During our meeting Ufomammut trio repeatedly stated that they are… old! While the Mammoths (that is how I started calling them after all those jokes about the age) are playing for almost 18 years now, they emit so much energy that my phone got charged (yes, apparently, Ufomammut can do that)! Younger bands should envy the drive, fire and passion they bring on stage and off stage as individuals. Ufomammut is a trio from Italy that don’t like doom and haven’t seen Electric Wizard live. Yet they are endorsed by fans of doom/sludge/stoner/psychedelic metal all over the globe. I caught up with them at Damnation festival where Mammoths (or Ufos?!) absolutely nailed it, earning the well-deserved ‘the band of the night’ title. Keep your ears peeled, because Ufomammut signed a contract with the devil to release at least 20 albums! They recorded the 8th in August and I promise to keep you posted ;)
I started our conversation with a not very original question about the title. Despite my lack of ingenuity, the band responded kindly and struck me as humble people with brilliant sense of humour.
We are ufos and mammoths at the same time, past and future, light and heaviness, psychedelic and metal, we are the opposites, we are touching.
Poia [guitar]: Ufomammut is a connection of two 2 words “ufo” and “mammoth” written in Italian way. Probably, at first it sounds strange. Some people from different countries read it as a one word. But there are 2 words that represent our music – we are ufos and mammoths at the same time, past and future, light and heaviness, psychedelic and metal, we are the opposites, we are touching. This is the idea behind the name. It was me who came up with name. I wrote a letter to Urlo once. We are old people, we write letters (laughing). Later on we decided to use it for the band.
E: it’s not the first time you mention you are old…
Vita [drums]: Because we are. I was born in 1969.
Urlo [bass/vocals]: Us 71
Poia: We are 71 years old [laughing]. A little old.
E: Talking about old stuff, history, how would you compare the British metal scene to Italian. You are from Tortona, am I right?
Vita: and Valencia.
Poia: It is like comparing prehistory to present. First of all, everything was born in the UK, hard rock, heavy metal. Okay, rock & roll and blues came from the USA. But except from Pentagram, Steppenwolf, Blue Cheer, most of early hard rock bands came from England. The Beatles!
Urlo: Don’t forget that The Beatles said they were inspired by Naples songs!
Poia: Yeah, but there is a huge difference between Italy and the UK- we don’t have the rock culture you have here. I prefer Italy though.
Urlo: Good coffee [laughing].
Vita: And good food!
Underground in Italy allows you to do whatever you want. It is like being in a small family, a community, sharing the same interests. We share what we do with people, not too many people, not too little. It is just about right. We are very happy where we are.
E: I read an article saying that Italy has more metal bands than Sweden…
Poia: Actually it is Greece, they have more bands!
Urlo: But it is true, there are a lot bands playing metal in Italy, different kind of metal, more extreme metal. And let’s not forget that the progressive scene in Italy was very very cool and important! Bands like PFM or Area. After that period, in the 80s and 90s things slowed down for a while. But now there are many bands, we don’t know them all.
Poia: We are old!
Urlo: There is Zu, they are older than us, don’t worry. Not Lacuna Coil, I don’t want to say that, but there are many bands. Sometimes they could be better than the ones from Sweden as they are different, they are coming from a small country with no rock culture, so they are playing in a different way.
Poia: We would like to have more exposure for this kind of music in Italy. Everything is more underground there. There is no visibility on TV, but luckily I’d say.
Urlo: You can feel that loads of great music was born in the UK. But underground in Italy allows you to do whatever you want. It is like being in a small family, a community, sharing the same interests. We share what we do with people, not too many people, not too little. It is just about right. We are very happy where we are.
Poia: We still drive our van, we move our amplifiers. This is how we like it. It’s more natural for us, it keeps us in contact with reality.
Urlo: Keep out feet on the ground.
Poia: Our feet in the underground [laughing].
E: D.I.Y. Respect! Well, let’s talk more about your music. The last time playing Ecate... Tell us more about the concept behind Ecate.
Urlo: We start writing our albums from music. We have riffs but we don’t have words in the beginning. Little by little, we start thinking of what this music gives us. For Ecate it was about the link between the world of living and the world of dead. We added funeral songs, all the vocals you can hear are funeral songs from different countries. The idea was to find something that could join those things. Ecate came to mind. She was pre-Hellenic goddess that could move beyond the world of the living. Ecate was a very important goddess, so Christians portraited her as a queen of the witches, as dangerous. So she fit perfectly to the idea of the album.
E: Are you religious in any way?
Urlo: Not in a traditional way. I am baptized because I was born in Italy… But I am not going to church or praying. Sure, there must be something, but not an old guy with a beard. I like all those myths, and gods, Greeks and Romans were cool. But personally I am not religious at all.
