ENGLISH!

This page is not the complete English version of DISTORSIONI magazine since it contains only a selection of articles translated into English




INTERVIEWS - HEINALI & MATT FINNEY, by Felice Marotta
- CANNED HEAT and ALAN "BLIND OWL" WILSON: A BRIEF HISTORY, by Rebecca Davis Winters
- INTERVIEWS - LENNY HELSING TALKS ABOUT THANES, WILDEBEESTS, POETS AND PUNK!, by Aldo Reali
- INTERVIEWS - TALKING WITH DOM MARIANI (THE STEMS), by Ricardo Martillos
- MOGWAI:“Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will”, by Felice Marotta
- ROSETTA: "The Galilean Satellites", by Felice Marotta








Wednesday, November 23, 2011 



Heinali & Matt Finney: "Ain’t no night" (2011, Paradigms Recordings)

Interview with Heinali & Matt Finney, by Felice Marotta

Heinali and Matt Finney constitute a really unique collaboration. Their music is a blend of evocative ambient-drone, shoegaze and spoken-word. Heinali is a composer who lives in Ukraina while Matt Finney is an poet who lives in Alabama. They have made together four albums: “Town Line” (2010), “Lemonade EP” (2010), “Conjoined” (2010), "Ain’t no night" (2011) receiving an unanimous consensus from the critics. I consider these albums among the most interesting things in recent years.

Hi guys, compliments for your music! I won’t start my interview from the usual question on how is possible to compose music living at 12,000 miles from each other … Instead I start immediately with a consideration that I have thought after listening to your music: Heinali’s music on Matt Finney’s lyrics (with the right proportions) is almost as if Tarkovskij had made a movie on a Bukowski novel. Is it an right sensation or an hyperbole?
Heinali: Thank you! Tarkovskij would probably never take any interest in Bukowski. I don't think they have any intersections at all, neither in the things that they took interest in nor in their artistic language. Our fields, on the other hand intersect quite dramatically and we take interest in similar things. Much much closer to Bukowski, actually.

I believe that the strength of your music derives from a reconciled tension. On the one hand there is a charge of nihilism that is based on a real pain without hope, while on the other there is almost the attempt to make spiritual this pain, to sublimate it. Is it a correct interpretation?
Heinali: Spiritual is a strange word. I would say that to me, the only way to live with this pain is to aestheticize it. I have basically no choice if I intend to keep myself alive, literally.

Reading carefully the lyrics of "Ain’t no night", affects deeply the absence of any hope or any prospect. The evil is almost an original sin whose responsibility falls on fathers (see Tinderbox). To recall the massacre at Sand Creek means not to forget that America has been founded on violence and abuse. There is no hope or possibility of redemption. But don’t you think that can exists a ransom, at least by sons?
Matt: That violence and abuse had to seep in eventually and that's who we learned it from. We're just not willing to hold the mirror up for ourselves. It's easy to put all of the awful things/mistakes that have happened to you on your father/mother but what good does it do you when you turn out exactly like them? I know that some things don't deserve forgiveness and I'm all for that but we're definitely the generation of little pissy pants, whining, ungrateful assholes who don't deserve anything better.

In all this, I was impressed by the term "blindness" that it's present in the tracks Ain’t no night and Hallelujah. Is it perhaps the way to cancel the outside worldIf in the outside world there is no hope, can exist hope in a microcosm or in the inside world?
Matt: It is because I'm Matt Finney and I run on bile and I'm not able to handle the world around me. That doesn't mean that I don't believe in anything. I do have a few people that I hold onto as if they're all that's keeping me from drowning.

Seeing the cover of "Ain’t no night" I thought to a beautiful novel of a great American writer: The Last Good Kiss” by James Crumley, for that mixture of whiskey, human miseries and squalid stories, although full of humor. How have you built “Ain’t no night”?
Heinali: Ain't No Night was built raw. We don't want to make ugly things pleasant. We talk about unpleasant things and the album probably sounds unpleasant, we don't want to cover it up and layer everything so it would've been a pleasant listening experience, a record that could bring beauty in your life, the one you could play when you gaze at the stars. That doesn't mean however that I'd discard traditional tonal approach and go full time noise. Because Ain't No Night is not about the horrible experience itself, it's about living with it after, and the way it shapes you, the way it makes you.

I resume the consideration that I did to the beginning talking about a reconciled tension. Before I was referring to Tarkovskij and to his research of spirituality. I'm also thinking to Arvo Part. How much of your music is related to spirituality in general?
Heinali: I would really like to hear the definition of spirituality. I don't think we are trying to make ourselves martyrs of some sort. We definitely aren't trying to make our experience spiritual. Because it's not. We just try to talk about things that we think should be brought up, things that worry us. We are pretty much realists. And we try not to take ourselves too seriously. Though we love surreal and spiritual aesthetics, but this is no more than just a form, don't let it trick you.

Yours music is certainly an emotional music. It is also a kinematic music. I think there is a strong relationship between the kinematic forms and the emotional forms in your music. Have you a perception of this? What do you think about?
Heinali: Thank you! I guess music always have been visual for me, I always took interest more of the images and atmosphere it creates than the musical form itself. And sometimes you "feel" image, some detail, some thing you notice and translate them into music. I had some serious drawbacks, though, I get more concerned about atmosphere than anything else and sometimes it affects the compositions pretty seriously, not allowing me to develop it further.

