30. 9. 2018THE SPIRITUAL BAT – Being goth means being myself, being free to be myself.
Hello Rosetta and Dario, I‘m glad you took your time to do this interview! When I was thinking about asking you to do an interview, I was afraid you might turn it down. We're a metal webzine after all, but we're also interested in genres like rock, punk etc. Have you ever done an interview for a metal media? And what is your opinion about this genre?
Rosetta: Hi Petr, thank you! I can't remember any specific interviews, but I am pretty sure some metal zines have reviewed our work before. Metal-heads seem to be more open minded than goths, which we appreciate! Personally, I used to listen to a lot of metal in my late teens. I saw Metallica and Guns 'n' Roses in the same week. I had a whole bunch of cassettes, can't remember many names but I'm sure I had Iron Maiden, Dio, Quiet Riot... I haven't followed anymore, I went through some classical training, I studied some ethnomusicology, was into world music, and then jazz... still like them, but haven't followed since I discovered The Spiritual Bat, postpunk, goth, deathrock... But I know there's so much metal out there, there are interesting sub-genres, and there's good metal and cheesy metal, as for every genre. It's funny that after you sent us this interview we were asked to do a dark-goth cover of a metal song for a tribute compilation. Not sure if we are going to do it, due to time restraints and being crazy busy. But interesting coincidence!
The main reason behind this interview is your latest album and your Prague show in March. Let‘s start with “Your Own World - And The Vision Of Sound”. I like this album a lot and it offers two main themes that complement each other. Atmospheric, deep songs combined together with fast-paced and more straightforward ones. The album feels very dynamic and people get hooked up on it really fast. My friend said about you : “They‘re simply hitmakers” :-) How do you feel about this album now, when some time has passed?
Rosetta: Thank you! Wow you have some strange friends! Us? Hitmakers? Well, I wish there were more people like your friend. I normally tend to be very critical for years after the publication of an album. So I want more and more from myself as I bring those songs on tour. This time I am strangely satisfied with it. Not that I think it couldn't be better, but I think it delivers what it needs to deliver. It means a lot to me, personally, emotionally, and psychologically. As always, we put everything we have got in our music, all our energy, all our knowledge, all our love. This album has a bit of my father in it. He recently passed away, and somehow there are some indirect references to him and to his battle in this album, so I will always cherish it.
Rosetta: Well, I think in each album we have some 'faster' songs, like the title track in Through The Shadows album, where there is also a song like Wish Power, and then there are Sacrament, Deceiving, We Are Born We Live We Die, Once Upon A Time, Sento, Linfo... not that they are particularly fast, they are quite pulsing though. I think in this last album there is some more anger, although We Are Born from the previous album was a pretty pissed off song, too!
Every music genre works with some types of clichés and the gothic one is probably way up front. It seems you're not eccentric according to your latest photos and live shows. I don‘t think it's bad, when bands have some sort of image on stage but you don't seem to follow various rules and guidelines what to wear and what not to wear, or am I wrong?
Rosetta: Hahaha, to me, personally, being goth means being myself, being free to be myself. So although I love the punk-rocker/deathrocker aesthetics, particularly when it is DIY and creative, I am far from considering any sort of uniform I need to wear to feel like I fit in, far from feeling I need to follow the fashion. I like what I like, and I am who I am.
Rosetta, you are not far from the gothic image, but when it comes to you, your dreadlocks take most of the attention. How long have they been growing? And how hard is taking care for them?
Rosetta: I think this is the first time I have been asked this question in an interview! It has happened that at times, strangers stopped me to ask about it. I am not always happy when strangers do that. At times I hear a strange note in their tone, as if dreads were some sort of freak accident, or dirty. Well, to me it is very spiritual, it is a symbol of my Journey. I had my hair braided in New York in 1994, by a girl named Fanta, who was a dancer in the Ballet Bougarabou du Senegal. I remember I used to work in a restaurant in the Village at that time (in New York) and I got to work late... I didn't exactly know that I was going to dread it. It happened spontaneously. I stopped re-braiding after a few months, and let it grow into dreads. It represented a major choice and a change, in my life. I do cut them once in a while, about once a year. I don't bother with maintenance, much. It takes time to wash, and especially to dry. Sometimes I want to shave it all off to save time, but it is a part of me. And I do like it.
