Elena Alice Fossi (vocals) from Kirlian Camera, Stalingrad Valkyrie and Spectra*Paris
“My social revolt is not winking at any political parties or comfortable positions at all. It’s a total war against the “old modern world”!” Elena Alice Fossi, singer, composer, member of KIRLIAN CAMERA, STALINGRAD VALKYRIE and SPECTRA*PARIS, is indeed a woman of exceptional vocalic power, musical talent but above all of strong views. I had a chance to talk to her about music, the current situation and even politics and one thing is sure - her voice cannot be unheard in the sea of others. While many decide to stay quite or present bland, moderate opinions she chooses to be herself - an individual, uncompromising talent.
Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: My first question will be pretty obvious: how are you handling in such difficult, dangerous times? As an artist, as a human being?
Elena: This is the time when you have a sensation that something sinister hiding in the shadows came out of the closet. In the past, some prophecies painted a similar scenario, but in the instant certain matters are being read here and there, well, they seem so far from you, it’s obvious... However, now unease, restlessness and fear dominate the hearts of the people. We found ourselves locked up in our home any moment now, without even realizing what was exactly happening. Here in Italy, nowadays, people keep on getting sick and some are dying. That’s the reason why we’re denied the possibility of leaving our homes, even if it is just for a short walk. Our cities seem to be held hostage and their beautiful corners are now looking silenced and abandoned.
The police and the army stake out our desert streets and the atmosphere looks unreal like a science-fiction movie. Angelo and I are kinda lucky, in a way, as we created a small bunker wherein we can compose and get music from everywhere and this relieves our days, even fortifying our soul, although it’s sorrowful to know how much loneliness now accompanies sick people. People die alone, isolated, getting no chance to meet their friends or family, without an affectionate face by their bedside. This is really very hard to accept. However, I am made of intense dreams, feeling exactly like those few trees in front of my house that, regardless of the dismay, are giving life to wonderful pale pink buds. This allows me to approach such a story in a different way. Let’s start from the fact I love funerals. A funeral is perhaps what comes closest to my aesthetic sense, because it’s often a sober party, whereby excitement and crying merge into an intimacy that goes beyond any form.
On such an occasion, sensibility prevails over cunning and it seems that everyone takes their usual daily clothes off, giving rather life to unforced smiles, heartfelt hugs and words that come straight from the heart. People have the opportunity to feel the value of suffering. The price is high, really, but that particular moment gives out an unmatched inner growth. Well, the reverential silence of this terrible historical period to me is like crying at a funeral. It wipes me out and enters my bones like a drill, yet it is sweet like a homemade cake. I savour fear as if it was a soul nourishment and so it is. I don’t want to ignore this feeling, I want it to last over time, I want it to remind me not only of the value of freedom, but that it also reminds me of having a spirit of sharing, which is essential for redefining human values; and above all, I want to think that the reality to which this so-called “society” has accustomed us so far is not normal, not at all.
Many social rules and attitudes are wrong, as well as too many abuses on the environment and on ourselves have been done throughout time. And in all this, those who should govern the country and protect their citizens are instead complicating and worsening all things, just for some personal financial gain, in fact they are nothing more than TRAITORS OF MY HOMELAND. One example out of many: in 2015 about, they decided to make a further cut to health funds and now - although here in Italy there’s plenty of prestigious and courageous doctors and researchers - a lot of machinery to save people affected by the virus is missing. I will do everything I can to permanently impress this concept on people’s brains and souls.
RoD: How do you think the current events will impact people? Do you think the worldview will change in a way or humankind is a hopeless case?
