Avant-garde As Intellectual & Artistic Anarchy!
Story online since: 23.11.2010 / 12:06:56
After more than a decade, electro/extreme metallers Aborym seem to have finally found the perfect connubium of synergies with experienced founder member Malfeitor Fabban’s sharp-wit, passion and vision, Paolo Pieri/Hell:IO:Kabbalus’ knowledge and wisdom and Bård "Faust” Eithun’s rhythmic spells and aura. The fresh release of Psychogrotesque, a concept album which got the metal world unanimously excited, signed the beginning of yet another life for an artistic project that has always proudly defended its individuality against the small-minded, the snob, the petty and the plain stupid. Hailing from one of the most mystifying countries in Europe right now, Italy, both cradle of the highest culture and the most abject shallowness, Fabban and H:IO:K offer AGM an interesting insight into their world, from the tough origins to their thriving present.
As a compatriot I know how tough, disheartening and superficial life can be in sunny Italy. Which problems did you have to face as one of the agitators of Taranto’s underground, Fabban?
F - To be honest, if I could, I’d go back to those times like a shot. That city was like hell on earth and playing concerts was a luxury for the privileged few. There were no places for rehearsing so if you didn’t have a garage or a cellar you were fucked. The city was poor (still is), polluted, filthy and full of crime: it was shit. If you ventured out at night wearing a leather coat you run the risk of being beaten up by junkies or a gang of fucking posh kids. But you know what?... Back then everything was more authentic. The music meant everything to us: we used to spend hours in the street, uncaring of the cold or the rain, swapping tapes, demos and singles. We could not afford band t-shirts, so we made our own. The scene was real and the few bands were united; we were like an army. Today there’s none of that; there are only dickheads full of shit.
What about you, Paolo?
H:IO:K –I come from a small place near Viterbo where there is a lot of ignorance and small-mindedness. On one hand it’s true that in such an environment you either conform or you are emarginated, but on the other I believe that the bigger city, abroad or not, is not the cradle of wisdom and civilization people might think. Even in apparently more civilized cities, such as London or Oslo, what people mistake as tolerance is in fact indifference. Basically, you are free to do what you want, as long as you don’t bother anyone; the moment you do, even the allegedly more open-minded individuals are ready to judge you. People are fundamentally the same everywhere. If anything, I think that if you grow up in a provincial environment, you become more determined in becoming the person you want to be.
Fabban, have you ever met Guido Sassola aka Zazzo of internationally-known hc band Nagazione? Although he was born in Torino, his parents were from Taranto too and he was very proud of that.
F – No, I haven’t. I must have some of their tapes somewhere, "Mucchio Selvaggio” and "Tutti Pazzi”. Negazione were legendary within the Italian hardcore scene. Musically speaking Taranto had a golden time between the 80s and the first half of the 90s. We were like a small Florida if you like: we had quite well known bands such as Funeral Oration (ex Putrefaction), Disease, Crepusculum (ex High Speed Death), Dagger, Atrocide and several punk and dark ones. Those were great times that unfortunately will never come back again, even though Taranto was and still is still one of the hardest, most difficult and dangerous places to live. The perennial tall plumes of black smoke coming out of the furnaces are one of the most macabre and depressing symbols of the city.
So how did your life change when you both moved to Rome?
F – When I arrived I immediately felt how lucky the locals were: the city was full of clubs, rehearsal facilities with all comforts, different concerts every night. Simply another world! I had left Taranto to escape from the almost certain fate of becoming a professional pusher or ending up in jail, so once in Rome I immediately realized I had opportunities and I was ready to make the most of those. You know, if in Rome they find you drunk and fast asleep on a bench they just ignore you, while in Taranto you get stabbed or shot in the head… Where I come from we were raised on the streets and we had nothing: here a 20-year-old has already two or three guitars, a car, plenty of girlfriends and thousands of band shirts! Still, the people I grew up with have something that here they can only dream of: balls!
H:IO:K – Fundamentally not much. The main trick is to surround yourself with people whom you respect and allow you to express yourself. What really matters in life is to be satisfied with your choices and keep a clear conscience. Even from an artistic viewpoint, in Rome you still encounter plenty of difficulties: the city is full of bands but at the end those who emerge, internationally as well, are a selected few.
