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toroddfuglesteg View Drop Down
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    Posted: November 10 2010 at 13:49

Pino (left) and Massimo (right)

The record store and label Black Widow Records has had a very big influence on the Rock Progressivo Italiano (RPI) scene, past and present. Black Widow Records is not strictly a RPI label and they have several other irons in the oven.

Black Widow Records owner Massimo is a friendly guy who is more than happy to talk to us. Myself and Jim Russel (better known as Finnforest) therefore knocked our brains together for a list of questions.

I hope you will find this interview with Massimo interesting.

The shop front with Il Bacio Delle Medusa and Massimo


When and why did you start Black Widow Records ? Please tell us the history of the Genoa store and how you began the business. I think our readers would like to see the interior and exterior of your store. Can you give us a couple of photos so we can "see" this legendary store ?
Hello everyone, the history of BLACK WIDOW RECORDS officially begins in 1990 but really in my mind it had already begun many years before we can say that inside me I always knew that sooner or later I would have done something important for rock music.
I worked for 16 years as a designer in a big company then I realized it was time to open my shop in town but they were several years that I went to England to retrieve records that could not be found in Italy, I bought them for me and friends and increased demands more and more so in the end I decided to make one of my greatest passions in a job. It was easy I would say that it was a natural and logical thing for me.

We are in 4 people now, me , Pino, Alberto and my wife Laura but we have some very important collaborators like Enrico and Carlo.

What is the craziest thing ever to happen in your store?
In a store like ours crazy things happen, sometimes funny and sometimes embarrassing.
Do you remember the movie High Fidelity?
Here are the situations are the same, it's amazing how the director has captured the true spirit that lives in shops like ours.
A nice thing I remember with pleasure that Sunday was where I was in the store to do some work and suddenly came the HAWKWIND, was a surprise also incredible because HAWKWIND are one of my favorite 5 bands of all the time.
One hour after the store was full of friends who had taken the disks to be signed by Dave Brock and Alan Davey.
It was very fun, even when the components of the English groups Poisoned ELECTRIC HEADS, after a concert with RUNAWAY TOTEM, came into the store with their masks by aliens ... even the police intervened because the people were scared .... crazy stuff.

What is the most common age of people who come into your store to buy Italian Prog?

Fortunately, our clients are of all ages, from boy of 15-16 years old to man or woman aged to 60-70 years.
This is very interesting for us that we can understand the thoughts and moods of the people of all ages.

These days, the supposed sages of all-things music tell us that "Brick and Mortar" stores cannot make it, that CDs are over, and that only downloads will survive. Yet BWR seems to thrive offering high quality traditional formats (CD/vinyl) presented in lovely packaging & operating a Brick and Mortar store. What do you say to the naysayers who say your business model cannot continue?

Never give heed to the rules of the market and the mode would be the end of all major art forms.
From 30 years we hear that "Rock is Dead", but we saw him turn and be born a thousand times louder.
How many times have cried out that the vinyl was finished and passed, but now is back and many people have finally realized that vinyl is the best medium for listening and enjoy the potential of rock music.
But you want to compare the covers on vinyl with those of the compact disc?
You can not do a comparison.
Great artists have designed graphical masterpiece to accompany the music of our heroes, these graphic works were made to be admired while you listen to the music you love, more and more people have restarted to buy vinyl, go ahead and make haste.
Of course, we also print the CD, try to do the best we can and we do not care for those who download the music, they spend the money on anything, throw away the money believed to be smart and save money instead of simply buying nothing and nothing will ever find themselves in, this is not culture, but stupidity.

Black Widow seems to find outstanding new artists (Il Bacio della Medusa, Il Tempio delle Clessidra, Three Monks) and veteran artists alike. How do you go about scouting talent and deciding what to sign?
Certainly we have our personal preferences that help us choose which groups to invest our time and money but I think that sometimes is something magical to join a group rather than another.
You know, we receive hundreds of demos each month, but all we hear are very few groups that manage to impress us.
It also happens that there is a group recommended by a friend, as in the case of Jim Russell, who advised me to listen to THREE MONKS, now signed for us. 
Sometimes you go to a concert and you are struck by a group rather than another, ... contact with the right group for us to be born in a thousand different ways.

