Interview by Miriam C. & Roberta Ilaria Rossi
Today, we have the pleasure and the honor to give space to one of the true legend of electronic/darkwave genre. Italy’s Kirlian Camera has almost in action from 30 years with a lot live activity and a lot of releases, so we took occasion to interview Angelo Bergamini, the mainman behind this project and the singer Elena Alice Fossi for know more about their tenth release “Nightglory”. Also we took advantage of this asking some infos about SPECTRA*Paris and more Elena Alice‘s side projects….
Hi guys, welcome to Femme Metal.net. Your latest album, “Nightglory”, was released not so long ago. How have reviews and feedback been for this album? Are you satisfied ?
Angelo: Perhaps it’s a little too early to realize what’s going on with “Nightglory”, but I can say we noticed huge interest about it. Some people were surprised because of our “change of route”, but Kirlian Camera are not that alien to doing what they feel, whether it’s approved or not by whoever and couldn’t care less of opinions around. Anyway, I think this album will be taken as a very important chapter in the Kirlian Camera history, if one is going to listen to it without any prejudices, then he can easily feel that “Nightglory” is just the highest point of our discography, the one containing our exact identity. If one doesn’t like it, it means he doesn’t like this band, it’s so simple. This album is so filled with passion and purity that we are really proud of its presence within our life. We worked on it with unusual passion, till reaching extreme limits as far as identification is concerned. Yes, we’re satisfied, totally. And proud of this “creature”…
Could you please tell us a little bit about the band’s history, to get some informations for our readers?
Angelo: We were born more than 30 years ago, springtime, with incredible enthusiasm and need to survive many years to come. Doing a summary of such a long time is rather difficult and it’s even more tricky due to the fact Kirlian Camera is quite an anomalous band, which has been moving freely from an atmosphere to another, throughout time. We have been a deep-underground entity, we got platinum records in the pop area, we changed a million members before getting a stable line-up with the arrival of singer/composer Elena Alice Fossi. Kind of a rollercoaster; we met a lot of people, 98% negative idiots who only tried to exploit the band. Poor grotesque characters with no real identity, you know… this band’s history isn’t that funny and it’s filled with several bad events created by absurd people. But I must admit that my collaboration with Elena is the most beautiful event in my life. My hard work finally paid off as for personal satisfaction, thanks to her presence and great inspiration coming from her musical ideas.
Before the main release (I mean “Nightglory”) you published the MCD “Ghlóir Ar An Oóche”, a really, interesting appetizer that contains a rework of “After Winter” and “Nightglory” both in normal and camera version. First of all what does “Ghlóir Ar An Oóche” mean and why did you choose to have the title in Gaelic?
Elena Alice : It means “Night glory”, exactly. We did choose to use a different language for the single, in order not to mix it up with the album. We opted for Irish/Gaelic because it sounds so deep and evocative. Also, Angelo’s mother family has some Irish origin: South East Ireland/Waterford area, if I’m correct… I suggested to use such language, as in the last period he’s sometimes digging into his far past, so I perceived something natural coming out from those words…
Having given “Nightglory” a listen , I would say the band’s sound still remains within darkwave/synthpop genre. Can you please give us more insights about the creation of “Nightglory”?
Angelo: However, pop music is the point from where we started many years ago… even if we had/have in mind a very personal concept of “pop music”. So, I’d like to say I don’t agree so much with promo-introduction to “Nightglory”. I don’t think it’s our most accessible work ever, or better, I guess it is, but it’s misleading to introduce this album in such a way, due to the fact it offers something totally particular: it seems to be able to talk deep to heart, while it succeeds in not sounding oppressive to ears. Doing an oppressive sound to describe a drama is easy… it’s (by far!) less easy to compose music about a personal drama by respecting… “Music”. Kind of respect to listeners, to yourself as a listener and an attempt to create something beautiful despite the sorrow you feel within. In my opinion, Gandhi was a warrior, not a pacifist as many people think: only, he had a different idea of how a war had to be done. Just an example which is probably going to touch a “too important theme”, but… as far as our small garden goes… “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear”…
The “Nightglory” cover artwork is simply and effective – the huge black panther. What do you want to express with it?
Angelo: The Black Tiger is the symbol of the night itself, for us. That night we come from… Then, we are used to calling Elena Alice “Black Tiger” or simply “Tiger”, exactly, maybe this is a little homage to her, hidden in that title… Worthy purity and loneliness…
The song “Winged Child” complete title should be “Winged Child Sitting on a Bench Watching Obscure Clouds Getting Closer While People Seek for Shelter” guys you always surprise me, can I ask where you got a a title like that?
