Enigmatic Italian DIY musician and visual artist Cristian Usai ceaselessly rambles between a growing array of diverse dark music projects, at times rackety and aggressive, other gloomy and melancholic, spanning from Harsh Noise /Power Electronics /Death Industrial of Suture and Neomortoria (a collaboration with UK’s Martyn Reid of Depletion) to the lo-fi, atmospheric and minimalistic Post-punk and Coldwave of respectively Love Of Consolation and Dreadful Events, both latter we quite appreciate. Let’s get to know him more thoroughly…
Thanks so much for the interview. Please, let’s start with your early years. Where did you grow up? When did music first become part of your life?
I grew up in a small town called Decimomannu in the province of Cagliari (Sardinia), and just recently I moved. Music came into my life not too soon actually, 14/15 years, before then I always sorbed the music that was passed on the radio or television, listening to the usual commercial garbage was not very exciting for me, this slowed my passion for music not only on a practical level but also as a passive listener. Thanks to an old friend of mine at the age of 15 I began to approach bands (always commercial) but more in line with my “being”, I talk about bands such as Joy Division, The Cure, Nirvana etc, in short, bands more “Dark”, I ended up listening to two genres in particular: Post-punk and Grunge (the last one ended up to bored me very much).
When and how did your attraction and passion for leftfield, off-kilter, noisy, cold and dark sounds come about? What were the early bands/artists to fire your imagination?
My attraction to the Noise/Experimental genre was born at the age of 16/17 years, at the time I listened to a lot of Anarcho Punk/Grindcore music, these two genres, in particular, formed my taste for extreme music and non-music, and it is this term “extreme” that at the time triggered in me a morbid curiosity, a curiosity that focused entirely on the discovery of bands or solo artists who went beyond the usual punk or metal, artists who did not follow the classic “rules” imposed by music: follow a set time, follow a certain sound, or however a genre or genres that did not follow a structure already musically predetermined, I was looking for a structure that was totally anarchic and therefore totally chaotic at the level of sound, in terms of aesthetics and topics covered, and thanks to this curiosity I discovered the harsh noise and the power electronics. The noise genre also helped me in the discovery of more musical underground genres, genres such as Coldwave, Noise Rock, Minimal Wave, Synth-Pop etc, even better if made by “unknown” artists or just not for the masses, so works mainly released on tape or vinyl and may be published on some old 80s unknown labels. The artists who at the time (but actually still when I listen to them) fire my imagination were many actually, I went from listening to Joy Division to listening to Whitehouse aha, but those who at the time left their mark on me musically were: Joy Division, Asylum Party, Merzbow, Masonna, all the Japanese and English power electronics scene, Trisomie 21, The Cure etc, not very consistent listenings I know… but at the time I listened to everything that was considered “dark” and “dirty”.
When did you begin playing music? What was your first instrument? What is your take on analogue technology over digital?
I took my first steps in music at the age of 14, due to boredom and also to curiosity and spirit of emulation, seeing those great artists play the guitar and being acclaimed on stage I don’t know…made me very excited aha, also because it was the only reality I knew at the time: Punk, Metal, Grunge etc, so I ended up listened and saw “mainstream” artists always playing the same three instruments (and for me, it was already a lot). My first instrument was an old classical guitar given to me by a relative, nothing exciting, but at the time it was my only way into the study of an instrument, I spent hours playing it, obviously then with time and knowledge, I switched to more complex instrument s but much more exciting in terms of sound: synths, electric guitars, drum machine etc. I think the analog and digital worlds are fantastic, I usually use mostly digital instruments for both the mixing phase and recording phase, and I tend to use the digital-only for more surgical and specific stuff. I don’t really have an opinion about these two worlds actually, obviously digital gives you a lot of possibilities and it’s cheap compared to buying analog stuff, but it will never give you the feeling and sound of analog.
Can you tell us how the project first came into being? What were the ideas, inspirations and motivations behind it? What informs the project’s sound?
