Interview with Fabrizio “Fabban” Giannese – Synths, Programming, Piano & Vocals
Interview by Lee Carter
The band began nearly thirty years ago – was there an ultimate goal that drove you all, or was it simply to create music?
At the very beginning, in our teenage period, we played music just the get focused on something creative in order to be far from the other people, far from problems, far from drugs and depression. I grew up in an economically devastated town called Taranto, in the deep south of Italy, before the advent of the internet and mobile phones. As a child, I was raised by my grandma who took care of me while my parents worked… So I basically grew up with my grandma and my little brother. By the time I was 15, all I ever wanted was to not look the same as everyone else and I didn’t care so much about girls or school… I just felt comfortable in playing music with my friends in our rehearsal room, a sort of second home for me. So nothing has really changed… We still continue playing music just to feel good.
The landscape of both the world and the music industry has changed quite considerably in the time that Aborym has been active. Has that goal or desire to create music changed at all since 1992?
In 1992 we used to play crap music, with embarrassing lyrics with a broken guitar, an uncomfortable fucked-up bass guitar, two cymbals and a couple of amplifiers… And… At that time I really didn’t care so much about the music industry… But before the advent of the internet everything was different. We were a fucked-up generation full of enthusiasm, with a strong desire to do… To do something… ‘coz that was the only way to survive for us. The desire, or better… The need to make music today is the same, even if things are completely different now and I’m turning 44 in April…
For you, how are things in both the music industry and wider world different to when you first began?
We’re junkies and nerds and feel outside of mainstream society, but there is a real optimism when it comes to working. We feed on this feeling we have and turn it into something that makes us feel connected again to the life we are living. So many things changed outside and in the music industry… Just think about some records from the 90s and compare ‘em to the crap of today… I’m thinking about albums like Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’, Massive Attack’s ‘Mezzanine’… Nine Inch Nails’ ‘The Downward Spiral’ just to name a few… At that time we used to buy magazines if we wanted to get informed about music, we used to buy vinyls, we did tape-trading… Nowadays young generations are accustomed to have everything, thousands of online magazines, thousands of so called “journalists”, and concerning the music and instruments well… We are living in another planet in which everything is now possible. Which means young generations can’t feel the music as we felt in 90s, they don’t know about what to know how to play an instrument means and how the practice is important.
How, if at all, has this influenced the band?
It influenced me for sure. Efforts and sacrifices always pay off and really helps. I feel it’s my duty to remind myself that music can be the main thing. It should be the main thing, especially if you think about the music as a medicine.
The Aborym sound has changed considerably over the years, with early releases firmly camped in the dark of black metal. How important is it to you and the band to grow and progress your sound?
It’s not important. It’s essential. It’s the MOST important thing and it’s written in our DNA. And… As we grow up like men, we grow up like musicians and I’m pretty sure it’s obvious by listening to the musical evolution of this band.
Was this development of sound a natural process, or was there a conscious decision to expand the band’s sound?
I’m the type of personality who tends to become consumed with whatever I’m doing, but there’s obviously a closeness that comes from the continued musical relationship. As I told ya before, it’s a natural and instinctive process dictated by our DNA as musicians
Of course, there have been a few lineup changes to Aborym across nearly thirty years – how has this changed the dynamic in the band?
In 30 years I used to work with lots of musicians but in the last 3 years I’ve a consolidated group of musicians and close friends I feel particularly good to work with. We have different background but we have the same goals and same approach in both song writing process and when we play together. It’s a rare alchemy and that’s something I’m really proud of. And the new record is all about this alchemy. There’s a real band playing.
What influences you and the band to write such uncompromising music?
We’re all influenced by our ideas and when ideas come we get addicted by the need of getting these ideas to sound good. It’s always been a challenge and a musical adventure… Every song is approached from a different place to best try and avoid falling into our musical comfort zones – it’s the opposite of “I recorded my first hit with this amp and I’ve used it on every record since”. It keeps things exciting in terms of the work and the history and friendship allows a healthy level of honesty… Especially when we are in our studio…
I think some of our best stuff has been done there – we’ve made music together for so long and are all so close that it becomes an intuitive experience.
Where there are shifts in sounds and styles through songs, how do you ensure that the music created is at the very least coherent (even if intentionally done to “unsettle”, as your press release states)?
Coherence is the quality of forming a unified whole and that’s something we do not pay to much attention to. We let the ideas come out and if we’re getting excited we just try to transform ideas into music. Having said that… If a song sounds incoherent compared to others it means we are going in the right direction. The song “The End Of A World” speaks for itself for instance…
When did the writing process for ‘Hostile’ begin? Does every band member bring items to work on, or do you just get in a rehearsal room and see where the moment takes you? Or is there a “leader” of sorts?
