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Dark Quarterer's Francesco Sozzi: "The paradox is that these events, although catastrophic, are of tremendous beauty and uniqueness. They remind us that we are guests on this earth"

Interview with Paolo Ninci, Gianni Nepi, Francesco Longhi & Francesco Sozzi from Dark Quarterer
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 22 October 2020, 1:33 AM

Time is a measure, time is a number, time is forever, but is it really? A thought that could take one's mind into the very reaches of sanity. Other questions like how much time mankind has on this Earth before the next disaster could also arise. History taught that things could happen that might endanger the very existence of what has been known and admired, freedom. Crossing paths with one of the world's reckoned disasters, the destruction of the city of Pompeii due to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the Italian progressive veterans, Dark Quarterer return to tell the tale from various of angles. Steinmetal had the pleasure to talk to the band members about the idea of the story, the message, the intricate musical efforts and more…  

Hello gentlemen, it is a massive honour to have you for this interview, how have you been holding up in these crazy times with the pandemic looming?

Gianni: For 3 months we practically stayed at home, we had so much time to dedicate to our families, recover rhythms more "slow" to which we were no longer accustomed for decades now… but we still produced the recording of Red Hot Gloves… This is a rather unusual situation, but we thought it was a good one, so we published it. Fortunately, almost all recordings of "Pompeii" were made. There were only small details, mixing and mastering…we made it in time to release in November.

With a twist of peril in the air, Dark Quarterer returns with a story unveiling points of view in regards to one of the greatest disasters known to mankind, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that led to the deaths of tens of thousands. Though it is hard to make an analogy to the current pandemic at hand, that sense of peril, especially since it is still not that known how to defeat the virus, can you find any similarities between that past disaster and what has been going on nowadays?

Paolo: The disaster that caused the eruption of Vesuvius is incomparable with the current pandemic. The first is the result of the force of nature that everywhere punishes the man who however often for many reasons ignores it and the challenge constantly and inexorably loses the comparison!!!! The current pandemic is a new form of war long announced that will leave a very important trace on the lifestyle of all the inhabitants of this sick earth!!!

Whether prior to its completion, or afterwards, “Pompei”, Dark Quarterer’s 8th album, led you to sign with Cruz Del Sur Music, certainly a fitting home to host the album under its wing. How do you feel about the signing? What do you expect in regards to promotion and how do you foresee it happening for the band and the album?

Francesco: Yes, we relied on the production of Cruz del Sur Music, with which we had already started a fruitful relationship of friendship and collaboration started with the printing of the albums "Symbols" and "Itaca" in vinyl version. We take this opportunity to thank the label owner Enrico Leccese, who has always shown great confidence in our work! Thanks also for the great promotion work you’re doing. In these days we have already noticed a great increase of contacts from fans all over the world. We hope that this will lead us to propose our live music even in countries where we have never played!

The story of the destruction of Pompei received quite an attention in the past, even with a latest featured film that was quite nice. Going backwards to the planning table of a new album, what was the source of the decision to compose an album that will cover this segment of Italy’s history?

Gianni: The idea of Pompeii was proposed by Gino Sozzi and was immediately and enthusiastically accepted by everyone. The disastrous event of 2 millennia ago, is part of the history of our country and in the collective imagination each of us, at least once, has relived those emotions, those fears. Looking for a subject like that also placed us in front of a message that emerged from it. Or more than one. On a wall of Pompeii a short poem was found that closed like this: "nothing can last forever". A warning? A forecast of the future? A truth to think about anyway.

Which elements within Alberto Angela’s stage of events in regards to the Pomepi’s destruction, did you find inspiring?

Gianni: I read Angela’s book in a week. I took notes and highlighted those stories (true) and those characters (re-enacted) that could act the attention and turn on the imagination of those who listen to our music. Rectina (Roman noblewoman) and Plinius the Elder are two characters who often appear in Angela’s book. The 3 days described make us see, understand, love these characters, and the sadness for the death of Plinius in the extreme attempt to save his friend really leaves us heartbroken. Gladiators are also described as all social classes and trades: from the baker, to the ooste, to the prostitute, to the rich loan shark, to the rich homeowner. The lovers, the father fisherman with his only child orphaned mother. In short, dozens of real stories reconstructed on the basis of archaeological findings, but the tracks are 6 and we had to make a choice. The chosen ones are the ones we love the most…

Throughout the course of the album’s six epic tracks, there are various viewpoints of the mayhem disaster, even from the point of view of the mountain, which made me raise an eyebrow. Talking about the mountain, how were you able to express it as a feeling, and I might add, breathing entity that is being released from a form of chains?

Francesco S.: The real protagonist in this event is the volcano, of course the memory goes to the fallen lives and the cities reduced to ruin, but you know, when mother nature decides that it’s time to make itself felt no one can oppose. The idea was to express this concept and therefore we have transformed a mountain into an entity that wants to free itself and therefore need to explode. The paradox is that these events, although catastrophic, are of tremendous beauty and uniqueness. They remind us that we are guests on this earth.

Other than Angela’s story as an inspiration, how do you generally view this tragic event in Italy’s history? Would you say that the ego of some of the people of the city led to the mass deaths?

