Transitioning away from industrialized extreme metal into a more streamlined and accessible form of machine-driven alt. rock, Aborym founder Fabban speaks with ReGen about the band’s development and latest album.
An InterView with Fabban Giannese of Aborym
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Few bands have undergone as radical a shift in both musical style and production quality as Italy’s Aborym. Founded in 1992 by Fabban Giannese, the band was heralded for its innovative blending of the unholy rage and extreme fury of black metal with the programmed menace and belligerent noise of industrial; albums like 1999’s Kali Yuga Bizarre and 2001’s Fire Walk with Us, both featuring Mayhem vocalist Attila Csihar, became staples of the industrialized black metal sound, garnering much praise from the metal community. But over time, through shifts in lineup and the incorporation of new influences, Aborym would steadily veer away from the extremities of the metal scene, favoring the wider scope of drum & bass, techno, EBM/industrial, and even classical elements, with 2017’s SHIFTING.negative finally presenting a newer, sleeker, more alternative and machine rock version of the band’s sound. This would finally culminate in this year’s release of Hostile, in which a new consolidated lineup that includes Fabban, bassist/guitarist Riccardo Greco, drummer Gianluca Catalani, and guitarist Tomas Aurizzi would be aided by producer Keith Hillebrandt to create what is the group’s most accessibly viable release yet, full of sophisticated and cinematic arrangements of raw and emotive grunge rock filtered through fuzzy and discordant electronic textures. In January, prior to the release of Hostile, Fabban took the time to speak with ReGen Magazine about the album’s production and the evolution of Aborym into its current state; as well, he lets us in on his fascination with modular synthesis, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on his home country of Italy, and even begins in the immediate wake of the insurrectionist assault on the Capitol Building in Washington, DC with his observations of the social and political upheaval facing the United States and the world.
Fabban: I would like to start the InterView with the Trump charade, if that is okay with you?
Oh, in what regard? I would say that I have not really heard a great deal of political topics in your lyrics necessarily. But if you’d like to begin with that…
It has been four years of misery for me and so many people. This country has cultivated an atmosphere of belittling education. When people say, ‘Oh, he’s like Mussolini,’ or ‘He’s like Hitler,’ and the response is, ‘Oh, you’re exaggerating.’
Fabban: No, no, I think so. From the beginning, Trump ignited fear of minorities and foreigners and turning them into scapegoats for Americans’ problems. So, he normalized the hate and rhetoric and tapped into racist mythology. That’s what I think.
Unfortunately, he’s not the first and I hate to say that he’s not going to be the last.
Fabban: I think it’s not easy to find a worse person than Trump. Of course, you can do better, and everything will be better.
I certainly hope so.
Fabban: But anyway, sorry for my introduction. I know you are American, and I have a lot of friends there, so I think it’s important that musicians talk about it because it exists everywhere. And I think America is the most powerful economic system. We do music, we do communication, so I think all musicians should talk about that. We have a biggest exposure to the audience, so we should talk first, I think.
Steering things back to Aborym, let’s talk about your new album, Hostile, which was released on February 12, three years after SHIFTING.negative. First of all, since SHIFTING.negative, you released three volumes of Something For Nobody, which as I understand were leftover tracks, remixes, and some other oddities. In releasing those three albums, did they reveal any kind of ideas that you really wanted to explore on Hostile? Did those three albums in any way give you ideas for how you approached Hostile?
Fabban: Yes, absolutely. Because, Something For Nobody was a kind of collection of unreleased studio recordings, remixes, live recordings, works-in-progress, plus minutes of outtakes. So, we just got the chance to collect a lot of ideas coming from that experience, three years in which we collected a lot of stuff. And in each volume, you get some kind of musical score for some horror movies and drama, and stuff like that, so in a way, the new album has this kind of cinematographic approach in some parts. I’m talking about, for instance, a song called ‘The End of a World,’ which is absolutely like living in a movie in a way. You know, there is a lot of sound design in it.
That’s actually one of my favorite tracks on the new album
Fabban: It’s far from the pop sensibility of SHIFTING.negative, so it’s more of a movie oriented kind of music, you know? It seems like a soundtrack in a way. So, from that experience, we collected a lot of stuff, a lot of ideas and different kind of moods. And concerning the music, I think it’s much darker, and it’s much more heavy and industrial oriented at the same time. So, there is a strong melodic approach to it, and in this case of the song ‘The End of a World,’ you can feel it. So, we moved away from the industrial pop sensibilities. And I guess the pop element has been replaced by more of a metal element, and still recognizably Aborym… you know, for this stage in the evolvement and the development of the band.
That’s interesting because while pop isn’t the word I used, SHIFTING.negative was rather catchy. I felt that Hostile really expanded on that. I first got into Aborym with albums like Fire Walk with Us and when you had Attila Csihar in the band, and the extreme metal or black metal sound of the earlier stuff is almost not there anymore. There are still rock elements that… actually, I think ‘Lava Bed Sahara’ really made me think of Alice in Chains – the vocal harmonies and the sort of the songwriting.
Fabban: Oh, thank you!
I wouldn’t call it pop, but it’s certainly accessible, but I feel like it’s gone more in that direction, and the sound design made me think of Nine Inch Nails in the ’90s, and you did work with Keith Hillebrandt who worked with Nine Inch Nails. What do you feel he brought to Aborym that you felt really strengthened what you were going for and that level of development that you were searching for?
The last time we got to InterView you in ReGen, Faust was still in the band, and that was when Dirty came out. I know he’s not with you guys anymore, so can you tell us about the current lineup, who’s in the band and how the how you feel it’s Aborym at its best right now?
Fabban: Yeah, Bård Faust is not in a band anymore since many, many years, and yeah, that was when the band was still playing extreme music. Now we have a consolidated new lineup, which I love to work with. We have Cata (Gianluca Catalani) on drums, Riccardo Greco on bass guitar, and Tommy (Tomas Aurizzi) as our new guitarists. We’ve been together the last three years now, so we know each other, and concerning the lineup, I just need to work with creative minds, and they are all very creative people, pro-creative people, and very, very good friends, actually. So now, I’m very happy with the consolidated lineup, and I’m very satisfied about the fact that Aborym is a real band now, and you can feel it by listening to the album, that there is a band behind it. It seems like an obvious thing to say, but it wasn’t necessarily that way to start with; basically, I bought together a group of musicians and the close friends I can work with for the future recordings and live shows. So, every day when we walked into the studio, everyone knew the arrangements and the parts that were mapped out in terms of who was supposed to do what and where. Having said that, the whole point of having a group of musicians like this is to not be tied down to a particular approach or a way of performing. Things were kind of loose and they had a lot of input, particularly in the arraignments and the songs, constructions, and improvisation too. I always learn new things just by walking and playing with them, and there’s something really interesting because this band is all the time evolving and changing skins… like a serpent.
That’s a very good analogy. I’ve played some of your music for friends over the years, and oftentimes, they’ll say, ‘Is this the same band?’ Yes, it’s a very, very dramatic in some ways. Again, I first came into Aborym with Fire Walk with Us and the sound is now very different. How has that translated to your audience? Obviously, there are always going to be fans that come and go, but how do you feel that the audience reaction to Aborym’s development has helped to motivate you in the directions that you’ve gone in?
Fabban: I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t want to think of what about the promotional side of things. I think we spent two years working on this record, and really immersed ourselves in it, trying to do our best, and we really love the album and we love to play this kind of stuff because it’s kind of therapeutic. You know, when you get when you get sick, you need something to get to get well soon. So, music is what we need to go ahead in life. I think we learned from doing years of putting out records that the moment when you know it’s finished and the best it can be, that’s the moment you can’t wait for people to hear it. So of course, I really hope everybody will love the album, but I don’t want to claim… I don’t want to hack like many bands and musicians do, so I will not say this album is our best and blah blah blah. We have a new record up and running, so everybody can listen to it and buy it, and I’d like to let people get their own feelings about it, just listening to it blindly. Every time the fans think they know how to categorize us, we take great pride in disappointing them… or surprising them, or however they look at it. You know, some people like it, some people don’t. Who cares?
The word Hostile brings certain ideas to mind of being confrontational, of being angry, and there’s definitely a certain amount of rage that goes into this sort of industrial, metal, and hard rock style. But the album also does start kind of quietly, and it’s very melodic in places. What were the overall lyrical themes that you were exploring with this album that you feel that Hostile became the title?
Fabban: There’s no any specific concept behind the title and the album or style – it just reminds me of life, you know? Sometimes you just go out, you meet people, and you can smell these hostilities all around. Now, we are in the middle of a pandemic too, so everything is so fucking confusing all around, and I tend to write about things that I don’t like rather than things that I like. That’s the most simplistic way I can explain it. I find it easier to write songs about the negative side of the world than about the happy side of the world, and consequently, you could you say that I’m quite miserable myself, and our lyrics are miserable… and yes, they are probably, but it’s not because I’m a miserable person. It’s because I’m fascinated by the negative aspect of the world in which I’m living every fucking day. So, I focused on things that scares me – depression and mental disorders, drugs, immigration, and its connection with politics, of course. And I’ve read about possible catastrophic scenarios directly connected to absolutely wrong climate change policies, and about past mistakes like the Chernobyl disaster that our politicians continued to ignore, and I wrote my own lyrics about this sensation to feel alone and basically, I tried to focus on my own fears. And, religion is of course one of the other things I think I fear, more than others probably, so it’s kind of a mix of different kind of sensations that I tried to write about and put in music in a way.
We’ve mentioned the pandemic, and I was going to start the InterView by asking how are things in Italy? What’s the situation there, and can you maybe tell us from your perspective what’s going on?
That’s all we really can do, isn’t it? Just try to be safe and hope that everybody is being smart. But that does raise the next question, because 2020 saw many album releases and it seemed like everybody was releasing music because that’s all there was to do. And another thing that a lot of them have been doing has been livestreaming, doing shows through live streaming or DJ sets. What are your thoughts on the way these sorts of streaming online technologies will be helping music move forward, even after the pandemic is gone? Do you see it as something that will continue to develop and become part of the experience?