I read on your blogs about some your side projects that approach the art in a more extended way. For example "Art Soloma group" of Heinali or your collaboration to the visual art exhibition of Olia Pishchanska. What does it take so that an emotional and kinematic experience may also become an aesthetic experience?
Heinali: Musical experience is aesthetic experience by definition, no? If you mean that in case of art installations, films etc., when the other medium is present, music has to be in dialogue with it and sometimes it brings restriction on, say, emotional side of music, then yes, this happens, and this is still quite new to me, so I don't really know how to deal with it yet.

To finish, let's talk about your influences.
Matt: Influences: Evil People, sexy naked women, ghosts, enigmas, blurriness, the innocent, the guilty. And sexy naked women.

Upcoming plans for the future?
Matt: Hopefully drinking ourselves into an early grave.

Hahaha, thank you, guys! I hope  to see you soon in Rome.


by Felice Marotta







CANNED HEAT and ALAN "BLIND OWL" WILSON: A BRIEF HISTORY
by Rebecca Davis Winters

Canned Heat is best known to rock history for the hits “On the Road Again” and “Going Up the Country". But the band, and in particular, the late Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson, has developed a unique and devoted following.
Canned Heat stood apart from their contemporaries in the “blues-rock” scene of the 1960s. Formed by two hard core record collectors, Alan Wilson and Bob Hite, much of their repertoire was based in pre-World War Two rural blues. Wilson’s high tenor, heard on Canned Heat’s two biggest hits, was modeled after the Mississippi bluesman Skip James.
Alan Wilson was born in Arlington, Massachusetts on July 4, 1943 to working class parents. His interest in music was encouraged by his family, and it soon became clear that he had an unusual gift. He’s remembered as having “perfect pitch”, along with the ability to learn any new instrument within a few days.
As a teen, Wilson played trombone in various high school bands. Outside of school, he formed a jazz combo called The Crescent City Hot Five. After graduating high school, he attended over a year at Boston University, where he considered majoring in music. But more appealing were the Cambridge folk clubs, where occasional blues artists also found a home.
Wilson’s first partner in the blues was David Evans, now a professor of ethnomusicology at Memphis, Tennessee. The two performed at a variety of Cambridge area clubs, with Evans singing and playing guitar, and Wilson accompanying him on guitar or harmonica. Their material consisted of old blues songs by the likes of Tommy Johnson, Booker White, and Robert Johnson. As with Canned Heat, Wilson sang only occasionally, and was still developing his vocal style.
In 1964, Wilson encountered Booker “Bukka” White, who had recently been rediscovered and was performing at folk clubs in Cambridge. Through interviews with White, Wilson learned that seminal bluesman Son House was still alive. Local friends Dick Waterman and Phil Spiro went with New York record collector Nick Perls to find House. They eventually located him in New York in June 1964.
Eventually, Alan Wilson would help Son House relearn the old blues guitar parts that had gotten rusty through years of musical neglect and alcohol abuse. He can be heard on the Father of the Delta Blues album with House. Other bluesmen who encountered Wilson in Massachusetts included Mississippi John Hurt, Robert Pete Williams, and Skip James.
In 1965, guitarist John Fahey performed in Cambridge and struck up a friendship with Alan Wilson. Fahey had been involved in the rediscoveries of Booker White and Skip James, and had released several albums of his own. He was working on a musicological master’s thesis at UCLA, but had trouble with the musical notation required for his work. Wilson agreed to help him in exchange for transportation to Los Angeles, along with room and board once they arrived. Fahey also regaled Wilson with stories of California women, assuring him that he’d be able to find a suitable girl friend among their ranks.
In California, Wilson’s musical and personal horizons were expanded considerably. Along with taking LSD for the first time in his life, and learning to play the five string banjo, he also met Bob Hite, a man who would change the course of his career.
Bob Hite was born in Torrence, California on February 26, 1943. With his best friend, Claude McKee, he became interested in record collecting; the two would end up publishing a short-lived magazine dedicated to R&B records. Bob also managed a record store, where John Fahey brought his new friend Alan Wilson one day.
Hite and Wilson soon became fast friends. Both were obsessed with early rural blues records, and Bob, still living with his family, provided a place to feel welcome and get a few meals. Bob’s younger brother Richard Hite was just starting out on guitar and bass. He picked up a few lessons from Alan, and in exchange, allowed Bob and Alan to use his gear.
With John Fahey, Bob Hite and Alan Wilson formed a jug band. When Wilson expressed an interest in electric guitar, however, Fahey quit. Eventually, Wilson found his ideal electric guitarist in Henry Vestine, from Takoma Park, Maryland, Vestine was a longtime friend of Fahey and had been involved in the rediscovery of Skip James. Stylistically, he was influenced by Albert King, B. B. King, and Freddie King as well as Albert Collins.
With bassist Mark Andes and drummer Frank Cook, the group began gigging as the Canned Heat Blues Band. They struggled until obtaining the services of managers Skip Taylor and John Hartman, who secured a recording contract with Liberty Records. By that time, Mark Andes had left to join Spirit, and was replaced by Larry Taylor, a master bassist who had been playing professionally since his teenage years.
The band’s first major gig outside of Los Angeles was the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Onstage, Hite was the visual leader of the band, connecting with the audience and bringing a “party” atmosphere to the music. The musical backbone, however, was Wilson. His rhythm guitar, rooted in the modal blues of Tommy Johnson, Charley Patton, and John Lee Hooker, provided the perfect musical foil for Henry Vestine’s lead. He created the arrangements for the band, and on harmonica, was becoming known for his deep blues tone. Though he sang only occasionally, his high tenor style was unforgettable once heard, and provided a highly distinctive quality to Canned Heat’s sound.
Canned Heat’s first, eponymous album for Liberty Records consisted of standard blues songs. They also dropped the “Blues Band” tag from their name, feeling that the “blues” label might be off-putting to some record buyers in the pop market.
The band’s second album, Boogie With Canned Heat, ventured into more original territory as Canned heat began developing its own sound and interpretation of blues tradition. They were also empowered by a new drummer, Adolfo de la Parra, whose dedication to the blues was unswerving.
Boogie With Canned Heat featured psychedelic stylings, and a new, louder lead guitar sound. It also includes two items sung by Alan Wilson; one is “On the Road Again”, which would be the band’s first hit. Originally a B-side, “On the Road Again” started getting airplay on Texas rock stations, and was soon reissued by Liberty as the A-side of a new single. For Canned Heat, it was a ticket to newfound stardom.
