On the footbridge between ice and light, 25-03-2008
Surely we are the latest with our interview to Elena Alice Fossi for her new (and already famous) project SPECTRA*paris, but who cares... The good reviews of the admirable debut "Dead Models Society" were released since a while (including ours), and the same regarding the related interviews, published on various national panorama magazines. You could think that everything has been already said about a record that deservely collected wide consents and that now has become a famous object in the Italian "dark" scene, and maybe it's just so, but we had something to ask to Elena too, charming singer which sensual, velvety, elegant and scratching voice has become one of the trademarks of the stainless Kirlian Camera and which scenic presence faces few competitors in the same international female-frontend scene. The destiny of Siderartica, we know, has been concluded just to put out this new creature, SPECTRA*paris, all-female project where once again the strong personality of Elena emerges with strength and the usual class, well supported by a whole vision that remarks strength and cohesion. Even if in heavy delay comparing to the competitors, we decided to track down Elena to make tell us the adventures that brought to SPECTRA*paris genesis, of related debut and very much more, including some interesting anticipation, and our fascinating interlocutor didn't subtract to the long sequence of questions that we wished to ask for, answering to each of them with the usual frankness, with total honesty and without any brake: here is what she told us in this very nice chat...
Let's start from the beginning, even if with a question that you receive one million times: why did you end, after two well-apprecied works, our project Siderartica?
"Siderartica has been an important moment for me, a moment where I took with my hand a 'big' situation, from song composition, to mixing, to production: everything that I liked since a while, but that I never managed personally. I didn't abandon the project for infedelity; but I feel a kind of glam-rock monster exploding inside me, that in Siderartica would be unfair and clashed. To avoid to betray an important thing you must be able to close it without remorse."
Now your new project is SPECTRA*paris: which reasons pushed you to make this new band, and how the birth of SPECTRA*paris is involved in the PREMATURA demise of Siderartica?
"I was working on the third album (I guessed) of Siderartica, when I noticed that my ideas didn't have the colours and the sounds predestinate to it anymore. Then I decided to open a new chapter, and I had fear. I feel that I could waste what I did with efforts and, in the same time, I had a strong desire to start again, in a new project, where everything that I learnt with Siderartica could be used, even if in a different way. I felt grow in me a need of rhythm, a rage that could be go out, without any brake. Anger and irony, because I'm bored of the free and shown sadness that is offered by cheap gothic feathered manufactures, because I feel the real death close to me and I don't have the need to tell it dressed as a corpse, because sometimes I feel my soul exploding of pain and the black that surrounds me must containt a brilliant light."
Comparing to Siderartica, SPECTRA*paris is an all-female band: guessing that this is not a coincidence but a precise choice, which reasons pushed you to create an all-female band? Maybe the will of keep a completely female whole vision for your new artistic project?
"In the moment I risked to make some changes, to create an all-female band had to be a great new, and it really was for me, because I rarely had relations with people with my same sex till now. Then, to guide this project with all the girls, moreover professional girls, to my side is, apart satisfaction and amusing, also a little challenge in a society where, for antonomasia, men have the balls and the women a nice ass!"
Let's go to the monicker you chose, SPECTRA*paris, really curious: that star could hide a "L", that would make 'spectral' your Paris... but which meanings are linked to the chosen name, really? And is the choice of Paris maybe due to the fact that the French capital is also a firm point in the fashion and fashion shows world?
"Paris is the city where all of our blood and fashion stories have form. It's one of the most important fashion capitals, so it has the right charm and glamour that we need, but, especially, our Paris is really spectral. SPECTRA*paris reaps its victims in a foggy night, without moon, where SPIE with high heels and robotic aliens exchange information and... murders!"
You introduce yourselves as 'Young Ladies Homicide Club', catchy definition that seems to hide some 'noir' evident irony in your work... but what is, in your mind, the 'Young Ladies Homicide Club'?
"In the club some young homicide ladies tell themselves, for 11 nights per year, short noir stories, where hangmen and victims mix themselves in an aware ambiguity that doesn't allow to the listener neither to absolve nor condemn. It's open to who could realize a most important mind perspective, to who is able to not limit to good and evil. Over the blood curtain..."