I approached this record the way I approach all my records, so I start to write music and I make demos that communicated to the other members what I wanted the band to do… The difference this time is that I allowed a lot more space for accidents and I used to disassemble and assemble the songs many times. And lots of new materials came from our bass player and our guitar player, from Tommy and Rick. So I was not alone in writing or to propose new ideas to the others. We created the music of this record combining different machines, playing modular synthesisers, custom hand-made instruments, software, VSTs, plugins, some old analogue synthesisers and drum machines… For example a TR-808 and a TB-303 or an ARP 2600… We did 90% of everything based on the combinations and the physical interaction of the instruments: so playing them, shaping them, changing parameters, patching. It’s an entirely different, therapeutic experience you have with these instruments, like playing a guitar, or something that is emotionally connected to your brain and your hands. It’s similar to painting or drawing for me… So the music comes out with different moods through different layers. It’s a mixture of what we learned with the electronics, with modular synthesisers, sampling and HD recording and of course everything is mixed with a metal, rock, alternative and punk hidden soul.
At the outset of ‘Hostile’, did you have anything in particular that you wanted to achieve, or was it simply to create the best album that represented the band at this moment in time?
We start to write a new record when we feel the need to do it. And when the need came, of course we try to write something that satisfies us first. And… When it’s time for us to create music we can start from a guitar riff, from a lyric, from a piano passage, or from a patch made on the synth modular system and we all have no fuckin’ idea of where are we going… We just follow the instinct and we go new places…
How did you find the recording process? How was working with Andrea Corvo and Keith Hillebrandt? What did they add to the album’s final outcome?
I always hire an engineer who knows exactly what they’re doing. That’s why I’ve hired guys like Guido Elmi and Marc Urselli on the ‘Shifting.negative’ album, and Keith Hillebrandt and Andrea Corvo on the ‘Hostile’ album, who did an excellent job on the sound and on the quality of the sound which is at its top here. Andrea has been with us during the whole making-of process of the new album, from the pre-production to the final mastering. He know us better then any other bands or musicians and that was essential. Keith and I teamed up 4 years ago when he did a remix of a ‘Shifting.negative’ album song called “For A Better Past” and I remixed one of his tunes called “Farwaysai”… Then we did some remixes for other bands together, and we produced the Nelly Furtado “Maneater” cover version made by a band called Digitalis Purpurea. Meanwhile we became very good friends and 2 years ago we met in Bangkok, Thailand, where he lives with his wife. We had an insane dinner in the China Town district and I got the chance to give him more than 22 new songs in pre-production… And when I went back to Rome, we discussed about the possibility of hiring him as producer. And that was the best thing that happened in terms of growth for me and for the band since Keith basically gave an extra gear to the album.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to meet each other in Rome for the final mix since it was the period the virus was hitting hard, but we had many months of working remotely. Needless to say that to work with a producer is something that gave us much more mastery in terms of quality and skills and of course we all learned a lot, both during the pre-productions times and the recording process. He gave us instructions about which instruments to use, he perfected many details and arrangements together with Andrea Corvo, he decided which songs to put on the album and which not, he decided the track list… We are always in contact, since we are both modular synthesiser addicts… And we are awaiting the end of the lockdown in order to plan to meet again in Italy.
The track-by-track explanations for each track on the album in your press release suggests an almost-philosophical leaning to their theme and lyrical content – would you agree with this?
Absolutely. I tend to write about things that I don’t like, rather than things that I do like. That’s in the most simplistic way: I find it easier to write songs about the negative side of the world than it is about the happy side of the world. I’m fascinated by the negative aspects of the world in which I’m living. So I focused on things that scare me. I wrote about depression, mental disorders, drugs, immigration (and its connection with politics). I wrote about possible catastrophic scenarios directly connected to poor climate changes policies, and about past mistakes such like the Chernobyl disaster, that our politicians continue to ignore. I wrote my own lyrics about the sensation to feel alone and basically I tried to focus on my own fears. And religion, for instance, is one of the things I fear more then others… Religion is always one of those things which has fascinated me in a kind of negative way, if you like. It is something which has fascinated me in a kind of gruesome way. I think it’s really disturbing.
