Interview: DESTRAGE – A Means to Any Means

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There is much ado about ‘progressive’ and what that actually means.

To some, the title is attached to a specific sound and others debate that it has more to do with a style within a time frame. But, the word, ‘progressive,’ itself, means ‘something with the momentum to move forward’ and that can fit just about anything that doesn’t fit.

When Sepultura first used traditional, native-Brazilian instruments with their Thrash, that was progressive. When Jethro Tull gave the flute a spotlight in Hard Rock, that was very progressive.

Whenever anyone combines and successfully meshes multiple genres or arrangements or patterns to create a new sound, that is essence of Prog.

DESTRAGE is crazy Prog…or just crazy.

Their fourth and latest release, A Means To No End on Metal Blade Records is not flying off charts or getting a tremendous amount of airplay, but, the conflagrating experience is a memorable one. The energy they exude is off the map and the passion is beyond measure – frankly, true Italian.

In this very enjoyable ‘over-coffee’ discussion, T. Ray has a heart-to-heart with guitarist, Matteo Di Gioia about that Destrange passion, where it comes from, and uncovers some interesting perspectives regarding the composition process, the art of the live show, and art, itself.

TBS: So, congratulations on the new album!

Matteo: Thank you.

TBS: You guys are a seriously different fish.

Matteo: *laughs*

TBS: I mean it is like a crazy stew of sound. I heard a little Maiden, I heard a little glam, I heard ‘core.  Yet, you do manage to keep it together. Where are all these sounds coming from?

Matteo: We’re often told that yeah, there is a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  I think it sticks together because when we actually write we don’t assemble we just play, so it’s all made of the same substance to us.  So, if it is a miracle that sticks together it is probably because of that, if I have to guess.

TBS: So, the question is, do any of you bring any formal training into the band?

Matteo: Training like…?

TBS: Like are any of you classically trained?

Matteo: No.  None of us is classically trained. But two of us, we have good education in music.  It is not my case. I learned by myself.

I went to teachers, but it was boring you know? And people who study too much, they start sounding like academics and I’m not really into that.

So, I’m still the main composer since the beginning, even though we all contribute and we all write but I think I am still the main composer and now I don’t have any training.  If you ask me, some of the things I couldn’t even know how to put them on paper, you know?  I just play them.  They sound good to me so we record them.

TBS: Do you think that, if I understood what you were trying to say, do you feel that training kills the passion?

Matteo: It kills the personality, I think.  I personally believe that style has more to do with your [licks] than your skills.  If you have a lot of skills and you can play everything, your style will be in effect… um…. Let’s figure out, for instance, I can only do a few things, and those things are on the albums, and I keep on doing those things because I can’t do the rest, you know?

As a player, you just go down the stream and then sometimes you find some frogs.  You have obstacles and you can decide. I usually go around them.

I think this is good because after a while, it will really shape your way of doing and your taste and your personality as a player or musician.

A Means to No End – Metal Blade, 2016

TBS: That is interesting. You also had a couple of really beautiful quotes.  One them you called an album “a family portrait.” Could you please elaborate a little bit more on that?

Matteo: Yeah, I was probably referring to the fact that the beauty of an album is it photographs a moment of the band. So, if they leave that way and they feel those emotions and they listen to some kind of music and they thrive on that kind of music in the moment it has to be on the record.

And I’m so glad that people still do albums because now, because since this tendency to do singles and EP’s because making albums is not going at the same pace to which the world of music is spinning in terms of consumption because it takes one year to produce it and then it takes one hour to listen to it and most people don’t even listen to the whole thing.  But, I still think that its very, very good to make full-length, because then you can browse back in the days and you can really see yourself.

No wonder that every album sounds different because you were a different person back then, and you were another different person two albums ago.

TBS: You have a point. Come to think of it, I have noticed that trend but I have also noticed the opposite, as well.  I mean if you think back, Iron Maiden recently came out with a double album, Night Ranger, of all people, came out with a double album.  Schammasch, they did a full-length double album.  But you’re right, I am seeing those extremes.  Either it is just a few songs, or it’s …

Matteo: An entire tale.  Expansive…

TBS: Yes, big epics. Do you think that the economy may have something to do with that? Because studio time is expensive.

Matteo: Yeah, you’re right it is the economy, but it’s also the time that is due your music.  I think it is not only the money, it is really about the pace with which we consume music and we browse through artists and stuff. Probably that is, but I have absolutely no idea, I’m guessing here. My point is it is cool to make a whole album because it gives you the possibility to tell a story. And a story should be in chapters, not all of the chapters should be the same but they are still a part of the whole. This is why making albums is good I think.

TBS: Which brings me to another really wonderful quote that I came across and that was “How important it was to make meaningful music.”

Matteo: Yeah

TBS: What is your definition of meaningful?

Matteo: Meaningful? It is something that has a meaning to you.

As an artist, I think it is important to look back and see that you have done something that is worth listening, at least for you.

It doesn’t have to be for everybody and everybody has different tastes, and people argue, people hate you, most people ignore you. I think that meaningful means that you’re not ashamed of doing that, but when you look at it in retrospective and when you listen to it in the time you’re making it, it gives you some kind of feel, like you feel it. It doesn’t have to give you the goosebumps, but you’re like “Ok, this is really something I want to say in this moment.  This is something I want to convey and put in the world.”

Big or small, it doesn’t matter, what you have to give has to be there and if that is not there your music will not be meaningless but it will not be honest.

TBS: So, you essentially believe that art is selfish?

