Devil Doll - Interview with Mr.Doctor (Euro-Rock Press)
INTERVIEW FOR EURO ROCK PRESS MAGAZINE – MADE ON OCTOBER 30, 2008
FIRST OF ALL, TELL US ABOUT YOUR OWN PROFILE, MUSICAL BACKGROUND AND MAJOR INFLUENCE FROM COMPOSERS AND ARTISTS INCLUDING CLASSICAL MUSIC.
"My guiding light is (and always was) the charm and stupefaction I feel in front of a great work of Art, the trembling of my body when filled by the germs of someone’s inspiration, and the emotion, the challenge of creating, of pulling out of myself the Unknown. Art is the greatest adventure we are allowed to experience in our brief apparition on the stage of life. I have always listened to a wide range of music, but I cannot say I was “directly” inspired by any artist in particular. In classical music I always admired Mussorgsky’s unorthodoxy, unpredictability and disrespect of rules, and a few other Russian composers such as Shostakovich (the second tempo of his 8th String Quartet and Chamber Symphony op.110/110a electrocuted my imagination at least as much as the beginning of his 5th Symphony must have remained stuck in Morrissey’s mind, when he sampled it for 11 minutes on the opening song of his “Southpaw Grammar” album), Prokofiev (whose exceptional melodic ingeniousness influenced me, but must have pleased Sting too, as he borrowed the theme of Prokofiev’s “Lieutenant Kijé” for his hit “Russians”) and Mosolov (whose mid-1920s piece “Iron Foundry” is pure Prog-Rock à la Magma, Art Zoyd, Univers Zero). Early in my Devil Doll days, I was also into Ives (his 4th Symphony, in particular), Weill (the “Threepenny Opera” and “The Seven Deadly Sins”) and Eisler (a few of his songs, which I also performed and recorded, and the “German Symphony”). Among the classical conductors, my favourite was Fritz Reiner, whose interpretations of Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony, Prokofiev’s “Aleksandr Nevsky” or Armenian composer Alan Hovhaness’s Second Symphony “Mysterious Mountain”, are unsurpassable. Concerning Pop and Rock music, there are a few albums spread throughout the last five decades which I find truly terrific, although I often find more inspirational tiny sparkles of genius lost in bad records, than uniformly good albums which are unable to engrave my soul."PLEASE ALSO COMMENT ON THE WORKS OF LITERATURE THAT HAVE INFLUENCED YOU.
"Along with Symbolist poets and the Avant-gardes of the 20th century (Surrealism and its precursor Lautreamont, in particular), I was inevitably shaped by European writers such as Franz Kafka, Oscar Wilde, Luigi Pirandello or Graham Greene. At the same time, I developed an interest for the literature which dealt with imagination, with the hidden and the supernatural: after reading Lovecraft’s inspirational essay “Supernatural Horror In Literature” (1927) I was carried away by Sheridan LeFanu’s “In A Glass Darkly”, by the slow but atmospheric Gothic novels of Charles Maturin and ‘Monk’ Lewis, by Edgar Allan Poe (who made me understand from where Baudelaire’s most charming metaphors originated), Henry James’ “The Turn Of The Screw”, Arthur Machen’s “The Great God Pan” and Algernon Blackwood’s “The Willows”. Later I went on to read and love M.R. James and Ambrose Bierce and, among the writers of the second half of the 20th century, Charles Beaumont."DID YOU HAVE ANY BAND OR WORK AS A SOLO ARTIST BEFORE FORMING DEVIL DOLL? OR YOU HAD A DIFFERENT PROFESSION?
"In my early twenties I formed a few groups both in Milan, where I was taking my first graduation in Criminology, and in Venice, when studying for my second one in Philosophy, but everyone seemed more keen on checking what was the musical trend of the day (and the ‘80s where an extremely disheartening period, music-wise) instead of trying to explore their own perceptions. I then decided to record my compositions alone, onto a 4-track Teac recorder, hoping that a tape with my music could speak more clearly than a thousand words. It didn’t, as I just collected ironic laughter."WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO FORM DEVIL DOLL?
