Andrea Ics Ferraris is a self-taught musician with a hardcore/experimental background. He started recording and touring Europe during the nineties with bands such as Burning Defeat and Onefineday, amongst others. While broadening his listening and technique he started playing with musicians hailing from a heterogeneous background be it rock, electronics, etc. Over the years he developed his interest for experimental music, using more and more effects/instruments and different techniques and started playing “cheap electronics” and/or laptop. He currently plays with the electro-acoustic ensemble Airchamber 3, the kraut-industrialist combo Ur, the experimental-psychedelic group Luminance Ratio and the IDM post-drum & bass duo Ulna, amongst others.
Hi Andrea you are from Piedmont and you are based in Alessandria where you took the field recordings for one of your most recent collaborations, Vir-Uz, which you’ve recorded with Maurizio Bianchi for Fabio Perletta’s label Farmacia901. The album is based on the Book of Job and the field recordings were taken in Alessandria’s Jewish cemetery. The book is centered around the issue of theodicy – whether or not one can have faith in the goodness and worthiness of an omnipotent creator who is apparently responsible for creating evil, and tolerating the suffering of the innocent. What is the connection between an album like Vir-Uz and previous releases by Maurizio Bianchi such as Symphony For a Genocide from 1981 and The Testementary Corridor from 2005?
Ok, I’d like to say something about the location of these field recordings, which may not be the answer you might have expected. Quite simply, it was Summer and I ventured into the Jewish part of the cemetery in Alessandria, which nobody ever visits. It is an old and beautiful cemetery and it was bathed in sunshine. I had my digital recorder with me, and I was sure that if I took some field recordings they would turn out just perfect. As for the link between Symphony For a Genocide, Testamentary Corridor and Vir-Uz, who knows… like it or not, both Jewish and Christian culture are at the roots of Western society, it is something we have to face somehow. For our collaboration, Maurizio proposed a biblical subject and even if I don’t believe in any organized religion, the Book of Job is one of the Books of the Bible I do know and I have studied, even if a while ago. My point of view on the whole Book of Job is probably different from Maurizio’s personal perspective, but the story itself, is interesting, the fact that one can do one’s best only to be met with the worst possible reward, is a bitter outcome, but also quite real.
Field recordings feature heavily also in your collaboration with Matteo Uggeri on ‘Autumn is Coming We’re All in Slow Motion’. Do you think enough has been done to capture the evolving soundscape of Italy?
In the case of Autumn is Coming…, it was Matteo who took care of all the field recordings. I like the sound of the “world” even if I can’t say I’m a field recording obsessive. I cannot say if enough has been done to capture Italy and its sounds, but one could even dare to say that field recordings have no nationality, no religion and no race, as they belong to the specificity of the moment in which they’ve been recorded in any particular place. John Cage, used to say that traffic has a different sound depending whether you’re in Milan, Paris or New York… I might love or hate a specific sound but that has something to do with my background, my taste, or my preconceptions, not with the intrinsic nature of that sound.
Your hometown of Alessandria is also where one of your most recent collaborations, Airchamber3 with Luca and Andrea Serrapiglio was born. One of the tracks on your album Crumble is titled Silence Makes a Dangerous Sound. Considering this is an “impro trio”, how did you tackle the subject of silence, which has been investigated by countless composers such as Sofia Gubaidulina and Giacinto Scelsi – who seem to be a big a influence on your work, – not to mention John Cage?
That title refers to the fact that the track sounds quiet but mysterious, as if something menacing was slowly approaching. The Serrapiglio brothers (and their father, with whom we’ve collaborated on more than one occasion) are classically trained musicians, they respect silence and they’re able to use it more extensively than a “Peter-Pan -experimental-punkster-wonnabe” like me. I don’t know that much about Sofia Gubaidulina but we all love Giacinto Scelsi (as a matter of fact, one of the tracks on the album is a jokey homage to him, albeit rather a lame one: “Giacinto shell sea”). As for John Cage, he was a quite probably a funny guy, (sometimes we tend to forget his sense of humor) a hero of the last century, a real philosopher. I would also like to add Morton Feldman to this short list of composers… Ever read one of his conversation with Cage? What an incredible pair of lovely freaks!!
