Interview with Alessandro and Gian from Ashent
ASHENT was formed in 2001 by two Italian brothers, Gianpaolo and Onofrio Falanga who play bass and guitar respectively. After few months, the keyboards player Paolo Torresani, the singer Max Zhena, the guitar player Thomas Giro and the drummer J.C. joined the band. The guys worked extensively during the first couple of years, developing a personal style which synthesized a fresh blend of progressive metal with modern day thrash & death. Their music features huge riffs, characterized by aggression and various tempo changes. The themes developed in the lyrics reveal personal reflections of the bands views on the human condition and future of mankind. ASHENTS vision was brought to fruition on the four tracks of their first demo CD that bears their name. The CD, which they produced themselves, was recorded during February of 2003 at the famous New Sin Studio where veteran engineer/producer Luigi Stefanini supervised the recording and mastering.
After some excellent live performances, a change of musicians gave to the band the best line-up possible in order to sign in the 2005 a contract with the veteran Italian label Lucretia Records (Angra, Time Machine, Vanden Plas…). With the eclectic drummer Davide Buso, the virtuoso guitar player Cristiano Bergamo and the amazing American singer Steve Braun, Ashent started to compose their debut album. In December of 2005 the band went to Rome to record the drums at Outer Sound Studio, under the supervision of Giuseppe Orlando & Massimiliano Pagliuso of the band Novembre. The remainder of their first official album “FLAWS OF ELATION” was recorded at New Sin Studio during February of 2006 and was mixed and mastered by Luigi Stefanini.
“Flaws of Elation” is the first ASHENT’s jewel, an example of refined prog-metal with techno-thrash influences that was extraordinarily well composed, played and produced. Ten songs with an original mixture of energy, impact, catchy melodies and shredding arrangements, that demonstrated the high level of ASHENT’s personality as composers and musicians. In just a few months the album sold out and received fantastic reception and praise, giving to the band a solid fan-base and an extraordinary reaction from the critics. The secret of the band is, of course, a great line-up constructed with the right balance between experience, ambition, fresh-songwriting abilities and solid live performances. After a year and a half spent supporting the release of the first album, Ashent decided it was time to push themselves to compose new material. During 2008 the band came back at New Sin Studio and recorded the “Flaws of Elation”‘s successor, entitled “Deconstructive”: a prog experience with many contaminations and a maturity of song writing that can only be classified as Ashent.
Produced by Falanga brothers and Luigi Stefanini, the 12 tracks has been released worldwide in March 20th 2009 by the finnish Lion Music. Undoubtedly Deconstructive led the band to be considered one of the most interesting new coming European metal band, due to an enthusiatic response of critics and a large fan-base fond of the band. Lion Music Top Seller’s band, almost 500,000 plays on Myspace Official page, excellent ratings by dozens of magazines and web-zine through Europe. At the end of 2010 Ashent announced that they officially started the pre-production of a new album with new line-up with Titta Tani (Goblin, Daemonia, ex-Necrophagia, ex-DGM) as new singer, Gilles Boscolo on the keyboards and Alessandro Cossu as guitar player. “Inheritance” stands out as a further step of change in the background of the band, with a sound fortified by neo-prog contaminations on the tipical Ashent’s music.
HMAW: Thanks for joining Heavy Music Artwork. Our site aim is to promote Heavy Metal as art & culture. What are your views in this matter?
Alessandro: I think we could say metal is a culture since it developed and become associated with a certain look, a precise way of dressing and, I guess we could say, also of thinking. So culture, in the sense of attitude and behaviour, influences those who partecipate to it. Every culture can then become art the moment it starts dealing with deeper meanings and it moves from certain issues, that is, the moment you put in your music (but this also applies to every other uman activity) your thoughts, your feeling, your personality, then what you do becomes art. To me art is not something reserved to just a few people, to an elite of gifted and elected people, or at least not anymore. It was probably so in the past, but just because the vast majority of people had not access to culture in the first place and only few people could afford to spend their time painting, writing or playing music. Nowadays culture is available to almost everyone (even if unfortunately it’s not so in every part of the world). In my mind the term art is just a word that defines something opposed to that whose only reason of existence is the vogue of the moment or that is merely made to please someone else. But that’s just my idea of what art is. As I said before, if it is expressing something then it’s already art. If you think it this way art doesn’t necessarily mean good and then not every piece of art has an actual value, which probably clash with the usual idea we have of what art is. But still, history taught us that also art is liable to the specific fashion of the moment and some of those we now consider geniouses where during their lifetime considered nothing alike. I mean, the discussion on how good could be defined has been going on for centuries and I don’t think a definitive answer has been given yet, and it probably won’t ever be given; simply everyone has his own concept of good and bad and so his own taste. Luckily that’s how it goes, the world would be so boring otherwise!
HMAW: You have recently released “Inheritance” can you tell us how did the record develop?
