Garden Wall is arguably the most underrated progressive metal band in the world. Some might feel the tag "progressive metal" is inaccurate, and that is understandable. This band has morphed from Genesis-like symphonic prog rock into more technical and eventually RIO-like carnations. Their most recent album, Assurdo, came out a few months ago on their new label. Sea of Tranquility staff writer Murat Batmaz talked to the band's leader, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Alessandro Seravalle about the band's long history, covering everything from the early 90s up to now. Seravalle discussed the group's musical evolution, approach to songwriting, lyrics, and of course the new album. This is one of the most detailed interviews he has done. Read on for the full interview and explore one of the greatest bands out there.
SoT: Could you please explain why you decided to call the album Assurdo?
Alessandro: I will try to. "Assurdo" is the Italian term for "absurd." Now, it is my convinction that only by the means of something we can call "absurd" we could have a chance to embrace and, while embracing, trying to know, to taste some particle of "truth." If we try to catch, to grip the "real" with a somehow violent mental act of possession (which is exactly what the "technical world" tends to repeat over and over again) we'll almost surely lose it. This has a lot in common with Heisenberg's indeterminacy principle. Werner Heisenberg states that when we try to get a "measure" of the "real", we inevitably interact with that reality and by doing so we alter reality itself; so our measure ends up being untrustable. Martin Heidegger, on the other hand, develops the concept of Lichtung. You can't hold a thing like reality, you can't light it up with a powerul light-ray, the only thing you can do to preserve it and "know" it is to remain in semi-obscurity, remain in the realm of "embracing", to be pudic.
This interesting philosophical ideas have been developed by some italian philosophers, like Pieraldo Rovatti and Gianni Vattimo, who created the so-called "weak thought." Rovatti was my teacher at the University. Anyway my major philosophical influences are the great Romenian thinker Emil Cioran and the Italian "wise-man" (as I would call him) Guido Ceronetti, whose "absurd" sentence "vince chi si arrende" ("who surrenders wins") lends the title to the sort of "suite" composed by the songs of the album.
The instruments we have, to work with absurdity, are paradoxes, oxymorons, hyperboles and other "rethorical embracing traps for truth atoms" as I like to call them. The music itself gushes from this position too...this leads to my idea of death of pure musical genres. Garden Wall's music is built by mixing up as many musical influences as possible. It's the result of both a strong alchemic interaction between different styles of music hurled into a strange particle accelerator to become something entirely new and of an "absurd" self-therapy process involving my inner ghosts. To be cured by one's own music is indeed quite... absurd!
SoT: Are there more Italian lyrics on this one? Why?
Alessandro: Every language has its own typical "sounds," so it's absurdily interesting to add, to inject this recipient inside the "strange accelerator particle" I was just talking about. There's not only English and Italian, but also Friulano (my dialect), German, Latin, Greek and French. Of course I can't actually speak most of those languages, but it's very fascinating to use them for their sounds. Then there's the problem of the translation. Sometimes the "soul" of an expression just can't be translated into another language. Some expressions come to my mind in italian, some in english, though I'm not an English native-speaker. I want to keep them in their language. Sometimes I make multiple translations of some key words (I worked that way in "Vacuum Fluctuation" for example) in order to reach the core of the key word in question via its different "sonic shelves" in different languages. By the way, you Murat should definitely become my Turkish translator!
SoT: I'd love to 'contribute' to your art in some form, Alessandro. Assurdo is the final part of your trilogy. How would you explain the transition from Forget the Colours to Towards the Silence to finally Assurdo?
Alessandro: There's some kind of loop, a circularity that involves the three albums. Musically this is clearly showed by the fact that Towards the Silence begins with the ghost-track placed at the end of Forget the Colours while Assurdo begins with the bowed guitar cluster that concludes Towards the Silence and ends with the electronic maelstrom constituting Forget the Colour's opening section. Moreover, in each of the Assurdo songs (except one because I won't bow to any systemic way to compose, not even one conceived by myself) there's a quotation from the previous two albums. The short central composition "Just Cannot Forget" takes this idea to parossism as long as it's entirely built by using musical material extracted from the previous chapters of the trilogy and camouflaged with a strange, "absurd" I'd say, harmonization and a quasi-noisy sonic rendition on which two overdubbed atonal bass clarinets madly run in the vain effort to delete those memories until the whole thing reaches a sort of audio caleidoscope which ends up in a single, still sinewave tone. From the conceptual point of view everything is suggested (the above mentioned operation of "embracing" forbids to state with an apparently powerful linguistic move like some sort of "scientific statement") by the lyrics (in three languages: English, Italian and German) of the last song of Towards the Silence titled, with willed pleonasm, "Der Stille entgegen" (which means exactly "towards the silence" in German). Here they are in English: motionless absolute ice cold terrifying through absurdity towards the silence. No full points, commas or capital letters round here. I believe a way to spiritual and thus artistic freedom is to eliminate, to erase capital letters from every speech, poem or thought, again this is a "pudic" approach to both truth and reality.