Musically, the impression is that SPECTRA*paris is a project mainly oriented to a very catchy electro-glam-pop (see tracks like "Spectra Murder Show", "Glittering Bullet" and "Lucky City Oversight"), differently than the more sensual and velvety atmospheres of Siderartica: which reasons pushed you in this direction?
"The wish to enpower the pieces in a context not totally unknown to Siderartica, but surely more aggressive. By choice, I wanted to insert electric guitar and bass, to give new dynamic and energy to the tracks."
We named the word 'glam', applicable to SPECTRA*paris in the meaning closer to ''glamour'. However you seem more 'playing' with this word than use it for commercial purposes, just if you were engaged in an ironic and cynical allegory of 'glamour' world... Which is the truth, and what does the word 'glamour' mean for Elena Alice Fossi?
"SPECTRA*paris looks at an obituary with sarcasm and it's attracted by the charm of a lush funeral. It knows that the beauty of the pain is the only possible way in a life that is conditioned by more sinister instincts, and so it prepares to celebrations with a good make-up and dizzy heels. Cynical glamour, to exorcize every source of... bad light!"
The biggest sensuality that surrounded Siderartica's tracks seems however still preesent in SPECTRA*paris, but maybe it has been re-read in a different way: which is the status?
"I cannot say. But if a sensual sensibility emerges, this means that SPECTRA*paris is working good!"
The album remarks also some strong rock VENATURE: how much rock is there in your personal background, and what 'rock' is for you when, after Celentano, this word has become just an adjective for many?
"When I was quite young, I liked Janis Joplin for her sadness and her hoarse voice. I feel her rock, because she seemed careless of what is right or wrong in the music and, maybe, also in the society, but I was impressed the way in which her pain went to the listener in a direct path. To be rock is not only to scream or be 'smart'. I always think that it means to be appropriate to oneself, caring nothing of collectivity opinion, to strongly believe in an ideal even remaining often outside the mass, the acceptation of to be not apprecied by the others at all the costs and being soberly proud. You must not intend it as caring less of what surrounds us, but it means to be able to beat everywhere with the consciousness that rising again alone is an huge must."
Talking about the line-up, could you introduce the girls that accompany you in this adventure talking also of their background?
"The girls that are involved in SPECTRA*paris replacing themselves during live sets are five, mostly professional. The first that I'd like to introduce is Dalila Bianco, Neapolitan violinist moved in Milan, where she works as sound engineer in a recording studio. Currently he is working also to her personal project, M-Y-A, electro project with inspiration of Depeche Mode/Massive Attack. Marianna Alfieri, bass and guitar bassista also with Dark Lunacy, metal band that made some albums and tours.Cristina Restani, rhythmical guitarist, with metal background too. Alessia Cavalieri, keyboarder and second voice, coming from Pay Travel Advance, pop-rock band that released one album for Ausfahrt, and Cinzia Azzali, with sporadic appareances with electronic drums and chours. Then there is the veteran Gloria Messina, involved as very bad personal manager that we use to eat encumbering promoters and various thieves!"
Music and lyrics, with some exception, are totally yours: did you choose to have the full control of your band, using the other people only for what regards the material perfomance? Do you think to involve the other girls too in the songwriting of future works, or will you keep this ASSETTO?
"It could be possible that in the future there will be some tighter involvement also for studio composition. There are no rules to respect, not even preceded forcings, if someone is able to put out the magic cylinder good songs!"
The first thing we notice from your new songs is the strong personality that now distinguish you, and personally I think that this is the additional weapon you have in a scene too much busy to squeeze the temporary trend as a lemon: how much does it cost to you, in terms of work and dedition, to reach such result, and which importance has reaching this goal for you?
"This is very nice. Thanks! Hard work is not a problem, but luck. It means to have things to say and keep high the attention of who listen to. And who wants to listen to me deserves at least no jokes. I don't dislike some image attention. It's nice to show what really you want to communicate, but it's a pity to do this without raw material. Our lives seem wall covered by advertising placards. Today nothing is high priced, but they make us believe that is a great deal! I like to sharpen my weapons to create songs with the goal to make go out some blood from people's heart... Yes, this is what I want..."
Listening to the records, we would like to start from its title, "Dead Models Society", that seems an allegory of the famous movie "Dead Poets Society" (known in Italy as "L'Attimo Fuggente"): which concepts are hidden behind it, and in which way do you intend (if so) to create the analogy with the above-mentioned movie?
