Based in London, Dan Murroni is frontman for ‘progressive’ rockers Gramma Vedetta with whom he plays guitar and vocals, he also contributes guitar in alt-rock/grunge outfit Aliceissleeping.
When he’s not recording and performing music Dan is also releasing it as head honcho behind his relatively new label Mandrone Records, who have not only put out albums from his aforementioned outfits but also efforts from grunge/stoner rockers Desert Clouds as well as mysterious experimentalists postcards from new zealand.
Dan was gracious enough to take the time away from his hectic schedule to answer a few of my questions about Gramma Vedetta‘s fantastic new album The Hum of the Machine and Mandrone Records amongst other things.
Hi Dan, welcome to The Sleeping Shaman. Thank you for agreeing to take part in this interview and congratulations on the album. You must be very pleased with the result and the acclaim it has been receiving?
Hey Reza, first of all, thanks for having us here and for the words of appreciation in your review of The Hum Of The Machine. Yes, you’re right, we are very proud of what we have achieved, from the songwriting to the production and recording (which have been done by ourselves). It was an intense journey, and we grew up a lot doing it. The reception of the album from the critics was great and this gave us a boost of energy and confidence.
The album definitely felt like a step-up from the two preceding releases – A.C.I.D. Compliant and Proof Of Concept. Was this a conscious decision or just part of a more natural evolution?
I think this is a part of natural evolution. Marco and I have a common heavy rock/metal background, but we also listen to different genres. During the years, the more we worked together, the more each of us started bringing different ingredients to the recipe. I’m very curious about how we evolve with the next one, especially now that we’ve found an excellent musician at the drums, who’s bringing his own influences.
The reception of the album from the critics was great and this gave us a boost of energy and confidence…
As stated in my review, I was blown away by the exquisite cover art. Can you give us an idea as to the thinking behind it and how you feel it ties into the themes of the album?
The concept behind the album art and title is something that has been travelling in my head for a few years.
Since the industrial revolution, we’ve been using machines to do hard work for us, and that’s fine, the machine can do something that we physically can’t do at the same speed and stamina.
What’s scary to me is that in the past 20 years, we’ve started using machines more and more for replacing human interactions. The majority of people are embracing virtual interactions and virtual images of themselves (thanks filters), more than the real ones. So, influenced by the dystopian sci-fi of the ‘80s, I imagine the future where humans will be crammed into big cities surrounded by wasteland and, to reduce overpopulation, new technology has been developed that gives human beings the choice to cease to exist in the physical world and to become a pure data, some sort of digital entity.
Two main benefits: saving space for others and gaining eternal life.
The Big Towers are the building where The Machine operates. Enter humans, exit Data. Isn’t this what we’re becoming, data sources?
The songs on the album describe the experiences and feelings of an individual during their journey of giving up their individuality to become part of the Machine.
It would be remiss of me not to ask, what is the meaning behind the band’s name and where did the inspiration for it come?
Well, this answer will have a completely different vibe from the previous one. So, the name is a joke to describe all those older women who, especially in small towns, stare out of the window all day and watch and spy on the lives of others for their own entertainment. Gramma Vedetta is a composite name of an English slang word (Gramma for Grandmother) and the Italian word Vedetta, which means look-out.
Or maybe there’s more, those Gramma Vedetta are guardians from an alien race sent to earth to check that we humans don’t mess up the world and our society before the Motherships arrive.
From grunge, stoner/doom, prog, art-rock to even a smidgeon of punk, the band have always maintained a heavy experimental streak. Is this a result of musical restlessness and a way of keeping yourselves interested?
Good question. I believe this is due in part because of the variety of music we listen to, and we played during the years. I played progressive rock, thrash metal, musicals, acoustic, stoner, and grunge. Marco played electronic music, grunge, death metal, Italian pop, and funk. So, it’s everything in the luggage and it just comes out when we start getting bored of writing riffs in Drop-C.
Sometimes the instruments we use to write influence the approach. Marco plays guitar, synth, and drums, I play a little bit of synth and drums too, so sometimes the ideas are inspired by that instrument.
He’s the piece of the puzzle that was missing in the band…
Paul Annis joined the band recently on drums, what new element do you feel he brings to proceedings?
Paul is The Man! He’s not just an excellent drummer with his beefy and entertaining drumming style, (think Bonham with a funky aftertaste and melodic drumming approach). He’s the piece of the puzzle that was missing in the band. He learned all the songs off the album, made them his own, and gave them that third dimension that makes them blast the audience with our live sets.
On stage, he’s the perfect support for me and Marco with his energy and his always smiling face. On the technical side, he’s a big geek in terms of recording and streaming and enabled the band to reach a live stream quality not common among bands of our level.
On tour, he’s the funniest guy I have ever travelled with and he’s willing to share all the burden of organising stuff. Yeah, I think it’s now clear that we love him.
