Three of AD NAUSEAM members had been playing together as DEATH HEAVEN since 2003. Can you elaborate on how the transformation from DEATH HEAVEN to AD NAUSEAM happened?
Andrea P: Actually all four members of Ad Nauseam have been playing together since 2003. BRN is an acronym of Matteo B.’s surname, the band members never changed.
The transformation from Death Heaven happened naturally when we became aware that the new compositions were totally different from what we played until then. There was no reason to go further with the old moniker: in fact, listening to the new stuff, the perception is to be listening to a totally different band.
Death Heaven was born when the youngest of us was only 15, so we were different as well. It was definitely time to grow and develope to something else, and we choose to do it radically, but together.
As far as I am aware, DEATH HEAVEN released only one full-length album (plus a demo), entitled “Viral Apocalypse”. How would you describe the music that DEATH HEAVEN was producing? And how do you like “Viral Apocalypse” today?
Matteo B.: You’re right: what you mentioned are the only Death Heaven official releases.
“Viral Apocalypse” can be easily labelled as pretty average technical death metal, composed and played with a modern approch, which was influenced by bands like Morbid Angel, Decapitated, Carcass, Nile among others. All the songs included in that album had been written in a period of one years and half, more or less. In that lapse of time, we all were rehearsing a lot with our instruments, learning new techniques and getting the hang playing pretty fast. It was also a period when we was discovering many interesting bands, which soon became big sources of inspiration for us. For this reason, in that album a lot of different styles and genres cohesist, from epic melodies to thrash oriented riffs, from acoustic breaks to modern death metal assaults with a kind of sci-fi / industrial touch and so on.
The heterogeneity was too much strong and noticeable, giving to some moments of the album a pronounced collage-effect, which was something we would like to avoid with Ad Nauseam.
At the time of the releasing, we were pretty excited and satisfied of our creations, but after few years we can see all its weak points and naivety.
Let’s talk about AD NAUSEAM as the band name – but not in relation to any ULCERATE songs, haha… I am actually curious whether there is any connection to another Italian band, MONUMENTUM, whose album from 2002 is entitled “Ad Nauseam”?
Andrea P.: (Usque) Ad Nauseam is a ancient Roman saying that means “until the nausea”. Surely it has been used very often to name songs and album titles in metal and non-metal panorama.
We chose it because it represents very well the philosophy behind our music, our composition method, our live shows, our recording sessions and the work behind it. It sums up almost everything of our meticulous approach to music, so we chose it because it was THE perfect name and the only one that for us had a true meaning, not because some other bands used it. So, it’s not a sort of tribute or homage either to Monumentum or Ulcerate or whatever, although they are both bands that we appreciate and respect.
Apparently it took you about five years to craft “Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est”. How does the writing process work for AD NAUSEAM? Is it more a combination of individual efforts, or rather a collective work? Do the band members have different roles in the process?
Matteo B.: it’s very difficult to answer, because our way to write music has changed during these years.
At the beginning (Death Heaven era), the songs were just the results of a collection of riffs already composed: once we had a number of riffs ready, we had to decide their sequence inside the song, to add solos and arrangement, and it was almost done. But this approch entails some limits. Songs written in this way have usually a very defined and stiff scheme, with less space to unpredictability and possibility to evolution of a date musical figure.
Now, the whole band is more active on the composition process. Even if the main role is fulfilled by the two guitar players, who write more or less 95% of the riffs, at a certain point the rest of the members are involved, to decide the drum lines, the arrangement and the song structure as wellk. So, initially the band members act indipendently, but then they put together their ideas and the band works organically.
For the future, we’re going to experiment new ways of writing, trying to compose the songs more naturally, starting from some figures and developing them to obtain a coherent progression.
You have said in another interview, that the songs on “Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est” had been deconstructed and rearranged a few times before you found the right balance. Going back and rewriting / rearranging already written songs can be tricky, as you can end up in a vicious circle, as the first song can already become “obsolete” again by the time you rearrange your eighth one. So what’s your recipe been for not getting stuck in such a vicious circle and actually getting the album finished?
Matteo B.: You’re totally right: when you compose the songs in a very long period, the probability that the first and the last one are stylistically different is pretty high. This is even more true if it happens while your musical direction is not well defined yet.
