Ciao ragazzi! First of all let me say it straight: this is not going to be your typical interview? the good, and the bad, of being interviewed by another musician is that I know the pains of getting the same questions over and over, so I'll try to be creative. Please bear with me!

So let's start? five long years passed between "Impact Zone" and "Dark Retreat". Why it took you so long to come out with the new release? Especially these days, when either you find a way to constantly be on the radar, or the fickle audience of "Our Thing" (as the guys from I Die:You Die say) tend to completely forget you.
Blank: - ''The truth is, as ordinary as it sounds, we have our jobs and families to take care of, life things happened (Riccardo moving house and becoming the father of a baby girl being the most relevant), so we have less free time we can devote to music making. Let's add to that that I tend to write music only when inspiration visits me - it doesn't happen that often - and that we are terribly perfectionist, sometimes to the extreme, while mixing. So I wrote and reworked these songs in a 4 years timeframe, that's true, while the final recording and production were more or less done during 2012. It doesn't change the fact that it took us five years to release a follow-up to 'Impact Zone', and you're absolutely right, we fell out of the radar I'm afraid - but couldn't do much about it. Sure thing, during these five years we've realized that our workflow and presence need improving, big time. I am confident we could do our next album in less than five years, but then again it's a bit early to talk about a new album''

It seems like you really don't like social media. Despite having been the first Italian band of the "new generation" - that is, after Kirlian Camera, Pankow, Kebabträume and few other 90s acts - to score a deal with a good label, almost 12 years ago now, you never kept a constant profile. Why is that? Do you sincerely think that music can still speak for itself?
Blank: - ''No it cannot - unfortunately - and it's not really a matter of liking or disliking social media: they're essential tools, everyone must learn to use them, and we try to keep up, although we're not very good at it. Call us old-fashioned (or just plain "old") but it's really hard for us to spend our free time looking for interesting things to post on social media so that we keep the attention on ourselves. We don't have that much to say, I guess, and I should add that, as the title of our album may suggest, we found ourselves feeling like slowing down, get away from the continuous overflow of noise, unwanted information and useless external stimuli we're bombed with every day, and the need to be part of that kind of noise in order to be in the spotlight. Even if you can call it suicidal from a promotional point of view. So yes, I know, music cannot speak for itself, and social presence is necessary, but at the end of the day, the album, the music, the videos, are more or less what we have to say. ''

A similar question arises in regards to the live performances: Blank pretty much stopped playing live many years ago already. While I'm perfectly aware of how difficult it is to score a decent deal these days (touring is completely impossible, unless you are Combichrist), don't you think that playing selected shows could expose your music to a wider public?
Blank: - ''This is probably the issue we have more regrets about, and something we're trying to work on. So far our live experiences haven't been the best - and partly it's our fault. It's not easy, nor interesting, to perform songs that are so meticolously programmed, because you find yourself singing to backing tracks and even if the audience doesn't mind, well, it doesn't feel like a real live performance and it's not really satisfying. So it's the usual dilemma, how to make it interesting without having to invest big money to prepare a great live show that is not just the "guy with a laptop behind the singer"? Not easy to balance these needs with the reality of having to perform live in order to get attention, but at the same time, if you suck, you're not getting the right kind of attention. In addition to that, what you say is certainly true, it's really hard for an Italian band without a proper management to play out of Italy without losing some money, and opportunities in Italy are still scarce and often not very rewarding. All these things considered, we hope we can bring "Dark Retreat" to a live audience soon!''

Let's discuss "Dark Retreat": after listening to it, I couldn't help but thinking that it would have been a true stunner if it just lasted a bit less. A lot of songs reach the 5:30 or even the 6 minutes mark and the album length clocks at around seventy minutes. Do you have a love for longer pieces, or you just didn't plan these kind of arrangements when composing?
Blank: - ''The only thing we really plan is the 'what kind of song we want to do now', and even that may change during the course of composition, because every song somehow comes alive and brings you where it wants, when it starts working. Surely there is also a love for anthems or more atmospheric pieces - it may be our shoegazing or trance influences coming in - but it all came out flowing quite naturally. Of course we asked ourselves if it was too long, but we didn't see why people should complain for getting a full 70 minutes of good music instead of 50. :-) The album is intended as a whole, and the only song we had doubt about was Timespace, because it sounds completely different from the others; but since in the album there are several different styles mixed together, we decided to put it there anyway. You're not the first one who expresses doubts about its length, of course we respect it, but we couldn't shorten any song even if we wanted to: they're exactly how they were meant to be. I know it may sound pretentious, over-ambitious, or just, you know, boring, or, again, out of this world where the attention span of the average listener has shortened and we're getting back to singles rather than albums. All of these considerations are valid, but this was what we needed to do, what we wanted to do, and we absolutely love how everything turned out. Here's hoping someone will agree with us, though we're obviously not your average listener. ''

