WL//WH Interview Chemical Waves
The experienced Italian guitarist Marco Cattani (also a member of HALO EFFECT, and THE MARK) based out of Rome, is fresh from releasing, under his Chemical Waves moniker, a fresh and modern full-length album, titled “Even When We Fall Apart”, that blends superbly ’80s inspired post-punk, darkwave and coldwave, with the vocal and lyrical support, through the web, of well-known musicians from the international underground music scene like L’Avenir, Closed Mouth, Bedless Bones, HIV +, Virgin Tears, Antiflvx, Egoprisme, and Veronica Jay Clay.
An old project who seemed destined to be shelved, but that the determination and the perseverance of Marco have brought to completion, and it is such the satisfaction for the final result that new exciting and surprising collaborations will follow very soon. But let’s delve deeper with the artist himself.
Thanks so much for the interview. Let’s trace back to your personal roots, where did you grow up and how did you get into music? Who were your early musical, and not only, inspirations and passions growing up?
Thanks to you for this interview. I can tell you that the first concert I attended, at the age of 10, was in Rome in 1990 at the PalaEur: it was the “World Violation Tour” of Depeche Mode. I think it was a dazzling start! I always liked being a little out of fashion and not homologated to the mass: I was the only 10-year-old boy who knew Depeche Mode in my school and this made me, on the one hand, a loner in my passions but also unique! However, I have never felt excluded from the world but rather I have cultivated this passion of mine as if it were a gift and a privilege to be jealously guarded! That was my secret garden!
From here, you can understand exactly what my roots are.
How is born your attraction for dark electronics, post-punk, darkwave and coldwave sounds?
Being in contact with some artists in adolescence, in particular, influenced me a lot and allowed me to look at music and the world from a different angle. Some personal events then allowed to find in music a way out and a vocabulary that expressed what you can hardly express with words, especially when you are too young and you do not have the right words to do it.
Over the years I have developed an attitude that has led me to love cold sounds and dark atmospheres, chords in a minor key and all those plots that bring the simple listening of a song to a deeper level. Listening to music is very different from hearing music!
Could you talk briefly about your longstanding main band, HALO EFFECT?
I started my musical career in the underground thanks to the meeting with the guys of the band back in 2001: we had in common several things including the desire to make electronic music, the attraction for a dark atmosphere and love for the same bands! There was an immediate empathy between us and a strong friendship was born that has lasted for almost 20 years. Thanks to this union, we took away a lot of satisfaction, we played in front of so many different audiences (in Italy and in Europe), released several albums and got a good fan base that follows us with such passion. It is a constantly evolving project that has had constant growth over the years and which represents a point of reference for all of us. Having a group is one of the dreams for many teenagers and I think I made it: being in a band is an exercise in balance that always leads to confronting ideas and opinions different from yours and for this reason it represents personal growth.
What about your more recent experimental electronic moniker as THE MARK?
There are so many musical genres that are somewhat similar or have links between them while maintaining different characteristics and souls. During the making of a remix album with many techno artists for Halo Effect, the idea of experimenting and trying to do something different in a completely independent and autonomous way was born in me. I became passionate about these sounds thanks also to emerging artists with whom we collaborated. Thus was born THE MARK. I didn’t have a specific plan for this project and I hadn’t thought about distribution until I made the material listen to Variant Electronic, who decided to focus on this project: two albums plus one remix and several collaborations were released. For the second album “Just Like The Movie” a beautiful full movie was made available now on youtube and on my page. Then came another album, “Vicious”, even darker and harder, for Advanced Electronic. In a short time, I released a lot of material for this project!
I have already finished the new album and am looking for a distribution worthy of it.
What triggered you to start the Chemikal Waves side project in 2012? Do you have already a sound concept in mind when you started it or was more the result of constant ongoing experimentation?
My musical influences are varied, but the main core is made up of love for “Depeche Mode” and the other side for “The Cure”. I got to give vent to the first with the other two projects, while to go to meet the other side of myself I gave birth to CHEMICAL WAVES. Musically I was born as a guitarist and the sound of “The Cure – Robert Smith” guitars has always been a point of reference for me!
In 2012 we had just finished mixing the album “The Fourth Zone” with our producer Nicolà Di Gia with whom I had established a musical affinity. I made him listen to what was already the album “The Garden Of Forking Paths” and, being a great guitarist, I asked him to remake all the guitars on the album and do a mixing job. The result, I think, was something like 19 songs! At that time I didn’t want to add singers to this project because I didn’t want everything to become too heavy and long and delay what was a very “instinctive” and “spontaneous” project! But even here the work aroused the interest of the German label “Af Music” which released the album in 2012. To follow, videos, remixes, etc … To all intents and purposes what was a project born between a break and the other, it has become a long term project!
