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Testing Vault: An Interview with dANi/ALvo

Testing Vault

Testing Vault

Testing Vault first started in 2003, it was conceived by DANIAlvo and over the years has released a few great CD. My introduction to Testing Vault came through a trade of rare discs and tapes. The Testing Vault disc in there was Some Voices Say Rosemary’s Not Dead.

What struck me was the combinations of looped instrumentation samples and noise in the work. However upon hearing them live there was an apparent madness within it all. That was great but then I received a limited disc (10) called The Complete Shit Exorcism that perfected all the existing Testing Vault strengths and added more, after that I had to do this interview…

When I started researching Testing Vault more, I read a description describing it as “Traditional Industrial”. But listening your album Some Voices Say Rosemary’s Not Dead I noticed it did not sound like what I thought industrial to be, there seemed to influence by European artists like Luigi and Antonio Russolo basically early 1900s avant garde music. There is a lot more to the Testing Vault sound than just those influences. What are the influences on Testing Vault?

Well, you are not the only one that was kind of, let’s say, “disappointed” with the description of my music like “Traditional Industrial”, but maybe it’s above all just an easy way that Pierce and Massimo of BSP labeled me in their “Artist Section” to describe my work to people that have not heard what I was doing at the time of Some Voices Say Rosemary’s Not Dead. But I agree with their description, you know, I must admit that I feel the early years of Dada (surely more than the Futurism) Art Movement were the very first kind of “traditional industrial music”. They were a bunch of people escaped from the war and who tried to exorcise the horror through their “Anti-Art”…

In a certain way, this was the same spirit of Throbbing Gristle and the “Traditional Industrial” Artists you want to meant in your question… their spirit was not just to disappoint people or scare them, but find and give different information, to shock people to make their thoughts more alive than before… that was the common point, and, of course, the noise like art form, just thinking about Hugo Ball or Tristan Tzara’s “phonetic poems”, they sound like a sort of old industrial band that played with Throbbing Gristle! You know, Karawane and Zyklon-B Zombie could fit together in a gig!

Regarding the influences in that first disc of Testing Vault, I must put in the same line early Coil (especially with their album Gold Is The Metal With The Broadest Shoulders), Throbbing Gristle, Joseph Beuys’ “neue muzik” like Ja, Ja, Ja, Nee, Nee, Nee and all the Zurich early Dada movement… now I’m more open minded and trying to put into the new Testing Vault work also influences like Premature Ejaculation, Nico, Madonna Wayne Gacy (I know that now some people can think “oh no, a Manson’s member?” But for me Madonna Wayne Gacy is a true great manipulator that has taught me a bunch of tricks and moods), Tom Waits, John Cale’s Islands Era, and a bunch of other persons or bands… but first of all I had created Testing Vault to express what kind of dreams I hear or see, I keep a diary of what I dream and I try to apply the atmosphere of the dream to a concrete sound, it sounds egocentric but I’m the first influence on Testing Vault, being the creator!

That answer in itself raises a good question in that “when did industrial really start?” Perhaps those artists of the 70s were the first in a while to make something that reminded people of those works of Dada and Surrealism. But what I notice in your work is a lot of use of instrumentation rather than any purely electronic sound, this is most certain in Some Voices Say Rosemary’s Not Dead. Are you responsible for any of the instrumentation ever? Or do you use samples?

I also appreciate how you mention Gacy’s noises in the Marilyn Manson sound I think he adds a lot of interesting quirks behind all the Rock instrumentation.

About your impressions on “when did industrial really start?” I agree with your words, Genesis P-Orridge admitted that in the early Throbbing Gristle era that the whole scene seemed like “a sort of new Dada Movement”… after all, Throbbing Gristle were born in an Art Gallery, so there’s one connection…

Oh, about the instruments I can assure you that they are all real! Maybe I can create some loops with organic sounds; I can modify them and give to them a completely new form. But it all starts in a really physical way… not just trying to use a PC to some sounds, it would be too easy and I would miss hours of fun searching out the maddest sounds to put into my compositions! But in some songs, of course, like everyone in the electronic scene I also take some samples from old songs in films like Strange Kind Unborn (where I use a sample from Un Chien Andalou) or new pieces like The Complete Shit Exorcism (where I’ve taken a voice from Kenneth Anger’s Magick Lantern Cycle film), it’s a way to allow your song to breathe, especially if they are long. Wayne Gacy is a very very strong impact on my life… Marilyn Manson would be just a good shock-rock band without him, and their last record demonstrated that, the keys in Eat Me, Drink Me makes me laugh and desperate for the loss of Gacy in that disc… without Gacy there’s no atmospheres, there’s no concept at all (Gacy helped Manson in concept albums like Antichrist Superstar and Holy Wood with symbols, connections and numerology… of course, no one mentioned it, especially now Gacy seems to have disappeared)… he wasn’t a simple “keyboardist”, in this way he’s just like me… of course he can play a normal riff, but he plays like Anton LaVey a normal keyboard, he also uses some “magick notes” and dissonances that are unique, so, at the end of the road he is more a sort of “sound manipulator”, completely out from every kind of “rock” forma mentis… I would love to hear what kind of sounds he could create now he’s alone, I’m sure that will be something of truly scary sounds that could destroy and erase completely all the “Album and all the rest for my Girlfriend” and “Absinthe” shit that Manson is making now… Let’s hope Twiggy Ramirez’ comeback will bring also Wayne Gacy back… I miss hearing his sounds.

