Interview with Gian of AUSTRALASIA
Australasia was inactive for some time between your latest single “Mercurio • Argento” and your previous full-length (“Notturno”, 2015). What were you doing during that time and what made you decide to record again?
After the release of "Notturno" a lot of commitments took over. I made some decisions in everyday life and work and I started being busier and busier. My mind was not clear enough to notice that the time was passing by. Weeks became months, months became years and the result was a four year long hiatus. A few months ago I decided to make music again as I felt a very important part of my life was missing. The only way to do that was focusing on few tracks at a time and I was right. This is why I released a two track single and I'm planning on keeping this pace for the future, as it allows me to enjoy the process of making music without too much pressure and putting out good material in a decent amount of time.
What are the origins of Australasia and what were the visions you first had for the project?
After years playing in bands with other people I felt the urge to release some music by myself. I didn't plan anything in advance except it had to be instrumental, as I feel it being a universal language. I just sat with a guitar and piano, writing some passages and music started flowing in a very natural way.
Who were your most active bands prior to Australasia? Were the other musicians in those bands easy to work with?
I used to play in a metal band called "Ingraved". I loved working with them and I really miss rehearsing with these guys. We had so much fun. It was like hanging out with friends and playing music, two of my favourite things together. Unfortunately after some years I was not able to keep up with it.
Is Ingraved still active at the time of this writing? On which streaming sites can their releases be heard?
They are no longer active, you can find some of their latest releases on their Bandcamp profile. I played guitar on a couple of their less recent releases there.
Are you working with any of the same musicians or vocalists you were working with on your older releases (“Notturno”, “Vertebra”, “Sin4tr4”), or is Australasia going to be a solo project as it is on the new single?
An old friend of mine helped with drums on "Mercurio” while I took care of everything else (and I liked it a lot). For the future I don't know yet. For sure, I will need someone's assistance with percussion and maybe female vocals, but I will decide when I’ll have a consistent draft of the tracks ready.
Your older releases had more of an experimental black metal sound while “Mercurio • Argento” is more ambient and keyboard oriented. Why the change in sound since you started again?
I always liked synthesizers a lot and I’ve used them extensively on previous Australasia recordings, but guitars where always the dominant instrument there.
From now I’m planning on balancing both things. Putting back massive guitars but also leaving synths more space, especially when it comes to more ethereal parts.
Keyboards give you a very large palette of sounds and the hardest part is finding a tone that sticks properly to the mood of the track and enriches it without making it cheesy.
Were there specific sounds or tones you were working toward achieving on your older albums? How important was tone in relation to putting your material across as you wanted it to?
The older records were all about guitars and every other instrument had to sit well in the mix compared to it.
My guitar tone is a blend of love for heavy music, post rock and psychedelia, but I also wanted something that makes me think about childhood memories, and this is where retro synths come from, reinforcing my vision of music as an escape from reality.
How much of a void existed during the time you weren’t writing and composing? In what ways does the new single reflect that?
"Mercurio/Argento" sounds somehow desolate in many parts, reflecting the feeling of emptiness of a life without music and art. But there's also hope and the pure happiness of getting back on the path of creativity.
Both tracks there have great crescendos, and that's what I try to do also in everyday life, always aiming for the better and music for sure can make everyone life's greater.
What do you see heavy music as being compatible with post rock and psychedelia? How do you fit those similarities while writing and composing songs?
The compatibility among these kind of genres is subjective and depends mainly on my taste as a listener. While composing I don't plan to use any specific type of music in advance but anything serves the mood and the purpose of the track can be included.
How important was escaping from reality in your childhood? In what ways do the retro synths represent that period in your life in your recordings? Do you intend to encourage your listeners to dream in similar ways when listening to your work?
When I was a child in the 80s and early 90s, reading was my favourite way to take a break from reality. Synthesizers where the thing back then and I still enjoy that kind of tones a lot.
I like to think to Australasia as a way to connect with the audience and unconsciously share my feelings with the listeners.
Are there black metal bands you listen to on a regular basis that had any sort of influence on your songwriting?
Not really, I didn't listen to any black metal for a long time. But if I had to mention a record that I really dig, I would say "Existenz" by Finster. It has been released approximately on the same period of the first Australasia recording and it shares some mutual influence in the guitar work.
How would you describe Finster’s release “Existenz” to people who haven’t heard it?
It is really fast and shimmering music with a great guitar work, melodic and aggressive at the same time. I've never listened to a black metal album that sounds like that.
Do you know of any links to Finster’s albums where people can hear them for themselves?
Unfortunately, they are not well known and didn't hear from them for a long time. Probably YouTube is the best platform where it is possible to listen to some of their work.
What kind of a role did female vocals have in Australasia’s material? You were working with a vocalist in the old days; how close did she come to your vision in the recording studio?
I like to think to vocals as an instrument. Putting in a lead line but always without intelligible words. For me Ennio Morricone is a big inspiration when it comes to it.
My friend Mina Carlucci did all the singing on past Australasia releases. She followed my guidelines but added her personal jazzy touch to it and I’m more than happy about the result.