The Love of Consolation project was born in a period (2019) of musical changes for me because in that year I decided to kill my PE project “Suture” and dedicate myself more to post-punk and break away for a while from the noise and experimental scene that had been going on for five years now, I was going to get saturated so I just decided to switch to another genre that I still love and that still manages to give me incredible ideas. The inspirations were varied actually, I listened to a lot of Bauhaus, Asylum Party, Human Tetris, Trisomie 21 and all the French Coldwave scene (which I love). At the time I listened to a lot of Human Tetris and took from them the idea of that melancholic and less “synthetic” sound, so let’s say that for my first year with Love of Consolation I was more for a certain type of Post-punk, much more “clean” in terms of sound than for a Coldwave genre.
You began first and you’re still active as part of the Power Electronics/Death industrial duo, Neomortoria, recently you started also the lo-fi Coldwave project Dreadful Events, can you give some insights about them, and if and how all your monikers interact with each other?
Neomortoria is a project born in 2019 and formed by me and Martyn Reid also the creator of the Dark Ambient /noise project Depletion. The project was born from my desire to do something whit Martyn, at the beginning it was thought to do a split with our respective noise projects but in my mind for a while flashed the idea of creating a real Death Industrial duo whit him. I love the work of Martyn in the world of noise with his project Depletion, and in the musical and artistic field we share practically the same things, so the first person that came to mind at the time was him basically, Without even thinking twice I asked him if he was interested in being part of this project and he answered yes, and then the Neomortoria project was formed. With Martyn it is easy to work, as mentioned before he and I share the same things and therefore there is a great synergy between us on an artistic level, he understands my ideas and I understand his ones, so yes, I am very proud of this project. We also have another project that we are working on, a project focused mainly on the Minimal Wave genre called “Frequenza Anomala“, we both want to work on something more rhythmically and more musically structured, and we want to try to bring a more rhythmic structure also to Neomortoria that currently travels on more Dark Ambient/Noise frequencies, so let’s see what will come out in the future. Dreadful Events is a project born recently and is a project that was born from the idea of combining more experimental and lo-fi Coldwave sounds. In Dreadful Events I like to give a lot of space also to the sampling technique, in fact, many parts used in “Report From the Underground” are pieces of Indonesian and Arabic word music all edited with my Casio SK (a pretty good toy).
You live on an island, far from the mundanity of the big cities, Does it somehow affect your sound or would it basically be the same wherever you live? Can you tell us about your local reality?
Living on an island didn’t really affect my sound very much, on the contrary, the limitations that there have been living in a small country on an island have been for me a source of creativity, just now I found my balance and I no longer need limitations or anything of some sort to be creative, and I think if I was lived in another city would have been the same on a musical aspect. My local musical reality does not exist, at least does not exist in my area, you can find something in the capital Cagliari, but just some hardcore punk, and metal bands and nothing more than that, Post-punk, Noise and more Experimental genres are very very rare to find, almost inexistent, unfortunately.
If you are aware of it, what is your take on the Italian underground music scene in general?
As for the Italian Underground scene, there are two projects that I am following with attention: Humanima and Macelleria Mobile di Mezzanotte, but obviously, there are many other Italian realities that deserve to be known. In regards to dark sounds, Italy almost always produces quality stuff, especially for the industrial genre and genres more prone to noise or dark sounds. Instead in the Italian Post-punk field, I’m not following much, unfortunately, but in general, I’m listening to very specific stuff from specific artists, so right now I don’t have a “fresh” opinion about the Italian underground scene.
What kind of emotions underlie your cold and dark sound and lyrics, as well? How do both reflect your emotional introspective world? Is it laced with everyday life in a sort of cathartic process, or is it a more detached, escapist affair, is there a connection between the two?
In what I do unfortunately or fortunately there is always a sort of emotional and musical dualism given the fact that I make two totally opposite genres that require somehow different themes and ways of approaching each other. When I make Noise I leave much more space for nihilism, anger and total cynicism, this allows me to address thematics such as sex, violence, perversion and even politics and religion, there are no lyrics so I give space to the violence and the sound tension of my synths and my very important pedals. Then there is the Coldwave that is totally the opposite, I give space to the melancholy to romanticism and my mood, but much of the inspiration I take to write my lyrics come from movies, and books, very rarely from what I live. I consider what I do with Love of Consolation more about my person, at the level of emotions, while what I do with my Noise project is more a dark, dirty, decadent and pessimistic representation of what the human being is capable of being.