“On the Road Again” exemplified Wilson’s deep interest in classical Indian music. He plays the tambura on this song, and had also experimented with the veena. The modal nature of Indian music made it, to his ears, naturally compatible with the pentatonic blues tradition heard throughout the music of Fred McDowell, John Lee Hooker, and the like.
Around this time, the band added nicknames to their public image, as part of a marketing effort. Wilson had already been given the nickname “Blind Owl” by John Fahey, due to his round facial features and scholarly nature, combined with his poor vision (though he was not completely blind, and saw well enough that he was able to get a drivers license). Hite was called “The Bear” due to his large stature. Vestine became “The Sunflower”, because onstage, his thin frame and long, blond hair suggested a sunflower. Bassist Larry Taylor was “The Mole”, and drummer Adolfo de la Parra was “Fito”.
The psychedelia continued and expanded with Living the Blues, a double album. The second record of this set consisted of a live, extended boogie. Also noteworthy was “Parthenogenesis”, which consisted of experimental solo features by the various bandmembers. The majority of Wilson’s segments, including a chromatic harmonica raga and portions of a jaw-harp raga, had been recorded for John Fahey’s Takoma label a few years back as part of a solo album that was never completed.
Most memorable on Living the Blues is, of course, the song that would become Canned Heat’s biggest hit: “Going Up the Country”. Sung by Wilson, it is modeled after a record by Texas songster Henry Thomas, who recorded in the late 1920s. It was performed by the band at Woodstock in 1969, and the single was used in the movie soundtrack. Nowadays it’s often remembered as the unofficial Woodstock theme song.
By the summer of 1969, however, the core of Canned Heat was no longer stable. Henry Vestine had developed a drug habit that caused his musicianship to decline. Just a few days before the Woodstock gig, Vestine quit the band after arguing with Larry Taylor, who was tired of sharing a stage with Vestine’s drug-induced stupor.
The band found a new lead guitarist in Harvey Mandel, who encountered them backstage at a Fillmore West show just after the departure of Vestine. Mandel had previously played with Charlie Musselwhite and released an instrumental solo album, Cristo Redentor. Though his style was very different from Vestine’s, he was able to fit with the band’s blues-rock sound, and toured with them throughout early 1970. This lineup recorded the Future Blues album, considered by many to be one of the greatest Canned Heat records. Harvey Mandel can be seen onstage in Woodstock film footage, and occasionally performs with the contemporary Canned Heat lineup today.
Vestine’s absence affected Wilson greatly, as much of his original concept for the band had revolved around the interplay of his own distinctive rhythm guitar with Vestine’s lead. In 1970, he tried on a couple of occasions to quit the band, but felt obliged to return, not wanting to abandon his friends and musical colleagues. In addition, personal issues began to take a toll on his health.
Wilson had long suffered from depression, and had been under professional mental health care since 1967. In the spring of 1970, however, he made an actual suicide attempt and was incarcerated in a mental hospital. The band was already scheduled to record an album with blues legend John Lee Hooker, but fortunately the studio was right down the street from the hospital. Wilson left the hospital during the day to record, and returned at night. Eventually he was released, with medication and the stipulation that Bob Hite was to “look after” him.
Adding to Wilson’s eccentricity was his growing obsession with plants and trees. For years, he had been known as a musical animal, caring about blues more than anything else - including human relationships. But recently, he had also developed a passion for the environment. The California women promised by John Fahey didn’t bring much satisfaction, and the Canned Heat groupies found Wilson too unusual a rock star for their tastes. So instead, Mother Nature became his lover. Along with his guitar and harmonicas, he also began carrying around botany books, and collected a variety of plant specimens in his travels.
This interest led to new goals in Wilson’s life. First, he decided to memorize the common and scientific names of every tree and plant in the world. For Wilson, who already had unusual intellectual abilities along with perfect musical pitch, it was a relatively simple task. When he had learned all he could about plants, he undertook a scientific study on the effects of pollution on the natural world. He approached nature much as he approached music: with an analytical, scholarly mind.
As the results of his study came in, the effects on Wilson were twofold. It became clear that pollution was a major hazard to life on Earth. This knowledge intensified Wilson’s depression. However, it also served to inspire him, as he began planning to form a non-profit organization with the goal of preserving California’s coast redwoods. He had bonded deeply with these trees, spending much of his time camping in their ancient groves when not on the road with Canned Heat. When on tour, he had even begun carrying a sleeping bag and spending his nights outdoors whenever weather allowed.
Sadly, Wilson would not live to see his ecological dream realized. Over the years on the road with Canned Heat, he had begun suffering from insomnia, which he attempted to self-medicate with illicitly purchased barbiturates. This habit would play a part in his untimely demise.
On September 2, 1970, Wilson failed to meet Canned Heat at the Los Angeles airport to depart for a scheduled European tour. The next day, his body was found in Bob Hite’s backyard, where he often camped when the band was not on the road.
Autopsy results indicated a barbiturate overdose, which by all indications was accidental. The scene suggested that Wilson had prepared for bed, got into his sleeping bag, and never woke up. There was also some indication of head trauma, which might have resulted from a prior auto accident. One friend claimed that Wilson had been reporting severe headaches in the weeks leading up to his death. However, the larger role, if any, that head trauma might have played in Wilson’s death is uncertain.
In the years since Wilson’s death, Canned Heat continues to play blues-rock and boogie music to audiences worldwide. Bob Hite’s brother, Richard, would join the band as bassist for a period in the 1970s. Henry Vestine, Harvey Mandel, and Larry Taylor have all performed with the band on and off throughout the decades.
Bob Hite died of a drug-induced heart attack in 1981, after years of drug use and hard living. Henry Vestine died from heart failure in 1997. Richard Hite died of cancer in 2001. Canned Heat continues to perform and record under the longtime leadership of drummer Fito de la Parra.
In 2010, some of Alan Wilson’s family members established a website, AlanWilsonCannedHeat.com, in his honor. Through this means, they hope to raise money for the preservation of the California redwoods, in fulfillment of Wilson’s dream. Musically, his blues vision continues to be fulfilled among blues fans, and in at least two generations of younger musicians and listeners.

