Interview with Destroy All Gondolas (Light the Filth Canals on Fire)

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Nothing beats digging around and discovering something like these guys, Italy's Destroy All Gondolas, who we reviewed several weeks ago.  As soon as that first track opened we were tossed into the waves of a polluted surf, run over by crazed speed punks that played their instruments like surf rockers who prefer gas huffing to girls and the beach.  And the imagery, no way you can ignore it.  It mixes bizarre references to classic, antiquated Italian culture, Satan, and then mixes it all together as a statement against capitalist tourism via the image of the gondola traveling down a sewage-filled canal.  Humorous, yet biting, it got our attention, so we decided to sit down with the band to learn a bit about their origins, where in the hell that name came from, and if they were actually serious about this whole gondola thing.  Thanks to Giuseppe Rovinato for spending time with us and turning us into gondolier-hating tyrants.  We've edited some of his typing for more ease in reading, but have retained all of his original ideas.

Deaf Sparrow - So let's start basic.  How did you guys get together and start playing?

Destroy all Gondolas - The band is Corrado on drums, Andrea on bass, and Enrico on guitar and vocals.  We started in October 2012, when our common friend Ryts Monet asked us to do a Black Flag cover band for an artistic project.  You can see what is about on his site (link here).  We did a couple of months of rehearsals and when the "tribute band" project was over, we started Destroy All Gondolas.

DS - Do you guys have any influences in your sound or did it just stem from your Black Flag cover work?

DAG - The Black Flag Revival project was the only cover band we ever played in and was just to help our friend Ryts to do his artistic project.  After he did his work, we started composing our own material and we didn't really have a genre or sound in mind. We listen to a lot of different music, from blues to power violence.  The songs came out of mixing our tastes.

DS - So other than this Black Flag project, did you guys have any more experience in music?  You seem to suggest that there considering the variety you suggest you listen to.  Other bands or maybe learning things when you were younger?

DAG - Yes we all come from other bands. Corrado was the drummer of Minkions and of almost all black metal bands in Venice.  Andrea was in Gonzales and Enrico was in The HormonasJohn Woo, and L'Amico Di Martucci.  He also has a one-man-band project called Wasted Pido.

DS - That's awesome!  Plus it gives us probably years of stuff to check out, pretty diverse background.  Where did you even come up with the concept for this type of music? It's one of the most unusual we've ever heard.  Punk, yeah we've heard all types, many times.  But this surf sound to what you guys do, though not necessarily unique, is entirely fresh.  So how'd it get to that point?

DAG - Most of the tunes come from songs that Enrico recorded with a drum machine on a 4-track tape recorder at home.  Basically it's garage, lo-fi rock n roll music.

DS - Do you have any of those drum machine tracks?

DAG - Enrico has some of his weird drum machine stuff posted on his blog.

DS - Awesome.  So after you get those tracks, what then?

DAG - Then the original riffs and ideas are transformed by the band.  Andrea puts a punkrock driving bass on it and Corrado heavy metal drumming on top, and it become a DAG song.  We can say that our music is a mix of Punk Rock, Black Metal and Insto Surf ... played super fast.

DS - Have you consciously used the ideas of "surf rock" in your sound or was it just a natural development that sprang out of the work you had done before?

DAG - Yeah, we love listen to surf music, specially the more obscure and crazy one… we like to make people dance and we have fun playing it.

DS - Yeah, well, you guys clearly have your combination down.  It fits together so well, and fast, yeah, that's one of the things that really caught our attention.  How about the name itself? It was something that made me (editor) laugh immediately, so I had to know what in the hell?  Hahahaha.

DAG - The name is a concept. Venice is our home town and the gondola is one of the symbols of the mass-tourism in the global capitalist era.  As Bakunin said, "The passion for destruction is also creative passion." So let's destroy all gondolas and free ride the lagoon.

DS - Oh, damn, pulling out some philosophy there, I like it.  Do you consider your music serious commentary or do you consider it satire?  Really getting a sense of the former based on what you just said.

DAG - We do it for fun, but we take our music pretty seriously, maybe you must know that Venetian people are used to express serious concepts in a somewhat ironic way and these two moods often are mixed together.

DS - Actually, though I do know a decent amount concerning the Renaissance in Italy and it's impact, the only reference I could think of would be The Decameron, which is filled with the kind of irony you're talking about.  Do you have any other examples of this irony as criticism in Venetian culture?

DAG - We can say that irony and sarcasm is part of the popular culture in Italy in general.  Comedy has always been used to criticize power and authority.  One example related to Venice could be the carnival.

DS - Very nice.  What does the gondola image mean to you guys and to Italy in general today?

