Part I: Origins
Heathen Harvest: I would like to begin our interview with a discussion about the origins of Ataraxia and explore the bands beginnings some twenty years ago. Can you begin by discussing how the band was originally conceived and who was involved in these first formative stages of the band?
Our first bass player, Michele Urbano, and Francesca founded the band in the second half of the eighties. They wrote nearly ten songs and gave a couple of concerts. Together with them were involved Alessandra Nicoli (guitar) and Donato (acoustic guitar). Soon the line-up changed. Vittorio, guitarist, joined the band bringing an inexhaustible source of music and inspiration. Together with him the band was joined by a keyboards player and a drummer, Fabio, that were previous members of Vittorio’s band. Francesca Zitoli, Ombretta Gazzotti and Lorenzo Busi took care of the visual and thatrical sides of our music project since 1988-89. I joined the band in late 1989 as I had met the band’s performer in London where I was working. Lorenzo gave me a demotape of Ataraxia and I immediately fell in love with their art and followed them. I became part of the band just before the recording of our first tape, "Prophetia", in 1990. A new drummer, Marco, joined the band in the same period. From the end of 1991 till 1999 the band members were only Francesca, Vittorio and me helped by Livio Bedeschi who is now the band’s performer (he works with several drama companies). Francesco Banchini worked with the band for a short period from 1999 up to 2002. In 2003 Riccardo Spaggiari became an active member of Ataraxia.
HH: Did Ataraxia have a defined leader in the beginning or did you work collectively?
We worked collectively even if Francesca always interwove all the threads. We had a lot of different aspects to take care of, such as lyrics, visuals, concepts, scenographies, costumes and setting of the live acts. Everybody was keen on something specific and took care of it.
HH: When do you feel the bands identity began to solidify?
It may seem strange but we started acquiring a solid identity since the very first rehearsals. Of course, when Vittorio joined the band, one year after, all took a more interesting and elaborated form. His poetic vein was like blood flowing in the veins of our project. A second period of growing was from 1995 on when we finally had the chance to start releasing our albums and work more intensely on our ideas due to the new place we found for rehearsing, an ancient ex-convent in the country. A third period of growing is now. Several new ideas and projects we want to give form to are spreading copiously. Now we have the technical ability to shape and record every idea weneed to express as we have acquired a fluent musical language.
HH: Was Ataraxia inspired by any specific musicians, musical styles or cultural music the band first formed?
We were inspired by a patch-work of different styles and cultural influences. We heard a call and we instinctively answered. Early music, music from the Renaissance, baroque music, celtic and eastern influences, classical scores, flamenco, all what was defined the dark-wave movement of the 80ies, contemporary music like Vangelis, eclectic artists like Diamanda Galas, Klaus Nomi, Nina Hagen, Lene Lovich, Tangerine Dream. But we were mainly inspired by nature ad our voyages.
HH: Can you discuss any influences such as art, prose, philosophy, mythologies, or spiritual influences that you feel influenced the band during its formative years?
We were a lot of persons all engaged in different forms of artistic expression (such as theatre, avant-garde performances, visual art, poetry). All was a bit chaotic but there was a great cultural exchange. At the very beginning, we were inspired and utilised lyrics and words of Kafka, Rilke, Shelley, Plath, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Verlaine, Sappho, several Greeck lyric poets. We were inspired by surrealism and DaDa, Greeck mithology and the medieval chancon (in langue d’oc and d’oil). We felt a great interest for Venice of the XVII and XVIIIth centuries, all what concerned the art of handcrafting masks and the art of desguisement. In that period we were surrounded by several artists who collaborated to our releases and concerts such as poets like Mara Paltrinieri or avant-garde painters like Andrea Chiesi. At the end, we can easily say that our main influence became the moments of solitude and contemplation in ancient Portuguese or Bizantine monasteries, in Italian abandoned castles, along the solitary Mediterranean coasts where we found our ancestral past. During those years our music started becoming more instrospective, intimate, sweet and nostalgic and people started telling us that we were able to open gates for different dimensions, to make they travel in places that probably belonged the their roots.
