Interview: Ufomammut

How has the European tour been so far?

Poia: It’s a short tour – we are just testing our new record, and it’s doing good. Little by little, I’m discovering that I like to play this new record a lot. Obviously when you record an album, you don’t record it in one long take; you take your time, you change things and you add different sounds…but live it’s a totally different story. So we were a little bit frightened by the new record with all of these sounds and things…

Urlo: We still are!

Poia: It’s like a monster! It’s like a living entity: it doesn’t belong to us, but he – Oro, that is – is just keeping us together. So it’s been surprisingly good and we’re happy about this. This is the sixth gig tonight, and every time is better and better.

So have you managed to rehearse ORO in one go yet?

Poia: Yeah, three times. Maybe less.

Urlo: It’s really long, so we did the first part and were just like, [sighs] “stop”. And then the next time we went to play the second part and went “shall we start off with the first? No…” We only did it three times I think. So expect the worst [laughs]. I don’t care that much as only a few people have listened to the entire thing, so for the second half we can invent and make mistakes. It’s strange, because even though the second part is more complicated, it’s easier to play in some ways. The first part is more simple, but there’s more growing and changing…so I don’t know, we’ll tell you at the end. If you see my crying…

Poia: The main thing is to keep control of everything, and sometimes something will break and go away. Even the sound can be too much or too less.

There’s always a lot going on in ORO. How do you work that into the live setting? Obviously you can’t do everything as there’s just three of you.

Poia: At the beginning of the band, we were in search of a keyboard player. We found three keyboard players, but it’s always ended up with us creating all of the sounds. When we were looking for the keyboard players, the record was always complete and we just needed someone to play it, so we’d play with him for a concert and then he’d get bored and leave. [laughs] Then we discovered how to use our feet as well as our hands, using pedals connected to sample and things…it’s complicated.

Urlo: Yeah, it’s not just a figurative thing when we say, “we play with our feet”. We actually do it! It’s real. Incredible. Like monkeys.

I guess you want to do as much as possible while still being able to enjoy yourselves.

Poia: Yes, this is very important: to maintain control but not to be overloaded by too many things to do. We like to relax while playing, but we are concentrating… it’s difficult. [laughs] But sometimes it works.

Urlo: Sometimes! And when it works…wow.

You’d been playing Eve for about two years up until the release of ORO. How did that progress over the time you were playing it?

Urlo: By the end it was easy; it just came out. We could stay backstage and it would still come out [laughs]. We found that if we played a song like “Stigma” before playing Eve, we relaxed and everything comes out little by little. We’re at the beginning with ORO, so we still have yet to understand it and make it ours, but things will start to come easier. Just give us some time please! But I have to say that Eve has been really useful and important for us, as we learnt another way of playing – we’ve never played our previous albums from start to finish. With this one it’s easier in some way, as you gradually start to remember what comes next, but in some ways it’s more difficult because we have to remember more. With Eve this process came naturally, and with ORO it’s growing still.

Poia: We’re trying to maintain the progression.

Urlo: When we told Steve Von Till that we were going to do this record that lasts one and a half hours, he said, “I want to see that LIVE.” And we were like, “us too!”

Will it feel strange to play it all at once, given the fact that you’ve got this void of about three months between the release of both parts?

Poia: No, it’s not strange. It’s the thing in its complete form. We must remain concentrated on what we’re doing, and we hope other people remain concentrated too – it’s very long.

Urlo: We’re giving a gift, so we want people to be nice and say, “okay – it’s a gift so we have to smile.” In Italy, when you get a gift…we have saying that’s like, “it’s the thought that counts.”

Yeah, we have that too.

Urlo: Okay, so you get a gift and you’re like, “oh my god.” But then you have to go, “I really like it!” So just smile and be polite.

I read in a previous interview that you’re very responsive to how the audience react to your music.

Urlo: I think it’s fundamental for us. We’ve noticed that when people react to what we do, we react to how people react, and we feel stronger because we’re giving something and it’s being received, to we need to give more so that they receive more…it’s a sort of drug. There are some countries in which people are very cold, even if they love what you’re doing; I remember in one place I had this guy in front of me just looking at me the whole time, and I was thinking, “am I doing bad? Do you want to kill me?” Then at the end he was cheering. I mean, we’re not all the same, but when people are really reactive, it makes everything easier.

Poia: Especially because we are not very technical musicians.

Urlo: Speak for yourself.

