Tuscany is a triangle-shaped region in central Italy roughly 9,000 square miles in size. With a geography comprised of rolling hills and mountains, fertile plains, and the white sands of the Etruscan coast, it is a rural paradise of natural beauty.
It also happens to be home to musician Luca Dalpiaz and his solo project BARRENS; a seamless, alchemical blend of black metal, gothic folk and shoegaze. After discovering his debut demo "Circles" while cruising the blogosphere (see our review here), we were eager to learn more about this artist and the influences and methods behind his music.
Tell us about the history of BARRENS and how the project came to be.
LUCA DALPIAZ: I started playing bass when I was a teenager. From that moment I've been involved in a lot of different bands and projects; I was focused on my instrument, that's why I changed so many musical styles. Punk, hardcore, noise, post-stuff, folk, shoegaze. During these years I always developed music as a part of a band, improving my skills, my ears, and growing as a person by meeting the right people around me to collaborate with. I can say it was a long period of learning. Then I felt like the moment had arrived; the moment to do something that would be strictly mine, deeply mine. The name ''Barrens'' had been floating in my mind for the last 2 and a half years, I liked the sound of it, so evocative; therefore the thing was so natural, I had the right name at the right moment. So I only started playing other instruments to create what in my mind was so clear: the first structure of ''Circles'', my demo.
BARRENS combines a variety of styles/genres into a very unique sound. What are the influences or inspirations behind the project?
As I said, a lot of musical styles, and I always listened to everything in my life: what is important to me is the quality and the intensity of a song, of a track, of an ambient suite. So I tried to concentrate all the whispers of inspiration that came to my mind into something that had its own essence, and that was consistent. These ''whispers'' were Cormac McCarthy, Dino Buzzati, Eugenio Montale, A. Jodorowsky, Werner Herzog, Ben Chasny, Phil Elverum, Dylan Carlson, David Eugene Edwards. Then ambient music, wicked blues and, of course, black metal.
Since you are a one-man band, how does the songwriting process happen? Do you start with one instrument and add layers until a song is complete?
First of all, I start from a concept. I mean, it can also be a peculiar word, or just an atmosphere. Then I start playing instruments to create it. When I decided to work on the material that would become the demo ''Circles'' I had a few lines of lyrics and some riffs; I just let them grow in my mind. The first brick of the recording session was the drums/percussion; that's because the song was clear in my mind, I already knew the guitar parts because I had already written the guitar's acoustic line; then I recorded acoustic instruments, basses, then the most important moment: the atmospheres. I say this because they are like a ''glue'' that brings together all the work's different parts. All the ambient/drone parts you hear on ''Circles'' are not synths; I made them using the reverbs and the distortions between the mics and tens of overdubbed acoustic guitars.
You play multiple instruments and are an accomplished songwriter. Have you ever had any formal or classical training?
I am completely self-taught. I am just a curious guy with a strong sense of discipline.
You mentioned that you are in other bands besides BARRENS, but this is your first solo project. Can you compare what it is like to work with an ensemble group versus working alone? Is it better or worse, or just different?
These are two completely different ways of working. I mean, not only as a method, but as a philosophy. I've always had some bands and musical projects in my life, so I shared many experiences and deep feelings with people/friends/musicians around me. It's great to create the chemistry to get a good band, achieving our musical ideas together. This is a path of compromises and discussions, which are very important to make you grow as a person and, why not, as a musician. This simply does not happen when you work by yourself. All the possibilities around you drastically change, and a sort of a ''creative avalanche'' overwhelms you; you can do whatever you want, but you have to be prepared to manage this freedom. You don't want to drown in it. That's why you need your discipline to create a balance between all these new possibilities, to bring them wherever they may come to. So it's different to have or not have a band to play with, as you can imagine; what I can say for sure is that I could never start this solo project without first being in a band.
What is the music scene like where you are from? Are there a lot of shows? Are people supportive?
Sincerely, I don't like the concept of ''scene'' very much. I will say more: I started BARRENS to escape from these ''rock'n'roll'' ideas. I mean, I like to be competitive, trying to reach the highest level I can (considering my equipment, of course) and doing my stuff. I obviously listen to other artists from my area, comparison has always been important to me; it keeps me ''awake'' so I can take inspiration from the things around me, from what I see and what I hear. I think that this improves us and lets the music show itself in the purest way. But this cannot create immutable standards that flow into these sort of reactionary dogmas; there is a high risk of falling into a dead end that would suffocate the natural development of an idea. So know your soil but don't let it control you. In the meantime, a few ''Italian'' suggestions: be sure to check out Gottesmorder (they split up but they have released a great record), Graad, Bland Vargar and Enisum.
Black metal seems to be crossing over with more and more genres, what do you think of this? Do you see potential for the genre of black metal to spread even further?
Now the moment is over, but I think that in the last years Black Metal showed itself as the more dynamic style in between metal genres. I think that's happened because of its being so extreme; it is like a raw, dark and distant frontier, where everything could happen; it's like, you know, the perfect place for contamination. If you stripped it of all its theatrical aspects (face-painting, satanistic stuff) you can see a huge, dark and entirely free area to work in, to fill it with your ideas without any sort of restriction. This music style is particularly suitable for these dark years, where the wave of progress has crashed upon the stones of some atavistic, deadly recall. What I call ''Black Metal'' is just a mood to approach reality, or what it means to you, in a deepest way; it does not base itself on solipsistic dogmas or musical laws, you can express it with atmospheres, raw drums, melodies, electronics, primitive percussions, techno, dark ambient, whatever. The point is ''what'', not '' how''.
What are your future plans for BARRENS?
I am writing new material. That will be pretty different from the ''Circles'' demo; more ''songs-based'' work instead of long suites, a sort of melancholic journey.
Thanks for the interview Luca, is there anything else you would like to say?
Thank you for this interview and for having discovered my work in the depths of the web's ocean.