Gianni: The indecision, the inability to react immediately by superficially dealing with the consequences of the explosion of Vesuvius, were the reasons that caused the death of over 20,000 people. They waited for the leaders of the city to make a decision. Unfortunately, late. More than "Ego" I would speak of incapacity. Now we can consider that, after all, an event like this had taken them by surprise and in part justifies today the initial hesitation which was then fatal for the population.

Musically, this epos of “Pompei” is a near perfect unficiation of 70s and 80s vibes of Progressive Rock and Doom Metal. It is hard to escape echoes of Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Dio and Black Sabbath. What is your take on that notion? Would you argue that it reached its peak effort on this album?

Francesco S.:  In this album there are rock, heavy, progressive, doom but also classical and blues music, there is everything that has formed us over the years, we always try to blend our musical tastes as much as possible, being in the underground we can afford to experiment and not have already defined patterns. The bands you mentioned are among our myths, so we are very happy to be approached to them, but we did not write the songs thinking directly to these bands, "Pompeii" is just the mirror of our musical culture.

In your opinion, what is the nature of the musical progress of the band with the inception of “Pompei”? Is there a way to go forward from this, in particular when it comes to the creation of an Opera, which this album is certainly not far from?

Paolo: Since war tears we have created concept albums, the themes of these projects were to describe and highlight the Evils of the world (War, progress, pollution, drugs etc…). In "Violence" the theme was violence in all aspects (Psychological, physical, political, etc…). Then "Symbols" with the great characters of the story, Ithaca, the purpose of life and finally "Pompeii". The continuous searching for the creation of a subject in an Opera has helped and inspired us always and with good results, at least we hope!!!

While planning the orchestrations for this release, which raised the album’s dramatic effect, would you say that it turned out how it imagined it to be?

Gianni: Yes. We had the idea of the choirs that was made with a choir of 16 elements and entirely live in a beautiful cloister of the church of Sant 'Antimo in Piombino. The keyboard parts wanted to accompany the choir with musical counterpoints to accentuate even more the epic parts (and they are so many in this album) of each song. The other musical parts (including the voice) have also tried to make the situation as dramatic as possible. We believe that the result fully meets our expectations.

With such a complex material, I bet that the songwriting process wasn’t that easy, in light of course to recordings and ideas tossed away in favour of others. What would you say were the band’s main challenges while working on the album, whether songwriting or recording processes?

Francesco: The pieces always come from an idea that in many cases is then developed by all of us in the rehearsal room. The long time it takes to release a new album is also due to this long work of composition that ends only after reaching what we hope is a good result.

I found “Panic” to carry with itself quite a bag of tricks, and several musical directions that led to a peak point with a nostalgic lead guitar riff that came at the right timing. What can you tell about the creation of its tune?

Francesco: "Panic" was born from an idea of Gianni who brought the refrain of the song. Around that we then worked to create the whole piece. Paolo inserted an African rhythmic (Tunisia) with shifted snare accents. The song was great for stirring up atmospheric changes and epic openings after the description of the event and the feelings of those who suffered the disastrous consequences.

“Gladiator” turned out to be a type of song that Dream Theater would have dreamed to have as part of their arsenal of songs. Decisively made, the emotive aspects of this track, alongside the mixture of old and new, are uncanny. What is your appreciation of this track?

Paolo: "Gladiator" is actually a very progressive song. The history of the Gladiators, under the rule of the Roman Empire, which made them slaves, exploited them both in battle and during duels in the arenas, inspired us a lot. In the end of the song the polyrhythmic that crosses even times and composed times, emphasizes a lot the mood of the crowd in the arena, the volcano that is about to explode and the deadly duel of our Gladiator!!! We are pleased and flattered by the comparison with Dream Theater!!!

Dark Quarterer is close to completing its fourth decade under this moniker. Looking back at all the years that you pretty much fought to get recognized, how is it looking for the band nowadays? Do you feel that acknowledgement as one of the veteran acts in your scene?

Gianni: We appreciate very much the beautiful appreciation we receive abroad and the opportunities to play almost always as Headliners in international festivals. The affection that the public shows us on every occasion is very gratifying to us. What, unfortunately, we lack is a good visibility and supporters in Italy. Of course, there are important festivals to which we are also invited as Headliners but the audience is often little participatory, difficult to involve and this is really a sin especially in our genre where the energy proposed on stage requires as much energy from the public, otherwise the magic slowly dies out like a candle that is going to be consumed, a flame that cannot give warmth.

The inability to perform live for nearly any band nowadays is no less than excruciating, however there are options that are possible to exploit such as live streaming for example. Has this direction of action been under consideration by the band?

Francesco S.: This period of pandemic has led us to postpone dates in some festivals in Europe. We love live performances a lot, we miss the stage to date and sincerely we are not admirers of these new technologies; think that even the records we do today without clicking! anyway just because we are in the new millennium, we are getting ready and who knows we will not do some live streaming.

My dear folks, it was an utmost pleasure, you prepare a gift for any Progressive Rock or Metal fan, along those who can appreciate a solid Doom Metal. Cheers .

Gianni: We really hope that our gift will be appreciated. Every time for us is a bet with ourselves and with the fate of our band without compromise to our ideas. We try to be truly ourselves and we hope that this genuineness and coherence will be appreciated! A big virtual hug to all of you.


 



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Edited 01 December 2020
 

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