Interview with Ferum

ENGLISH VERSION BY LORENZO TOSATTI

In the middle of a medical emergency, I know not everyone feels like dealing with macabre themes superficially, but at the same time I know there are many readers who would be thrilled to dive deep into the rotten atmosphere which this blog has to offer. Yet, I don’t know anything else to write about. So, let’s leave the latest on Covid-19 to the experts and let’s not pretend to be doctors, which is what’s happening a lot lately, especially on social media for the last weeks. Rather, let’s talk about our dear lifelong friend: death metal. And it is with great pleasure that today I shall be hosting a band which I really like and admire, who made their breakthrough at the end of 2018, releasing a CD and a cassette. I give you, Ferum! Of which I have previously written about in a couple of previous reviews about two fantastic concerts, so good that what you deserve is a pat on the back as to say ‘well done!’ with admiration and spirit, if it hasn’t been done already. [Italian version HERE] [F]

“‘Sta mano po esse’ Ferum e po esse’ piuma: oggi è stata ‘na piuma”.*
How many times have people actually made this joke with you, putting your name in the famous quotation from Bianco, Rosso e Verdone? With the slight difference that you are definitely not featherweights…… I mean, come on, it would sound great as an intro to your live shows! In any case, why did you choose such a name for the band? *(Quotation by a famous Italian comedian, used as a play-on-words where ‘Ferum’ is the substitute for ‘ferro’ which means ‘iron’ in Italian. Lit. ‘this hand can be either like iron or like a feather. Today it’s a feather). Ferum: You’re actually the first person ever to make this clever joke, maybe we really will use it as an intro, ha-ha! The word ‘ferum’ is Latin for ‘fierce’ or ‘wild’, we chose it because it gives a good idea of our raw and primitive mood.

Did you guys already have some ideas in store back in 2017, the year the band was founded, or did you just work on them around the time of your recordings in 2018? Samantha: Things originally started happening in 2016: Angelica and I were playing together in the band Saturnine and from time to time we both used to meet up and practise some different new songs on our own, this was until 2017 when we decided to start taking things seriously and focus exclusively on the Ferum project.

Samantha and Angelica, you were both in Saturnine. How did the other band members react to your new decision? Angelica/Samantha: We have no idea. We haven’t had contact with the others since we left the band.

What were the first months like, with just the two of you? How did you bump into
Matte the bass player at the right moment? Samantha: The first months were very particular but also very interesting, considering it was a new experience for both of us: this was Angelica’s first ever doom/death band and it was also the first time I handled both guitar and vocals. We wanted to take the time we needed to get into the right state of mind and find the right spot before including someone else and seeing as there’s always been good chemistry between us in terms of music, it came natural for us to be playing alone. But of course, we both realised after a while that a bass guitar was necessary in order to complete the picture and Matteo’s name first came to mind. I had already had the pleasure of knowing him thanks to his artwork: he is a very talented illustrator. So, we talked about it over a couple of beers and shortly after we were already together in the rehearsal room. Despite the fact that me and Matteo only knew each other vaguely and he and Angelica were complete strangers, something clicked and there was instantly a great feeling between all of us when playing together, me and Angelica were both very impressed. This doesn’t happen often at all, so we think we are really lucky.

ferum live

How do you manage to keep things going in a band which is spread out in different Italian regions? I am thinking of various groups all over the country like Valgrind of Hellish God, who are awesome bands by the way. Ironically, they too are under Everlasting Spew records, but let’s talk about the label afterwards. Matteo: Despite we all come from different parts of Italy, luckily all three of us live near Bologna, so this is an advantage compared to other bands. We usually move around to different practice rooms around Emilia, but I think we have found a good balance.