Gian: Inheritance is a long journey the band decided to take after the promotion of Deconstructive; a trip that surely tests us as musicians, a long journey in our musical roots. The working method has always been the same; my brother Onofrio is the main composer in the band, but this time he had Titta as a good ally. All the material then passes through the hands of everyone in the band and that’s the time when Inheritance was born: when each guy in the band put down his notes. When you listen to the album you realize that Inheritance is 100% Ashent but at the same time you realize that there is something different from the past, I’m very proud of that.
HMAW: The album is seriously epic, how much work went into putting together?
Alessandro: For the composition of Inheritance we took the time we needed, we didn’t have a precise deadline right from the beginning, so the music developed gradually by adding to the songs every member’s contribution once at the time. Basically we worked by the distance, instead of composing all together on the reharsal room. The fact that we all live in different cities made this the only possible way of working, so it was more of a necessity than a choice. Anyway I think it worked out just as good because anyone of us was able to conceive his parts following their ideas on how every song had to come out in the end. The songs of Inheritance show something of each one of us; inside the band we all have different musical background and aesthetics so the music could develop without being bound to a specific model. As I said at the beginning, variety is what makes everything more interesting and unpredictable.
HMAW: The cover art is rich of symbols and meaning; what is the story behind the artwork or for that matter the album as a whole?
Gian: As for Deconstructive, and the reissue of our first album Flaws of Elation which will be released by Lion Music in April, the artwork was made by Mario Sánchez Nevado (www.aegis-strife.net). For Inheritance we chose the cover from Mario’s portfolio; usually we look around the images in order to have an idea on his recent works and then we start working on the cover of our album, but this time the image was just what we were looking for. Then with Mario we started working together on the booklet. My own vision of what Mario wanted to express with his work is that despite all the things that could happen there is always the possibility of rebirth and when this happens your whole experience will help you build something new.
HMAW: Who looks after your cover sleeves and do you give any specific directions?
Gian: I think that between us and Mario has been established definitely a profitable alchemy. Paradoxically, we have worked more closely during the construction of our previous album artwork (Deconstructive), when we knew less of each other. For Inheritance everything was much easier, a kind of silent dialogue. We gave a little guidance and the work was excellent from the very beginning.
HMAW: What best describes your sound?
Alessandro: I think we all are more concerned with experimenting and finding new possibilities and ways to express what we want through our music than trying to fit into one specific label. We usually describe ourselves as a progressive band, by this especially expressing our deside to relate to what progressive was meant to be at the beginning, during the 70’s, that is an artistic expression whose principal issues where experimentation and refusal of ready-made models. The period when rock music begun to be considered art.
HMAW: Any specific graphic artist that you want to work with?
Gian: too many! I am a fan both of visual art and comics (graphic novel): I love Dave McKean, HR Giger in works like “New York”. I am fascinated by the work of Jean Giraud, and the hypnotic visual period of Andrea Pazienza. About the “metal cover” I think that Travis Smith is one of the great masters of the genre. I’m very attracted by the avantgard art of the 20th century: expressionists Kokoschka or Schiele, surrealists like Dalì or Tanguy or Ernst, something more abstract like Malevich, fortunately there were a lot of great artists. With great regret I have to admit that I don’t know photography as much as classical visual art, but the first name that comes to my mind is Renato D ‘Agostin, a friend with a boundless talent.
HMAW: How important is artwork for the band?
Gian: I have always considered the artwork a very important part of an album. I remember when I was a kid and I used to spend entire afternoons lying on the bed in my room listening to the latest cd I had bought, while reading the lyrics in the booklet, or while hunting for strange details on the cover. I don’t want to be nostalgic but for sure with the digital music we have lost this kind of connection between art and music, because there is no longer a booklet to leaf through and touch. The only remaining part of what artwork used to be is the cover. Perhaps now, with the extreme visual stimuli we receive everyday, the link between music and the visual side has become even closer but not linked to the concept of the artwork anymore. The “look” of a band now is the interface between the band and the eyes of the fans: album artwork, website and visual management of social networks, videos… the band’s style is reflected now in all these aspects.
HMAW: Any recommendations for our readers? Is there a piece of art that is important to you?
Alessandro: I’m really not the kind of person that could give recommendations, I find already difficult to look after myself! The only thing I could say is to have an open-mind, which in the case of music means trying listening to different styles and genres cause every music has something to say. I mean good music, whatever good means for you.
HMAW: Thanks once again.
Alessandro: Thank you for this interview. I hope that maybe someone of those who have never heard our music, after this short talk became interested in knowing a little more about us and wants to listen to what we do. In this case he could find us online at www.ashent.net, www.facebook.com/ashentband, or he could listen to our songs on itunes. It is really important for bands like us to see that there are people supporting us. That’s what makes us going on. Or maybe not.
Gian: Thanks to you Alex and to all the people that still consider music as an art.
Copyright 2013 © Alex Milazzo, Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.