Merendine Atomiche are a great Italian thrash metal band that has been around for over ten years now and their third full length CD titled RAW was just recently released by Mausoleum Records. Sea Of Tranquility's Ryan Sparks got a chance to speak to drummer and founding member Luca Cerardi about the bands new release, touring North America and the merits of getting a university degree.
Read on for the full interview!
Sea of Tranquility: First of all I have to ask, where does the name Merendine Atomiche come from and what does it mean?
Luca Cerardi: Sure, the name Merendine Atomiche came from one of our old bass players. One day he came to my house, a year after we started the band in 1996, and said "Merendine Atomiche". I didn't like it the first time I heard it but then after he explained the meaning to me I immediately accepted it. The meaning is "nothing is impossible" but the real translation is very different. Merendine is not a real English word just so you understand, but a "merendina" is a kind of cake we used to eat during breaks from our lessons when we were at school. It had chocolate, cream and fruit, so it was a sweet cake and a sweet thing that reminded us of the past when we were young. Atomiche is "Atomic" so we thought we would add a sweet thing with a strong one and so the meaning was built. All the small things, if they want, with energy and strength, can improve and become a real dangerous thing like the atomic bomb. With honesty and courage you can get your dreams. We wanted something different like Sepultura. It was during the time that Roots was out and we wanted to follow their idea by keeping our roots with a name that had a strong meaning.
SOT: Congratulations on the release of RAW, it's a great kick ass CD. It has a very spontaneous, live feel to it. How long was the recording process?
Luca: Thank you very much. I think your words are very important to us because that's exactly what we want to give the people, what you said, so we are really happy. It took a long time; from January 2004 to August 2005. We took a break for three months when we came to the US in March 2004. After the previous disc Walk Across Fire, we wanted to concentrate more on the sound and on the song writing. We decided to stop the live shows to concentrate only on the music, to make a step forward and to try to do the best music possible, and we got it. We put down a plan detailing everything, starting from the money, budget, to where, when and what to spend. We decided on the best studio possible for our needs, the producer, the right time etc. and we took the time we needed to produce it. I mean we tried to do everything in the best way possible to improve. I think we did and I'm really happy about this album. I hope many people get to hear and appreciate it like you have. We spent a lot of time on it, but it was worth it and we learned a lot so we're really happy.
SOT: You've had the pleasure in the past of having musicians like Jeff Waters (Annihilator) and Anders Lundemark (Konkhra) appear on your albums, but how did you end up having Jack Frost play and co-produce RAW?
Luca: We met Jack Frost for the first time at Metal Meltdown VI in New Jersey in 2004. After I got back home I thought about asking him if he would play a solo on one of our songs, like Jeff Waters did with Walk Across Fire. He not only agreed but he asked us if we wanted him as a producer and we thought why not? We scheduled a plan and we finally got together here in Italy in August 2005. He worked very well with us and with the studio guy Luigi Stefanini. It was a great team effort and I was absolutely happy about it. We learnt so much from him and from Luigi. I can say everything was worth it, making such a good CD, but having Jack and Luigi involved as well, was very cool.
SOT: You mentioned playing Metal Meltdown VI in New Jersey in 2004 where you shared the same stage as bands like Testament, Fozzy and Raven to name just a few. Can you describe what it was like to play your first show in North America and will we see Merendine back in the US and hopefully Canada as well in 2006/ 07?
Luca: For me personally it was awesome playing in the US. When we started this band we always thought about going to America to play because it's the place where all the music we like was born. Whether it's thrash metal, hard rock or simply the blues. So to play there was something great. Obviously everybody laughed at us when we used to tell people we were going to play there. We were, and still are, five friends from the Northeast Italian fields so nobody really took us seriously. Anyway we always believed in ourselves and in our love for the music, so when we had the chance in 2004 to go to the US to play with those bands it was unbelievable. I didn't sleep for nights and it was a dream came true. I always like to say that in 2001 I first had the chance to come over to America. I was at Niagara falls with my family and my uncle noticed I was watching the American flag on the other side and he asked me 'Do you wanna cross the border?' and I said "No, I will only go over as a musician" and he laughed at me too. So in 2004 I hit the American soil as a musician and it was something awesome. All of us were exited and happy. I mean, probably nobody know who we were or where we came from. Nobody probably cared about us, but for us it was something big and a beginning for the future. Having that dream come true helped when we got back home, to work hard to return as soon as possible with great music.
