A PROG LANDSCAPE
Romance, tragedy and lots of water are three factors that the outside world tends to associate with the Italian city of Venice. It might not be so surprising, therefore, that the waterlogged city gave birth to The Moor. That happened in 2009 and in 2012 they released their debut album through Lion Music (of course it had to be a label with such a name to sign a Venetian band). The band’s music is probably best described as a melting pot of genres and consequentially tends to be pigeon-holed as Progressive Metal.
While the rain outside heaped abuse on the streets of London, I chatted to the quartet about the inspirations behind their music. By ‘the quartet’ I mean: Enrico Longhin (lead vocals, guitar), Davide Carraro (guitar), Massimo Cocchetto (bass) and Alberto Businari (drums).
So is it a co-incidence that ‘The Moor’ is also the name of a song by Opeth?
Enrico: [laughs] No, it’s not a co-incidence. We chose the name about one year after the band’s formation. The influence from Opeth was too big and we really love that song. The ‘moor’ is also a kind of landscape that symbolises the mirror of our souls. There’s also a tragedy of Shakespeare called “The Moor Of Venice” and…well…we are from Venice.
Enrico, in your musical career you’ve been involved in a wide variety of music genres. What triggered your desire to form The Moor?
Enrico: I used to play with Davide [Carraro – guitarist] and Massimo [Coccetto – bassist] in a Metal band called Bleed In Vain. We released 2 albums with that band, one with Cartel Media and another with Unicorn Records, of Canada. After the band split up, in 2008, Davide and I decided to continue playing together and play something new. At first we played a sort of Hard Rock…very simple stuff…but we realised it wasn’t really what we wanted. We wanted to do something more challenging.
Alberto: What Enrico is trying to say is that the band had no specific idea in their mind on what music they wanted to play. They just went with the flow of whatever sound they came up with. As a result they came up with something really different from the norm.
As Enrico has just mentioned, ¾ of The Moor had already played together in a band called Bleed In Vain. Was it hard, at first, to block out the mindset of Bleed In Vain when composing music for The Moor?
Enrico: No, it’s not hard at all, also because the Bleed In Vain stuff was written by another guy, who’s now living in Canada. He was the main songwriter. Also ears and minds and moods were changing so that fact that 3 of us had already played together in another band is not a problem for The Moor’s music. We write what we feel at that moment in time and we don’t think beforehand about what we would be going to write.
You don’t plan ahead…
Enrico: No, we just record whatever we’re feeling.
When someone hears The Moor’s music for the first time, the presence of a wide variety of mood swings is perhaps the first aspect that gets noticed. Isn’t there the possibility that this approach could endanger the organic aspect of the songs?
Alberto: Yes, I think it is very dangerous and we have to be very good in putting together the musical styles. However, I think that our album has different influences but one mood. There are many different genres in our compositions but the end result is a homogenous one.
In fact we’ve received a lot of positive feedback about this. People have told us that “You use a wide mix of genres but listening to your music doesn’t feel uncomfortable. The result is very original.”
Enrico, there was a time before you formed The Moor that you focused only on lead vocals. What made you want to pick up the guitar again when composing music for The Moor?
Enrico: Well, my first instrument was the guitar before I even started singing so picking up the guitar again with The Moor was like going back to my origins. It wasn’t difficult to pick up the guitar again because I was already doing lead vocals and guitar with Bleed In Vain. So, with some practice...
In a few minutes you’ll set foot on the stage of this iconic venue (the ‘Underworld’). Will this be the first time that The Moor plays outside Italy?
Enrico: Yes, the first time.
Is England a market you would particularly like to break into?
Enrico: Definitely, yes, also because the promoter of Lion Music lives here in the UK. Unfortunately he won’t be able to be here tonight, though.
Alberto: We don’t really think of this in terms of ‘markets’. We are here just to have fun and to play our music to new people. We’ve come here at our own expense so it’s a pleasure before anything else.
A couple of years ago in this same venue I had interviewed Fredrik Nordström with whom I believe you’ve worked with before. [Fredrik is a Swedish producer of albums by: At The Gates, In Flames, Arch Enemy, Hammerfall, Soilwork, Dimmu Borgir and many other bands, including of course his own band, Dream Evil.] How much of a learning experience was working with Fredrik?
Enrico: It was a dream come true, also because he’s a great producer. He mixed our first EP, called ‘The Moor’, and we also had had the pleasure of working with him as Bleed In Vein. Working with him was an obvious choice because his hands can do miracles.