SoT: How does the approach to sonwriting differ on Assurdo compared to the first two albums as well as the other discs in your catalogue?
Alessandro: First of all you have to consider the line-up changes. We changed the drummer after twelve years of fruitful musical collaboration and brotherhood, we changed the bass player, a new drummer joined the band as well as a guy, my brother, who took care of the electronic grooves, I released my first completely electronic solo effort (under the moniker Genoma, the cd title is Logos). A lot of things happened. From the harmonic and rhythmic point of view I carried on with my research, so there's a fil rouge that links the new compositions to the past ones. The most relevant changes happened in the way we arranged the material. The weight of electronics dramatically increased while the elements from the metal world are now less evident. Each musician involved put his own sensibility and background into the project and the final result is quite unheard in my opinion. I really think Assurdo is our more modern sounding album to date, we never had such a palette of sounds and such a variety of musical solutions. The guest musicians played a great role as well. We will surely repeat the experiment to have a strong interaction between the band and external musicians bringing to our music so many colours with their instruments and sensibilities. The compositional and arrangemental concept that lies behind Assurdo can be resumed by the expression "multi-layerness". The music in the end is so multi-layered that a radically different mix would lead to an almost totally different final result. Inverting the background parts with those that are, in the mixing strategy we chose, in foreground will result in "another song"; I mean, some songs would be almost unrecognizable. There are tons of demi-hidden notes and sounds that, nevertheless, contribute to the overall effect.
SoT: Thinking back, how do you evaluate Forget the Colours? The use of acoustic guitars and the dark atmosphere captured still remains unmatched.
Alessandro: What I can tell you is that every single album we released during the last 18 years is a sort of snapshot of the peculiar moment it was conceived and recorded. Forget the Colours is very important in Garden Wall's history for several reasons. It was and still remains our heaviest album. At that time our goal was to cause an explosive and rageous reaction between the complexity of progressive rock and the violent power of some sort of extreme-metal. Another main aspect of that cd is the vocal approach. I completely changed my way of singing from a "normal" melodic approach to something I later called "heart-felt emissions", an hyper-expressionistic vocality in which nothing is prepared, everything is improvised in the recording studio and thus catches the mood of that very moment interpolating it with the lyrics' sonic and semantic values. Third thing to be quoted is the presence of a couple of guest musicians that finally led to the "orchestral" approach Assurdo shows also thanks to the guest musicians' ability to interact with our compositions making them even richer. Last but not least, we found and frequently used some particular rhythmic figures Camillo Colleluori, our drummer then, named "odd keys". From the personal and extra-musical point of view I still remember the magic atmosphere permeating the recording studio while deep sensations and strong feelings were running through our hearts. Beautiful!
SoT: What does the title Forget the Colours imply? How did you come up with it? Is it something you heard, read or just came up on your own?
Alessandro: Sometimes artists are those who are capable to react to a subtle stimulus others don't notice or care about. The origin of this album's title is to be found in a spraygun writing on a wall in Trieste (incredibly in front of a pub called "Garden"!). I was captured by that "dimentica i colori" (forget the colours in Italian) at first sight and immediately decided it would have been Garden Wall's next album's title. It resumed in a simply perfect way my feelings at that time. Forget the Colours is rage, is fear, is the violent beginning of a healing process that's still running, far from being fulfilled. The first reaction is never quiet, the inner child cries out his fear and anger, the teenager within his rebellion and the man is yet to come. Forget the Colours is the musical and lyrical representation of all that. The rageful reaction to pain and suffer. If I'm not supposed to live the colours I will dedicate myself to forget them, but... "just cannot forget".
SoT: With Towards the Silence you opted for a more avant-garde sound. The bass sound on that album is very heavy and contributes directly to the direction of the compositions. Was that a conscious effort or did it just happen in the recording process?
