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Interview: Kirlian Camera

by François Zappa

If you’ve been living in Italy, and if you like this type of music, you’ve surely heard about Kirlian Camera. I discovered them for the first time eight years ago in Milan, thanks to a compilation by Sprittle Records. They also were the protagonists of my third article on this digital magazine, in 2016, when it was still monolingual. At the beginning of 2016, I’ve had the opportunity to see them for an incredible show. That’s why interviewing the great Angelo Bergamini, founder of the Italian band, means a lot to me. They’ll be playing at DarkMad in Madrid, on the 26th of October.

—The name of the band was, at the very beginning, Suicide Commando. It was changed because the name was shared with another band, but in 1986 another band became famous with the same name. Do you think that things would have been even more difficult keeping that name?

—Yes, there was a band called Suicide Commandos, plural, at the time, so I decided to change name after a handful concerts. Then, the style of my Suicide Commando project was hugely different from Kirlian Camera’s; it was in fact much more aggressive, say more industrial-based, a mix of SPK, Suicide, Cabaret Voltaire and such. I did feel I had to show more respect to Pop Music, though. I had to show I was able to create real tunes and songs, going to mix up melody and research. On the other way, I was actually influenced by Classic Music, end 19th and beginning 20th century, Mahler, Verdi and Wagner in particular, so keeping on to make noise and paranoid tunes wasn’t my leading way, but just a dirty trick to myself, after all.

—Did you like any other Italian band from the beginning of the eighties? Neon? Diaframma? Chrisma? Limbo?

—I like them all and Faust’o/Fausto Rossi should be added along with many others. They weren’t pure trend followers: they got some real inspiration. Chrisma and Rossi, in particular, proved to be kind of geniuses, they were always one step ahead…

What is difficult to record the first EP? I guess nobody knew how to work with that kind of sound in Italy.

—Italy was almost completely isolated, at the time. One could arrange to make an “experimental” project for a few people, but chances to turn it into any actual large success by means of new sounds were extremely limited. Then, we happened to sign to Virgin Records. It was an isolated event, just an anomaly, at the time… then something changed, even though not that much, after all. American and British productions keep on “tyrannize” today’s music scene, even if someone coming from other lands keeps on trying to break on through to global market. I think Kirlian Camera is going to gradually increase the use of non-English lyrics, as I don’t like to feel forced to sing in a foreign language at all costs; otherwise I’ve got no chance to get effectively distributed in – let’s make an example – Canada. I didn’t take any part in the 2nd World War, so I couldn’t realize why I should be subject to this kind of arrogance, due to the fact Italy did lose the war and/or further ludicrous motivations. Isolated cases such as Rammstein, Ramazzotti and Julio Iglesias aren’t but just exceptions, just to name artists from different areas who might be taken as an opposite example of cultural democracy. There are so many interesting languages, all around the… globe. Italian, French, German, Greek, Spanish, Arabian, etc. Time has come tyrants will have to start learning different cultures and expressions… I’m aware my statement won’t be that appreciated by those who are used to supposing there’s a monster behind real rebellions. Those who are really free won’t be in need to feel hurt, as I’ve got nothing against English culture. But I don’t like any kind of dominance masked by surreal democracy and globalism. Why should I spend years, money and energy to learn a foreign language, when the ones who were born in a certain nation are gonna find all doors open?!? A word to the wise.

—You always say that your latest albums are the best, and hardly ever talk about the albums from the 80s. What do you think now of your first album, it doesn’t matter, now?

—I don’t like that album so much, as I stated it time ago, when it was issued. Then, the past always looks a bit boring, as for my taste goes. I like to think of the future.

—How a band like yours was received back the in time in Italy?

-We were much appreciated, in the early years, although many underground prophets didn’t tolerate us that much. Our style sounded too pop, to them. We are a pop band, mainly using electronics. OK, an “alien pop band,” as many like to label us nowadays. A pop band that has and had the crazy nerve to throw all that away, never respecting any rule. Why the hell should we change style in order to please any self-declared professors?!? Music is connected to spirit, soul and ideals, for us. Even if we are only a Pop-based entity…

—It’s difficult to think now that you were involved in a disco project. Did you enjoy it at the time or was it only for the money?

—Fun. Just fun. A moment of relax, a carefree experience. I like glamour and commercial music, so I sometimes like to make some digression in / to different music fields. I am in fact the invisible entity behind SPECTRA*paris, whereas Elena is mainly the one behind Stalingrad Valkyrie!

—Was it difficult to record the second album with all the changes in the line-up?

