Stefano Gentile is well known for running the Amplexus and Silentes labels. As a musician he has collaborated with Aube in a couple of reworks and he is part of Maribor (an open project with Giuseppe Verticchio / Nimh, Maurizio Bianchi, Pierpaolo Zoppo / Mauthausen Orchestra, Andrea Marutti / Amon and Gianluca Favaron). Together with Favaron, he also releases field recording based albums under the moniker Under the Snow.
Hi Stefano, let us begin with your label Silentes, which was born in 2004 from the ashes of Amplexus. You have stated that it was created to face the radical change that the Ambient / Electronic / Experimental scene has been going through in recent years. How would you say it has risen to that challenge?
I have never taken into account the evolution of the ambient/electronic/experimental scene. I have always followed my own instinct. I believe that any dream has a beginning and an end. Amplexus has been a great and fundamental experience for me, but it wasn’t doing anything anymore for me. I probably reached a dead end street. I wanted something that gave me more freedom, I needed a breath of fresh air. The first cds released by Silentes were influenced by Basic Channel’s techno based music, but it didn’t mean anything. I always go for what stimulates me the most.
Silentes is based in Vittorio Veneto, which is also home to the label Von. Indeed, the Veneto region seems to be quite active on the electro-acoustic front and I’m thinking of Ennio Mazzon with Ripples Recordings, and Enrico Coniglio with Laverna and Galaverna, amongst others. Are you one big happy family, or is it sometimes dysfunctional like most families?
Well, no… I wouldn’t say we’re one big happy family… We are all good friends, but we all pursue our own projects on an individual basis. Each one of us has his own aim, his own program, his own way of presenting his work… Sure, at times we collaborate, which is a nice and stimulating thing, but always by bringing our own personality to the table.
Maurizio Bianchi features heavily on your roster. In the linear notes to The Testamentary Corridor he refers to you as “diligent and industrious”. Would you say that is an apt description of yourself as a label head?
Silentes is not a traditional label, it is my own project… It is a very personal dream that I try to pursue in the best possibile way. It is more of a passion than a job which means that my relationship with the artists I put out on my label is usually really special and friendly.
The Testamentary Corridor, is an “insubordinate discord in five tempos for monolothic keybords and multicellular dissonance, perpetrated during the autumn of 2005”. The album is also dedicated to lamented martyrs. Would you say that The Testamentary Corridor rests under the very long shadow cast by his seminal Symphony for a Genocide of 1981?
Actually, The Testamentary Corriod is part of a project what also includes Colori and Dead Colours… still, conceptually, it is definitely linked to Symphony for a Genocide. The concept is the same… the negation of freedom pushed to the extreme.
One last question on Maurizio Bianchi. Some people consider his later output, and especially his numerous collaborations with a variety of different musicians as inferior to his first albums up until 1984. Aside from releasing an impressive number of his most recent titles, you have also re-released some of his earlier material, which he recorded under the moniker Sacher-Pelz. How would you chart his evolution and which would you consider his most accomplished albums?
Maurizio Bianchi’s albums from the 80s have been real landmarks within industrial music, but those were different times when conditions and situations were radically different from those of today. When MB returned to the scenes in the 90s, his albums caught many of his hardcore fans off guard. However, I believe that his best work is to be found within his most recent output. His musical experimentation peaked in the second phase of his career. But not everybody can understand this evolution. This could also be because there have been so many albums by MB that it is difficult to compile a complete discography.
The Collezione del Silenzio is a series of 26 cassette tapes on the subject of silence. SO SILENT… Each tape is associated with a letter of the alphabet | Each letter is associated with an artist | Each letter gives birth to an unwanted word | The music is the artist’s personal vision of silence | 26 tapes by 26 Italian acts | Each tape is hand numbered and limited to 100 copies. After John Cage, is there anything new that can still be said about silence?
The Collezione del Silenzio is a project that I initiated as a way to collaborate with many artists/friends with whom I’d been in touch for a while without having been able to find the right occasion to work together. This prompted me to produced together with Gianluca Favaron this series inspired by silence. We simply asked several artists for their own interpretation of silence. We gave them complete freedom to express themselves as they saw fit and, in fact, in many case, silence turned out to be extremely noisy. We are very proud of this project.
Maribor is a collective project between Andrea Marutti, Gianluca Favaron, Giuseppe Verticchio, Maurizio Bianchi, Pierpaolo Zoppo and yourself. You have released two albums so far: Atrocity Exhibition, inspired by Girolamo Savonarola and De Immenso, by Giordano Bruno. Both Savonarola and Bruno were burnt at the stake for heresy. How did you structure the collaboration on a practical level and will there be further chapters in the series?
Maribor was initiated by myself, the idea being of basing an album on the life of thinkers and philosophers, whose work has influenced me. Musically speaking I have always loved collaborating with different musicians and with the help of Giuseppe Verticchio / NIMH I have gathered contributions from friends and other artists from the Silentes roster in order to assemble original works.
The new Maribor album is scheduled for the end of 2012. This particular release, however, will be based more on a specific work by Lucrezio, which is the De Rerum Natura, rather than on his life. It is still very early days, though.
Contrary to expectations, the second Maribor album, De Immenso is not all “doom and gloom”. Indeed, there are guitar loops that feel almost pastoral, if I am allowed to use that term, emerging from a highly textured base of glitches and digital creaks only to vanish once again in a sea of white noise and concrete music. Even The Atrocity Exhibition had its moments of melodic warmth. Far from being reassuring, though, these incursion into a lighter territory have an unsettling quality. Were you deliberately striving for a collusion of opposites?
I am decidedly attracted by opposites in music… from the rawest noise to the most gentle sound. I adore these contrasts when they coexist within a single work. In the new Maribor album the juxtaposition of different sounds will be even more marked. There will be short “chamber pieces” which will turn into total chaos… The guitar might be more prominent and I might even include traditional instruments… In a word, I will try and push the envelope further. This is my aim. Anyhow, we shall see.
Field recordings are an integral part of many releases on Silentes and indeed of you collaborative project with Gianluca Favaron, Under the Snow, which culminates with an open homage to Alan Lomax. Does the inclusion of specific field recordings in your own work also hold a conceptual intention?
Both Gianluca and I love field recordings… Gianluca has even produced two albums based exclusively on them. All our music is made mainly by field recordings. We start from those and add different layers of sounds and music. Field recordings are indeed fundamental.
I am not going to ask which is your favourite album on Silentes, but is there any album you are particularly happy to have released maybe because it represented a complete surprise for you, or because it pointed towards a new and unexpected direction?
This is a very difficult question indeed. There are so many albums I feel particularly close to, from those by Michael Mantra to Aude’s works. Obviously my own albums as well, the ones I did in collaboration with Aube, or with Gianluca Favaron as Under the Snow, the collaborative project Maribor, but also the lighter works I did with Amir Baghiri, Seele and Seamus, and many others as well.
You also take care of the visual side of things for Silentes. How important is photography and graphic design in contextualizing any specific album?
The artwork is really important to me. I love capturing images connected to the music I put out. With Silentes’ latest release I have even invented a new fold up format measuring 15×15 cm, which gives more prominence to the images and which I am very happy with. Yes, I would say that sometimes the artwork is just as important as the music.
Finally, running a label is not an easy business, do you ever ask yourself, “Why do I do this and why do I keep doing it”? Also, do you consider what you do to have political connotations?
Running a label such as Silents means having a really great desire to explain my own ideas. It is not a political issue… but Silentes is my idea of silence, which I consider of fundamental importance in my own life… Actually, maybe it is a political stance… the endless search for silence.