Sunday, June 5, 2022

Interview with Paolo Serboli of Desecrate (Italy) by Dave Wolff

Interview with Paolo Serboli of Desecrate (Italy) by Dave Wolff

Desecrate formed in 1995 and released their debut full-length, “Moonshiny Tales (The Torment And The Rapture)” in 1998. While it was well received, the band disbanded in 2001. Can you explain the reasons for this?
What you say is true and it was a great disappointment for some of us. When we started to have more visibility thanks to “Moonshiny Tales”, several insiders began to take an interest in Desecrate. Similarly, other bands that at the time were a little better known than Desecrate began to make friends with us and, as soon as the opportunity arose, one of them offered the position as a musician to one of us who accepted. We were young and inexperienced and the fact grounded our ambition. We started together in 1995 and we had come all that way to then, at the first opportunity, throw everything away. So we decided not to continue.

“Tranquility” and “Promo '98” were your two demos released before your debut. Do you remember how many copies were made and distributed? How did Mephisto Records (Italy) sign you to release “Moonshiny Tales” based on the demos?
In 1996, one of the few possibilities to be heard was cassette demos. These were sent to be known, to have reviews and interviews in magazines and to look for live shows in the clubs. Surely they were also sent to record companies to look for a contract. We published 500 copies which finished in a few months. The distribution was totally homemade, so orders by telephone or by letter, packing one by one and shipping to the post office. Obviously the promotion was done all on the road and in magazines. It was a great satisfaction to finish 500 copies in a short time, but the contract still did not arrive. In 1998 we decided to produce a new demo but only for the insiders, its name was “Promo 98”, above there were two songs which then went on the full length. The newborn Mephisto Records decided to sign us for our debut album and so was born “Moonshiny Tales”.

The compilation CD “Into the Underground Vol. 1”, released in 1998, included a song from your second demo. On what label was this compilation released, and how did you get involved?
“Into The Underground” was a compilation that was produced by Whiplash Productions, an Italian label that in the 90s produced numerous underground bands; mainly Italian. In those years the rule was word of mouth and so we learned of this label that was selecting bands for its compilation. We proposed with a practically unreleased song and we were included in volume 2 of “Into The Underground”.

Nine years passed before the band reformed to record new material. How did you spend that time and why did you decide to get back together?
After the split some of us started other projects and, for a long period of time, there were no striking things that would allow us to forget what happened in 2001. In 2009 Paolo Serboli (co-founder and drummer of Desecrate) met Matteo Campora (pianist) and decided to start a band together. After a few months and realizing that the tracks were meeting what was done in the first years with Desecrate, the idea came to call some members of the original line-up who accepted and, together with the three new members we began to write material for the release, “XIII, The Death” (Inverse Records) which allowed us to return to the scene. In 2015, after the release of the album “Orpheus” there were several lineup changes due mainly to the musical path taken by the band compared to the beginning. Today we can count on a solid lineup that has been together for the past five years.

Since you resumed your career in 2010, how many albums has the band released? I heard you have several opportunities to tour and spread the word about your return; who are some of the bands you've played with?
From 2010 the full lengths released were “XIII, The Death” (Inverse Records, 2012) and “Orpheus” (House of Ashes Productions, 2015) then we decided not to release more albums but to always come out with singles accompanied by video clips. It was a choice entirely linked to the way in which people enjoy music today. Focusing all your efforts on releasing an album with ten songs and then discovering that people only know about the videos you put on Youtube while the record sales are ridiculous is frustrating. So we decided to focus our efforts on quality and not quantity. Today, however, we consider that after the release of “Burning Books” which is on “A Time Of Sorrow” (compilation by Ocularis Infernum Booking & Promotion, Black Tears Label) the idea of putting a few tracks together on a single disc caressed us again. The material we have written is a lot and therefore we are thinking about a new album.
Regarding your question about our live activity, I can tell you that since the release of ORPHEUS we have made an important qualitative leap. Today we can boast a fair series of concerts in European festivals alongside bands such as Dark Tranquility, Orphaned Land, Nervosa, Primordial, Pyogenesis, Tristania and many others.

