The following interview was kindly contributed by Dave Gedge of Bad Acid Magazine and is also featured in his current issue, Tab #4, which out now! Info on how to purchase a copy can be found at the end of this interview, so without further a do, let me hand you over to Dave…
Bad Acid has had the privilege of working with some very talented and distinguished artists in Tab4, none perhaps more so than Urlo, bassist and vocalist in groundbreaking space metal act Ufomammut. He’s also part of the three-headed Malleus Rock Art collective, who have brought to us exquisite and collectable psychedelic gig posters, silk screened albums covers and music videos…. Not to mention the cover art for Tab4!!!. Not one to sit still he’s the brainchild of Supernatural Cat records with an awesome roster of some of the best bands on the planet (more on that in the interview); plus creator of electronic doom soundscapes from the terrifying Farwest Zombee…
With so much to talk about, where can I begin? There was a time when I didn’t realise the interconnected nature of these projects. The first of these that I came across was Ufomammut, super-heavy space metal that instantly blew me off this planet. Those of you that know me realise that I have this continual quest to find the heaviest psychedelic bands out there…. And when I heard Ufomammut I nearly shat my pants. I always considered Electric Wizard’s “Come My Fanatics” to be holders of the title, but Ufomammut’s “Lucifer Songs” matched the Wizards weight and took the psychedelia an enormous distance further. What better place to start, then??!
Firstly I’d like to talk about Ufomammut. That’s a weird name for a band, where did that come from?
UFOMAMMUT is a name Poia created years ago. We’ve chosen it for the band mainly for the sound of the word…then came the meaning.Ufo is for U.F.O. (Unidentified Flying Objects, obviously), while Mammut is the italian word for mammoth…two words representing our music, heavy and “ancient” like mammoths but at the same time unknown and futuristic like UFOs.
Is there a concept behind Ufomammut? I noticed samples behind your music about spaceships?? Or is the name a bit of a give-away??
No, no concept. We’re not a sort of futuristic Church… Ufomammut was born from the cinders of “Judy Corda”, an Italian Underground Acid Prog Psych Heavy Rock Band… The band was originally formed by Poia (Guitars) Urlo ( Bass, Vocals) and Tavor, rehearsing and playing some stuff for fun, like all the bands, I suppose:-) Then Vita came at the drumset.
You started out with a harder sound to what you have now? what made you shift your focus to a more dark electronic/psychedelic trip? Does this reflect what you are listening to, or is this a natural progression of your writing?
I think it’s more a natural metamorphosis. While getting more mature You start seeing things in a new way, leaving “the violent attitudes” to transform and use them in other ways. What we’ve always searched in our music was an “evil atmosphere”, something dark and totally personal. For example, a song like Odio (snailking) is an old one, it’s been written by Poia and me when we were playing in our previous band. It was a “concrete song”, very heavy, with an ossessive drumset, a powerful bass and a deflagrating guitar, all filled with evil. A song like Lucifer Song is heavy in other ways, it grows till getting massive and insane. It’s the same attitude evolved. You know, getting old;-)
Your earlier albums received fantastic reviews – How has Lucifer Songs been received in comparison to your earlier material? Do listeners have problems dealing with the more complex soundscapes, or is this what people have been waiting for?!
Lucifer Songs is a difficult album, it has to be “digested” and understood. It’s a visual and sonic concept together, it cannot be one without the other. Like everything, people preferred LS to the old stuff and vicaversa. But at the end it has got great reviews and it’s been one of the best albums of 2005 on stonerrock.com and other important webzines.
Is it hard to create a fully psychedelic sound with such a huge wall of noise? I mean, with such heavy guitars, driving rhythms and shouted vocals it must be easy to loose stuff in the mix, for subtler sounds to be buried or obliterated?
We’re happy with the recording of our albums. We’ve never entered a studio and we’ve always done all the recording sessions by ourselves, renting all the necessary to built up a little home-made studio. Thanks to Hendrix R. we’ve learned a lot. Now we work with Ciccio, our sound engineer and things are getting better and better. What we try to do is to reproduce the sound we’ve in the live shows. And we’re great great mess maker.
There is a severely dark, almost suffocating vibe created by some menacing use of electronics? Lucifer Songs has been described as the beginning of something new? Would you say this is accurate? Is it something you are trying to achieve?