HH: The bands name is taken from a term originating in the Greek language. Can you explain what inspired the band to adopt the name Ataraxia and explain what personal meaning it holds for the band?
Ataraxia is a philosophic word defyining an imperturbable state, a sort of detachment from emotions considered as cages preventing us to improve and grow. We feel emotions, we share them and we feel compassion but we have to learn to be strong enough not to be devoured and dominated by passions in order to free our spirit. I felt the urge to choose this name in a period in which we were overwhelmed by negative and painful emotions, we felt rage, fear and pain. I think it was a sort of prophetic choice as the meaning of this word is guiding our life. The key to become better (both as human beings and artists) is to find the courage and strenght enough to defy overwhelming emotions in order to follow our way in a more conscious way. Our dedication to art is just like faith and makes us courageous. Keeping alive the pleasure for what we do is a sort of miracle that protects us. During the process of creation and recording of our songs we feel complete and fulfilled, a light is shining over us. I think this is what our listeners perceive as well. Sometimes human beings stay anchored to the spleen of what they have lived in far ages and places being unable to progress. They devours their past rather than weawing a rich tapestry with all their life experiences, their painful or bright descoveries of their existence. Other times they erase and crash all their history looking only at a sterile future, something unstable like a table with three legs. On the contrary, if we try to weave all the threads toghether and keep the right distance from the tapestry, we should start perceiving a drowing that, step by step, is taking a shape. A shape with a meaning. Something going over this short life. This is the power of music. We often feel pain for the superficiality and rapidity of today’s way of living, thinking, learning, feeling but we try to go on and carry on our work tracing progressively our human evolution.
HH: What kind of musical training did the original members of Ataraxia have when they created Ataraxia?
The only one who had a serious musical training was Giovanni who had studied piano for seven years. Francesca’s father was a music teacher, she never wanted to study music as she had a very bad experience at music school when she was seven. That kind of teaching was violent and blind, killed any sweet, spontaneous approach to music. I am a self-taught musician as Riccardo (whose father was a drummer in a rock band).
HH: Did the founding members have experience playing in bands or musical groups previous to forming Ataraxia?
Francesca played for a year with a sort of electro-wave band. She was very young, 14 or 15 years old. I started playing (and hand-crafting my own guitars) with a post-punk band of my village just one year before meeting Ataraxia. Giovanni played in churches classical and liturgical music.
HH: Can you describe what acoustic and electronics instruments the band used in the early recordings?
We had electric, classic, acoustic and folk guitars; bass-guitar, acoustic drums, electronic percussions and pads, several keyboards, any kind of flute (ethnic ones amon them) and cymbals.
HH: What was the initial reaction of people to the music of Ataraxia?
In Italy ? Sometimes they laughed to hide their struggle and fears. This is a typical attitude. Sometimes they couldn’t endure and listen. After some years, when our music progresively became gentler ad took a sort of neo-classic shape we started having listeners from the most different music worlds and geographical places. Pain and grief were expressed in a nobler and more solemn way, so people who listened to our music started sharing this pain or became conscious that it was part of them and accepted it. It became a sort of musical archetype. Now, people feel lighter ad relieved listening to our nowadays sound. We personally feel a lot of nostalgia while composing.
HH: Can you discuss some of the hardships and challenges the band encountered and over came in your formative years?
All the doors were closed, nobody was interested in listening to our music, we fought every day to have the chance to play free here and there. We have never had problems concerning the band line-up, creativity, ideas. Nothing of this kind, just a mediocre Italy where if you had/have no “friends”, power or the right person in the right placeyou can’t hope anything, talent is useless, or worst, talent is something that has to be ignored in order to protect the untalented “protected” ones. This is sad becuase Italy is full of unkwnown talents and eclectical artists. Perhaps all this harshness contributed to give us the force and self-consciousness to go on for all these years.