You guys made your live debut in Bologna, in 2018. Along with Fierce and Pisciosangue. How did it go? Did you all feel a little nervous, as though it were a ‘first time’, even if you all had previous experience playing live? Matteo: For me personally, it was the best debut a band could wish for, for a variety of reasons. First, the fact that it was a show that we had organised along with the guys from Olé Festival (a well-known illustration and publishing festival with whom I still collaborate) together with the newly born (back then) Bologna Punx collective, founded at one of the most significant and important places not only for me but for us all, the XM24.
In August 2019, XM24 was shut down and evacuated. The reason given by the local council was that there were new plans for the future, but to this day that place remains closed and a part of the building was destroyed, the only thing that actually occurred. Fortunately, the union continues to stay in contact and promote events and divulge information from below and in November they occupied Caserma Sani in Bologna, another huge concrete structure which has been abandoned for years. Eventually, also this place was evacuated at the beginning of 2020. In my opinion, it’s very important that in music, especially in the underground scene and where the goal is to convey a specific message, the attention should also be on what happens when spaces and venues get repossessed and closed. Oh, and during our first live show, my amplifier head literally caught fire! It was really great, except when I had to repair the damage (he laughs).
Angelica/Samantha: Like all first experiences, it was like an experiment and there was definitely a fair amount of anxiety and as we said before, Ferum was something new, therefore a mixture of ‘first times’ for all of us. Having already been on tour before and played several live shows definitely helps from the practical and logistic side, because you are able to anticipate certain problems that might occur, but when it comes to actually being on stage or the emotional side it’s a completely different feeling, each band has its own personality altogether. We were also very pleased to make it all the way to the end of the show because neither of us were in particularly good shape: I had just recovered from a fever and Angelica had had problems with her arm so she had to play with her hand in a bandage, so there you are, the suffering we expressed in our music was very real and authentic (ha-ha!).

When it comes to style, who is your greatest source of inspiration? Matteo: My main inspirations are the wattage of my amplifier, the films by Lucio Fulci, the drawings by Witkin, car accidents and mould, generally speaking.
Angelica/Samantha: We would say ‘what’ rather than ‘who’. We live our performances very spontaneously, so what you see is how we feel at that moment.

Still regarding live shows, which are the best conditions for you to play? And on the contrary, what makes you furious? Matteo: What really makes me very annoyed during gigs is when people in the audience stand in front of the stage looking at their phones (obviously leaving aside all the other things which make me angry on a daily basis: Any form of disrespect or discrimination towards others dictated by sexism, chauvinism, fascism and racism. (The list of bullshit is long).
Samantha: A stage with a set of speakers and monitors which function properly is already a good enough start and something we don’t like instead, is playing late in the evening: basically, we find that starting a concert at a reasonable time is helpful to the band, the audience and the hosts. But also, I don’t like it when the crowd doesn’t come close to the stage: we live our performances as a way to connect with the surrounding environment and every detail matters. Being able to feel the audience near to you, taking part in what’s going on is the ideal situation: a kind of ‘solve et coagula’ where loud volume, anger and darkness are mixed with the audience, ‘together as one’ just to quote someone I like very much. Albeit, these conditions don’t occur very often, we need the right context where things are in the right place, but I must say that when it happens it’s a real climax.

ferum cd cover

Cd cover by Inchiostro Lisergico

Back in Summer 2018, right before the recording session, you shared the stage with two of my favourite Italian bands: Valgrind and Demiurgon, and later on with Undergang and Gorephilia. Were these two concerts too recent after your debut order to see any improvements? Do you prefer strictly death metal situations or events with various other types of bands (like Obscura Doom Fest)? Matteo: Gigs are already ideal and very enjoyable situations to know new bands (which is what usually happens to me in the death metal scene, me having more of a punk/sludge/doom background) and also meeting amazing and interesting people. I favour occasions where musicians, fans and hosts are all happy and aware of being part of a culture which is driven by passion and ideas. If people are aware of this, a musical genre becomes a vessel for one’s personal intentions and for expressing emotions.
Samantha: A band’s improvement process is something that requires lots of time and playing lots of shows and there is always something new to learn at every concert. This goes for both on stage and outside as well. The gig with Valgrind and Demiurgon was just over a week after our debut and the one with Undergang and Gorephilia was in July 2018. The feeling of bitterness was pretty much the same all over but these live shows were crucial for us in order to try out our songs outside of the rehearsal room, considering that shortly after we would have gone to record them in the studio. As for the genre, for me it doesn’t matter if it’s strictly death metal or if it involves bands with different styles. What makes the difference is who is playing. Of course, it’s much better for me if there is a consistent pattern between the bands performing, otherwise the result would just be like what I would call a ‘mixed salad’, and I’d rather have one of those for lunch (she laughs).