"Dark Retreat" is an album with quite the number of collaborations: from the production work of Sebastian Komor and Chris Peterson to the guest vocals of Elena Alice Fossi and Eleanor Rayner, it has "Blank meets the world" written all over. Can you tell us a bit of how these various collaborations came into being?
Blank: - ''I think it all started when we asked Kirlian Camera - whom we have known for a while now, as we live in the same city - to do a remix for us in 2011, and they replied that they are not much into remixes but would have gladly done a collaboration instead. So I wrote two songs with Elena's voice in mind, one slower and one more danceable, and asked them to pick one. They chose "Lost Symmetry" and did an exceptional job that also raised the bar for the whole album; the other song was "Dead Roads" and needed a female singer: our first and only choice was Elenor as we loved her voice since we heard it while remixing The Crystalline Effect, a few years ago. She accepted to be in the song and also performed beautifully. We love working with female vocals so we hope to do more collaborations like these in the future! Regarding production, the original idea was to hire an external producer to help us mixing the whole album, but with our terrible slowness in recording, our non-existent budget and the fact that we had very clear ideas about how the album should have sounded and were a bit afraid in entrusting someone else with our 'little babies', we settled on asking Chris to do a couple of tracks (he did one and helped us with a pre-master of other two, also giving some precious advice) and Seb to do another couple, the more club friendly ones. They both delivered something special and again we found ourselves with tracks that served as 'touchstones' for the rest of the album, that now had to sound really well to stand the comparison. Also, we should mention Martin Bowes of Attrition who was awesome with his mastering. ''

In your press release, you stated that "less and less inspired by what we were seeing and hearing around us, we basically retreated looking for perfect darkness and silence, and let the deeper aspects of our innermost selves arise".  It seems to me that you mostly achieved this by totally ignoring the current trends in electronic music, both mainstream and underground, and you went back to the 90's, to the sounds of the likes of X Marks The Pedwalk, to name one. Can you tell us more about this decision? Do you think that everything that's made this day is really that bad?
Blank: - ''Of course there are still interesting releases out there, luckily, but it's become more and more difficult to find them within the overwhelming ground noise of bad, uninteresting, uninspired and repetitive stuff that keeps on coming out while quantity is preferred to quality - so, instead of trying, we had a sort of musical 'dark retreat', and decided to think and remember what albums, what music we really loved, what artists inspired us, no matter if they were recent or electronic. Discarding all external influences is of course impossible, but we relied mostly in what gave us good vibes, trusting memories and instincts, rather than keeping up to date with all the latest releases. Because of this, the result is probably more influenced by the music we grew up with rather than the latest trends in electronic music: I can feel elements of 80s and 90s dance music, goth, shoegazing, trip-hop, old-school electro-industrial, and more? XMTP has always been among our favorites, so it doesn't surprise me if you hear that kind of sound. I'll add Mentallo & The Fixer or Gridlock, for what I can feel, but the way I think about it is we tried and make an album that is unique and includes many elements that we love, all mixed together. To try and make an album that could exist outside of the period in which it's written or recorded, giving more importance to the songs rather than the tools or the style. Not sure we have achieved it, and I don't want to sound arrogant nor compare myself to those great artists, but the biggest influences in the latest years have been Recoil and Talk Talk, two bands that have basically given up fame and fortune to do what they wanted to do, and made incredible, dreamy, edgy music that could be released anytime and still sound fantastic (and have not much to do with industrial). 

Having said that, now that we finished the album and have some more free time we have heard some very nice music. But we try to give every album a patient and slow listen, like we did when we were younger and MP3 didn't exist, rather than download everything and listen to 5 seconds of each track, which is utterly unfair to the hard work of a musician. I prefer being a slow ass and give every album the attention it deserves (which sometimes is not much, but that's okay). The most inspiring stuff currently comes from outside of the 'EBM/industrial' world, I'm afraid."