HH: Twenty years after the creation of Ataraxia we now enjoy a proper “neoclassical” genre yet twenty years ago this style of music was still being established and finding an audience. When the band first began did you find that there existed a proper “market” or commercial outlet for your music? Can you discuss some of the trials and tribulations you encountered when the band first attempted to find someone to publish the early music of Ataraxia?
Italy was not the right place at that moment and market was not the right word. We simply hoped to find someone who had enough curiosity to afford something different and enough courage to support a different approach to music. We were very young but we understood early that in order not to loose our innonce (due to unsatisfaction and inachieved projects) we had to protect our innocence that was vital for our future creativity. Italy had deaf ears, we spent six or seven years finding a label interested in releasing our fist album, then, as soon as we looked for someone abroad we find, in a few weeks, a lot of persons who proposed us an agreement. Those first years in Italy were very useful as we had the time to improve our musical language and play a lot everywhere (sometimes in the worst situations). We learnt the meaning of patience and endurance. All in asll, we didn’t feel a lot of stress or pain due to these first tribulations, we simply had too many things to do. We were waiting for the right moment. And the right moment arrived.
HH: What kind of impact did the formation of Ataraxia have on the lives of the founding members?
Ataraxia was something written in our destiny. A destiny that we have accepted and that has given us a chance to live this age, this specific fragment of our existence (as we feel that the act of existing is a long journey across different lands, times, sounds, moods in order to acquire our personal wisdom and the capacity of looking at all the elements as if we were the elements themselves, acquire our self-consciousness and strenght just abandoning our ego and attachment to all what is material). When we gave a name to our gathering we started our pilgrimage. We feel a bitter-sweet pain for our far past, as if once we lived a dimension where beauty, grace and harmony were the sources of “the whole”. We have not married, we have no children, nature is our mother , we are like monks spending this existence seraching enlightment between elevation and and falls. We feel we are simply following our way.
HH: When did you first realize that Ataraxia would be defining an element in your lives?
From the very beginning. Finding each other was only a matter of time. There are things that you feel since you are a child. Childhood and adoloscence were times of pain spent just to find a language to express something burning inside us. When we found each other it was a catharsis,
we could finally calm down and start giving a form to our creative flame.
Part II: Dreams Fulfilled
HH: Today Ataraxia is easily identified as one of the founding bands of the now thriving neoclassical music genre. How does the band feel about having gained international notoriety?
What we actually care is inspiration and a sort of burning flame that makes possible the miracle of singing. The Muses fill the entire existence of their singers, enlighten them with the brightness of their spirit and give them all the grace they need. For this reason some artists suffer all kind of lacks and painful existences, in exchange they live in a state of Grace that’s not only given by fame. We are deeply grateful and glad to have reached people from all over the world, music has no boundaries, it’s the reign of harmony that, in old ages, everybody has had the chance to experience.
HH: With success can come more artistic freedom. Do you feel as if your success as a band has opened the way for you to more freely explore the bands creative ideas?
Happily (and it couldn’t have been otherwise) we have always felt completely free to explore all what we felt, lived, imagined, caught in this life experience. This caused some confusion to the ones who need to classify genres or give definitions to our music that can be felt as medieval, folk, dark-wave, neoclassical, mediterranean, ethereal, ritual, ethno-wave, vaudeville or other. We breath freedom, without that we couldn’t be here.
HH: Does ritual or other spiritually inspired practices ever grace your audition space or live performances?
Making music is a sacred act, a ritual. A deep exchange of energy among us, the forces who govern our music and the audience is the main point, the means and the goal of our path. A concert, a rehearsal, a recording is just like being in a natural temple, surrounded by ancient stone or wilderness ready to accept to be filled by Grace and Beauty. Through the perception of beauty we feel the warmth and presence of the ancient forces governing the cosmos. We don’t feel like submitted prayers as we directly experience a spiritual plenitude while playing. In order to reach this status we have to be cut-off from everydaylife, from troubles and thoughts. Only in this way we can transmit energy to the others and start this mutaul exchange, especially on stage .