Regarding Gorephilia, I would like a word on Henri, their singer who took his own life in December 2018. He was less than thirty years old. Matteo: I had never heard of Gorephilia before having played together and even on that occasion I can’t say I got to know them well personally, although we spent a great evening altogether and we had a great time. But it’s always very sad when these things happen and it becomes personal once you’ve had contact with that person, for sure it leaves a wound when it happens to a person who shared the same things in common with you (he was an incredible artist).
Any other words would just be futile, Henri still lives within the distortions of the amplifiers of whoever is playing right now.
Samantha: I will dissect my thoughts on this matter. Having been a fan of Gorephilia ever since they started, I think it is a great loss. Personally, I never got to know Henri well so I will not give any further comment or praise about what type of person he was because I honestly don’t know. Having met, we got to interact a little bit and I must say he was always very kind to me. I am really sorry that there won’t be any more chances to see him on stage or to talk to him but nonetheless, I don’t feel like judging him or condemning what he did. Suicide is too delicate a topic to be summarised in just a few words and would always need a much deeper analysis… I think that situations like this should teach us not to act like dickheads and realise how little time actually have, but most importantly be aware of the impact that our actions and words (or lack of actions) have on others, before it is too late.

Going back to the recording of your ep in August 2018, how did you manage it? Being there only three of you recording the album, do you agree on the fact that fewer people involved means taking less time to do it? Samantha: It’s all about quality over quantity: if those taking part are passionate but especially well-prepared, recording in the studio can be an awesome experience. I believe it has been the best for all of us so far compared to our previous work with other bands. It wasn’t just thanks to the great chemistry there is between us but also thanks to the huge contribution from the sound engineer we chose to help give birth to our album: Claudio Mulas from Art Distillery Studios. This is because, despite how clear and well-defined your ideas may be, if it’s not the same for who is recording you it’s no use. The sound engineer has the difficult job of processing the band’s sound input, shaping it and interpreting your ideas as to how it should sound once complete, with the right warmth and tone. All this goes beyond just being prepared on the technical side. Claudio is an extremely rare person to find: he is highly professional, friendly, patient and very intuitive all at once. He is a true pro with a huge passion for what he does and a sophisticated attention to detail. We want to take the opportunity to leave a link to his Facebook page, just in case whoever is reading might be interested. We were so pleased with the results of his work that we have already decided to record our next album with him as well.

ferum tape cover

Tape cover by Angelica

Why choose the name Vergence for your album? Samantha: I have always been fascinated by eye movement; I find it intriguing but also disturbing. I took this concept from optics and embroidered pieces of sensations, memories and ideals regarding space, distance and directions onto the whole concept. I like to play with words, emptying them and filling them with a new meaning.

Why did you have Marko (from Dark Buddha Rising and Convocation) as a guest on your ep? And why did you choose the track Perpetual Distrust for his appearance as vocalist? Samantha: I first met Marko during my stay in Finland while I was doing university research. It was 2105 and back then Marko was playing drums in Katakombi. Not long before starting a Finnish minitour their singer/bass player broke his hand, so the guys asked me to play bass with them for the upcoming shows, seeing as he was unable to play. Since then, we have always kept in touch and the main topic of our long
conversations has always been music. After listening to some of our songs, Marko immediately asked if he could sing one of them on the album. I couldn’t have been happier. He is an artist who I admire greatly, with a multi-faced musical personality and an exceptional voice. Plus, I adore Convocation, so his offer was a particularly pleasant surprise. I had absolutely no doubt over which song to choose for him. Perpetual Distrust is the most arduous song on the EP. Let’s say it’s the key with which I closed a very intense period of my life and his deep voice fits perfectly with the story to tell.

I was impressed by some of the verses in your lyrics because there are no monsters with long tentacles ripping people apart (even if they are always welcome), the focus is rather to make one look into oneself. I am talking about ‘I am the only keeper of my abyss’ (from Siege of Carnality) and ‘connecting with another human being is the hardest thing’ (Subconscious Annihilation). How do you approach a song’s lyrics? Samantha: Writing about evisceration and gore is definitely a green light for who plays death meta and I understand completely, just as much as I understand those who don’t want to disturb their emotional sphere when writing songs. For me, it’s all about spontaneity which drives my creativity when making decisions, and as much as I love heavy horror imagery, I find it would be a limit to focus just on this topic.
In my case, the meaning of the words is inextricably to do with the performance, which is why I only want to write about things that I feel deeply, otherwise I would never be able to sing them. I normally write random things down on pieces of paper and then put them in a folder. They are sensations, reactions and outbursts and this is my way to let them out. Then, when it’s the right time I collect all the notes I have and start putting them together, like a sort of puzzle. I relive the experiences which drove me to writing down the words, after which I start to put the words into music. It’s a very slow procedure but also spontaneous, it’s a way of fully acquiring my self-awareness within the reality by which I am surrounded, despite how serious each situation is. It’s a kind of therapy and not doing clean vocals really helps, it’s as if the words were hidden and the only way to find out their real meaning is to look for them specifically.
This is why I am always very happy when I receive compliments for the lyrics. This means that there is still someone out there who wants to fully explore a band’s concept in its integrity, not just superficially. This is not something which happens every day and that is taken for granted, especially in a period of time when it’s very easy to have a superficial approach to music, even more in the underground scene.