You seem to be hyperactive in your collaborations. Could you please briefly describe your other projects to me, from Ur to Sil Muir and Ulna?
Ulna is a studio project (even if we’re finally working on a live set), a collaboration between myself and Valerio Zucca, whom some of you may remember from his albums with 3EEM or for his solo project Abstract Q (Bake/Staalplaat). As Ulna, we make electronic music, IDM, post-techno and I can assure you, in the recipe for our forthcoming album Ligment on Karlrecords, we’ve thrown in a lot of new ingredients. Sil Muir, instead, is a project I share with Andrea Marutti (Amon, Never/Known, Afe records). It is drone based music generated, mostly, by me on guitar, then reshaped by Andrea and finally re-arranged once more by me. Finally, Ur is a power trio consisting of myself, Mauro (Stalker, Shiver, etc.) and Federico (Den LXV), two old friends of mine. They both have a hardcore punk background, same as me, but they have also always been into industrial, power-noise and extreme music. We started playing together a while ago and we naturally evolved into a psychedelic-proto-industrial unit just like it used to be in the early days of the genre. That’s probably why an “old school industrial guy” told us we were too “heavy” to be filed under experimental music and too experimental to be considered industrial. It is one of the live bands I enjoy playing the most, because it is an aggressive, restrained, noisy and psychedelic project and for all of us it is a cathartic experience.
Conversely, Luminance Ratio, your project with Gianmaria Aprile and Eugenio Maggi, appears to be more focused on microsounds compared to some of your noisier experimentations. Is it an attempt on your part to move towards a lighter space, so to speak?
The actual line up of Luminance Ratio consists of Gianmaria and I, Luca Sigurtà on cheap electronics, noise and Luca Mauri on guitar. Eugenio is no longer in the band. We have just released a new split 7″ with Steve Roden, and we are now working on a new series of split vinyls. Also, we have just mastered our second album. The project has evolved naturally into something more psychedelic, more retro, than what we originally set out to do, but with a good amount of electronics, and electro-acoustic instruments. We are music freaks and we throw into the mix anything and everything we consider suitable for a specific project. I shouldn’t be the one saying it, but, in my humble opinion, it is an interesting live act.
Is the Italian electro-acoustic scene one big happy family or is it dysfunctional as all families are?
Dysfunctional as many families are… but better than many…
Aside from being a musician you also write for Chaindlk, and Sodapop reviewing albums and interviewing a number of musicians including Taylor Deupree and Claudio Parodi. Who has been the most surprising and rewarding interviewee you’ve had the chance to meet?
Jim Thirlwell aka Fetus and Scott McCloud from Girls against Boys. I knew Thirlwell to be cynical and ironic, but he’s been a real killer! I’ve always been a fan of Scott McCloud ever since he played guitar in Soulside (one of my fave bands on Dischord). When I started playing guitar his noisy post-hardcore style was a big influence on me. During the interview he turned out to be a smart and insightful person.
I would now like to ask you a series of questions you have asked to some of your interviewees. New technologies and the web have provided an increasing number of people with the means to create and produce music. Democratically speaking it’s been a great step for musicians, but it also brought about an oversaturation of the market. Are you one of those who started thinking “there’s nothing new under the sun”, there are too many releases and there’s no space for those who really deserve it, or do you think it’s been a positive evolution, even if the record market has somehow collapsed?
Ah, ah, you are trying to stab me in the back with my own dagger!! Ok, who decides “who deserves” what? And according to which parameters? I’m the first one to complain when music sounds like something from ten, twenty or thirty years ago, but having said that, I’ve always been lucky enough to find something good, interesting and sometimes even exciting. I like original music and brilliant artists, but sometimes I also like copycats much more than their originators. You’re right, the market is collapsing under an overabundance of releases, but even if I download music from the web I still love the physical format and I still love trading records! It’s full of interesting music out there, there’s just more crap you have to sift through before finding something that wets your appetite. I’m a nostalgic guy, but when I hear some of my coevals glorifying the good old days I think it’s sad. And don’t get me started on the whole “reunion” phenomenon.
What is the socio-economical context that has nourished Mr. Ferraris, and what were the milestones in the musical growth of his musical skill?