Why the use of the English language?
There is no real reason, simply English sounds good.
You’re also a visual artist, could you talk about it? Which other forms of arts (cinema, literature, etc) inspire your music?
I have two visual projects, one called: Persephone Eye and the other Ultimum Iter, both of which are completely different in composition and concept. Persephone Eye is a project that has no real theme, in fact, it’s a project that I consider more abstract and undefined, almost chaotic, a bit like my musical projects. I’d like, via Persephone Eye, to give space to lines and shapes in general, distorting and manipulating them to my liking, unfortunately not always comes out as something defined actually most of the time come out of “shapes” totally disconnected and abstract (which is actually great for me). Ultimum Iter instead is a very recent project that combines xerox art with experimental music, not much to say about it in reality, most of the images that use for Ultimum Iter are basically BDSM stuff or very “Brutal” images. My main source of inspiration is the seventh art, I’m a big fan of Giallo and thrillers in general, even better if Italian or British, obviously also horror, splatter etc, I also love experimental cinema and all the French Nouvelle Vague.
Which was the essential record or live concert that mark indelibly your perception of music?
Oh well…There are a lot of records that changed my perception of music actually, but if I have to choose one…I must say “From Science to Ritual” by SPK, fun fact: the name of my first noise project “Suture” was taken from one of their tracks “Suture Obsession”.
How is a song composed? What is your working process like? What instruments or devices your setup is made of? I notice you often use the tape loop technique and Tascam recorder…
As for experimentation I use for the most part the technique of tape looping, so I usually use old tape recorders, my trusty 4-track Tascam 02 and an old Reel to Reel, a Sony tc560. In the tapes usually, I put pieces of documentaries, pieces of movies or synth melodies, in general, this is how my creations come out basically, but when I do not want to use tapes I use a Casio SK 5, a sampler of the 80s and various pedals to change and shape the sound, in ” 1962″ for example I used the Casio. For Love of Consolation, I simply use an electric guitar, a bass and several of my drum machines, I usually mix everything with an old six channels TEAC model 2a, this mixer in particular can give me a kind of low pass effect, that just gives a lo-fi flavour to my productions. Only a few times do I use Ableton or DAW in general, only when I want a more refined and intricate sound or just for some little changes.
The idea and practice of minimalism, atmosphere and repetition seem key factors in the project.
I love minimalism so like I use it with my experimental projects I also use it with Love of Consolation and Dreadful Events. Unfortunately, sometimes I listen to my finished works and think that maybe they are not too minimal actually, but I am very demanding of minimalism also because being minimal is not so easy, not only in music but also in other art forms. Minimalism is a discipline.
Your dream collaboration?
As for the Love of Consolation project at the moment I can’t think of any collaboration, for my noise projects instead, especially my main one I say, Maurizio Bianchi.
A song that defines your teenage years?
“Twenty Four Hours” by Joy Division
- Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite ever albums.
Here’s a small list:
All the Asylum Party discography
“Neuro Habitat” by M.B (but in general everything)
All the Kas Product albums
“Chapter IV” by Trisomie 21
All the Joy Division and Bauhaus albums
But there are really many and many artists and albums among my favourites, Noise and not, so the list would be very long.
Many thanks for being your welcome guest, what’ll be your next plans and projects?
Thank you for this interview! As regards Love of Consolation should be released for an Italian label called “HOMEMORT” with a cassette/digital album called “Il Funerale dei Ricordi”. Instead for Neomortoria, Martyn and I, we are currently working on a new EP that is not yet fully defined so it will take some time. As for Dreadful Events, I’m working on a new EP and instead for my main experimental project should come out with a Split with an American experimental musician and poet called Jiselle Kamppila.
Keep up with Love of Consolation: