Veering towards darker and more metallic and symphonic textures on the band’s latest opus, Kirlian Camera reminisces on the past 40 years at the forefront of Italian electronic music.
An InterView with Angelo Bergamini and Elena Alice Fossi of Kirlian Camera
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
40 years is a monumental achievement for a band to reach, especially during a global crisis, but Kirlian Camera is weathering the storm. With this year’s release of Cold Pills (Scarlet Gate of Toxic Daybreak), the band continues its evolution from one of the leading pioneers of electronic music in Italy toward a darker, more sophisticated sound – incorporating more organic elements of guitar, bass, drums, and orchestral arrangements, along with Elena Alice Fossi’s magnetic vocals and Angelo Bergamini’s sharply constructed electronics. With longtime associates Mia Wallace, Andrea Fossi, and Alessandro Comerio on board, the album is a standout in Kirlian Camera’s storied history… a history that is rife with controversy and perseverance. Now, as the world begins to wind down from isolation and struggles to achieve a “new normal,” Fossi and Bergamini speak with ReGen Magazine about the writing process behind Cold Pills, along with some words about the current lineup, and growing concerns in the return to live performance in Italy post-pandemic.
Congratulations on the band’s 40th anniversary and the release of your new album. In what ways do you feel the new album is the ultimate expression of your evolution across the years?
Across four decades, you’ve not only incorporated new sounds and styles into Kirlian Camera’s sound, but you’ve seen many trends and styles come and go in popularity. Among them, which would you say had the biggest impact on you in terms of how you approach music and songwriting – not just those that you’ve infused into your own music?
Bergamini: There is no doubt that the electronic and experimental music that was produced at the turn of the ’60s and in the early ’70s, which I could define as a mix of experimentalism, psychedelia, and hypnotic trance, struck me. Repetitive music intrigued me more than songs or rock in general, even though I was a keyboardist of metal, hard rock, and progressive bands at the first concerts I held. The electronic new wave seemed to me a good derivation – even if at times a bit ‘smaller’ – of certain sound experiences that were born through the German Kosmische Musik and early Italian disco music. All very interesting, but I couldn’t like an entire album of anyone, so I opted to go out on the pitch myself, quitting a promising baseball career!
Similarly, what is exciting you the most in modern music? What do you listen to when you’re not making music in Kirlian Camera?
Bergamini: No, well… overall we stopped listening to new music, because we didn’t find anything that interesting. I have to say we don’t listen to a lot of music in general. Classical and contemporary classical music are the only sources of some interest now, except for some metal here and there. We certainly can’t find sources of inspiration in pop and rock today and maybe we don’t even look for them any longer. So, at this point, we can occasionally listen to undemanding things; the last album from the Sparks is cute – they know how to still have fun despite the years.
Cold Pills (Scarlet Gate of Toxic Daybreak) is a double album, which in itself is quite an undertaking; besides its length, what did you find to be the major challenges in the album’s creation?
Although still catchy and melodic, the album has a distinctly less poppy edge than some of your past releases, and has a darker and more atmospheric sound.
Do you feel this was a natural progression from where your last album was leading toward, or were there other factors that affected your songwriting mindset (I mean other than the pandemic)?
Fossi: We started writing material for this album in 2018, a time when the so-called ‘pandemic’ (I’d rather call it ‘The Great Reset’) had not yet been ‘launched’. In fact, the early music of it was considerably influenced by some kind of art pop. I think that after a few months at the beginning of 2019, after having listened to the first eight songs of the new album, some of which were already mixed and ready for mastering, we felt a little perplexed; the general atmosphere wasn’t going to adhere to our feelings that much. Then Angelo and I looked at each other and started discussing how to manage such a new album. The result was that after a few days, we decided to ‘eliminate’ the first Cold Pills, going to start all over again. Angelo wanted to save ‘Crystal Morn,’ and I pleasantly agreed because that song is very much in keeping with KC’s classic style and was composed with real feeling and passion. As for the remaining track list, I can say that given that both of us had already been working for a while on some non-canonical material temporarily identified with a working title of Scarlet Gate of Toxic Daybreak… well, from such a somewhat uncomfortable and unconventional material, the adventure of Cold Pills started again, and soon the two titles went to merge. In fact, the real title of the new album would be the subtitle… but both Mia and I were sorry to cancel Cold Pills as we were fond of it, so that remained the main title in spite of the new concept we started working on.
Bergamini: Let’s say our last album Hologram Moon gave us some real satisfaction, if we go to think of it as an art pop or electronica chapter. So, now we had a sensation, it was time to move on towards other shores. Just ‘Crystal Morn’ might turn out to be a good radio single as far as this new album goes, but we hardly can find another title to offer to a wide audience. We opted for introducing our new era through the sounds of ‘The 8th President’ in order to clarify that the mood has changed, although we still feel real love for the former album. Now, we’d like to explore ‘our catacombs,’ because we need it… and the term ‘catacombs’ is not that casual.
With the core of the band being Angelo and Elena, what is the general songwriting process like? What roles do you each play in the formulation of Kirlian Camera’s music?
Cold Pills features Andrea Fossi on guitar and bassist Mia Wallace, who I am familiar with for her time in Abbath. How did these two musicians come to work with you on the album, and in what ways do you feel their contributions helped to motivate the new sounds you explored?
Being based in the United States as I am, I’d like to ask how the band is doing? From your perspective, how are things in Italy with regards to the pandemic, vaccination, etc.?
Bergamini: Oh well… people here seem divided on such a subject. I just know that too many things don’t add up. Personally, I am not a no-vax, because I have been vaccinating myself for years, but this time, I am kind of perplexed about the actual usefulness of these experimental remedies that pass off as effective remedies. It is necessary to inquire and then decide, but many people do not get informed and tend to offend all those who do. This ‘Planet of the Apes‘ bad habit is not my cup of tea. I may not have exactly answered your question, but I can tell you that with this pandemic story here in Italy, people like Draghi and Mattarella and their bad company are disrupting the whole nation. As Elena said earlier, it is a ‘Great Reset,’ not exactly a pandemic, flu, epidemic, hysteria, or whatever. Italy is particularly exposed to this ‘Reset,’ which wants to completely destroy it, continually denying national constitutional values. This is a dangerous game. The rulers believe they can do the good and the bad weather the way they want, but I can say that sooner or later, the people will get very disappointed and a notable clash will happen, so someone will get hurt. It is not that I wish it or not, but if happens, it is not the fault of those who react to serious injustice. Let’s say that everyone has their own reasons, so my reason is that of listening to the voice of the people, a voice that is continually suppressed by those who know how to skillfully manipulate information and politics. In Italy, democracy definitely went on vacation (and this sentence of mine has a double meaning). Kirlian Camera are taken for rebels, but I don’t think it’s a correct visualization of our attitude. We are not ‘regardlessly rebels’ – on the contrary… but we rebel against what we consider blatant injustices which, since there are so many, make us pass for rioters when instead, we would simply believe in order, self-discipline, and fight against crime. Today a serious cop, one who’s not following orders in a blind way, is at risk of being taken for a rebel, you know what I mean?! Believe me, I know it by experience.
We all seem to miss live shows, and there is the concern about how we will be able to ‘go back to normal’ with so many venues having to close down, everyone wanting to tour at the same time, getting people excited about going to live shows again, etc. What sort of difficulties do you anticipate for playing live again?
Fossi: I don’t know. I don’t realize how we will get out of this impasse and I don’t know what are the real solutions our governments are offering, because the current gimmicks are tragicomic. They are destroying the lives of millions of professionals based on a virus that has a very low incidence and mortality. Perhaps it is time that artists, sound engineers, agencies, all those involved in the music business and in the world of art in general make themselves heard in a chorus. This situation is not acceptable any longer; either they provide us with serious sustenance, or I swear we will lose our patience.
Similarly, what is it you most miss about touring and performing live that you are excited about?
Outside of music, what are you enjoying most right now? Watching movies? Reading? Driving in the countryside? Anything at all… what is giving you the most joy to counteract the darkness of the world?
Bergamini: In my free time, I like to try understanding why Cinderella’s fairy godmother has turned into Billy Porter. What happened?! Such an intriguing matter.
What’s next for Kirlian Camera?
Photography by Don Angelo – courtesy of Kirlian Camera