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Aristocrazia is pleased to host the eclectic and at times controversial artist from Veneto Nicola Manzan, best known under the name Bologna Violenta.
Good evening Nicola and welcome to Aristocrazia.
Nicola: Thanks guys, good evening to you.
I would start from the middle, since the release of your fourth album is drawing near [February 24, editor's note], what should we expect from this new episode made in Bologna Violenta?
Good question [laughs]! In musical terms, it is a confirmation of what I have done up to now, it's as if I had taken the urgency from the first album and mixed it with "Utopie E Piccole Soddisfazioni" [the third album, editor's note], this is kind of my feeling about it. The tracks will be short and the album will be very violent and fast. "Il Nuovissimo Mondo" [the second album, editor's note] already was a mix of both things, but perhaps I wasn't brave enough at the time, you will notice the difference especially in terms of contents. At the beginning most of the themes were related to mondomovies and poliziotteschi [two genres of Italian cinema very popular during the '70s, editor's note], while on the latest album I basically dealt with myself and my small things, the new one will be about the story of the Uno Bianca Gang [a criminal group active in Italy during the late '80s-early '90s, editor's note].
A peculiar topic to say the least.
Definitely peculiar, but it is a topic that directly touched the city of Bologna and myself personally. I'll tell you a story: when I moved to Bologna from Veneto in the early 2000s, one night I found myself in the Pilastro [an area of Bologna, editor's note], the place where the massacre of '91 took place, one of the events that struck me the most as a teenager. When I got back home, I caught an interview to one of the gang members on the TV; that's when I started thinking about this topic as a potential theme for an album. Ten years after, I realized it was about time and the cover artwork has been ready since 2007.
That event has really left a mark on you.
I am that kind of person that gets attached to seemingly trivial things, my teenage years were characterized by Metallica, Nirvana and the Uno Bianca [laughs].
Getting back to the album: it will clearly be a concept album.
Yes, although I am not a big fan of those concept albums typical of the progressive style that just end up being hours and hours of psychedelic music, I rather prefer stories told through music, and this is an aspect that I got from classical music. The search for information was a nerd task, thousands of places, dates, events, the potential database was huge. The most difficult thing was to dig into the lives of those involved, I didn't know how deep I could go, since behind what happened there were topics really too complex for me to delve into them. Just think about the fact that some of the cops involved with the gang are about to leave prison, some others are already out and some members of the victims' families naturally still can't accept what happened.
This is not surprising.
The difficulty in putting such tragic events into music convinced me to add a pamphlet to guide the listener through the album. Among the more than a hundred crimes the band committed, I have only chosen those in which people were killed and I have tried to convey every single aspect of them through my music, from the cars to the bullets.
Let me take a step back here: you just gave me a small hint earlier but I didn't want to interrupt your answer. You had a classical education, focused on the violin, how did you end up playing completely different stuff, then going on to put it all back together your own way?
Well, the violin was almost a random accident, my brother played the accordion, I wanted to play something as well and for many different reasons I ended up trying to enter the conservatory. Violin appeared to be a cool choice at the time, I was seven years old. That's when my huge journey through music began, in an almost unaware manner. For many years I thought my future career would have been in the academic world or in an orchestra, at the same time, though, hardcore arrived [laughs]. The orchestra is mainly a world of public employees that work hard enough to get the job done, without much passion. While I was growing up I got closer to heavier genres, although metal has never been among my priorities, it always gave me the impression of being too… how to say… "christmasy", kind of Christmas carols with double bass [laughs]. I like speed and impact, just the opposite of Iron Maiden [laughs]. I am pretty sure metalheads hate me [laughs].
Speaking of metal: could you tell me something about how the collaboration with Randall from Agoraphobic Nosebleed started?
This is an incredible story as well, there was this guy who had a blog in America and knew Randall, he suggested him to listen to my albums. When I got his e-mail I thought it was spam [laughs]. He asked me if he could put my works in free download on his label Grindcore Karaoke. Naturally I accepted at once.
