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toroddfuglesteg View Drop Down
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    Posted: July 16 2011 at 11:44

IANVA, who formed in 2003 under the ancient name for their home city of Genoa, represents the gathering of a group of musicians from assorted backgrounds. Their music draws on folk, black metal, chanson, militaristic and dark progressive influences although the group itself shuns these kinds of labels. Founding members Mercy and Argento, who shared a common interest in figures and events from Italian history, initiated the project.

I got in touch with them and Renato (Mercy) answered my questions.


Your biography has been covered in your ProgArchives profile so let's bypass the biography details. But which bands were you influenced by and why did you choose that name ?

IANVA (pronounced “ianua”/"yanooah") is one of the ancient names of Genoa, our city.
During the Roman age it was devoted to Janus, the two-faced God - one face looks eastward and the other westward. They look simultaneously into the Future and the Past, just as our concept of Art and Music; but Janus/IANVS is also the God who presided over the "Ianua", the Latin word for "Door" - meant in this context as a spiritual or existential passageway. So He is the god of beginnings and transitions, thence also of gates, doors, doorways, endings and Time. Many centuries later, during the 1st World War, IANVA was also the name of a well known detachment of Arditi soldiers (the so called "Divisione Ianua"), all coming from Genoa.
If we consider each member's influences, their sum would be impressive, but they couldn't go hand in glove with IANVA's sound. At first, undoubtedly, the strongest inspiration were the dramatic-martial sounds from Laibach, In the Nursery, Puissance, Sophia and similar bands. But in the end, our love for Italian soundtracks of '60 -'70s definitely got the upper hand: music by Trovaioli, Micalizzi, Ciprani, or by De Angelis' brothers.
Then, there is Morricone, even if we're not the first nor the only ones inspired by him, since the most successful works by Death in June, Sol Invictus and similar musicians always had a morriconesque halo, but I dare say that Italians have the edge over some kind of sounds.
Anyway, as they say, everyone has its competences, but this doesn't mean that IANVA aren't influenced by some typical teutonic and British styles: '70s acid folk like Comus, Spyrogyra, Mellow Candle, and Malicorne, listened to the point of exhaustion and duly defined with a Mediterranean mark, took root in our sound. For sure there's a krautrock halo, the decadent rock by Roxy Music, or by Bowie's "Lady Grinning Soul", or Reed's "Berlin"; plus, some post-black metal à la Ulver, easy listening Italian songs from the '70s, '20s cabaret, French chanson, semi-mainstream Italian wave, Italian songwriters, etc... Then, I personally can't live without Scott Walker, Marc Almond, Peter Hammill, Arthur Lee & Love, Duncan Browne & Metro and many others....

Over to your two albums and two eps. Your debut release was the La Ballata Dell'Ardito ep from 2005. Please tell us more about this ep.

"La Ballata Dell'Ardito", our first release (March 2005), has been an opener for the next album. An EP including "La Ballata Dell'Ardito" (IANVA's most loved song, maybe, sort of an anthem/manifesto of our music), and two out-takes "Un Sogno D'Elettra" and a passionate cover version of Jacques Brel's "Amsterdam" sung by Stefania. All these out-takes has been included as bonus tracks in the second re-release of "Disobbedisco!".

Your second release was the Disobbedisco! album from 2006. Please tell us more about this album.

Our first EP was followed by our actual debut, "Disobbedisco! (December 2005/January 2006) a concept album which depicts the romance of Maggiore Cesare Renzi and the chanteuse Elettra Stavros, based on the historical background of d'Annunzio's occupation of Fiume. It was exceptionally well received abroad and we're proud of that. The whole project started in 2003 when I began to approach the subjects of Fiume and D'Annunzio because I found in those themes a healthy shelter for my soul, an antidote to a general feeling of moral impoverishment. Then one day I run into a little book, an authobiography, a story nobody could write anymore, especially now in XXI century when politically correctness, minimalist aesthetic and a general “feminization” of tastes and values are the only strict rules to follow. In that book I found a story full of passion and epos, full of the most virile spleen. Just perfect to excite my fantasy and be my inspiration. While I kept on writing down the lyrics, the sound experimentation went on. We suddenly realized that the personnel of the band had to be increased and widened. The reason was clear: while working with samplings to shape a very dinstinctive and unique sound, we wanted to use only vintage sources and samples which had to be taken from the '70s The result was so solemn, striking and threatening (very warm and not “German” at all, on the contrary it was very “mediterranean”) that we were immediately urged to reproduce it with real instruments, without all those harmonic limits that samples could imply. That's how "Disobbedisco!" was born. That peculiar sound keeps on fascinating all the people who approach our work; they fall under its spell still today.

Your third release was the L'Occidente ep from 2007. Please tell us more about this ep.

