anywhere. In fact, this is the first real band Dave and Adam have been in. It was a little more towards the stoner rock thing at first, and we didn’t really wile out or scum up as much as we do now. This was… Five years ago? Four? It seems like ages ago. I think we all were a lot nicer back then.
Vincent Black Shadow is a decidedly ambiguous name for that very purpose. So who or what is this crooked character?
The Vincent Black Shadow is a motorcycle made in the ‘40s and’ 50s by the Vincent Motorcycle Company. It’s some sort of super death machine. Hunter S. Thompson wrote that “if you ride a Vincent Black Shadow at top speed for any amount of time… you will surely die”. One of our buddies is a real bike freak, and before he met us, he heard of our band name and got all mad that we’d take it from this macho bike. After hearing the first record, he changed his tune, and even hosted us for some wild times in Seattle on our last tour.
The cover sleeve of “More Deeper” seems to be a fitting yet twisted interpretation of it given that the five hooded figures are visible yet their faces have been obscured by the light! Is that the point? Who came up with it?
We had a hell of a time coming up with artwork for the record (it took us two months AFTER the thing was recorded and mastered). When you get five idiots in a room, it’s sometimes difficult for them to agree. I mean, totally impossible for them to agree. It makes fascism look refreshing, believe me. It got to the point where we were coming up with the worst ideas ever to piss each other off. It was terrible. Luckily we asked the endlessly capable Natasha Tylea to capture our lack of coherency on film, and we had to use our brains only minimally. The picture is definitely mysterious, which is funny, because, as dudes, we have about as much mystique as a hamburger.
So has the monochrome medieval imagery of the debut artwork been scrapped or is it simply a matter of evolution?
Well, the first record had a drawing (done by our label-man Francesco); we wanted to mess with photography the second time around. I don’t even want to start thinking about artwork for the future, that’s going to be another clusterfuck, FOR SURE.
Anyway, congratulations on that wild snarling beast of a new record! More certainly seems to be the recurring theme. More heaviness. More urgency. More venom. And definitely more volume. What’s at the root of this angry transformation?
2006 and 2007 were not good. Not good at all. We had someone quit the band the first day of our first tour (which was actually a good thing because we got the almighty DIRCK on bass). We had a now-defunct English record label blow ten tons of smoke up our asses about a UK release that got pulled weeks before its release. We did a couple of really grueling tours where fucked up shit went down on a regular basis. Adam got the cops called on him at our own South-By-Southwest showcase (which is classic in retrospect). I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything, mind you. Nothing turned out the way it was supposed to, and we learned the hard way to keep our expectations low; most people involved in music are bigger scumbags than we are.
It has been stressed that you recorded live to analogue tape. How significant is this technique for the band and are you satisfied with the results?
We’re not analog loyalists by any stretch of the imagination. We wanted to try tape, and were pleased with the results, but aren’t married to it. The first record and our new stuff are all done to protools, which is a little more practical (and cost-efficient) in this day and age. The live aspect is essential though. I can’t imagine tracking everything for our recordings. I dunno if we could do it. I mean, we want to capture the live show as closely as possible, which I think we do, even though we’re not nearly as fucked up in the studio as we are on stage.
If you had to select a highlight from the finished article what would it be?
Basically, what I liked most about the record is that it’s dark as hell, but not nihilistic necessarily. Its psychedelic, but definitely more like a terrible acid trip. Like hallucinating in the dirtiest public restroom. I think it accurately illustrates what it’s like to be a young scumbag in America during an absolute national low-point. Rather than being about depression or hatred, it’s more about scraping bottom and fucking and dissipating to fool yourself into thinking you’re not scraping bottom and getting fucked and dissipated.
Surely there’s a vinyl pressing in the pipeline? Wax is essential!
I agree. If you hear about anyone who wants to do it, lemme know.
Sadly, the lyrics have not been printed this time around. Will you offer some insights on the content beneath these strange titles? Humour? Frustration? General chaos? If in doubt, speculate…
Adam should print his lyrics, because I think they would qualify him to get on disability! Ha! Ha! But really, he does have some lyrics that are humorous, but not in a ridiculous absurd way. It’s always exciting to see how many times he can say “fuck” in a song, and also where he’ll insert it extraneously. We have a radio show coming up in a couple of days, and he’s scrambling to learn the songs without cursing. Or at least without cursing coherently. The first record had more linear, situational lyrics based on stuff like our neighborhood and jobs. Now we actually come up with song titles before lyrics to get a general theme to songs before he starts writing them, sometimes with the help of Rufus. Hm, some examples are “Pacman Jones” which is about a pro Football player who was involved in a gunfight at a strip club. “Shamanix” was this concept we came up with on the first US tour. If you don’t mind me quoting a previous interview, I ascertained that it’s the “mystic power of retarded suggestion”. Kind of like subliminal communication, only drunk. “Dome City” is about Washington, D.C. and how much it really, really, really, really sucks. Some song titles you can look forward to in the future are “Cold Piss” and “Pussy Heaven,” the latter being a BLUE VELVET reference.