In our case, it happened that a number of songs have been totally thrown away, while few riffs -or sequences of riffs- have been taken from here and there and recycled, becoming the starting point to built a new song structure, with new music.
We experienced that this cause a loss of time far bigger than compose a new song from the very beginning. At the end, we decided to say stop to this rewriting process (which may last forever, as you said), when we assumed the eight songs were coherent enough to cohesist in the same album. A nineth song, which was already finished, has been discarded right before starting the recording sessions, because we weren’t completely satisfied of it, and we didn’t want to waste further months for reshaping it.
How much did the songs on “Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est” change during the actual recording process?
Matteo B.: As a consequence of what I’ve said in my previous answer, when we started to record the album we noticed that many drum lines needed to be rewritten. Even the guitars went through some modifications, expecially on the arrangement and dynamic. As in a chain, this had an effect on the bass lines.
The adds of violins and piano came at the end, as the glue which keep together all the songs.
To sum up, I think that more than 20% of the music have been modified during the recording, even if we’re not talking of big changings, and this is another cause of the sea of time it took us to realize “Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est”. Expecially the drums have been revoluzionalized in several points, because many fills are the result of improvisation.
Having recorded everything by ourselves in our rehearsal room gave us the opportunity to do several tests and experiment all the ideas we’d in our mind.
So, you have got your own recording studio and basically had all the time for yourselves and your music. I read that you had made your own equipment for the recording, in order to achieve the sound you’d intended. Can you please elaborate on the vision you had had and what kind of equipment you had made to accomplish this?
Andrea P.: It seems that nowadays the only target during the recording and mastering session of a metal album is achieving the louder volume possible. This usually kills the dynamics of the music, introducing extra distortion, confusing and blurring the overall mix. We are all fed up with this modern approach. Moreover, we are tired of those machine-like recordings where all the instruments are “corrected” in post-production phase, as they sound cold and computer-ish. We believe that the small imperfections in the execution contribute to the groove and the personality of the final work.
So we experimented a lot to obtain the Ad Nauseam sound that basically had to be rich, dynamic, warm, dark and natural. To obtain exactly what we wanted, we had to start from scratch, designing our own equipment. For example Matteo B. designed and built 2 high quality bass loudspeakers, a 1×18” and a 1×12”, Andrea S. built his snare drum using an unusual technique to achieve more dynamics and power. I am an electronic engineer, which helped me to design and built 3 guitar preamplifiers, 1 bass preamplifier, a mastering compressor, a tube microphone preamplifier and a spring reverb unit, while Matteo G. helped me for the machining aspects. The good thing about manufacture your instrumentation at the state of art is that the final quality has no compromises. All this work helped us to obtain a sound that is truly personal and unique as we had the full control of the entire recording chain.
You have used violin and piano on the album as well, but not in the traditional sense. It seems actually closer to contemporary classical music. Does Andrea P. (or anyone else in the band, for that matter) have any classical music education?
Andrea P.: Yes, I played violin for 4 years in my young ages and I’m strongly influenced by contemporary classical music. That said, contemporary classical music is not the main target in Ad Nauseam evolution, it’s more correct to say that we have in common the philosophy behind that.
Your use of classical instruments is in vast contrast to the “neo-classical” approach of bands like FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE. Now I know this can be a controversial question, as both you and them are from the same country, but still – what do you think of their “neo-classical” arrangements?
Andrea P.: We believe a comparison with them on both the metal and the classical point of view is not possible: we have different influences, even opposite sometimes. For this reason we don’t think our opinion on their music is relevant.
The above mentioned FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE have actually made it quite big with their style. Beside them, Italy has bands like HOUR OF PENANCE, HIDEOUS DIVINITY, BLOODTRUTH etc. on one side, and then brutal death bands like SEPTYCAL GORGE, BLASPHEMER or PUTRIDITY on the other… How does AD NAUSEAM fit into Italy’s metal scene?
Matteo B.: We don’t assume to have a special role within the Italian scene, because we’ve just brought ourselves to the metal panorama. Furthermore, it would be a stretching to arrange Ad Nauseam close to any of the above mentioned bands, because none of them has much in common with us. Apart that, we’re in contact with some bands in the underground and, among those, Nero Di Marte is probably the only one where you may find any similarities with us.
How do Italian death metal fans react to your music, which is quite unique?