Elena Alice: It’s a vision that comes from the inside. One day, when we were taking photos in a local garden, we noticed a beautiful old bench and… the rest is dreamlike. Such a title sounds pictorial, probably. But, how could we turn such a vision into a title without explaining the vision itself…? Well, in the beginning the idea made us laugh, but now, who knows?… Maybe it’s just the beginning of a weird new trend, for us… we’ll see!
Elena, recently with SPECTRA*Paris you’ve released your second album “Licence to Kill”. Can you talk a little about this other project and in specific about your latest album?
Elena Alice: SPECTRA*paris is a strange beast… one day it sounds glam, the day after goes to meet Ralf & Florian, then it finds the way to Twin Peaks and becomes an empty cinema filled with scary ghosts. S*P is a combination of noir desire, erotica, spirituality, science-fiction, distorted fashion… comics meet suicide tendencies! The last album “Christmas Ghouls” (10-track mini-album) drifted away from “License to Kill” for a while, offering acoustic and acoustic-like ballads, tormented Christmas echoes and dreamy – but worried – pages. I’m working on the third album of this saga and I can say that, at the moment, it sounds electronic, more than former ones. My acoustic/ballad side is finding a place in the cosy arms of my new project Alice Neve Fox, a quartet in which I’m mainly accompanied by musicians on grand piano, acoustic guitar and double bass, even if some theremin and vintage moog is peeping out here and there, occasionally… as well as some guests I attach great importance to. S*P will be roaring again soon with some new sounds and line-up, anyway. Kirlian Camera/Alice Neve Fox’s guitarist and drummer Kyoo Nam is now part of the gang…
Talking about Spectra Paris, during Christmas 2010 you’ve released an interesting experiment called “Christmas Ghouls”, I’m curious as to why as it’s very far away from your musical visions?
Elena Alice: Making a Christmas album was an old dream, as well as making “my” own Xmas album, as it had to be as personal as possible. Moreover, “Silent Night” had to show a different side, as my Christmas is filled with imaginary toys, dreams, angels… but even with a deep sense of apocalypse. So, my German version to “Silent Night” sounds darker and more dramatic than expected, although I didn’t wanna destroy original global atmosphere to the hilt! This album made me realize I need to bring my ‘acoustic side’ back to light, as I love electronics very much, but I even love so much that magic that acoustic instruments can create, although I sometimes like to add some electronic vintage inputs coming from Theremin and MiniMoog. Practically, “Christmas Ghouls” set the tone to my new project Alice Neve Fox!
Angelo, in the beginning, the sound of the band was more synthpop oriented, you also happened to be in Italian synthpop/disco band Hipnosis in 1982 and 1984 – would you like to tell us something about this experience?
Angelo: I joined the band while they were working on the debut single “Pulstar”. After a couple months such single came out and it suddenly went platinum! I honestly must admit that Hipnosis was a funny machine to make some money, although I earned nothing at all! I cancelled the world tour a few days before it started! I left the band after some further experiments, videos and TV appearances. The label offered me some big money to remain on condition that my name didn’t appear on any Kirlian Camera work for five years, so I rejected the offer and went away.
Is there any artist or band that, since the beginning, have influenced your work or has it always been your own work?
Elena Alice: Strangely enough, I guess I don’t feel any big influence. I love music since when my memories start out, but music is something in the air, for me, so I can catch an idea without knowing who’s hiding behind that tune I’m occasionally listening to or whatever. But I can say I like listening to Angelo Badalamenti, David Lynch, Zbigniew Preisner, Ennio Morricone, Susanna Rigacci, Jessye Norman, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Arvo Pärt, Hildegard Von Bingen, Jocelyn Pook, Pink Floyd, Laurie Anderson, Danny Elfman, Janis Joplin, Muse, Portishead, some old rock’n’roll grooves and Kraftwerk, of course!
Angelo: In the beginning I used to listening to several bands, but, after a while, I realized that almost none of them was really so essential for me. Anyway, I have been listening to many artists, throughout time, so I had a chance to appreciate Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Nico, White Noise, Delia Derbyshire, Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Alvin Curran, Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder, Ash Ra Tempel, Neu!, Amon Düül II, Popol Vuh, Peter Gabriel, Le Orme, Klaus Nomi, Joy Division, Metro, The Sound, Ultravox, Gustav Mahler, Max Bruch, Anton Bruckner, Franz Schubert, Francesco Paolo Tosti, Salvatore Licitra, György Ligeti, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Scott Walker, Mauro Pelosi, Matt Munro, Neil Young, Johnny Cash, etc…
The band name is a clear reference to the Kirlian effect, that is mostly used in bio-physic photography. Who is the one that chose the name?
