Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Interview with Matteo Zanella of Padus by Dave Wolff

Interview with Matteo Zanella of Padus by Dave Wolff

How did Padus come up with the idea to combine doom, dark ambient and classic jazz trio while presenting everything with a metal aesthetic?
My great desire was to experiment without borders. I know I didn't invent anything new by putting together a bass, an organ and drums, but by distorting everything and making it heavy, maybe it could work. I distorted everything in certain songs on my records, even the voice, and then interspersed it with episodes of dark and silent ambient, in order to create a notable contrast.

There was a time when you were a member of a thrash-death metal band called Hellvoid, which released two demos in 1995 and 1998. Please tell the readers about the work you put into that band and any other releases you may have made with them?
It was a long time ago, when death metal was really going strong. I was the voice and guitar in that band, I proposed riffs, wrote lyrics, designed the logo and also laid out the covers of the two demos. In the first demo from 1995 (Infernal fonds), I was the voice and the compositions were quite classic-style for the time, with a fairly deep vocal growl. Shortly after for various personal reasons I left the band, only to return in 1998 and make a second demo (Dreams of past shadows), where the bassist was the voice and I limited myself to playing only the guitar. Here the compositions were more complex and technical and the style was very close to that of Carcass' “Heartwork”. But all this is now part of a distant past.

Are either Hellvoid demos still available on streaming websites or were they released on a limited basis? What efforts did Hellvoid make to evolve death metal? Did the development of Hellvoid influence the growth of your current project in any way, or is Padus a separate entity?
Hellvoid was a short but intense youth experience of mine. At the time, in the 90s, we rarely played live but we didn't have much of an audience. The project didn't evolve much to be relevant, it was a debut group like many others. Padus was born from many musical experiences in my life, metal and non-metal

Can you say how much distortion plays a role in your songwriting? Does the amount of distortion vary from song to song when you compose?
Distortion, especially of the bass, is fundamental in my compositions, it regulates the mood of my songs. If the atmosphere is quite calm, soft, I could limit myself to a very light crunch sound, characterized by a simple overdrive. If the rhythm is important and with a heavy cadence, a nice powerful and metallic distortion is perfect. I do not exclude that the voice and the organ are distorted too, so as to create tension and panic. Lately I created a sound that I called “Abarth” that recalls the roar of rally cars, obtained with several distortions put together and used in the compositions where I wanted to create total chaos! Aaaaaahhhh!!!

There are some people who complain that underground music lyrics are difficult to understand. When you record your vocals, how much distortion do you use, and do you take care to make your lyrics as clear as possible?
Poor people, who do not know how to interpret art, ha, ha, ha, ha! I “sing” in grammelot, that is: a theatrical language, an emission of sounds without sense but similar to real words or speeches in order to obtain a comic or farcical effect. I add distortion in the voice when I want to create tension and anxiety, then if the lyrics are not understood it is because either I used grammelot, or I always attach the text written on the internet, when this exists.

Explain in more detail what grammelot is and how it functions as a vocal style. In what way does Padus' formula utilize this approach to singing?
Grammelot is a theatrical language, an emission of meaningless sounds but similar to real words or speeches with the aim of obtaining a comic or farcical effect, used in my musical project to communicate in an alternative way, giving the same color to the lyrics, while not saying anything or babbling a few words to make the listener more or less understand the topic being discussed.

What effect does the addition of dark ambience have on the balance between Padus’ heaviness and atmosphere?
A dark atmosphere always creates a disturbing situation: anxiety, melancholy, desperation, depression and it is made mostly of very low notes especially of a piano. So basically it is sad, then it gives the coup de grace with a heavy rhythm beaten in a violent way. Do you know how much fun I have?

Are anxiety, melancholy, desperation, and depression the emotions you intend to convey through incorporating distortion and ambiance? Does this project share similarities with ambient and noise projects such as Mortiis, Vond, Aghast, and Abruptum for example, or does it come from an entirely different mindset?
Of course: atmospheres and amounts of distortion depending on the mood of the song I'm composing. I haven't listened to the bands mentioned much, so if there are similarities with these projects it's completely coincidental. My Padus project was born without very specific references, it is something very intimate and personal, songwriting which very much reflects my character, my personality.

