Hello guys! Congratulations with your sophomore album ‘Black Drapes For Tomorrow’, a highlight of contemporary doom/death metal! Let us have an interview in order to present you more detailed at our readers. How are you doing?
Davide: Thank you Vera, I appreciate your words and I’m glad we’re having this conversation. All good, our new album is out and we just had two great shows for our release party a few weeks ago.
Gabriele: Hi Vera, thanks for this introduction. We have just been confirmed to Metalitalia festival, a great event near Milano with Death SS, Moonspell, Samael and many more. We are definitely well.
Starting up with a recent item: I see you just had a proper doom metal weekend in Italy – Doom over Venice and Doom over Brixia. What are your memories on the weekend of 24/25th of March?
Davide: It was a very cool and intense weekend. Doom Over Venice had a clear underground vibe, with Shores Of Null as main act and three good Italian bands such as Kröwnn, Naga and The Haunting Green completing the line-up. Candlemass were headlining Doom Over Brixia, the venue was packed, nearly sold-out. I couldn’t ask for more as I’m a big Candlemass fan. Needless to say it was a great opportunity for us, we made some new fans for sure and we realized many people were already there for us and sang our songs. There were also other bands on the bill including our friends Hooded Menace, who played a killer set with a new line up, and Naga too. We actually share the same van with Naga throughout the weekend, they are definitely a band to keep both eyes on.
Does that often happen in Italy? Can we say that doom metal happens to be pretty popular over there or were these quite unique happenings?
Davide: Not really. You have to make it very special in order to keep people interested, make exclusive shows and well thought line ups. Metal in Italy is a niche, doom metal even more, so only the brave promoters dare to book doom metal shows in our country. There used to be in Rome a fest called Stoned Hand Of Doom, organized by one of the guys of Doomraiser, but they’re not doing it anymore unfortunately. Our guitarist Gabriele is currently involved in the organization of the Romaobscura Festival for example (Skepticism and Ahab were the main acts of the latest edition), I’m personally behind a small fest called Tube Cult Fest, in Pescara, which is more on the stoner/psychedelic side, but I often choose bands we might consider doom as well. Briefly, we are the brave ones.
Gabriele: Brave or irresponsible... who knows.
But well, let us put straight that Shores Of Null is not only doom and gloom. There are loads of other elements, isn’t it? How do you see that?
Davide: I like to call our music “blackened gloom” because I find it very hard to put it into just one box. As you said Shores Of Null is not just doom, we have melancholy of course, but we also have aggression, epicness, melody, an undeniable gothic heritage and some black and melodic death influences. And then there’s this weird thing with grunge. When the first reviews of our debut album ‘Quiescence’ started to come out, everyone was drawing comparisons to Alice In Chains, solely for the use of vocal harmonies I guess, which is something I really love to work on. This might have added a different twist to it.
You all had proper experience in other bands before founding Shores Of Null in 2013. What can you tell about those previous activities? Which genres?
Davide: I personally have another band called Zippo since 2004, we explore more the heavy psychedelic side with a mix of stoner rock, sludge doom and post metal. Our drummer Emiliano still plays in a bunch of other bands, including Noumeno, an instrumental prog rock/metal band. All the other guys had bands before but now are only focusing on Shores Of Null. Matteo used to play in the progressive death metal band Il Grande Scisma D’Oriente, Raffaele in the math rockers Mens Phrenetica, while Gabriele played in The Orange Man Theory, a hardcore-meets-death-metal-meets-rock‘n’roll kind of project produced by Steve Austin from Today Is The Day. Zippo and The Orange Man Theory ended up on the same label, Subsound Records, and toured together multiple times, it’s during one of those tours that me and Gabriele started fantasizing about a project like this.
Gabriele: I’ve been also involved, for nearly ten years, with two Latin American bands: Mantra, from Costa Rica, and Anton, from Mexico. I was quite young when the first time I toured Latin America and this experience totally changed my life. I clearly understood how I wanted my path to music to be.
How did you finally gather and decided to form a new band: Shores Of Null? Although… wasn’t it a ‘project’ in the beginning?
Gabriele: Of course it was. You know, when you want to start a band, and you’re twenty, it’s quite easy to find musicians with spare time and passion. But when you’re thirty, all the good musicians you know already play in two or three bands (or even six or seven, if they’re drummers), and they have no time or will to start something “serious” from scratch. So neither did I. But, when Raffaele, a long time friend and colleague, proposed me the first riffs, we started working on them alone, without a real plan. After finishing the first tracks (‘Pain Masquerade’, ‘The Heap Of Meaning’, ‘Kings Of Null’), we were so satisfied that we decided that it would be worth going to the “transfer market”. Dave was the first natural option, being friends and having toured together several times, has he just said, especially because we shared this passion for gothic and doom music and we already spoke about doing a band with this moods years before, even if just we were joking at the time. After listening to the demo Davide joined the band with no hesitation. So did Emiliano and Matteo.