Well, I don’t know if it’s something new. It’s been the last step of our last work and it’ll be the first of our next one. So, it’s surely something different from what has come before but it’ll be the same for what is coming next. We don’t like to be repetitive, we always try to work on new stuff without closing ourselves in a genre or a style. We’ve only have a factory brand and it’s the name Ufomammut. Maybe tomorrow we’ll play hip hop, or classical music. But it’ll be always done ala Ufomammut.
Much of your music is unnerving and brooding, leading the listener into strange worlds, is it your aim to disorientate? Do you want us to loose ourselves, or to have a bad trip??!
Well, we could say our music is a sort of “bad acid”… ahahaha! When we play we’re totally immerse in our sound, what is outside is so far we don’t think we’ve to work out something on purpose. It comes like it has to be in the moment we’re playing, for us is natural and sweet. We feel like we’re playing a sort of Blues, sometimes a nursery ryhme collection.
You released Lucifer Songs with an accompanying dvd disc of visuals for every track of the album. Very psychedelic, and again pretty menacing and twisted in places. Were all the visuals produced specifically for the album? Does each one visually portray the track it accompanies, or are they just eye candy?
We’ve worked on visuals during our live shows since years, so it was natural to work on visuals for LS. Videos came flowing listening to music. They were basically what we used in the live acts, adapted for a long soundscape 🙂 They reflects the songs, they’re a trip into them and I hope people drowns in them. The album wouldn’t be the same without them.
I want to move onto Farwest Zombee, your solo project. In what way is this different in vision to Ufomammut? I mean Farwest also has dark, soul-bruising electronics and psychedelically torments your mind?
FWZ is a solo project started some times ago which is developing as a band. I’ve worked at some songs that have to be considered my “perfect songs”, things I wanted to experiment, free from other minds, like a challenge between me and myself to understand some sides of me. All the songs have been created like layers of sounds going one on the other to multiply a power, to become heavier and heavier, quite impossible to be managed. I’m very happy with the results. I needed to force myself and do something that could be a starting point to create other stuff. Now I’m working with Poia, Ciccio and the guys of Morkobot on the final recordings creating the massive output of the sound.
Is this purely an instrumental affair? Is this project merely yourself or is there any input from outside? I heard rumours that you are having guest vocals from Rose Kemp?
Basically it’s instrumental, but I could say: for now. I don’t know how it’ll develop. Like everything I do, I don’t like to think about closing it in a “way of doing”, a rule. I’m sure FWZ will transform itself little by little and I’ll be only the “first pioneer” of a Land to discover. I’m in contact with Rose. I really love her voice and music and I hope she’ll become one of the zombees:-)
Farwest is repetitive, trance-like, absorbing, and hypnotic? It sounds almost dreamlike? Where does the inspiration come from for Farwest? Nightmares??
It’s been a trip into myself. I’ve dig into my brain to find the vibrations I’ve accumulated in years of music. I’ve put them into my hands and I’ve played FWZ. It’s more love for the music than nightmares. Songs are absolutely hypnotic and trance-like, a little like me… boring and repetitive;-)
Your track titles Dronevil and Demonica plus the music itself all point towards a sinister objective. Is this a mood you are creating for art’s sake or is it a reflection of the inner workings of your mind?
It’s the reflection of my mind, I think it’s a way of purifying myself. Being in a band means all the members gives something to the music, even if songs comes from You they’ll never be like You thought them. They’re gonna change, obviously, cause they’re filtered and transformed You launch an idea and then it grows in many ways cause each member will put himself in. With FWZ I’ve done things like I wanted them to be. Now I’m checking them with the other guys involved and they’ll be “deconstructed” and filled in the gaps. But the main structure remains.
You have an album due out soon on Supernatural Cat. will this be accompanied also by a dvd of visual cues?? I read on your website that the project is evolving in an audio-visual shape?