—A bit, as it seemed everybody liked to create obstacles, non-stop. Simona Buja, for instance, was a matchless champ, in such a field!!!

—What changed in you to do an album like Todosengel? Normally, bands after a few years start selling themselves, you went the other way.

—It was necessary to make people understand that Kirlian Camera is a separate story. Respecting music is the main thing. I had no actual need to force myself, one direction or another. We always need to satisfy our need of being irresponsible, nowadays in particular.

—From the rest of your material from the nineties, what album would you recommend? Maybe Solaris?

—I like the research behind Unidentified Light. It wasn’t that welcome, at the time, 20 years ago… but Still Air, one year later, did put everything upside down once again… so some people realized there was some sort of creativity, pulsing behind that release.

—I guess that meeting Elena Alice Fossi was one of the most important moments for the band. How did it happen?

—Officially, Elena Alice joined the band in January 2000, making her debut as a singer and composer on Still Air. But it’s to be said that her real debut came one year earlier, both on stage and in the studio. Simply, she was too young, so her parents understandably had some hesitation before approving her choice. Then, when she finally had a chance to officially join the band… she was “too young and too beautiful” to be taken seriously, you know the way people are, even in the “alternative” scene! Elena’s attitude was in fact so rare, as far as such a young girl is concerned. So, she had to face too many tests: a girl so gifted, whose voice and musical talent already were millions light years beyond celebrated divas… had to spit blood to be taken seriously?!? Yes, she had. And did it with dignity, never moaning, never throwing any tantrum. So, I’ll never forgive certain audience. I could not. And my resentment is a dangerous beast. I’m such a bad luck to my enemies. People are spectacularly stupid, no doubts on that. The more they’d like to prove they’re alternative, the more they confirm being hopeless ignorant and conservative brainless meat. Manipulated piggies without any character. Putting on eyeglasses and fighting for the ecosystem is not enough.

—Another important release was Coroner’s Sun. And like most of your records produced by both of you. Are you not interested anymore in working with producers?

-Generally, our producer is just Elena Alice and I think she’s remarkably better than many celebrated time wasters running or working in expensive studios. At any rate, I couldn’t rule out any possibility regarding production process collaboration. There are some names we like… so, who knows? But I couldn’t accept any complete external production, just co-production, as Elena’s musical experience is essential, for putting the rightest sound into focus.

—The band, together with some other neo-folk bands like Death in June, had some problems because of the accusations of being far right. Any idea of who started these rumors and what interest they could have to do it?

—Certain people have the unmitigated arrogance to try bending artists to their political orientation. Creativity shouldn’t have to face any trial, especially when it’s clear that an artist isn’t following any precise political ideology. So, I couldn’t accept being under attack due to the fact some unknown BULLIES like to judge our “creative feelings.” As they are BULLIES, nothing more, nothing less. They have created problems, so they’ll soon have to face a bad reality. Are we fascists? It’s possible. As well as it’s possible, we are not. Who knows?!? We never accepted to clear our position, as we couldn’t accept any judgment. And… if certain people’s democracy concept is represented by such an attitude to intolerance and manipulation… well… then they’re right, we are pure evil!!! Anyhow, I don’t know whether our black African friend Fakeba (who’s now recording a single with Elena and myself) would keep on collaborating with us if we were racists! So, some people keep on stating we’re fascists, but many Africans, gays, lesbians and children love us, as we respect and work for/with them, going on stage for/with them, in complete harmony, trying to give a simple hand for their rights. But if one goes to demand for our “left-wing” passport… hey, sorry, we have no passport! We have a huge joy into our heart, a spotless joy, a freedom that no brain police will never be able to steal away.

—Your last album Hologram Moon was more “danceable,” let’s say straighter although most of your latest albums have this quality. Would you consider your music as dance music?

—I love listening to certain dance music. Moroder, Kraftwerk and Pet Shop Boys are great musicians, in my opinion, just to name a few and the fact are being so often labeled as “Dance Music.” Chvrches ain’t that bad, as well. I love glamour and style, I love fashion and mysticism. Hologram Moon is a concentration of so many ingredients. Electronic music first. Producing it demanded great efforts. Not a mystery many professional musicians appreciate it. Producing a good album which has to offer several ingredients is not a child’s play. Hologram Moon is a complicated album to produce, but nobody had to realize it. And it’s really a complicated concept. We wanted to offer an enjoyable work; it doesn’t matter if research behind it had to be massive. A listener shouldn’t have to perceive it at first listening, as we don’t want to perceive it once we go to take a listen to it. I anyway come from pop music, as so many times repeated throughout time. Old songs such as “Ocean,” “Blue Room” and “Edges” sound even more commercial than the ones we’re composing nowadays. Nobody can say the opposite. I don’t care about making commercial or non-commercial music, you know. We many times proved we don’t tend to respect any compromise. We always respect creativity and purity. This is Kirlian Camera, willy-nilly.

