“She is her own gemini
she sings about ghost’s love and skies
she writes with sugar-blood sticky fingers
her art is innonence and dirt.
Don’t you love her?
Don’t you fear her?
Nothing is as it seems”.
What music did you grow up around?
The first memories I have about music bring me to the church of the little village where I grew up, in the north-east of Italy. I remember long apneas staring to the big frescoes on the volt while organ music played through, often accompanied by a polyphonic choir. Sacred chants and airs coming from above, behind me, sung in Latin.
Sometimes I had the feeling the holy painted figures were slowly, almost imperceptibly moving, along with the celestial sky depicted. This gave a magic vitality to the mass ritual, which without these elements, had always been boring for me.
As a child I started singing in church and school choirs, a capella, with piano and organ. I’ve also experienced singing several times with a full orchestra in big churches. The moment I loved the most was just before the beginning of the concert when the musicians were tuning their instruments: that irregular, yet uniform, at times discordant sound was a like a big wave gently creeping in and preparing us to enter the magic of the performance. That was during my secondary school.
Those were also the first times I wore black from head to toe, our teacher gave us the uniform. I even complained, it seemed so strange to me: “Why should I wear such a dark anonymous tone for such thrilling occasions?”
I asked myself. Anyway, I did as she told: as soon as I stepped into the completeness of this non-color, I felt somehow, stronger. I guess that was a clue for the coming future.
My older brother started listening to hard-rock and metal, and I followed his lead. Slowly I abandoned holy grounds and became the vocalist of his prog-metal band. I’ve listened a lot to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Pantera, Opeth, Katatonia ,King Crimson, Jeff Buckley, Tool. Years later I realized that mostly I was influenced by male singers, made an exception for the great Anneke van Giersbergen of The Gathering.
At the time, that means at high school, I started taking individual singing lessons. My favourite subject at school was literature, and reading in fact has been as influential as music in my overall poetics. I was especially fond of the poetry of Baudelaire, and I read Ferdinando Pessoa and Milan Kundera a lot. I always plunge deep into the the lyrics of the songs I love, but especially in that period, it was a fundamental layer of my experiencing music.
I felt wholly enveloped by what I listened to. I felt I WAS the music I loved. It was my refuge, my consolation, my truest friend.
A musical encounter has many things in common with knowing a new person. The third chapter of my musical upbringing coincides with my twenties, when I knew a talented musician and guitarist, Carlo Veneziano, who was to be my long time partner and collaborator. He introduced me to the wild, dirty, “maudit” side of music: Nick Cave, The Birthday Party, Jesus Lizard, Einzustende Neubaten, PJ Harvey, Sonic Youth. I was deeply fascinated by the expressions of these musicians I didn’t know before. Very close to the ground, very high in the sky, they fed both my aethereal and trangressive component.
Apocalypsis in Prague
Me and Carlo moved in Prague, the capital city of Czech Republic, where I completed my education at Charles University. Fate wanted us to move into an house full of diverse musicians: a doublebalss orchestral, a lyrical singer, a sludge drummer, our very good friend singer and guitarist Andrea Rottin, who introduced us to the underground scene of this country, which was truly dense and alive.
In Prague I saw a lot of concerts. There was indeed a daily offer from different scenes and venues, that means theaters, clubs, garages, streets, bunkers hundreds meters underground. In this country, I found making music much more down to the ground, physical and practical than in the Italian context, where it seemed you already had to be someone to just try to do something.
I started playing guitar and composing, that’s where my project Julinko was born.
In those years I’ve also come to know more examples of women artists which deeply inspired me and with whose music I felt deeply connected: Diamanda Galás, Chelsea Wolfe, Shannon Wright, Anna von Hausswolff, Emma Ruth Rundle…
Having developed and nortured a big passion for doom and psychedelia, at the present time I’m more into ambient and instrumental music and love the work of Caterina Barbieri, William Basinski, Divide and Dissolve and Italian composer Nicola Manzan. I am looking for new inspirations and sounds, and reflecting on the huge heritage that Fabrizio de Andrè and Franco Battiato have left. Their oeuvres are unbreakable milestones that keep nurturing me in so many ways.
Is writing lyrics similar to writing poetry?