What happens next? Do you feel that you need to spend time promoting the album, will you take a break or dive headlong into more frenzied rehearsals?
Hah, actually, MORE DEEPER was in the can well over a year ago, so it’s not quite as new to us as to everyone else. We’ve already recorded six songs for an upcoming split LP on Rocket Recordings. We are VERY pleased with them. Writing and recording regularly is important to us; I think touring for two years off of one album would be a nightmare. I’d hate to end up resenting our own material as getting in the way of new songs getting written. Of course “More Deeper” songs are included in every set we play, and we even played some songs off of the self-titled record on tour. We have some tour dates coming up down south in November, and beyond that, just writing and recording for another split record or full length.
Like many others, the band lacks a formal website. Has Myspace usurped that territory and its associated functions? How significant a tool has it been?
As much as I would love to have a real website, it’s just another expense that we can’t handle, and it would require a third party to maintain because we’re all still in the stone age. I don’t even have a cellular phone. We’re retarded. I don’t hate myspace because it’s not a person that’s done me wrong. It’s a tool. I mean, it’s ridiculous and pathetic to use a website to further your social life, or to make you feel like your band is achieving something by pressing buttons and requesting friends. For booking, though, it’s great. It’s just like email. I’d much rather direct someone to our myspace page than take weekly trips to the post office, rolling the dice on a response by giving away cds that we and our label have worked hard to put out.
Given the immediately accessible online community and its vast resources, why do you feel inclined to release records and appear in printed publications? Is there still merit in it or are you just an old crusty romantic?
If there was a nuclear war tomorrow, it’s a good likelihood that the internet wouldn’t exist. I’d like to think that if the future were like MAD MAX, the post-apocalyptic warriors would be able to salvage cds, records and tapes and blast them during gasoline raids. Lord Humongous would be our biggest fan. That’s reality (cough). The internet could easily become a memory any day now. Not to mention, as some sentimental bullshit, one of the best things about collecting records is holding the cover in your hands and examining it while you’re listening to it. That being said, I’m a terrible record collector, I destroy everything. Adam and Dave have pretty impressive LP collections though, and have been known to DJ now and then.
Playing live seems to be your lifeblood. What have been the ups and down on the road? Which memories will you cherish to the grave? Why?
The definite DOWN to touring is these fucking nazi gas prices. Fuck them in the face. SERIOUSLY. The only good thing about them is that they’re thinning the herd, and bullshit bands are starting to move aside. At least I hope so. That might be fantasy, because bullshit is popular these days.
The upside of touring is, you know, getting to travel with a purpose, and having people everywhere you go. I hate tourism, traveling somewhere just to walk around and take pictures is stupid. I feel like a jerk. Through touring, you get all your favorite jerks in a van, and you see what type of crazy situations you can get into (and out of). We’ve met the ugliest strippers imaginable in Kansas. Adam held an unloaded glock 9mm (USA!) to Dave’s head in Healdsburg, CA. We’ve gotten panhandled for weed in Arcata California. Dirck fell and hit his arm in Olympia Washington so badly that it swelled up to twice its size and turned black for two weeks. I exposed myself to the whole band on the streets of Denver Colorado. And of course we’ve met girls, gotten drunk, fought each other and made a ton of good friends and saw some killer bands along the way. We can’t get enough of it. I just wish we had funds to do another USA tour and DEFINITELY someone to fly us out to the UK and Europe.
If you had a free reign, with whom would you like to tour?
Oh lord, that’s a good question… If THE HEADS ever came to the US we’d love to swing on their coattails for a few weeks. I’d really like to tour with TORCHE, they are the heaviest pop group out there, plus they draw big as hell. Ha! Ha! Who else? Huh, ANNIHILATION TIME, we’ve still got their blood all over our drumset after letting ‘em use it in Brooklyn. Crazy good live show.
Any other bands locally or abroad you would care to recommend?
Locally, um, HOLLYWOOD are our brothers in being the only remotely similar band in the area. TRIAC is fucking terrifying grindcore. DACTYL makes Amphetamine-Reptile inspired noise rock. And these bands illustrate how small Baltimore is. They all share members. Smalltimore.
We’ve done multiple shows with MAMMATUS, WILDILDLIFE and NUDITY from the left coast, all of whom are taking psychedelic rock in different, awesome directions.
