Interview by Parisa Eshrati
In anticipation of their headlining set at Northwest Terror Fest, we spoke with Italian doom metal power trio UFOMAMMUT to dissect the many themes of their latest full-length record, 8. In this in-depth interview, we discuss exploring the infinite space of our minds, using mythological imagery in lyricism to understand our past, and what we can expect from the group in the near future.
So I wanted to break down the themes of some of the tracks on your latest record, 8. The opening track, “Babel” is based on the biblical myth of Babylon and the story of a united humanity breaking apart into different languages. I think it’s interesting how this kind of parallels with the fact the lyrics aren’t necessarily distinguishable without reading them, the music still portrays this certain message thru mood. So I was curious if you think that music is perhaps the only thing we have left as a means of a universal language and what your part is in creating that dialogue.
Urlo [vocals, bass] - Well, that’s a difficult question, but a very good start. I do think that music is one of the few things that can create unity between people in different parts of the world, even for people who are at war with one another. Music allows people to close their eyes and listen and let them imagine whatever they want depending on the mood of the song. So in some ways, yes, I think music can do the inverse process of what happened in Babylon and bring people together in a harmonious way.
Also, when we decided to title our album with a number, the idea stemmed from the myth of Babylon. We thought it would be really cool that people in different countries can pronounce the title in different ways.
Vita [drums] - Yes, for example the album is called “otto” in Italy, “eight” in UK or USA, “ocho” in Spain, and so on. There a lot of ways to pronounce it and the album has many names, but no matter what it always means the same thing. This is a representation of music being a universal language and despite our language barriers we can still derive the same meaning from a word.
The song “Fatum” expresses that the infinite is emptiness. Some might read this as a very bleak statement, so I’m curious your intention behind that song and thus the intention on the album’s overall theme of infinity.
Urlo - That song specifically is based on a story of a man who has lost himself in space and is just waiting for the big sleep to come. This is why that song specifically carries these themes of being surrounded by the infinite, because it’s just him and pure emptiness.If you think about the infinite, it is nothing but emptiness. It’s not necessarily to intend bleakness, because everything comes full circle. Our thoughts of the universe are relatively so small, and these thoughts can create an infinite loop into something greater. Our thoughts are what create this infinite, circular loop and ultimately we find that everything in the universe resides within itself.
Poia [guitar] - It’s like an infinite matryoshka doll! [laughs]
“Wombdemonium” deals with themes of chaos being an energy of evil which brings confusion. But I imagine being in a band comes with a lot of contained chaos. When do you allow chaos in, when can that confusion pay off?
Urlo - What we play is chaos, but it’s a type of controlled chaos like you mentioned. In “Wombdemonium”, the lyrics state how chaos has the power to bring in more chaos. As human beings we are constantly surrounded by chaos, but it can be channeled into a positive energy to build something controlled. Sometimes chaos will just bring in more chaos like this infinite circle we discussed earlier, and it will create something entirely different. When we are in a recording room, traveling, or playing a show together, we are always facing chaos.
Poia - It’s all a balance, really, between order and chaos. It’s chaos theory applied to music. You have to organize yourself and the music will follow the same attitude. Music is similar to math in that you have to divide the timing to precise fragments. This is a way for controlling chaos. You can understand our method even in our name, UFOMAMMUT. You have the words UFO and mammoth, so there is one part brainy attitude and one part animal composure. When you combine these two attitudes together it represents a fight between chaos and order. There’s always a working balance and that tension is what keeps us going.
The last track, “Psyrcle” is about equal opposites creating each other. I’d like to relate that to the band’s dynamics and hear how each other’s opposite traits personally or musically have created the balance of UFOMAMMUT for all these years.
Vita - Well, it’s not common in rock ‘n roll or really any kind of musical genre for a band to have a consistent lineup for nineteen years. We were all friends before starting this adventure of UFOMAMMUT in 1999, so we were already on the same page about a general musical vision. When the drummer of Urlo and Poia’s last band quit, I was honestly quite happy [laughs]. It gave me this opportunity to join forces with them and pursue music together. I think the key to our longevity is maintaining our friendship first and foremost because we’re a family, not just a band. There’s not much to our dynamic besides that honestly, we just want to do the same things and fight for the same causes. Ultimately making music is our goal, so it all works out.