In addition to your songs, there is also a cover, and a half…. In first place, we have a cover version of Funeral by the band Cianide (who are extremely underrated in my opinion). Furthermore, the lyrics of the final track are in fact a poem by the renowned Italian writer Salvatore Quasimodo (Ed È Subito Sera). Uniting American death metal with one of the most prominent figures in Italian classical poetry is extraordinary. How did your come up with this? Matteo: Our next step will be using a painting by Goya for the lyrics! (he laughs).
Samantha: I’m really glad you appreciated it, Frank! The idea for the Cianide cover
came first. They are one of our biggest influences and the main reason for why Ferum exists. The Dying Truth is one of my favourite albums and Funeral is a song which is particularly important to me, so it was rather an easy choice. In our own way, we wanted to pay our respects to a band which is an absolute must for whoever listens to this genre. As for the poem, I have loved it since the first time I read it, it cut open my soul. Those words are sharper than a knife. I had been longing to put it into music for quite some time and back then I also had alternative lyrics to go with the outro, but as soon as I heard the full recorded track, I had no doubts: Ed È Subito Sera fitted perfectly better than anything else. So, after discussing with Angelica and Matteo, we decided to go with the poem.

When did you first get involved with Everlasting Spew Records? They have been making an incredible name for themselves! Nevertheless, Everlasting Spew isn’t the only one, there is also Unholy Domain Records who took care of the tapes, where you even used a different artwork. Is the album cover very important for you? And are you keen on physical music’ (CDs, tapes Vinyls etc.)? Samantha: I could not have imagined a better combination for our EP! Everlasting Spew and Unholy Domain are among the best record labels in Europe and I had already been following them for quite some time. Collaborating with them right from the beginning was a great satisfaction: we are a small band and like each band our first tasks are experimenting and preparing for the time ahead, like a challenge. We are really happy that they both accepted to take part in our ‘challenge’ with us. It is thanks to them that our EP, both on CD and tape spread out a lot, people were writing to us not only from Europe, but also from America, Asia and Oceania. Of course, we’re talking about underground scenes but it’s always great to know that people appreciate our music, both near and far. Not to mention having released our work on the same record labels which released material from bands such as Convocation, Assumption, Atavisma, Void Rot, Engulf, Galvanizer, Black Oath, The Rite, Cemetery Fog and Mortuous is a tremendous honour. Regarding the album format, I think physical copies are compulsory, especially in the underground scene where it’s not just a matter of profit but also reinvestment: supporting bands by buying their things helps them to produce new material and keeping the scene alive. Record labels such as ESR and UD are absolutely vital for both the bands and the listeners. Surely digital copies are much easier and more practical to find, as well as having great promotional and advertising potential. I don’t believe that having one format should mean not having the other, I would rather like to see them both merge. Thanks to the internet, you are able to discover new things that you may like, decide which ones you prefer and, when possible, buy the album.

ferum tapes

Let’s think about the actual beauty of a physical copy: how great is it to hold a CD or a tape in your hands? Flipping through the booklet, admiring the artwork, the colour of the case and so on…. All this is still part of a band’s concept. Angelica: I think that everything should be prepared down to the last detail, we took the responsibility of creating the graphics and we are satisfied of the result. Vergence is our little dark creature, we worked very hard on it and we couldn’t leave anything aside. Music is both a mental, visual and auditory experience which must be fully lived. When the album’s imagery is in line with the music, it sends a message. It is an extension of what you are listening to.
Matteo: Drawing and engraving (referring to the CD cover) are the other two main activities which fill my daily life apart from music, so yes, the quality of the album cover is not only important, it is an absolute necessity. We are really fanatical when it comes to aesthetics and visual impacts, so this is why the procedure we followed to create the artwork was as meticulous and intense as the song writing itself.
Another essential aspect in keeping the music scene going is ‘physical’ music (which doesn’t mean to be superior to digital versions but simply to underline the differences).
The advantage of digital music is that it requires ‘zero-storage space’ but the disadvantage is that it is slowly separating the two realities (digital and physical) from one another, therefore making it easy to forget how much material you have saved up from time to time. Owning physical copies of course means filling your house with objects but they are real things that we are able to feel, hear and sometimes even smell. Our senses communicate with our memory, and together they create the sensations and emotions held within our memories.