"I never thought to the movie you quote as real influence, even if I can meet a parallel concept now, that one of the little circle of chosen. In SPECTRA*paris the society meant like club for few candidates is a fixed point, well expressed through this first album. The dead models society is already a membership concept, a closed caste, foreigner to the world logic and... possessed!"
Is there a basic concept that really unites the lyrics of the songs of "Dead Models Society", and the lyrics of "Spectra Murder Show" can be seen as an ironic manifesto of the whole vision of SPECTRA*paris?
"The album structure is a kind of funerary reality show, where in the end every song seems a party with a bad end. In fact it includes short noir stories placed in the best footbridges, in which the protagonists are victims and hangmen. The basic concept regards various episode of death, mainly homicides, and the listeners looks at them in real time. 'Spectra Murder Show' is the evident example. Here some wonderful robot-models, guided by a "differently good' personality hidden in background, persuade and entertain the audience with incandescent glances and breathtaking clothes. The last one to fashion shows will disturb the show, giving life to a new and more exciting show. And when those in the first row will see a shining colt against them, their amused glances will have a new surprise, full of terror and pain."
Lyrics like those of "Size Zero" and "Frozen Night" make think to a critic and in the same time gloomy vision of the fashion world: which is the truth?
"Either in 'Size Zero' than in "Frozen Night' the death sounds like a freedom from a mask, but in the first case is an homicide, while in the second one we see the suicide of a beutiful, but very sad famous model. Initially I asked to myself how could a 'barbie' live, always surrounded in tightest corsets, with hard make-up and high heels all the day, always smiling and everywhere with those perfect teeth! But the answer is close to us: is there really so much difference with our life? Aren't we maybe (a mass of barbies) those forced to wear a disguise for every occasion?"
The lyrics of "Glittering Bullet", instead, seems to refer to our times, where beauty is exploited and squeezed to the unthinkable, so that seems emptied out from true appeal: which is your truth about?
"'Glittering Bullet' is a surreal manifesto of new conscious. In the moment that one of the two protagonists of the story receive a bullet in the head, she feels an unstoppable attraction towards her murderer - the other protagonist - just like she would have been in search of such kind of beauty till that moment. She realizes that her life would have been another and she has the sensation to be able to look in the mirror for the first time. While dying, she sees again all her existence like in a strange flashback, with metaphysical taste, not tangible, and it's like if the fascinating figure standing in front of her with the gun in her hand could finally give her the joy that she hadn't, till that moment, known."
We said that the beauty today is exploited and squeezed till the unthinkable, and it's the same in the musical world, we cannot deny it. But we cannot deny also the fact that you are four fine girls, and if this will allow you more exposure, from the other side there will be some detractors, that will label you as "all image" explaining in a wrong way your way to exploit the purely aesthetic side, that's surely far from the "spinning cheeks" present on MTV. Just to shut down some insinuating voices, I'd like to ask you which is the role of the beauty in SPECTRA*paris and how you want to use it as weapon for your side.
"SPECTRA*paris is formed by 4 or 5 girls that have no will to remain embedded in worn and trite social schemes as old slippers. So it's glad to show its femininity with exuberance and well depilated legs, avoiding to hide behind cheap paranoic and banal virtuosities to show how the girls are also good - for that you have to buy tickets in the circus on the corner! Instead it's oriented to an evolved audience without useless and consumed sexist attitudes, that wants to amuse and feel some thrill. It's important to remember, however, that when the beauty fades, the APPELLO to the talent becomes fundamental. The true victory will be to work in that moment. To die with own wrinkles will have the value of a malfunction of our gear. It's a challenge..."
Returning back to the songs of the album, congratulating for the result obtained in the cover of "Mad World" of Tears For Fears I'd like to ask why you choose that song, which strong lyrics had a big impact also in the movie "Donnie Darko"...
"Yes, 'Mad World' is in my opinion one of the best songs composed by Tears For Fears, and personally I liked it very much also in the version released in the soundtrack of 'Donnie Darko', really suitable to the movie atmosphere. Why did I choose it? Because I find that there is a relationship/link manifesto concerning the vision of the world, mad, but with a kind of surreal sadness, and especially because on this song I felt to be able to make an union between rhythmical crescendo, dreamy melancholy and, what I like most, a kraftwerk vision created by the sporadic use, along the song, of robotic vocoders."