Another band I’d wholeheartedly recommend is MONOTONIX from Tel-Aviv Israel. They are the hardest working guys in rock music right now, hands down. It sounds like Thin Lizzy or Queen done totally raw and punked out. The live show is amazing. Ami, the singer, gets into all sorts of trouble, climbing, igniting, snatching, grabbing, jumping, you name it. They have tons of videos on the web worth watching, it’s a live experience unlike any other.
Finally, if you could ask me a question what would it be?
Will you fly us out to England and put MORE DEEPER out on vinyl?
Ha! Ha! Forget England, Dan! Direct flight to Belfast for that vinyl launch show…
CLAUDIO GALEAZZI / DEATH SS / PAUL CHAIN VIOLET THEATRE
Ciao Claudio, benvenuto nella nostra terra di ombre. Come va?
Come è quando ti sei avvicinato per la prima volta a questa forma di musica “spaccatimpani” ? Con quali gruppi sei cresciuto e quali sono rimasti nel tuo cuore?
Mi son avvicinato a questa musica quando avevo15/16 anni. I gruppi che mi piacevano allora, erano diversi dal nostro sound. Preferivo EL&P, YES, GENESIS, KING KRIMSON, LED ZEPPELIN, RUSH, e più o meno tutto il rock progressivo dell’epoca. Sicuramente per la mia formazione musicale hanno contribuito molto questi ultimi due gruppi che ho citato, Ma gli EL&P non li scorderò più….
Cosa ti ha ispirato a impugnare per la prima volta uno strumento? Ti sei avvicinato prima al basso rispetto alla chitarra ritmica? Come hai affinato la tua tecnica durante quei primi anni?
Sicuramente la voglia di esibirmi. Bisogna dire che la prima chitarra l’ho avuta in regalo a sette anni e guardando le star alla televisione non potevo non sognare – a quell’età – di diventare uno di loro….
Per cui mi sono avvicinato prima allo strumento a sei corde e poi al basso elettrico.
Sono completamente autodidatta ed ho cercato di seguire il più possibile consigli di chi era più bravo di me e, piano piano, imparare (come faccio ancora oggi). La musica, essendo una forma d’arte vastissima, richiede un costante impegno ed anche una buona dose di umiltà per andare avanti e quindi per me c’è sempre da apprendere qualcosa in materia.
Quando ti sei unito ai DEATH SS, bisognava mostrare un genuino interesse/conoscenza dell’occulto per essere accettati nei loro ranghi? O forse l’abilità musicale era sufficiente?
Niente di tutto questo. Semplicemente un passa parola tra amici, ed il contatto con Paul Chain. Per quanto strano possa sembrare (almeno per quanto mi riguardi), eravamo una band e nello stesso tempo un gruppo di amici, col quale si usciva ala sera, anche se l’argomento principale era quello musicale.
In quale momento il gruppo ha deciso di adottare i personaggi dei film horror per rappresentare le loro personalità? In che modo e perché ti sei identificato con lo zombi? …O è un ruolo che hai ereditato?
L’idea di rappresentare i personaggi horror è nata da Chain e Silvester già da prima che arrivassi io, come del resto anche il personaggio affidatomi. Non aveva importanza (questo per me) che io facessi questo o quel personaggio. Mi interessava che alla fine il risultato fosse soddisfacente e d’impatto. Anche se poi lo “zombie” rappresentava il poveraccio di una vita fatta di sacrifici, di delusioni e di quant’altro, tornato nel mondo dei vivi per vendicarsi di tutto quello che aveva subito nella vita precedente. Tutto sommato anch’io potrei essere una vittima di questo mondo (come penso tanta gente) e venire ben rappresentata, appunto, da quel personaggio.
Per interpretare il tuo personaggio utilizzavi una maschera oppure il make-up?
No, nessuna maschera. Ci truccavamo ogni volta per delle ore prima dei concerti, anche se poi questa “mania” si è un po’ affievolita… Inoltre restare ore con il trucco nella faccia non era poi così piacevole e (parlo del sottoscritto) l’attesa toglieva un po’ di energia al concerto. Era stressante aspettare conciato in quel modo…
All’epoca che impressione avevi di Paul Chain e di Steve Sylvester, sia come persone che come artisti
Una cosa che mi ha destato curiosità, sicuramente era il modo determinato che avevano di fare. Erano molto sicuri e con le idee chiare. Come dimostra il fatto che musicalmente gli altri membri del gruppo (me compreso) hanno fatto solo piccoli arrangiamenti, in quanto era già stato tutto fatto, o quasi.
Come descriveresti l’atmosfera di quelle prime prove? Dove e quando avevano luogo? Come era il loro svolgimento tipico?
Per me era un esperienza nuova e quindi tutta da gustare. Le atmosfere erano un po’ strane, perché si toccavano sempre argomenti esoterici, anche se a me non hanno mai interessato. Però ognuno aveva la sua vita e quindi…. rispetto per tutti.