Rosetta: Well, we are for freedom of being yourself, for education, for spirituality, respect, love... We fear and even loathe ignorance, hate, racism, greed, selfishness... We work on ourselves so as not to fall for such basic instincts. Surely there are negativities in our scene as well, but luckily most people we have met seem to feel the same way as we do. We actually meet pretty awesome people, though they are completely different from us and from each other! What matters is reciprocal respect, and possibly understanding.
When you play shows in foreign countries, do you take time to get to know the cities you play in? Do you like to travel? How do you feel about Prague, where you played recently? I'd guess, Prague has some sort of magic image. Your album “Through The Shadows” even contains an instrumental piece called “Prague”...
Rosetta: We love to travel, and we love to travel through music! We are such bats! However, that's not exactly the same as going on vacation, especially being an underground band with very limited economic means. Sightseeing as tourists is not usually possible, because that would involve a longer stay, hotels, etc. But definitely, we absolutely love learning about the history, the landmarks, the culture, the customs, the food of the places we visit. We love to spend time with local friends and love when they can show us around, some show us their favorite spots, some guide through the landmarks of their area and tell us about the country, the people, the art. But see, even this last trip we didn't have enough time to even do a proper guided tour in Prague. We always see the venues, and whatever is on the way to the venue and the hotels. Well, this last time at least we managed to take the subway into the centre late at night, and to take a couple of pictures in the Old Town Square. I would have liked to go on an alchemic tour!
Dario: Prague has a special meaning to me. I was in Prague in 1990 for an art festival, in which I took part. I came with Lamberto Bracaglia, the founder of the Alchemist Painters movement, of which I was a member. I loved it so much I went again in 1991 for a holiday. It was a very special time, Havel was coming. And of course, Prague and Alchemy are tightly connected.
Dario is blind, which is a handicap he managed to overcome, as we can see in his music. But it's different to compose at home and to travel to new places. And it's amazing, he does live shows, big respect for that! How does Dario feel on stage?
Dario: independently from my eyesight, but maybe influenced by it - I was born with a condition that got worse and worse - I have never really been an exhibitionist. Actually, I am sort of an introvert... I mean I am quite funny and communicative with my friends, but I am certainly not outgoing ... I was never interested in performing in front of an audience. In fact the previous incarnations of my band, under the moniker Spiritual Bats (plural) I played very few shows, and not thanks to me, because I was always the reluctant one. I am now thankful they convinced me to open for Rozz Williams in 1994. I had suffered another terrible blow to my already critical condition, so I came to live in a world of shadows. And I in spite of my natural dislike for live exhibitions, in spite of the fact that our band was broken up at that time, and hadn't been rehearsing, I accepted to play on that occasion. Not only that, but it was also a last minute decision, so last minute that we had all gone to the venue to watch the the Daucus Karota's show, and ended up on stage playing! Playing Daucus Karota's instruments! But the turning point for my stage fright was later on, in 2008. By this time there was only two of us left, me and Rosetta. We had also lost a dear friend, Claudio Mura, our sound engineer, who suddenly passed away. He was someone we spent a lot of time with. He had been pushing us to play live. He kept on saying that we needed to play live to become real musicians, complete musicians. We even argued about it, we said we didn't need to exhibit ourselves, that we were going to do it, soon or later, but we weren't in a hurry. At the same time he kind of yelled at us, telling us that we were getting old, and that we were too afraid to do it. Well, he was right. Suddenly he was gone, that was our last argument. From then on we just knew we had to, we forced ourselves to play live as much as possible. It was really hard, it was almost a violence on ourselves. After the second show, in which we could not hear ourselves, we felt so humiliated we cried and swore we would never play live ever again. But then we are not cowards, we felt we owed it to Claudio. We decided that we had to conquer this. So we started touring. After five coast-to-coast tours, I feel comfortable on stage. I am still not a stage animal, and I can't move around too much for fear of hitting things or falling off the stage, but I am now feeling at home on stage. Oh and I love traveling, more than I like staying at home!
From this perspective, it was also a bit weird to me, that you did a two months long tour in the US. Such long traveling would exhaust me and, honestly, I'm in a great shape. Many underground bands, that toured the US commented on American promoters, that unlike their European colleagues, they don't care very much. What experience do you have with your US tour? And what about feedback from the audience? How many people did attend?