Alessandro: Towards the Silence contains some of my best compositions but I honestly must say I'm not completely satisfied about the way it sounds. Something went wrong during the mixing sessions. Some important parts just almost dissappeared, some others are not fully emphasized. I had some personal troubles at that time and couldn't be in the studio when the sound engineer mixed it. So, unfortunately, something got lost. Now, don't get me wrong, I still think it's a great album but it could have been much better. I began to experiment with electronics during the pre-production, though at that time samples, loops and synthesizers were intended as non-structural, in a mere chromatic way, so to say. Those early approaches to the computer possibilities as a real musical instrument led me to the current Garden Wall's structural way to employ it. I guess I wouldn't have been able to build Assurdo's electronic sonic architecture without them. Where the previous album's recording sessions were magic and fulfilling those ones were, on the opposite, stressing and really tiring. A real fight among the band's members, in particular between Camillo and me. It was the beginning of the end of our long time musical experiences together. Camillo still remains one of my best friends now, but at that time we just couldn't communicate. When he left the band I felt really bad about that but we both knew the only chance to save and protect our friendship was to stop playing together. So Camillo went his way while Garden Wall entered a completely new phase of their evolution.
SoT: Tell our readers about Assurdo a bit. When did you start writing it and how long did the recording take?
Alessandro: Camillo's departure was like an earthquake. He had been part of Garden Wall's spinal cord for something like twelve years. Yet I never had doubts about carrying on or not. Looking back, that split gave us the chance to move towards an even more experimental field thanks to electronics and to the use of electro-grooves beside acoustic drums. Anyway, writing the material was not a problem as long as I'm a quite prolific composer (to say the least, I've actually recorded maybe the 20% of all the music I wrote through the years). The trouble was to find a replacement for such an incredible drummer like Camillo doubtlessly is and, most of all, to find a way to give new vital lymph to the project. It's been hard but in the end we found the long time Garden Wall fan and fantastic drummer Ivan Moni Bidin, the rhythm machine William Toson on bass, I asked my brother Gianpietro to join in with his eclectic electro-grooves and, with my old time companion and master guitar player Raffaello Indri, the band was ready for its comeback. Unfortunately none of us, except Raffaello, who's a very appreciated guitar teacher, lives on music alone so the studio sessions took really really long because we had no chance but recording during our free time. Managing the recordings of all the guest musicians was some kind of an odyssey too as you can easily imagine. The mixing as well took very long. The sound engineer Davide Linzi works professionally with many Italian big acts so,again, he had to work on Assurdo in his free time. Anyway I'm truly proud of what we've done. A message to the readers: give Assurdo a spin dudes!
SoT: Are you pleased with the production of the album? What are the most important factors to you of the production process?
Alessandro: Sure. Of course things can always be done better, but considering our budget I think we did a great job. I will describe how a Garden Wall cd comes to light. First of all I make a pre-production with the basic lines of the composition, then I add all the electronic stuff and prepare a sort of demo version of the compositions in which the song structures are already set. Then the other guys in the band start working on their own and submit their solutions for the arrangements of the songs. When we think we have reached the point, the songs can be declared ready to be recorded. Once everything has been recorded there's the crucial moment of the mixing. As you can see every step plays a different and yet important role in the process.
SoT: "Iperbole" features a very clean midsection melody which is unlike anything the band has done before. Where does that come from and how does it serve the composition?
Alessandro: There are two distinct moments in my creative process. The first one concerns some kind of eruption of the primary musical elements. In this early stage I just try to let my ghosts, my feelings, my inner pressure blow off. So there's nothing like a rational control. Sometimes I really feel like something from the outside (but it's an internal outside, somehow) dictates me what to do, which notes are the right ones, where the composition should go. I usually completely loose the perception of the passing of time. Anyway there can be no artistic expression without something like a rational control. If I gave myself a hammer blow on a finger I'd surely shout and express my pain, but that wouldn't mean I'm artistically expressing it. So there's a second stage in which the somehow amorphous material that was hurled out from inside must be given a form. Art lies always at the edge between rational and irrational elements so, to finally come to your question, that midsection, like everything else in Garden Wall's music, is there both because something told me to put it there and, at the same time, because my reason suggested me that it was perfect to cool down the claustrophobic atmosphere of the beginning of "Iperbole" while preparing the heavy assault of the section that follows. Very often our stuff is intended as different density sonic masses colliding. This gives our music a certain amount of dynamics, something conventional rock music tends to forget.