Quali canzoni hai contribuito a creare? Come le hai modellate?
Come ho già detto le canzoni erano quasi tutte già fatte, e da quel verso li, non mi sono trovato tanto bene perché comunque i gusti musicali (compositivamente parlando) erano un po’ differenti e quindi, per lo più, il nostro contributo (parlo anche della batteria oltre al basso) si limitava all’arrangiamento del proprio strumento.
Su Hanged Ballad, la linea di chitarra classica l’ho fatta io ma, ripeto, era molto raro l’apporto compositivo da parte di altri membri.
Quanta preparazione richiedeva l’allestimento del vostro spettacolo dal vivo? Vedere le reazioni del pubblico vi ripagava di tutto il vostro scrupoloso impegno?
Parecchio tempo. Prima montare la scenografia, poi la prova dei suoni sul palco e quindi il trucco…. Beh, le reazioni ripagavano, certo. Altrimenti non avremmo continuato. Tutto sommato portavamo uno spettacolo sul palco proprio per essere un po’ diversi dagli altri gruppi….La reazione della gente che ci vedeva per la prima volta era sempre la stessa; volti stupiti che guardavano dappertutto e all’inizio ammutoliti…..
Ricordi di avere suonato un concerto a Perugia? Come si svolse?
Il concerto di Perugia è stato uno dei pochi con Steve Sylvester. Il primo con una distanza chilometrica maggiore dei precedenti… quindi eravamo molto caricati, pronti per esibirci fuori dalla nostra zona. Dettagli particolari non ne ricordo. Eravamo ospiti dei gestori, abbiamo conosciuto simpatici personaggi. Il concerto si è svolto come ogni altro, e mi sembra senza inconvenienti. Sicuramente un po’ di tensione in più, visto che eravamo fuori della nostra regione ma, come dicevo, essendo passato molto tempo non ricordo dettagli significativi. Mi dispiace solo di non aver recuperato un video che ci avevano fatto all’epoca… Lo aveva registrato il cuoco del locale, se non ricordo male. Poi in seguito qualcuno lo ha cercato ma senza successo. Non è stato più trovato.
Quale è stato il concerto che è rimasto più impresso nella tua memoria? Perché?
Difficile dirlo, ogni concerto era un’avventura e quindi stimolante. Ricordo volentieri quello a Bari, dove abbiamo suonato in spiaggia con temperature altissime, e sicuramente in un periodo dove eravamo musicalmente in forma migliore, e cominciavamo ad alleggerire la scena, quindi molta musica rock, e tanto divertimento. Poi naturalmente il concerto di Certaldo, vicino a Firenze, dove si è svolto uno dei primi festival metal di gruppi italiani. Una bella riunione e scambi di idee insomma…. E’ stata la prima volta per me, partecipare ad un festival metal con tanti gruppi. Ma non vorrei togliere nulla ad altre occasioni, nelle quali, comunque, organizzatori e giornalisti si sono dati da fare per farci suonare in giro per l’Italia e che ringrazio ancora oggi…
Puoi fare maggiore luce sull’implosione del gruppo prima della fine del 1982? Dal tuo punto di vista cosa avvenne?
Punti di vista diversi, penso. Caratteri differenti. Poi per il resto, non me la sento di dare giudizi. Sono persone con le quali ho condiviso un periodo musicale e vorrei che fossero loro a parlare di quello che è successo….
Perché la band continuò ad usare il nome dopo l’abbandono di Steve? Era un fattore di continuità indispensabile per l’imminente compilation (“Heavy metal Eruption” ndr) e per l’Ep “Evil Metal” ?
Si, certo. Dopotutto Steve se n’è andato dopo non molto tempo e noi cominciavamo ad essere conosciuti in giro. Era necessario, secondo me, continuare con quel nome in quel periodo. Anche se non è durato molto. Di li a un anno, o poco più, da “Death ss” Siamo passati a “Paul Chain Violet Teathre”.
Quale accoglienza ricevette il vostro materiale all’epoca, considerato che non c’era nessuna altra band come i DEATH SS? Avevate la sensazione di stare creando una musica realmente speciale?
Che nessun gruppo facesse come noi, ce ne rendevamo conto benissimo. Personalmente però non pensavo che il gruppo avesse poi avuto un seguito tanto lungo, tanto da far discutere ancora oggi. Musicalmente parlando in Italia credo eravamo i soli a farlo. Naturalmente parlare di musica mai sentita mi sembra esagerato. Comunque sempre di musica rock si trattava. Diciamo che la differenza, che ci rendeva diversi, era tutto l’insieme di cose che abbiamo fatto.