Since the band reformed, how many lineup changes have there been? When and how did the current lineup come together and how well do they work together to write material?
When we got back together in 2010, the lineup included three original members and three new members. With this line-up we recorded “XIII, The Death” in 2012 (Inverse Records). Sometime later Alex Reale decided to take a break and left the band, so we decided to stay with a five member lineup, with only one guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and vocals. A little while later, keyboardist Matteo Campora decided to devote himself totally to the family and Andrea Grillone entered in his place. With this lineup we did two Italian tours, one of which in 2013 opening for Dark Tranquility. We signed a contract with House Of Ashes for the new album and we published it in 2015. The work is called “Orpheus” and the cover is curated by Niklas Sundin the guitarist of Dark Tranquility. After the release of “Orpheus”, the historical guitarist Fancesco Scavo decided to leave the band for reasons of different views on the musical style undertaken. In his place Alex Reale returned again (still today with Desecrate). The European tour in support of “Orpheus” begins but during the tour things didn't go well between some of us and we parted with keyboardist Andrea Grillone and singer and co-founder Gabriele Giorgi. Shortly before them, Dave Piredda (bassist and composer) also left the band to devote himself to his family. Together with Alex we held firm and reassembled the band that since 2017 has been training Oscar Morchio on bass, Edoardo “Irmin” Iacono on vocals and Gabriele "Hyde" Gilodi on keyboards. With this lineup we started writing music for Desecrate again and three singles were released: “In His Image” in 2019, “Obscure Times” in 2020 and “Burning Books” on the compilation “A Time Of Sorrow” on December 25, 2021.

When did the band hook up with Inverse Records to release “XIII, The Death”? Was the deal with them limited to just that release?
Inverse Records was a great help to us. In 2012, after releasing XIII, The Death” we were looking for a distributor who would bring the physical album to the world. Finland's Inverse stepped up and offered to reissue and distribute the album doing a great job. After a year the contract ended and, by signing with House Of Ashes, we no longer had the opportunity to work with Inverse.

How did the band secure a deal with House of Ashes for the release of your next album after leaving Inverse Records?
It was an almost casual encounter. We were doing a show in a club in Genoa. We were with other bands and at that moment the two House of Ashes partners were there to enjoy the evening with their friends who were from the same circle as us. The next day they sent me an email saying they were interested in Desecrate. We got in touch and they made me some suggestions: tours, a new album, merchandising etc. You have to know that these things hardly happen here. For us, these things only happen in movies. So I was very cautious and, when they realized I wanted guarantees, they offered me a mini tour of seven days together with two other bands from their roster without signing anything until the end of the tour itself. I accepted and when we got home we decided to sign with them because they had shown a lot of seriousness. The contract was for a record (“Orpheus”), an Italian tour and a European tour. But the latter, unfortunately, we did not do it because the partners of House of Ashes split and sent the label into bankruptcy. Never mind, we did the European tour the following year.

Which of your three full-length albums best shows how capable the band was at recording an album at the time?
Good question! Let's say that each album has had its own path. A lot of time and attention has been devoted to each job. “Moonshiny Tales” from 1999 is the debut album, we worked hard both in the writing of the songs and in the studio, we wanted it to be perfect. I think that album still sounds good now. “XIII, The Death” instead was the reunion album but also of a partially renewed line-up and the tracks contained in the CD are the result of the ideas of all the members of the band. Including a track that was discarded by Moonshiny Tales which is “The Illusion Gate”. “Orpheus” was perhaps the most mature album both from a compositional and production point of view.