Going on to ORO in its recorded form: as with your previous albums, it sounds massive. When it comes to the production, do you pick up where you left off and recycle old techniques, are is it completely fresh each time?

Poia: The record was recorded by Lorenzo Stecconi, who is the guitar player of Lento and a sound engineer based in Rome. This is our third record together, and he has been so helpful in the research of our own sound. Every record has its own character and identity, and I think that this is mainly because of him.

Urlo: We recorded our three albums with him in different ways: one was in Milano in a sort of venue, the second was in the studio with him, and the third one was in a big hall. So every time the sound changes, and Lorenzo is very good at understanding what we want. For example, for Idolum it was dark and open, whereas this new one is very powerful. In terms of layering, I think he did an incredible job…the album grows and grows, and yet you’ll hear it live and it sounds “flat”. In my mind, there are just two speakers…and if you make it grow too much they’ll just explode!

Poia: They tell me that it’s more complicated than that.

Urlo: But yeah, Lorenzo has been great with this album.

Poia: Yeah, he’s very good at listening. It used to be that you’d get a sound engineer, and ask if things could be done in a certain way, and they’d be like, “no”, because this had to be done in this way and that’s it. Lorenzo is very open-minded, so we can experiment with him; he might suggest something very different, and everyone is open-minded to that. It’s very important.

So does a lot of the writing process happen in the studio?

Poia: The main structure is mostly done when we go into the studio, but we are open to changing things.

Urlo: For Idolum we wrote a couple of songs a week before going into the studio. With ORO it was the same: on the last song, we changed all of the drums in the studio, because when we recorded them they sounded too quick. So we built it in a different way. We have the skeleton, and then we like to cut and add parts when we get into the studio.

Poia: But we’re very quick; we don’t waste much time. ORO was recorded in 10 days.

Urlo: Well, 10 days in Roman time is one day for everyone else; they are famous for being very relaxed, and the further south you go in Italy, the more relaxed people are. It’s not a legend – it’s true!

Poia: We’re from the North, so we’re very active.

Am I right in saying that you write very quickly too? 

Urlo: Well ORO has taken a little longer. Eve was quite quick.

Poia: Some parts of ORO were composed before Eve. Then they were pulled apart and built around for the new record. But it was a longer period…it took about six months this time.

Urlo: That might be why it’s easier to play live than Eve, because we rehearsed it much more before we recorded it.

That’s strange, as ORO seems to flow more smoothly and gradually. Is that something you’ve noticed yourselves when you’ve been writing it?

Urlo: We’ve played around with the riffs in this album. When both albums are out, you’ll notice that there’s only a few riffs on the record.

Poia: A lack of ideas. [laughs]

Urlo: We took a couple of riffs, and played them in different parts and in different ways, to create the entire song, so maybe you will notice that there will be a riff from the first album played much slower in the second half, and there be a song on both albums that is played in different ways. We started with a growing riff for the first song that is the same from the beginning to the end…there’s also a synth melody that comes and goes throughout the album. I think that only when you listen to both albums together, you will understand the entire thing – at the moment you can listen to the first one and like it or not, but when you listen to the second one, you’ll have to listen to the first again to understand what’s going on for the entire record. A lot of people compare ORO to Eve.

Poia: Only because there are lots of “growing” moments.

Urlo: When you listen to the entire hour and a half, you’ll understand that it’s not like Eve. It’s something different – in the second part, we’ve moved onto new things.

I guess it’s strange getting a critical reception for ORO, as its only half of the album as it’s only half of the finished work.

Urlo: We don’t care at all. It’s interesting to see how many are into it for now.

Was it always obvious where you planned to split the record in two?

Poia: At the beginning, the halfway point was in another place.

Urlo: At the beginning. [laughs]

Poia: In the beginning the half was at the beginning…then we moved it a little bit further…

Urlo: The album is basically ten movements, so it was easy to break it up five and five.

It feels like a very natural place to break it up.

Urlo: We chose to split it so that the sound at the end of the first half will start the second.

Poia: So you can put the records together and the switch works perfectly.

Artwork is very important to you guys in terms of the album as a physical product. Will there be a way in which the artwork for both halves fits together?

Poia: We are still thinking about that – we have the general idea, and we think that the new artwork will be similar but not the same. They have to be connected as it’s the same record; we could consider ORO one big thing, even if we have Opus Primum and Opus Alter. They’re like two twins…not identical ones though. Slightly different.

Urlo: One is fatter.

Poia: Yeah, they’re dressed similar, maybe in different colours…

You’re going to have visual projections tonight, created by Lu of Malleus. How long did they take to put together?