Elena: These days are like intense and swollen drops of feelings and reflections. It is already a pile of rubble, from which every now and then a small phoenix is trying to rise again. In fact, if you go beyond the crippling and claustrophobic attitude with which we are used to handling our thoughts, we can begin to notice some access to a new sensitivity. Someone will cross the border of animistic oblivion to unleash a sense of humanity that distractions of this busy life risked making us forget. We are witnessing an inevitable, abrupt, unnatural awakening that could shake consciences, might restore the qualities of the human being in front of the collective. Humanity needs a reset, so despair and distress are excellent allies in such direction. Now more than ever, we all have a duty to look inside ourselves. In spite of the fact that we are used to being wrapped in a modernity full of futile consolations and vices, we are now surrounded by apocalyptic walls that our species has built, piece by piece. Is this not an exhortation to change?
In Italy this exhortation came on a sunny morning, in late February. Now you can no longer turn your head to the other side. Let’s use this moment to renew our soul! Resizing the value of joy can be tiring, traumatic and it seems that people have to hit rock bottom before they can realize it. On the other hand, the mental habit to which we constantly are subjected to has accustomed us to a dualism in the way of thinking that has the net purpose of dividing us. Socially and politically it is like living as braindead hooligans. So, if you are not leftist, you will inevitably have to be rightist; if you don’t like white, you can only like black, and so on and so forth... Our social structure is designed to divide into two factions; it is not by chance (divide et impera) and all the myriads of wonderful shades not only are getting lost into an infinite labyrinth, but are taken as contradictions, since the human brain has become too lazy to understand that the vastness of choices can coexist in harmony. In the midst of this storm, the new man could arrive and he will be the one who, after tasting and internalizing the evil, will have a far superior elevated consciousness and sensitivity.
He will find himself to even console those dim-witted sheep of the old world (who - let it be said - on top are not mild at all...), so I here refer to those people who were first numbed out and then alerted by an anachronistic system based on mass television, junk literature, fake culture, distorted information coming from biased magazines, delirium-like websites, etc. They are like a radio that plays ‘Volare’ ad libitum, they are a judgment slipped from the arms of a cliché... They are pure selfishness, under the thick blanket of a ragtag do-goodism to make a good impression to ghost friends at some petrified bar. And they will remain that way, even after a war, hopelessly. The new man will demand a conscience that broke free from the lies of the history books with which we have been accurately tamed. The new man will then find himself even having to comfort those not-at-all-mild sheep I mentioned before, because in the post-apocalyptic period they will feel defeated and devastated, totally unable to stay on their own. The new man will be a Christ dressed like Satan... for those who do not have eyes to see, or ears to listen, but above all, for those who do not have a soul which is able to really “feel”.
RoD: Many people are now struggling in various ways - not only in terms of health or family tragedies with people dying but also financially - especially those self-employed in leisure, tourism, gastronomy etc. I wanted to ask you about musicians with the tours being cancelled - is there a way you can survive? Do you think coronavirus will change the way the artistic branch will exist in the future?
Elena: The only way that remains in such circumstances is to publish everything online, on the various platforms. In fact, we had to stop the merchandise sales, as well as we postponed all the planned events. At this point, surviving is economically difficult for a group like ours that cannot rely on a following of many million supporters and that managed to work by earning just the bare minimum. I do not imagine what would happen if the Internet were also switched off, as some criminal politicians are suggesting throughout the last days... It is a nightmare.
RoD: You recently touched a topic of censorship - could you please develop a bit on that? Talking art wise - do you think art is limitless or there are some boundaries you’d never cross as an artist?
Elena: I don’t have the attitude of one who speaks a lot, but when I do, I find it very difficult to “clean” my words, because my heart opens up even without my permission, so every time I get screwed by that! Thus, it is no coincidence that the educated and respectable “lords of the web” occasionally want to put a brake on my language... I think that the real artist should not be stopped and I also think that there are not many authentic artists around, but dangerous people who peddle bad gestures for art in order to have some spotlight focused on themselves for a moment. In the case point, I had criticized in a post the positions taken by Mrs. Christine Lagarde, by Mr. Giuseppe Conte and by the ECB in general.