I’m not including all religions, I’m not including all people who have religious beliefs. Certainly organised religion, particularly really fundamental Italian religious cults I find extremely disturbing and this whole idea of TV evangelism and using and exploiting people’s weaknesses, exploiting people’s emotional insecurities, basically in order to obtain power, to obtain money, to obtain ego. The particular tracks, “Horizon Ignited” and songs like “Stigmatized (Robotripping)” are based on the absence of god and its refuse: in most of cases people pray when they need help and what they get back is nothing. And the more disquieting thing is how religions, especially Catholic religion, becomes part of the politic. I find that really disturbing. It’s not religion that concerns me since I’m not a believer, it’s not people who have spiritual beliefs, but it’s the politics of religion and the commercial side of religion. Which, in some ways, is the sickest and most disturbing form of politics we have on this Earth, because it masquerades as something else. It masquerades as something, a gateway for people to happiness and to an afterlife or whatever, when in fact all it is, is just people exploiting other people weaker than themselves for the purposes of power and money. I’ve always found that to be a great source of inspiration for me in writing.
On a related note, is there an overarching story or theme to ‘Hostile’?
There is no a specific concept behind the album. It’s just a container of different kind of hostilities. Ongoing hostilities.
On previous albums, there have been a number of guest appearances – are there any on this one, or is it solely Aborym?
Yes, we get to chance to work with some friends in studio… Like Pierluigi Ferro, saxophonist in Macelleria Mobile di Mezzanotte; the talented Alessandra Magno on vocals and my close friend G. Nicotera who played tablas… And I wrote the “The Pursuit Of Happiness” song together with Petrolio’s Enrico Cerrato.
How have you found the reaction to the album so far? Does this affect you at all, or are you quite indifferent to how others view your music?
With an album you never know what’s going to happen, if it’s going to be ignored or lauded… I just hope people we like it as we do. The most important thing is that we love it.
Given the band’s progression away from black metal, how have you found fan reaction down the years? How do you handle those who express disappointment at the move away?
Every time the fans think they know how to categorise us, we take great divides and great pride in disappointing them… Or not. Or surprising them, or however they look at it. Some people like us, some people don’t. Some people love the band’s evolution, some people hate us… It’s funny… When Aborym played extreme metal some peeps said the band was not “true”, when we gave a fuck to the extreme metal music they said Aborym is not an extreme metal band anymore… It makes no sense… That’s the culture of internet commenting. Anyway, it really doesn’t matter. I don’t care too much about people, especially when they are stupid. I hate stupidity.
Are these fans placated in a live setting at all? How do you choose a setlist when gearing up for a performance?
Depending on where we play. At Wacken the crowd was crazy… We usually fix the set list based on where are we going to play, trying to choose the best ones for the people we will find in front of us. Basically we fix a set-list trying to get some brackets… To balance the energies, especially for me and the drummer since we’re getting older…
In the absence of live shows, can you describe an Aborym show to the uninitiated?
It’s just a show both for hearing and sight. It’s energetic, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes ill-mannered… Visually mesmerising…
Are there any tours in the works for once live shows are back?
Unfortunately not yet, and it seems the virus is hitting hard again here…
If you could choose anyone to tour with and anywhere in the world, who would you most like to hit the road with and where?
With Puscifer, definitely… In the U.S. …
The last year-or-so has been unlike any other – how has this affected the band, and how has it affected you?
This is serious what we’re all facing and going through, so I’m just embracing the downtime and keeping busy and hoping we all get through it as quickly as possible.
During the lockdown I tried to do things I usually never have time to do, like watching movies, writing to some distant friends… Listening to old records has helped keep me sane and stopped me from worrying about what I can’t control. Fortunately nothing really changed for me since I never quit working (I do graphic design) and my wife has been a huge help too and I feel very fortunate to be together during this. It’s a drag for sure but the whole world is kind of on pause. I missed seeing my family of course, my friends and playing with the band, but I’m staying positive that we’ll just resume when we can.
How have you been keeping yourself sane through it all? Are there any recommendations you can make to our readers?
As I said before, to listen to old vinyls or music in general can help. Keep active, focus on what’s good and what is not, keep learning new things, enjoy a glass of red, enjoy the nature and the silence, practise kindness…
Has the time in lockdown been productive at all?
Basically I’m always over-productive concerning music. I got the chance to do the latest recording sessions for the new album during the lockdown… Around May 2020. We did the mixing remotely, too… Unfortunately Keith was not able to join us in order to follow the final mixing with us in studio (he lives in Bangkok, Thailand) but thanks to internet we were able to do it remotely. And it was funny, all in all..
If you were to hit the road in future, can UK fans expect a visit at some point once touring is back up and running?
I’d love to play in the UK again… I miss playing in London and I’d love to play in charming cities like Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle just to name a few… I fear Brexit will mean much higher charges and costs which will either price us out of confirming gigs, or we will have to put our fees up too high and promoters will choose against hiring non-British bands. That’s sad.
Thank you for your time, is there anything you’d like to say to our readers?
Right now we want you to isolate, stay safe and be responsible… Thanks a lot Lee for this nice natter, sir…