I remember he advertised you pretty well on social networks.
Look, we even ended up appearing on Forbes since Grindcore Karaoke was the label with the highest number of releases that year and I still keep in touch with many bands from that group. In the end, Randall asked me if he could take part in the album I was producing ("Utopie"). He took his time up to the last day, when he sent me a file folder: it included many different pieces that I tried to put together in a track. He couldn't believe it when I had him listen to the final result, it really sounded as if we worked on it together.
Listen up, how do you feel in charge of a label?
I would have never thought I could have opened my own label, but then the difficulties I encountered while recording "Utopie" convinced me to take this step with Nunzia [Nicola's girlfriend, editor's note] in order to manage our work under every single aspect, including public relations and the press, a field that she's in charge of. At the time, Audioglobe offered to distribute the disc if I did all the rest, from that moment everything got bigger and we went on to produce such bands as Marnero and Meteor. The story slightly changed with "Uno Bianca": we were contacted by Woodworm [known for the act Bachi Da Pietra, editor's note], a really good label from Arezzo set up by skilled and passionate people, that asked us to release the album through them. Considering their value, we had no doubt about it.
Now it is time for a question that many people I know ask frequently, including Aristocrazia's reviewer Bosj: do you manage to live off your music?
For the time being I manage to survive with it, I pay the bills, I am lucky enough to have a comfortable situation in which my parents left their old house and I could move there. This made a big difference. At the moment I don't even want to try and look for other bands to go on tour with. The experiences with Baustelle and Il Teatro Degli Orrori came at a time when Bologna Violenta was not much more than something I did for fun, although I already believed in it, it was still a project based on photocopies and CD-Rs. I had to make some decisions and get rid of some things: I don't live in Bologna anymore, I bought a used car for about 2500 euro, I don't have a TV and try to avoid spending money on unnecessary things. If I had to only live off what I make from CD sales, or only the concerts and so on, I could never make it. However, putting everything together I manage to get by. Someone might think of it as a life of sacrifice, but when I think that I will release an album together with Mitch Harris [Napalm Death's guitarist, editor's note] in the spring, I am convinced that I am making the right choice.
Yes I saw it, cool stuff. What are the collaborations you are most proud of?
Surely this Menace album with Mitch Harris and Shane Embury is the one I am most proud of, in terms of time I dedicated to it and the musicians involved in it. I met Napalm Death at a show in Livorno a couple of years ago when I opened their concert. Mitch Harris was working on an album with Max Cavalera and Brann Dailor at the time, and he asked me for my e-mail since he saw I played violin and he needed some arrangements. I already knew I won [laughs]. The project was about to go South because the other two were too busy, then fortunately Embury suggested Mitch to go on because the songs were good, so Mitch got back in touch with me. I had not written anything on the internet because I was afraid something could have gone wrong, I didn't want to boast about it and then end up being an ass if it went bad. Of course, I don't want to forget the collaboration with Broderick's Jesu on their last album, I even opened their shows in Italy [Godflesh shows, editor's note. If Bologna Violenta has electronic elements, it is because of my love for Broderick and Godflesh.
And now for something completely different: 2013 has just ended, what did you like and what you did not?
Well, I have been recently asked to make a personal chart about it, and I realzed I must have missed out on something, since I noticed that I had almost not listened to any new stuff at all. It was a strange year, I haven't played much or listened to much.
So you must be happy about the upcoming tour.
I am really happy about it and I am looking forward to it. I am also preparing video set to accompany the stories on stage, since I had enough of just being by myself on stage. I would like to create something more serious than usual, loud music together with a story, I really needed to change. I will stop jerking my dick [laughs].
I don't believe this!
Ok, maybe every once in a while! However, the new album will probably be more suitable for that kind of atmosphere.
Thank you Nicola, I think I have asked you even more than what you expected. Can I simply ask you if you want to salute Aristocrazia's readers and staff?
Flowers to the devil and poo to Jesus!