Thursday 30 June 2016

"Blood Will Flow!" - Amped & Doomed with Simone Bertozzi (Arcana 13)

By: Aaron Pickford

Today I speak with Arcana 13, a band who do not sound track Disney, but instead embrace two things that I hold dear, old horror movies, specifically the visionary directors of Italia Cult Horror, Lucio Fulci and Darion Argento, and heavy metal music.   Arcana 13 have taken the imagery of Italian Horror and infused these influences with their love of heavy music, and in the process of have released one of best occult infused doom album so far this year, in the form of “Danza Macabra”. 

Not only have they released one of the best sounding records, “Danza Macabra” is also one of the best looking, due in no small part to the artwork for the album, which was created by legendary artist Enzo Sciotti, who during his 50 year career has illustrated more than 3000 movie posters, including cult horror masterpieces like Lucio Fulci’s death trilogy “The Beyond”,City of the Living Dead” and “The House by the Cemetery”; Dario Argento’sPhenomena”; Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness” and “Evil Dead”; Joe D’Amato’sAntropophagus”; Lamberto Bava’sDemoni”; Stephen King’sMaximum Overdrive”. 

So, please welcome Simone Bertozzi from Arcana 13, who was kind enough to talk to us about the inception of the band, the magic of the “Suspiria” sound track, his inspirations as an aspiring guitarist and everything else in between, oh and let us not forget, nerding the fuck out about gear.  Check it out.

SL) Can you give us a brief history of your playing career?

Simone: Have you ever wondered how could have been a Lucio Fulci cult movie with a Black Sabbath soundtrack? This is Arcana 13.

The band was summoned in the winter of 2013, as a bunch of good old friends jamming on Black Sabbath tunes in a stinking rehearsal room, cracking beers open and busting the amps at ear-shattering volumes. Here and there we were laying down some new riffs and recording some stuff on a tape recorder like it was 1974 again. However the magic started when I started to improvise the theme from Goblin’sSuspiria” in the rehearsals… Being fanatics of the legendary Italian Horror movies of Argento, Fulci, Bava as much as we’re addicted to Black Sabbath and Pentagram the step was really short.

From that “Suspiria” cover we couldn’t help ourselves, we put an old TV screen with a rusty VHS player in the rehearsals and basically jammed while watching those Horror masterpieces, such crazy fun times. Sometimes a specific scene inspired us riffs some others we had a specific atmosphere in mind from a song and we searched for the best film to picture it.

SL) Can you remember who or what inspired you to pick up the guitar? Are there any bands, guitarists, currently on the scene that continue to inspire you and push you to try new things?

Simone: I can honestly tell you that my very first inspiration to play guitar was George Harrison, my dad has always been a Beatles fanatic and used to play me all those legendary tunes I’ve grown so fond of. From then on my tastes turned into the heavy side: Metallica, Iron Maiden, Megadeth and Pantera were the driving force to get better at the instrument.

Things went totally upside down when the “Lord of Riff” shed light on me: Tony Iommi. I understood that heaviness is not in shred playing, quite the opposite. Iommi knows and will tell you everything about it, even with two fingers less. When I jam onto those classic Black Sabbath tunes I always find some new nuances in the way he plays a riff, the fingering, the resonating strings, the placement on the neck, its magic!

Speaking of contemporary guitar players, one that absolutely changed the game for me is without doubt Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth. His melodic playing and progressive-laden riffs are top notch, and he got unbelievable pipes as well making him close to god-like.

SL) Whilst we’re on the subject of inspiration or heroes for example, do you have 5 records that stand out as favourites, what influence did they have upon you and what is it about those record that particular resonates amongst others? 

Simone: Hardest question ever. Let’s go, in random order, first three classics:

Black Sabbath – “Master Of Reality”
None heavier. 34 minutes of madness that revolutionized heavy metal as we know it. Riffs, riffs, riffs, riffs and more riffs. Tune down, bust up, sabb off!

Pantera – “Vulgar Display Of Power”
None tighter. There won’t be another guitar god like Dimebag, shred chops from the heart you can singalong with.

Opeth – “Blackwater Park
Finest extreme metal prog ever, I have many favourite Opeth albums but this is the one that sparked the plug.

Then two newer ones:

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – “Blood Lust
Black Sabbath meets The Beatles and I’m sold. Hard to get off my stereo in 2011 and so forth, fantastic record!

Witchcraft – “Legend”
This is the album that kicked Uncle Acid off the stereo the year after. I absolutely consumed it to the point I was getting nauseous. Magnus Pelander’s voice is legendary and the production of this record is simply amazing, modern and powerful yet organic.

SL) Can remember your first electric guitar, bass?  

Simone: Sure thing. It was a Ferrari red Japanese Fender Stratocaster my dad bought me when I was 12. Quite a lot of guitars followed, sold all of them ‘cause I don’t like stacking up guitars I don’t play, but this one is a keeper. Recently refurbished by my dad and I, changed to color to black with cream pickguard: Blackmore style!