Always concerning lyrics, I noticed how elements like ice and light are always present in what you write: but what do they represent really 'ice' and 'light' for Elena Alice Fossi?
"Ice and light are the inner essence of a pure and never wounding existence. The poetry of an indissoluble empire made by rationality fused with the infinite. The ice is the key to not become good, I mean good for hypocrite necessity, not by choice and for free, and the light crosses the barriers of the sight, it goes over what you can see with your eyes, it belongs to the immateriality, it makes possible to meet the beauty without CONFINI, through an unspeakable joy, sure, because guided by a logic and solid concept and not by the instinct of animal on heat..."
One of the top of the record is surely "Size Zero", suffered for which you have been supported by roman Dope Stars Inc.: how was born the collaboration with the roman band for this songs, and how did it develop?
"Thanks to a very little previous contact with Dope Stars Inc. I already understood that they work good and seriously. So I proposed them to work on an unrelease track for my new project, and in a short time I have the right base to work on. It has been very simple for me to arrange melody and lyrics because Victor gave me a well harmonized base, where I had to add just little personal touches, apart the voices. So everything has been done with my maximum satisfaction!"
We name more time Siderartica, and you took again "Lucky Village's Oversight" on "Dead Models Society", turning it into "Lucky city Oversight": why this choice, and how did you work to adapt this track to the rest of the material?
"'Lucky Village's Oversight' has been one of the latest chapter of Siderartica, so, in my opinion, it was already in the changing phase. It was unfair and illogical to make it not appear in a context that I believed more suitable for this, and I renamed it 'Lucy City Oversight' to make it appear more urban and, consequently, more tuned with the rest of the album."
Another high moment is surely the bonus-track "Falsos Sueños", track of Argentina Punto Omega that you already sung in the origin, here reproposed in a nice remix: what do you rememeber of that cooperation, and how did you work to sing so well in Spanish? Mother tongue people say that you were very good...
"They sent me musical base and lyrics, and I arranged a melody like a 'playmobil'. It has been funny trying to sing in a foreign language. At the beginning it seemed to me just to play, just like when at 3, 4 years I sung everything I heard at the radio inventing the words at all, that turned into embarassing and ridiculous syllabic scansions! I'm happy to have got a different result than the past..."
Notwithstanding it's your first album as SPECTRA*paris, we know you are not a 'newcomer': how much was important your experience with Kirlian Camera to put in place your more hidden and personal artistic vision?
"It was fundamental. Since my beginning I always tried to manage composition and mixing, but, unfortunatly, I wasn't aware that behind the 'raw' musical work there is also the 'body'... To learn to manage a whole artistic production is very important. In this sense I found in Angelo Bergamini a wonderful teacher. Ah, you are the guilty for such mawkishness I said, aren't you?!?"
Of course, ha ha! As well as per the latest Kirlian Camera work, also SPECTRA*paris' work was released by Trisol: are you satisfied by their work, or - as I suppose for Kirlian Camera - your professional relationship is already worn-out?
"Despite the fact that this first album received very positive reviews from the magazines and the audience and nice offers concerning promotional and concerts, I must admit that I wasn't happy of my label's work. From one side I would prefer to avoid public speaking, from the other side it's time that the band put out the claws against those who make their music... sinister popcorn sale. Often the musicians see that their production is trashed just because it has been managed in a bad way from the label that owns it, and this makes me angry more than the theft they do to yours... brrrrr... 'stuff'!
Coming to the album artwork, I liked the 'young ladies homicide comics': which concepts do you want to express with the pictures you created? Is an expressive form that you will explore better in the future?
"My work was born in the tighest sense of dark. But I immediately feel an oppressione and tight sight if I limit myself to 'think black'. The meaning of my comic strips is just to talk with cynicism, avoiding that everything is taken too much seriously. The will to joke with the blood is allowed, if, having the will to inquire better into what there is behind, you easily understand that the fulcrum of everything is not give quicken judgments on social situations that you don't know/understand very well. However, as I had fun to draw those ramshake vehicles, yes, there is the possibility, I mean the risk, that is not over!"
On the booklet there is written that the record was recorded in 1958 during the shooting of "Vertigo": why did you bring hommage to that movie, and how does the SPECTRA*paris concept is linked to Hitchcock's movie?
