Transmutation + An interview with Ufomammut
From the farthest reaches of space, beyond time itself lies the mysteries of the great unknown. Meanwhile, somewhere in northern Italy, UFOMAMMUT are just about to tear the proverbial roof off our collective consciousness and make a grand entrance to the world stage.
Not that they haven’t been at it awhile already, but few outside their native shores have known what they have been capable of until the past few years. Fewer still have fully reckoned with the cosmic weight of their latest creative manifestation.
The catalyst for this process began just a few months ago with the release of ORO: Opus Primum. From a conceptual standpoint, ORO explores the transmutative power of knowledge; “The magical stream controlled by the human mind to gain control of every single particle of the World surrounding us. Oro is the alchemical process to transform the human fears into pure essence; into Gold.”
With the release of ORO: Opus Alter, the conclusion resounds in a masterpiece which is greater than the sum of it’s parts. With the two parts now made whole, The Bone Reader spoke with Poia and Urlo of UFOMAMMUT about the keys to their ascent.
TBR: You guys have always had such a unique and well refined sound so I’m really curious to know a bit about your musical tastes.. What are your first memories of music? Did you guys grow up in homes surrounded by influences that you still find interesting and relevant today?
Poia: Yes, despite the fact I grew up in Italy which is not exactly the best land for rockers. My parents were teenagers during the revolutionary days of music so The Beatles and many more artists of that era became part of my childhood and I still love them. We were always listening to music. First through a small 45 RPM record turntable that later became a “modern” stereo cassette player with separate wooden cabs.
Urlo: My first memory of music is linked to Meddle, the Pink Floyd album. I was in a supermarket with my mother when I was a child and I felt a strong incredible attraction and I understood I needed to have it. I grabbed it, but I need to be honest, I didn’t listen to it until I was older… Strange thing though. It’s still one of my favourite albums ever. It changed my idea of music.
My parents were not that much in music, so I created a musical taste by myself starting from Sex Pistols and the Clash, loving the Beatles and Pink Floyd, for reaching Led Zeppelin and Sabbath in my early days. I must admit I don’t like heavy metal at all – let’s say from Iron Maiden to Metallica. I could write a book to tell you everything. Hahah!
TBR: At some point, of course, there comes a time where you choose to seek out different sounds – even from some of those early rock influences that we all share to some degree or another. Maybe some of them are more well-known today, but who were some of the “freaks” that you guys gravitated towards?
Urlo: I’ve always tried to search different things in music, trying to discover bands that could give me something new and peculiar. I remember Milk, for example. They’re an english band, quite unknown but they were awesome.
Poia: I think the second part of my growth as a rock listener was a lot influenced by some 90’s bands, that gave me the impulse to form a rock band: Nirvana, Melvins, Kyuss, Sleep, Motorpsycho, The God Machine and so on.
TBR: You guys are from northern Italy, which borders with Switzerland as well as France and I’m guessing that you may have caught some pretty interesting shows during your formative years.
Urlo: My first concert was The Pixies. It was totally cool. Then I remember Motorpsycho years ago and it was awesome. But I missed a lot of concerts in the 90’s. I think about Sleep or the God Machine for example…
Poia: During the eighties I saw Zucchero Fornaciari playing live.
TBR: In a broad sense, classical music is a bit more a part of the cultural fabric in Europe than it is in North America. Would you say that you guys are influenced in any way by the tradition of classical or modern avant-garde composers?
Urlo: I think that being European makes a difference somehow. We grow with a totally different approach and atmosphere, especially in Italy where we’re surrounded by art and beauty. Of course,we have great classical music but awful pop music. We had an incredible progressive period too, in the Seventies and surely, all these things filled our minds.
Poia: To be honest, I have only a generic knowledge, you know? Beethoven, Chopin, Bach, Rachmaninov. I love classical music, but I’m still ignorant about it and I’ve travelled only over the surface.
TBR: Italy has also got a great history with respect to electronic music – from Luciano Berio to Georgio Moroder. Can you speak to any influences or experiences that have had an impact on Ufomammut, if any? Are there any electronic musicians that you enjoy outside the influence of Ufomammut?
Urlo: Don’t know these guys but I think we’ve lots of great film soundtracks composer here, think about (Enrico) Morricone – surely another influence.
Poia: You spoke about Moroder… I like to listen to soundtracks, Ennio Morricone is surely my favourite composer. Concerning electronic music, I like it when is filtered through a “human” experience, like in some kraut rock ensembles, or in modern bands like the Prodigy.
TBR: For those who weren’t aware, ORO: Opus Primum is the first part in a series of two albums. The songs on Opus Primum are quite etherial and hypnotic. Will Opus Alter, the second release, is coming out on September 14th. Will it be an extension of the first or will it branch into different sonic territory?
Urlo: Oro is a single track, Opus primum is the first part and Opus alter is the second. We just split the song in ten movements and two temporal parts to make it easier to be understood. Even if the two parts are surely different, there’s a continuos flow from one to the other.