HH: In the previous section you discuss Ataraxia’s early use of masks, costumes and theatrics during live performances. Can you discuss how these elements now influence the music and live performances of Ataraxia? As the band has evolved so has your ability to create a more absorbing artistic experience enhanced by a combination arts. Do you foresee Ataraxia continuing to explore artistic mediums and can we expect to see Ataraxia continuing to utilize video and explore other modern artistic mediums?
We are taking two different directions, on one side we want to reach the essence of music (especially live). I mean, concerts based on ritual, neoclassical or medieval music will be mainly focused on the utilise of several different intruments and percussions. We’ll explore a variety of possibilities both vocally and musically but we’ll avoid videos, huge scenographies, actors or moreover. All will be achieved through the simple and ritual gestures of musicians. Francesca always wears hand-made dresses on stage as she thinks that some garnments with peculiar colours, shapes or textures can increase their energy concert after concert. Of course, the albums will always feaure booklets rich of images, writings and poems. On the other side we’ll go on exploring the so-called “Paris Spleen” universe, we are already working to new stuff (similar in taste but different musically) that will be even more linked to drama, theatre, visual art, circus, scenographies, stage costumes and all kind of things. During our last Paris Spleen show in Italy we were 14 persons on the stage (actors, clowns, musicians and mimes). In this kind of show masks still have their place.
HH: Has the music of Ataraxia ever been paired with professional dance for a mixed media presentation?
I think so. We know that some dance companies in USA, Portugal and eastern Europe have utilised our music for their dance acts. It is something really intriguing.
HH: As the band has evolved so has your ability to capture and hold the emotions of the listener. Has it always been important for Ataraxia to guide the listeners emotions through the musical journey?
Not exactly. We fell good giving inspiration to the listeners so that they can start their own voyage but we don’t feel like guides. Our function is the one of making spread imagination. Each of us owns a different ancestral past but there are some things that can help everybody to explore this dimension. Music is one of these things. Our aim is to give an imput. Our music is not meant to stir up pathos, its function is going deeper to touch the chords of our real nature, the ones hidden by our ego, fears, defences and masks. Music should keep away rationality in order to reach the “sacred”, the “mystery”. What we call reality excludes all the possibilities to go deeper. We’re conscious that we need to control the present to afford fears, stress and anxiety but this prevents us from knowing who we truly are. Through music we can have back our natural and spontaneous pleasure of being and existing.
HH: Can you please describe how an Ataraxia album comes to fruition from conception and research to completion?
We start just receiving signs (readings, images, dreams, places we visit) that, in some way, are all linked by something. The theme we will afford grows step after step inside us. When everything is quite clear in our mind we start composing and music flows very easily. As persons we are quite different the ones from the others but we often share a common inspiration. Our concept albums are always born on the basis of a collective interest about a specific theme. We think that the band's force is also the different creative process driven by each of its members. A song usually comes to life in a medianic way, we don't look for it, we don't look for the arrangements or melody, we don't write words in a conscious way. A song is like a powerful river that runs along our imagination till it can get a way to exit and start living outside us, among people. Since our first tapes and albums we have never been interested in creating single tunes. We have always enjoyed telling stories, like modern ministrels, trying to elaborate all what mythology, traditions and legends have handed down to us. We explore the past and connect it to the present.
HH: The band has discussed what an important role location, historical geography, and historical sites have played in the bands identity and inspiration. As the band has matured have your resources and access to exploring such sites also increased?
Of course. The need to visit and contemplate some specific geographical or historical place is always there. It would be there in any case, even if we were not musicians, even if this inspiration had to stay hidden inside us rather than being transformed into sound. We are not “national geographic” maniacs or explorers. To run behing things and places is not our thing. We simply welcome some special circumstances and follow our instinct. There are many places where we have never been and some of us, especially Francesca, has the tendence to go back to the same or similar places (each Greek island, rock, or monastery, each Italian medieval village or some parks and gardens in France). There are special places that are able to speak to us, so we go there and listen to their voices.