I hadn’t used any offensive tones, though. Quite simply, I had pointed out that I did not agree with them. It is not a secret that I do not agree with this state of leaders I identify as traitors, at whose presidency of the council there are minority political entities who were never elected by the Italian people, except for a small part of the voters. We have witnessed several “coups d’état” here in dramatic succession, which have been passed off as “democratic choices”. Now we are petrified at the show of these European Union strong powers who do their shady business in collusion with our deviant politicians, who... hopefully, one day will be accused of high treason against the state they now represent, however not having any effective popular consent. Same opinion as for the entire UE goes. I don’t understand much about politics, it’s possible, and the years I spent at the Pisa University of Political Sciences have not brought good results, if anything, highlighting the disgust I felt for such an institution...
Anyway, I was saying, my post stayed for about four seconds, then going to disappear into thin air, so that... I even got the doubt of having made a mistake in posting it! The fact is that I have been told that my Facebook profile turned into invisibility for a few minutes, in fact I had problems seeing it. Many other times we have been censored by Facebook and Tumblr, even just for completely quiet photos which were not out of the parameters required by such social networks. In fact, then we always won the regarding dispute and the photos were put back into circulation, but in the meantime, they had lost their visibility, 90% at least...
RoD: Would you say about yourself you are a socially engaged artist? How is it represented in your art?
Elena: Angelo and I have been working for years using metaphors. We always have lived into an unconventional space. We soon went to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world and so I could say that we live in a sort of “experimental enclosure”, because we have given ourselves a life without any compromise nor contamination, therefore we don’t watch television, don’t have external daily contacts, have no social life. We could perhaps be considered as lab rats, so with time passing by and step by step, there has been a strong dissonance between our life and that of the average citizen. We explored new dimensions and, instead of hiding it, we tried to describe them through our songs’ lyrics, through metaphors, as told above.
What has not been understood for years is our sense of distancing from material things, so when someone was accusing us that we were politically controversial, we often were on Europa, the satellite of Jupiter, and we were trying to explain the existence of a different life, more complex and elevated than the football supporters-like standard daily sense. There is no team for us, neither political faction nor social position in which we can exactly find our identity. We are orphans and we don’t even accept DNA as an excuse to love someone. Our music is our true identity and a deviation from common sense, it’s our creed. Anyway, there is a contact that makes us cling to the world and it is the will to fight for what we believe in. There is no point in living if we do not defend certain values. And, you know, there are many improprieties we still have to witness nowadays. One of the subjects that touches me most is the way women are still considered. Apparently, it seems almost unfair that I underline this point, because, let’s face it, we women have many opportunities to be pampered and cuddled.
But what we don’t get is a chance of following our own path without a fine spanner-in-the-works. Still in many societies being a mother is a plain and simple obstacle and you are often forced to make a choice that must necessarily lead you - woman - to some important renunciation. Furthermore, as is well known, the salary of a working woman is often lower despite we are talking about the same exact job men do, especially in certain enterprising areas. However, what most saddens me about all this is the attitude of certain old-style feminists, who almost seem to want to blame a woman if she does not use behaving like a truck driver. Another ugly taboo to overcome is the consideration towards those who do not have any standardised sexual orientation, so some people have a problem if I love a woman, and that’s a fact happening in the western countries, too.
The good people just say that we are all equal having equal rights, but this is really too little. And it’s not even that exact. We are all different. There are millions of diversities passing through the people of this world. We must really take these differences into consideration, loving and respecting them. It is undeniable that in recent years something has been done to normalize non-heterosexual couples, at least in some so-called civilized countries, but there is still the shadow of an anomaly that continues to weigh and influence the social identity of the individual. It wouldn’t be so difficult to get to a point where person X or Y shows up for what he thinks, for the job he does, for the hobbies he has and not for his/ her sexual taste, right?!
RoD: Now let’s move on to music for a while. You are involved in numerous projects - KIRLIAN CAMERA of course I had pleasure to last see in Vienna, but also STALINGRAD VALKYRIE, and SPECTRA*PARIS - and I’m sure that’s not all. KIRLIAN CAMERA, for me, is pure magical, poetic, transcendental journey, SPECTRA*PARIS is a glossy, shiny, energizing champagne shot and STALINGRAD VALKYRIE is profound, exceptional experience. Being extremely creative, you keep on finding new ways to express your ideas and visions in a highly classy and impressive way. Could you tell me a bit more about how each project represents your artistic sensitivity and inspirations?