I was wondering if episodes like Attila Csihar’s arrest for possession of ecstasy when he was still in Aborym, perhaps coupled with the fact of having ex-Emperor Bård "Faust” Eithun (who was famously convicted for murder back in Norway) as a member, contributed to the band’s bad reputation not just with the media but also within the scene itself?
F – In the past for sure! You know what people are like, they are always ready to rip you apart… At the time I felt I had to defend the band and its members at all cost. When Attila got arrested everybody rallied against us, from the smallest webzine to the local press: they might as well had executed us on the spot. So everybody practically saw us as dead and buried, but we all know what happened instead. Once upon a time I was loosing sleep over things like that, but these days I could not care less. Besides, it’s incredibly funny to see how mad people get when you show them nothing but indifference…
Fabban, you choose to appear with a "non-metal” look in your most recent articles: is it a slap in the face of those who must set rules even within the most rebellious of movements?
F – I don’t feel I belong to any movement or scene, therefore I don’t have the need to fake a certain look. I could have my photo taken in a track-suit for what I care: what matters to me is the content, not the container. These days people learn quickly to see themselves through the eyes of the other so their fake projection onto the outside world becomes far more important than their true personality. These people know very well that they will be judged not for their character or actual merits but rather for what their image portrays, so they learn to theatrically play a certain role, a part, until their lives become a sad farce. You see, they need to feel welcome and protected within their herd but individually they are just little nobodies. In any case, mine is far from being a provocation: all I want is to play and make albums.
H:IO:K – More than anything, what we want is to shake off from Aborym any old cliché and a certain type of public that has nothing to do with music, such as politicians, alleged Satan worshippers and all those mentally unstable people who inevitably orbit around the world of extreme metal. As we have reinstated with Psychogrotesque, we are uninterested in belonging to any scene or carrying out a certain look, we just follow our own path and all the rest is unimportant.
I was struck by a comment to one of your videos ("Firewalk with us” live in Groninghen) which mentioned Aborym’s "great fashion sense” tough! Your look in the past was very strong and original - a cross between cyberpunk and black metal: are you tired of these kinds of theatricals?
H:IO:K – I find that the problem does not lay with the look itself but with the people. Theatricals exist to enhance a live performance and the emotions within the music, just like a soundtrack to a film. Unfortunately some people find it hard to separate fiction from reality and choose as a way of life what is essentially an empty shell; in believing that their image of choice makes them stand out from the crowd, they actually automatically create another crowd where they have to fit in. Theatre and dressing-up have very ancient roots; the ritual mask exists in every tradition across the globe, and for this reason it resonates so much within us, but we must always be very careful to differentiate between the mask and the real person, otherwise one runs the risk to become the mask itself, a puppet.
In the past some now ex Aborym members expressed their opinions through the press in a slightly aggressive way. Today the band seems to have found a new personal and artistic maturity and this is clearly reflected in your recent work.
F – I made some drastic changes in the band and this wasn’t casual at all. You need professionalism, intelligence and maturity to be able to carry out consistent, good quality work and those particular members were none of that. I could have never produced a concept album like Psychogrotesque surrounded by hedonistic junkies with a fried-up brain and a massive ego. I should have kicked them out much earlier on.
Do you think that signing for a big label such as Season of Mist spurred you on to work even harder?
F – There is no doubt that SOM is a great label but at the same time there are bands on their roster that I would never listen to. What I am trying to say is that we wrote our album without thinking of the label we were on; even if we had signed for a small independent we would have still written Psychogrotesque. I believe that the artists make a label great and not vice versa.
H:IO:K – To be honest I’m not sure, for me each album is an individual challenge independently of whatever external situation. So long as the artist is inspired and has a will to keep pushing himself I think it’s normal for him to give his all every single time. When one begins to feel contended with coming up with any old crap, I’m afraid that’s when it’s time to find some other challenges and move on.
But yes, now that we have a big label behind us I don’t think we wanted to make mistakes.