HH: Is Ataraxia also inspired by the natural environment, natural history or other natural phenomena? If so can you illustrate some natural environments or locations that you have found particularly inspiring?
Nature is one of the strongest inspirations. Thanks to nature we have always lived a deep communion with the 'whole', we've tried to accept the cycle of birth, growing, decline, death, rest and re-birth. Sometimes a mysterious writing on a door or an abandoned village appear unexpectedly behind a hill and communicate us something. Water and stone. Our music is often made of the substance of the water and the energy of the stone.
I always felt that the elemental forces give me the necesary strenght to survive and sing. Some places? Among them Tomar, in Portugal, and several other places of that wonderful country; then Greece, Greek islands, perfumes, shores, sanctuaries, sources; our countryside in Italy, in Springtime we have an incredible blooming of nuances and everytime the light caresses the leaves all these nuances shine, it’s actually unreal... Then France, there are some gardens in Paris that are really fascinating and the doves of Normandy where the blinding white of the rock is surrounded by the emerald green of the fields and the turquoise blue of the ocean. I also have a very special memory of southern Turkish coast. I can’t make a list of all the places, each of our albums explores some of them. An adventurer could easily do a musical journey simply listening to them...
HH: Being that the music of Ataraxia is often inspired by the historical past what do you think mankind as a whole has lost or sacrificed in our pursuit of modernity and modern technology?
Mankind has sacrified its own soul, its purest and truer part. In order to defy fear and establish a very strict order to things mankind has killed the risk, this means, in some way, to eliminate destiny. Rationality has killed grace, we have no more a fate or a feeling of a fate. When everything becomes an organized system, rational schemes and technology kill the richness of life that’s, all in all, possibility. In this way the sacred has been killed. Where destiny has been killed only obscenity spreads. The more I try to organize and foresee the more I’m defenseless in front of Fortune. Mistery guides the world, we can’t administrate it. Obscenity is all what doesn’t consider me, doesnt ask my opinion, keeps me away from from what I deeply feel so that I loose the personal experience and the world. Our age is based on reason that is colonial and obliges me to take care only of its needs, becomes absolute and makes possible only its productive exercise. The logic of reason is just the one of facts, in this way the whole reality is sacrified. Reason is mainly critics, performance, production. Who will pay the price of life in exhange of progress? We think to know a lot but we know a lot just in a one-sided way. We have levelled reality till making it adhere to technology. This negation of nature is running very fastly towards a dead-point. We should find that dead-point in order to have the chance to recoup our life and soul.
HH: At the Ataraxia website the band supplies the listener with detailed information concerning each and every album and song. The adventurous listener is able to learn about the individual topics and subjects of inspiration that motivated each Ataraxia song. How important is it for the band that your audience is able to fully access and understand your creative motivations?
Not so important in fact. I mean, music should be the very first thing, the key and the door that doesn’t need lyrics, explanations, images. Music is the source, the very beginning and the end. Anyway before thinking, creating and recording a new album many things happen to each of us. Each release is the fruit of those happenings and descoveries so we have decided to give some keys to the listener if she/he’s interested to know more about our journey. Artistic and cultural influences, the places we visited, photos, reflections, lyrics and perceptions are all there for those who need to know more. Yes, as you say, the adventurous ones...
HH: The Ataraxia website is also noticeably thorough and well constructed. This shows a true intention of wanting to support your audiences interest in the band. How would you describe Ataraxia’s relationship to the bands audience?
As one of the most meaningful things, the aim of out artistic work. We don’t play just for ourselves. Creating brings a big pleasure but all of this needs to be transmitted and trasformed by the listener and then transformed again and again. All our nearer collaborators were passionate listeners of our music, Nicolas, the guy who has created the website and manages it since 1998, is one of them. And this is not by chance.
HH: When choosing subject matter for songs Ataraxia has never been confined to specific cultural or religious inspirations but has rather embraced a universal combination of subjects and cultural influences. Do you feel confident accepting inspiration from any cultural source?