Elena: Thank you very much for the beautiful expressions you are using to describe... Making music is for me like eating. I couldn’t put a single dish on the table every day. I would go crazy with depression! Therefore, creating multiple projects is a necessity, rather than a banal desire, due to the fact the moods are variable, being in constant movement. I frankly must say that KIRLIAN CAMERA is just my cup of tea. From the very first time I went to listen to this music, (then I didn’t even know Angelo and the band, as I actually was a little girl!) I have felt the ideal depth for me, because the pain that hovers in this musical space has for sure nothing to do with any theatre-like attitude.
KIRLIAN CAMERA is a real dimension, something that you cannot sing only: that’s a way of life, instead. And, after 20 years, I can reiterate the concept! The dimension of SPECTRA*PARIS is also part of me, because I love playing with things, even going to reverse their meaning. It is a shame for those who stop at the appearance of the music that doesn’t seem suitable for a dark-oriented underground scene. Under the provocative and somewhat sexy attitude of certain titles, there is a kind of a sophisticated sense of sorrow, even if it remains a bit hidden under many veils of irony. I could not survive without making fun of things and myself, even if the “risk” is that some naive immediately comes out shouting “treason”! STALINGRAD VALKYRIE, on the other hand, is my cure and, after having been in the shadows for a long time, Angelo and I no longer could ignore it. Unfolding the vocal cords to chase swollen and everted sounds is a bit like raising the body to the sky. The hymn is a sacred house and when it calls, we could not avoid answering. It doesn’t matter if the result is “Pompous, Shamelessly Uncool, Heartfelt B-Music”!
RoD: Either I listen to your music or watch photo shootings or live performances I cannot escape the feeling that you are a real professional, but also a perfectionist… is this the case? Do you have a clear vision of what you want to share with your projects or the ideas, or does the vision come during the creative process?
Elena: During the various phases of musical and graphic composition of a project, I think I am in a constant war against myself, in a way. I consider myself a kind of passionate, instinctive and direct creature, so when even a vague idea sticks to my head, I’ve to quit everything I am doing, in order to satisfy that impulse. Sometimes this happens to be a wrong feeling, a dead end, an unclean crap, so I carefully go to delete every trace of what I’ve written down!
Other times a vision goes to take some effective shape, never without going through the divinely furious Angelo Bergamini’s paws who, with his magic wand, aligns all the electronic instrumental “chakras” in strategy position! Well, it’s when a disposition starts in me as opposed to my sense of free passion. There, I am at risk of getting really trapped inside the project I am taking care of. Becomes my prison. Even my body changes... My ears become wide and heavy, so much that I struggle to move because of their weight and I see my eyes getting stuck on the computer screen, as if they were marbles lost in the sand. I pass and review every millimetre of flowing material under control, until even the computer gets bored of me and begins to rebel, sending off amplified electric discharges. I don’t know whether I’d call it perfectionism or paranoia!
RoD: Your music includes rich instrumental soundscapes which fantastically back your incredible vocal. Every time I have a chance to see you live, I have a feeling you’re creating the microcosm of your own, a momentary escape from brutality of the real world, a mesmerising spectacle - how do you compose your music and plan your live shows. What is the effect you want to achieve?
Elena: We want to get people involved, trying to reach and drive them to another place where, supposedly, they can get an easier way to find out themselves. Our sounds are often arising from the universal unconscious which we capture in various corners of the audio space, then going to bring them home, after being carefully customized. It is a passionate research, very involving, which sometimes shakes us deeply, almost to the point of hurting...
RoD: What is your idea of art, music - what is its purpose, especially in such chaotic, cruel times?