Rebecca Davis Winters

discography, photos & videos:
http://musicbx.blogspot.com/2011/04/canned-heat-1967-1970-blues-e-boogie.html







INTERVIEWS - LENNY HELSING TALKS ABOUT THANES, WILDEBEESTS, POETS AND PUNK!
DISTORSIONI: Your name will always be associated first and foremost with The Thanes that have been around for about 25 years now, what are your thoughts on that?

LENNY HELSING: Well yeah I suppose I never really thought that The Thanes would still be around after so many years but it just kinda kept going on, and indeed still keeps going on…and even although I’m the only one who has been constant in all line-ups of the group, we have nonetheless been known for holding together quite a stable unit now and then.

I remember how after “Hey Girl” and the debut album there was a time when people maybe thought the Thanes split up…or so it seemed living in Italy in those pre-internet days. Mainly due to the absence or the difficulty of getting records, I’m talking about around 1989 or so. 
Yes I can understand that for a lot of people The Thanes had become very quiet for some years…but we were – as you well know – still around and continuing to hone our craft, playing all sorts of little gigs here and there, and always trying to come up with new songs and interesting cover versions to share with our audiences. But we didn’t always have any new records out and so I suppose the good folks in Italy or Spain, or Germany and USA didn’t know what was really happening with us? And sometimes when even when we did have a record out, it was maybe that whichever label it was on didn’t receive the kind of distribution needed to get our name across to the wider public.
  
Then there was a period of about 10 years (1993-2004) when the band certainly settled with a steady line-up and indeed released a couple of albums. What do you think of that time and in particular of the recorded output?
Yes I’m really quite proud of that period of The Thanes, although there were still a few personnel changes to thwart our progress now and again. Our bass player Denis Boyle left us, to be replaced by Mal Kergan, and then, significantly, co-founding Thanes member, organist and songwriter Bruce Lyall, who had also started The Green Telescope with me back in the dying days of 1980, left us not long after the release of our “Learning Greek Mythology” 12” EP that included Bruce’s “Gone Away Girl”. Bruce’s replacement, Nick Kennedy, had a relatively short tenure in the group, going to live and work in Berlin directly after our 1994 visit to Italy actually, which included an appearance at the second “Festival Beat” event in Piacenza with your old pals The Hairy Fairies, and Barcelona’s The Flashback V. In fact I’ve just completed a page about this very subject for a book that Luca Frazzi is doing in Italy. Nick’s last gig was our lowly appearance at the club Velvet in your home town Rimini! Ian Binns would also stop playing drums with us not long after this time due to work commitments, but I am more than happy to say that the man we got in to replace Ian, Mike Goodwin, is thankfully still playing in The Thanes to this day, and as they used to say back in the olden days before my time and yours, Mike is one of the best drummers in the business! Ditto Mal who played in The Thanes for well over a decade, contributing hugely to what is regarded as some of our strongest material. I’m thinking specifically the LP/CD “Downbeat & Folked Up” for the Screaming Apple label in Germany. As you know Mal now lives in Galicia in northern Spain these days and I’m glad he has continued playing, lending his excellent, distinctive bass style to those (relatively) young whippersnappers The Phantom Keys. And I think that some of the songs we came up with for both the LPs we made during that time, the afore-mentioned “Downbeat…” and the previous “Undignified Noblemen” set for Italy’s Misty Lane label were among our best. After Nick left us we got in new organist, guitarist Angus McPake, an old friend who founded The Rubber Dolfinarium in the early-mid 80s, a group I played drums in. We then became The Beeville Hive V, and the two groups played many great songs that Angus had written, so I knew that getting Angus into the group would mean we would also have another songwriter to bolster the group, as up to that point it had only been me, and occasionally Bruce who had been writing stuff and presenting it to the band. So things began to change a lot around then because Angus is quite prolific with songs and I was happy to have Angus present loads of songs for us to attempt. “It Can Never Be” on the “Downbeat…” LP is one of the best, and also on that LP there was “World Of Stone” and in recent times he has written some choice numbers that we have recorded, and will be recording soon, like “Dishin’ The Dirt” and “What You Can’t Mend” that go down well when we play. I’m still writing too of course but we’ve yet to properly record some of these. 