Yes, we are but, unluckily, not all the cultural sources come to us. We need time ; ) Anyway we feel accomplished to translate into music the ones we meet, feel and share. Also contrasts and differences, even harsh, become part of our music. For this reason our music is multi-sided, some times peaceful, dreamy, other times quite solemn, odd or apparently not coherent. I consider musicians like “listeners” as they are able to perceive the voice of the Muse. The Muse sings through them and gives them a “living knowledge”. Our music is always experienced and can embrace so different cultural levels, spiritual beliefs or combination of subjects that is not possible for us to control rationally all of this. We simply feel the urge to give a shape to what comes to our hearts.
HH: Ataraxia also moves fluidly between religious cultures and inspirations. There seems to be no conflict between drawing inspiration from Christian liturgical music or seeking inspiration in polytheist religions of the ancient past. What personal religious convictions guide the bands members?
If our life is meant to be a spiritual growing and not just a materialistc sterile experience all the domains where spirituality is expressed can become a source of enlightenment. We think that our experience is not simply linked to this present life but to many previous ones and many already to come. Our spiritual growing has developped in different times and situations, for sure also in times where (what is today called) paganism was a fulfilling and enriching experience, then in other times when the churches have had the power to control everything and spirituality could only be expressed under the surface, or external identity, of a monotheistic religion. Behind all those ways of believing there was our naked soul, alone in her voyage and often forced to adapt to different faiths and situations. For this reasons liturgical chants are mixed to tribal rhythms and pagan rituals in our music. The important thing was to preserve our own spiritual freedom from any kind of supremacy or totalitarim. Women has suffered a lot of this, anyway great women like Hildegard Von Bingen (among many others) even if grown up in dark times, had the strenght and inspiration to follow their own path searching and diffusing a spiritual knowledge that was not linked to a dominating specific religion but to the harmony of the cosmic forces. The aim was to reach again the primeval plenitude, that detached calmness and inner light leading to eden, if we want to call it like this, or simply to be a drop in the ocean, a leave on a tree, a small fragment of dust in the space, an harmonic small part of the whole.
HH: Religion and culture are at the heart of many modern and ancient conflicts across the world. How does Ataraxia move so fluidly within these realms of inspiration while remaining free of the politics that often plague these spheres of human culture?
We don’t want to feel like marionettes in someone else’s game. We think what we think, we act as we feel without putting our thougths and actions in a politic side rather than in another. You are right, these things plague human culture and growth as create harsh divisions or sometimes forced similarities over an acknowledged counciousness. Each thing we like is something we instinctively feel not just something belonging to a sphere rather than another. We have probably lived several lives before the one we are living now, in different places, countries, ages, when contrasting way of thinking and moral codes were ruling. We have experienced many things but the one we really want to retain is freedom. Freedom is an act of courage.
HH: The last decade has seen an emerging number of new labels hosting or specializing in neoclassical or heavenly voice music. Labels such as Equilibrium Music from Portugal, Ark Records of Italy and Prikosnovenie of France have enjoyed abundant success promoting neoclassical and heavenly voice music. How does Ataraxia feel about the blossoming of this once obscure genre?
We are happy that some labels started believing in these genres especially because, being indie and not just machines to make money, they have to feel this sound and artistic experience if they decide/want to produce and promote it. In my opinion, labels have also the the responsibility to choose well their artists, people who create inspired albums not only exercises of style or boring stereotypes. In that way everything would become unneccesary and annoying as it has already happened with several other genres.
HH: Along side the growth of the neoclassical and heavenly voice genres neofolk music has also emerged as a viable new music genre. What is Ataraxia’s impression of the the neofolk music genre as defined by bands such as Death In June, Darkwood, Backworld, H.E.R.R., Fie & Ice etc.?
