Friday, December 4, 2015

Interview with Yixja of Dalla Nebbia and Mesmur

Dalla Nebbia - Felix Culpa (2015)
Apteronotus: A lot of musicians and bands aim to get signed to a record label, and obviously most of them never will. You’ve done it twice with Dalla Nebbia (Razed Soul Productions) and more recently with Mesmur (Code666 Records). How did the label deals come about, and do you have any suggestions for other bands trying to get their music out there, especially bands with lineups that don’t allow for touring?

Yixja: Well it can definitely be a challenge to find a label these days, due to the sheer number of bands releasing albums and to the fact that fewer people are buying records. And like you mentioned, a lot of labels don’t like to work with musicians who don’t tour. My deals with Razed Soul and Code666 came simply from emailing the labels demos of our music though. My suggestion if trying to get signed would be to take care to be articulate in your contact with the label, using descriptive language to grab the reader’s attention and give them an idea of what to expect when hearing your music for the first time. The biggest hurdle is getting them to first notice you over the countless other demos they’re probably receiving every day.

A: Dalla Nebbia is definitely a band that crosses a lot of traditional genre lines (obvious examples include the soft organ section on “The Banner of Defiance,” and the entire song “Das Gel├Ąchter Gottes.”) Do you think that working around genre boundaries is artistically necessary or that there is a risk of going overboard with a jumble of different ideas?

Yixja: I don’t think working outside of genre boundaries is “artistically necessary” in general, but it depends on the project. I’ve always enjoyed metal bands that blur the lines between genres, and even some non-metal bands like Mr. Bungle and Estradasphere that ignore genre lines completely. But whether or not there’s a risk of going overboard depends on the goals of the project. We didn’t want to be limited by the constraints of traditional black metal, but at the same time wanted to preserve a certain consistency of atmosphere to the music. The organ section of The Banner of Defiance and the glitchy electronic direction of Das Gel├Ąchter Gottes fit within the musical narrative we were trying to create on the album, and though they may seem unusual for the black metal they were really not much of a departure in tone and mood. And yes, for us there could absolutely be a possibility of going overboard, in taking a stylistic turn that doesn’t work for the song or album. Even with the eclectic nature of our influences, Felix Culpa has an overall gloomy tone, shifting between melancholic and angry, and a surf rock break in the middle of a song inspired by the Jonestown massacre would probably not be appropriate.

Mesmur - Mesmur (2014)
A: Along that same line of thought, why was Mesmur formed as a new project rather than incorporating those ideas into Dalla Nebbia?

Yixja: I’ve been a big fan of the death doom and funeral doom genres for quite a while, and I’ve had interest for some time in attempting to write music in this style. Opportunity arose when we had a period of Dalla Nebbia downtime, as we waited for Zduhac to finish some vocal parts. It began as simply playing around with some ideas on the side, but the songs for Mesmur’s debut came together very naturally and quickly, and even though death/doom influence has been a part of Dalla Nebbia’s sound from the beginning these songs felt like a completely different animal. Dalla Nebbia’s drummer Alkurion was immediately on board for the project, and after the songs Osmosis and Lapse were written musically and we had contacted Chris G about joining as vocalist, we decided this material would work best if we kept the new project somewhat constrained by genre conventions, rather than the more “free” stylistic approach of Dalla Nebbia. There is still some amount of experimentation, and I’d say that the songs each have their own personality and character, but for the most part they don’t venture very far outside of the death/funeral doom realm.

A: Does that fact that you are collaborating with other musicians influence how you go about writing? By that I mean structurally, like leaving some extra repetition for a vocal section to go over or having a straightforward section to allow another musician to punch in.

Yixja: Well I’m focused 90% on the instrumental part of the music when I write, but I do keep in the back of my mind a general idea of which parts NEED vocals to work, and which parts should remain instrumental. Sometimes this vague blueprint changes once Zduhac gets his hands on the song though, and occasionally this can mean adding or cutting repetitions of sections. When I program drum and bass parts for the initial demos I either leave it simple, or I put in my suggestions for the parts, and then Alkurion and Tiphareth improve on them with their ideas. Same goes for the violin parts on Felix Culpa. I had some synth violin parts in place when Sareeta went to work, but she elaborated on my ideas, and in some places arranged brand new parts that I would have never come up with.

A: Suppose you have a little boy. He shows you his butterfly collection, plus the killing jar. What do you do?

Yixja: Great question! I know many people are opposed to the killing of animals for any reason, but I think it all depends on the context, and the kid’s attitude. If he is reveling in the killing of the butterflies, and lighting up when he talks about that part, then he may need psychological help. If he’s doing it out of a genuine interest in science and a desire to learn about nature, then I say more power to him. If the latter is the case, he sounds about like me as a kid. And at least he’s not hiding the jar and lying to himself and others about what’s occurring.

A: In a prior interview you had mentioned that a lot of the songs on Felix Culpa were written before 2013. Which songs were written more recently, and have you noticed any changes in your songwriting as the project has developed?

Yixja: I don’t think the writing has changed very much through the course of putting this album together, but there were definitely changes in the songwriting from our debut to Felix Culpa. The first Felix Culpa song we wrote was Abandoned Unto Sky, and we could have included it on the first record if we wanted, but we decided it didn’t fit the feel of those songs. That song and the second one we wrote, Lament of Aokigahara, sort of served as a general template of where we wanted to go on this album. The last ones finished were Paradise in Flames, the title track, and The Banner of Defiance. Generally speaking, in place of the acoustic guitars and ringing melodies of our first album, Felix has more of a focus on dense layers of atmosphere, fluid dynamics within the songs, and emotional content conveyed by consonant and dissonant harmonies. I tried to keep the focus and approach consistent during the writing of the album, even though I worked on other things here and there between the time the album was started and completed.

A: Do you think that Dalla Nebbia’s lineup would benefit from having any additional members or instruments or do you prefer the flexibility of having guest appearances like those from Sareeta and Aort?

Yixja: I prefer to have a core lineup of guitar/bass/drums/keyboard/vocals and work with guest musicians beyond that, to give us the flexibility to go in different directions on future material. I really enjoyed working with Sareeta, and believe she added a great deal to our sound, but at this point I can’t really speak for what we’re going to do on future recordings, and whether violin will continue to be appropriate. If there’s a place for violin in future material, I guarantee Sareeta will be the first person I talk to about it.

A: You’re a big King Crimson fan, if you had to choose between Robert Fripp’s guitar work and Adrian Belew’s, who do you think has an approach that you relate to more as a musician?

Yixja: As you can probably tell from my playing, I relate most to Fripp’s calculated, mathematical approach to guitar. That being said, I especially love when Fripp and Belew work together in tandem, whether it’s the polyrhythmic noodling of their 80’s albums, or something like The Construkction of Light, where their parts lock together like pieces of a puzzle. To be honest, there’s not a KC period I’m not a fan of though.

A: Thanks a ton for doing this interview, do you have any parting words or are there bands that you’d like to recommend/namedrop?

Yixja: Hmm, bands to recommend… I’ve been listening to Gris a lot lately, as well as the Russian atmospheric death/doom band Mare Infinitum. I’ve also been really into the one-man Italian act Chiral, which kind of reminds me of the best parts of Lustre and Falls of Rauros, but with some really experimental instrumentation like harmonica and trumpet. Anyway, the interview has been my pleasure. Thanks for the opportunity!

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