I don't know if we will have the chance to get back to North America this year. We would really like to, but before the end of the year is impossible. Next year we want to record a new album so I don't know if we will be able to come over. If we have the chance we will, but we're still unknown now. We are searching for a good booking agency or for an agent who can help us there, but at the same time we are working hard on the budget. I mean, we gotta have all the money ready to do all we want, and to get back to the USA will take a little more time. If we are not able to come over early in 2007, we will probably come over in the fall of 2007 or early 2008. Obviously this is all just talk, nobody knows anything at the moment but it's kind of a plan that we will try to follow. If anybody is interested in us playing over there just contact me. This is our next target, to try to tour the US and Canada A.S.A.P. and to keep making good records and good music.
SOT: Merendine Atomiche actually started out as a Metallica tribute band and you did release a CD full of covers. How did you go from being simply another cover band to working on your own original material?
Luca: No, we started playing our own music in 1997 by producing a demo tape with four thrash hard-core songs sung in Italian, but that band died very soon. We had big problems with our lineup in the first five years of our history and that demo helped us to decide to take a break and to concentrate ourselves on finding the right line up. So, to enjoy gaining experience, with the new guys of the band, we thought we'd play what we liked and that was Metallica. We played only those covers for two years from late 1998 to early 2000. We started getting known in Italy and we gained experience playing live and at the same time we had the chance to have time to prepare our own music again. In May 2000 we went back to our own music and we released our first mini CD The Holy Metal; then Walk Across Fire and now RAW. We always wanted to play our music but out of necessity we went and played covers until a time when we felt ready to go back to playing our own music. I think we did all that was possible, starting with a simple demo tape, a tribute album and then an EP until finally full length CD's. Now we hope to keep the intensity going.
SOT: You write most of the bands lyrics, where do you get your inspiration from?
Luca: For this album I got my inspiration from our experiences in the US and Canada when we were there in 2004. It was a huge moment for us and we experienced some great things together and I wrote those down for RAW. Six lyrics come from those months in North America. The other ones are either old lyrics or ones we wrote together back in Italy. They speak about all kinds of things. Sometimes I write about us, about our experiences or if I don't like something. I mean, I try to write different lyrics with different arguments. In the past I used to write strong, serious lyrics but this time I thought I would take all the fun and positive talking, like I did in the past, but with more happiness in it. I think it's better and a lot more fun to write lyrics that you can enjoy, but ones which also have some messages in them as well.
SOT: Two songs on RAW are quite specific and explicit. I'm talking about "We Didn't Know" and "Shake For Me", care to elaborate?
Luca: Yeah those are the funniest. We never wrote about women in our past songs, so this time we did. "We Didn't Know" is about an experience that three of my band mates had. They all met the same girl over different periods of time and everybody was in love with her. All of them said the same thing, 'She's a good girl'. Finally they understood that she was the same person and when each one of them realized it they tried to say that with them it was different. However in the end she was the same with everybody, so they laughed about it and I decided to write lyrics about it, 'cause I saw these three idiots saying the same things three times. It didn't matter if the first one said 'Don't trust her' or if the second one said 'Don't trust her', they kept going. It was so funny and so idiotic that I figured we had to write something about it. Now we laugh when we think about those moments. "Shake For Me" talks about when we were in Canada, in Montréal. We went out to a strip club because it was too cold to do anything outside. So we just took the car and went to this strip club. We never went to anything like this in Italy, so when we saw this club we were all confused. We saw girls everywhere and we were really shocked. The first night my friends said 'We can't back there or I will never back home' [laughing]. They did go back and they had a lot of fun, so I absolutely had to write something about those cold and hot days.
SOT: To be fair though, you do have lyrics that also deal with some serious issues as well, like "Peace Means War?" for example.
Luca: Yes we had a lot of serious lyrics that we avoided on this album, but if you check our older discs there are plenty of them like "Blood For Glory" or "Walk Across Fire", "The Cheat of the Cross", "Revenge", "Victory Over The Enemies" and on the first album "The Truth" and "War or Peace". This time, as I mentioned we thought about leaving out the serious things and just concentrating on living life with a smile and just not with a bad face. "Peace means war?" is an older lyric which was written during that period. I read a book about the Second World War and they spoke about the pacifists who would fight Hitler without weapons, so I was a little bit confused and I asked myself if peace means war? It's a question, because if we all followed that way of no war, what kind of present would we have now? This is a question that I would write down. It would be cool to also hear the fans answers to this question.
SOT: Describe for me what the Italian metal scene is like.