Tell us about some of the musical experiences Padus was born from after Hellvoid.
Well, I can tell you that my musical experiences have been many and varied, but none of them, including Hellvoid, have had any influence on the creation of the Padus project. This one man band of mine was born from my infinite desire to experiment with different sounds.

Are you writing material for Padus to exorcise personal demons, or is it an affirmation of aspects of your psyche most people would rather not acknowledge? Is Padus a mirror to your listeners or an opportunity to display aspects of yourself you wouldn't otherwise be able to?
Padus is a project that reflects my personality very much. I am like this, like my music, like all my albums. What I cannot express publicly, I do through sounds and artistic expression. I express all my moods with the songs of Padus, as well as my way of thinking or seeing things.

Do you have a private studio or prefer to work in a professional studio with engineers and producers? How much of your chaotic style and unique vocals can you maintain when you're making the transition between composing songs for Padus and recording them?
I have a private studio at my home, where I can easily self-manage, where as soon as inspiration comes, I can record it immediately. Between composing and recording, there is not much difference: how I conceive I record. Of course, by recording new ideas can arise to enrich the song or new sound solutions.

For how long had you been collecting recording and mixing material for your private studio? In order to achieve Padus' desired sound, was it a lengthy process to find appropriate material?
Every time I'm about to make an album, I compose songs that will be part of it, but sometimes it happens that some songs don't convince me so much and so I put them in the archive for future works. Currently I have an archive with several songs collected in recent years. When I started with this project it wasn't easy at all to create a distorted bass sound that worked for my songs. I had to do several recording tests to get to a satisfactory level. It was a bit of a long process before recording the first EP.

How often do you feel inspired to write and are motivated to record in your studio? What is the frequency with which you come up with new ideas for your songs?
As soon as I find some free time from work, I immediately pick up my bass, connect to the computer and start trying out new material. Unfortunately, there aren't many free moments. The ideas for the songs, the topics, the titles to give and the covers to create, I find them by looking around and having personal experiences, so, almost every day ideas are born; it's the time to realize them that is scarce.

What is the number of songs left off of your debut EP, “Diva Sporca”, prior to its completion? Have any of those been included on subsequent recordings, or are they still on the back burner?
On that occasion I didn't archive any extra tracks. It was my first work, so I moved in small steps in a timid way. I started archiving tracks towards the third, fourth album and some of those are still in the archive.

“Diva Sporca” has a distinctly massive sound, as much in terms of atmosphere and keyboards as bass and drums. Furthermore, it has a hypnotic repetitiveness that has become something of a signature sound for Padus. As a first impression, did you intend for it to have a huge atmosphere?
I focused a lot on the atmospheric aspect, while maintaining heavy sounds that would have given that right dark contribution. However, I repeat, I was still in the start-up phase and I had to move with caution.

What's the meaning of the lyrics on “Diva Sporca” and what imagery did you want to convey through them, in addition to feelings of anxiety, melancholy, desperation, and depression?
“Diva Sporca”, as on the cover, represents the indecent exploitation of the female body with prostitution and pornography: a tortured body (symbolically) of a woman with a group of skulls that represent unscrupulous exploiters and consumers of pornography. “La Luna Nera”, where I then also shot the first video clip of Padus, speaks symbolically of an occult rite, it is not specified whether satanic or of another entity, but it wants to express the dark atmosphere of an occult rite. “La Peste” instead tells of the mysterious environment of the island of Poveglia, an abandoned island in the Venice lagoon, where in ancient times there was a hospital with plague patients and where it is said that dark phenomena now occur perhaps due to the presence of restless souls. Both for “La Lingua Nera” and for “La Peste”, I also created two paintings inspired by the two songs.