DAG - To us, Gondolas are a global-tourist attraction, a cliché symbol of slavery and decadence, and gondoliers are a fascist mafia.  In general, people from other cities of Italy come here to visit because Venice is so ancient and beautiful and romantic, but most of then don't know a shit about our history.  Venice has been a free and independent republic for almost 1000 years.  Did somebody give a shit about that?  All they want is go on the gondola, so they pay 80 Euros each for 30 minute ride in the stinky rotten canals.  The city is becoming even more a sort of touristic park, a Disneyland, a gondola-land.  We decided to use the gondola (but we should say the wrong use of it) as symbol of our city's decadence.

DS -  Love it, such an awesome idea.  And it all makes such sense hearing how you explain it.  Is the gondola image still pretty popular for tourists in Venice or is it more of a thing of the past? I mean the image itself, obviously, as you mentioned, it's still an irritating presence.  But I mean the image itself, which you guys have used in your art.  Has it changed at all or is it, as you seem to suggest, the same old symbol of slavery and stinky shit canals?

DAG - We sing "fuck traditions of hate, greed and money."  It's our point of view on a reality.  We have nothing against the gondola itself, but as we said before, the gondola is a cliché of a city that has been ruined by mass-tourism.  Maybe someday in the future some American anthropologist will study how and why the Venetians disappeared from Venice.  In the meantime we play our rock n roll.

DS - So I assume the Satanic imagery you mix with the gondolas is the ancient times was just part of the criticism, or is it something more?  Any other interesting symbols in the art I can't notice myself?  Maybe something I wouldn't recognized since I don't live in Venice?  Something local?

DAG -  We guess it's just because we all are Iron Maiden fans, or maybe not.  All the weird stuff and symbols on the artworks are drawn by our friend Davide "Kaya" Salmaso.  He mixed lots of elements related in a way or another to Venice.  Together they evoke a imagery of ancient filth that's the perfect fit for us. But about the meaning of each symbol maybe you should ask him directly with another interview.

DS - What is the scene like in your area? I don't mean just punk, I mean in general.  Is it tight knit, or do people tend to stay within their own genre?

DAG - Venice and the surrounding cities and villages have a lot of bands of all genres, from punk to indie to pop to blues...but let's say that in Venice downtown there is another "scene" compared to the hinterland.  In Venice you have a lot of blues-jazz-ethnic-professional bullshit that plays covers in the bars; they rule the scene and, although
we don't consider cover bands real bands, they are the few musicians who actually make money.  In Venice we all go drink at Fifo's Bar in Cannaregio, a very small place.  If you go there you can meet the guys of the post rock-noise underground scene who live in the city.  Like the guys from Lucertulas, Green Calamaro, Latex Teen First Attack and other bands are always there and we hang around together.  We love to organize gigs inside the small room of the bar.  If a band or one man band ask us to play in Venice we set a show at Fifo's.  About the music we like, we can say there are no good punk rock'n'roll bands we know in Venice nowadays, you have to move outside Venice, cross the bridge and arrive in Mestre to find some good ones.  There is a growing scene of young bands playing HC (the "Venezia HC Crew") and the Hobos and Slander are for sure the most representative.

DS - How as DAG done in your city? Have you caused a revolution in gondola destruction (we hope)?

DAG - No revolution unfortunately.  Gondolas still rides the grand canal and we have to wait 40 minutes to get a vaporetto full of fucking tourists ahahahahahhah.  We don't play so much 'cause all of us lives in different cities now (Corrado lives in Berlin, Enrico works in Vicenza, only Andrea is still working and living in Venice), but all the shows we did until now were great parties.  We have a loyal following of friends who come to see us, also because doing few concerts make every single show a special one.  Maybe some people like our unconventional approach to rock n roll, but obviously we don't think we broke some barriers or did something special. The guys from the Venezia HC Crew did some stickers and T-shirts with "destroy all gondolas" on them.  When we saw it we asked why they did a design with the name of our band (without "all" in the middle) but they say it was only a coincidence.  That didn't really convince us, but anyway we think is a good thing that the "concept" of Destroy All Gondolas is going around, even if only as a provocation.  There is a lot of conformism around, bands that sounds all the same... if we can help make people think about problems around us and put the reality in discussion, is already a start.

DS - Great stuff, perfect.  So let's end it with some thoughts on the future.  What do you guys have planned or what are you currently working on?

DAG - We have already recorded many songs that we want to release along with new material we're working on.  We are still deciding whether it will be an album or a few more 7" records.  The real issue is to get together with enough time to make it properly.  As we said our drummer is living in Berlin at the time and it's not easy. We'll play some shows in italy this summer and we're also working for a European tour in November-December 2015.

DS - Excellent, wishing you guys the best.  Thanks for taking all the time to answer our questions, you really gave us some great background on the Venetian scene and things most people in the West have probably heard little about.  Keep those canals Satanic.

 

Interview Conducted by Stanley Stepanic