Of course there is a connection between creating lyrics and writing poetry. Anyway, in my case these processes are quite separated, starting from the language I use.
In music I’ve always felt more comfortable with English. Maybe this is because we are used to sing songs of famous bands in English; or due to the fact that when I started composing little tunes I was studying Anglophones Literatures and living abroad. I was using English very much in my ordinary life but mostly, I read a lot in this language. I have never read so much as those years of university in Prague. Mostly, I became obsessed with Samuel Beckett’s dramatic oeuvre,examining the existential theme of death by the practice of a minimalist language. My first lyrics have been very much centered on this issue.
At the beginning, the process of composing music and that of creating lyrics took place in separate moments. I simply had a text written and would put it on the riff on which I felt it fitted better, like a dress to a naked body. Anyway, over the years I started practicing a sort of automatic writing, if I can call it like that.
When I play I sing unconscious words or sounds, which I slowly mould into sense and language always trying to keep their instinctual sound print.
In fact, music has become for me more and more a field for the unconscious to be materialized into an audible landscape. I feel like I am creating a music beyond rationality and schemes. Even though you can often hear distinguishable patterns arising and repeating, more than reproducing ordered relationships they tend to mirror natural/biological structures and phenomena.
In this sense, the use of a language which I know but is not my mother-tongue, helps leaving a blank space of unknowing and ambiguity, open to unexpected sense and freed from logical circumstances. This is in an aspect of the use of English which I always liked and exploited, together with the malleability and softness of its sound.
Compared to creating lyrics for music, where I look for essence and ambiguity, writing poetry consists in a more intellectual work and usually it takes longer. I can say I have a daily practice of poetic noting both in Italian and English, sometimes even French, but it is my mother-tongue which I find more interesting for this field. From a musical point of view, I love its combination of sharpness and roundness; its vicinity to Latin and to certain archaic forms of communication.
Since I mainly think in Italian, the exercise of sharpening words help me to reflect on and criticize a primal instrument used by my intellect and consequently, evolve my predispositions and habits.
Poetry is a room where I consciously work on my reaching as a human being.
It is an artisanal work. If I think about the coming into being of a poem I always visualize the work of a sculptor: there is a primal raw matter (marble, wood / emotions, experiences) which is being carved into a final form. This final form is not merely the result of a process, it is a potential who has gone through certain passages and modified the creator as a living energy.
Recently you published your first book of poetry called “Il cuscino è il confessore” (Pillows are the true confessors) can you tell us more about it?
Publishing a book has been a great accomplishment for me. Not that I wasn’t desiring it deep in my heart, but I never really aspired at becoming a poet or a writer. I guess the truth is, most of the times we already are what we dream to be.
The story behind “Il Cuscino è il Confessore” is this: I spent a long period writing just in English, in my notebooks you couldn’t find a trace of Italian for years. In fact when I started university I took a distance from my mother-tongue, an event which had its peak during my years of living abroad and traveling Europe for touring.
English was easier for me to handle compared to an Italian much too specific and passionate, bloody, carnal, connected to traumas and memories… hot matter.
It wasn’t before 2019 that I restarted using Italian for taking notes and eventually writing little poems. These slowly became part of a consistent corpus I eventually felt like putting together. In the process I also translated and transformed many things I had written in English. The elaboration of the collection has taken place in very silent and focused sessions of work.
The poems were born in basically three different landscapes: Venice, Prague, the Woods. Their themes are love and torment, death and sleep, miracles and mischiefs, ecstasy and chaos, dreams and violence, innocence and dirt. As with music my poetry finds an equilibrium by merging contrasts. A vast part of the material comes from autobiographical experiences: confronting with my shadows and fears and dreams, has had a powerful healing and liberatory effect on me.
After reading the book, different persons told me I’ve been brave in letting out so much of me. Curiosity and determination to learn about myself and the world we live in, have always brought me not to be afraid of sharing intimate parts of my experience. Nudity puts us all on the same level, revelation leads to exploration and viceversa.