Fabban: I know what you mean. My answer is… probably I’m getting older, but you know, I truly believe music has to be live. For me, it’s not so good and it’s not serious to play in front of a camera, because half of the show is the band and the other half is the crowd, you know? When you play live, you have to feel the crowd, you have to feel the people, you have to see their eyes, and you have to do to feel their feelings while you’re playing. So, there is the studio experience and the live experience. So, no streaming; that’s not for me. I prefer to spend my money and to be in front of a band playing live for me. And that’s the best thing I think, and I think that’s the same for the band, which is onstage playing for you. So absolutely, I hope this fucking lockdown will quit very soon. I really miss the stage, and I really would like to play with the band again, and to see and watch some bands playing live. I really miss it every day, actually.
To tell you the truth, we got an invitation to play a short livestreaming, and probably, we will do that around April – I’m not really sure about it. But you know, it’s a kind of very big streaming platform for drummers exclusively, so our drummer was invited to play there for a demonstration, you know, something for net people. That streaming platform asked our drummer to be there with a whole band. So probably we are trying to make this. But to tell you the truth, I’m not so happy to. I will do that, but it’s not my cup of tea. I hope they pay a lot of money, of course.
One hopes. Money talks, and on that note, I am hopeful that Aborym will one day be able to play in the United States because I would love to see you guys onstage.
Fabban: Aabsolutely. I love America and have a lot of friends there, a lot of close friends, especially in California, and I really, really, really would love to play there in the near future. I think when the lockdown will be over. We have some concerts to play over there, especially in the East Coast. And who knows? Maybe it will happen very, very soon.
The album was released on February 12, and you’ve released some singles and videos for it. What else do you have happening that you’d like to tell us about? Any other projects that that you or the other band members are working on? What else can we talk about?
Fabban: I am doing things all the time, actually; even if we are waiting to release the new album, I am constantly writing new stuff. I’m lucky to be able to say it’s been a busy few years, and I’ve been co-producer alongside with Keith on the song I told you, the Nelly Furtado cover. I’m also doing a lot of stuff for movies, especially in the last weeks, so I’m writing new stuff, and the film stuff is just something that happened rather than by any design; I really enjoyed it, and I hope to get I hope I get to do more. But I don’t view that as a change of direction… more like an addiction. I should start another soundtrack for a movie project and a few days, so I’m very much looking forward to it. And at the same time, I’m writing and maybe it’s because of the lockdown, but I feel pretty overactive. I have a lot of stuff in my mind and building my modular synth and writing stuff on it.
That was something I wasn’t necessarily going to ask for the InterView, but since you brought it up. I feel like a lot of a lot of musicians are going back to modular synthesizers and those older sounds. What is it about that that style of working with modular synths that appeals to you the most?
I have noticed that most of my favorite horror movies are by Italian directors like Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci – the Giallo style – and soundtracks by the likes of Goblin and Claudio Simonetti, Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota, etc. Speaking as an Italian and as a musician who composes movie scores, what are your thoughts on that?
Fabban: That’s a good question. Maybe it’s because we have a good movie tradition here, and we’ve got a lot of great directors. Probably, there’s a need for creating good music for such kinds of beauty, because we have a lot of great directors and good musicians… for instance, Dario Marianelli is one of my favorites, and we have a lot of talented musicians, especially for the cinematic side of things. But I think it’s absolutely interesting when you have to work to make music for something that is going on, images and situations, people talking and acting… that’s not so easy, but it’s absolutely fascinating. As I told you, I’m doing a lot of things in this kind of view, and I’m trying to enter in contact and get in touch with directors as much as I can, because it’s a world that I really love. It’s a kind of different expression than if you’re doing music with Aborym or in a band; it’s a totally different situation. You have to enter the images, and to know what’s going on and enter the mood of the movie that is in front of you. It’s something really interesting. I don’t really know why Italians do it better, but the inspiration really comes by spending time with the directors before the movie production starts, and it’s interesting because you get a lot of input and a lot of information. I have to try to find a musical companion for the scenes and images that I’m working with. I think it’s absolutely a different kind of approach, but fascinating especially for a musician to do that.
Are there any directors that you’re particularly interested in working with?
Fabban: David Lynch. I’ll work for him for free.
If we could ever tear him away from Angelo Badalamenti.
Fabban: Oh, I love him. I love all the different kinds of scores that he did, and Lynch is absolutely one of my favorite directors ever. I would love to work with such a genius, but of course, it will not happen; it’s just a dream… but the dream is free.
Well, he did introduce Rammstein to America when he used their music in Lost Highway.
Fabban: Oh yes!
Who knows? Maybe somebody close to Lynch will hear Aborym and tell hiim to pay attention.
Fabban: Yeah, that would be great!
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Photography by Laura Aurizzi – courtesy of Aborym