Our [The Moor’s] first album – “Year Of The Hunger” – was produced and mixed by myself. It wasn’t because we weren’t happy with Fredrik’s work of course but we really knew what we were going to do. We then sent it to Jens Bogren [Opeth, Katatonia, Symphony X, Enslaved, Turisas….] for mastering.
I believe you have your own recording studio, Enrico, is that right?
Enrico: I have my own studio, yes.
Is it more difficult to be disciplined in the studio when you’re producing your own music?
Enrico: Yes it’s difficult so that’s why I have spent several months in the studio with Davide, Alberto and Massimo. It took lots of listenings [before we released it].
Italy has a very deep-rooted pedigree with regards to Prog Rock. How much do you think Italian society conditions your outlook towards music?
Enrico: Italian society and Rock music are two very different things.
I had the impression that the Rock/Metal scene had improved in the last decade….that it became more respected.
Enrico: Think so? Well maybe it has become more respected, but always by non-Italians. You can see Rock music in the UK, Germany…..but not so much in Italy. Maybe things are getting better in a way because there are lots of bands but there are not many venues for example.
Massimo: I think there are good bands in Italy but the difficulty is in getting our music heard.
Enrico: We are the worst country ever when it comes to buying CDs and buying music. There is a lot of piracy. So it’s difficult to get your music out and to sell CDs because people prefer to download illegally.
Let’s talk about the video-clip you were working on until recently. At what point is that project?
Enrico: We’re not releasing it for now. We want to consider all our options first.
What about a second album from The Moor…are there any ideas floating around for your sophomore album?
Enrico: Yes, in fact we hope to record our new album before the end of this year. We still haven’t decided on the name of the album though we do have something in mind. We already have some song-parts recorded.
How will the music of the new album compare to “Year of the Hunger”?
Enrico: In the new album we’ll have some parts that didn’t fit into the mood of our first album. Normally if something isn’t good enough we’ll throw it away.
So you have no problem in throwing musical ideas away rather than working on them until they’re just right?
Enrico: No, no. In fact we’ve thrown away a lot songs.
What about festivals? Are there any concrete plans to do some festivals in the near future?
Enrico: We’ll be playing at 2 or 3 festivals in the North of Italy this summer. 2 are confirmed and maybe there’ll be another for the June / July period. Not yet in a foreign [beyond Italy] country though.
Andrea: We would like play in a foreign country. In fact if somebody’s reading this interview and would like us to play in their festival, please contact Enrico [grins].
To conclude this interview I’ve got a straightforward question for each of you. Which albums best represent you as a musician?
Massimo: The albums that represent me? I don’t know…there are too many. That’s the worst question you could have asked me [smiles].
It’s so the readers who don’t know you might understand where you’re coming from, musically speaking.
Massimo: My influences tend to be from Rock music rather than from Metal. Mentioning something specific that has influenced me more than others is difficult to be honest.
Davide: I wouldn’t mention specific albums but I’d mention musicians who’ve influenced me.
Davide: David Gilmour, Joe Bonamassa…and all the 1980s shred guitarists, such as Malmsteen, Friedman, Jason Becker…those kind of guys.
Alberto: I’d say everything by Tool. I like the Alternative Metal genre a lot…
So you’re the one who bring sounds typical to Alternative Metal into the music of The Moor…
Alberto: I try to. You know, the next album will sound better because as band members we now know each other better. Now we know what each other wants, what the other members have in mind.
Enrico, what about you? What are the albums or bands that helped form your musical outlook?
Enrico: Faith No More’s “King For A Day…Fool Foe A Lifetime”, some Opeth stuff, a lot of Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl as an artist with all his projects. Also, old Stoner stuff like Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Age. I love that stuff.
Right after the interview ended I witnessed The Moor’s performance, sandwiched between two English bands: Audiowhores and Burgundy. Until then my only foray into The Moor’s music was their excellent “Year Of The Hunger” album. Yet, I felt that their material had a life of its own when delivered live and all members proved to be first-rate musicians. Indeed if I had a criticism it would be that their set was over too quickly.
Afterwards several members of the audience heaped praise on the band for their distinctive music. I noticed that these audience members differed widely in age, gender and to the music they seemed to listen to on a habitual basis. The last time I witnessed such a wide-ranging appreciation was when I played the music of a certain band called Opeth on a radio show I used to do years back. Which of course is ironic.
Included with this interview are photos of the gig the band did at the ‘Underworld’ as well as another gig done the following day in Norwich. They were snapped by Andrea Livieri. And of course do check out The Moor’s website!
© 2013 Chris Galea
Interviewed by Chris Galea