Why are Italian bands not recognized on a larger scale as much as bands from other European countries?
Actually I think it's a support problem from one's own nation. Italy is considered the country of culture, but in this case there seems to be Serie A culture and Serie B culture then. If from other places specific branches such as rock or metal are taken into consideration, and therefore in some way helped, unfortunately this is not the case in Italy. We have many good bands that are internationally recognized but they have done it all by themselves. Then, the paradox is that there are bands that in Italy do not even know who they are but have a huge success abroad. We are the country of the Italian song, the love song and the neomelodic. The rest is left to itself.

What metal festivals has the band played in Europe, and how has your fan base developed since those shows? Have you made friends with the bands you mentioned playing with?
We mainly played in several festivals in Eastern Europe. The Sea Of Black Festival in Bulgaria, Flex Fest, Klausenburg Metal Gathering, Rock In Jasi in Romania, Metal Over Malta in Malta and several others. With all the bands we played with, we immediately created an excellent relationship, with someone more and with someone less but always with great respect for everyone. With Dark Tranquility there was a stronger bond because in any case they are great inspirers for our music and then there was this collaboration for the realization of the cover of “Orpheus” which further increased the bond.

How long have those festivals been active in their respective countries?
Some six years, some three years. However, they are all important festivals that host international bands and also give space to smaller bands.

Over the past few years, which obscure and lesser known bands that you know of have gotten attention at Italy's active metal festivals?
Unfortunately the last two years we know how they have gone. The pandemic has closed any possibility of doing anything. But I can tell you that before the lockdown we were in talks for a Festival in Greece, the Demon Gates Festival where Tiamat and Draconian would be headlining. But several European festivals have hosted bands such as Dark Tranquility, Paradise Lost, Primordial, Insomnium and Mayhem.

Is it possible to find out more about the festivals you mentioned on the internet? Either by visiting their official sites or viewing videos of the fests at Youtube?
Yes of course, just search on search engines or Youtube and you will find everything you are looking for.

How did you get a spot on the “A Time Of Sorrow” compilation for its release last year? How aggressively has it been promoted?
With Andred of Ocularis Infernum we signed a promotion contract for the band for a few months, when one day he called us to ask if we were interested in participating on “A Time Of Sorrow”. We liked this because it reminded us of our beginnings. At the time, joining a compilation meant making yourself known to an audience who might never have listened to you. In the 90s there were no internet and social media so, if you wanted to let you know the cases were few, among these the compilations were one of the best (even as a distribution) so we accepted with pleasure. The promotion that Ocularis Infernum is doing for this compilation is extraordinary and we are happy with how things are going. This interview is proof of that!

Tell the readers about your two singles “In His Image” and “Obscure Times”, especially how you wrote, composed, and recorded them?
In 2018 there was a real revolution in the lineup. In a nutshell I have remained the only original member of the band since 1995 along with Alex who has been playing in Desecrate for nine years. In that year the line up was completed with Oscar Morchio, Edoardo Iacono and Gabriele Gilodi. At the beginning of 2019 “In His Image” was the first song composed and arranged with the new line up and of which we immediately made the video clip to announce the new line-up to fans after almost two years out of the scene. The following year we arranged “Obscure Times”, a song previously composed by our former bassist Dave Piredda and which we liked to the point of wanting to publish it. Unfortunately, the pandemic prevented us from shooting a video clip and we therefore decided to release a lyric video.

What was the inspiration for “Burning Books” and how much time and effort did it take to compose it as opposed to a full album?
“Burning Books” has quite a long history. It was the first piece composed with the new line-up. Precisely because it was the first, we considered it a little too mature to be put on the market and, after trying a huge amount of arrangements without coming to terms with them, we decided to put it aside because it didn't convince us. When Andred of Ocularis Infernum suggested we participate in the compilation "A Time of Sorrow" we thought that “Burning Books” could find its place. We made a new arrangement that was completely different from what we had done up to that point and that's what you can hear today. A song that now fully satisfies us.