—The band has just released a new EP Hellfire, any plans for a new record? What can you tell us about this new EP?

—We gladly run into Barns Courtney’s “Hellfire” on Spotify, once listening to some Dark Americana compilation and so we immediately felt the need to turn it into an electronic anthem. Mainly, we liked that Gospel atmosphere, while we didn’t attach great importance to lyrics, so we opted for increasing such Gospel and Epic mood. The fact that the result is a further strange pop song was unavoidable. Adding that military rhythm gave us some real joy.

—How have the concerts of the band changed with the time? We saw Kirlian Camera a few years ago in Milan and we really loved the concert.

—Oh well, the concerts massively had to change, at some point of our career, otherwise I would have killed the band itself with my Colt! Making concerts during the Nineties, for example, not seldom turned out to be a boring experience, despite my fellow musicians were great guys. Not seldom I didn’t feel any real… feeling: it was worrying and frustrating. Today’s band is the band I’d have died for, in the past. Moreover, I actually had to find out a “unique” frontliner, a singer, a musician, a composer, back in 1999. I met Elena Alice and it was an unbelievable magic, almost unexplainable! I was really pissed off of any “underground strategy!” We are musicians, now, not posers. I don’t know whether we’re “controversial”- as some funny joker says – or not… but an artist SHOULD BE controversial, why the damn he/she otherwise should play music when can get success as a speaker, orator, actor or politician? The problem is that there are not many effectively controversial artists, in the scene, nowadays. They globally are smoke… I don’t feel any respect for such empty heads.

—Do you think that Italian music scene has improved with the years? Now there is Spiritual Front, Ash Code, Winter Severity Index… do you like them?

—They’re great, they’re putting some new fresh inputs into today’s alternative music. I’d add Dope Stars Inc, Delendanoia, Carnera, Hidden Parts, TourDeForce, Tying Tiffany and Blank, of course. The list might become too long, as underground Italy offers so many brilliant inputs. Some of them are being literally ignored by magazines, don’t know any reason why. I love Tiziano Ferro, too, as for millennia musicians go. He’s not a sterile singer: he likes to add some effectively creative touch to his works… Even Division K-Pax is a promising name…………

—You also have a side project called Stalingrad Valkyrie. Are you still doing some music with it? And what about Uranium USSR 1972?

Stalingrad Valkyrie’s brand new album Martyrium Europae has recently come out on ultra-limited edition and will be reprinted soon on deluxe/standard version. It comes out after Demo Adventure, a 6-track minialbum that went sold out in a few hours. There are some large audience, as for SVK goes, whether music business wants it or not. Once again, we’re going on our own path, regardless of rumours, gossip, blathering, and baloney. Uranium USSR 1972 is kind of apparently dead; instead, I don’t know whether I’m gonna give it any new life: we’ll see.

—And how are things going with SPECTRA*paris?

—I guess SPECTRA*paris is going to be put on temporary cryostasis. I know there are some previously unreleased songs to be issued, but I hardly feel there is some real sense in making them available via this scene’s channels. This scene is a niche. Mainly made for other situations. S*P is a combination of glamour, fashion, nostalgia, fantasy, rainbow visions, electronic research, vocal experiments, cyborg memories, rock’n’roll decadence, Lynch-esque echoes, classical music inputs… a bit too much, for “squared listeners.”

—We, at the Garaje, love cinema. You have worked in quite a few soundtracks. How different is to compose music for films?

—Well, first… it goes without saying that writing a stand-alone song for your own album is an act of pure creativity, whereas having to respect times, ideas and movie pace requires some more “disciplined” attitude, mostly when the film director or production company are going to be particularly confused or they even don’t even find an agreement each other! Many film directors and so many producers are so confused, you know. We like taking care of film productions, as it’s just a good musical workout, but, after all, following our free inspiration has no price! In addition, making film soundtracks usually requires some really powerful gear. Uneasy to think you can make film music on a 500 € laptop, even if… we did it, some time ago, hahaha!!!

—How is going to be your concert at DarkMad?

—I really don’t know it, yet… but I know that there’ll be a real force, on stage. Guess why…?!?

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