In 2014 you released to debut album ‘Quiescence’, which got rave reviews. How do you reflect on that album now? Did it come up to expectations in terms of good reception?
Gabriele: Having basically zero expectations, it was surprisingly cool. We worked hard during the recording session without saying a word: no announcement, no Facebook post, not even a band’s profile. We came out with a video and an Italian tour when everything was ready, starting the quest for a good label. When, after a few months, we got the positive answer from Candlelight Records, the same label producing most of our favorites album, it was totally unexpected and exciting. I knew that the album was not bad, but receiving such a confirmation is something an underground band is not used to. At least I wasn’t. After that, we had some great Italian shows, European tours and well known festivals. ‘Quiescence’ was top album in some magazine around Europe and US, and as you said, it got rave reviews. Of course we know that “it’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock’n roll”, and I always keep in mind that, even if something looks good, life basically sucks.. .but considering it was our debut album, it totally overcame our expectations for sure.
Anyways, it seemed that you toured a lot for that debut. Can you tell a bit more about that?
Davide: We toured as much as we could. Looking back I can say we’ve done a good amount of shows being a new band, starting from scratch. We self organized our first Italian mini tour ever with Negura Bunget back in 2013, then we did the same with Primordial, Saturnus and Harakiri For The Sky, we played three European Tours, teaming up with Doomraiser, Hooded Menace/Mourning Beloveth and Novembre/Isole. We managed to play amazing festivals like Eindhoven Metal Meeting and Inferno Festival in Oslo which are probably our highlights as a band so far. Playing live is very important to us, it’s the best way to make new fans in my opinion.
Quite exceptional for A. a debuting band, B. Italian band, C: doom/death metal band. Actually, how did you manage to do that, because I often hear that it is quite difficult for Italian bands to play abroad?
Gabriele: It is. I’m not xenophile nor whiny, and there are A LOT of countries in the world where playing music is almost impossible. But compared to Germany or the North of Europe, of course we are a step behind, in terms of venues, money, and even in a geographical way being quite alone down here, far from every tour routing. Moreover, Italy is quite underestimated by some people (I can mention Season Of Mist boss, Michael Berberian, just as a recent example). But we worked fucking hard, doom/black metal scenes are quite strong, and to tell the truth we are a debuting band just as Shores Of Null, but as we said we were in music stuff years before, touring here and there, making albums for other labels etc. All this background and experience has been very helpful for the band.
Let us focus on the new record ‘Black Drapes For Tomorrow’ now… who are the main songwriters in the band, how do you work and can you go deeper into the writing process for this album?
Gabriele: As for the first album, me and Raffaele put the first spark in the songs, producing the main themes and structures on our laptop before sending the raw demos to the others, with just a rough idea of bass and drums. Then we rehearse the tracks in our practice room and everybody arrange his lines, Dave put melodies and lyrics, and we complete the song structures together. It’s not a choral composition for sure, but a strong collaboration with everybody. We record everything in detail and write the scores to have everything clear later in the studio. The arrangements are not that easy to remember cause we like to put several guitars, as you maybe could hear in the album. I would like to add that we re-arrange all the guitars for the live shows, trying to re-create the same sound without using any pre recorded base that I personally don’t like to use.
Although melancholy and sadness will surely be reflected in the lyrics, can you shine a light on the topics that inspired you for these eleven new songs? Is there a kind of common theme or not?
Davide: The common theme is sadness, indeed. Ahahah! Although there’s no real bond between the titles I find it very inspiring to write about the burden of life and the struggle to climb back to the top, taking cue from stories, experiences, travels, books, movies and everything else that may be turned into words.
A title that intrigues me: what is ‘The Kolyma Route’?
Davide: I can easily get inspired by stories of life and death at the edge of the world, exploring circumstances that happened far, far away from my realm. I like to travel a lot, but when it’s not possible with the body or the money, I can travel with my mind, to places I’ve never been before, often back in time. I feel the pain of those who suffered and this is what I want to transfer into my lyrics, if people are able to feel a knot tightening up in their stomach then I’ve achieved my goal. Once I read an article about Oymyakon, one of the coldest permanently inhabited places on earth in the Siberian region of Yakutia, and instantly got fascinated by that place, by the few people that decide to make a living there in the permafrost. I started reading articles, watching documentaries, and the more I dug the more I started to realize that that region carried a much deeper story. That town is just a few km away from the so called Kolyma Route which takes the name from the river Kolyma and it’s the common name of the M56 highway originally built by labour camp prisoners. It is claimed that thousands of them died during its construction and were buried in its foundations, that’s why this infamous road is also known as “The road of bones”. After reading “The Kolyma Tales” by Salamov, I clearly knew I had to write something about it, shocking and moving!