How are the characteristics of “La Lingua Nera” and “La Peste” depicted in the two paintings that you mentioned earlier?
Just as described in the related texts: in “La Luna Nera”, elements such as the moon, blood, sperm, worms and that occultist touch that underlies everything are represented. While in “La Peste”, faces are represented, almost masks. These are all the souls that are prisoners of their damned destiny that imprisons them in that abandoned context of the island of Poveglia.

Were each of your albums intended to have a different concept behind them? How would you describe the conceptual themes of the full lengths you released after “Diva Sporca”?
There doesn't necessarily have to be a concept. It can happen like for “Opera funebre”, but the songs all have a different argument and still remain linked to the dark themes typical of Doom metal.

Are there any lyrics or artwork that particularly stands out from your albums between “Diva Sporca” and “Opera funebre”? Name some of the songs that best represent the growth of Padus over the years.
Of course, in every album there is always the song that I care about the most and therefore I consider it more prominent, such as: “La luna nera” (from “Diva Sporca”), “Ballata sulla fossa” (from “Colloqui con il satana”), “La fola del mare negro” (from “La łengua del leòn”), “Maniaco” and “Ora pro nobis” (from “Amsirac”), “Blues del camposanto” (from “Modificazioni genetiche per esposizione ai raggi gamma”), “Baptisterium” (from “Oscuramenti”) and “Croce di marmo nero” (from “Opera funebre”). Songs that could very well be included in a possible live repertoire, but which for the moment I am unable to implement, even if in 2020 I had tried to put together a band for concerts, but then Covid arrived.

In what ways does your latest album “Opera funebre” differ from your previous albums in terms of how it was written and recorded?
I've wanted to make a true cemetery doom album for a long time. A dark, caracombal record, an album that deals with only one subject, in this case cemeteries, funeral rites and everything that revolves around them. I also chose to use calmer sounds and rhythms than the previous ones.

There is a sense of ancient crypts and ancient spirits lurking in the shadows throughout “Opera funebre”. It's not until the final track that your grammelot vocal style is heard. Did you design this intentionally while representing funeral rites in cemeteries?
The song “La Lingua Oscura” deals with the theme of “metaphony”, used as a phenomenon to listen to the voice of the deceased through radio waves. So the vocal part is incomprehensible just like the one that can be heard in these experiments.

Before you experimented with the vocals in “La Lingua Oscura”, how did you learn about metaphony? I’ve noticed paranormal investigators are increasingly using radio devices to communicate with spirits or entities. Did you watch video accounts and/or read online accounts as part of your research?
I was a little disturbed by this topic, watching video testimonials on social networks. However, I must confess that I am somewhat skeptical about these phenomena, but it lent itself very well to the context of the album.

Are you researching any particular subject matter for future songs and/or albums? What has been holding your interest lately? Do you have any inspiration for writing new material?
No particular topics, not even things or facts that have piqued my interest, but I can tell you in advance that the new album that will be released in October 2024 is already ready (recorded and printed) and I'm already working on the draft of the one that will be released in the spring of 2025. In case I die, I will delegate some trusted person to have it published ha, ha, ha!

Are you making any efforts to reach a wider audience? Since the beginning, you have released your music independently; do you intend to sign with an indie label in the near future or would you prefer to keep creative control over your work?
If the listeners of my music were to increase, I'd be happy, otherwise there's no problem. My greatest satisfaction is simply that of experimenting, recording my songs and making my albums. I prefer to remain independent, self-produced, and genuine to the max. My project reflects my personality a lot from the covers that I paint, to my experimental songs and therefore it is very intimate and that's how I want it to remain.

Since you choose to remain under the radar as an independent artist, how much self-promotion are you conducting to promote your work?
The usual thing I do for all the records I make: I make a very limited edition of copies that I then sell out in a short time, I put the news on Facebook and make the album downloadable for free on Bandcamp. Luckily this time I have the support of The Triad Records that gives me the opportunity to make myself known abroad too.

-Dave Wolff

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