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Today we are in company of Ilsa, a band from Washington, which I had the pleasure of reviewing the second full "Tutti I Colori Del Buio".
Welcome to Aristocrazia Webzine, how are you guys?
Ilsa: Hello and thanks for the interest in interviewing us, we're sweating it out through another humid DC/MD summer, trying to stay upbeat!
Let's begin with presentations: would you tell us something about the history of the band?
Ilsa was started as a side project in 2008 while Joshy, Brendan and Orion waited for the guitarist of our old band Time Of The Wolf to heal after he severed tendons in his hand punching through a window. Our friend Sharad came to play bass and Garrett took up his axe. It wasn't intended to be more than temporary, but our reception was very positive, and when it became obvious that TOTW wasn't going to get back together we refocused our energies into Ilsa.
"Tutti I Colori Del Buio" is also a 1972 film of the Italian producer Sergio Martino. Your album is inspired by this film? What is the link between the album and the film?
We are actually bigger fans of Martino's other films like "Last Victim" (aka "The Strange Vices of Mrs. Wardh") and "Torso", but there was a lyric in our song "Blue Moon Haze" that coincidentally paralleled the title. We like the concept of darkness encompassing all colors, seeing it as more of a symbol of our outlook and approach than mere tribute to Martino. Being a majority queer band, its our own our way of embracing “all the colors of the rainbow”.
In the album can be hearded references to bands like Asphyx, Bolt Thrower and Coffins, but also as the first Crust bands like Amebix and Aus-Rotten. What are your greatest influences in music?
That's a difficult question to answer as everyone in the band has a wide array of influences and style. We know its a cop-out, but don't like just listing bands or sub-genres, and try to move beyond creating music thats easily categorized.
The album is an awesome highly explosive mixture of violence and decay, what are the feelings that inspire you in the composition of your music? How is the songwriting process articulated?
We aren't a therapy cult or anything, so a lot of the heaviness and negativity gets channeled in peoples own ways and isn't really something we've tried to put a finger on. We mainly talk about what we like, such as loud fucking music, and usually when we are working on a new song, it feels amazing! DC is a particularly difficult place for artists or anyone not already on their path to success, leaving a high turn-over rate due to costs of living, and a stupid entrenchment in bureaucracy and politics. The whole tri-state area can be depressing, constantly seeing people who work so hard, make so much money and hold so much influence, intentionally devoting their entire lives to perpetuating such a bland, plastic existence. Being poor, pissed off and alienated freaks, there's no way that aggression and despair wouldn't translate into our music. It isn't always the easiest or the most fun to work through writing songs together, but we're friends, and usually happy with the end result. We write and practice at the Corpse Fortress, which is Brendan's and Garrett's house, and DC's longest running underground extreme music venue.
How is "Tutti I Colori Del Buio" born? Are you completely satisfied of the results?
"Tutti I Colori Del Buio" was recorded by our friend Brian DuPuy in his garage studio ("the woods") over two days in May 2010 and was the second recording we did together as Ilsa. We never really expected it to be for anyone other than ourselves and friends, but thanks to enthusiastic reviews and our repress with Contagion and Dark Descent, it has spread across the world. I wouldn't say we were completely satisfied, but that only propels us to push boundaries and continually hone our own abilities. We only want to put out better and better records, and healthy self criticism is the only way that's going to happen. The production and recording quality Brian gave us was phenomenal, and even before James Plotkin lent his incredible capabilities we loved the album and had nothing to complain about from that end.
Fortunately I had the opportunity to examine the text directly from the copy of the album and I found them very obscure and, in some way, "claustrophobic". Who writes them? By what are them inspired?
Orion writes the lyrics, but we've also re-appropriated some traditional American and Northern European ballads to suit us. We often quote Salome's aria in Richard Strauss version of the Oscar Wilde play to describe the feelings of awe at the horrors of the world, and all its exciting ambiguity that surround our verse. While she lovingly caresses the coveted, severed head of John the Baptist, Salome sings, “Das geheimnis der Liebe ist grosser als das geheimnis des Todes”, or “the mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death”. Someone should check the spelling on that though.
The artwork of the CD version by Dark Descent is really evocative and I noticed that there are interesting pictures inside: the first is a crucifix crossed with a dagger, the second is the representation of a medieval stake. What these images means to you? How important is it to establish a strong connection between the iconography and music?