"I placed an advert to form a group, starting with the sentence “A Man Is The Less Likely To Become Great The More He Is Dominated By Reason. Few Can Achieve Greatness, And None In Art, If They Are Not Dominated By: ILLUSION”. I hoped to find someone who could be on my same wave-length regardless of the technical proficiency – it is much easier to learn how to play an instrument, than to change a mental approach. Among the few people I met through it, there was Edoardo Beato’s sister, a charming and artistically talented girl with an otherworldly aura. We kept talking about our Art discoveries for over a year, until she asked me to witness a concert of her brother’s Art-Rock group, which was named Iter Magister. In the following days I asked them to rehearse with me and this was the very beginning of Devil Doll. "Our original set featured five long compositions which we recorded on my 4-track Teac: four never made it onto any record, but the fifth, The Mark Of The Beast, was recorded properly and preserved on a single-copy vinyl, which was meant as an “Aural Painting”, complete with a hand-painted cover." THE SOUND OF DEVIL DOLL SHOWS THE INFLUENCE FROM MOVIES, ESPECIALLY HORROR FILMS.
"1920s Expressionist films have been a much deeper inspiration than straight Horrors. It is true, though, that some of the best 1930s Horrors were made by Expressionist filmmakers and actors who had emigrated to America. I was delighted by Karl Freund’s camera work in the early scenes of Browning’s “Dracula” or by some of his marvellous shots when he directed “The Mummy” or “Mad Love”. The Expressionist atmosphere also pervades the 1940s Film Noirs directed by Fritz Lang, Robert Siodmak or Edgar Ulmer, all German refugees, and flashes of Expressionism also grace Val Lewton’s nine movies from the same period. But it is the universe of F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu”, “Sunrise”, “Faust” and “The Last Laugh”, G.W. Pabst’s “Joyless Street”, “The Love Of Jeanne Ney”, “Pandora’s Box” and “Diary Of A Lost Girl”, Ewart Dupont’s “Variety”, Joe May’s “Asphalt” or Paul Leni’s “The Man Who Laughs”, which most influenced my visual aesthetics when I started Devil Doll. "DO YOU HAVE ANY RELATION WITH ANY MOVIE DIRECTOR OR SOUNDTRACK MUSIC LIKE THAT OF DARIO ARGENTO AND GOBLIN IN ITALY?
"A few film directors made contact with our label Hurdy Gurdy Records, but I never considered the possibility of doing a soundtrack for a number of reasons. Film music is functional, which means that it is “at the service” of the images. The composer must obey and satisfy the director, the producer, the person who edits the movie, plus a number of film executives, who can all decide to cut your music and impose changes, regardless of the fact that do not understand anything about music (and in some cases also of cinema). When Orson Welles made “Citizen Kane”, he filmed quite a few parts on Bernard Herrmann’s pre-recorded music, in order to enhance the connection between sound and light, fully understanding the subliminal power of the music. But Welles was a genius. Stravinsky and Schoenberg were also asked to write film music, and they asked to compose it taking inspiration directly from the screenplay, whereas the filming should have followed the creation of the music. Even their fame did not prevent their substitution in favour of more realistic “yes-men”."PLEASE TELL US ABOUT HURDY GURDY RECORDS. IS IT AN INDEPENDENT LABEL YOU ESTABLISHED? IF YES, TELL US WHY YOU FORMED THE LABEL FOR RELEASING DEVIL DOLL ALBUMS.
"I established Hurdy Gurdy as a logo under which I released Devil Doll’s first album. But while in ex-Yugoslavia, where the compositions had been recorded, I was allowed to privately print my records through the state-owned Yugoton factory, in Italy, in order to comply with law, it was necessary to establish a “proper” record company. At that point, few people who had followed Devil Doll from the very beginning expressed their desire to create a “real” independent label, which exists up to this day."EACH DEVIL DOLL ALBUM HAS MANY GUESTS IN ADDITION TO THE CORE MEMBERS INCLUDING YOU, AND THE CORE MEMBERS ARE DIFFERENT FROM ALBUM TO ALBUM. PLEASE GIVE ACCOUNT ON THE CORE MEMBERS OF DEVIL DOLL EXCLUDING GUESTS.