Come, dove e quando il gruppo ha incontrato Sanctis Ghoram? E’ successo tramite Gilas?
Si, Gilas l’abbiamo conosciuto ad una rassegna musicale e abbiamo cominciato a frequentarci. Sanctis era un suo amico che, poco tempo dopo, ci ha presentato. E da lì, dopo qualche scambio di idee, è nata la collaborazione.
Quali caratteristiche ritieni che abbia portato Sanctis Ghoram e come si sono evoluti i DEATH SS con il suo contributo? Aveva una voce davvero spettrale…
Beh, la voce senza dubbio, ma anche il modo di pensare. Ci trovavamo bene con lui e si parlava di qualsiasi cosa. Poi musicalmente veniva dalla musica sessantottina e parlavamo spesso di gruppi dell’epoca di un certo genere, come per esempio Nice, Cream, Mountain…
I Death SS, in quel periodo infatti hanno prodotto materiale sonoro dove l’improvvisazione aveva un ruolo importante e Sanctis era molto portato per questo.
Cosa puoi dirmi di Gilas? Puoi descrivermelo e dirmi del suo background musicale e di quanto ha interagito con la band? Ho idea che le sue partecipazioni da ospite capitassero più spesso ai concerti del Paul Chain Trio che a quelli dei DEATH SS….
Infatti alla rassegna musicale della quale parlavo prima, abbiamo partecipato sia come Death SS, sia come trio di improvvisazione. Questo in due date diverse. E’ con il trio che l’abbiamo conosciuto e siccome anche lui si accingeva ad ascoltare Zappa, Captain Beefheart ecc. è stato facile trovare del feeling per collaborare insieme con qualche brano. Siamo diventati amici e qualche volta ci si vedeva a casa sua per fare delle jam. Era un bel periodo dove conoscersi per noi voleva dire suonare, improvvisare, insomma si condivideva quello che avevamo dentro ed ogni personaggio era una scoperta….
“Schizophrenic” era l’unico pezzo in cui cantava Paul Chain? Era solito cantare solo il titolo oppure c’erano altre frasi o fonemi? Puoi dirci se la parte parlata verso la fine del brano è opera di Sanctis Ghoram o di Gilas? Se avessi la possibilità di fornirci una trascrizione dell’intero testo, fallo per favore…
Era pura fonetica come spesso veniva scritto nei nostri dischi. L’improvvisazione prendeva sempre più piede nelle nostre musiche e la voce veniva considerata come strumento e quindi partecipe in questo contesto musicale. Le voci finali del brano sono di tutti ed ha collaborato Gilas. Il testo non esiste (a parte il titolo).
Cosa ne pensavi della voce di Paul Chain? Superbamente sconvolta? Ha mai cantato altre canzoni dei DEATH SS ?
La voce di Paul Chain si prestava bene per l’improvvisazione. Lui poi ha avuto sempre un suo stile ed è dotato di un buon orecchio per la musica e sentendolo si riconosce subito. Io non ho mai cantato in quelle canzoni. Mi sono sempre limitato a suonarle.
Di quale canzone sei maggiormente orgoglioso e perché?
Dire orgoglioso è una parola grossa… Diciamo che sono affezionato a due pezzi. Il primo è “The Hanged Ballad” dove ho fatto gli arrangiamenti con la chitarra classica. Mi piaceva perché era un brano che si distingueva degli altri, ben più “rumorosi”, ed aveva un sapore antico. Il secondo invece è “Chains Of Death”. Questo brano lo ricordo con particolare piacere perché, secondo me, rappresenta bene la seconda fase dei Death SS, e cioè quando si è aggiunto al gruppo Sanctis Ghoram. Quindi energia nuova ed un cambio nel nostro stile. Il pezzo è articolato in due parti e mi ha sempre divertito suonarlo. Bello davvero.
Puoi dirci come e quando i DEATH SS si sciolsero definitivamente?
A mio avviso non ci sono date precise. Come punto di riferimento considero la data di chiusura avvenuta (come si può immaginare) con l’uscita del disco “Detaching From Satan” del Paul Chain Violet Theatre.
I membri erano gli stessi, con l’aggiunta di Paul Dark, con il quale ci alternavamo al basso, e di Erik Lumen, che si alternava alla batteria con Thomas Hand Chaste. Poi era un periodo in cui, da parte mia, desideravo oramai fare altre esperienze musicali. Per cui cominciavano le collaborazioni con altri gruppi di diverso genere.
Naturalmente, cosa che non ho detto finora, ci ha sempre accompagnato, durante tutto il nostro percorso, una pessima situazione economica e, malgrado fossimo conosciuti, non siamo mai riusciti a decollare. Cercavamo di sopravvivere con la musica e, dal mio punto di vista, tutto ciò ci ha reso deboli tanto da non insistere su quella strada.