Rosetta: Touring as an underground band is no vacation! It is a lot of work, little sleep, little privacy, lots of driving! On the last American tour we even broke a personal record, 11 shows in a row! Our tours have been DIY, and organized with as little money as possible, the people who booked us or helped us book are often supporters or other bands who offered to share their
equipment and a place to spend the night... We rarely had to book hotels. Of course, if you have your own room and your own bathroom you may be more comfortable and you may rest more, but you don't get to know people, the way they live, the way they host you. We were lucky to have amazing friends, supporters, and promoters, most of the time! See, we never had great expectations, never expected red carpets or VIP treatment, but at times that's what we got anyway, people have hosted us in beautiful houses, and sometimes in very simple, or very messy houses. Sometimes we were hosted for several days, like in San Francisco, for example, when we either had days off or had more gigs in the same area. Our American friends have offered whatever they could, and helped us make things happen! Europeans in our experience are much more formal. Which is not bad, it is just a different approach. American audiences are usually very warm and communicative, they often come up and talk to you. Sometimes you feel you are treated like a future rock-star. They made us feel like they believed in us! We had mostly good shows but also some bad shows, good turnouts and poor turnouts, but there was always something positive. For example we've had shows where few people showed up, but they bought double or triple items of merch!
Do you prefer smaller clubs, like the one in Prague, big festival stages, or both? I saw a video, when you were forced to play during the day. How do bats cope with light? :-)
Rosetta: We love both. Small, intimate, clubs are great because we are physically close to the audience, we hang out with the fans after the show... Festivals and big stages are awesome, too, of course! They usually have a backstage where you can change and do make-up without doing acrobatics, which sometimes I do, in the pubs restrooms... Also in festivals you get more exposure, due to the bigger production and promotion, so you may be seen and liked by audiences who are there for other bands... what is most important is to be put in the condition to play at the best of our abilities, to have decent equipment, audio and visual, and a good sound tech. It is incredible, you are right! We did play in the daylight once! It was at Castle Party and I was wearing my sunglasses, not because I wanted to act as a diva, but because I had the sun in my eyes! It felt good, actually! It was right before sunset... we didn't burn! And the Castle Party stage was cool, so would do it again any time of day or night!
Rosetta, I found some older interviews, that you were studying opera singing in the US and from what I got, it was during the tragic 11. 9. 2001. Could you comment on your days in New York, what was the idea behind opera singing study and how was your life affected by the terrorist attack?
Rosetta: Actually, I studied opera in my college years, which was long before that! No need to reveal my age, right? I knew music was what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t exactly sure what… I ended up studying music and opera because of the belcanto teachers at NYU, but also some jazz singing … later through friends and through ethnomusicology I discovered percussions, an amazing world! Fast forward to 2001, I was already living in Italy with Dario, but in September we were in New York visiting my family and friends. We were in the subway, the L train, Manhattan bound, when it stopped right before going into the tunnel under the East River, at Bedford Avenue. We were there a long time before they announced that no trains were going into Manhattan. When we emerged from the underground we saw the fire and the smoke in one of the two towers… it was an Odyssey trying to get back home to my mother’s house in Queens, we had to take a lot of buses, the shock of seeing the towers collapse, realizing friends worked or lived in that area, finding them later on, still under shock… It raises a lot of questions. Who, why? And the military planes … and we had to fly back to Italy a few days later… on an empty flight… The song Twins, from the Through The Shadows album, has a lot of our state of mind at that time, in it. It's instrumental, though I had begun a vocal part for it, never recorded it. Some of the lyrics said “Breathing Ashes”.
You're from Frosinone, which is approximately 100 km south of Rome. What‘s the life there? Are there any interesting sights for tourists?
Rosetta: Italy is so rich of monuments, almost every little town around us has nice spots… even though they are completely unknown to the world, unlike the Colosseum, or Pompeii… Whenever we have a chance, we try to go and visit places, untrodden paths, near here or sometimes a little farther, where we can walk and enjoy bats flying over our heads along ancient walls and castles… our latest passion is actually near here, it’s called Boville Ernica, you can walk along the external wall of the town, with an amazing view to the left, since you are up on a hill… In Frosinone life is pretty quiet, we have one or two venues for live music around here, but we have a Music Conservatory and an Academy of Fine Arts, and University which bring lots people from out of town… so it’s becoming a university town, with many artists and musicians… and we have a lot of good restaurants, of course… Many people work or study in Rome or in Naples… so there’s a lot of commuting and big city life is not completely unknown.
And now back to music… I would not expect a gothic scene in a smaller town, or am I wrong?