We don’t like to put bands into boxes. Each band has its own personality, way of composing, bright ideas, peculiar inspiration. As I wrote before, the exercises of style are indigestible. Of course folk music means a main use of acoustic intruments rather than machines or computers and a special taste for tradional airs or themes but all of this should be transformed into something new. A completely new chant born from the immutabile heart of Time. We appreciate Backworld that we met in Poland during a festival, Current 93 have such a deep mistery to bring to surface and in Gowan Ring is touching.
HH: Ataraxia seems blessed with a particular band cohesiveness. How has the band achieved such a successful blend of friendship and professionalism?
There are no primadonna or people who have a crashing ego and put themselves over music and the others. Our aim is creating music not “characters”. Our essences are deeply linked at the same time we are indipendent with different interests, lives, personal stories and personalities. We met in the 80ies beginning of the 90ies and since then our friendship and pleasure in sharing some aspects of life is increasing. Our differences create our musical variety, our common ideas or way of affording some aspects of life keep us united. Furthermore we are all quite demanding in our way of affording our musical work. We are instinctive and appreciate each other idea, exchanges are stimulating. Leaving for concerts, festival and tours is afforded as a sort of adventure, it keeps us alive, we enjoy it a lot.
HH: How has the bands success influenced and changed the lives of Ataraxia’s members?
All the main changes in our lives don’t come from our musical activities. Changes are more linked to other aspects such as moving from our place or starting new artistic activites in other fields, focalising in particular psycho-physical disciplines, unexpected and very enlightening readings, harder or enegetic moments, painful situations to afford and so on. Of course, each one of our albums changed us, we lost and gained something, we afforded a past that we had forgotten trying to find a connection between who we were and who we are now.
HH: Recently Ataraxia created the concept album ‘Paris Spleen.’ Can you discuss this departure form the usual the Ataraxia “sound” and discuss how it was embraced by Ataraxia fans abroad?
"Paris Spleen" meant irony, provocation, the bitter-sweet side of ourselves. Walking along the boulevards of Paris, or of many other big cities, we are confronted with two contrasting worlds, on one side the opulent and trivial world of consumer’s culture where sumptuous houses and architectures shine, on the other side people without a roof, wrecked souls full of rage and misery, horrible dwellings where the easiest thing is to catch a cancer. So we got back to Baudelaire’s times and we saw ourselves as visitors of those popular fun-fairs where freaks where obliged to show and sell themselves to merely survive as the worst circus beasts. Even in these miserable conditions, life was spreading in the midts of all that pain and decadence. Atget, a very innovative photographer of the end of the XIXth centrury/beginning of the XXth actually helped us with his shots taken in popular quarters where the wretched ones lived. He avoided self-celebration in order to show, in a very poetic way, the “other side”. We felt a deep urge to release this album and we did it without any effort in a very short time, we needed this and we’ll go on with this project releasing (in 2009 or 2010) the following one going even farer. While thinking, composing and recording this album we were a bit worried about the possible people’s reaction but we couldn’t stop, it was stronger than us. At the end we were astonished by people’s reaction in several different countries. In this release and its peculiar live-show many people found their own world, history, memories or simply had fun and experienced Ataraxia under a completely different perspective. We are really grateful towards all the listeners with whom we had the chance to share all of this. This gives us hope about the open-mindness and self-irony of many persons. “Paris Spleen” live-act is a work in progress, a rich scenography, whenever possible the collaboration with 9 actors of the CircuZ KumP company and the ever-present performance of our main actor Paul Patchy. Also the 4 Ataraxia members play as actors in all this chaos. Doctor Jackill and Mister Hide?
HH: The most recent album ‘Kremasta Nera’ delved deeply into the past practice of female / earth goddess worship and the ancient cultures that practiced such traditions. Seeing that the band has such a strong feminine vocal character can this been seen as a reflection of a deeper interest in matriarchy?