I hope. Music is visual. Listening to music is to see the colours developing from our thoughts, it’s like feeling a landscape coming from the inside of ourselves, the images floating around. And thanks to Malleus we’re able to develope music into a touchable thing. Visuals will be fundamental in the live set. We’re thinking about making them more important than the people on stage… You’ll see:-)
Now a little about Supernatural Cat. What is the vision behind the label? I mean, all your artists seem to be psychedelic and dark, but of varying musical genres. Can you really cross over so many sounds under one roof? Like it’s written on the label’s website, Supernatural Cat is looking for music that is not closed in any genre, inspired, filled with the breath of originality, something special, something unique.
We’re searching for very original bands and they don’t have to be a part of a style, of a unique genre. We love lots of different kind of music, what is personal and fresh is welcome. Supernatural cat is a independent and “open source” project at its beginning. Without any rules.
You are a pretty new label, but already with so many strong artists? How did you persuade them to come on board?!! Where the hell do you find them, most of them are pretty genre defying? What are you looking for in a band?
We’ve easily started with Ufomammut. It’s not been difficult to persuade them… About Morkobot we met them cause they asked us to support Ufomammut during a show (and we said “no”…). Then we listened to their music and it was so strange we decide it’d be cool to work together. Meeting them was great, they’re crazy guys and there’s a reciprocal respect that is very difficult to find today. For Lento is the same, we listened to their music and we love their songs, very very hypnotic and dreamlike. We met them and they’re cool and nice guys. It’ll be great to have their album out this year. We consider very very important to create a sort of friendship between Supernatural Cat and the bands. It’s fundamental there’s respect and that both can enjoy the feeling. If there’s not passion between there cannot be love. We don’t like bands believing to be the best in the World, or people don’t trusting us. We’ve got some bad experiences yet with some bands we were thinking to sign but we’ve preferred to say “no thanks”… Last important thing is that we’re working on Italian bands only for now. We’ve listened a lot of crap during these years, but the bands we’ve found out are, in our opinion, the best things around today. We’re trying to raise again Italian music that is dead since a lot of time.
What have you lined up for the next few releases, and when can we expect to see them? Perhaps you can tell us why these bands are so special? why should we be checking them out?!!
Today magazines and webzines are saturated by “new things playing old things”… record of the year has been a thing that was made 15 years ago by Melvins with Lysol and before by Earth… It’s sad. Outside is full of bands sounding the same, the sad thing is that magazines are full of them… We don’t have nothing against them, it’s only that originality is somewhere else… Let’s say it’s full of bands that are a little overestimated… We’re searching for bands that are totally themselves, when You listen at them You can describe them only using their name. Morkobot plays Morkobot, Ufomammut plays Ufomammut, lento plays Lento and so on. January is the month of Morkobot. They’re an incredible trio messing music from Don Caballero to King Crimson, Pink Floyd to John Zorn, they’re an apocalyptic sounscape we were waiting for since a while. Then we’re gonna reprint Snailking by Ufomammut on vinyl, Lento and FWZ. Another reason to look out for Supernatural Cat records, apart for the quality of music, is the super limited edition printings, handmade silk-screened covers, deluxe packages we work on. For example Morkobot are out in 500 ltd edition cd’s and 500 ltd edition 10”, numbered and totally hand-printed by Malleus in 3 different colours. Amazing I’d say, If only I was not one of the 3 Malleus;-)
I think aside from such original music the thing that really stands out about S.C. is your dedication to detail, the exquisite hand printed covers, screen printed vinyl sleeves… why put so much effort into the packaging? With so many cd’s and records to produce how can you justify spending so much time and effort on each disc?
Yes, as I said, the record itself is a piece of art. Today people download music and don’t care about packaging and artworks. We think it has to be a return to the golden age of records. When you spin the circle inside the Led Zeppelin 3 You are so happy You’ve this record even if You’ll never listen to it again or even if You’ve downloaded… it’s a plus we give to the record. One day their value will be higher, like our posters. People having our first limited hand-printed copies will be happy cause they’ll have a piece of art, something unique. We produce 2 or 3 records a year and we put the maximum effort in them cause we love the music and the bands we’re working with. They deserve more than what we can do. This is what we can do for them to thank them for their music.
Will you be keeping this effort up with all future releases? You put out vinyl versions of all your cd’s, special editions with dvd’s. Is each version unique? Do you aim to be collectable?
