Wednesday, 13 August 2008
Interview: Victor Life of Fockewulf 190
One of Magic Waves' most-played tracks has surely got to be the awesome 'Gitano' by Fockewulf 190. The team behind this mystical masterpiece of early European synthesiser-dance was Dario Dell'Aere and Victor Life, who were also responsible for such other highly sought-after classics as 'Body Heat', 'No Sex', 'Eagles In The Night' and 'Tumidanda'. We had the pleasure of interviewing Victor Life...
The story of Fockewulf 190 started when you and Dario (Dell'Aere) met outside a cinema in Milan in 1979. Can you tell us about how the band evolved from there and what those early years were like?
- Full of enthusiasm, we had the power of seducing everyone who got in touch with us, especially the dandy guys from the Taxy Club, the historic New Romantic club in Milan where we used to play live. Everything seemed possible for Fockewulf 190... immediately a crew of fans made us like their little stars.
One of them even took us to the studio to record our first single, 'No Sex'. Ours is the classic story of a band born from below, we came from the road. The power of that period was in this peculiarity... bands were formed around an ideological concept, not like today where everything is planned in the higher places of record companies or by some "masters". It's ridiculous to eliminate the spontaneous expression of a natural talent... it's like God taking away freedom of choice from men. Without mistakes you can't have evolution!
What was your background before meeting Dario and starting Fockewulf 190? What kind of music did you used to listen to growing up in the 1970s?
- One day in 1972 my teenage sister brought home 'Hunky Dory' by David Bowie... I fell madly in love with "Life On Mars". The strange thing was that the original owner of that record was Dario's brother...destiny!
I was growing up well since I was 8, thanks to my older brothers who were glam-rock and progressive fanatics. I was really fascinated by Keith Emerson at the time. Already at 14 years old I was collecting every kind of rock vinyl, but very soon electronics prevailed and I came to the conclusion that there were only five artists who really changed the history of pop music... Syd Barrett, David Bowie, Kraftwerk, Roxy Music and the Ultravox of John Foxx.
What was Milan like as a place to live in the early 1980s?
- Milan was elegant and sophisticated, maybe a little violent... there were a lot of right and left sided gangs. In 1980 the Post-Punk movement prevailed and all the New Wave styles made those year unique. I am still nostalgic about that period, age has nothing to do with it... I know I'm not alone in suffering from this, there's an entire generation waiting for a new future !
By 1982 you had changed the band's name to Ice Eyes and had a local hit with your track 'No Sex'. Why did you use this name at this point and what are your memories of this era?
- Ice Eyes was a transitory name, we weren't Diamond Dogs anymore, but not yet Fockewulf 190 either. Names are symbols with a numeric value which sound magical.
I was 18 and I was seeing around us an extraordinary attention, but I also had difficulties understanding all the levels of what we were expressing. "No Sex" influenced all the Italo Disco movement and in the end this was not good for us, because we were trapped in a flow that wasn't part of our DNA.
After this you changed the name to Fockewulf 190. Why this particular name, and why the change again?
- Because you evolve, you define yourself after finding a space to move inside. Fockewulf 190 was like saying... here's something different from the crappy Italian songs, these guys are the real thing!
By 1984 it seems as if there had become a greater mystical element in your music, in tracks like 'Gitano' and 'Body Heat', and of course you enjoyed greater commercial success in other countries during this time too. Can you tell us about the message you were trying to convey in your music, and also how the band were treated by the Italian music industry at this point?
- 1984 wasn't crucial only for us, but also for an entire generation brought up in 1977 between the energy of Punk and the electronics of Kraftwerk, the glorious dreams of the The Thin White Duke and the New Romanticism of synth-pop. The last wave before the end, like in the best apocalyptic prophecies, for us could be only linked to the electronic and futuristic mysticism, philosophically esoteric, imperial in its theatrical shape and plasma'd by oriental sounds. The idea was to re-unite the different styles into one centre of gravity, something so strong in spirit, soul and body, to not leave space for anyone else, recreating something mythological like the Ziggy Stardust era.
Not even the great Bowie himself, who wrote the best mythology of the sci-fi rock, managed to have such an extreme vision... the last link, the final chapter of the Diamond Dogs legend. That was our idea and in the scene they were talking a lot about us, but nobody had the guts to seriously invest in our band, not even the ones who considered us the new Rockets. In the end being Italian, as I said before, was a curse that made us live in a cage, not even made of gold... more or less a silver one!
The strange symbols on the sleeve of 'Gitano' have always intrigued me - can you explain their meaning to us?
- That should be a question for Dario, since it was his creation, I think the fruit of an astral vision he had, synthesised by the sentence written on the back of the record and that said, more or less: "Move aside and pick up a silver rose, if it alters touching your video, the impossible reality will materialise". In short words, as I was saying before... the chance of creating something new in the artistic scene.