By now, the bands which have released their work through Carlo Altobelli’s Toxic Basement Studio are countless. Why did you choose him for mixing and mastering? Did he value your work well enough? Ferum: We wanted to put our work in the hands of somebody who had previous experience with our style of music, and also having seen for ourselves the quality of Toxic Basement’s work we decided to go to Carlo. We are satisfied with what he has done, he was always very precise and on time.

The feedback samples of Subconscious Annihilation were recorded at Messina monumental cemetery? Why did you go all the way there? Samantha: I come from Calabria, although I haven’t lived there for ten years by now. My hometown is not that far from Messina, so I am happy to go when I have the chance. The cemetery there is very particular, it has got a true abandoned atmosphere: decadence at its best. It is falling down and also dangerous. The day on which I recorded the feedback coincides with a moment when I reunited with a person from my past. We were there together and I wanted to capture that moment one way or another, and when I heard the sound of the crematorium in action I thought ‘I’m going to use that for Ferum’. It’s funny you that you asked such a question, even if I don’t think anyone else has thought of it, it’s very nice for me to hear: it means that there is still someone who can realise that beyond the clichés, certain aspects have a more personal meaning.

In the acknowledgements, apart from a list of well-known names in the death metal scene, it ends with ‘anxiety and alcohol’. In which way did they contribute to the making of Vergence? Matteo: The same way they contribute to plenty of other things in my life (he laughs). Anxiety is important enough to underline how important something is for yourself. Alcohol is what you need to be able to face it (laughs again).
Fortunately, it’s not always the case.

ferum cds

In a previous interview with Saturnine you stated ‘the prejudice against women musicians is still very much alive, it’s shocking to find this hasn’t changed in 2014’.
Is this still the case? Angelica: Wow, has it been that long?! I think that roughly the situation is improving with time…. Probably due to the increase in female band members who play extreme music, or at least in the underground environment. In our live experience with Ferum, we have already had the pleasure to share the stage with some incredibly talented young ladies, who had absolutely no need to envy their fellow male musicians.
Matteo: It’s very sad to see people who get interested in the genre start compromising their own judgement when they buy records or go to a gig. There is a time and a way to establish yourself as a human being and as an individual in life, but when I play and we play we do not wish for any of our listeners to feel abandoned by themselves, instead of becoming part of Ferum.

Whilst listening to your songs with somebody you didn’t know, has anybody ever said to you ‘Hey! The singer is a real monster!’? Angelica: Yes, indeed…. it’s rather common that for someone who is unfamiliar with the band, after listening for the first time (and sometimes that’s not enough) doesn’t notice that it’s a woman singing, it’s always fun to see the surprized and amazed look on their faces.
Matteo: I’m still waiting for somebody to say ‘the girl playing bass is really hot’ just imagine…
Samantha: Yes, it happens a lot. Sometimes I’ve even heard people say that I am putting them on or that it can’t be me singing, and this reaction is common for both men and women. This makes me laugh but it also pisses me off because it becomes a matter of separating duties in life according to sex. The worst stereotype is ‘if you’re a girl you can only sing with clean vocals or at the most play bass’. It makes me want to crash their skulls open with my bare hands to rid them of such ways of thinking, although I fear I would find nothing more than just blank cosmic void and mental chaos.

Let’s imagine a huge record label offers you a luxurious contract but on two conditions. Number one, music: you would have to use some clean vocals and throw in some melodic death metal riffs as well. Number two, visual: you would have to dress in a way to attract the average horny fan who comments Nightwish videos with little hearts. What would you say? Angelica: Hahaha, I really don’t think I need to say anything more, although we would love to see our beloved Matte playing wearing a nice skirt 😊
Matteo: A ‘huge’ record label doesn’t necessarily mean a ‘good’ record label. And as far as looks are concerned, I would really like to play dressed as a dock worker: Hugerecordlabel if I turn you on, just let me know!
Samantha: I would like this to happen just so I could tell them to fuck off with honours. My answer would be well-proportioned compared to the size of the alleged record label (she laughs).

Let’s arrange a meeting. Will we ever see you at KillTown Festival sooner or later?Matteo: You will see us anyway, among the audience though. For the moment, we have been confirmed at Helsinki Death Fest but we hope to bring our new album to KillTown as well!

helsinki death fest
Holy fuck!

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