For recordings you worked with Marco Mastrobuono, also known for his work with Fleshgod Apocalypse. What about this experience of working with him in the studio?
Grabiele: Marco, aka Cinghio, is a professional producer, talented musician (Hour Of Penance, Buffalo Grillz) and above all a good friend and the bass player of my previous band The Orange Man Theory. We already worked with him for the first album ‘Quiescence’ three years ago, and we were totally satisfied. He is patient with the musicians, passionate for music, a help in general. There was no doubt about recording again the new album at Kick Recording Studio. There’s no need to fly to Sweden or Norway when you can have such a quality just around the corner. Ok, stop to the commercial…
I see there was an unusual guest in the studio (cello?). Please tell us about any guest appearances on the album?
Gabriele: Yes, we were looking for something to make the sound bigger and warmer in the two acoustic tracks. I can play a little bit of cello, so we started experimenting it, and we liked it. We proposed to Fabio Gabbianelli, very good classic musician, to record the tracks for us and he choose the double bass. A very good experience. Our main guest of course was Carmelo Orlando from the band Novembre. All of us are great and long time fans of theirs, they are a kind of legend in Italy, and probably the most known band of our country in the death/doom scene. We never met him in person until some months before recording the album. We had the honor to share the stage with Novembre in their release party and first show after seven years. ‘Tide Against Us’ was the perfect song for such a featuring, having already two voices crossing each other, both melodic and screaming. We are so happy this happened, only a year before it would have been unbelievable.
You have shot a video clip for ‘Donau’. What about the making of this video? Any plans for more videos?
Davide: Yes, the ‘Donau’ video has just been released on YouTube and Vevo and it’s another piece of art by Martina L. Guidi and Sanda Movies, which have already worked on our previous videos ‘Quiescent’ and ‘Ruins Alive’. The video has been entirely shot in November 2016 on the shores of Lake Bolsena, the biggest European volcanic lake, our bones are still squeaking because of that. We’d like to thank Nina Orlandi, the girl in the video, a true example of stoicism, resistance and bravery.
You are from Rome and the band Novembre as well. You participated on a Novembre tribute album. So I guess you guys are friends. Please tell us about the bond between both bands…
Davide: I started listening to Novembre in my teen years, I’m 31 now. I used to buy their records and go to their shows and I still consider them as one of the most influential Italian metal bands of all time, able to create a distinctive sound back in the days. We’ve been asked by Marco Gargiulo of Mag Music to be part of this all-Italian tribute to Novembre and we couldn’t say no. We tried to figure out which was the best song to reproduce in our style and we went for ‘The Dream Of The Old Boats’ which was personally the first song I’ve ever heard from Novembre and holds a particular value for me. Their new album ‘Ursa’ came out last year after a very long hiatus and we were lucky enough to open their release party and subsequently few other Italian shows and a two week long European tour after that. As we were recording the new album we asked Carmelo to do some guest vocals on ‘Tide Against Us’ and this is just the icing on the cake for us. We didn’t force anything to happen, it just happened.
Who did the artwork and in which sense does it reflect the atmosphere of the music?
Davide: The artwork was once again entrusted to Diletta F. at Eba Art, a friend and a great artist. Most of the original pictures in the artwork were taken by Francesco Corti in the mountains of Abruzzo, the region I come from, and Diletta did a great job of photo-manipulation, adding elements and depicting sceneries between the real and the unreal. It’s more about the concept than the meaning, the same concept may have several meaning and I’m not here to explain what the artwork stands for. I think it reflects the atmosphere of the album very well, on multiple levels: sense of belonging, unsteady future, sorrow, burden, hardship, strength.
What are the plans for the near future? Can we look forward to a EU tour?
Davide: We’ve just announced our appearance at Frantic Fest near Pescara on August 18th, with Grave, Dark Lunacy and more to be announced. We also have a tour planned in October 2017 with Harakiri For The Sky and Sylvaine, Follow our Facebook page to know more in the next weeks and months.
If there is anything you’d like to add, please feel free to do so…
Davide: Thank you very much for the in-depth interview and for the interesting questions, it’s been really nice talking to you. I invite all your readers to take a look at our newly launched bandcamp page.
Gabriele: ...and see you during our next European tour with Harakiri For The Sky and Sylvaine, luckily there’s a show in the Netherlands in Arnhem at Willemeen on October 15th. Come for a beer!