It´s not often that I go into instrumental music. I´ve always had an irrational incapacity to enjoy music without vocals in album format. I like instrumental parts, a lot of the Maiden stuff I grew up on where the lengthy twin guitar passages (think “The Duellists” off “Powerslave” for example), I loved being locked in those passages. Australasia was a discovery during the summer, I made a connection, I found a fellow music voyager in Gian Spatullo. You can´t deny potent atmospheres, they grab you in. It´s different than say Jeff Loomis shredding away on songs without vocals. “Notturno” has a charming nocturnal vibe that appears shy and introverted but in the end has had an influential effect on yours truly. I went on to find more about this ethereal essence coming from Italy.
Hi Gian! Firstly thanks for taking the time to do this interview. It´s a gloomy, grey, rainy and stormy sunday on The Faroe Islands. How are things down in Italy?
Gian: Today’s very sunny, it’s quite unusual also for a southern italian autumn. I wish i had some time for mountain biking instead of going to work.
Would a sunny day be a perfect setting to compose material for something like Australasia? I´m asking because the new album has a very nocturnal feel to it.
Gian: Any weather would be good as soon as it is special and inspiring. A sunny day with a nice sunset color would be great in the same way as a heavy rain day. Probably it is more about the way the feeling hits you than the environment itself.
The nocturnal inspiration has a meaning. I’ve spent a lot of time working alone by night while writing the album and I loved these moments. They were a great inspiration
Alright, so how do you feel about “Notturno” now that it has been released and you´ve probably gotten some distance from it?
Gian: I love it and I think it is the best Australasia work so far, but I see it as a stepping stone rather than a reached goal. If I listen to it I think that there are many new solutions that I would like to try and new territories that I still would like to explore.
And how has the reception been so far from external parties?
Gian: All the reviews so far were great and also the people who listened to “Notturno” loved it. I reckon I’m pretty objective towards my work and probably I’m one of my worst detractors. I also received positive feedbacks from people who didn’t like previous Australasia records and I’m pretty proud about that.
I really liked the album myself. It´s a different kind of listening experience, very therapeutical because of the flow and the instrumental nature. I mentioned that there´s a strong force of escapism at work. I´d like to ask if Australasia works as a musical exploration or if it´s more like an escape thing, or both?
Gian: I consider it as a therapy. It helps me a lot in keeping my inner balance. On the other hand it is very stimulating to try new solutions and experiences while composing and recording music. Definitely it’s something that makes life worth living, like art in general should do I suppose.
I guess that´s also where the evolutionary part comes into play. You mention several influences, which are very different from one another and also the monicker Australasia, which hints at a voyage. Can you shed some info on how these concepts work together?
Gian: When choosing a monicker for the project, I was looking for a name that would mean something undefined and related to a journey. An uncertain territory with no precise boundaries. I’m also a fan of Pelican that has a great album named “Australasia”. Let’s say that is a combination of things that made me pick that word.
Alright, so the Pelican reference has been confirmed then, I had my suspicions once I was made aware of it.
Gian: They are a band that I love a lot but that’s not the only reason why I choose that moniker.
Yes, I realize. But it´s a part of reason right?
Gian: Yes, absolutely it is!
Alright. Regarding the music itself, was it a conscious decision in making it instrumental and not having lead vocals so to speak?
Gian: Australasia is deliberately an instrumental project. I’ve always been a fan of music with no words (my first love as a child was the work of Ennio Morricone). I think it requires a special and deeper sensitivity for both musicians and listeners. You usually don’t listen to post-rock or anything else instrumental because you want some background music but because you really care… or at least this is my point of view.
You´ve started to have some form of vocals though, like on the track “Invisible”, but those aren´t exactly lead vocals per se.
Gian: Yes, it’s more like the vocals are an instrument rather than proper “vocals”. I’m not totally against the use of voice but I add it only when I think that some singing would really help the track to reach its purpose.
Makes sense. You´ve been signed to a couple of labels, currently being on Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings. How did this cooperation come about
Gian: The owners of Apocalyptic Witchcraft work for Candlelight Records too. They contacted me after I sent a promo to Candlelight. At that time Apocalyptic Witchcraft was not established yet.
Ok. AWR then specializes in specific types of music? I see the roster is pretty small.
Gian: They started their business this year and they have plenty of time to get bigger. Their focus is on music that combines a dark progressive side with extreme sounds. I love all of their bands, especially Shrines, they’re great!
Yeah, I figured it had only just started. I loved the Antichrist Imperium album. Have been wanting to check out Shrines as well.
Gian: A.I. is great as well but I think Shrines is more my cup of tea, definitely worth checking out.
Have you signed up for more releases with AWR?
Gian: I’ve signed up for “Notturno” only. As they are a new label I can understand that they prefer to avoid long term commitments.
That´s completely understandable yeah. This is kinda leading up to my next part. The music industry. How do you view it as a musician who composes and releases music in an age where the output stampedes over the demand?
Gian: It’s quite cool, today you have easy access to any kind of music, while in the past you needed a big effort to get anything barely underground. Unfortunately big quantities also mean a depreciation of the goods. If you are a listener it depends on how much the music is important for you. If you are a musician, well, that’s something completely different. It means you have to fight hard to earn visibility. A lot of people complain about the current age but I think that many bands and labels probably wouldn’t had a place to be 15 or 20 years ago.
There´s definitely pros and cons with the new music setup. What I wanted to ask, in the case of Australasia, how important is it to gain visibility, “good” sales etc?
Gian: It is really important to have some people who really care about Australasia. There’s not a plan to get countless fans. I’m rather working to build, brick by brick, something that I can share with a few people who feel really involved with the music. Quality over quantity and genuine passion are the most important things. I always work to spread the word about Australasia but always with the music as the main purpose.
Would this include playing live at some point then?
Gian: Probably not. It’s extremely difficult to find other musicians that would/could join me and it’s impossible to bring Australasia on stage only by myself.
By now I’m planning only on composing and recording music. In the future it would be nice to play some shows but I’m currently facing too many difficulties to seriously consider that possibility.
Alright. I have a couple of more questions that´s more about your taste and relationship with music. For starters, can you name 3 albums or bands that have influenced you on who you´ve become today as a musician?
Gian: Wow that’s a hard one hahaha! Let me think about it a minute…
… I would start with the soundtrack of the whole “Dollars trilogy” by Ennio Morricone. That’s one of my earliest childhood memories and every time I start writing music I try (without succeeding) to create the same magic instant when I first listened to it through my dad’s stereo. Secondly, “Happy Songs For Happy People” by Mogwai, my introduction to post rock. Third place is a draw between Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” and Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures” two records that I feel are part of my DNA.
Next up, can you name an album from 2015 or recent years that has made an impact on you… or a band?
Gian: I’m currently listening a lot to “In Black & Gold” by Hey Colossus! Not many recent records in my playlist actually.
Lastly, are there any extreme metal albums that you use as inspiration filter when writing for Australasia?
Gian: I would definitely say anything by At The Gates. Their guitar work is amazing, beautifully woven. Every time I listen to their albums something new gets my attention.
Ok then, I think that covers it. Thanks for doing this interview Gian. Any last words you´d like to share before we close the session?
Gian: Thanks to you for the interview and to everybody who took some minutes to read it. I would like to ask to all the musical voyagers and dreamers to listen to the new Australasia album and join this journey, thank you!
For more info about Australasia, check out their Facebook page here
“Notturno” is out now through Apocalyptic Witchcraft
Extreme Metal Voyager review here