Poia: Opus Alter is the “real” side B of Oro. It completes the work, with different light and shadows, like drawing a circular figure, giving the right shape to Opus Primum movements too.
TBR: Conceptually, how do the two relate to one another? Is there a progression of a storyline or is it more abstract?
Urlo: Oro means “gold” in Italian, but “I prey” in latin and it’s also a palyndrome word. “Or” means light in Hebrew, that’s why ORO is written with a mirrored R on the cover.
The idea behind the lyrics, the concept, came from the idea of the alchemic transformation of our souls – considered as a sort of glue for all what’s around us in nature. In something that is powerful, thanks to our mind, that is what makes human beings different from other animals.
This is the main explanation of the lyrics and this involves the entire song, from part one tothe end of part two.
Poia: I feel Opus Primum full of promises and difficulties. It is the path for Knowledge and it’s not an easy way. When the record stops, it seems that you are recovering after climbing an high mountain. You feel you’ve almost reached the top of it and you wait – and sleep for a while, if you want. But the next day (Opus Alter) you realize the landscape has changed again, and you’re travelling toward an unexpected direction. …and you still can’t stop your (symbolic or real?) journey.
TBR: Were the songs themselves written together all at the same time or was the material for Opus Alter written afterwards?
Poia: Oro has been conceived, composed and recorded as a whole thing.
Urlo: We wrote the entire Oro at once and we recorded it all together last August with Lorenzo Stecconi.
TBR: As with your previous work, Opus Primum, is very interesting in terms of the palate of sounds that you chose, particularly with some of the synths and stuff. If you don’t mind a bit of gear-talk, what did you guys use on the album in terms of synths and outboard effects?
Urlo: I love synths and we used my little collection of gear to record Oro: A Moog Little Phatty, a Korg Monotron, a Korg Kaossillator and a Korg Microkorg. I love to search strange sounds and atmosphere when we record the tracks while rehearsing. It’s cool to see how a riff can become with simple alien sounds. Then we search for other effects for the recordings – samples and voices. Lorenzo, he’s from Roma, read the Tabula Smaragdina by Hermes Trismegistus in perfect latin, for example.
Then, for the live acts, we put all the samples in a little box called computer and we use our feet to make everything work through a couple of pedalboards. Ahhhh… Technology!
TBR: Can you tell us a bit about how you guys came together with Neurot? What’s the relationship like with Steve (Von Till) and the guys in Neurosis? If you have any good stories about hanging out with them, let ‘er roll!
Urlo: We’re totally happy being with Neurot. We couldn’t expect anything more. All is about music, we feel like we’ve simply enlarged our family. Steve kept in touch last year telling us he liked Eve a lot and that Neurot was intereted in what we could come out with next. We felt really honoured and happy about this.
We received other query from a lot of other labels after Eve, but we were searching for something that could be simply the natural evolution of what we were searching for, and it was Neurot
Poia: There’s an ocean between us, but in some way, we all think, act and move with a similar attitude towards what music should be. Neurot has been really a very natural choice for Ufomammut.
TBR: If you guys were asked to curate a day of live music and art, who would you ask to attend?
Urlo: It’s a secret, if we’d unveil it to you there won’t be any surprise!
Poia: Zucchero Fornaciari, of course.
TBR: On the surface, the two are very different but personally, I can’t help but examine some of the parallels between ORO and the 777 trilogy by Blut Aus Nord. At the very least, they are both great examples of extended, thematic works by ambitious artists. Do you have any thoughts on 777 or experience with Blut Aus Nord?
Poia: Sorry, I don’t know about it. I will soon search something about.
Urlo: Sorry, I don’t know Blut Aus Nord
TBR: It seems that Ufomammut has reached a sort “critical mass” these days: Touring, festival shows and attention from the media. It seems that the band is poised for a well-deserved breakthrough. If you were to point to one particular achievement or moment over the last year or so that was a highlight of your success, what would it be?
Urlo: Every gig, moment and song we’ve done is just a step for something to come. Every time we feel like we’ve reached something bigger and then we see it’s only a moment of our life as a band.
Poia: A real important improvement for Ufomammut could be the use of inflatable amplifiers for our next live shows.
TBR: I know that a lot of fans are wondering… Are there any plans for a North American tour soon??
Urlo: I hope we’ll come to the States!
Poia: Touring USA will really be one of our achievements.
TBR: Any final thoughts before signing off?
Urlo: Thanks for your patience, it took quite a lot to finish this itw!
Poia: Thank you. Some of your questions opened new doors for my curiosity.
TBR: And also to you! Apart from the amazing music, Ufomammut and Malleus have always amazed me. Ciao!
Poia – guitar, synths, fx
Urlo – bass, synths, fx, vocals
Vita – drumkit
Ciccio - Soundlord (pictured far right in the feature photo)
This one is destined to be a CLASSIC!!
Special thanks to J Delgado for his outstanding photos. www.somnyum.com