Besides the arrival of Paolo, I feel that having Faust as a steady member of the band must have given Aborym a boost also from a creative point of view. What is Bård like as a person, have you learnt anything from him, given his intense life experiences?
F – I have known Bård for many years but I have never asked him anything about his life in jail. Not even once. I have always respected him and we are great friends. I can say that he’s one of the kindest people I know, he’s a true gentleman. As far as Paolo is concerned, I might repeat myself here, but I truly believe he is one of the most skilled and clever guitarists around. Since his arrival for me it’s never been easier to make music: anything he puts forward is always the ideal solution. Also, any idea that I might come up with, he is able to translate with his guitar to absolute perfection: we do speak the same language.
And did you learn anything from that legend who is Attila Csihar?
F – Sure! He made me discover paprika!
Going back to the ecstasy accident, I have always found a deep connection between extreme metal and underground electronica, as if they both originated from the same dark dimension. Where does that connection come from in your case?
F – I am not sure we have found it yet; we are simply probing because fundamentally I believe that each genre has the potential to be modified or reinvented. But while extreme metal has been explored almost to exhaustion, I believe that with electronica there is still a lot to explore. Sonically this genre can still be interpreted as virgin territory therefore it becomes really easy to dare when there are virtually no rules to follow. The question is whether one actually wants to push into unexplored land or not.
Talking of experimentation, have you thought of how you might translate Psychogrotesque into the live dimension, and will you play some live dates soon?
H:IO:K – I don’t think there are any short term plans for live concerts, with each of us having other projects to work on and little chance to rehearse on a regular base due to Bård living in Norway. I do believe though that some of the new tracks would be phenomenal performed on a stage. One day I would love to be able to execute live the whole of Psychogrotesque exactly as it is on record, all at once with no pauses in-between parts: with the right choreography it would make a terrific show.
Let’s talk about Psychogrotesque then, definitely one of my personal favorites for this year. How long did you spend working on the 10 parts that constitute the one track of the album and how did you spread your roles both creatively and in the production phase?
H:IO:K – The gestation period of Psychogrotesque was quite short, in about 6 months we had all the fundamentals ready to enable us to walk into the studio to enrich the work with new ideas in order to make it sound instinctive. During the four previous years a whole series of riffs, keyboard segments and so on had been put in place, but the vast majority of the work was realized in a few months. Initially Fabban and I took up the writing of the music, while he dealt with the conceptual work and the vocal lines once the basic structure was complete. We found ourselves working with a huge amount of ideas but I think the end-result flows really well, without that collage effect that constitutes a pitfall for so many avant-garde bands.
Speaking of avant-garde, what are your thoughts on a subject that is open to many interpretations, in particular in connection with metal?
F – I find metal to be a genre particularly suited to opening up to diverse forms of mutation and experimentation; it can be contaminated by almost anything, as Aborym itself testifies. My personal vision with regards to the avant-garde not only includes experimentation and an almost obsessive search for new musical trajectories but above all the total mastery of new software, technologies and even new instruments. It’s a very extensive area to explore. As far as music is concerned, the avant-garde should be about finding solutions and new paths through a plurality of styles and musical concepts. Avant-garde is synonym of individualism expressed through creative freedom in employing the diverse genres which culturally reflect the world we live in. It is, in short, synonym of intellectual and artistic anarchy. I believe that artists such as Einstürzende Neubauten, Klaus Schulze, The Doors, Pink Floyd and Ozric Tentacles were amongst the musical avant-garde of their times.
With Generator your eclectic electro/black metal seemed to have taken a turn for a more symphonic, epic sound. On the contrary, with the new album you have dived straight into a more direct, uncompromising and venomous sound. How would you describe the album?
F – I don’t like to "explain” music. I believe that this record should not be explained, justified or sponsorised in any way. It would be like trying to make sense of a Lynch movie or a De Chirico painting. This is Psychogrotesque, which is different from Generator, from With No Human Intervention and from thousands of other records from other bands. It’s something that penetrates in a violent manner dimensions which are not fully known even to us. Personally I love the sensation of vulnerability that one feels when we face something we are unfamiliar with and Aborym is exactly that: a vehicle that enables to travel into the unknown.