SL) What guitar(s) bass (s) are you using today and how did you gravitate towards the guitar you currently use? 

Simone: I use a 2013 Gibson USA SG, ebony. ‘Cause Iommi rules. Don’t need anything else that this axe. I’ve looked for something else to spice up the sound but the SG is such a versatile and comfortable guitar to play with, it’s the DOOM machine.

SL) What do you like about the guitars you currently use and has there been any specific modifications to it? 

Simone: None, Gibson USA guitars comes from the factory ready to play and that’s the beauty of it.

SL) What amps and pedals do you currently use?  Do you use a combination of amps, or a full half stack? Talk us through your set up both in the studio and in the live environment? 

Simone: “Danza Macabra” was recorded with Andrea’s ’78 Orange Overdrive on a Orange 4x12, with a Maxon OD808 in front of it.

Although I love that vintage sound I recently got an Orange OR100 and I love it! Vintage style with modern features, so versatile: crunch channel is perfect as it is, clean channel has a lot of clarity and headroom, if you plug a fuzz onto it you’re in Electric Wizard territory with a blink of an eye and an hit from a bong haha!

SL) What one pedal could not live without and why? 

Simone: I couldn’t live without the OD808 but the Orange OR100 is so good sounding as it that I plug it just on solos, and the Proco Ratt for heavier fuzzy parts. So my pedal-to-die-for is the MXR Carbon Copy because it’s so organic, straightforward and cuts through the sound like heaven. You can go from spacey parts to bucket style havoc!

SL) What are your amp/ pedal settings?

Simone: I’d say pretty much flat eq, rolling down the highs and cranking up the bass, ‘cause doom you that’s why!

SL) What tunings do you use and why, and as a result is there a specific brand / gauge of string you prefer ?    

Simone: We tune to standard C# (“Master of Reality” anyone?) and drop B. For that I use D’Addario nickels 11-56. Recently I’ve been trying D’Addario NYXL, I dig the added clarity and brightness!

SL). Do you have any advice for up and coming guitars players, bands?

Simone: I’m the last in line but truth has to be told. Switch off those computers, build up your chops on those goddamn records and play as much as possible, focus on writing good songs for yourself to be happy and for the audience to entertain. Doesn’t matter if it’s gonna take one year or two, or three, you need to be 100% confident in it!

SL) Do feel there are deeply help misconceptions about being in a band? 

Simone: The biggest misconception is the amount of work involved beside writing and playing music. So much stuff to take care of and focus on to get your message through. But the feedback of your listeners will repay every second of it!

SL)  Moving on a little then,  what can you tell us about any of your current projects, tours, cds, etc you’re currently promoting, completed and anything else band related we should know about?

Simone:Danza Macabra” is about the turn 3 months old, we already reprinted it once and this is huge for a small band like ourselves. We’re promoting it live as much as possible but we don’t want to oversaturate people that are already subjected to so many musical inputs nowadays and we’re also selecting the best venues to take our live show in.

Our “Danza Macabra” show is featuring all the Italian Horror movies used in the album, with visual videos put together by ourselves, it’s a tribute to the golden age of Italian cinematography, that goes so well with old school doom, innit?

Currently we’re working  an European tour for the next fall, can’t wait to take our doomy horror visions out there! Blood will flow.

SL) What springs to mind when you think about the completion of your new/current record and how is the mood in the camp at present?

Simone: The mood is obviously as high as the feedbacks we’re receiving so far, but we’re staying focused and also starting to make up our minds on the next steps. “Danza Macabra” took 3 years to be completed, ‘cause at the end of the day what matters the most is the record you’ll hold in your hands, that’s your legacy for the future generations. The bar has been set so high by all the bands before us; it’s our duty to deliver the best.

SL) What are your favourite songs to play live? What is it about them that makes them so good to play live, crowd reaction, etc?  Anything from your catalogue that you wouldn’t play and why? 

Simone: So far the “Danza Macabra” show is comprised of the whole album from start to finish, hard to pick one’s favorite but I’d say that my personal favorite remains ‘Hell Behind You’. It’s the song that closes the album and the show, it’s epic, moving and written on one of my favorite movie ever, ‘Inferno’ by Dario Argento, whose soundtrack was written by a musical genius that recently left: Keith Emerson. RIP.

SL) What can fans look forward to from you over the next 12 months? How is your schedule shaping up?

Simone: We’re gonna promote “Danza Macabra” throughout Italy for the whole summer then European tour next fall and we’ll see! Things develop fast in the Arcana 13 HQ.

Finally, do you have any final comments/word of wisdom you’d like to bestow upon us?

Simone: Thanks for the nice interview, loved the gear part as every guitar nerd out there! For the readers: crank up “DANZA MACABRA” with a nice beer and some old school Italian horror on your TV and trip with our doom tunes! Hail horror, doom on!

Transmission Ends