“Il Cuscino è il Confessore”, the title, came like a flash. It is a sentence I told myself one summer night while I was going to sleep and lay my head on the pillow: if this object could talk, it would tell the story of my most intimate secrets and thoughts, of the pathways my dreams and nightmares take, it would describe the taste of my tears, it would give words to my unconscious. This ordinary item is for me a symbol of self-reflection, contemplation, a place for processing and elaborating sorrows, ideas, images. A companion for healing, a mirror for creativity.
What’s your relationship with Spirituality?
“La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L’homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l’observent avec des regards familiers…”
(Correspondances, Charles Baudelaire)
Various spirits live in the bodily incarnation I am carrying and art is the highest way to let them express their ways and forms. Music is the multidimensional language which I took on early as a child. Singing is ritual when it gives itself to mystical openings.
Tasting the infinite emotional and substantial nuances and possibilities that our breathing put into existence, during all my life I’ve been venturing in colored realms of fantasy and darknesses, with closed and opened eyes.
I’d say that I live my spirituality daily, moment after moment, trying to spend most of my time loving and creating beauty. Living in contact with nature has helped me to focus on my interiority and a contemplative attitude towards the things of the world has flourished in me.
The striking contrasts and synchronicities I see in matters and situations, put me in a position where I want to celebrate life as it is, a sacred magic and mysterious natural journey.
Your last Album “No Destroyer” evokes a certain anxiety, tracks are short and deep, there’s something elusive I cannot understand, what is it?
In my vision, a piece of music is done by someone and then is left there as a free form for the others to make their own experience of it. Everything which is perceived, exists.
Personally I don’t sense anxiety as a leading force of No Destroyer, but rather, a feeling of yearning for something, a trait which I guess is always distinguishable in the art I make. The elusiveness you mention is probably connected with the bizarre sense of corporeality that marked the period I recorded the Ep.
During the pandemic suddenly all was still, there were no noises coming from the road past the hill I live and after a few weeks of lockdown there were days I lived a peculiar state of spatio-temporal alienation, where I even started to put into doubt the materiality of my own body. I felt transparent, I felt like floating, as if things had no weight … when the title track came to me like a mantra, I started playing it again and again for weeks. I literally lingered on that, as if it was the only true thing existing in the world. As strange as it may seem, this music was keeping me sane.
As regards the briefness of the tracks, it is probably related to a sudden change of perspective, to the instability that revelead itself being hidden behind our structured ideas of time, future, social schemes… with the advent of the pandemic times it is as if a curtain went off, and I am able to see better.
The oblique title “No Destroyer” reports a sense of a revelation which is abrupt and violent, but welcomed as part of an unavoidable regenerative process: Kali never ceases to dance and I want to move with her same pace.
What’s the main difference between Nèktar (2019) and the your last child?
When I think about it now, it surprises me I was able to create an album as solid as Nèktar. Of course it has been the work of different people, not just mine: the great musicians and friends I played with, the brilliant person who recorded it in his beautiful studio … Almost fifty minutes of dramatic, raw, heavy yet luminous music, performed as a band.
Since I started Julinko I had wanted to make an album like this, and I am proud I succeeded. Over the years I’ve lived with specific riffs and ideas I wanted to develop, they had been circling obsessively in my head and ears, and finally I was able to liberate and put them to rest. I’d say this work represents the conclusion of an artistic and existential phase I lived.
At the beginning of 2020 I had many programmed shows with my band performing Nèktar and we were trying out new material as well. Then the pandemic came, and wiped out all scheduled and ponderate programs I had in my mind.
I published my first collection of poems and recorded No Destroyer all alone in my house: out of programme, very brief, instinctual, its form more similar to that of a poem than to a discographic work.
I followed blindly this creative force I felt in me, completely careless about how other could judge it but so heart-fully willing to share it, to give back something true and authentic to the world and to the people kept closed in their houses.
During the process of the making of the Ep, reality changed face so many times, and trying to overcome physical restrictions of movement and their psychological consequences, I personally got liberated from many preoccupations I had about time, expectations, schemes that were keeping my creativity enclosed within certain contexts and formalized habits.
I’m working to open up my music. I am not sure of each single step I am going to take, but the awareness and the acceptance of the vacuity of certitude and firmness related to this process, is maybe the most fruitful part of it. It leaves open space for unexpected inspirations to come in. I feel serene and fertile.
JULINKO is Giulia Parin Zecchin