On the track by track commentary you recently posted on your Facebook page, you go describing in-depth the ideas behind each song. One trait d'union you can pinpoint, is the very nihilist viewpoint you guys seem to have on everything. Speaking of "Eigengrau", you remark how the track is, again, related to the "dark retreat" you based this word on. Is your experience with life really this bleak right now? Are you really indifferent to everything? Oh, and by the way, did you ever try a sensorial deprivation tank?
Blank: - ''Well sometimes it really looks like the world's gone crazy and the need to get away from everything and find some peace is probably the most important theme of the album; but it's more like a story, rather than our own personal view about society or the universe, highlighted by the fact that, like many I guess, I often tend to write music and lyrics when I am in a bad mood and need to vent for a while. It all ends with some glimpses of hope though, with 'Fallen' which is a love song, and also the lyrics of "Eigengrau" are not supposed to make you give up, but rather suggest to try and change things around you. As for my personal insight about life, it's not that I am indifferent to everything but I think that one of the effects of this "age of information", its information overload and its obsession for hyper-visibility is that most people are becoming desensitized to everything, almost anesthetized to emotions, and losing focus and sense of purpose. I tend to approach my interests in a very rational way and consider myself more an introvert in a world that can't stop talking, who favors thinking and working to showing off, and enjoys his time alone. Unfortunately I never tried a sensory deprivation tank so far, but I'd love to one day!''

I really liked the video you made for "Dio/Chemicals". Who's the director, and what's the story behind the video itself?
Blank: - ''Thank you! Davide is the director and editor. The whole idea of the video was to make a frantic, hasty editing, resembling somehow the concept of blipvert from the classic cyberpunk tv show 'Max Headroom'. It serves the purpose to bomb you with images of sex, religion, war, violence, city life, adverts, hi-speed flashes, a world force-feeding us with all kinds of crazy information. We can say that it's about some of the hypocrisy and contradictions of today's world. All the clips are  taken from vintage public domain sources like old documentaries or educational movies. ''

In closure: how hard it really is to make industrial-like music in Italy?
Blank: - ''It's not really that hard: everyone can do it. What's hard is to: 1) do it in a personal and original way, and: 2) to get some recognition. Seriously, I think it's a matter of dimensions (the industrial scene is WAY small and often divided into quite close-minded factions that don't support each other and at times hate each other) and culture (this kind of music is too often ghettoized, sometimes self-ghettoized and not taken very seriously). I mean, it's hard in every country, but Italy seems to be particularly uninterested in this genre, at the point that if "dark retreat" will be liked outside of the so-called 'industrial' world, we'd me more than happy, because that would mean a far, far wider audience...''
Blank interview
May 27, 2013
Brutal Resonance

Blank

May 2013
Ciao ragazzi! First of all let me say it straight: this is not going to be your typical interview? the good, and the bad, of being interviewed by another musician is that I know the pains of getting the same questions over and over, so I'll try to be creative. Please bear with me!

So let's start? five long years passed between "Impact Zone" and "Dark Retreat". Why it took you so long to come out with the new release? Especially these days, when either you find a way to constantly be on the radar, or the fickle audience of "Our Thing" (as the guys from I Die:You Die say) tend to completely forget you.
Blank: - ''The truth is, as ordinary as it sounds, we have our jobs and families to take care of, life things happened (Riccardo moving house and becoming the father of a baby girl being the most relevant), so we have less free time we can devote to music making. Let's add to that that I tend to write music only when inspiration visits me - it doesn't happen that often - and that we are terribly perfectionist, sometimes to the extreme, while mixing. So I wrote and reworked these songs in a 4 years timeframe, that's true, while the final recording and production were more or less done during 2012. It doesn't change the fact that it took us five years to release a follow-up to 'Impact Zone', and you're absolutely right, we fell out of the radar I'm afraid - but couldn't do much about it. Sure thing, during these five years we've realized that our workflow and presence need improving, big time. I am confident we could do our next album in less than five years, but then again it's a bit early to talk about a new album''

It seems like you really don't like social media. Despite having been the first Italian band of the "new generation" - that is, after Kirlian Camera, Pankow, Kebabträume and few other 90s acts - to score a deal with a good label, almost 12 years ago now, you never kept a constant profile. Why is that? Do you sincerely think that music can still speak for itself?
Blank: - ''No it cannot - unfortunately - and it's not really a matter of liking or disliking social media: they're essential tools, everyone must learn to use them, and we try to keep up, although we're not very good at it. Call us old-fashioned (or just plain "old") but it's really hard for us to spend our free time looking for interesting things to post on social media so that we keep the attention on ourselves. We don't have that much to say, I guess, and I should add that, as the title of our album may suggest, we found ourselves feeling like slowing down, get away from the continuous overflow of noise, unwanted information and useless external stimuli we're bombed with every day, and the need to be part of that kind of noise in order to be in the spotlight. Even if you can call it suicidal from a promotional point of view. So yes, I know, music cannot speak for itself, and social presence is necessary, but at the end of the day, the album, the music, the videos, are more or less what we have to say. ''

