(Comrade Aleks interviews Gabriele Fiori of the Italian band Black Rainbows.)
I like bands with ambitions. I like bands who know what they really want and do not sit on their asses waiting for big fat labels to lend them a helping hand. So this somewhat strange and stoned interview is a form of respect to the Italian psychedelic stoner band Black Rainbows (Rome, Lazio).
The band’s founder Gabriele Fiori (vocals, guitars, keyboards) started his musical career in the good yet pretty slow band Void Generator. The decision to leave Void Generator helped Gabriele to start his new full-time band Black Rainbows and his label Heavy Psych Sounds, and now the band has four full-length albums in its discography alongside four smaller releases. I was lucky enough to catch Gabriele between Black Rainbows tours, and here’s a verbatim report of our talking.
Hail Gabriele! Black Rainbows have played this zealous and driving stoner music for 10 years! I’d like to congratulate you with that jubilee. How do you live with that?
Thanks for the congratulations, 10 years… is more like 8,5. This kind of music wasn’t so popular when we started, so at the moment I’m happy with that — this music, these festivals (which happen now). I’m very happy and proud of the scene, but at that time it was pretty different and pretty difficult. Honestly, we would have liked to be a bit more well-known when we started to play.
First of all, you have a new album, Hawkdope, and the new songs sound very fresh and strong, though your musical influences are obvious; how did you work over this album? What did you plan to put into it?
First of all, this album took almost two years and half. Since Supermothafuzzalicious!! we recorded tons of new songs, and we wanted to take time to record the best of them. To put all proper songs together, not just good songs, but songs which really work well together. So we started to rehearse a lot, started to craft songs, then we took the best ones and chose some of them, making arrangements for about 20 songs, as we started with 40-50 songs. So in the end we took only 9 songs from these 20.
It was the first time when Black Rainbows recorded an album all together in one room. Usually we record songs part by part, separately for each instrument. So we spent five days together in my studio, which I crafted for better sound of Black Rainbows. And after these five days of recordings, we started with arrangements, vocals, and overdubs.
You have a pretty overloaded fuzz sound on this album — well, it’s not too overloaded and it’s really thick. What does fuzz mean for you? What’s its sacred meaning?
Well, fuzz has been pretty important since its creation when it was a first pedal for rock music. And its sound can be so creamy and heavy. In fact I use a clean amplifier, just a pedal. I like a wide panel to put my own sound with my own pedal, and if you decide to use the pedal, and the amplifier is clear, you can have just the proper sound of the fuzz, maybe with some equalizing…
You can use the fuzz in different versions, you can use the fuzz for ’70s acid rock, just riffing — it depends on the tuning of the guitar — or my use of it is like a wall of sound. It’s that I like to use, so I choose brief heavy riffs — not small riffs, not ’70s freak hippy riffs, but heavy riffs with fuzz sound. In the past Black Rainbows albums I didn’t use it always, I also used an overdrive, but for Hawkdope the sound is fully fuzz attended.
Black Rainbows – The Prophet
By the way, man, you played with the Void Generator band some time ago — how long was it? And did you hear their last overfuzzed record Super Sound?
Yes, it was my first band. Actually, I played in Void Generator from ’98 ’til 2005, but I wasn’t satisfied because the band wasn’t interested in being active, in touring, and doing so many things which I could do with Black Rainbows. It was a good experience for me, I played there with my cousin, I’ve learned a lot from the band, but for a long time we didn’t do much recording or other stuff. And it did drive me to start my own band with other musicians.
I’ve listened to Void Generator’s Super Sound, but I have to listen to about 10-15 records per day, so I can’t remember at this moment — my mind is melted from a lot of other things.
What are the important components of Black Rainbows’ music and lyrics?
Music is the first thing. I have to do lyrics when we already have a song, but if the lyrics, or rather the vocal lines, don’t fit the melody, they can definitely change a whole song. We had two such songs for Hawkdope that didn’t fit well to the album, but after we recorded vocals for it, we were sure that it was the right song. So both elements are important in the end.
Where and for how long did you record the Hawkdope album? Do you have some key studios in Italy?
I need to say a couple of words about the Italian scene. It is pretty old, and there’re a lot of good bands which made and still make this scene, but I think we do not have a good business point of view. We can’t sell proper bands, we do not have this rock background, we don’t have big labels and big booking agencies, but we have cool artists who are respected in other countries.
There are no key studios. I record Black Rainbows in my studio and it’s not a big one, but I can work and get my sound that’s important. Some bands have to spend big money to go in a cool studio or to buy some expensive stuff, but it stops you from searching your own sound. I think that high-level recording isn’t necessary for this kind of music — at least too much of a clear and cool sound, because sometimes this music needs a more dirty sound.
Black Rainbows’ Hawkdope sounds bloody enthusiastic and psychedelic. What drives you to write such stuff? What charges you with such energy?