H:IO:K – Generator leant more towards a death-black symphonic metal with a more linear type of structure and less electronic input, while in Psychogrotesque the riffs are more acid and dissonant with incursions from black metal to doom and a much wider use of electronica and synthesizers, contaminating the whole work with drum and bass, trance and ambient sounds. I think that this album will surprise those who thought we’d come up with a copy of the last album or we’d re-use old sounds: this is unmistakably an Aborym album but with a sound pushed to the extreme.
How did the incursions into genres such as prog rock (the saxophone parts are fantastic!) and lirica?
H:IO:K – The lirica section at the end of part VI is an extract from quite a rare old record of medieval Armenian religious songs, specifically a requiem by Makar Yekmalian, a composer from the XIII° century or so. Its use was very intuitive: I was working on the end of part VI going into the start of part VII and I recalled that melody because it was on the same musical scale I was working with, so we tried it out and it sounded perfect!
F – I strongly wanted the presence of a saxophonist on this record. Marcello Balena, in spite of being totally alien to metal, entered perfectly in the mood of our partitions. I was after some interventions that would destabilize the listening experience. I had in mind the specific vision of a well furnished room with empty picture frames hanging on the walls and the saxophone was the ideal instrument to translate these images into music.
Fabban, you mentioned to me on a different occasion that you had never collaborated with a woman before you invited Karyn Crisis as a guest vocalist on Psychogrotesque. How did you find the experience? She is a proper artist, unlike those girlies who these days front more and more shamelessly manufactured horrible bands.
F – I have never gone anywhere near those bands flaunting girls in mini skirt and fishnets in my life! I always make a conscious effort to be open-minded and ready to sample any musical deviation, but I just cannot stomach those kinds of things. As far as I’m concerned, the ultimate female singer is Diamanda Galas, but with Karyn we are talking about something else: she is an animal of a performer, with energy and an intensity that are unbelievable. She is one of the main figures in the American hardcore-crossover scene, so the idea of having her on this record was audacious because of the abyss that exists between our musical universes. Well, she ended up giving us a blood-chilling vocal performance. Even today I ask myself why she decided to come back with Aborym and not with the many bigger bands which had invited her.
Aborym has always been characterized by collaborations, do you feel that this continuous exchange of energies benefits the band creatively?
F – For me collaborations are a real pleasure: you find yourself sharing a studio with old or new friends to confront yourself with different ways of interpreting music or a specific idea. So it’s not so much about keeping creativity in check but for the pleasure of collaborating with people you respect and who can give that extra spark to the music.
Another fantastic guest on your new album is of course Davide Tiso: did he contribute to the progressive feel that can be heard throughout the album?
F – I believe there is a lot of prog on this album, in fact there are progressive contaminations that refer not just to metal, but also to rock and blues. This started in the original phase of our writing, some time ago, but Davide Tiso definitely contributed too, without a doubt. I have been a fan of his since Ephel Duath’s Phormula. He is the number one, a real genius.
Aborym debuted with Kali Yuga Bizarre in 1999 and have always shown an open-mind and a desire to be unique. Do you listen to much music from the past to seek inspiration?
H:IO:K – Yes, I listen to a fair amount of music, but not to analyze it from a compositional viewpoint but to enjoy its sensations as a fan. Fundamentally popular music, being metal, rock, jazz, electronica or whatever, complies to compositional criteria that are rather similar and quite stale compared to the experimentation of contemporary classical authors such as Stockhausen or Cage, or even earlier ones like Stravinsky or Scriabin. Extremely rarely you will find in popular music the complex harmonies and structural arrangements of pieces like Stravinsky’s "Rite of Spring” or Scriabin’s "Prometheus”. So rather than seek inspiration, which is something you cannot learn, I try to study more evolved types of approaches or learn the use of new software and its applications within contemporary electronica.
F – I am a self-confessed nostalgic of the past in all genres, from metal to rock, blues or hard-rock. I don’t find anything much exciting in modern music, except for bands like Porcupine Tree, Massive Attack, Nine Inch Nails and a few others. I am a massive fan of Pink Floyd, who for me are still unsurpassed, equally like Led Zeppelin, The Stooges, Black Sabbath and The Doors... Also in metal I mostly prefer the old glories of the past, like Celtic Frost for example.