Context: A small town in the North West of Italy. Background: I’m from an upper-middle class, catholic, white family. As many other middle class boys like me, I’ve had a hard time trying to dismantle, as much as I could, my bourgeois upbringing. My personal milestones? Many records and musicians, and above all, many friends who were deeply into many different kinds of music. Also, the repeated exposure to my friends’ record collection and to my own record collection. As a “musician”, my musical development owes a lot to the fact that I have been lucky enough to meet many open minded people, whom I admired and I still do admire, and I’m not just talking about musician or music related people here.
Can you remember when and how you discovered electronic music?
Sure, I did know about electronic music, but during my early twenties there were two friends of mine who were into labels such as Warp, who got me into it. Also, at the time, Federico (one of my Ur bandmates) was into industrial music and was listening to people like Maurizio Bianchi (way before he became trendy again), and Merzbow, etc. During that time, I bought a second hand copy of “Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks” by Brian Eno and Danielle Lanois. I’m an Eighties kid, and I’ve been exposed to new wave and synth pop in my childhood. I remember when M/a/r/r/s came out with Pump Up the Volume and when I saw for the first time the clip Beat This by Tim Simenon, aka Bomb The Bass.
Why have you changed so many styles?
I’m tempted to answer: “Because I have something to prove to myself “, but that’s just one of the reasons. I’ve always been inspired by people like James Plotkins, Justin Broadrick, John Zorn, Ennio Morricone, Mick Harris, Teho Teardo and Eraldo Bernocchi. I don’t necessarily like all their albums, but I respect them for having always been eclectic and unpredictable artists.
Is there anything you sought to accomplish (music wise or in general) but you found simply out of reach?
Ah, ah… There are just too many things I would like to accomplish, but most of them have always been far out of my reach, especially in terms of my life and my personality. Music-wise I would like to create something really special. Maybe that will always be “out of my reach”. Still, it might be that the actual point is not to “reach something” but “to strive” in order to reach something… Who knows?
Professional musicians aside, there aren’t that many people over thirty playing music in Italy, especially if compared to other foreign countries… This is still seen as a hobby. Why do you do this and why do you keep doing it?
It’s the real million dollar question: Why? To avoid having to grow up, to pursue a childhood dream, to feel less alone, to stay alive, to satisfy my aggressiveness side, to find an outlet for my repressed aggressiveness. Sometimes I ask myself if it’s not just a stupid shelter from “real” life and everything it implies. While playing and collaborating with other people, I have met a lot of interesting musicians, and sometimes I’ve had the indisputable luck of taking part (directly or otherwise) in what is a transcending process through music. That is why I’m still playing.
Finally, what are you currently working on?
New releases for Ulna (the CD is currently at the pressing plant!!) and Ur. Giuseppe Ielasi has just mastered our new Luminance Ratio full length album and by the beginning of the Summer we should be ready with a new Airchamber3 release. Also, at present, I’m collaborating with Simon Balestrazzi (T.A.C.), with Me Raabestein from Nonine records (our moniker is Mycroft Holmes) and with “my old buddy” Matteo Uggeri. I’m finally about to finish a solo recording, a sort of soundtrack-like work, with acoustic instruments, electronics and several contributions by friends.
You have recently relocated to Genova, which is a city with a strong musical heritage and a compelling social-political history. How does it compare to Alessandria? Also, have you taken any field recordings in Genova and will it provide inspiration for future works?
I love Genova and I have always loved it. It is a beautiful “messy town” by the sea. It reminds of Barcelona, but also of Naples. What I have always found interesting about this town is the incredible amount of contrasts one can find in it, its decadence and the fact that it is far bigger than the place where I was living before! Despite its size, though, Genova is still a sleepy town. If you want to be “where the action is” (and I’m thinking of the Californian hardcore band Black Flag here) well, forget it!! But who cares? You can bet I’ve already taken some field recordings. I do find the town inspiring, but as I said before, I am not a “field recording artist” and, to be honest, sometimes I find “field recording” releases pretty “dogmatic”, not to say boring. Genova feels familiar to me, I should have relocated here a long time ago, but I am still trying to understand how it is actually affecting me.