You just got back from Greece, from the first ever gigs with the Thanes, how was it?
Greece was a blast. We only played two gigs, one in Athens and one in Larisa but both nights were quite special in their own way. The Tiki Club in Athens is quite small but was totally mobbed-out and had a great atmosphere. There are already some clips up on You Tube you can check out. “No No No No” and “I’m A Fool” are pretty decent. The Stage club in Larisa was a bigger venue but less people watched us. But still we had a great gig and the crowds on both nights seemed to really enjoy The Thanes. Our visit was arranged by “The Coalminers Corp”, a promotion team of great guys set up by my old friend from Crete Costas, who calls himself Mr Optical Sound, plus there’s Takis and Johnny. All three are passionate 60s DJs too…and so I was also asked if I would bring along a box of 45s to DJ with both nights, which as you can well imagine Aldo, was a great little sound trip for me.

Who’s in the Thanes right now; what are your current projects, what’s coming up?
The Thanes are yours truly, still on lead vocals and guitar, Angus McPake plays organ, guitar, 12-string, Mike Goodwin is on the drums, and Mark Hunter takes care of bass guitar and backing vocals. Mark is the newest member of The Thanes, joining us in time for our support slot to The Sonics at New York’s “Cavestomp” event in 2007, which itself was quite an experience. Currently we are working on getting recordings of some of our newest songs together, with a view to getting a release for them sometime later in the year. We are doing these recordings in Angus’s “Ravencraig” home studio set up where Les Bof! – with Angus on guitar – have also recorded their brand new LP which out soon on Germany’s Copas Disques. Hopefully The Thanes will have a single out around summer on the State label here in the UK, headed up by our good friends The Higher State…but we also have some other surprises in store, but I better keep schtum about them at present in case nothing transpires. We also have another project on the go at the moment that involves The Poets, yes indeed the self same and truly superb and unique sounding beat group from Glasgow, Scotland originally in operation way back in the 1960s. Members of The Poets and The Thanes have been hard at work rehearsing, and honing many of their Decca and Immediate treasures which will soon be shared with a live audience or two. There is a taster of sorts taking place on Friday May 6 at the 13th Note in Glasgow’s King St, when The Thanes will be joined for one or two numbers by The Poets’ George Gallacher and Fraser Watson. A much fuller appreciation of this project will hopefully be realised in Edinburgh in late July when Angus and chums’ “The Big Stramash” will take place!!!

When did you first play Italy and what are your memories of that or later gigs?
We first played Italy in, I think, 1989, or maybe 1990, with a hastily arranged gig playing at an all-night “sit-in” at Milan’s State University, after the initial “squatter” venue in the city was called off as the place was falling apart. We also played in Pisa, Torino I think, and, if it was the same visit?, then we also played at the infamous Forte Prenistino, a social centre / squat type gig that was held in an old castle in Rome, which was run by punks and was quite an amazing affair altogether. Apparently we were pretty lucky to have played there as I’ve been told since that it was only genuine punk bands that were supposedly allowed to play there. But The Thanes played there for sure, on a really high-up stage and we had a pretty good reception. They had a superb vegetarian kitchen in the place and gave us tons of beer and some good money too.

You have always been involved with several bands, but there’s one that certainly has been taking a lot of your time since 1995 or so: The Wildebeests, how did it all start?
It all started really when I met bass player John Gibbs at a bus stop in Edinburgh’s Leith Walk a couple of days after he was kicked out of The Kaisers in October 1994. He said he wanted to start a new group, so I said I’d be interested in bashing the drums if it was a beat group. Liam Watson at Toerag studio in London also told John that former Milkshakes bass player Russ Wilkins was living in or around Edinburgh somewhere and would be a great choice as guitarist. So once contact was established, we agreed to meet up one Sunday afternoon at The Thanes’ practice basement in Great King St, and quickly found that we all had a great love for loads of amazing sounds; from the early blues and r’n’b to rock’n’roll thru beat, garage, psych into some prog and hard-rock, early glam and tons of great early punk sounds…we also seemed to be able to harness this raw energy and turn it into something of our own making. I mean that very afternoon we, albeit very roughly, recorded about an hour’s worth of our influences, which gave us a great starting block to base the next sixteen years around ha ha.

What are some of your current favourite bands/records?
Currently I love The Higher State’s “Darker By The Day” LP, “Red Dissolving Rays Of Light” LP by The Loons and Os Haxixins’ “Under The Stones” LP and the various attendant 45s from these records too. I’m also digging Paul Messis and his various 45s. On a very different path, I love Barton Carroll’s LP “Together You And I”. He opened for Mudhoney here in Aberdeen last October and was folkin’ great. Great live experiences of late have been Glasgow’s The Hidden Masters who as you know feature our very good friend Alpha Mitchell on bass. The gig they did with The Higher State was incredible. And a bit further back getting to sing with the OUTSIDERS at Rotterdam’s Primitive festival in 2008 was one of the highlights of my life!!!