I think that was the point... we made someone angry in Italy or maybe it wasn't our time... I sincerely thought for a while that what was linked to that symbol was a lot of crap.... there were ignorant people saying that it was linked to drugs and things like that. The future is always running, probably the symbols refer to that in an esoteric way, a second grade gift to consume in another time.
What other artists did you like at the time? Were there any other bands you were close to in the Italian scene?
- Italians? No, apart from the avant-garde records made by the Krisma of Maurizio and Cristina Arcieri, only Giorgio Moroder had an international importance.
There were some soundtracks made by the Goblin of Simonetti and some nice tracks made by artists like Garbo, Battiato, Matia Bazar that had a sort of a middle-european shade, but in the end it was easy pop music, elegant and sophisticated, but far from our musical flow of electronic experimentations. With time I appreciated the Kirlian Camera of Angelo Bergamini, a real talent, and some historic bands from Florence and Bologna like Neon, Pankow, Diaframma, Gaz Nevada and others... but my eyes were focused on more oniric artists.
The lyrics to 'Body Heat' seem to be quite political in nature. What inspired them?
- I can't remember exactly, I think it was a sort of provocation; our lyrics aren't stories, but emotional flashes, with an hermetic and precise language.
By the way, both 'Body Heat' and 'Gitano' were accused of esoteric fascism... Just to be clear I have to say that I don't get well with political language... it doesn't fit my way of living. I ignore all those TV shows where the politicians shout their sided egotistical ideas about class and racial belonging... I don't believe in a materialistic conception of life, there's a lot more than we can see.
But if I have to say my opinion, I think that the period of the Roman Empire that went from Trajan to Marcus Aurelius was a great example of an illuminated government that probably will never come again.
The lyrics to 'Gitano' have always fascinated me too, they are far more esoteric than the lyrics for 'Body Heat' or 'No Sex'. Can you explain their meaning to us please?
- The message was symbolic; step aside from the masses to become a splendid cosmic individuality, raising our own vibratory level to permit the invasion of the blue lights, bi-dimensional alien entities destined to universal evolution. A revolution that had the objective to rediscover the ancient lost values, folded in the symbolism of the ancient civilisations, covering them with romantic futurism.
There was always quite a reaction to Fockewulf 190's striking live shows in Milan. Why do you think you caused such a controversy? Did you intend to?
- Here in Italy everyone who tries creating something new always passes for presumptuous. They always try to damage him and they make bad accusations, and give stupid labels. With the name we had, accusing us of being nazi-fascist was just too obvious an accusation! ahahaha... we laughed at them and so our fans loved us even more for that. The truth is that our shows were a success, but there was a sort of fanaticism on us and that created a mix of admiration and hate.
Fockewulf 190 have a strong image, from the mystical symbols and the face-paint, to even the postures Dario adopts in pictures and on stage. What influenced and inspired you in this area?
- No need to deny it, I'm proud of that! Our school was the one of David Bowie, the greatest talent of the century.
But also Christian Le Bartz, the Rockets' singer... he was amazing, he hypnotised the audience like a space 'dux' ("leader" in Latin); Peter Murphy of the Bauhaus, a night creature, a genuine talent, mutable like the moon, absolutely pure. To finish, the singer of the Undead, the band of the movie "Phantom of the Paradise", simply divine with his detached and assolutistic acting. For us the theatrical mime aspect completes the music, the image is a magic reflex of an interior spirituality, able to project onto the audience a deeper dimension of the artist.
Plans were underway for the Fockewulf 190 album which would have included the classic 'Oh Oh Oh' - what went wrong, and what caused you to leave the band at this point?
- I was disgusted by the productions, I was depressed, nobody really understood me...now after 25 years the facts are giving me reason... the audience of the world is slowly re-discovering the originality of the band.
Dario released 'Eagles In The Night' in 1985 under his own name. Finally it seems to be getting some recognition and respect for being the masterpiece it is - did you have any involvement in this track and what are your feelings about it?
- For the friendship that linked me to Dario, despite our deep disaccord, I worked with him for what I could in the mixing of the tracks, but nothing more. Honestly to me the sound of "Eagles in the night" seems a little "old", but the melody remains charming and immortal like all the things that Dario made.
Also, Dario produced 'Tumidanda' for Frank Tavaglione, now a highly sought after collector's item. What was the story behind this and who was Frank Tavaglione?
- Tavaglione was a friend from the Taxy Club; he wanted an easy and simple song to do some shows with in the discos... Dario had a lot of fun producing 'Tumidanda'. It's a nice track, but it has nothing to do with Fockewulf 190's productions.
Do you have any regrets for how things turned out for Fockewulf 190 in the mid 80s?