"'Vertigo' is just the excuse just to indicate Hitchcock, all his cinema. It's the retro-noir side of SPECTRA*paris, that thinks about some Hitchcock atmospheres that, however, they weren't without glamour, and the famous 'humour'. I try to bring them in the future, to fuse them with a more futurist imaginary, even if the black and while is in line with what partially SPECTRA*paris is and can be linked to some things of Helmut Newton, changing field."
Talking about cinema and tv, I believe that a videoclip would be the right visual conclusion for the potential of SPECTRA*paris: are you working on something similar, and how much do you think is important to make a good clip in YouTube times? I often think that SPECTRA*paris could make more effective what Kylie Minogue recently did (even if in a too much varnished way) with her single/videoclip "2 Hearts"...
"I often think to make some clips, and recently we also talked with our probable new label. We will see if do. I'd like it, I repeat, but we should do brain washing to several videomakers who live with obviousness and don't want to go away from the usual iconographies, stereotyped immaginaries, trite symbolism... Then I prefer to record a live in a professional way. And just in that direction we should do something next year. We are talking about a DVD to show the future tour."
It seems that there is much interest and enthusiasm here in Italy regarding your new project, it seems also that the old detractors have disappeared and even a metal magazine like Flash put you on the cover: how is the general feedback and your mood for this?
"Italians were, differently to what you can think, really enthusiastics! And, with them, also Americans, English, French and Germans expressed really positively regarding my first album. I'm really happy and, to be honest, even a bit frightened. But the fear helps to reflect and gives fantastic nervous IMPULSE...! I'd like already to begin the second work!"
I guess that the live activity of SPECTRA*paris will intensify: what can you say about, and which projects are in working for SPECTRA*paris?
"We are preparing for some festivals like WGT in Leipzig, the Gothic Festival in Belgium, the Summer Darkness Festival in Neatherlads, the Amphi Festival in Koln and, in the meanwime, we will perform in France (it's right!), in a FNAC, and it will be our first time, our true general attempt! Then, there should be a tour, we talk about it since a while: everything is just to be able to agree with various managers and promoters, without the need to use improper weapons!"
Unavoidably, I ask for info also regarding Kirlian Camera: you said me some news in the past months, now we can do the point of the situation revealing what you expect from the future...
"It's over! After an odyssey that lasted enough to stress a relaxed and happy housekeeper, Kirlian Camera best-of is going to be out. Some trouble with the label and our related movement slightly braked the operation, but now we are reaching an agreement with our new label and I believe it will be a great release! Meanwhile, we are starting another tour that's beginning just in these days, let's say 20th March. We will go around Europe, happy to meet an audience that surely will support our emotions in the best possible way!"
A question I always liked to ask you: would you put Goldfrapp, especially those of the wonderful debut "Felt Mountain", among your more tangible influences? Generally, I'd like to know which artists really changed your artistic and personal life...
"Sure! The first album of Goldfrapp has a rare beauty and those atmospheres are not foreign to me. When you have a particular feeling with some constituent logic or particular immaginery, it's useless to deny at all, it would be like cutting our hands to be more original... crazy, isn't it?!?
However, thre are not artists that influenced me just to change or put in my musical style, but then, maybe, I would be the last to notice it, except if I voluntary tried to inspire to somebody else brazenly!"
We finished: after so many years spent to give your best in the musical world, what really is in the center of your personal world?
"Along the time you change the perspectives, ideas, information that come from the external, and everytime the composition of an album is finished to begin a new path with new ideas, it seems to start again as in the snakes and ladders. Surely enriched by new experience or skills that you casually put out from an old drawer never open before, but, once again, from the beginning. So, when I finally have the chance, great gift, to close myself again in the bunker to focus these ideas for a new album, everything becomes magic and the clocks in that moment break for some month. And this moment is what that today really belongs to me. At this point the lies I'm forced to say everyday in my life end and I can see myself divided from my shadow. When the album is out and all the criticism done and when someone will risk opinions, or will try to make link between the things and someone from the audience will say that, if in that point you would have use a yellow/orange bagpipes then it would be the right effect, that won't be the center of my personal world anymore, I will already end there. I will be happy if the things go well or discouraged by the bad result of my work, but then I will be already elsewhere."
Roberto Alessandro Filippozzi
Taken from: http://www.darkroom-magazine.it
English translation: Adalberto Orrigo - 15.04.2009