Black Widow are the purveyors of "dark prog" and "dark rock." Can you describe what "dark music" means to yourself and the bands? What is attractive about it to its fans?
Is easy to see that one of my favorite bands are the BLACK WIDOW.
This band has everything I like in rock music, a powerful and hypnotic sound, gothic themes, a dark graphyc and charming stage presence unique and spectacular.
Their debut album SACRIFICE is one of the greatest masterpieces of prog music of all time, an album that is a must in any collection of prog fans.
DARK PROG is the music created by Black Widow, but there are other great groups such as the immense HIGH TIDE, the COVEN, ATOMIC ROOSTER, STILL LIFE, Quatermass, INDIAN SUMMER, Beggars Opera, Comus, and Jacula, ANTONIUS REX , Goblin ... this is the DARK PROG.
But we like very much groups that have nothing to do with DARK PROG, for example, I love Tyrannosaurus Rex of the genius Marc Bolan, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, but also bands that have nothing to do with the PROG such as the Misfits, the MC 5, CHROME, The Damned, The Stooges, Alice Cooper, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Neil Young, Thin Lizzy, Blue Oyster Cult ... the music rock is a huge universe and it's nice to live in it.

Does it work well to be involved in both "progressive" music and metal music? Is there ever any friendly competition between the two different styles within your ranks of friends and customers?
A decade ago there was a big competition between the fans of prog and metal and even the gothic rock, but now it has changed a lot, at least in our place.
We say that the majority of our customers in Italy and around the world  listen to seamlessly DELIRIUM and L'IMPERO DELLE OMBRE, BLACK SABBATH and GRYPHON, IL BACIO DELLA MEDUSA and ANTONIUS REX
There are those who buy only the Italian prog, those who prefer to listen to only the groups more hard rock like WICKED MINDS and Witch's Brew, but we always try to make everyone understand that music is a world cut off and try to know as much as possibile in its thousands of variables without posing limitations, can be very interesting and rewarding for your body and mind.

In America and Britain, some prog or prog-related bands have slowly seeped into the mainstream and are viewed with some level of national pride. Has that happened in Italy to any extent? Do bands like Le Orme or PFM or Delirium get any status as a national treasure beyond the prog scene? Do average Italians know who these groups are?

You mean bands like Kansas, Styx, the SAGA, perhaps even the JOURNEY, England's YES, GENESIS, ELP ....
In Italy, groups such as the PFM, LE ORME, the DELIRIUM have sold millions of records reaching a huge popularity especially in the 70's.
This was mainly for the sellings of the singles, such as "Jesahel" and " Canto di Osanna" of Delirium have been ahead of all the charts for a long time and this also helped the album sell many copies, the same thing was for "Impressioni di Settembre" of PFM and "Gioco di bimba" and "Amico di Ieri" of LE ORME, "Miniera" and "Quella carezza della sera" for NEW TROLLS.
Although these songs are so beautiful to more mainstream also be accepted by the lovers of prog  and certainly have contributed to the popularity of these groups in Italy and worldwide.
Is a very positive thing.

When BW decides to reissue an old classic prog album, what is the process? Do you have to contact old band members and get permission? Search for the masters? What kind of hurdles are there to reissuing long out of print albums?
To reprint an old album, or at least any of the albums already released by a label, it is absolutely necessary to find who owns the rights to this album.
We tried to get in touch with the musicians and ask them if they agree to a future reissue, we ask if they know who owns the master and try to contact him.
If the search is successful then we proceed with the reprint, if there are unsolvable problems then we are forced to let go even though we may regret it very much.
Unfortunately it is not always possible to find a positive solution for these things, especially for older albums of the 70s, today's environment record is very complicated but then it was even worse.

What is the approx sales figures for your albums ?
We usually start with a print run of 1000-1500 copies, and in almost all cases, then we do a reprint of another 500 or 1000 copies.
We now have some our albums that have sold 4000-5000 and more copies, others are yet to come in 2000 and also someone who has not yet sold 1000 copies but they are thankfully few.
A label like ours can not afford to invest time and money in transactions that do not extend to 1000 copies, each of our investment should pay dividends that are immediately reinvest in new productions.
We produce only bands that we like but we need to get the positive sales results.

Have you had any bad experiences of any kind ?

Yes, a few ....but we prefer don't talk about them!

I guess you are very happy with the Black Widow roster as it is. But if given the chance in a perfect world, which non-Black Widow artist would you have loved to work with ?

Good question, congratulations!
See the BLACK WIDOW is a dream come true that allows to realize other dreams, and dreams, nothing is impossible so why not dream one day to produce the album DARK PROG perfect?
I believe that in the past we have gone by with the second album of MALOMBRA and the first of IL SEGNO DEL COMANDO, but now we are more mature, more professional, more prepared even in technical so if you ever find the right group we can really make a masterpiece ... but as I said before it takes the group to meet our thoughts.
We think a band that manages to blend the best features of BLACK WIDOW, BLACK SABBATH, GOBLIN, BLUE OYSTER CULT, plus a very progressive touch type  CRIMSON, SPRING or  FANTASY.
It is not an easy thing, but not impossible, if you know of a group with similar characteristics, put them in touch with us please.

Who is your five all time favorite artists and albums ?