A similar question arises in regards to the live performances: Blank pretty much stopped playing live many years ago already. While I'm perfectly aware of how difficult it is to score a decent deal these days (touring is completely impossible, unless you are Combichrist), don't you think that playing selected shows could expose your music to a wider public?
Blank: - ''This is probably the issue we have more regrets about, and something we're trying to work on. So far our live experiences haven't been the best - and partly it's our fault. It's not easy, nor interesting, to perform songs that are so meticolously programmed, because you find yourself singing to backing tracks and even if the audience doesn't mind, well, it doesn't feel like a real live performance and it's not really satisfying. So it's the usual dilemma, how to make it interesting without having to invest big money to prepare a great live show that is not just the "guy with a laptop behind the singer"? Not easy to balance these needs with the reality of having to perform live in order to get attention, but at the same time, if you suck, you're not getting the right kind of attention. In addition to that, what you say is certainly true, it's really hard for an Italian band without a proper management to play out of Italy without losing some money, and opportunities in Italy are still scarce and often not very rewarding. All these things considered, we hope we can bring "Dark Retreat" to a live audience soon!''

Let's discuss "Dark Retreat": after listening to it, I couldn't help but thinking that it would have been a true stunner if it just lasted a bit less. A lot of songs reach the 5:30 or even the 6 minutes mark and the album length clocks at around seventy minutes. Do you have a love for longer pieces, or you just didn't plan these kind of arrangements when composing?
Blank: - ''The only thing we really plan is the 'what kind of song we want to do now', and even that may change during the course of composition, because every song somehow comes alive and brings you where it wants, when it starts working. Surely there is also a love for anthems or more atmospheric pieces - it may be our shoegazing or trance influences coming in - but it all came out flowing quite naturally. Of course we asked ourselves if it was too long, but we didn't see why people should complain for getting a full 70 minutes of good music instead of 50. :-) The album is intended as a whole, and the only song we had doubt about was Timespace, because it sounds completely different from the others; but since in the album there are several different styles mixed together, we decided to put it there anyway. You're not the first one who expresses doubts about its length, of course we respect it, but we couldn't shorten any song even if we wanted to: they're exactly how they were meant to be. I know it may sound pretentious, over-ambitious, or just, you know, boring, or, again, out of this world where the attention span of the average listener has shortened and we're getting back to singles rather than albums. All of these considerations are valid, but this was what we needed to do, what we wanted to do, and we absolutely love how everything turned out. Here's hoping someone will agree with us, though we're obviously not your average listener. ''

"Dark Retreat" is an album with quite the number of collaborations: from the production work of Sebastian Komor and Chris Peterson to the guest vocals of Elena Alice Fossi and Eleanor Rayner, it has "Blank meets the world" written all over. Can you tell us a bit of how these various collaborations came into being?
Blank: - ''I think it all started when we asked Kirlian Camera - whom we have known for a while now, as we live in the same city - to do a remix for us in 2011, and they replied that they are not much into remixes but would have gladly done a collaboration instead. So I wrote two songs with Elena's voice in mind, one slower and one more danceable, and asked them to pick one. They chose "Lost Symmetry" and did an exceptional job that also raised the bar for the whole album; the other song was "Dead Roads" and needed a female singer: our first and only choice was Elenor as we loved her voice since we heard it while remixing The Crystalline Effect, a few years ago. She accepted to be in the song and also performed beautifully. We love working with female vocals so we hope to do more collaborations like these in the future! Regarding production, the original idea was to hire an external producer to help us mixing the whole album, but with our terrible slowness in recording, our non-existent budget and the fact that we had very clear ideas about how the album should have sounded and were a bit afraid in entrusting someone else with our 'little babies', we settled on asking Chris to do a couple of tracks (he did one and helped us with a pre-master of other two, also giving some precious advice) and Seb to do another couple, the more club friendly ones. They both delivered something special and again we found ourselves with tracks that served as 'touchstones' for the rest of the album, that now had to sound really well to stand the comparison. Also, we should mention Martin Bowes of Attrition who was awesome with his mastering. ''