- Yes, I suffered a lot for that road interrupted in the middle that was taking us far away... the new album 'Electrum Lux' finally defines the Fockewulf 190 question once and for all. I can't stand it when dreams remain in a closet, especially when they are gold ones.
You and Dario briefly reformed the band in 1988. Can you tell us what happened?
- Fockewulf 190 never really split up... they were just hibernating in the silence of time... when we made the cover of the Heaven 17 song it was just for having a little more fun, but we knew that the war was lost, ahahahahah, in fact we didn't come out as Fockewulf 190, but as Demode Boulevard. It was like a trip...nothing serious!
What did you and Dario do in the 1990s? Did you still play together?
- Always! And we made some great songs like 'In My Soul', 'Orient Express', 'Magic World', 'New World'... but we didn't bother making records, it wasn't the time.
Most of the 90's was dedicated to esoteric research, especially kabbalistic, and between a discovery and another, some sweet life in Romagna! Rimini station! I can never forget such emotions, but there were also bad times, a lot of suffering, love delusions and friends lost along the way that I miss so much.
You have told me before that your music is based on visions that you and Dario have had... can you tell us more about your artistic process, and what these visions are?
- The visions of an artist are really close to spiritual ones, they are something so deep and peculiar that you can't describe them in words. That's the reason why you decide to became a musician or a priest and not a factory worker or an enterpriser...
I don't know If I'm clear, as I said in another interview we can tell the truth only telling novels... this way everyone will say that you're a genius and not crazy... but if you think about it there's no difference, only a lot of hypocrisy from the ones judging.
Almost every sacred or historical book, from the Bible to the Odyssey, are written in a mythological way, but they manage to describe reality anyway... but they would never have been accepted by the masses if those truths weren't romanced in the right way. Being able to see and hear the hidden things is the mission of the ones who want to become real gold donkeys...
I hear you are writing a book at the moment - can you tell us something about that?
- This work is the fruit of my electronic experimentation applied to sonic frequencies related to the science of numbers of the Sacred Kabbalah. That experience brought me to writing this esoteric novel 'The Golden Last Metamorphosis' , where the main character named "Victor" meets a bi-dimensional entity called "Life" in a recording studio, who after telling his initiation story using the magic of sounds, he leaves in heritage to him the power of electrum..... but I don't know yet when it's going to be finished, maybe the last act still have to be written in real life! I can just say that it's not a classic autobiographical story.
Recently you and Dario have reformed Fockewulf 190 with some new members. Can you tell us about the new line-up and how you came back to make the new album 'Electrum Lux'? Why now after all these years?
- I will answer you with the beginning of the book I'm writing:
"The reason of the nostalgia for that pulsing life, of marvellous things that were never dead, leaves a space to a new and thin anticipation, to a definitive metamorphosis"
The idea to make the old Fockewulf 190 fly again was born exclusively from that inspiration of mine.
When will the new album be released and can we expect to see Fockewulf 190 on tour?
- the new record should be out by the end of this year, then we will evolve the new sound of the band exclusively live with the new singer Dèa Lux and the new guitarist Alexander Voyx. Markus Moonlite will keep on working in the background as lyrics writer.
Have you or Dario got any other projects you are working on?
- No, at the moment the 'Electrum Lux' project is the only one I'm working on. For the future I would love to work with Maurizio Piazza for an ambient record with him... he's a musician that I really value and I'm working with him on some remixes that are going to be included on the record as bonus tracks.
What are your other obsessions and passions in life?
- Music is my only obsession... it has everything inside it; passion, love, sex, mysticism... but right now I'm happy with my lady Elektra. Having a woman that take care of you is something very rare, believe me!
Please tell us your best and worst memories of concerts you have played.
- Bad memories... only one. a damned live show where the equipment caught fire, it was a real hell!!
Best memories... a lot! But probably the most symbolic one remains the concert at the Club 99 in Gradara, on the 24th of April, 1984.
Fockewulf 190 are often included in the current 'Italo' revival, although that term does not seem to describe the band properly. How would you describe Fockewulf 190?
- I let others define us... I can't define the craziest air-plane in the world... I only know that we can do everything...electro-rock or disco-ambient, and even Afro Jazz, but probably we will always be connected to the futuristic mysticism.
Please tell us Victor Life's five most essential records to own.
- John Foxx 'Metamatic'
- David Bowie 'Diamond Dogs'
- Pink Floyd 'The Dark Side Of The Moon'
- Kraftwerk 'Trans Europa Express'
...and let's see, for number 5 I can't decide between Roxy Music 'Avalon', Japan 'Gentleman Take Polaroids' or Talk Talk 'It's My Life'... but in the end I will say 'Electrum Lux' ahahahaha, so you can have a really cool cult record.
Fockewulf 190 on myspace
Victor Life on myspace
Fockewulf 190 on youtube