"Since the group’s inception, many excellent musicians have performed as Devil Doll members, but I only worked closely with three of them, Edoardo Beato, Rob Dani and Francesco Carta. Edoardo Beato was 16 when we formed Devil Doll. He had already a varied and sophisticated cultural background, which he has continued to develop, becoming a well-known lecturer on various esoteric subjects revolving around Indian philosophy. We still meet with pleasure and recently discussed the concrete possibility of composing together again. Rob Dani was only a couple of years older than Edoardo Beato and had an exceptional talent for improvising and composing with percussions, more than merely supplying a rhythmic backbone. Like me, he never wasted time and self-imposed a rigid discipline. His dedication to Devil Doll was admirable, as he could work with me in the recording studio for 15/18 hours every day, without ever complaining or showing signs of tiredness. On the other hand, he never went along well with Devil Doll sound engineer Jurij Toni (who could be impossibly irritating on a bad day) and it was always hard to tone down the latent tension under the level of explosion. After the release of Sacrilegium, Rob Dani had to serve the army, so we lost him for a whole year. When he returned, he had a serious nervous breakdown which increased the friction with Jurij Toni and led to the hurtful decision to pass on his services. Francesco Carta had been brought in Devil Doll by Rob Dani (with whom he was playing in another group) after the release of Eliogabalus. After being credited as co-composer of Eliogabalus, Edoardo Beato was much more interested in writing music than playing it, so we agreed to recruit a new piano player, with Beato retaining the keyboards. Francesco Carta was a marvellous improviser and after a few initial difficulties, the link between my vocals and his piano became symbiotic. Beato’s role in Devil Doll inevitably felt his role as less prominent, and before the recording of Sacrilegium he decided to quit. From that moment Francesco Carta became the only musician in Devil Doll who shared with me the development of the compositions, the arrangements and the orchestrations."HOW DID YOU PROCEED WITH ALBUM PRODUCTION AND RECORDINGS? HOW DO YOU COMPOSE MUSIC? DOES IT START WITH, SAY, JUST PLAYING THE PIANO? OR YOU ALWAYS LOOK FOR PHRASES OR SOMETHING?
"When I am satisfied with the lyrics (which are always written before the music), I sit at the piano and I let the music flow from the suggestions of the lyrics, as a blind man who follows his dog through tortuous alleys. A micro-recorder saves every note I play for later transcription. At this stage, writing the music could be too architectural, it could abate inspiration and the blind man would seriously risk of “losing the dog”. "WHEN YOU ENTER THE STUDIO, ARRANGEMENTS OF INDIVIDUAL TUNES ARE COMPLETED? DO YOU BASICALLY ARRANGE EVERYTHING ON YOUR OWN? OR YOU PREPARE A FRAMEWORK FOR EACH TUNE, AND OTHER MEMBERS CONTRIBUTE IN TERMS OF PERFORMANCE? WHEN DO YOU APPOINT GUESTS IN THE PROCESS?
"When the framework is set and most part of the music is composed, I begin intense rehearsals with piano player Francesco Carta, in order to transform the act of “doing” music together, in the act of “feeling” music together. When a piano/vocal version of the whole album starts to BREATHE, we begin to work on arrangements and orchestrations. Then I meet separately each member of Devil Doll and the guests, to whom I give a booklet with all their parts, defined in detail (also the guitar solos are written note-by-note). Just before entering the studio, there are a few guitar-bass-drums rehearsals, always without vocals. If compositional contributions are only allowed to Francesco Carta, occasionally I alter my arrangements during the studio phase, following suggestions from one of the other musicians."PLEASE GIVE YOUR COMMENTS ON EACH ALBUM ON THE FOLLOWING POINTS: WHAT THE ALBUM TITLE MEANS. IF THERE IS ANY CONCEPT WHAT IS IT?