What is the level of sensitivity of the material you wrote for “Burning Books”?
We all have our social network channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Bandcamp not to be confused with other homonymous bands, we are the Italian band Desecrate. People can go to our channels and pages and ask us anything. We are always the ones to answer, we like to have direct contact with our friends. “Burning Books” has an excellent response for being a song by an underground band. We are very satisfied with it, considering that the promotion, for the moment, is exclusively through underground channels such as local radio zines and, of course, our social networks.

Why did you initially consider “Burning Books” to be too serious for the market before you decided to record it?
In fact, “Burning Books” hadn't convinced us right away. It was the first track after a major lineup change, it was still immature and we couldn't find an arrangement that really convinced us. After working hard on it, it was put aside for a while, then the opportunity to participate in “A Time Of Sorrow”, the compilation published by Ocularis Infernum Booking & Promotion and Black Tears Label, then we decided to put the piece back together to try to make it unique for that compilation. In the end we were convinced of the work and decided to publish it. I would say we did well.

How much of “Burning Books” was changed musically and lyrically before its official release?
As said before it has been changed many times especially in the “special” part, so much so that nothing good could come out of those arrangements. At one point we also thought about “taking it apart” and using certain refs for other songs. After putting it aside for a few months, the inspiration came that allowed us to find the right arrangement and so we did.

What are the lyrics of “Burning Books” and how do they relate to the current political and news climate?
“Burning Books” for us is a renunciation of culture which is the most precious thing we have. The renunciation of culture is a clear sign of man's laziness in reasoning with his own head and therefore allowing himself to be maneuvered and subdued by whoever is a step above him. From the head of the office to the politician on duty.

In what ways has “Burning Books” been influential as far as composing new material and lyrics?
As mentioned earlier, “Burning Books” is a song that was put aside because we couldn't find an arrangement that we liked. At the same time our musical path was evolving and changing skin, moving us to more atmospheric and experimental sounds. “Burning Books” is a track finer in itself than a real source of inspiration. This does not mean that we will no longer compose pieces in this style, but simply that at the moment we are doing something different because that is how we like it. Maybe someday we'll put out a whole “Burning Books” style album, I can't tell you. It depends on how we will be inspired.

In addition to atmosphere, what other experimental sounds are you considering incorporating into your material? How will this expand your horizons?
Desecrate has always experimented in the composition of their music. In our songs you can hear the most varied things, from electronic drums to electro atmospheres. This is not always to the liking of the most purist fans. But we love to do this, we don't like getting stuck on the same stuff just to please the first hour fans. Whoever listens to one of our records must be able to be surprised, they will hear different tracks, sounds and influences different from the classic melodeath. The next album will push us even further out of the classic canons, there will be sounds and experiments that will make someone turn up their noses, but music for us is the freedom to do what we hear and what we like best. We don't have a record company that dictates what to do, so we compose with maximum freedom and inspiration.

Are you seeking a deal with a new label for your next release, or do you intend to stay with the label you’re currently signed to?
We currently have no contract with labels, we are looking for one that takes care of the band in every aspect, from production to distribution, but it is very difficult to find a label that is willing to invest seriously. We don't give up and keep looking. We hope that some of these read this interview and contact us (hahahaha...).

What impressions does the band want to leave on underground music in Italy? How long do you think it will take you to achieve it?
It is very difficult to answer this question. At the beginning we played for the sake of it but above all because we had the great dream that everyone has which is to be able to live with our music. Obviously the reality is very hard and especially for Italian bands it is very difficult to create an international space that is so high that it can influence other bands or artists. Someone has succeeded but unfortunately this is not our case. We have been Desecrate since 1995, many people know us but few have really deepened what we do. Some have done it and have followed us for twenty five years, maybe we will leave something to them and it will be fine like this.

Edoardo "Irmin" Iacono: Vocals
Alex Reale: Guitars, backing vocals
Oscar Morchio: Bass, clean vocals
Gabriele "Hyde" Gilodi: Piano, keyboards
Paolo Serboli: Drums, programming

-Dave Wolff

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