In your press release, you stated that "less and less inspired by what we were seeing and hearing around us, we basically retreated looking for perfect darkness and silence, and let the deeper aspects of our innermost selves arise".  It seems to me that you mostly achieved this by totally ignoring the current trends in electronic music, both mainstream and underground, and you went back to the 90's, to the sounds of the likes of X Marks The Pedwalk, to name one. Can you tell us more about this decision? Do you think that everything that's made this day is really that bad?
Blank: - ''Of course there are still interesting releases out there, luckily, but it's become more and more difficult to find them within the overwhelming ground noise of bad, uninteresting, uninspired and repetitive stuff that keeps on coming out while quantity is preferred to quality - so, instead of trying, we had a sort of musical 'dark retreat', and decided to think and remember what albums, what music we really loved, what artists inspired us, no matter if they were recent or electronic. Discarding all external influences is of course impossible, but we relied mostly in what gave us good vibes, trusting memories and instincts, rather than keeping up to date with all the latest releases. Because of this, the result is probably more influenced by the music we grew up with rather than the latest trends in electronic music: I can feel elements of 80s and 90s dance music, goth, shoegazing, trip-hop, old-school electro-industrial, and more? XMTP has always been among our favorites, so it doesn't surprise me if you hear that kind of sound. I'll add Mentallo & The Fixer or Gridlock, for what I can feel, but the way I think about it is we tried and make an album that is unique and includes many elements that we love, all mixed together. To try and make an album that could exist outside of the period in which it's written or recorded, giving more importance to the songs rather than the tools or the style. Not sure we have achieved it, and I don't want to sound arrogant nor compare myself to those great artists, but the biggest influences in the latest years have been Recoil and Talk Talk, two bands that have basically given up fame and fortune to do what they wanted to do, and made incredible, dreamy, edgy music that could be released anytime and still sound fantastic (and have not much to do with industrial). 

Having said that, now that we finished the album and have some more free time we have heard some very nice music. But we try to give every album a patient and slow listen, like we did when we were younger and MP3 didn't exist, rather than download everything and listen to 5 seconds of each track, which is utterly unfair to the hard work of a musician. I prefer being a slow ass and give every album the attention it deserves (which sometimes is not much, but that's okay). The most inspiring stuff currently comes from outside of the 'EBM/industrial' world, I'm afraid."

On the track by track commentary you recently posted on your Facebook page, you go describing in-depth the ideas behind each song. One trait d'union you can pinpoint, is the very nihilist viewpoint you guys seem to have on everything. Speaking of "Eigengrau", you remark how the track is, again, related to the "dark retreat" you based this word on. Is your experience with life really this bleak right now? Are you really indifferent to everything? Oh, and by the way, did you ever try a sensorial deprivation tank?
Blank: - ''Well sometimes it really looks like the world's gone crazy and the need to get away from everything and find some peace is probably the most important theme of the album; but it's more like a story, rather than our own personal view about society or the universe, highlighted by the fact that, like many I guess, I often tend to write music and lyrics when I am in a bad mood and need to vent for a while. It all ends with some glimpses of hope though, with 'Fallen' which is a love song, and also the lyrics of "Eigengrau" are not supposed to make you give up, but rather suggest to try and change things around you. As for my personal insight about life, it's not that I am indifferent to everything but I think that one of the effects of this "age of information", its information overload and its obsession for hyper-visibility is that most people are becoming desensitized to everything, almost anesthetized to emotions, and losing focus and sense of purpose. I tend to approach my interests in a very rational way and consider myself more an introvert in a world that can't stop talking, who favors thinking and working to showing off, and enjoys his time alone. Unfortunately I never tried a sensory deprivation tank so far, but I'd love to one day!''

I really liked the video you made for "Dio/Chemicals". Who's the director, and what's the story behind the video itself?
Blank: - ''Thank you! Davide is the director and editor. The whole idea of the video was to make a frantic, hasty editing, resembling somehow the concept of blipvert from the classic cyberpunk tv show 'Max Headroom'. It serves the purpose to bomb you with images of sex, religion, war, violence, city life, adverts, hi-speed flashes, a world force-feeding us with all kinds of crazy information. We can say that it's about some of the hypocrisy and contradictions of today's world. All the clips are  taken from vintage public domain sources like old documentaries or educational movies. ''

In closure: how hard it really is to make industrial-like music in Italy?
Blank: - ''It's not really that hard: everyone can do it. What's hard is to: 1) do it in a personal and original way, and: 2) to get some recognition. Seriously, I think it's a matter of dimensions (the industrial scene is WAY small and often divided into quite close-minded factions that don't support each other and at times hate each other) and culture (this kind of music is too often ghettoized, sometimes self-ghettoized and not taken very seriously). I mean, it's hard in every country, but Italy seems to be particularly uninterested in this genre, at the point that if "dark retreat" will be liked outside of the so-called 'industrial' world, we'd me more than happy, because that would mean a far, far wider audience...''
May 27 2013

Marco Visconti

info@brutalresonance.com
Writer and contributor on Brutal Resonance

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