Perhaps not too many people know, at least in Italy, that you were in Punk bands.
Tell us about that time, the bands you saw live and the whole atmosphere in Scotland over 30 years ago.
Well I started off in pop groups of the Bay City Rollers era, but punk was just about to happen, and I just got totally immersed in it all. A friend’s cousin told me about a group in Edinburgh (I lived in a small village about 15 to 20 miles from town) who were just starting and needed a singer. So I agreed to meet the guitarist in town (he was Steve Fraser, who later also featured in The Thanes, playing on our recordings of Syd’s “Scream Thy Last Scream” and The Calico Wall’s “I’m A Living Sickness”) and take it from there. This was in 1978, so by this time a lot of punk action had already come to town, and while I didn’t catch some of the very earliest gigs, I did attend loads of gigs throughout ’77-‘79 including The Damned (with The Dead Boys), The Jam, The Clash (with Suicide), The Boomtown Rats, Dr Feelgood, The Radiators From Space (opening for Thin Lizzy), 999, The Buzzcocks (with The Slits), Siouxsie and the Banshees (one with Spizz Oil, and another with Simple Minds), Ultravox, Adam and the Ants (with The Monochrome Set), The Cure (with The Associates)…plus lots of local groups like Scars, The Ettes, Visitors, The Prats, Matt Vinyl and the Decorators, The Skids, The Valves, The Exploited (very early days), Another Pretty Face, TV Art (who then became Josef K), The Dirty Reds (who then became The Fire Engines)…it was a pretty incredible time really where lots of us young punks would meet up on a Saturday afternoon, mainly just walking about and having a laugh, and knowing that our appearance was being noticed around the streets, and checking out the various record shops and maybe going for one or two (still underage) drinks in one of the few bars that didn’t mind punks coming in. A few record shops like Hot Licks, Bruce’s and Virgin were the main ones where punks were allowed in, even if they didn’t buy anything (not much anyway especially if you are only 14-15 years old and don’t have much money) but just to kinda hang out awhile and hear a lot of what was going on record-wise, and news of gigs etc. Pheonix too was another sympathetic shop in town. A few older punk pals were studying at art college, so a favourite trick when you were with them was to find out where the “private view” functions were being held, and go there first and partake of the free wine and snacks that they had – sometimes the wine flowed very freely indeed ha ha! Also Ripping records shop used to run buses to some of the out of town gigs, that’s where I went to see the Banshees and Simple Minds in Glasgow, also The Clash in Glasgow with Mikey Dread, and The Clash in Dunfermline Kinema with Suicide. Some of the punks there that night hated Suicide and spent most of their time shouting abuse and spitting on them. We on the other hand thought they were great. 

How did you first got interested in the music from the 60s?
I think it was a mixture of things really. I was already heavily into rock music long before punk came on the scene, so I knew something about a lot of origins of bands anyway. I was reading NME and Sounds and Melody Maker all the time. A pal’s cousin sat us down in the summer of 1973 or 1974 and specifically played us The Pretty Things “SF Sorrow” the US copy with headstone cover, which made a big impression on me, so much so that every time I saw a picture of The Pretties or anything to do with them I cut it out and added it to my growing list of obsessive group-related ephemera I seemed to be building. Then a pal at school in 2nd year loaned me or my brother “Relics” and “Piper At The Gates Of Dawn”, and that got me hooked on Syd Barrett’s Floyd style much more than the then current “Dark Side Of The Moon”. Then I got into listening to John Peel and he’d be throwing in odd plays of “Oh Yeah” by The Shadows of Knight and “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)” by The Electric Prunes, and even weirder UK psych things, like “Wallpaper” by Pregnant Insomia. But then when punk exploded into the mainstream, Record Mirror had a “star chart” each week having a top ten playlist from a rock or punk star, and I remember seeing Gene October from Chelsea putting The Seeds “Pushin’ Too Hard” in there, Lemmy too…and also Radar records just issued “You’re Gonna Miss Me” and “Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators”, also the “Gloria” LP by Shadows of Knight etc… and of course quite a few of the punk bands were referencing 60s music, from Generation X and their mod-related fixations, The Damned and their love of The Stooges and MC5, Sex Pistols too. The prime 60s garage compilation LP “Nuggets” too had just been overhauled and given a new sleeve by Sire label, home of The Ramones, and Edinburgh’s The Rezillos even got given a deal with them. And there were other signposts too, like The Radiators From Space covering “Psychotic Reaction” on the flipside of their “Enemies” 45 in ’77, and The Undertones covering another Nuggetty classic The Chocolate Watch Band’s “Let’s Talk About Girls”.  Then we heard the TV Personalities on Peel and things got stranger and more primitive-like…and, well it was then just a short “Pebbles” throw to discover other harder, more primal, more screeching garage punk styled groups and records …

Favourite bands: I know there are way too many bands to mention, but maybe you can give us some names of “lesser known” groups that you feel they deserve to be discovered.
The Sound Magics from Holland, The Dovers from USA, The Boston Dexters from Edinburgh, String and the Beans from USA, Dean Ford and the Gaylords from Scotland, Our Patch Of Blue from Italy, Randy and the Rest from USA, The Talismen from England, Israel’s The Churchills, The 20th Century Sounds from Scotland, Vinidrios Quebrados from Chile :-))), Belgium’s The Paramounts, also Union Jack, and loads loads more …  cheers for now Aldo your pal Lenny
(interwiev by Aldo Reali)


INTERVIEWS - TALKING WITH DOM MARIANI (THE STEMS)
 

DISTORSIONI: Hi Dom, I could not find a lot of news about The Stems. After your mini tour there has been a good interest from your Italian fan base and I hope that they will have some chance to know you and The Stems a little bit more better from this interview.
What about the guitar lessons at Richard Lane in 1983, is this story true?
Is it following these guitar jam sessions that you came up with the idea of forming a band?
DOM MARIANI: This is true, and more or less how the band started. I was introduced to Richard by a mutual friend Gary Constantine. They would both come to see me play in another band at The Wizbah (an inner city Perth venue). He like my band and asked me for guitar lessons. I was teaching a little at the time, but I wouldn’t call myself a proper guitar teacher. From a few lesson I noticed that Richard could play well and found out that he could also play keyboards, harmonica and enjoyed singing. We talked about music a lot,.. he liked The Sunnyboys and The Saints and I introduced to some 60’s music that he hadn’t heard of . This gave me the idea of asking him about being in a new band I was planning. This band became The Stems.

