The Italian scene is getting bigger each day… Nero Di Marte are at their best with the most recent release “Immoto” and they are bound to get even better now that they’ve inked a deal with Season of Mist. Pest Webzine / Slowly We Rot Fanzine had an interesting conversation with Sean… keep on reading…
First off, congratulations on the new album. It is awesome! Secondly, thank you for taking some of your time to answer our questions.
Hi Sónia! Thank you for these questions, I'm really glad you liked the new album!
The band changed its name from Murder Therapy to Nero di Marte in 2012… what caused this change since NDM is a continuation of the first project?
Sean: The music we were writing was expanding and the name Murder Therapy (which was decided by previous members of the band) was starting to feel constrictive. It is a death metal-sounding name, and we were starting to incorporate too many non-death metal things in our playing. I think it gave a wrong idea of what we were doing and created limits for the direction in which we were going.
Considering that Nero di Marte is the black oxide, considered to be the most opaque of naturally occurring black pigments and at the same time the least toxic, as well as the most resistant to light and lasting… why have you chosen it to be the band’s name? Because you believe it will resist everything and last a long time?
Hahaha that would be very pretentious! No, we chose the name because of its multi-faceted interpretations, its evocative power and phonetic strength. The name is mysterious and creates a sort of cognitive dissonance as well: isn't the planet Mars supposed to be red?
Your self-titled debut in 2013 included all tracks in English, then in 2014 “Derivae” featured 2 tracks in your native tongue, Italian, and now in 2020, the 3rd full-length “Immoto” includes even more tracks in Italian… was this a natural evolution? Most bands do it the other way around… they start by releasing tracks in their native tongue and then move into English so they can reach more listeners… Some say Italian is the sexiest language… is that one of the reasons to sing in Italian?
This wasn't a truly conscious decision. I tried to translate some of the songs into English but it just didn't work as well. Italian is a very beautiful language, much more expressive and open to interpretation compared to English; it fits the intimate, theatrical nature of this album, but we will see for the next one. We do not decide, the music does this for us hahaha!
Your vocals are quite progressive… what kind of vocal training have you got? Who are your major vocal influences?
Thank you! I took some vocal lessons in the past but for the most part I am self-taught. Therefore, I feel I can still improve much more. If I could pinpoint who my main influences are now I would say Nils Frykdahl from Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Tom Waits, Björk, Mike Patton, Arca and many others.
The band’s sound is absolutely unique and intense. How do you manage to be so creative?
I am flattered and thankful for your premise, but the question is pretty difficult to answer. It is a mystery for me how certain things are created; we are certainly enriched by everyone contributing to the music in this band and giving us much time to rethink and reinvent ourselves constantly. Having extremely diverse musical influences and giving ourselves the time and space to do things has certainly contributed in creating unconventional things.
How is the writing and recording process of doing an album in Nero di Marte? Do you have clear ideas of what you want when you go into the studio?
It takes us years of jamming, composing, re-thinking and pre-productions before we enter the studio. Once we are recording we already know 80 to 90% of how everything should sound. We wanted to record the album live to try to keep our band's dynamics as faithful as we could but this wasn't possible due to certain limitations. Nevertheless, we tried to keep everything from sounding as natural as possible, using no triggers from drums and little to no editing in general. As for writing, there is no set rule: sometimes a song starts from someone's riff or idea that evolves with time, with everyone contributing to it actively; other times somebody presents the entire skeleton of a song that is then rearranged with everyone in the band. We record our rehearsals constantly and carefully listen and let things mature with time.
Are there any major differences between “Immoto” and the previous albums?
I think “Immoto” is more dynamic, dramatic, theatrical, abstract, intimate, extreme. Each album has been an evolution, an expansion of our sonic palette and I think you can clearly hear this if you look at our catalogue. This is really just a consequence of playing together, having the musicians in the band interact and develop sensibility towards each other. We will never stop reinventing ourselves and I'm very grateful that people have been following us for the ride.
The new album was 5 years on the works… what took it this long?
We've always taken our time waiting to release something that is meaningful for us through the accumulation of material, experimentation and gestation; but, of course, in these 5 years there was a lineup change in our new drummer and we switched labels to Season of Mist, which were all factors that contributed to this "delay".
The word “Immoto” translates into “Motionless” basically… even though it’s not a concept album, its tracks somewhat revolve around this theme… why have you chosen this particular word? What’s the meaning behind it to you?
The title is an invitation to create, interact and listen with meditative attention, which could also describe the work we did in these years with this music and its lyrics. The word was chosen to express this reflective centering and for its phonetically absolute qualities.