SoT: Most of the songs move into freeform jazz territory, like the instrumental outro of "Butterfly Song." How important is improvisation to you?
Alessandro: If you look back at the history of music you will discover that most of the great musicians of the past were incredibly good improvisers. J.S. Bach, W.A. Mozart, F. Chopin, just to name a few, were able to improvise brilliant music. What I do think is that, in the end, there's not a clear distinction between "composition" and "improvisation", as long as we can consider the "improvisation" as a sort of extemporary composition or, and I believe this aspect is even more interesting to be deepened, we can think at "composition" as a "frozen improvisation". Almost everything I wrote for Garden Wall came from my solo improvisations on the guitar or, occasionally, on the keyboards. When I play on my own something, like I said before, takes over and the music just flows freely. It's not accidental that, in English and in German for example (but in Italian we have three different verbs), the verb "to play" is related to music ("to play an instrument"), the ludic element ("to play a game") and theatrical representation ("to play a role"). Most of the times people consider the word "game" as something light, connected to free time and, in the end, not too serious. The truth is that there's nothing more serious than a game for the simple reason that every game has its rules that define an action frame. Getting outside the frame, in other words, breaking the rules, results in the destruction of the game itself. Playing an instrument means playing a game as well to me, the interesting thing is breaking, but I'd better say "forcing", the rules in order to widen the frame. Improvisation is a sort of game, and once I'm caught in the game something happens and all I have to do, to cross the fake border between "improvisation" and "composition", is to take a sheet and write it down, fix it somehow. That's why I talked about a "frozen improvisation". Garden Wall try to go beyond that distinction, our music has to do both with "improvisational composition" and "compositional improvisation". The structures of the songs are quite "strict" but there's always room to give them a new life everytime we play them. Anyway, all the guest musicians on Assurdo were asked to freely improvise over our music so theirs is a kind of squared improvisation. A short consideration about the third meaning of "to play", the one related to theater. Rock music has its own sclerotic representations, the idea of something like a "rockstar playing his/her role" really makes me laugh. The proxemic element in almost every rock show duplicates a master-slave situation. I don't like that, I just hate the"macho" approach of a lot of rock acts. Rock seems unable to set itself free from those ridiculous and pernicious manifestations. I guess this is one of the reasons why rock is not taken so seriously and that's a shame because rock music gave our culture some real gems.
SoT: You have a new drummer now, but he has done an excellent job. Did he write his own parts and has Camillo heard the new album? What did he think?
Alessandro: I always leave full freedom to the musicians involved in the band. I think it's the only way to be really creative in a band situation. It's just fantastic to see how these great musicians interact with my compositions, it's magic! Ivan wrote his own parts like all the others did in terms of arrangements. Ivan was Camillo's pupil many years ago, he's really a great drummer. Camillo heard the album but he told me nothing about it. I guess it's not his cup of tea.
soT: Garden Wall has been around for nearly 20 years. Why do you think the band has never found a bigger following in the prog metal circle?
Alessandro: Mainly for two reasons in my opinion. First, we're Italian. So we live "at the borders of the empire", so to say. But the main reason is linked to the search for reassurance from most of the potential audience. People just want to hear the same thing over and over again, the only thing most of the listeners can bear is small (very small) variations on something they heard thousands of times. It's exactly the same in the academical music. Schönberg died in 1951 and still critics call his music "contemporary", a label whose only sense lies in trying to come to terms with his musical proposal as long as, like Pierre Boulez said, "all the music is contemporary". If you take a look at the bills most of the times you'll see musicians died centuries ago and their music, which is of course absolutely fantastic, performed for the millionth time. No new music. The same in jazz with its preponderance of mainstream, and very often terribly boring, solutions. In the rock scene it's the same. The tag "progressive-metal" by now means "trying to play like Dream Theater" and that's it. I'm so tired of these dissembled cover-bands. Stop it! Everything "new" is experienced as disturbing because it forces the listener to a deeper approach, to re-set his listening habits. But, again, if you look back at the history of all art forms, you'll find out that the ones who broke the dominant paradigm did something important while who repeated a cliché had simply nothing to do with art itself. Our current social structure asks for entertainment…yet I think there's still room for an artistic research and there are people out there asking for something more than the usual well-known and stale formulas.
SoT: Some people cannot seem to get accustomed to your vocal tone and style of singing. However with a typical power metal singer none of these songs would work? Do you perceive your vocals as part of the music or a separate entity?