The images are depictions of our distain for christianity and the violence and morbidity that it perpetuates. While Joshy creates the bulk of band artwork, Orion illustrated those, with the gruesome immolation of the witch as an alternative to the sterility that coats traditional portrayals of Christian genocide, and in retaliation to their continued attempts to rewrite and direct the course of our lives history. We are a very atheistic band, and while we disdain all religions, living in America means that some Christian is constantly going to be trying to force their shit down your throat, only to call you the pervert. The crucifix and stiletto is a blatant equation of the symbol of Jesus fucking Christ to an assassino's tool of violence and bloodshed. Original artwork is an important part of Ilsa, and the images we create inform our music as much as the lyrics or shows. With so many artists in the band, is hard to see using anyone's other than our own. Joshy is also usually interested in drawing for other bands, and can be contacted through the email address [email protected]
Staying on the theme of label: if I'm not mistaken, the first version of the album was released on vinyl by Contagion in 2010, while the Dark Descent had take care of this new release on CD. How were these collaboration born?
We have known Dan from Contagion for years, who was visiting DC and heard the band produced version. A little while later he expressed an interest in pressing it as the first record for a label him and his partner Sheree had started. Dan put us in touch with Matt from Dark Descent after Contagion decided to stay vinyl only and the demand for the album had grown. Contagion is in the process of repressing “Tutti i Colori Del Buio”, as the first batch sold very quickly and was a small run at only three hundred copies. The cd version continues to be available through Dark Descent.
You have recently released a split with Hooded Menace, what were the reasons that prompted you to do it?
Lasse first wrote us asking if we would be interested in playing their first US dates together. Being huge fans, we couldn't believe a band of such high regard had reached out to us, but as we continued commmunicating, the process between the idea for a split, and the finished product flowed together smoothly and quicker than we could have imagined. The songs “Catacombs Of The Graceless” and “Titan Arum” pair excellently, and while each are distinctively unique in their own way, their heft and tones compliment sickeningly. Hopefully we will get with them again down the road, we'd all felt a little unsure of how things would go before having met, but everyone ended getting along great, and we left only disappointed that we didn't get to play more shows together!
"Tutti I Colori Del Buio" is your second full, in what and how much have changed your sound and your approach to music compared to the debut "The Maggots Are Hungry"?
The debut was more of a demo, with a faster pace and production we never could get quite right. The band is divided on the quality of the songs, and we probably will not release it again.
What feedback had obtained from the critique this second job? The public seems satisfied?
We'd like to say we don't give a fuck what the public thinks, but for the most part it has only been praise, which is hard to reject! We've gotten criticized for being too simplistic and repetitive, but we're playing a type of music that thrives on petty varations so we don't dwell on that. We like it and that's all that matters.
You come from a quite extensive state, how is the local Metal scene? There is support and cohesion between the band or is it very dispersive?
We don't have much of a Metal scene or any other much of a musical subculture aside from Gogo, Hardcore Punk and Indie Rock. There are still plenty of good, heavy bands, and thanks to Punk houses like Corpse Fortress and Hole in the Sky they've usually had somewhere to play. There are venues that occasionally host Metal shows in DC, but those places tend to be rip offs for bands on tour and the people who come to see them. It seems like a lot of bigger acts know that and stay away, so it's an insular music scene. The proximity to sometimes cheaper cities like Baltimore, Richmond, Philly, and NYC is a continual cultural and artistic drain on the area, so the pool of talented people who create extremely angry and depressing music in our bleeding vein is small.
How are things on stage? Are you promoting the album also on this front?
The farthest we've played from home has been NYC, which is only four hours away, and only recently happened with the kind invitations of Anhedonist and Hooded Menace. Because of peoples work schedules and being some broke fuckers, we tend to only play around Maryland, Virginia and DC, probably more often than we really should. Our actual live performance hasn't ever been something we've seriously talked about. The sound is theatrical to begin with as well as physically demanding to perform, so costuming or stage shows beyond bullet belts, head-banging, bleeding and puking have never been much priority.
What will be the next steps of Ilsa?
Tumbling down a set of marble stairs into dirty broken glass.
The interview is over, thanks for your availability and, renewed my congratulations for the excellent album, I leave you the word to end the interview as you prefer.
See you in hell!!