"“The Girl Who Was…Death”, inspired by Patrick McGoohan’s esoteric TV series “The Prisoner”, follows the series’ concept, an allegory on Man, at the same time Prisoner and Captor of Himself. The album’s title was taken from the 15th episode of “The Prisoner” and the cover portrays seventeen women (like the number of episodes of “The Prisoner”): sixteen are on the back cover, all dead, and a seventeenth is on the front, Elsa Lanchester (Charles Laughton’s wife) in “The Bride Of Frankenstein”, portrayed an instant before her death. “Eliogabalus” was the name of a child emperor in ancient Rome. His eccentricity (or mental insanity, depending on perspectives) provoked his killing and his obliteration from history, as a law by the Roman Senate even prohibited to write about his existence. The album features two tracks, both dealing with madness, diversity and deformity. The most intensely claustrophobic album is “Sacrilegium”, written and recorded in my darkest life period. It is about Love, a word so overused to the point of becoming meaningless (hence the title), and never mentioned in the lyrics. “The Sacrilege Of Fatal Arms” is the soundtrack to my first silent film, a dream-like (often nightmare-like), series of flashes on emotions at their purest stage. It transposes into images the inner turmoil of “Sacrilegium” and shares the same concept. The “Dies Irae” is a part of the Christian funeral mass, also called “Requiem Mass”, and it is the confrontation between each soul and God in the final judgement which follows each man’s death. My own “Dies Irae” is an account of my background, hopes, doubts and torments. "WHICH IS THE BEST TRACK FROM YOUR VIEWPOINT. WHY?
"From a compositional viewpoint, I rate “Dies Irae” as undoubtedly the best among the five albums now reissued, although I am very fond of all the other albums too, of “Sacrilegium” in particular, for its atmosphere of death and desperation which conjure up in making it a unique experience to many, myself included."IN THE STALLS ON THE FRONT COVER OF “ELIOGABALUS” WE CAN SEE MANY PEOPLE WHO SEEM TO HAVE INFLUENCED YOU OR WHOM YOU LIKE. PLEASE PICK UP TEN OF THEM AND GIVE US A COMMENT ON THEM.
"Robert Louis Stevenson was the Scottish writer who inspired my name Mr. (Hyde) Doctor (Jekyll) with his story of dual personality entitled “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1886). As a child, I read all his novels and short stories and I still fondly remember “Markheim” and “The Body Snatchers”.
Stevenson’s story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde gave life to three great films directed by John Robertson (1920), Rouben Mamoulian (1932) and Victor Fleming (1941).
"No other movie has images as stunning as F.W. Murnau’s “Faust” (1926): lightning, composition, camera work are all flawless. Possibly the greatest film director ever, Murnau would create his artistic masterpiece, “Sunrise” in 1927, before prematurely passing away in 1931, aged 42.
"In-born charisma and magnetism are the supreme gifts of actors. Technique can be learned and it can enhance charisma and magnetism, but can often bury them under dull waves of “mannerism”.
Louise BROOKS did not have a particular technical ability, but her simple “presence” filled the screen, cracked the camera lenses penetrating the viewer’s pupils. Director G.W. Pabst was the supreme magician in x-raying female souls, and the combination of director and actress makes “Pandora’s Box” and “Diary Of A Lost Girl” unforgettable. However, Louise’s uniqueness shines also without him, and I would recommend as a proof the touching finale of Augusto Genina’s “Beauty Price”.
"I liked the film title’s sound, but the story, despite the stage-y camera work, is also very enjoyable, with its bizarre variation on the Mr.(Hyde)-Doctor (Jekyll) theme. Lionel Barrymore handles it brilliantly and the alien-looking Rafaela Ottiano is also very effective."THE PEOPLE IN THE STALLS ON THE FRONT COVER OF “ELIOGABALUS” INCLUDE BORIS KARLOFF AND BELA LUGOSI. HAVE YOU SEEN “GODS AND MONSTERS” (’98) DESCRIBING JAMES WHALE WHO DIRECTED “FRANKENSTEIN” AND “BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN” OR “ED WOOD” (’94) ABOUT DIRECTOR ED WOOD WHO USED BELA LUGOSI IN HIS LATER YEARS?
"I have enjoyed Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood”, and especially Martin Landau’s poetic portrayal of Bela, but I have not seen “Gods and Monsters”, although I have read the book which inspired the film, James Curtis’s “A New World Of God And Monsters”."WE ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO LISTENING TO YOUR NEW ALBUMS SOME DAY. PLEASE GIVE YOUR JAPANESE FANS A MESSAGE.
"Thank you for the interesting questions, to Devil Doll lovers for their support and to all Euro Rock Press readers for their kind attention. If even one person has found this chat a stimulating starting point to explore new paths, our conversation has been worthy."This is my very last interview for this life.
I can just say…
"The World of Mr.Doctor"