As I said, "Disobbedisco!" has been welcomed and appreciated more than we could expect. Don't let yourself be deceived by how Italian indie scene depicts itself: if you look back to the chronicles of that period's underground musicbiz in Italy, our break-in on the scene has been interpreted as a transitional oddity, but nothing more than this.
Actually we know for sure that "Disobbedisco!" had quite heavy effects, and many people, from as many different positions, asked theirselves how a thing like that could produce such an emotional and intense impact.
For us, there was another problem, since we were already sure about the final efficacy of our work. To be more precise: after such a romantic, strong, epic and touching plot in the debut album, how could we get along without repeating the same contents, but at the same time following the same theme, rekindling an interest for our national history even among younger people, who never approached it beyond school lessons? We got the answer with our second full-length (“Italia: Ultimo Atto”), but in the meanwhile we felt the need for a release that could allow us to experiment a checked evolution of our sound. That's why we released “L'Occidente EP”.
This EP is a case by itself – most people thought that they would have found all the tracks in the next full length, but we deliberately chose not to include them in “Italia: Ultimo Atto”'s tracklist.
As you can notice, "L'Occidente" represented, according to sounds, arrangements and harmonizations, the best result we had reached to that point.
The title track - with its tough vocal range for my singing ability, due to its harmonic texture - remains, in its contents, effective and repeatable even today, with the embarassing feeling that reality is way more shameful and atrocious than what is denounced in the song.
In "Santa Luce dei Macelli" we tried to give a proper sound to an atmosphere, which is anything but pleasant or colourful, a mood that flows underground, overshadowed by a thousand clichés, in the folklore and in social context of Southern Italy. A very archaic and gloomy atmosphere, votive and sensual at the same time.
There's even a cover version of a Strawbs' classic, adapted to our sound and imagination, but respected in its musical and narrative structure. While "The Battle" describes a day in a pitched battle from dawn to sunset, during the British civil war, the Italian version, called "In Battaglia", allowed us to create a sort of prequel to "Disobbedisco!", describing the first meeting between the main character (Major Renzi) and the narrator of our debut album (young Lt. Laurago), in the battle of San Gabriele, in May 1917.
We had the honour of being mentioned and publicly appreciated on Strawbs' official website, and this has been an extremely motivating reward, believe me...

Your fourth and most recent release was the Italia: Ultimo Atto album from 2009. Please tell us more about this album.

“Italia: Ultimo Atto” is based on the story of the sad fate of a whole nation through a gallery of portraits. Polaroids shot on the background of crucial historical events, all tragic but also in some strange way grotesque and contiguous to the sphere of mystery, intrigue and hidden conspiracy, as it often happens in our country... You must always remember that in Italy nothing is really as it appears. The journey ideally starts on september 8th 1943, a date that every Italian can’t recall without a feeling of dark, intimate discomfort, including those people who proudly claim it; then it goes through 20 months of civil war, whose fierce paroxysm, ideological fury and the effective number of victims (those of the defeated side in particular) are deliberately understimated, suppressed and kept under silence still today. From there, passing through the “Ricostruzione” (the years immediately after WW2, the “reconstruction” of Italy), the “Boom” (the so-called economic miracle which transformed the country in the span of a decade), the years of internal immigration and of industrialization, we come to the most recent season of “internal war”, the 70s, whose climax and “end of the circle” is represented by the “maledetta estate” (the bloody summer) of 1980, where the lyrics and the memories are strictly on a personal level. One main topic reigns above all: the ultimate loss of every real sovereignty, of every faculty (also on a psychological and cultural level) to become the artifex of our fate again. With this album I’m personally dealing with some subjects which were obsessing me, squaring up some aspects of our national history and situation once for all, things that always stirred in me anger, frustration, pain and a sense of impotence, but I only realised this while I was writing and composing the tracks.
I wanted this record to be a purification bath, but in the end it turned into a bloodbath, instead...
From the very beginning “Disobbedisco!” could rely on a more immediate impact, on some really anthemic tracks and also on a big “surprise factor” - our first EP had already been a great “hors d'oeuvre” in that sense... If compared to our first full length, I frankly think that “Italia: Ultimo Atto” is a more refined and orchestral work, well played and with better vocal performances. But it's also darker and gloomier – it gives its listeners no hope, no consolation, neither the single comfort of a honourable or a romantic/ “maudite” death (like the ones met by the main characters of “Disobbedisco!”). I strongly believe that “Italia: Ultimo Atto” is powerful as a whole.
Strictly tralking about the music, its tracks are more structured and deeper, yet they are all part of a whole “unicum” which flows inexorably just as Time and History do, down and down in darker circles, think of Dante's Inferno, for example... But in the end they both share a unique and peculiar sound... I mean, we shaped an original and unmistakable sound whether one likes it or not... And nobody can deny it

How would you describe you music and which bands would you compare yourself with ?