Can you tell us something about your lyrics and how you come up with ideas?
For this album I really tried to transfer my subconscious into the lyrics in a somewhat Jung-ian way. I was inspired by the sounds and atmospheres of the music to create meaning using words that would naturally pop into my mind. It was a very experimental approach for me that I want to try to expand in the future. The lyrics speak of time, space, creativity, existence, relations, movement and reflection. I think they are strongly personal but in which anyone can reflect themselves in.
What’s the relation between the cover artwork and the album? What’s that red mass on the cover? Is it some kind of statue? What does it represent? Blood in a motionless form?
We wanted to express something absolute and transformative in a very abstract way and that is up for interpretation. A motionlessness state that can create formless figures - I can see many things in the cover and in the rest of the artwork.
There is a great variation of sound throughout the whole album… The heavy parts are more brutal, and the quieter parts are more ambient and atmospheric. “Derivae” was a huge step up from the debut, and “Immoto” is an even greater step up. Where do you expect to go from here?
I really don't know what's next - we have hours of unreleased music in our archives, but I feel like we first need to start writing something fresh to begin the process for a new album. I would like to transcend the barriers between vocals and music even more, merging the two in a more dynamic and expressive way. I would love to write shorter, more condensed songs as well. We will see!
I’ve read many reviews which said that “Irradia” would be a better album closer than “La Fuga”… now that the album is ready and released and you’ve paid more attention to details, would you say you agree? How do you decide the sequence of the tracks?
I don't agree with this due to the overall architecture of the album - the central part of the album is already very atmospheric and to end on that note didn't seem impactful enough. “La Fuga” is a rollercoaster that kind of liberates you from the fog of the previous songs. A lot of thought goes into giving the album a good flow and we try to keep the listener invested as much as possible when going from one song to the next. We try different solutions until everything sounds perfect and all the elements are present in an order that creates a musical (and lyrical) narration.
“Nero di Marte” and “Derivae” were released through Prosthetic Records but for the release of “Immoto” you signed a deal with Season of Mist. Why? Can they take Nero di Marte’s name further?
Our contract with Prosthetic Records simply ended and Season of Mist was the first and only label we wrote; we're ecstatic they wanted to produce the album! I can't think of a better home for our music. The label has a history of releasing experimental, forward-thinking metal artists, and I certainly hope this opens new opportunities for us!
Season of Mist mentioned that “Nero Di Marte have been devoted towards creating experimental, yet heavy music contaminated by prog, death metal, psychedelia and contemporary, classical music.” Is this the best definition of the band and your sound?
Given how uncategorized our music can be, I think there is no best definition. However, these words give a better understanding of the diversity of our sound and hopefully can intrigue anybody who is curious how all these elements can coexist.
As a band, how do you think the listener can help artists in this time and age?
Support what you love, buy physical versions for the music if you like, but I don't believe it is the listener's duty to personally make economic sacrifices for something as abstract like a musical scene. This does not work in the long run and only creates tribalism. We must give art and artists the respect and dignity they deserve by guaranteeing creative spaces and financial support for them as a society. I don't have any easy solutions, but to create art that is truly free and pure we must give a type of support and space that is unfiltered from commercial value.
How’s the Italian metal scene these days?
There are so many great bands and artists in Italy: Juggernaut, Zu, Ad Nauseam, Void of Sleep, Miotic, Ottone Pesante, Arto, Junkfood Quartet, Lleroy... and I could go on for a while. Each of these bands is unique and amazing! Unfortunately, this clashes with the lack of venues, big audience and transfer of love for live music between the older and newer generations.
The band has already toured in America… do you wish to return? Have you got any plans to tour in order to promote “Immoto”? What are your touring plans? Anything happening that we should get excited about?
We would love to return, we have many fans over there, but it is hard getting working visas and not lose money in the process. We have different festivals lined up for this year and we can hopefully tour Europe extensively by the end of 2020.
Even though you are a fairly recent band, you’ve had quite a few interesting moments in your career… what would be the highlight so far?
Our tours in North America and Europe with Gorguts were truly amazing! Many memories of great people, situations and conversations. But the real highlight for me, of being in this band, have been the creative periods in which we write music, which are a truly magical human collaboration. I feel very grateful to have the opportunity to work with my other band members on such a close, intimate level and grow with them for many years during my life!
Your drummer also plays in Hideous Divinity who are currently on tour… how do you coordinate the schedules of all band members and all the projects you are involved in?
It's a challenge, but we do not tour so much due to our day to day work, so coordinating things isn't too difficult. Sometimes our schedules are conflicting but there isn't much we can do about that!
Interview by Sónia Fonseca