Matteo: Yeah, *chuckles* First of all it has to be selfish. If you enjoy it, there is a chance that some other people will enjoy it because we are all different, but we share a lot.  Like human beings are quite similar to each other, to think yourself as the best, I think it is good.

TBS: You know that’s how the Beatles made it, because they believed they were the best band in the world.

Matteo: Oh wow….

TBS: …yeah.

Matteo: …No no no, *laughs* I’m not saying that.  But yeah, they believed it and they really became that.  Oh, I should start believing now…*laughs*

TBS: Well that’s the whole point, it’s that power of manifestation. ‘What you believe you will conceive kind of thing.’  And that is energy, I think, just pure, unadulterated, energy. 

Matteo: Yeah, that’s a very good way to put it.

TBS: And you guys have a lot of energy, holy cannolis. Professionally, I don’t have to like it or dislike it but it does have to keep me listening or there’s nothing to write about…

Matteo: Mmmm hm, I agree.  I am also like that.

TBS: … and Destrange definitely did that. But, you seem to be more “end-result” driven than “process-driven.”

Matteo: Oh, that’s interesting. An interesting point of view.

TBS: Is that right?  Do you get anything from the process or are you more anxious to see the end result?

Matteo: I’m really, really into the process.  It’s it is interesting that from the outset it is perceived the other way around. I’ll say we’re really into the process. End-result isn’t really there in your mind while you’re doing the results, until it is done. Not in our mind. It’s like, you don’t really know what is going to be until it is, and then the moment is super-special because you are a listener at that point and you can listen to your own thing like another person would.

I like both phases of the process, especially if some time passed between the two things, like the process and the listening of the final result if you let something pass you can like clean your ears and your brain and then you can strike yourself with this surprise…

TBS: That is so true.

Matteo: …At that point you can really decide “oh this sucks let’s put it away,” or “oh this is kind of good let’s find a place for this thing in the album.”

TBS: Right.  That’s like with any medium, any art with writing or painting. If you leave it alone for a little while and then come back with fresh eyes, every single time you will see something new or see something that makes you go, “Oh my God did I do that?” And I think that is part of the magic.

Matteo: Yeah, it is.  We sometimes include other people in the process so we have a lucid eye on the thing, like virgin ears that just come and say straight up what they think about your stuff because we’re way too critical against ourselves. Sometimes, somebody that will walk in the room and say “Oh guys, stop. Stop doing all of this, it’s good.”  We can just move on.  Then to get stuck.

TBS: Perfectionism will do that. You’re trying to achieve something that doesn’t exist.

Matteo: *chuckles* Yeah.

TBS: Tell me a little bit about A Means to No End.  How is this album, this ‘family portrait’ different from Are You Kidding Me

Matteo: When we started writing it, we didn’t know what we wanted, but we knew what we didn’t want. We didn’t want to repeat ourselves.  I like its sense of freedom and there’s no boundaries and we just keep in whatever crossed our minds.  You know?  Just whatever.

And we have this motto, all my life I’ve had more fun saying “yes” instead of “no.”

We didn’t want to put any censorship. we just wanted to give into what we felt like doing and it was a lot of fun. We just didn’t want to do music the same as Are You Kidding Me Now? because we afraid it would result into some kind of caricature of what we did in the past. The thing that scares me very much is to become your own shadow. We are a young band, few people know us, so it is possible to change. Change comes with your changing as a person, so you don’t get stuck to what you’ve done in the past just because your audience wants you to or your label wants you to.

It felt very true emotionally, and very coherent because we were really going through emotions.  We were not keeping or discarding guitar if for example, based on its complexity, we were just going with feeling, yeah this feels right, let’s move on.

TBS: You just announced your European tour, congratulations again.

Matteo: Oh, thank you.

TBS: That’s exciting.  Tell me what the band is like on stage?  As an audience member, what would we expect to see when we see you live?

Matteo: I don’t know how much time we are given on the tour, but it will be mix of the old songs and the new songs. Not super-old, but like from Are You Kidding Me? No and A Means to No End. I think we have really select kick-ass songs from this tour.

People can just be slapped by our music and then cuddled by the contortionists right after.  And then again from the [periphery] and get a little bit of both so, I think by choosing the most energetic songs and bringing them live on that tour, it will make a very round life overall.

This is probably the best contribution we can give to the headlining bands — some very rough energy at the beginning.

TBS: I think you’re probably the first artist I’ve spoken to about the live show that actually considers the entire show, as if you’re part of a whole. I’m really impressed by that.

Matteo: Thank you. It has to be. This is why people are paying the tickets for, standing in line, parking their car. It’s a whole night so it comes pretty natural for me to think about how our show as a contribution to that night, because yeah you are not the only one on stage, and we are opening the night so, yeah. That’s quite natural.

We are also very selfish when we do have live shows, when we play 75 minutes. Then yeah, it is entirely about us, we can just do whatever we want. But, when supporting bands, I think it is really worth giving it a try at the list, to try and focus and think what made the audience want from an opening band playing with more respected bands.

We are really waiting now for a US tour.  We will see what is going on, but we’ve never been to the US, and feel like it is really the place to be and I think it can definitely be fun for us to tour there and get to see another world.

TBS: Well I hope that happens. I think you guys would be a great fit in Vegas, because anything pretty much goes in Vegas.

Matteo: *laughs* We should definitely go.  We will see if we get any invitations.  We got one with the last album but it didn’t really go the way we wanted.  It was way too expensive to pay for the visa and everything even though the tour was beautiful, so we will see now this time. There is time in life to tour everywhere, I think.

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