The first interest was in the magic power of the word, in the practice of the enchantment. We started from the ancient “mysteries” of Samothrace and the role of women in ancient pagan cults. Enchantment means “singing inside” and it was mainly a female magic practice. I have always felt that words were magic. Sometimes people critic may way of pronouncing words in a language rather than in another and don’t understand that I play with sounds as I have not interest in reproducing them as if I was speaking. I feel the need to transform, dilate, change the sounds into something else. Everything becomes a spell. This is what I try to do with my singing in Kremasta Nera (thanks to the great support of music, melodies and arrangements that were perfect for this purpose). A magic word has not a practical purpose, it’s a pure act of creation and I’m conscious that this creation is a revelation, a process of deeper knowledge. The magic word resounds before being pronounced, the idea of a melody comes and obliges the musician/singer to give it a poetic form. Knowledge and experience happen at the same time and all of this is a sacred announcement, a message that doens’t need rationality to be caught. Kremasta Nera, thanks to the feminine creative power, meant to be a sort of spiritual call coming from the depths. Memory and singing are linked, the musician is blind to the present, the act of remembering makes his/her own knowledge, reveal his/her own sight, his/her mythical memories. The chant of the poet is born free from the burdens of necessity and time.
HH: In the bands early career collaborations were quite common as with Fransesco Banchini. How does a band of such long standing approach such a collaboration and can we expect another such stellar collaboration in the future?
All our collaborations came unexpected, a fatal meeting, sharing stages or festivals. We simply were the right moment in the right place. Since Summer 2003 Riccardo Spaggiari has followed us and he’s now an active composer and member of the band. His presence is growing album after album, both Kremasta Nera and Paris Spleen would not have been the same without his work as he’s very keen both on ritual and world than in jazzy, circus oriented music. The future? We’ll see what it deserves...
HH: As Ataraxia evolves in talent and resources how does the band plan to direct this growth? What can your audience anticipate in the future?
We wouldn’t like to anticipate too much of our next steps even if we are already working on several things. Our first project will be a small book of around 100 pages called “Oil on Canvas”, it will be a marriage among visual art, poetry and music. Three different photographers have released peculiar journeys (a voyage among abandoned houses where decadence is mixed to the ruins of a superbe architecture; English gardens where enigmatic statues stand; uncontaminated nature and wilderness) that have been enriched by Francesca’s verses and short poems and all of that is interwoven with music in form of a collection CD (with a pair of unreleased and exclusive tracks) included in the book. The opus should be out at the beginning of Atumn in a refined edition.
Our forthcoming album (we prefer not to say its title even if we already have one) will be the history of an avatar, an herald of light, living on this earth since the first legendary Golden Age and crossing all the following ages (the one of Silver, of Bronze and Iron) in order to bring some wisdom and hope for a new awakening, a new Golden era. Music influences will be various, the ethno moments of Kremasta Nera will be developped but several medieval airs will be present after several years we didn’t work on this genre. There will be solemn end epic moments, celtic ballads and some sweet ethereal soundscapes based on Vittorio’s arpeggios. Eastern flavours will be at the menue as well. The voyage of this enlightened being will be through time and space and we would like to focalize both on oriental and occidental musical structures. Occidental music (especially traditional and classical one) is felt as a rapid shift between very elevating heights and abrupt depths, this music works on strong suggestions and climax while the eastern is more inkeeping with enchantement, a sort of spheric and hypnotic spyral of sound. Occidental music structures have a more mascoline connotation while the oriental ones are more inkeeping with the feminine magic. A juxtaposition and also a mix of these two different worlds will be very interesting and an appealing challenge. Many of these songs are ready even if the recordings will last till the end of this year to have, hopefully, the album ready for Springtime 2009. During our 2008 Summer concerts many of these songs will be already played.
Then, in 2009, we’ll start seriously thinking to a following of “Paris Spleen” to be released at the end of the same year or at the beginning of the next one. Some of the new songs will be played during our coming concerts.
HH: I would like to thank all of you for giving me this opportunity after having enjoyed and been inspired by your lovely music for so many years.
You’re welcome. Thank to all the people who will spend their time reading those lines and to Heathen Harvest to have given us this opportunity.