Angelo: I decided to use such a name in spring 1980, as former name Suicide Commando sounded a bit too aggressive for a project mixing together pop, krautrock and post-punk, at the time!
The band has was founded by you, Angelo in 1980. You’ve been on the scene for over 30 years now. What has changed since the early days to now?
Angelo: I have noiticed that today’s music market doesn’t offer any creative chances to a creative musician, rare exceptions aside. I wasn’t that used to this “flattening”. Stupid producers and idiot labels exist since time immemorial and I worked with a lot of them, but… time ago there was more confidence in some free creativity. Today’s bands are boring me stiff and nothing happens since years and years!!! New “rebels” are but spineless posers with no dignity at all and the worst thing is that their music seems to be made for old dumb zombies. Freshness and innovation are two perfect strangers, in music field, currently. The problem is that the audience is accepting all that without any reaction.I feel like I’m becoming a real alien, here!!! Hopefully, nobody will notice my brand new antennas, BRRRR!!!!
You are an electro/darkwave Italian band, maybe you were one of the first band to create this kind of music and, more over, you’ve also been the first band ever in signing a record deal with Virgin Records. How did this happen? Would you like to tell us more about it?
Angelo: Well, signing to Virgin was so uneasy at the time – and for an Italian band was simply impossible – that when a friend called me saying they wanted us on their roster I did reply by gyawining! I don’t know the reason why Virgin wanted us, but I remember that, during a TV-festival, I had been passing near the backstage of the GTR project (Steve Howe from Yes and Steve Hackett from Genesis) and I notice they were playing one of our songs, then the manager of Pet Shop Boys told me that they went crazy for “Blue Room” and Afrika Bambataa was used to performing the same song during his sets… meanwhile Air France had been broadcasting KC on its flights and I had some meetings and free time with Human League, Simply Red, Nico (Velvet Underground), Conny Plank (producer of Kraftwerk, Ultravox, Eurythmics), etc., so… I realized we were a pop band! But it was strange…maybe I didn’t feel that at ease in that golden hotchpotch, at the time, as I was much more interested in the underground area and avantgarde/contemporary music…
Let’s be straight and clear, I hope you appreciate my frankness, why the hell in Italy an band like you with such a musical history don’t give a damn about you, I mean for me and the entire scene you’re the precursor of this genre. What must change in Italy? It’s because of the wrong mentality, maybe?And why Germany and Belgium seems love your music?
Elena Alice: OK, our relation with Italy is complicated: we like the landscape, we love the food, the traditional culture and even the people, but, as far as real innovations are concerned, Italy decided to give up, some decades ago. In Germany and Belgium exists a kind of “middle area” where some bands have a chance to express themselves. An area placed between underground and mainstream. It doesn’t happens in Italy, unfortunately. I am absolutely sure that many people could love the music of KC and many other bands, but… it’s like there was a impassable frontier whose checkpoint police is totally alerted 32 hours a day! No one can get in from that border!!! Italian music business has a clear concept in mind: you must sound “super easy”and so, even “important music composers” (some embarrassing but popular rock singers) are doing nothing but music for boring bourgeoisie, pope-boys, fast-food monkeys and tanned people drowsing on a cheerless yellow beach filled with flies. We have some fans, some good ones, in Italy, and we actually are grateful for all the praiseworthy efforts they do to make our sound become more popular, but they aren’t so many, not enough to keep us alive, unfortunately. I must realize that this nation’s biggest part of music listeners has no respect but for absurd clowns posing as great artists. The sad point is that there are so many good bands… and some of them are even “listenable”: I’m sure they’d perfectly fit to buyers’ taste! But Massive Attack is the only good alternative that Italian music industry police allows normal people to listen to, more or less, as no further name is jumping in my mind, at the very moment… anyway, I decided to try again, in my Country, as I don’t wanna give up, so I guess I’m gonna sing Italian a little more often, in the future… my bridge on this wonderful Country is not collapsed…
What’s in the pipeline for KC, what are your future projects?
Elena Alice: As for Kirlian Camera, we’re working on the single “Immortal”, a song taken from the new album which has been slightly revisited for this occasion. The single will contain some previously unreleased material, as well. We’re just planning our first official live album, to be released on audio CD, DVD, BlueRay and digitally, of course. We’re told it’ll be recorded at the Teatro Regio di Parma (Royal Theatre of Parma) or in a old church… we’ll see…
Anything you would like to share with your fans and Femme Metal readers?
Elena Alice & Angelo: Don’t judge a book by its cover.