Destrage is a band that is ZZ Top at the core while displaying layers of knowledge in all things heavy and popular, through a discography of intricately woven tempos and kaleidoscopic sound. Recently we caught up with vocalist Paolo Colavolpe to discuss Italy and brush up on the past albums to better understand their fourth, A Means To No End, coming out on October 21st.
Before I dig into the past three albums, I want to know more about your country. What is the Milan metal scene like, and what is the rest of Italy like?
Unfortunately Italy doesn’t have a great Metal culture. Italy’s greatest musicians and popular music culture are definitely linked to folk and authorial music. Nevertheless, there’s a scene and a part of Italy that really loves metal, hardcore and other extreme genres. Also we have quite a good circuit based mainly in the center/north of Italy with labels, bookings, management that are managing [anything] from local bands to big international acts. The fact is that Italian mainstream circuits are completely occupied by hip hop and pop music, that means little money in the metal circuit, few good venues (definitely not helped by taxes and laws), few good agencies & promoters and too many bands that would love to have their chance to grow. If underground bands have no chances to learn and improve their performances, through experience, testing their music with an audience that means they hardly find a way to emerge and maybe join an international circuit.
Anyway, conscious, we’ve not a scene like the German or Swedish or English ones. I’m really proud of what happened in the last years in the Italian Metal scene. We have great international acts like Lacuna Coil, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Upon This Dawning, Hour Of Penance, Nero Di Marte and other great extreme/rock bands ready to hit international markets. Going ahead this way, we’ll be able to build, together with great people, producer and agencies, a solid and credible underground circuit in order to put the new generation in a more comfortable zone to grow and improve their personalities and skills.
Explain how the American metal industry has impacted the development of your band’s career. And can we possibly expect a North American tour in the not so distant future?
While on the rock side I’m a UK unconditional lover, on the “metal” side I definitely have an American background, more than NWOBHM. To make it easier and clear Metallica or Iron Maiden? Are you kidding me? ‘TALLICA! And so the industry evolution through Slayer, Pantera, Nevermore, Slipknot, Unearth, Lamb Of God, etc.. so what I can say on my side is that American metal industry had a great impact on the development of our career since I absolutely don’t think American industry stole the best ideas from Europe. There’s an attitude, a market, a sound that couldn’t be found in any other part of the world. For that reason and thousands more, we really can’t wait to hit the US with a proper tour! Hopefully with the new album.
Every few years there is a market analysis published on both national and international music and entertainment. Nationally, and this is the prediction all the way up to 2019, America we will begin to downsize, if not eliminate, smaller venues and the emphasis will be placed majorly on arena tours and festivals. This has already begun to place true prosperity in the hands of audio engineering, as there is a specific quality that does well on these types of tours. This being said, how has the quality of engineering changed for you guys over the years and especially with this coming album?
Really? It sounds a bit strange to me, especially because in the last 16 years, thanks to the web, we saw/heard more bands on tour, and small/medium size venues are usually perfect to put them all on the road. I mean, in the metal industry if you want to tour arenas I think you need a BIG headliner. Anyway, we always took care of FOH since we started to play around. To us is really important, also considering our “complexity”, to have an engineer that perfectly knows us and our music.
I bring this up also because sadly we’ve seen numerous festivals in Europe get cancelled this year and even worse is that we keep seeing this depressing growth in discrimination against metal, where we were once making a lot of progress, I assume this is because of international conflicts. How has this impacted you guys?
I don’t care about discrimination against metal. I think in the last few years we saw the birth of a lot of new cool festivals in differentcountries and different European states like Hellfest, Download France, Euroblast, UK Tech Fest, Mair 1 etc.. These are great successful festivals of different sizes and countries, and the core business in EU extreme music industry I think. All these summer festivals are really important for every band in the industry and the industry itself.
So now that we’ve got all of the depressing political nonsense out of the way, let’s talk about your band. Urban Being, your first album, was one of the most sophisticated and heavy albums from the international side of metal. What was the writing process like? How was it received both nationally and internationally? What were the major influences? And how fun was touring that specific album?
Well, after we recorded a 3 tracks promo, we signed with a Japanese label (Howling Bull). There was a big change of lineup, and all the songs on this album were composed and recorded by Mat (Di Gioia) and me. We were completely alone, with a contract signed, 3 tracks done, a short deadline and other 7 songs to be composed/arranged/recorded. Fede, Gabriel and Ralph joined the band in the recording session period. I’d say as major influences, Melodic deathmetal, hardcore and nu-metal. But we’re talking about one life ago! 🙂 It was released in 2007 in japan, then it took 2 years to find an interested label (Coroner Records) in order to release it to the rest of the world.
Now, with your second album, The King is Fat N’Old, there was this dramatic change. While no two songs are ever the same on any one Destrage album, your second album was the beginning of a more humorous display. Some songs felt like inside jokes, as if you guys were the ringleaders of a circus that was out to poke some serious fun at a very serious politician, what’s the story behind that album? Why the change in style and tone?
The band is the answer. When Fede, Gabriel and Ralph joined, we finally found a strong lineup and everything it brings. We started writing new stuff in 2008 and when (finally) Urban Being was released to the rest of the world (2009), The King.. was already mastered and ready to be released as well! On label suggestion, we had to wait another year to release it on October 2010. The lyrics and the general ironic and political mood on every aspects of this album, arise from that period of our life but as you said, the dramatic change and the general sound evolution was caused by a line up finally completed.
On that same album was a song called, “Tip of the Day,” and you have a song like this on every album, but this one is my favorite. You are such a multifaceted songwriter. You have a fun and hilarious side, you have this heavy-hearted dark side, and then this really articulate political side that comes out differently in every song. However, your ballads have a very Celtic vibe, a very European acoustic sound that honestly only makes appreciable sense coming from a European band… where does that emotional charge come from?
Oh well, it’s part of us. You know, we are Italians. If we’re happy, we’re really excited! But if we are sad, we’re terribly depressed. Joking aside, we always loved complete albums with different moods and states of minds. Albums that give you a complete overview of the artist’s personality. So we love to show you the brightest and darkest side of Destrage. We’re all human, incredibly complicated, extremely lunatic. Our music must always the projection of what we are.
Now your third album, Are You Kidding Me? No… had so many themes of empowerment between a tonal display of what I would call kaleidoscopic rock, I don’t know what else you would call such a visual head high, but you guys also bit the bullet and knocked out some very mature messages that a lot of unusual metal fans here in America were instantly all about. What was going on in your world as a vocalist that brought out this sort of lyricism?
I always write lyrics with Mat. We were tired of too many misunderstanding on our lyrics, like for “Panda Vs Koala,” which is definitely not just a fight between two Mortal Kombat characters or a song made to laugh at these poor animals. Unfortunately people (too) often stay at the surface of things, and don’t go deep into the real meaning of the lyrics. So we decided to be more “direct.” The general changes on the topics covered, arise from our personal growth as humans and experiences. Thanks to The King.. we started to play around, that inspired us so much.
What can you tell me about the new album?
We believe that our evolution as musicians and composers fully reflects our personal growth in real life. You gotta experience something before you can say something; that’s the main reason why we are always evolving, and we’ll always be. So, expect something really different from the albums to come. We’re almost there! Soon we’re going to announce the album title, release date and so on…It’s going to be the most solid album we ever released. And it’s gonna be Destrage as fuck!