Do you consider CW essentially a studio project?
At the moment it is also because having many guest singers would be complicated to have them all for a live show. In any case, never say never.
Tell us about the underground music scene of your hometown Rome and if in some way have influenced your artistic developments. Apparently several post-punk bands from the Capital are coming out...
It’s really a shame because there are many quality bands in Rome that deserve a better context and audience. Over the years the underground scene has shrunk considerably in terms of participation. There are also insufficient spaces and adequate facilities for concerts, but what is missing, in particular, is the musical culture for a genre that is not highly regarded and is often relegated to a subgenre.
We Italians are ready to complain easily and think that everything is working better abroad, dealing more generally with the musical situation in Italy, how has it evolved, or on the contrary involved, over the years, what is your opinion about it?
The situation took place not only in Italy but also in other countries with some exceptions that still resist, but far from the past glorious years. The difference is that in Italy the underground scene has always been small compared to the national context and today more than ever it is reduced to the minimum terms.
- Have you ever thought about the possibility, like many, of moving to Berlin or London?
No, I thought about moving in musical terms but I thought several times about moving to improve my quality of life and perhaps as a consequence, to carve out a wider and better musical space.
- How do you approach the creative and recording process? Which comes first between the lyrics and the music?
About Chemical Waves, I can tell you that my dimension remains closely linked to an essentially musical sphere: I leave the lyrics and the melodies of the voice to the artists who from time to time are guests of my songs and in this occasion, I can tell you is that I find that the lyrics are perfectly inserted in the mood of the album. Therefore an instrumental song is born on which each one builds the best suit that makes him feel at ease.
- Could you talk about the influences by non-musical cultural resources (eg films, books, visual art, etc.) behind your music?
What most influences my music are the personal moods that I live during the day and all those emotions or sensations that I can hardly express to the maximum with words. Music is a very powerful vehicle for all this. Certainly, book, magazines, movies or TV series are somehow part of this expression.
- “Even When We Fall Apart” is made up, as increasingly is happening in the new millennium, of vocal features born on the web, can you explain better how everything works in your case?
I listen to a lot of music, and I like to find new voices or artists on the web: in this way it is a very interesting showcase that allows you to get to the artist in a very simple and direct way. I listened and selected the artists of this album based on my personal preferences, on what I like: I am their fan first of all!
Listening after listening, I found many artists but above all beautiful people: available and passionate, ready to get involved in something different from their usual. All of this is very exciting: it’s nice to see how your song is transformed and interpreted. The interesting thing is when some artists who usually do something else, are amazed to discover that through my songs they can also be different, they can go further. It is going beyond your limits and getting involved. I am grateful to them, without their passion and their time I could not have made this beautiful album.
- Your album is an electronic-laden blend of different dark music genres…Could you give us a deep insight into it? the title, the influences, and process that have brought to the final result?
This album has a very very particular story: 7/11 of the album was written and recorded in 2014! This was to be the sequel to the 2012 album. I had decided to find a voice for these songs and so I started working with a guy from Rome whom I admired and quickly gave me several excellent demos. From here on, everything has incredibly stopped and I have not received the definitive voices anymore! This was a cause of great frustration for me which led me to put all the work aside until last year. It was only in 2019 that I said to myself “this album is too good to stay in my drawer” and so I started contacting several singers and making my material heard! The response was excellent, beyond my expectations and so began the process that led to the birth of the album.
The title perfectly sums all of this: “even when we fall apart” there is always a reason to retreat and find a new way, a new light, a new way to be! This is the first album in which in addition to writing, mixing and production, I also dealt with Mastering: here I am all myself and I am proud of it!
The thing that surprised me, when I listened to the definitive tracklist, is how all these artists and these different songs were somehow part of the same great design, each tile in the right place, next to each other in the right way until complete such a solid album! The other interesting aspect in my opinion, as the boss of the label has repeatedly remarked, is that this is a very invigorating album with a breath of freshness in a very saturated genre and too attached to a distant past and full of clichés.
- Do you already have a cold perspective about the LP? Which songs would you pick out as your favourites from it if you had to and why?
Choosing a song is difficult, they are all children of the same mother in a certain sense. As we said above, there are many different styles that can satisfy many listeners with these different. But if I had to indicate a single top song, I would certainly say “Denied” with Bedless Bones: this is also testified by the beautiful video clip made by Kadri which has had over 2500 views in just 5 days and which is the most played in the playlists so far!
Another lead song, the first to be released with a video clip, is the one made together with Pedro from HIV+: “The Sphinx” has hit the mark immediately!
The other song, “The Graves Of Our Past (feat Virgin Tears)” certainly deserves a mention, for which Linda has made a wonderful, very intense video clip.
I think this album contains many beautiful songs that deserve to be appreciated all and should be listened to from beginning to end!
