DH: First of all, tell our readers please a little bit about you and musical development. How long does Ataraxia exist and which members are in the band at the moment?
Vittorio: Our first album was released in 1994, so we have experienced and lived more than 11 years of musical creation even if the band was bron in the late eighties. We started from post-punk, dark-wave sonorities always looking at the early music (medieval, baroque, symphonic, neoclassic). Our albums are a sort of Kaleydoscope with several influcences: the flamenco, the walts, la chancon, liturgucal and Gregorian chants, atmsopheric and mediterraean ballads, etc... Nowadays the line up of the band is the following: Francesca Nicoli : vocals, flute, cymbals - Vittorio Vandelli: classic and electric guitars, chitarra battente and back vocals - Giovanni pagliari: keyboards, piano and back vocals - Riccardo Spaggiari : percussions and timpani.
DH: Your new album is a collaboration together with Autunna Et Sa Rose featuring two very intensive CDs containing songs of both bands. What are the reasons for releasing a double CD together with Autunna Et Sa Rose?
Vittorio: Autunna et sa Rose and Seasons of the Sun (a promoter who contributed to the executive production of the recordings) have worked together to organize both the event and the release, they proposed us to join their project and to set up and record a special acoustic concert and we agreed. At the beginning this album had to be released in a vynil fornat with three songs of the two bands on each side, then Equilibrium Music got interested and proposed to release a complete double CD.
DH: On your new CD Ataraxia sounds more acoustic than ever before. Ataraxia creates a naked warm sound and presents exclusive versions for piano, classic guitar, bells and vocals. Did you record the album in a special atmosphere? Where and how did you record the album?
Francesca: We often play acoustically, we love acoustic instruments and we hadn’t had the chance to play and records with a true piano before. So we went back to our roots and this gave us the possibility to work on our songs from a slightly different perspective. To be franck the proposition of giving and recording an acoustic concert came from the organizers and we accepted with enthousiasm. We spent two months preparing something developping a more romantic atmosphere, timeless music inspired by the ambiances of the beginning of the xxth century. The atmosphere was actually magic, we played without light, just the candles enlightening the eyes of the masks and surrounded by the ancient stone. I'm used to record several tracks of vocals and back volcals in the usual ATARAXIA's CDs, but this time I had the chance to utilise jut one voice, and the only thing I felt the need to express was emotion. This time I was no interested in vocal experiments and acrobatic passages, just felt emotion. The album was recorded during a live session (a sort of solitary concert in which we played live without a public) in a country house that four centuries ago was a convent. The album was directly recorded by us and mixed by oir guitarist Vittorio vandelli that is our sound-engineer as well.
DH: Your new CD sounds more natural and warmer than earlier releases. Did you want to record an album that sounds different than earlier Ataraxia recordings?
Giovanni: The aim of this recording was to present some of our more meaningful songs in a intimate and naked version. We wanted to get the heart of the song eliminating all the arrangements and sounds that were not strictly necessary. These songs should appear naked and luminous as the verses of the Greek lyric poets, who utilising just a few words were able to transmit a great sense of poetry and harmony. The meaning of the album title comes from this. 'The way to the heavens' (in Greek) is an homage to the Platonic phylosophy and to all the mystics and thinkers who felt and lived music as an expression of the soul deeply linked to the order of the cosmos. Music was the earthly expression of the harmony of the planets.
DH: You call your performance "Strange Lights" inspired by Angelo Zanella. Tell us something about the idea behind "Strange Lights". Who is Angelo Zanella and what are the reasons for you to honour his work with an album title?
Francesca: Angelo Zanella is a sincerely inspired artist with whom we started collaborating on the occasion of the concert we played with Autunna et sa Rose. One year before that, he had come to one of our concerts and had given me one of his hadcrafted copper masks. His pieces of art actually struck me so I contacted him to know more about his work. He told me that his masks were inspired by people he knew or had know and while sculpting their visages he managed to let flow the karma of those persons in his hands. His masks are a sort of totem helping us to understand who we are. During our concerts he asks us to choose one or more masks and then he put them close to each of us (on very high stands). Before the first song he lit the candles put behind each sculpted face, he lit their eyes and let flow the soul of spirits inside them. Then, the ritual of the concert starts. It's actually warm and pleasant to be surrounded by those visages and feel the presence of those living masks, they become alive and transmit us a palpable energy while we are playing.
DH: When listening to "Strange Lights" it seems to me that there are a lot of quite and thoughtful moments. Did you have special thoughts or visions when recording the album?
Francesca: far-off landscapes and especially the sea spoke through our instruments and my own voice. This is contemplative music. Spleen and nostalgy are the substance these songs are made of. The singing of the waves. Pearls on the ocean.
DH: What do you think nowadays when hearing your own work? Is the music of Ataraxia something that only can exist by the imagination of the listener?
Francesca: when we play in places that still own the power and great purifying energy of time (ancient cathedrals, gardens, old squares, archeological sites), I perceive our music as 'circular'. Iand it enables to perceive far-off words, it helps us to feel and live again again forgotten memories and buried emotions. We are deeply inspired by history and in some way our music is a modern way to express ancient and very powerful forces. People perceive it and we perceive it at the same time, for this reason our concerts represent a deep exchange of energy among the musicians and the audience. Our performances are a sort of modern ritual to celebrate the elemental forces. There's no barrier among imagination and life.
DH: There is a song on the album called "Tue es la Force du Silence" that I like very much. Which role has the silence in music of Ataraxia? Is silence something without the music of Ataraxia would not be the same?
Giovanni: We have been deeply ispired by places full of sacredness that have kept the power to transmit knowledge over the centuries. Visiting those places, breathing with them, we come back changed and enriched. We simply return in music what we have received from silence.
DH: Another very interesting song is called Seas Of The Moon. What is the idea behind this song? Do you have a certain message in this songs? Do you want to tell the people something with this song?
Vittorio: I like a lot to write mantra music, a music that has a sort of hypnotizing power. The language Francesca speaks in tjis song is invented, she has tried to evoke magic, ritual sounds in a completely instinctive way. This tune is a sort of ritual dedicated to the moon.
DH: When will we expect Ataraxia back on stage? Will there be soon a European tour?
Vittorio: In the last months we've made a succesfull Latin American tour (Argentina, Chile and Mexico) and we played a lot all over Italy (also during several Medieval festivals). After a short break we'll be on stage again for some European dates. For any further info: www.ataraxia.net
DH: Thank you very much for this interview. We are very pleased to have to the chance to make an interview with you. Your famaous last words for our readers please:
Vittorio:in these days, after two years of work, is finally out “Arcana Eco”, our first book. It is a sort of pilgrimage starting from the stone and the water, crossing the dimensions of dream and contemplation to get light. All our albums are stopping places of this voyage and each of them narrates a story. Around 80 photos of Livio Bedeschi (our official photographer) taken in Italy, Greece, Turkey, France, Portugal and other countries illustrate the chapters. These photos were taken during the voyages that inspired our concept albums. Ferruccio Filippi (journalist of ‘Grind Zone’ magazine) took care of the chapters, exhaustive interview and detailed discography, Francesca took care of the introduction and poetic writings concerning the theme of the albums), Nicolas’s (our webmaster and designer) took care of the cover concept. The book is out with a CD containing 7 exclusive tracks. This book has been released by the Italian label Ark Records and it will be the opening issue for a series of books featuring some of the most interesting alternative Italian bands.
Giovanni: 'Who creates doesn't know poverty'.
Francesca: Thanks to you and your readers as well.
Interview: Andreas Ohle