Rosetta: No, there isn't... but there was a time when there were three goth bands here in Frosinone. The Spiritual Bat, Chants Of Maldoror, Human Disease. We shared some of the musicians... There was never a big scene, but someone did once compare Frosinone to LA... It wasn't big, but there where three bands! And for a time all three made a name for themselves. You don't see any goths around, maybe a couple of goth-metal heads… but there are a lot of people who are open minded and seem to enjoy our shows!
Where is the right place for gothic scene to flourish? Is there some country, that feels like “home”?
Rosetta: Not sure about that… The first thing that comes to my mind is that the best place is within yourself… but I am sure you mean for a goth community to thrive… well, that would be where there are personalities who know how to bring goths together, and attract non-goths to the scene, promoters who can make a scene happen… Sometimes I wonder if we should become promoters as well, try to organize gigs and festivals, to try and create a little scene in our town… I see some musicians do that, and I have respect for that, it surely is a lot of work. You might make a lot of friends and suddenly have a lot of people interested in your music as well, though not sure how much of that interest will be genuine and how much will just be opportunistic… I don’t know if we have what it takes to manage that, and to also keep on making music. It’s hard enough as it is!
Here in the Czech Republic we’re proud to have a legendary gothic band XIII. Století, which is very popular and many metal heads like them. Do you know this band? What's your opinion about it?
It's apparent from your facebook posts, you‘re working on a new material. Do you know exactly, which direction it should go? Will you record with your live line-up or just the classic duo Dario-Rosetta?
Rosetta: Yes, we are working on new material, one song is coming along quite well, already, and Dario has already recorded plenty of ideas, bits and pieces, and even whole guitar parts. I have tons of words written or recorded in notebooks or devices. We just need to find the right time to concentrate on all that and somehow pull out whatever is good from there, and give it some sort of order, and make an album out of all that. Easier said than done! We have no idea where it will lead.
Rosetta: As I think I have mentioned to you, we have been through a difficult period, and lots of personal issues have taken us away from music. Working on music makes us feel fulfilled, whether we are practicing, recording, mixing, gigging, or even just booking... However, we as humans are not indifferent to what happens in our families, in our society, and to the facts of life... We cannot risk to become cynical to achieve our goal. It is an extremely hard balance to achieve, and ephemeral, too.
Rosetta: The intention is to record with Emilio and Massimo, to give them creative space. Of course we are so used to working on our own that we realize we are sometimes too possessive. On the other hand we believe it is a good thing to open up (a little bit) to new approaches and fresh ideas. So on our part there will be an effort to be open minded, while still guiding the artistic direction of our project. On their part, they have already demonstrated talent and critical thinking, as well as ability and a willingness to work hard. Everything else is still to be experimented. Each of us, no matter how young or how old, no matter how experienced, each one of us will have to undertake this endeavor both on a practical level and on a spiritual level, and see where it will lead us. Hopefully to a genuine reflection of ourselves and of our world, of our states of mind, our hopes and loves...
I would also love to praise you, Rosetta, for your beautiful voice. When I wrote a report from your show, I stated that : “The Spiritual Bat are fronted by an amazing vocalist. Rosetta‘s voice is so charismatic and special, that I would not hesitate to empty my wallet, if there was a hat for money in front of the stage.” I think you’re used to compliments after every show, but could you remember, if there was any strange reaction to your vocal qualities?
Rosetta: Thank you so much! It is a great consolation for me to know that I can reach and touch someone with my voice. Fortunately, the people who have taken the time to come up to me and comment on my voice, so far have had only kind words.... Once a girl, came and told me she had counted how many seconds I held a note, and told me it was like forever... It happened in New York, in 2010, and I am pretty sure the song she was referring to was Lament For The Poisoned Mother. Also, people have told me they appreciated me because I took risks, because I didn’t settle for easy and safe. It would break my heart if someone actually came up and told me something bad about my singing. I am sure that I may sound annoying to some people (I sound annoying to myself, sometimes!), but to come and tell me would be mean. I am hard enough on myself! But then again, if someone came up to me with advice, and if I really got a feeling they were trying to help me improve something, I would appreciate it. Once somebody told me something about my make-up and someone else told me something about my use of the laptop on stage. I thought they were both right, and I did not feel offended, because I really felt they were trying to help me improve.
Rosetta: Thank you for this beautiful interview! To us it means that we have a new friend in the Czech Republic, who is introducing us to his friends... and this makes us hope for more chances to come back and play for you again soon!