Where did Mina Carlucci’s jazzy touch come from, and how much did it enhance your sound in the studio?
She's a jazz singer and a friend of mine. She did a fantastic job with her vocals adding warmth to tracks that otherwise would have been weak.
How much experience does Carlucci have as a vocalist? Has she lent her talents to projects besides Australasia? And do you plan to work with her again now that you’re restarting the project?
She's a solo artist and plays in different jazz acts. She's also a very talented music teacher and vocal coach. Her recordings are available on Spotify. I'd be glad to do something with her again but we're both really busy. Hopefully there will be the chance in a few months from now.
Describe the guidelines you set for Carlucci when she was recording vocals? On which of your tracks did she do the most impressive job?
I told her to not use lyrics and to stick to a certain mood. We were together while recordings so I asked her to change some little details from time to time but in general all her vocal lines are her ideas. I love in particular her job on "Invisibile", I find it magnificent.
Some people consider melancholy, depressive music to be negative. As a musician and a fan of underground music, what is your personal view about this? How do you balance emptiness and hope with your songwriting?
The only music that I really find depressive is the one that I find being very bad or shallow. This is really negative to me.
Melancholy is a consistent part of my feelings as a human being and it doesn't make me a bad person at all. When I let it flow though music, as a musician or a listener, it feels good. And good brings more good that reflects in everyday life.
I think to art mostly as a source of pleasure and escape. The closest humanity will ever come to perfection. My thought is, as long as you truly enjoy it, don't be worried about anything.
Earlier I asked you about inspiring your listeners to dream and escape reality through your music? Do you also intend to provide them with a chance for catharsis from facing their own melancholy?
I don't aim to bring anything in special to the listener except some good vibes, but if someone can deeply connect through music, that's really something special.
How do your lyrics for Australasia fit your songwriting as we’ve discussed it up until now?
All the singing in Australasia tracks are without lyrics as I like to use vocals as an instrument. The meaning of the track titles is different. They usually reflect the track mood or refer to the event that inspired the song.
Any specific events you based your songs on that you want to discuss here? Which moods are usually present in the other songs you compose for Australasia?
I cannot write any music while I'm sad or angry. Most of my work is inspired by childhood memories or apparently small things. For example, the track "Vostok" was written around the idea of playing it with a friend of mine who as a band with the same name. I asked him to play acoustic guitar on a track, and when he accepted I was very excited and started composing around that idea.
How did “Vostok” turn out once it was completed? Did it convey the emotions you intended it to when you began writing it? How is it intended to make the listener feel?
The purpose of that track was to achieve a good balance between distorted and acoustic guitars. I like the way it turned out a lot. Honestly, I didn't expect it to be so good.
Are you writing any songs for a new album, EP or single? How do you intend to expand on the material you composed for your previous outings?
I'm currently working on some visuals based on the tracks from “Mercurio • Argento” but I would like to release another single around mid-2020. I have a few tracks ready for the recording, just have to pick up two of them.
What kind of visuals are you devising for the two songs on “Mercurio • Argento”? How are you planning to represent them through visuals?
I asked a friend to make a simple animation based on the cover of the single and we used it to upload "Mercurio" on YouTube. You can see it here. I'm also working on a video for "Argento", but this is a more complex project and it's going to take some time. From now on I’d like to pair each Australasia song with a visual project.
How much more complex will the video animation for “Argento” be compared to the video for “Mercurio”? How long do you expect it to take before it’s completed?
The plan is to make a complete video clip with mixed techniques. The best scenario will take two or three months to complete it.
Is there any way you can describe the new tracks you plan to record for your next release? Are you planning to record another single or will the next release be an EP?
The upcoming tracks will be more balanced between synths and guitar work. I will release another two-track single, I like this format a lot as it is also great to release cool vinyl.
As far as videos for the songs to record for the nest single, do you have any ideas in mind or will they come at another time?
I need them to be finished before coming with inspiration for a video. Also, I prefer to focus on one of two things at the time and I've got so much on my hands right now.
Are you eventually going to seek labels to distribute your work to a wider audience? How well is social media getting your name around at present?
I'm definitely going to do everything on my own. I used to work with labels and they are great if you are looking for more exposure, but you have to deal with other people and I don't like it. Even if they are cool guys, you're always subject to other people’s needs and ideas. I'm not good with social platforms. I'm carrying on a Facebook page for Australasia but that's it. They say that social media are the best way to get known today, and probably they are right, but that's not for me. I like talking to people, writing emails directly to my listeners, putting a handwritten note in each record I sell. I find that a direct contact is way stronger than any Facebook or Instagram post.
Did you ever consider starting your own label to distribute your work exclusively?
I'm considering the idea of joining forces with friends from other bands to start our own label, but this is only a rough plan for now.
Who are you planning to start this new label with? Are these people you’ve known for some time or people you recently met?
My friend Giuseppe Argentiero from Niemandsrose and Vostok will do this label thing with me. We know and trust each other for a very long time, like 20 years or more. We both played guitar in Ingraved but never together.