How important was the '60 USA Garage punk such as: Electric Prunes, Standells, The Chocolate Watch Band, in the decision process of forming your band? And what about the Australian garage punk like The Masters Apprentices & The Missing Links?The Electric Prunes are a big influence. I first discovered them on Nuggets and soon after found a copy of their Underground in a discount record store. This was like finding gold. It’s still one of my all time favorite albums, … The Standells, Chocolate Watch band, … Music Machine all had some influence on The Stems, …as did the Australian bands like The Masters and The Easybeats. The Masters are incredible ... The Missing Links I discovered later.

Following your first two great 7”, quite sixties orientated, it’s quite clear that in your first ep “love will grow” you guys decided to smoothen your sound into more melodic lines ? Did you want to enlarge your fan base or was this only a pure sound evolution?
The songwriting took a natural progression, but going into a bigger and more sophisticated studio (Trafalgar) with Rob Younger and Alan Thorne’s production team, these were also factors in the way that record eventually sounded. Tears Me in Two and Can’t Resist were recorded during the same session.

How come that the great Citadel Record of John Needham missed the chance of publishing your first record? Do you sincerely think that your record would have sounded different, maybe a little bit grittier? And talking about Citadel, strangely enough your first 2 studio albums were not released on this label, but on the other hand they published 3 of yours anthologies. Is there any explanation?
It was more a case of opportunity really. John couldn’t afford to pay for the recording of those albums, so we had to go with someone that could. John also personally managed Died Pretty, they were his main focus at the time. I’ve always maintained a good relationship with John and wherever possible give him the opportunity to release music.

Is it difficult for you that The Stems is considered the band of Dom Mariani?
I have noticed that Richard Lane sings some of the songs like: Tears Me In Two, Under Your Mushroom, Rosebud , and a lot of more. What is his contribution?
It depends on how you see the band. Even tough I am considered the main song writer in The Stems Richard did contribute songs in the earlier part, but the tunes that Richard sung were mostly written by Julian Matthews (bass) who usually doesn’t get much credit for it.

Radio Birdman and The Saints have been two of the most influential bands of the 70’s. What do these bands mean for an “aussie” musician? What is your relationship with other great bands like : Bands di Perth, The Triffids e The Scientists?
There’s no doubt both Radio Birdman and The Saints helped pave the way for the scene in the 80’s. The Saints were more of an influence on me than Radio Birdman. It wasn’t until we moved to Sydney in ’85 that I came to appreciate Birdman more and realize the impact they’d made on the inner city scene there.
I was never much of a Triffids fan ... but the Scientists were a great band! I saw them play many times and would consider them the best band to come from Perth. Some of those shows in the early 80’s were amazing and inspired me to start a band like The Stems.

Why and how did you decide to break “The Stems” up in October 1987? Everyone was puzzled by this decision because it was a period where your band was quite popular and you records were always in the Australian alternative charts.
It just happened that way. Constant touring, poor management and tensions inside the group all played their part. Recording the At Fist Sight album wasn’t a smooth process and things started to deteriorate from there.
The band had become quite popular, and with a major label commitment it meant a lot more touring and being available for all the things that go with publicising a band on the way up. The band sort professional management which ultimately didn’t have the group’s real interests at heart. I started to question this and in the end decided to walk away from it.

The 2003 reunion and the following European tour was an inner nurtured idea or was it a consequence of the pressure of your fans, that were satisfied from The Someloves and DM3 but nostalgic of The Stems songs? And what about the European welcoming, how was it?
Our first reunion was in ’97 (10 years after we’d broken up) and then a year later (’98) we played the Mudslinger festival, but these shows were only in Perth. It wasn’t until 2003 that the idea of a full reunion tour was a serious proposition. It came from a promoter who suggested we do an Australian tour and things just happened from there. We were all a bit surprised by the response,….old fans and new. This eventually lead to the band staying together for another 7 years which included recording another album and touring Europe, Japan and the US. It was a lot of fun…

What about the 2007 tour with Hoodoo Gurus and Radio Birdman? Could you tell us any stories about Rob Younger and Deniz Tek, two of the main characters of the Rock Aussie scene? Would you like to play in a band with them, or do you think that they are a little bit too egocentrics?
That was a cool tour. It came the right time for us. Heads Up had been out a couple of weeks. We had something to promote – our first album in 20 years. Both Rob and Deniz are super nice guys. I know Rob a little better having worked with him on the early Stems recordings and most recently The DomNicks mini album.
I’d work with either of them no problem. They are real music people who are passionate about their art.

Which of the 2 albums you recorded, better identifies the Stems sound?
I feel closer to the first two 7inches but I am positively surprised about the ability you had to combine such beautiful melodies with love lyrics like in Love Will Grow and At First Sight, one of your most popular song.
I think the last album Heads Up is close to what the band sounded like at this time. The melody above all is the most distinctive part of the Stems sound, while at the same time to keep it rocking. I prefer the sound of Love Will Grow recording to At First Sight album. There are some good songs on the At First Sight album, but I’m not that fond of the production.