We’re collectable. Totally. And when people will notice that it’ll be too late:-) We’re totally into this, it’s in our DNA. We work on silk-screened limited edition posters as Malleus cause we think the value is in the little numbers. Every record will be different, we’ll study new ways of putting them out, maybe it’ll be only cd, maybe only LP, maybe both or only dvd and maybe only the cover… don’t know. We’re thinking about putting a compilation of our bands downloadable from our website. And if you want You’ll be able to buy an empty customised cd to put it on, obviously a limited edition…
This leads me on to the Malleus Rock Art Lab. I’ve been itching to bring that in earlier because of its intrinsic connection to both your musical projects and the label. Does your art evolve from your music; does the art you produce reflect your soul in the same way your music does?
Poia and me started working on the gig posters for our first band. It was about 10 years ago. We xeroxed our drawings and we created cool black and white little posters. So everything has started from music. We started as Malleus about 6/7 years ago and we’ve always worked on music. When Lu entered the staff the “beast” was complete. She’s more in the videos, so, again, music. I think Malleus and music are into our souls, deeply. One is strictly connected to the other, one won’t exist without the other.
Malleus is an art collective? do you all work independently from each other on projects or are they all collaborations? How do you choose who does what are you commissioned as a whole or as individuals? Does each member of the collective have a specialisation?
Malleus is a 3 head collective and we work together on everything. We like to think together and develop the artworks together. It’s a 3 headed monster, cut one head and it’ll die…
You produce stunning gig posters, album covers, and incredibly psychedelic video (as exemplified with the Ufomammut dvd) Is there any place you will not tread artistically? Do you do sculpture? Animation? Will you be branching out?
We hope we’ll develop our style in all the existing tread. We like to experiment and to change, never repeat too much and we don’t wanna become a fossil doing always the same thing. We’ve done paintings, silk-screens, video, simple animations, dolls… Sculpture is very interesting, we’ve to think about all!
Your work is very stylised? I understand you are all self-taught? How has this impacted your work, do you find it limiting having never been taught, or has it opened up a Pandora’s box of your own imagination?
I think schools teach you HOW TO DO things. So it’s important. You learn the techniques, the easiest way to to things. But sometimes this is an obstacle, a limit to imagination. Being self-taught becomes, sometimes, the point to departure to learn from the outside, creating a very personal style.
Does Malleus act as a kind of umbrella under which all of your other projects reside? To what degree are they all connected? Are other members of Malleus involved in any Supernatural Cat bands? Do they help run the label?
Malleus is me (Ufomammut and FWZ), Poia (Ufomammut)and Lu. Supernatural Cat is the record label of Malleus. As you can imagine all is connected.
A question I must ask as I wind this interview down? how do you find time to do everything?? Are you some kind of superhero?
Haha! Well, sometimes I think we don’t do enough things. I feel like I’m wasting lots of time. I’d like to be a superhero!
What’s next? What is holding your interest for the next few months? Anything really exciting on the horizon?
Everything we do is totally exciting. I think our work is one of the coolest things on Earth. We do exactly what we love to do. There are lots of posters coming for the next months and lots of projects growing. We’re thinking about the first Malleus book; we’ve been called to participate to “Heavy”, a documentary about heavy psychedelic music in the last ten years in the USA (with bands such as Sleep, Comets on Fire, Kyuss…) cause our art has been considered really important in the reborn of this music (we’ll be there with the great Arik Roper);we’ll be at Roadburn Festival in April with an expo and a poster series for the main bands; hopefully we’ll be around with some expo’s all around Europe in April and maybe we’ll come to UK too. So, a lot of things!
Thanks Urlo for answering so many long questions, you must be exhausted. If you have any energy, do you have any closing words?
I’m very happy Bad Acid is back. I remember some years ago when we bought a copy with the cover art of Arik Roper. It was sooo cool! And when we received your email the mag was back we said it was so great we had to be in! So proud we’ve done the first cover of the new Bad Acid! Good luck Dave!
Interviewed by: Dave Gedge
Bad Acid Tab #4 featuring 100+ pages of interviews, reviews, general lysergy as well as cover DVD with 5+ hours of video interviews, live footage, promo videos and mp3’s from all bands covered within, get your copy now priced just £8.50 (incl p&p) online at www.myspace.com/badacidmagazine!