I’m intrigued by the 8 bit arcade tracks that feature on both the aforementioned A.C.I.D. Compliant EP as well as The Hum Of The Machine full-length (the 8 bit version of the latter that came out in January 2022). As a child of the ‘80s I definitely detected a notable influence from computer games of that era. Were/are you guys avid gamers and is this a tip of the hat to a now bygone era (in terms of classic arcade games)?
The idea was born from Marco, he was fiddling around with a virtual synth and started re-recording a song off A.C.I.D Compliant. Then he sent them to me, and I fell in love with his work. So I encouraged him to unleash the beast and do the whole album.
I was born and raised with those sounds. It reminded me of when I was a kid and I spent weekends at my cousins playing games on their C64. It was ‘magic at low resolution’. Then in the ‘90s, I got my first console, the Mega Drive so I got a big moment of nostalgia and, recreating the package of a Sega Megadrive Cartridge, we decided to release everything in a retro-game type cassette. We also released a retro browser game with that album lol! You can check it out at https://scrush.grammavedetta.com.
When we started recording The Hum Of The Machine, it was natural for Marco to write the 8-bit version. He did it in one week. He’s a genius. We might release it on Floppy Disk, who knows.
The idea was born from Marco, he was fiddling around with a virtual synth and started re-recording a song off A.C.I.D Compliant…
Mandrone Records put out the mysterious postcards from new zealand’s 2021 album we watched them devour, vol 3: city islands which made my Shaman top 10 of 2021. Are they really as elusive as they appear and are there plans afoot to collaborate with them again in the future?
First of all thanks for the kind words you use to review the band and also to write their name all lowercase, they are very fussy about that – lol. The point of contact we have is with one of the members, we don’t know which instrument he plays, and we had a phone call so no idea of his face. We know they have a series of albums ready to be released, lots of heavy and experimental stuff. Unfortunately, as a small label we can’t afford to release more of them for now, but we know they are self-releasing 3 albums this year, one is a string-quartet album too, so keep an eye on their Bandcamp and Instagram profile because, from what we’ve heard, you’re definitely going to like the new material.
Speaking of Mandrone, a recent signing was Desert Clouds, what can you tell us about them?
We met Desert Clouds at a gig when they played with Gramma Vedetta in 2019. Watching their set, we were impressed by their songwriting, incredible voices and guitar playing. After the set, we managed to grab a beer together and we found in them the funniest, humble and creative band we’ve met in London so far.
After a few months, they sent us the recording they were doing at the Lighthouse95 Studio in London (which is on a boat) and we said ‘fuck this is immense’.
Mandrone Records were just going to be opened and we asked them if they wanted to release their album with us and they were enthusiastic. During the pandemic, our friendship developed. We helped them record the vocals at GV studio and they helped us on the Gramma Vedetta album with acoustic guitar arrangement and vocals.
They are true friends and talented songwriters, very happy with the result of the release.
A less serious question, I was planning to attend Desertfest this year but didn’t get the opportunity due to a lack of funds. Seeing as you are based in London, did you (or any of the band) get round to going and if so, which artists did you see?
Unfortunately, I couldn’t go this year as I was on tour with Gramma Vedetta. I had the ticket already because they were bought for 2020 but I couldn’t get a refund, so I lost good gigs and money. I would really love to play there with Gramma Vedetta though… so, if the Desertfest masterminds read this, please drop us an email.
we’re now writing new stuff with Paul and in the meantime booking as many shows as we can…
Now that Covid is (somewhat) receding and the new album has dropped, what does the future hold for both Gramma Vedetta and by extension Mandrone Records?
With Gramma Vedetta we’re now writing new stuff with Paul and in the meantime booking as many shows as we can.
With Mandrone Records, at the moment, the 2022 budget has been used so unless we sell out all Gramma Vedetta and Desert Clouds copies and we have money to invest, I don’t see any new release for this year, (…please everyone go and buy them hahaha).
We’re using this time to improve the post-release activity of the label, like organising tours for the bands (Mandrone Booking maybe), improving the bands’ festival placement, and the general marketing of the label.
We’re young so we have a lot to learn and a lot to do to become bigger.
Thank you once again Dan for agreeing to take the time to answer my questions, is there anything you wish to plug, any musical recommendations, shoutouts etc? The floor is yours…
Thanks, Reza and The Sleeping Shaman for giving us space in this interview. I really appreciated the questions and the possibility to talk about Mandrone Records too.
I would renew the invitation to browse Gramma Vedetta and Mandrone Records catalogue and buy something, this will help us grow as a label.
As mentioned, Gramma Vedetta is looking for shows, support slots, and festival slots so if someone reading this can help, please let us know.
In musical terms, I want to plug the new project of Teo Ravelli, who is the drummer of King Bong and was also responsible for playing the drums and mixing The Hum Of The Machine. This project is called Borda and he’s releasing new stuff in November. Have a look at his Bandcamp.
Interviewed by: Reza Mills