Luca: Ah, a bad question. I mean, I don't like to talk about it too much because I won't end up speaking too good about it. There are plenty of good bands but the system is horrible and the bands, most of them always think they are superior or better than everybody and I think that's why you've still never had any big Italian bands become famous in the whole world. We've only got Lacuna Coil who is very big and we hope to follow them. However there isn't many more outside of them, maybe Rhapsody. It is really hard to play here. If you have a garage band like mine, started from the basement, it's like walking on the water. Music culture here is not very large, for cultural reasons that are too long to explain. However the few who control the live music system live closed in the walls of their castle and you can't enter it if you're not part of the "friendship". If some bands do a demo they think they are lords so you can't talk to them, it's a mess. Finally, the system prefers bands from abroad than from their own country, so the few bands with balls, that work for years, and who should have the chance to play some shows to get exposure or support, they must move away and find something outside of Italy. I don't know how it is in the US or Canada, but this is the situation here.
It's not like when I was young where if you saw metal heads with black t-shirts, you would salute them. We were part of a tribe and we were proud of it. Nobody salutes anybody anymore, everyone just thinks about trying to be better than the other one. Inside the tribe, struggles were born out of envy and for what? The good times are gone and the spirit of the early days flew away, so now it is hard.
SOT: You have been at this for over 10 years now and I think RAW should really give you guys some much deserved recognition. What musical dreams do you have for RAW and for the future as well?
Luca: Well, with RAW we would just hope that fans appreciate it and buy some copies which would permit us to concentrate on the future producing new albums. We spent a lot of energy on it, but finally the fans will give us their opinions. Yes, it's also true that without a big label you can't think about doing something important, but we play because we love music, so we just need some good support to find the strength to keep going. We just want RAW to give us a base for the future and then it will be up to us again to see what we can do.
As for the future, I would just like to try to keep recording albums and have the chance to play a North American and European tour. We never played big tours so this is our next target. We are already lucky to have the chance to play and to stay together again and we've had the fortune to do many cool things in the past, so we will see. The most important thing is to stay united, and to believe in this dream like we always did and stay healthy. These are the most important basics to keep going and to try to reach these dreams.
SOT: Who were your early musical influences, was there any one musician who is responsible for you learning the drums?
Luca: Well, my early influences were hard rock. In the 90's I remember AC/DC, Guns 'n Roses, but also Ugly Kid Joe and than a little bit of grunge like Nirvana and Pearl Jam's first album. They disappeared fast when I met Metallica and Pantera. It was during that time that I became a head banger.
The first person responsible for me learning drums was one my school mates who played drums at a school party. I never saw anybody play live so I was shocked when I saw that instrument. I said 'It would be cool play that thing'. As for famous people, I would say Dimebag Darrell. Yes he was a guitarist but in the early days I would play guitar and when we started the band, I chose drums because we had already gotten a guitarist but Vulgar Display of Power literally changed my life, so I passed on my love of Dimebag to Vinnie Paul. I mean, Pantera was the band who changed everything for us.
SOT: Proving that metal musicians can be intelligent and kick ass at the same time, you have a history degree. Is history something you've always been interested in?
Luca: Yes you're right, we are also intelligent. I got a degree in History and now I'm taking my masters degree in new technologies. If I have to tell the truth, up until the age of seventeen I never liked going to school. I preferred to play soccer but that year, 1994 was a really good year. I met music, I met my wife and I met the love of studying. I always liked history and geography but I didn't think it was really something for me, but that wasn't true. Anyway when I was eighteen I decided to go to study Law at University because I thought I would change the world. In a few months I did a good amount of exams but I realized it wasn't possible for me to be a lawyer. I didn't like the environment where I lived and the people I had around me. I was more exited to study the historic part of the laws than the laws themselves so I thought that it wasn't for me and I left after one year. I started to study history in Venice, the best city to do it in, with its enormous history, and I found my way. I love history so much. I mean, if you don't know where you come from how can you know who you are, where we can go and what we can do to not repeat the same mistakes? I studied very hard and it was really hard because I had to always find time for the band and for the university. I had a lot of big struggles in my family but I've always been lucky. Now I got my degree and I'm really in love with history. Above all that, there's history that usually is not written in the "official" books and here in Italy we have a lot of things hidden. Now I 'm taking my master in new technologies, because after working for the band for years, I've also met these new things that I like very much as well, so yes, I think people should also try to learn something more about everything. We've only got one life to live, so study and try to do your best.
SOT: Last question for you Luca, in the liner notes you thank your family in Italy and Canada. I'm curious as to where your family is located in Canada?
Luca: I've got my uncle who lives in Montreal with my cousins. They are really nice people and they always helped us when we had the chance to go to Canada and the US with the band. They are great and we had a lot of fun during the time we were there and they inspired many lyrics and also they gave us the nickname "raw bad boys" where we took the name RAW for the new album.
SOT: Thanks a lot Luca.
Luca: Thanks to you for giving me the opportunity to talk about us.