As you know, IANVA is an atypical musical ensemble, embodied by 9 permanent members plus an always-renewed range of occasional features.
It must be said that this arrangement wasn't part of the early project. At first, the problem wasn't as much putting a line up together, but rather creating a specific sound. As I previously said, in IANVA's earliest formation we already developed an encouraging preview of this sound - even if more repetitive - through the usage of samples. We were interested in creating martial and dramatic soundscapes, able to conjure apocalyptic scenarios that didn't use post-seventies sources, for sound consistency's sake. The warmth and the depth of the original samples, merged in obsessive loops intervowen with extremely dynamic rhythms, spawned something incredibly intense, eons away from the prevailing dullness that you could commonly hear. The only remaining issue was the reducted harmonic developement. Thus, the need of playing real music again, and extending the lineup, virtual until that moment, for encompassing all the soundscapes.
To cut it short: our sound is hard to define and describe; in my opinion this is a gift and a point in our favour, but some musicbiz guru/expert could tell you otherwise and say that it's the best way to go bankrupt...
Anyway, we're still here to stay and this could be impossible if our "challenge" would have not found an unsuspected number of people interested in our stuff...
IANVA's music is situated somewhere among martial neofolk, psych & progressive folk, old soundtracks, and the European songwriting of the second part of XX century.
Then add to these branches a little penchant for rock, especially in its "artsy" offshoots (Wave, Prog, etc...). I can't frankly tell you which bands I'd compare IANVA with... I love so many different bands and artists, and to all of them we owe something, but it's quite impossible to cut their original sequence from IANVA's DNA.
If I have to mention some artists I prefer to follow the ones featured in your portal, since I think that they give a good impression of my personal "heretic" tastes in this field. For instance, talking about Rock Progressivo Italiano, my favourite bands are the most "atypical" ones - Pierrot Lunaire, Campo Di Marte, Circus 2000, Sangiuliano e Juri Camisasca.
Generally speaking about Prog, I love the gloomy, cinematic, experimental/ritualistic attitude much more than the "unicorn/elf" attitude.
From this point of view, my tastes are more rooted in German/French Prog rather than in British Prog. I suppose, you can "blame" Magma, Heldon, Gaa, Akasha. But you can also "blame" High Tide, Arcadium and Demon Fuzz who, despite their British origins, never indulged in the fairytale imagery their compatriots were so fond of...

Your cover art is special, to say at least. Pre-war like illustrations is what I get out of it. Please tell us more about the concept behind this art and why you have chosen this concept.

Our artwork represents the figurative link to the same concepts and imagery that are the guide line of the whole project and are highlited by the dualism "music/lyrics".
The historical coordinates shown in our releases are the first mark to which the artwork must be submitted.
Regarding "Disobbedisco!" we simply had to revise some graphic ideas and feelings related to Art-Déco and Futurism.
As for "Italia: Ultimo Atto", the graphic element is expressed through Neorealism and other stylistic methods typical of Post-War Era. I'm talking about a common mood, of course.
The final result show traces of other artistic sources of XX century: cinema posters, old records' cover art (especially from the Golden Era of '60s/'70s vinlys), vintage ads, old almanacs, Italian interior decoration design of the '60s, but also that wonderful Art Nouveau grandeur you can find in the best pages of D'Annunzio and Huysmans, or graphic suggestions taken from posters and fonts of 1st and 2nd WW propaganda...
All those elements and many other things take a share in our visual imagery and beside that, we can count on our dear Massimo, the hand/brain/heart behind all IANVA artworks. But I can anticipate that in the next future we're going to get the help of other artists, whose works are on the same wavelengths as our sound and ideas.

What have you been up to since 2009 and what is your latest update? What is your plans for this year and beyond ?

We did some gigs throughout Europe and spent the rest of the months composing new stuff for our next release. At the moment we're busy with studio sessions and it's going to be a long and hard task because we're not musicians for a living so we can work on our releases only on our spare time and, most of all, because our next album is going to be literally "monumental". In some ways, this work is going past the music boundaries, to become a 360° artistic "assault". It's still early for anticipations, but I recommend to stay tuned because it will be very powerful and, in some ways, definitive.

To wrap up this interview, is there anything you want to add to this interview ?

Just say thanks to all the staff of Progarchives and its readers for the kind interest!

Thank you to Mercy for this interview

Their PA profile is here and homepage's here

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 16 2011 at 12:55
Thanks Torodd for digging into this one, great band.  Check this one out people!

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 16 2011 at 13:46
Many thanks to Mercy and Torodd for these marvellous insights. Ianva is a truly unique band... and that's the understatement of the year. As Jim say, check this one out!
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