In 2010, the Italian label Misty Lane, published the excellent anthology “From the Vault”. What are the differences between the Italian/European and the Australian public?
Not really sure ... Iguess the fans might be a little more passionate.

As vinyl collector I am positively surprised that your releases are available on vinyl, is it your own choice or is it casual?
Casual … Misty Lane approached us to do it. It’s great to have it out there on vinyl again. I’d love to have Heads Up available on vinyl.

This 2010 Farewell Tour is definitely The Stems last chapter? Or are you ready to surprise us and would you consider re-thinking about it? I read in a 2009 interview that you said the following “"This is our first farewell. We did break up once but we weren't in good enough shape to say goodbye. This time we'll end it off on a good note. The band's going really well but you just know when it's time to go". Could you please explain us how we need to understand this message?
It was the last shows. We often joke about the farewell and reunion thing, ‘cause I we’ve done it twice,…and the second time it lasted longer than the first. At this point I can’t see us ever doing it again as the original line-up. The door is not closed, but it would be a different line-up if The Stems were to play again.

In conclusion I would like to ask you a question that I had in mind from a long time. Your surname, Mariani sounds very latin: have you got any Italian ancestors or family?
My origins are Italian. My parents come from the Abruzzo region. They immigrated to Australia in the fifties. I still have relatives there in Vasto, Uncles, Aunts and cousins.
I have visited many times and once toured with DM3 in 2001 at the invitation of Gene Gnocchi who had the TV show Perepepe.

Many thanks Dom for the time you have spent answering these questions for Distorsioni. I and all the Italian fans wish you a happy continuation for your amazing career, wishing to see you and The Stems soon on stage around here.
Thank you Ricardo

Ciao, Dom
interwiev by Ricardo Martillos
(english translation by Myriam Bardino)



MOGWAI: “Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will”(2011, Rock Action/Sub Pop)

Mogwai can certainly be counted among bands than more of others have given consistency and body to the post-modern instrumental rock (commonly known as post-rock). Their sound, whose influences can be searched in anticipatory sounds of Slint, has evolved over time in a brand characterized by long instrumental pieces that weaves melodic lines in a tangle of noise and distortion, in a succession of quiet and sudden crescendos. Their is an instinctive and anti-intellectual music, as repeatedly confirmed by guitarist Stuart Braithwaite. This view places them in a position diametrically opposite to that of Godspeed You!Black Emperor, which together with Mogwai are considered among the most influential band of post-rock scene of the XXI century. The spontaneity and naturalness emerges clearly even in the last work of Mogwai, "Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will", the seventh album of their fortnightly career. The album was recorded and mixed in the summer of 2010, official output is expected on February 14 in Europe (Rock Action) and on 15 February in the U.S. (Sub Pop). This album does not add anything new compared to previous works by the Scottish band. It's a mature work, well played, which shows the considerable experience of the band, without sags or signs of fatigue, which confirms that approach to music based on simplicity, with no excesses or baroquisms. A disk with a pop soul. Ten songs that you listen with great pleasure and that slip away with lightness and vitality. A decidedly post-modern album, mixed in a solid, refined and successful balance. A good album. Recommended.


Felice Marotta




ROSETTA: "The Galilean Satellites" (Translation Loss, 2005)

Defining the music of Rosetta might seem at first a fairly easy undertaking. The sounds evoke a heavy rock with psychedelic influences, very descriptive in the early works, more introspective in the recent. Rejecting the definition of post-metal, Rosetta have provocatively defined their music "metal for astronauts", a veritable manifesto, which took shape with their first work “The Galilean Satellites (2005). We can say  immediately that “The Galilean Satellites is the description of a journey. A journey with no return. We are used to think that vision of the heavenly bodies is itself a reassuring vision (come to mind for example the fascinating descriptions of the Milky Way made by the ancients), but this may be true until the distances are such as to render void the violence of the forces at  play, until that is, the fields produced by these giant bodies (immeasurably larger compared to the dimensions of man) are not able to alter the forms of perception and to upset sensations. Astronauts have revealed that in space the colors are more vivid, as if there were not a sort of mediation between our bodies and things, making vision more seductive.However, this reduction in distance implies, in same time, a proportional increase of disquietude in front of visions of bodies and spaces that overhang us for size and strength. That fascination mixed with disquietude is represented by the director Boyle in the (wonderful) movie “Sunshine”, the psychological journey of a crew that gradually approaches to the sun, in an increasing crescendo of forces at play, up to the extreme. The man is attracted by light in a sort of fascination (Έρως) which finds reason in the unconscious, a fascination that leads necessarily to a violent end (Θάνατος). It's the myth of Icarus. Icarus doesn't take a journey towards the sun for only a desire for knowledge but also for the desire to reduce the distance between himselves and things, to put himself into direct relationship with the heavenly bodies (ie with the gods), cutting down that distance, reducing that difference. There is a sort of fascination of things, an attraction toward inorganic bodies and toward the matter, a real seduction that the Italian philosopher Perniola has defined "sex appeal of the inorganic." The matter is manifested in a persistent opacity, subtracting itself to our every attempt  to make it perfectly clear and transparent, to understand it. It's a neutral relationship, without mediation, by its nature immeasurably irreconcilable. It is not will to contemplate things, but will to perceive fully them.The Galilean Satellites expresses all this: the seduction / attraction that matter acts on us, the relationship with the materiality of bodies immeasurably large, the fascination and opacity of these bodies, the violence of this relationship.“The Galilean Satellites” is the perception of the material world through the eyes of Icarus. A very great vision. 



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