Alessandro: As you know in the first records I sang in a more melodic and, so to say, conventional way. I probably wasn't enough mature to develop my own personal style. The approach to vocality is really connected to the above mentioned ideas about what a prog-metal band is supposed to sound like. Let me explain: during the early years I had, like everybody else I guess, my heroes or, at least, some reference points. So, as a musician and also as a singer, I was supposed to act in a certain way, I expected from myself to follow the vocal style of my favourite ones. Honestly I think that from the compositional point of view I showed a certain degree of originality from the beginning but, as a singer, I was somehow trapped in the "singing well" clichè. Then one day I had a moment of clarity (that was strongly encouraged by Camillo Colleluori), I just realised I'm not Geoff Tate, nor Steve Hogarth... I found I'd better work on my peculiarities, I thought: "who gives a damn about singing well? I want to sing true!". There are a lot of perfectly trained vocalists out there but only few of them give me emotions, only the ones who are true in some way. Peter Hammill is one of them for example (he's absolutely my favourite one and a starting point for my vocal research somehow). Surely there are singers who are much better in terms of vocal technique but, in my opinion, none of them can even get close to the Van Der Graaf Generator singer's emotional intensity... So I tried to get rid of any bullshit about a perfect vocal approach and developed the "heart-felt emissions". It's a hyper-expressionistic style but it has nothing to do with growl or scream. It's just my personal way of expressing concepts and feelings, something that could remind the so called Ur-Schrei, some sort of primal scream. Vocal parts are completely improvised and the goal is to connect the lyrics with the mood of the very moment I sing. During the live shows I've got a line to follow because sometimes the other musicians got to know what I'm doing but there's a lot of room for vocal improvisation, I just do what I feel. The vocals on Assurdo were recorded in few hours, mostly at the first take because I don't mind about normal vocal parameters anymore.
A typical power metal singer would completely destroy the magic of Garden Wall's music and sound. The typical power metal singer is, again, a clichè, just like the growler. They all sound the same to me. Of course the masters of that style are fantastic and I really like them (Geoff Tate or Crimson Glory's Midnight for the classic style and, let' s say ,Chuck Schuldiner and Phil Anselmo for the extreme style) but what about the clones... back in the dissembled Dream Theaters cover-bands affair I was talking about before. You understand now that my vocals cannot be considered separated from Garden Wall's overall sound and poetics.
SoT: You utilize a lot of outside effects in your songs, like on "Trasfiguratofunky." It is one of your most 'absurd' songs. How did it come about?
Alessandro: "Trasfiguratofunky" is Garden Wall's way to intend funky music. What we wanted to do was to use some funky's typical rhythmic and harmonic solutions but melt them into something... absurd! Is that funky music? Yes and no at the same time. The electronics, the harmonical environment of some sections of the song which are completely unheard in a classic funky set together with, on the other hand, the driving pentatonic riff and one of the funkiest keyboard solo ever, create a sort of estrangement effect. The question is to cause a pure genre, like funky undoubtely is, to blast from the inside. Somebody, referring to our music, talked of "pan-musicalism", a good definition I think. We try to reach a "total" musical style by the contamination of blown up genres because at the moment they explode they show their, so to say, essential components and we, like alchemists, are thus in the condition of working with those essences and make them react to obtain something personal and pretty new.
SoT: Your first two albums, Principium and Path of Dreams, have often been compared to 70s prog rock a la Van der Graaf Generator. Do you think these comparisons are apt? Looking back, how do you see those two albums?