Quando fu chiaro che il gruppo stava evolvendosi ancora, perché tu e Thomas Hand Chaste, come lui ci ha spiegato, eravate così determinati nel volere adottare il nome VIOLET THEATRE? Un appropriato tributo al passato che avevate condiviso?
Il momento, come ho detto prima, coincide con l’uscita del primo disco stampato a nome “Violet Theatre”. Da lì in poi, individualmente, abbiamo apportato un contributo più marcato con il nostro strumento. Si, il nome senza dubbio richiamava quello che avevamo fatto prima, ma c’era voglia comunque di sperimentare. Dopo anni che si suona insieme e dopo ore e ore di prove, ma anche di improvvisazione, ci si conosce ancora meglio musicalmente e viene naturale la voglia di fare qualcosa di diverso.
Conoscevate già Paul Dark ed Eric Lumen prima che “Deataching From Satan” venisse inciso? Furono formalmente invitati ad unirsi al VIOLET THEATRE oppure Paul Chain stava adottando una nuova filosofia in base alla quale non vi fosse una band rigida con dei componenti stabiliti?
Rispondo partendo dall’ultima domanda, che è la più importante. Si, Paul Chain stava seguendo questa idea di non avere dei componenti fissi. Anche perché non sempre coincidevano le sue idee con le nostre. Lui aveva esigenza di fare delle cose diverse rispetto al passato, come noi del resto, nondimeno, a volte, non eravamo in sintonia… Ma tutto questo è avvenuto piano piano senza traumi, almeno da parte mia. Anche perché Eric Lumen e Paul Dark li conoscevamo da prima, essendo nel circuito dei gruppi musicali di Pesaro. Passavamo delle nottate insieme nei pub a bere e chiacchierare. Eravamo amici già da tempo e ci vedevamo anche al di fuori del contesto musicale. In quanto a me, già cominciavo ad avere esperienze collaborando con un altro gruppo. Insomma, considero quello che è avvenuto dopo, come un naturale proseguimento.
Indipendentemente dalle sue motivazioni, deve essere stato shoccante per te, Sanctis Ghoram e Thomas Hand Chaste, il venire esclusi da quel Mini LP. Siete stati in alcun modo coinvolti nella realizzazione di quei pezzi?
All’epoca di quel disco avevo già delle collaborazioni con un altro gruppo e le scelte musicali di Paolo non erano molto condivise da me, personalmente. Comunque questo non significa che io l’abbia presa male. Il fatto stesso che suonavo già con altri musicisti indicava il mio desiderio di andare avanti in un percorso musicale diverso dal nostro. Già comunque si era scelto di introdurre altri musicisti (comunque nostri amici che frequento tutt’ora), i quali ruotavano attorno al gruppo, per portare avanti le scelte di Paolo, che effettivamente erano sempre più personali e che non rispecchiavano esattamente le mie. In ogni caso questo significava più libertà di movimento nella nostra area musicale nostra benché, allo stesso tempo, stesse finendo un’epoca. E questa secondo me era una cosa oramai certa e sentita da tutti. Forse si poteva fare diversamente. Chissà…. Certo è che Paolo aveva altre esigenze ed aveva percepito forse il mancato interesse che noi avevamo fatto sentire per suoi progetti futuri. In poche parole era la fine dei Death ss prima e dei Violet Theatre dopo.
Quali sono I tuoi ricordi delle prove con i VIOLET THEATRE ? Quanto erano rigorose e frequenti? Avvertivi delle differenze rispetto ai giorni dei DEATH SS ? Dopotutto voi quattro avete partecipato solo a metà dell’album “In The Darkness” e la stessa formula è stata ripetuta con il “Picture Disc” e con “Life And Death”…
Ho dei bei ricordi, naturalmente. Le prove erano frequenti, nella misura in cui ogni componente riusciva a conciliarle con la sua vita privata. E’ chiaro che un po’ di rigore c’era, ma niente di più di un qualsiasi altro gruppo. Comunque, ribadisco che eravamo una band formata da amici, che condividevano anche uscite (a volte), le quali non riguardavano strettamente il gruppo (concerti di altri, viaggi ecc) ma anche ore di jam al di fuori del nostro repertorio, per divertirci. Differenze, se ce ne sono state, sono venute fuori lentamente. Il cambiamento si avvertiva, naturalmente. Però era una cosa di cui avevamo parlato tra di noi tempo prima e che piano piano ha preso forma. Non poteva essere diversamente.