We like to switch sound sometimes. For example, Carmina Diabolo was more into classic stoner rock stuff, and Supermothafuzzalicious!! has more rock’n’roll. We always turn to more and more psychedelic, but keeping our heavy psych and heavy stoner components. I think that this record is a kind of fusion between the sound of Fu Manchu and Hawkwind or Monster Magnet. So we keep all these things together with Black Rainbows’ riffing.
We always write a lot of music, we always listen to a lot of music, too, and look for something new for us. If we believe in a song, then we develop it and continue to play.
Can you tell a story of one song from Hawkdope?
All lyrics are visionary. For example, “Hawkdope” was started like a playing with the title, as we had no title for this song. So we took “dope” because of its American meaning as “cool”, and took “hawk” because of Hawkwind. The song’s riff is very heavy and psychedelic, so we’ve joined these two words to create a new fantasy word which makes sense.
Speaking about composing songs… it usually starts with 1-3 riffs, we craft the song together, developing it, and maybe adding 2-3 loops.
This album was released by Heavy Psych Sounds. How does your collaboration go? Did you sign a contract with them ’til the end of your escape from Earth?
Well, if you don’t know the story, we started with another label, Longfellow Deeds Records, and after the first record I wanted more and more promotion, to draw more attention to the band, so I decided to do my own record label. So I and the label work strongly with Black Rainbows, though yes — we tried to find a bigger label, but it didn’t happen. It’s not about top selling, because anything we do with Black Rainbows goes better than with other titles. But if we get a good deal from a big label, we could turn to it.
Black Rainbows have cool splits with Farflung and Naam. Do you have plans for some more splits in the future?
We did a split album, and I think that’s enough. At this moment I prefer full-length albums. I would like to do one new album per year if it’s possible because we simply have a lot of stuff. So we did a 7’’, we did a couple of splits, and at least I’m not in the mood to do splits at this moment.
Your songs are heavy rock-n-roll incarnated, and it often goes hand in hand with booze, drugs, and chicks. Do you have enough of that in your life?
First of all, chicks are something you never have enough of. We had enough drugs. And booze… maybe we are getting older, hangovers became harder and harder, so I guess we have pretty less of booze now. But our songs are not only about these things, as they also have psychedelic sceneries, visionary, the universe, stars. Also stories like “Wolf Eyes” or “The Prophet”. But yes — the core of it is a rock-n-roll, a lot of rock-n-roll.
Black Rainbows – No Fuel, No Fun
Man, you play a lot in Italy and outside the country. Do you have a “core” psychedelic stoner / rock scene there, the bands with which you usually play or could hit the road and play with in every moment?
We played a lot in Italy and we prefer to go outside, and the reason is that there’s a not a big scene here. It’s good, but it’s not big. And Italians prefer other types of bands, and we are too exotic. We have a lot of places to play here, but when you already have been there 4-5 times… it’s enough to play there once per year. You can’t play in one city every 5 months, it’s too much.
We’re not a band who likes to go on tour with other bands, it’s for economical reasons. But we like to meet a lot of good local bands where we go on tour, and of course we would like to play with bigger bands.
You played some big festivals this summer including Sauzipf Rocks. What were the highlights of these shows?
Yes, we played festival Sauzipf and we will play the Up In Smoke festival. And the highlight was Sauzipf. It was very cool, they took care of us, of all the backline besides everything else, and there were a lot of people involved. It was very chill-out and easy. But we had to do this crazy thing… not crazy thing, but had very hard scheduled touring. We played Sauzipf on Friday, and after it we woke up at 7 o’clock on Saturday morning and we needed to drive 400 kilometers to Lake On Fire Festival where we played at 2:30, and at 4 o’clock we jumped in the car and drove 700 kilometers to play a show at midnight in Zurich for another festival.
You’ll also play the Up In Smoke festival in October, and there was fest with Black Rainbows in Portugal this August. How do you usually organize your tour schedules?
First of all we start to fly, we have a little bit more money, we have more merchandise, so it’s easier to get a backline in places where we play. Maybe you need more organizing behind these things, but it’s good when you can fly.
For example, we fly to Up In Smoke, then we fly to Berlin, and there we rent a car and we have a backline every night. We ask for a backline that organizers can provide, so we can drive the car and avoid having to make like two days going up, because we live in Rome, and we always need one day to go up North and one day to come back. So we also go to Greece and we do the same, because driving a van in Greece is pretty complicated. So we’ll fly there, and we’ll go up to Bucharest to make 6 shows and then go back. We have our equipment with us, but we have also learned how to play a good show without all of our gear.
What is the necessary stuff you take in a van going on tour? Well, besides instruments and equipment.
We bring some visuals, we don’t need music in the van… Need chicks, naked chicks… it would be very good.
Got it! Thanks Gabriele, wish you all the best on this tour — more fuzz, more fuel, more fun. Do you have some words for our readers?
Just discover our band, I believe that it’s very good. So check it out please. Bye!
Great interview! That’s a fantastic band name and they sound really cool 🙂