Alessandro: Comparing artists is a normal activity, reviewers need to supply some coordinates to their readers. Comparisons define an artistic field and that's not necessarily a bad thing. In the end, though both can be tagged as rock bands, there's an evident diversity between, let's say, Genesis and Pantera. Anyway the field obtained by this operation of comparison or genre definition must have no heavy borders, the line has to be as thin as possible, something like an "evanescent membrane" to let the whole thing breathe. Without any doubt I was more influenced by the artists I loved back then than I am now, so the symphonic approach of those great seventies bands was strongly present in our first two records (e.g. the keyboards were in foreground). Yet I think some in nuce peculiarities of my writing were already detectable, just think about the use of the whole tone scale in "Ekpyrosis" or, to quote Path of Dreams, some weird harmonical solutions in a song like "Kaos". Principium was a dream coming true for me, in those days home recording was science-fiction and having the chance to record a real album in a real studio was something not so easy to obtain. We went to Stuttgart, me and Mauro Olivo, the keyboard player, we worked with Thomas Schaufler, a german drummer who's still one of my best friends... an amazing experience I'll always carry in my heart. Path of Dreams was recorded in the same german studio exactly one year later and, as far as I know, it's the best selling Garden Wall album to date. It was our stronger effort in symphonic progressive-rock and, at the same time, a farewell to that approach. We felt we did our best in that field so we needed to change, something Garden Wall did for the first but not the last time! Repeating over and over again is the thing we fear most, that's why every Garden Wall album, though linked to the others, is different, looks for alternative solutions, something we never tried before. Quoting Frank Zappa, bands that repeat themselves are "only in it for the money" (the big acts of course) or, simply, have nothing to share with an artistic experience. On the famous song "My generation" by The Who one verse says "I hope I die before I get old". Well, I would say "I hope I stop before I repeat myself". If there's no evolution then the creature is dead, and managing with musical corpses is not what we want to do!
SoT: With The Seduction of Madness, you hinted at a stylistic change, leaving behind your more "straightforward" music to a more experimental and heavier focus. What caused this change?
Alessandro: I partially answered you above, the main reason was we wanted to search for other ways as far as we thought we reached our peak in symphonic prog-rock. But there's more than that. Garden Wall were a sort of studio project in those early days, Thomas lived in Germany and rehearsing was obviously impossible. Anyway we made a gig in Stuttgart in a fantastic place (after a couple of days of hard rehearsals) and we planned one in Holland but Thomas couldn't come there, so we looked for a drummer here and... one of the best drummers in the world joined in. Camillo Colleluori was in the band. So we started rehearsing more frequently and worked on the new material. As a composer I began to be interested in guitar riffs. The Seduction of Madness features tons of killer riffs, but while the 80% of heavy metal or hard-rock riffs are pentatonic, and another 15% eolian or phrygian, I thought it was a good idea to develop the use of the whole tone scale (the french composer Claude Debussy employs that particular scale a lot) to construct an alternative riffing style. At the same time I started experimenting with the pitch shifter effect so the final result was even stranger both in harmonical and sound terms. Another important change was the fact we finally had a real rhythm section. In the first two albums I played the bass guitar while on The Seduction of Madness Fabrizio Zidarich joined in. Camillo and Fabrizio gave a solid and creative rhythmical drive to the music. The sound of Mauro's keyboards was completely different too, less symphonic and more "carved in the guitars", so to say. As a singer, if I look back, I find that the vocal line on "Taenia" is the first, mostly unaware, try towards the heart-felt emissions. I guess many people who loved our first two cd's were, if not disappointed, at least disorientated by our first revolution.
SoT: To this day, most prog metal fans consider Chimica Garden Wall's best album? Is that because of the songs or because it is the closest sounding to traditional prog metal with its 33-minute epic album opener?
Alessandro: I don't think we can really call Chimica a traditional progressive metal album yet it's, without any doubt, our closer effort to prog-metal. The 33-minute suite entitled "Chemotaxis" actually features everything that could match a prog-metalhead's tastes: heavy riffs, shredding guitars, evocative arpeggios, powerful drums and some epicness here and there. But I want to assure everybody that we were not trying to be more commercial in any way. As I said before every Garden Wall album is a kind of snapshot of the moment. Chimica is no exception, it perfectly represents our then feelings. If you analyse the compositions you'll find some not immediately evident aspects showing that we were still looking for originality. For example: each section of "Chemotaxis" is opened by an atonal musical phrase obtained by linking letters to notes (on the guitar on the first fret of the low E string you have the note F, so the letter "a" is the note F, the letter "b" is F# and so on), the closing phrase of the entire composition is obtained by melting together all the previous atonal phrases. What letters became notes you may ask. I "translated" the words "garden wall" and the names of every single member of the band! As far as I know this procedure has never been used by any prog-metal band. By the way…I made a mistake in translating the name "Marco" (Marco Ferrero was our Chapman Stick player). "Psychic Infrared (Acheronta Movebo)", featuring myself on the organ, is built following the strict rule of never playing more nor less than two notes at a time. "Immer Unterwegs" features a 17/8 signature and Camillo plays a different groove at every repetition, resuming the various grooves at the end…I could go on even though these are "mere" technical aspects. Music, in my experience, is a way to know yourself and the "real", it's a sort of ladder leading you up to your highest heavens or down to your secret crypts. Chimica is the Italian word for "chemistry", we needed to pass through that "chemicalism" ("in chemistry we trust", I sang) in order to prepare ourselves to further levels of consciousness (don't get me wrong, this has nothing to do with drugs!) and knowledge. Chimica is the denying of further worlds, of invisible "further-nesses" (if I dare to use such a nonexistent word), of "sacred dimensions". A denying which is "absurdly" necessary to the achievement, to the discovery of further worlds, invisible further-nesses and sacred dimensions! That's probably why this is our most "earth-soiled", "terrestrial" and "wordly" album.