Tom G. Warrior said recently that he is happy to leave the experimentation to the younger generations…
F – He should really pack it in; in my opinion he should have never reformed Celtic Frost. I saw them a few years ago and I nearly cried with disappointment: there are things that cannot and should not be forced. It is inherently wrong to come back to do music as if it were a job, I think it’s horrible! For me Aborym is something hugely gratifying exactly because it is not my job and we don’t have strict contractual duties, rules or deadlines. Nobody forces us to make music: Aborym is about chameleon-like eclecticism, spur-of-the-moment folly. This is probably the reason why we are still so enthusiastic about pushing forward with our music after all these years. Music dies in the moment it becomes a duty, while I just follow the free-flow of my ideas. I feed on ideas, they arrive like an electrical discharge from every direction and Aborym catalyzes and distributes them.
Are you satisfied with Emiliano Natali’s work at Fear No One Studios where you recorded and mixed Psychogrotesque?
H:IO:K – Emiliano did a great job not only from a technical point of view but also in putting up with our maniacal attention to the smallest detail! Just imagine that it took us over four months to complete recording, mixing and mastering… The sound that we achieved though is really unique and full of dynamics and well defined, but at the same time is still extreme, acid and chaotic; synthetic where needed and raw and natural in its more metal moments. Hopefully it will become a reference point for future productions in the avant-garde extreme genres.
Fabban, could you illustrate the message behind the entire concept that makes this new album so weighty and complete?
F – I have always given a lot of importance to the graphics in our albums. With the cover, I wanted an 80s horror film feel. The entire artwork, booklet included, is inspired by the story on the album, and it’s a visual delirium. Lyric wise, I deliberately adopted a very complex lexicon because the story itself is very complicated, possibly even not fully comprehensible, just like the human mind. This record is not for the little kids who get excited about crap such as politics, god, Satan and so on… In fact I truly hope that these people steer well away from this album! The story is a current metaphor on the complete sterility of man within the sick, tentacle-like system we live in. Humans become ill the very minute they are thrown into this world (the mental hospital), which is therefore full of psychologically unstable people who firmly believe they are completely sane and normal. I have met scores of these lunatics during the last two to three years and I felt the need to write about them: lycanthropes, vampires, idiot giants, dwarves, crazy monkeys, jobless legionaries… you name them, there are so many of them, just like flies! They channel their existence into a few parameters: youth (which eventually dies out), money, success (which they are ready to do absolute anything for), hedonism, egotism, their hunger for that fleeting moment of fame. These stupid flies flap about aimlessly as if they had just been sprayed with insecticide, indifferent to the real values in life because so much in love with the idea of what they would like to be and never will be. Sufferance is a symptom of vulnerability, and they suffer because they fully inhale the toxic fumes of the system. The more they suffer in silence the sicker they get, becoming increasingly twisted and morbid, up until when they can’t take it anymore and feel they have to do something extreme to be accepted from the fake world they have painstakingly weaved themselves into. These flies are everywhere, and we all know what flies are attracted to…
I would like to know if you are interested in the occult or any philosophical matters. There are already rumors around that the voice in both the intro and outro of the album is Charles Manson’s…
F – I have seriously dedicated myself to several things in my life and occultism has been one of the subjects I have explored more in depth. I don’t really wish to talk about this, suffice to say that I am now no longer interested and I have no intention of returning on the matter.
H:IO:K – My interest in the history of religions is a personal thing; I did some university studies on the topic but it is not the focus of my degree. One of the books that really pushed me to question consensual knowledge, besides my studies of Veda and Tao Te Ching, is "Violence and The Sacred” by Rene Girard, quite a specialized text requiring a wide range of knowledge, from ethnology and psychology to mythology and Greek theatre, which sheds light in a very realistic - and pessimistic – way onto the primal instincts that move the human being and the rituality that revolves around this complex theme. And the voice you are referring to is simply from a recording of a medicine and anatomy conference, nothing controversial this time, I’m afraid!