Raccontaci per favore se c’è stato qualche concerto che ti è rimasto nella memoria, fra quelli suonati in quel periodo con quel quartetto
Per quanto riguarda il concerto ho già risposto prima e poi ogni volta era una storia diversa e farei veramente fatica a scegliere. Tuttavia, un concertino (con solo pochi pezzi eseguiti) che ricordo molto volentieri è stato in un piccolo locale a Pesaro, dove abbiamo suonato senza trucco e tra amici. Lo ricordo volentieri perché era la prima volta che suonavamo live con Sanctis Ghoram, ed era anche la prima volta che non sentivo il peso di truccarmi… Era nell’ambito di una jam, se non ricordo male. Abbiamo imbracciato gli strumenti ed abbiamo cominciato a suonare per vedere come andavamo. Di li a pochi giorni avremmo suonato in un teatro, sempre a Pesaro e, la settimana successiva, a Certaldo (FI) in quel primo importante raduno di metal band italiane. Insomma, una specie di “rodaggio”.
In che modo gli spettacoli del VIOLET THEATRE differivano da quelli dei DEATH SS ?
Si differenziavano per il trucco più leggero ed una scenografia dove cominciavano ad apparire altre cose che non fossero teschi o croci. Per esempio manichini, vecchi televisori, ecc…
Intorno alla metà degli anni 90 c’è stato il riavvicinamento fra Paul Chain e Steve Sylvester in occasione degli album solisti di quest’ultimo, nei quali suonate pure tu e Thomas Hand Chaste. Come è nata questa “riconciliazione” e che ricordi hai di quel periodo?
C’è stato un riavvicinamento tra i due. Abbiamo fatto delle prove con dei pezzi che sarebbero poi finiti nel disco solista di Steve. Com’è nata di preciso non ricordo. Paul ha cominciato a parlarmene tempo prima. Io già collaboravo con un altro gruppo e la cosa mi stupì un poco, ma nello stesso tempo ero contento di rivedere Steve e di partecipare ai suoi brani. Poi l’incontro e le prove con i suoi pezzi. Per conto mio è stata una piacevole parentesi musicale, cominciata a Pesaro e conclusasi a Firenze in sala di registrazione. I brani mi piacevano ed ho suonato volentieri in quella occasione rincontrando di nuovo anche altri personaggi.
C’è qualcosa che vorresti aggiungere o condividere con noi riguardo al tuo lungo viaggio con DEATH SS e PAUL CHAIN VIOLET THEATRE ?
Posso solo dire (e ringraziare) i componenti del gruppo che hanno partecipato a questa avventura. Se non fosse stato per loro forse a quest’ora avrei smesso di suonare. Invece ancora oggi mi muovo negli ambienti musicali e prendo lo strumento in mano per suonare tantissimi generi ed esplorare stili diversi con una voglia che non si è mai estinta. Viaggiare musicalmente è una delle cose che mi hanno appagato di più nella vita e che tutt’ora mi regalano quelle piccole soddisfazioni che aiutano a vivere decisamente meglio. Senza contare poi, soprattutto, le tantissime persone interessanti che ho conosciuto durante tutti questi anni, suonando in diversi posti, con cui ho stretto amicizia e saldato una stima reciproca.
Forse il fatto di non aver rischiato un po’ di più nel gruppo, per cercare di avere più riconoscimento in modo tale da permettermi di mantenermi economicamente con la musica. Ma certo, non è un rimpianto che non mi fa dormire tranquillo. E’ andata così ed ho avuto delle soddisfazioni. Tutto qua.
Se sei arrivato in fondo fin qui, ti devo i miei più sentiti ringraziamenti!
Grazie a te e della tua… “compagnia”
(Italian translation by Salvatore F)
The San Franciscan saga poets have returned again with the love of Heavy Metal burning in their hearts. “Traveller” is their fourth and most accomplished album to date. Eager to catch up on the news in the Slough Feg camp, I had a word with fellow knight of the Red Branch, Mike Scalzi, about science fiction,,frustrating record deals and Ireland…
Greetings from fair Ulster, Mike! You must be pleased and somewhat relieved that “Traveller” has finally seen the light of day. Sone sources say that the material was ready to go since early last year.
Mike concurs, “Since September 2001! There were big delays with the artwork and the label. I’m sure this is no new story to anyone. You can imagine what some of them were…”
Even so, it hardly excuses them! How have the initial reactions been to the new material?
“Well, people are generally pretty unimaginative. They ask how can we go from ancient Celtic lore to Sci-fi! I ask them have they ever changed the channel on their TV set! This time I didn’t write songs about barbarians and instead I wrote about science fiction. Pretty easy to grasp, right? But most people can’t come up with a more interesting question than that. So the reactions were as expected. Very plain and standard.”