Elena: Just these days Ennio Morricone, a musician I enormously admire, said that now is not the time to make music, because, despite of its importance, it is now inappropriate. Respecting the people who are suffering and those who are dying, is right and dutiful, I understand it very well, but let’s look at the facts from another point of view. Suddenly people found themselves barricaded in their home, physically isolated from the rest of the world, afraid of the mass media that don’t put any limit to alerting; and that’s understandable, but going to exaggerate the tones of fear and exasperation turns useful information into panic and despair, you know... We don’t have to live this difficult period as if we were survivors, even less as larvae and if music is so important for those like us who make it, well, then this is the time to prove it, using it to make us all feel less alone and lost.
In the exact case of KC, we want to keep on being close to our audience, as we’ve always done, because music is not a handsomely paid concert, or a time when everything is going easy. Music is pain and yet it’s also what can relieve pain. This is the exact moment when a musician must be able to prove that music and art in general can generate a strong sense of aggregation, can give comfort, can be a medicine for the soul. For the very same reason, I would like to encourage people to mature a passion and find some real meaning for their own life, going beyond that of the materiality that has conditioned us so much so far, making us slaves of a mechanism of which we are only pawns under pressure. It’s time to scream and raise your “self” and make our identity flourish again. Now for deep reflection has come, no matter whether through music or anything else. Be careful, the consequences of this bad period might bring further new chains. There is a need to regain possession of one’s life, turning it into existence. We would like to give this kind of message through music: you must EXIST, don’t just live-and-that’s-all.
RoD: It is probably pointless asking about tour plans right now, or any plans actually, but when the worst is over - what do you think we may expect from you? Will you be composing new things now or rather focus on family and friends?
Elena: Clearly this situation has messed us up a lot and everything we formerly planned went to hell. The tours are skipped and now everything seems to be nothing more than tabula rasa. I must say that our fans and friends are showing their affection, writing us many messages, giving us strength through words of such a depth I’ll never forget. Every now and then some fans we are in contact with show us the ticket of some scheduled concert they bought before all this happened and I swear it’s painful to me... Now it is the time to try rewarding them. So, we are already at work in many ways. The first idea coming to our mind regards working as much as possible via the web, so we will make some songs available as free gifts for our fans and others, then they can opt for paying in order to support the band, if they want.
We are not planning any crowdfunding platform though, as our free songs will remain free, exactly. Our label will likely forgive us if we occasionally post songs in order to keep our contact with the audience alive! We already started this operation with a particular and atypical song, a remake of ‘Der Letzte Tourist In Europa’, written in 1948 in the early post-war period; unfortunately recent events almost seem to echoing that lost atmosphere, kind of. Now, we want to continue with other extempore songs which are at the top of our thoughts this moment. Probably in the next few days we are publishing the ‘Odyssey Europa’ new Italian version, because we want to send a sign to our compatriots too. Some samples from our next release, ‘Cold Pills’ will be introduced to the listeners, step by step. ‘Cold Pills’ is a particular album, kind of stand-alone work containing brand new material which is going to sound more atmospheric than other works coming out from the black rooms of our bunker. For sure, organizing all our musical plans will take a bit of time, as well as to resume our activities and, at the same time, to embrace friends and relatives who now seem really lost far off. One thing does not negate the other, that’s for sure!
RoD: My last question - is there any motto you live by? And is there a message you’d like to share with your fans?
Elena: The time for a serious and weighted SOCIAL REVOLT has come, in Italy and in Europe. And I don’t intend to support those four fools who are used to take any occasion to break shop windows and destroy cheap cars for the sake of making a trite mess, nor do I mean those movements of unwary dopey who cannot help but being the first henchmen in the system they claim to fight against, thus deviating the real revolt by giving it a totally reversed identity, so that people don’t see any real solution, as they couldn’t find any social spirit in those “daddy's revolutionaries”. My social revolt is not winking at any political parties or comfortable positions at all. It's a total war against the “old modern world”!
All pictures by courtesy of Elena Fossi