SoT: You have also changed label. Has the move to Lizard Records benefited the band in any way? Promotion wise or financially?
Alessandro: We're not so naive to even think about living on music alone and we certainly don't do what we do for money or things like that. I truly believe our move to Lizard Records was something like an unavoidable fate. Lizard and Garden Wall share the same approach: "research" (both musical and spiritual) is essential for us as it is for them. Moreover while with the previous executive producers we only had occasional relations (e.g. I never met Mellow Records chief Mauro Moroni, I don't even know how his face looks like), we have an amazing and deeply satisfying relationship with Loris Furlan. It's immediately evident he really loves our music, and we work for a common result which is always "artistic". We already had contacts in the past and then the time for sharing this adventure finally came along. We feel like being home in Lizard Records family.
SoT: Your older albums featured artwork by your own family. Did you change your artwork artist with Forget the Colours and who did the artwork of Assurdo?
Alessandro: All the trilogy's artworks were made by Giulio Casagrande, a very gifted graphic designer. We gave him the lyrics and a rough mix of the recordings in order to let him drench in the album's atmospheres and environments. I think the result is dark and elegant at the same time and surely miles away from those often tacky artworks unfortunately filling rock records shops.
SoT: What is your favourite song off of the new album and why?
Alessandro: Would you ask a father who's his favourite son? I love them all.
SoT: What are the band's plans for the near future and what are some of the releases you guys have been listening to lately?
Alessandro: We started rehearsing in a somehow new way for us. The increased importance of electronics in our new material forced us to use them live too, so we needed to get used to play along with samples, backing tracks and clicks on stage. Plus we are rearranging some of our old songs too for the live set.
There's this very interesting Festival in Milan scheduled for December where several bands from the Lizard roster will perform their music and a cover version of some Tim Burton's movie soundtrack by Danny Elfman. There will be room for extemporary collaborations too (we're planning to perform Van Der Graaf Generator's "Man-Erg" with some guys from Nichelodeon, a very impressive band I recommend to everybody).
Then there's the next record affair. We're going to talk with Lizard's guys to plan the whole thing. I already wrote all the lyrics, the basic tracks and did a first pre-production. The title of the album will be Psicomachie which could be somehow translated as "battle of souls" or "battle of minds" (the first translation is better, in my opinion). Our purpose is to play those compositions a lot in our rehearsal room before recording them in order to be as cohesive as possible.
Concerning my listenings: lot of experimental stuff from the most varied musical areas (academical and electronic music, free-jazz, avant-rock, nu-folk, progressive-rock of course and more) and sometimes I still like to headbang too…anyway what's really important to me is artistical integrity and sincerity. I'm quite omnivorous. You know, I drive a lot for my job, so I spend about three hours a day in my car and, while driving, I listen to tons of records. I randomly prepare mp3 discs (using a sort of algorhythm linked to my obsession for number 7) and play them in shuffle mode. This apparently insignificant fact is actually quite important to me as long as it forces me to train my ears and mind to be as elastic as possible. The cd player can pipe music from, let's say, dodecaphonic stuff to death-metal passing through psychedelic rock in ten minutes or so. When you listen to music you have the tendency to remain, to rest somehow, in the genre you're in at one given moment. It is, to a lower level, the same phenomenon I talked about before when speaking of the "search for reassurance" in music consumers. I found to be a very good exercise to frequently and completely change the musical environment I am in. Now it's absolutely normal to me to switch to a Death song immediately after some abstract composition by Anthony Braxton or the sideral music of Anton Webern. And this "jump capability" ends in Garden Wall's music in some unknown and unconscious way.
SoT: Is there anything else you'd like to add to this great interview?
Alessandro: My dear friend Murat, let me thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the support you gave us during the last years! You rule man!!!