Clearly this is a sore topic with Mike! Perhaps if Dragonheart had not placed such emphasis on the lyrical shift in their promotional materials the band would not have been plagued with the same run of the mill questions. However, as I have a longstanding interest in science fiction I decided to plough on and ask where his inspiration came from…
“It came out of the same place all science fiction came from, George Lucas’ asshole!” Laughing, “No, really, it came from the Sci-fi books of the early ’50s. That’s when all the best Sci-fi was written. If you want to understand the new album, read Alfred Bester’s “The Stars Are My Destination” because it’s the best fiction book I’ve ever read. It science fiction for real men!”
I feel the narrative flavour of your lyrics and music go together hand in hand. To what extent has the folk tradition influenced and become infused to your brand of Heavy Metal?
“Not at all!” he refutes. I know nothing about Irish folk music. I only know about Maiden, Priest and Sabbath. We’re a Metal band. The Irish stuff just comes out somehow. I don’t know. I never tried to write that way. Really! It’s just in me somehow.”
There you go! So this is your third full-length album with Italy’s Dragonheart. Do you feel they have given the band the push it deserves in terms of advertising and tour support?
“Advertising, yes. But no tour support at all. None! We have done everything ourselves with the help of small booking agents and labels like Miskatonic Foundation and Metal Supremacy. The underground supports us and that’s it. I would like to get on a label that gives tour support. But that’s damn tough. Even most of the bigger Metal labels seldom do it.”
Tough indeed! And I sense that at this point in the Slough Feg cycle the band was hoping to have made more headway by now. Instead of critical acclaim and the support they rightly deserve their last studio album “Down Among The Deadmen” seems to have become a rarity. It’s barely three years old and absent from all European mailorders. When I queried if the pressing had sold out and were there any intentions to reissue it, Mike aired his frustration.
“I’m pissed that SPV just distributes an album for a while and then lets go! He sighs, “You can still get it on our website and there are actually a lot of small distros in the US that still carry it including Aquarius and Sentinel Steel. Best just go to our website though.”
Last year saw the re-release of the band ‘a self-titled debut on Miskatonic Foubdation. How much demand was there for it?
“I guess there must have been enough,” he shrugs.
Perhaps this is a little premature. Have you put any thought into album number five and which label might host it?
Yes! But I don’t know which label yet. It’s hard to get a good deal. Really hard. Most labels don’t want to take a risk on a band line us. They think we’re weird and unmarketable. I don’t know why because I think they could sell us just fine. The more you sound original, the more they’re scared to put you out because you don’t fit into a pre-established category.”
I think this goes to the heart of the matter. Slough Feg has personality, which is not common place amongst their contemporaries. But should they be penalised for it?
Have you any specific requirements you would put to an interested record company?
“We want a label that will give us tour support. We need to get to places we haven’t been yet!”
Touring has already been a large part of the Slough Feg experience even if the band had done so off their own bat. Having made three laps of Europe with whom have you most enjoyed playing?
“Solstice, Sacred Steel and Twisted Tower Dire are always a blast. I can’t wait to come back!
Will you be playing any European festivals this summer?
“No, we haven’t been put on any.”
Do I sense more frustration?
Did I hear you spent some time in Cork last sumner? How did you find life in Ireland?
He corrects me, “I went to Dublin and Galway. I have a friend in Galway, which was fun. I didn’t do much in Dublin. I found it rather tame.”
That will please the Dubliners no end! What did you do?
I went to a few bars and walked around looking for the Rock n’ Roll scene. But there wasn’t much to be found. I’d like to play there though. I saw a lot if cool Thin Lizzy posters. That place must have been great back in the ’70s!”
I suspect so! Let’s return to literature. What would be your favourite Irish poem or myth?
“The Tain Bo Cuailgne! I read it when I was 18 eighteen and based a band around it,” Mike enthuses.
Now I happen to think Slough Feg should be massive in Ireland and the world in large. If and when we book live dates for you in Belfast, Dublin and Cork this sumner, what would you say to people to encourage them to come to your shows?
“Well, if they like the real thing, come to our shows! If you want imitations, go see Black Metal or Iced Earth or someone else. Anyone who likes Thin Lizzy should like us.”
Simple as that really!
He elaborates, “if you’re a real Metal head of dirty old Hard Rock, you ‘d enjoy our show. I’m sure there’s many drunk Irish bastards who’d enjoy it!”
I’m inclined to agree and we will put that to the test!
Lastly Mike, do you still feel like a Heavy Metal Monk? Or are the ladies finally succumbing to your charm?
“I’m very much a Heavy Metal Monk right now. You should see the pile of jack-rags in my trash can!” Laughing, “I had a girlfriend but she moved to Texas and I’ve been too busy lately to look for poon-tang. A couple of skanky hoes hang out on my street but I’m afraid of diseases. Once I was an international playboy…”
I think we better leave it there! Thanks for your time and honesty, Mike. All being well, see you here in the summer.