You present various myths throughout your albums to understand where our fears and hopes stem from and why they still exist. What have been some of the biggest takeaway points in understanding our human nature from exploring these mythological stories in your music?
Urlo - In general, I think it’s impossible to understand human nature. We’ve thought about these mythological stories in our music not in a religious way, but we strive to understand our surroundings. It’s important to consider these mythological figures like Eve, Lucifer, or Ecate so we can understand that in the end, nothing has really changed. Even today we’re living in a super technological society but things are just like they were in the beginning of time. We are still here waging wars, trying to conquer other countries in the same way that the first Neanderthals were trying to conquer the better side of the river to live on. We’re still the same people from ages and ages ago, so it’s good to try and see if there’s a solution in these mythological tales. It’s not easy to understand the future, but regardless it’s interesting to see where we come from.
A lot of these mythological figures, mainly women, that you choose to bring up were controversial because they crossed taboo boundaries of rebellion and knowledge. I’m curious who would you consider a non-mythological person that has pushed these same boundaries and inspire you in that regard.
Poia - We love art, so every artist that is able to cross their own limit of finding something new and trying to be themselves without copying others is an inspiration to us. We can find this attitude among so many artists across all different kinds of mediums,people like Andy Warhol, Stanley Kubrick, The Beatles, whatever. I appreciate anyone who has created something authentically original. Of course, you have to rely on the past for understanding your own future. Nobody has that magic already inside themselves, even The Beatles had to work a lot to reach their potential and understanding their own limits. So this is the quality that inspires us - the effort of trying to be yourself.
You all recently released the book The Art of UFOMAMMUT containing all the graphics from your live performances and album artwork. Now that you can see all this artwork laid out in chronological order, do you see any parallels between the evolution of the art and the evolution of the band? How do you think one aspect helped evolve the other?
Urlo - It’s a difficult thought to pinpoint, but yes, surely in some way the style of the music and the style of our graphics have evolved together. Poia and I make up two-thirds of the visual art collective Malleus. The band and the graphics were born together. If you look back, the early visuals were much simpler and little by little they changed, but there’s no hard and fast rule. Our overall goal with the band is to create something new and different, and same goes for Malleus and the graphics that represent our work. There is a parallel, and though it’s hard to say exactly what that relationship is, it’s always the three of us together in the end.
Poia - If we’re talking about evolution, it’s important to note that evolution is not what many people think it is. It’s not always this one-direction of starting from a simple thing and moving to something more complicated, or going from the worst idea to the best. Evolution is just a continuous change. It’s not to say that what we did in the past is worse than what we do now - it’s just different. We can consider it like a parallel in everything we do in life. We don’t know if we are becoming better people or just different people, it’s something we cannot understand from the inside but being able to look back on our work does offer a slightly new insight.
I saw you guys posted that you’re getting back to writing new material, what’s that process been like so far?
Urlo - Well, we hope that we can meet again soon. It’s been ten weeks since we’ve all met up because the weather has been so bad. We had the idea of starting something new but we’re just in the very initial stages of writing. Next year will mark 20 years of UFOMAMMUT, so it would be nice to celebrate by doing something completely new. Maybe we’ll do a hip hop album or something, who knows [laughs].
Vita - Yeah why not! We could do something Beastie Boys-esque.
Urlo - [laughs] That would be a bit complicated.
Poia - If only. We can’t play as good as they used to be!
What else can we look forward to from you all the rest of this year?
Vita - We’ll tour in Eastern Europe from March 22nd till April 6th. We’re really looking forward to playing countries where we’ve never played before, like Hungary or Croatia. Afterwards, we’ll do a mini-tour in Greece, Romania and Slovenia. Then we head to the states and play Maryland Deathfest and Northwest Terrorfest. In the meantime, we’ll try to compose something new. We recorded our album 8 in August of 2016, so for us this album is actually quite old even though it’s our first official full tour for it. We’ve been playing this material for two plus years now, so we’re looking forward to starting something fresh.
Urlo - After we do a U.S. tour, we’ll play some European festivals in the summer and then focus on new material from there on out. We’ll come back to the U.S. again to share that material if you all treat us well!
Vita - And if they want us back!
All interviews posted before October 2015 were originally recorded for KAMP Student Radio.