Matteo B.: We haven’t seen significatively different reactions in Italy than abroad. People who already knew Ad Nauseam were awaiting the album from years with a certain grade of expectation, and they haven’t been disappointed by “Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est”. On the other hand, there’s a number of fans who completely ignored our existence, and it seems most of them have appreciated our stuff as well. Ok, sometimes we’ve been criticized because we’re seen like the next band of the -let’s call it- trend inspired by Gorguts, Ulcerate and Deathspell Omega, but keep in mind that we started playing this genre around 2008, when not so many were doing this. And, by the way, we’re not so close to the mentioned triad, since you can’t summarize our music just with those four words.
Anyway, it’s still too early to talk about responses. Only few reviews appeared on Italian webzines after the album release, and we’re going to start playing live from June, so the voice hasn’t circulated so much by now.
Having tried to match the efforts of GORGUTS or DEATHSPELL OMEGA, “Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est” is clearly an ambitious record. This will create a lot of expectation from your next record, in terms of evolution, because quite frankly, people do expect progression from bands like AD NAUSEAM. I assume it is very early and hard to anticipate your next direction, so let me ask you a general question: how can the boundaries of death metal be pushed any further, now when the genre has been around for some 30 years?
Matteo B.: I think a lot of ways to progress will always exist, there’s no reason to think the contrary. To create something absolutely new is becoming more and more difficult, while to introduce something atypical in the genre is within many bands reach, but it can be considered an evolution for the genre anyhow. For this reason, combining death metal with other genres may be one direction to travel, but it won’t be the only one. There are many unexplored aspects within death metal which have been already experimented in other contemporary musical contexts.
Being Ad Nauseam constantly searching for the most extreme (for our ears) way of expression, we’ll probably probe new alchemies with our new songs. Of course, it’s too early to say anything about, but I can anticipate you that the new compositions we’re working on are very heavy, twisted and mesmerizing.
With your debut, you have taken your time. I guess the same will apply to your future works. What if CD no longer exists as a medium when you are going to release your next album, and people switch to streaming individual songs rather than diving deep into complex pieces of musical art?
Matteo B.: Well, we’ll take our time, ’cause we use to be very careful to each aspect and we’ll release only music which can satisfy us at 100%. Apart that, I’m pretty sure that CD format will still exist when our second album will be out. Even if people will prefer digital format instead of the classical physical support (be it CD, vinyl, tape), I hope that persons who want to listen to an album in its entirely, from the first to the last tune, will still there.
The pace of technology change is unprecedented and generational change inevitable. What advantages do you see in all this for AD NAUSEAM?
Matteo B.: Very hard question, expecially because I don’t see as much benefits with the technological progress than the detriments it inevitably causes. We could write a book, so I’ll try to be short.
The first things coming in my mind thinking about the bond between music and technology are recordings, supports, divulgation/distribution.
About the recording, it probably won’t have any noticeable impact in our habit, because we’re very conservative and attached to vintage and DIY equipment. We don’t praise it because “vintage” is cool or trendy, but because it’s still unmatched. Apart that, something interesting may come, for example, from new driver technologies for ultra-high efficiency cabinets building. I experienced some new generation speakers with a truly impressive loudness, clarity and depth, which are very useful for death metal and, in general, for music which requires very strong impact and power. Remaining in the cabinet topic, the dear old wood is still the best solution, rather than new alternative and composite materials. This is my humble opinion.
If we think the technology applied to supports, I can tell you I listen music only on CDs, vinyls and tapes. I absolutely deny mp3s and rarely resort to streaming listenings only for its ease. So, if it would be up to me, it didn’t get us any help in this case, but the possibility to transfer more details and quality of the music in the support.
Last consideration about divulgation. In the last decades, internet -which is the emblem of the progress in this era- helped in unimaginable manner to communicate and spread information and soon became the cheapest and quick way to contact and communicate. Then all the social networks follow, and people moved from print paper to the net. Apparently, for an underground and unknown band, that was a great chance to reach new fans all over the world. But the other side of the coin show us that a lot off shitty bands polluted the web, hundreds of webzines arose from nowhere, replacing paper fanzines and magazines, usually with very poor quality in their articles. So, at the end, wherever we see the technological progress, we can’t consider only its positive aspects. It depends by how it’s used by people and, very often, the traditional way remains the more easy, safe and pleasant.