Too many to mention...i can say these  10 at the moment....:

1-T.REX-Electric Warrior
2-HIGH TIDE-Sea Shanties
3-HAWKWIND-Warrior on the edge of time
4-CAN-Monster Movie
6-BLACK WIDOW-Sacrifice
7-KING CRIMSON-In the court of...
9-AMON DULL-Wolf City
10-ANGE-Au de la du delire

What are some future exciting projects coming from Black Widow?

We have just produced the debut of "IL TEMPIO DELLE CLESSIDRE" a very interesting not only for the presence of the singer of Museo Rosembach Lupo Galifi but for the brilliance and complexity of their sound where all the other young musicians perform their essay capacity.
This is a group that will do much to talk about themselves in Italy and the world of prog.
We also made the first official DVD of the legendary DELIRIUM who you have already successfully reviewed, this DVD is also historic because it contains the old footage from Italian television.
I hope that after us other labels strive to recover the old footage of prog bands like Le Orme, Osanna, PFM, BMS, Quella Vecchia Locanda, NEW IDEA release officials DVD.
We have many new projects:
Reprinted ANTONIUS REX-Ralefun,
JACULA-Pre Viam, new studio album after more than 30 years,
a Live album of HAWKLORDS, great group composed of former members of Hawkwind,
a double album with unreleased and live concert for BLACK WIDOW,
a new album of GOAD- Masquerade (very beautiful, their best)
L'IMPERO DELLE OMBRE-The Companions of Baal
THREE MONKS-Neoghotic Progressive Toccatas
PAOLO SIANI and friends feat. NUOVA IDEA-Castles, Wings & Dreams
OSANNA a DVD and double live, a DVD and a double Live album for  IL BACIO DELLA MEDUSA
WICKED MINDS a double album dedicated to the Italian prog of the 70 with many guests as LinoVairetti (Osanna), Aldo Tagliapietra (ORME), Antonio Bartoccetti (Jacula, Antonius Rex, Dietro noi Deserto), Lupo Galifi (Museo Rosembach), Martin Grice (Delirium), Sophya Baccini (Presence, Osanna, Delirium)
ORNE-The Tree of Life,
and many more....

Anything you want to add to this interview ?
Thank you for the great support you give to our label, we are very attached to America because from 20 years people like Greg Walker, (who we met in Milan for the prog festival with Locanda delle fate+ Garybaldi+ Alphataurus)
distributes and sells our products. (THANKS GREG!!!)
We love American prog bands like Yezda Urfa, Mirthrandir Pavlov's Dog, Ethos, Pentwater ... and VICTOR PERAINO's KINGDOME COME-No man'a land (we just repressed on Cd and vinyl)
We hope that the organizers of the prog festivals in America decide to invite our group to play.
The legendary DELIRIUM,  the young progsters of IL BACIO DELLA MEDUSA, GOAD, G.C.NERI band, SOPHYA BACCINI GROUP, IL TEMPIO DELLE CLESSIDRE, are interested in coming to America to pass along to you some hours with the biggest music prog.
That's if there's a message I want to launch is directed to the organizers of the concerts and festivals Americans
"Ask our groups to come and play for you and do not regret it!
While the readers of your website I would say that we can all do something for the great music prog.
Think of a friend, choose with time and try to let him listen closer to prog maybe doing something just as good as the CAMEL or Supertramp.
Maybe your friend after some time will fall in love with prog and in turn will speak to others and so on.
It will be a satisfaction for you and a victory for progressive music and life.
Long live Prog.
All the best

Thank you to Massimo for this interview

Black Widow Records can be found here

Edited by toroddfuglesteg - November 10 2010 at 14:08
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 10 2010 at 14:28
Awesome !! Clap 
Love his top ten too,he likes some variety.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 10 2010 at 16:10
Really really awesome!!!!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 10 2010 at 17:14
Great interview!  Great label!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 10 2010 at 18:33
Black Widow is one of my favorite prog labels, it was great to see you guys managed this excellent interview!

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 10 2010 at 18:47
Great answers guys, and many thanks for your passion and great roster of artists.  Hopefully one of the USA festivals will have the foresight to bring Delirium and BDM to America in 2011. ExclamationSmile

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 11 2010 at 13:53
Superb! Clap
Received my copy of the Il Tempio Delle Clessidre album direct from Pino a couple of days ago. Now I've got that double live Il Bacio Della Medusa to look forward to... anybody know when that one is due for release?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 14 2010 at 05:16
black widow: the italian label of prog.
what else to say ?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 15 2010 at 23:40
Hi guys,

Fantastic label with a great variety of amazing bands!

Congratulations for your excellent job, Massimo.

Torodd in another great interview.

All the best!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 22 2010 at 19:07
Thumbs Up
Good interview and fun read!
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