- You said to me that you have already partially written the second chapter, what will be the differences and possible sound development?
There is a twin on this album that is somehow related and that represents an evolution of the first chapter. The enthusiasm around this project and the response I had prompted me to get back to work and write a lot of music in this past year and in the first months of the new year. In addition to this, there are also some songs left out that belong to the sessions of 2014. What I can tell you is that at the present, I have a lot of material and I am starting to collaborating with many great other artists and I am determined to release a new album and more and more! Chemical Waves is just beginning.
- How did you hook up with Unknown Pleasures Records? Did you need promotional support? How the physical edition is important for you
It was an honour for me when I received the appreciation from this historic label which has great experience, excellent quality in its entire catalogue and a large group of supporters. The professionalism with which this label works is something exceptional! Choosing this label was natural and allowed me to grow my audience.
Above all, what struck me was the enthusiasm from Pedro (label boss!) With whom he welcomed me in his stable. I felt the support and constant appreciation and I felt that in some way he too had become my admirer as I am of his label. We have chosen and selected the tracklist of this album together to offer the best possible album and aim for it! The work that the label has done for the cover is amazing and demonstrates the care and passion with which it works. This is not only a music CD, but a complete work also from the graphic art that everyone should have in his collection. I am, like many others, an admirer and enthusiast of the physical edition of the albums and I believe that those who bought the CD will be satisfied.
- How do you weigh music-wise the pro and cons of the internet era? Are you comfortable with the social media and platform like Spotify, Bandcamp etc. as tools to promote your music?
If you are not comfortable with the world that changes, you are cut off: I think that the problem is not the means but the use made of it. As for music, there are positive aspects from all this and this project is an example: it would have been impossible in the 80s or 90s to make this work that includes artists from all over the world. On the other side, there are many negative aspects and in my opinion, there is an inflation of the offer that is three times as much demand: many excellent bands, no time to listen to them with the right attention. These are just two small examples, but a topic like this deserves hours of conversation.
- Can you remember what was the first concert, record, song… that gave you that overwhelming sense of excitement and wonder that has marked forever your musical sensibility?
As I said above, the impact outside the gates of the PalaEur in Rome in 1990 was dazzling even before entering the concert: an audience all dressed in black, so many punks, the boots, chains! Never seen anything like this for a 10-year-old boy! I saw a sharing that went beyond music and embraced a style. Dazzling!
- Which bands would you love to make a cover version of?
I would like to go against the trend for the moment, I have no interest in the world of covers with this project. I want to be myself, that’s all!
- What music and who are you personally listening to at the moment?
I listen to so many different genres in so many different artists ranging like coldwave, techno, synthpop, darkwave, etc..
- What was your favourite record of 2019? Anyone you can’t wait for it to be out?
There are many good records that I liked last year, starting with Drab Majesty, passing through Body of light, Silent EM, Twin Tribes, Twilight Sad and of course Boy Harsher. If I had to tell you an album that I look forward to, and I’m not alone, is it the new one (?) The Cure album: they talk about it but nothing concrete is known and this increases desire. Hopefully, maybe, it’s the right time! (and hopefully, we won’t be disappointed with its quality, like Robert Smith‘s latest album!).
- Could you name one of your ever favourite albums, movies and books and why? or Name your most treasured 5 all-time albums?
This is a very difficult question. Surely among my favourite albums of all time, there is “Disintegration” (The Cure), “Violator” (Depeche Mode)!
And then, maybe, “Script of the Bridge” (The Chameleons), “Sleeping with ghosts” (Placebo), “SequencerBeta” (Covenant), “In This Light on this Evening” (Editors), “Bodypop” (And One), “Hidden Faces” and “Clan Of Xymox” (Clan Of Xymox), “Pure” (Gary Numan), “Focus” and “Light and Parallels”(HØrd), “Embracing The Fall” (Iamtheshadow), “Mechanical Animals” (Marilyn Manson), “Redeemer”(Phase Fatale), “Choke (Soft Kill), …..and many many many more! It’s too difficult to choose only 5 and I’m sure they could change every time if you ask me!
I am a movie buff and it would be difficult to make a ranking, surely I can tell you that ‘The Crow’ has had an effect on me as well as ‘Schindler’s List’ (masterpiece).
My favourite book is “1984” by George Orwell (timeless)! A book that everyone should read is Primo Levi‘s “If this is a man”. Again my list changes constantly. I am also a big fan of thrillers genres, especially psychological ones, both as regards films, books and TV series.
- What´s the plan for the future and if there’s anything you’d like to add…
In the meantime, thank you so much for this interview and for the space you have given me. There are many projects and I have many things in mind, we will meet again soon.
Stay in touch with me on my official page for new updates. Thanks everyone for the support!
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