Poia: Me neither. Well, there is a lot of we don’t know. We don’t have the answers, but we have to focus on what we know and it is very exciting! Science tries to bust myths… there are so many mysteries.. human brain, multidimensional worlds, other galaxies, visitors… But it is not a religion. Maybe God created the very first molecule before the Bing Bang.
Vita: Sure, not God!! Sure, not!
Poia: Well, we cannot believe in something that we don’t know…
Urlo: If there is God, he must be thinking ‘who created me’, so there is a loop going on [laughing]
Vita: Also if I am wrong, you created me so you have fucked it up, not me [laughing].
When we play live and the crowd is into the music they give themselves to us. A circle of energy is created. At the end of the gig, I feel something different, something unique from all other feelings.
E: Lots of people consider your music as meditative, transcendental, spiritual…
Poia: Yes, it is not very straightforward. But yeah.
Urlo: When we play live and the crowd is into the music they give themselves to us. A circle of energy is created. At the end of the gig, I feel something different, something unique from all other feelings.
Poia: It is very useful, because my mobile always recharges after the show [laughing].
Urlo: This is exactly what I meant [laughing].
I sincerely don’t know what doom music is.
E: I was thinking of catharsis, but mobile phone batteries… do you know that CVLT Nation called you top 1 doom band in Europe? But sure you must have your heroes. Who is top 1 for you?
Urlo: First of all, I sincerely don’t know what doom music is. I really don’t know the definition of doom.
Poia: Some say Black Sabbath were doom. I don’t know…
Urlo: But if we talk about music which is kind of like ours, heavy and psychedelic, I’d say Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd because they were so psychedelic, also The Beatles. In modern music, I’d say Sleep for sure. They were great inspiration for first albums.
E: I got a feeling that you didn’t like being called doom band?
Urlo: I don’t know what it means.
Vita: I don’t like doom music. I don’t like those bands that everybody says they are doom. I don’t like Sleep.
Urlo: But they are not doom either.
Vita: But doomier than Slayer, for example.
Urlo: If I think of doom, I think of bands like Pentagram… but they are not doom either… It is difficult. Some years ago it was called heavy psych, then it became doom.
Vita: Probably doom is slow, heavy and dark.
Poia: But we are not so slow any more, we are more psychedelic.
Vita: and we are not dark!
Urlo: But then CVLT says we are top 1 doom band!
Vita: Yeah, we play doom! We like doom! I grew up with doom! [laughing]
Urlo: The labels are changing. Sleep in the beginning described themselves as stoner metal, then they were called psychedelic stoner, now probably they are doom. I don’t know, it’s strange.
Vita: I think people need some labels for direction, for stuff like vinyl stores. To have sections for metal, doom, hardcore, punk, hardcore…
Poia: Otherwise you would have Mili Vanilli, Pentagram, Keny Rogers, Frank Sinatra and Pavarotti all together, no labels, happy family [laughing].
Malleus Rock Art Lab
E: I see your point. But let’s talk about Malleus Collective. Your artwork is amazing! You have made posters for Amanda Palmers, Iggy Pop, Sigur Ros…
Poia: Yes, we are a graphic trio: me, Urlo and a girl, Lu, she is not here today. Our art was always connected to rock music. We wanted to give another shape to music. Ufomammut artwork is done by ourselves, it is cheaper to do it yourself [laughing]. We also use visuals in the background when we play live, they are made by Lu.
Urlo: We are lucky because we do this for living. We do posters for other artists, bands. It is a good job. We are very lucky.
Poia: From outside, we don’t do anything useful. We are not doctors or architects. Vita is playing in another band too and does jewellery.
Vita: not useful [laughing].
E: Being useless for 17 years, you are playing since 1999, right?
Vita: It will be 18 years in February.
Urlo: We signed a contract with the devil so we have to release at least 20 albums, otherwise we will disappear. No, we like what we do. It comes natural.
Poia: As long as we have something to say, we will go on. Some bands become commercial, we want to do the opposite. This is very important. We love what we do and we don’t want to have traditional ways of life. It’s a part of the game. We made our choice to be in a band.
Urlo: We live in small cities where there is not much to do. We are friends since ages. When we started playing, it all came natural. Now it is vital. Something we HAVE to do, like breathing.
E: So what about another album? The 8th album?
Urlo: We have recorded it in August near Milano with Femore Productions together with our sound engineer Ciccio. We have to mix it… I’m afraid we can’t say anything more, because we don’t know. It will come out in 2017.
We thanked each other, and I went to have my long-awaited Sailor Jerry with coke. After 2 hours, Ufomammut destroyed the Eyesoremerch stage at Damnation. The crowd got into trance, possibly lost their minds and phones, but at least they were fully charged.