Lu: I started to work on visuals in September 2011 when the record was ready, and I finished on March 2012. Considering I’m slow and there is always something else to do, I think it’s not that bad!

What do they consist of?

Lu: They are visions of the main meaning of Oro. They don’t want to explain anything but just to fulfill your eyes together with your ears. The basic idea started from the famous “Tabula Smaragdina” written by Hermes Trismegistus: the father of Hermeticism. So don’t ask yourself too many questions, but just leave your imagination flowing to explain.

What is it about the sound of Ufomammut that makes it visually evocative for you?

Lu: Starting from Snailking I always took care about visuals. They evolved with the band. First visuals were very simple and colorful – random images taken from old movies or just fractal shapes following the songs. With Eve something happened… no more short songs but only one long track to work with.  ORO is the zenith: a very long track divided in 2 parts, perfect for experimenting different kind of visual solutions. Synths became also much more present in these two last records – and in the next chapter of ORO – creating a very suggestive and evocative atmosphere together with the voice. These are the parts I like to work on more.

Poia: The ORO visuals are amazing. Sometimes I’ll be playing and watching the visuals, and I’ll just be absorbed by them.

Do you have any ideas as to what your plans are following this tour?

 Urlo: Head home with Vita and have lots of children.

Vita: I want two or three kids. All with moustaches.

Urlo: No, no plans really.

Poia: We have to finish this short tour, and then some festivals. Then our longest tour is in October.

Urlo: We’ve been quite smart in separating the two records, as now we don’t have to do anything for a long time! No, we just want to go around and meet as many people as possible.

Poia: …and test the record, because we need more rehearsal.

So where does this big tour in October take you?

Poia: For now, we’re just trying to remain in Europe, and then next year we hope to spread towards the ocean.

Urlo: We hope to go to the States next year.

Poia: The main problem for us is the equipment – we need too many things. I mean we can take the amps, but I think we have to go by van, and…a van on a boat? We have to find a way first.

So who’s playing in support tonight? 

Poia: They are Incoming Cerebral Overdrive – they’re on our own record label called Supernatural Cat. They’re one of the best in our label. We have just three bands in our roster…

Urlo: The other bands are Morkobot, Ufomammut and OvO. Lento was another one, but they’re not on the label anymore. We are very happy with ICO’s new album – when they play it live especially, it’s really, really powerful. They are nice people too, so…they eat pasta and play mandolin. All the things. And they’re not in the Mafia because the Mafia is in this room!

So is the label something you want to expand, or are you content with the size it is currently?

Poia: There’s no particular plans for expansion – we are in search of good bands, mainly because we want to make a lot of money [laughs]. No, I’m joking. We like music, and we have difficult tastes in music so it’s hard to find a band that touches us in some way.

Urlo: There are a lot of bands that touch us in some way, but they are already signed…too late.

Poia: It’s a difficult process, but we are always in search of bands, and we love to spread the work we’re doing. When we started our own label, it was because we knew what it means to play on stage and have to pay for your own records, you know? Bands are badly treated by labels sometimes, so we wanted to do something for them and not exploit them. We like to do the graphics for the records as we like to draw too…we love all of these things: the music and the environment around it. We want the chance to carry on doing what we like.

I guess that outlook has influenced your decision to work with Steve Von Till and Neurot Recordings for ORO; again, that’s a musician running a label and using his wealth of experience.

Urlo: Entering Neurot has been just like expanding the family – it came really easy. We received lots of requests from bigger labels, but we don’t care about “the offers” – we are only interested in music basically. And so the idea of starting something with the people we respect – and actual musicians – was the best choice. We are very very happy, and time has now told us that we did the right thing.

Going back to Supernatural Cat: I picked up that new Morkobot record actually, and initially I didn’t realise it was on your label. That’s a fantastic album.

Poia: They are amazing. The guys are crazy – our tour with them last year was very impressive in many ways.

Is there a sense of wanting to push and promote Italian music? I notice that all of the bands on your label are Italian.

Poia: We aren’t actually that nationalistic. We just want to give these bands the chance to go out and spread their music. In Italy it’s more difficult for many reasons – it’s not considered a “rock” country, and is more about melodic singers and things. It’s not our mission to promote Italian bands.

Urlo: We’ve received records from other bands, but they’ve been nothing like the bands we’re putting out now.

 

Ufomammut webste – http://www.ufomammut.com/

Malleus website – http://www.malleusdelic.com/

 

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