What was your musical experience before Testing Vault?

I’d made a bunch of things before Testing Vault, it’s difficult to make a point of the situation but I’ll try… I started to play the 5 string bass (that remains my favourite instrument ever) at 14 years old for a hardcore punk band… I remember we sounded like Discharge or some easy CCCP or PIL songs… but well, I’ve joined around 15 bands in total as bassist, voice, second drummer and at 16 I created a noise/experimental project called ironically “Rosemary” with PR, the same guy and friend who plays with me on a track of my new album The Laughing Torso, and that was my first experience with tapes, loops, keys and other strange instruments… anyway I play everything that they needed, I’m adaptable to more options and I learn fast, that’s why I became in the past, let’s say, “famous” in the underground of the land where I live and that’s why I’m collaborating also now with other bands or people (like Val Denham, Egida Aurea, Teatro Satanico, MuzaKiller Foundation, Black Sun Productions etc.) playing harmonium or percussions or loops!

Anyway the last “band” I joined was in 2000, it was really fun for three years: I played that kind of Godflesh industrial metal bass that I adore, and played shows and drank tons of beer and met girls, it was all very professional… the singer left the band after one year so I’ve started to sing but I drank too much alcohol and no sleep, that lifestyle brings me into a nervous breakdown that has completely blocked me and stopped me doing that kind of music… I wasn’t able to stand being in a band, I got too many noises and ideas that didn’t fit in a normal song and the performances were more like a panic attack than a normal concert… so when I choose to form Testing Vault, it was the only way I could make music without becoming mad.

I write in a calm environment at home, all the ideas I have and put those visions in a form of music that I could explore, it’s forever an extreme experience being in Testing Vault for me, but I feel it’s the good way to go on, in the last year I’ve started to feeling a bit better with my brain so I have experimented more, but too much stress can cause me a nervous breakdown at anytime, so I must be very beware of my health…

After all this, I can tell you that I’m still friends with all the guys in that last band, now they play death metal, they understand why I’ve left the band and they appreciate and support what I’m doing now… also if they don’t understand this kind of music, ha ha ha ha ha!

To me your greatest release so far is The Complete Shit Exorcism. It is also the first to use unbearable noise to a lower level were it becomes bearable, it still has the effect but is overlaid with other samples. To me that recording works on such a subconscious level. How did the recording come about?

First of all let me thank you for appreciating this rare released piece! I must admit I’m planning to release it in a larger run after The Laughing Torso with two or three other unreleased songs, I have asked some labels because the people’s response to this work was incredibly good…

So it’s hard to explain clearly how the record was born because I was really confused and had survived a strong psychotic reaction and the consequent nervous breakdown, so that period was a bit difficult to remember… I can only tell you it was recorded on the 27th August of the past year, one month after that strong nervous breakdown I had… I made this record that day to exorcise the panic, the fears, the weakness I have and trying to work on my soul shocking the body, so it really works on a subconscious level, because I was working on myself in that moment, binding myself with adhesive tape and a pig face mask (that was a link to Rozz Williams—clearly—and Jhonn Balance—in the most shamanic way to express the creative process—two dead musicians I feel close to me in some moments) and covering my body with black ink… all this while I was playing tape loops and modified samples from some films like the Testing Vault’s old style, and you can hear that because I have used microphones in my body to give the piece that part of reality while I was creating and giving noise to the composition… I believe The Complete Shit Exorcism it’s not “industrial music”, it’s more like Hermann Nitsch’ music… “Art Muzak”, you know… a performance (here we come back the Art connection!). But yes, it was the first piece where I also used pure noises, also if they are low and not really aggressive like in the normal “noise music”… they show how I was at the time… rabid, but not really dangerous because I was weak.

I don’t know why I have released this private part of my life… is not beautiful at all for me to remember that period, I was completely freaked out and in a mental institute, it was AWFUL… but at the same time when I listen to The Complete Shit ExorcismI am really proud of it. So, excuse me if my reply about this release sounds confused, but it’s hard for me to tell you something more about this release… it was really a shit time.

Your live CD, Dressing Well Is The Best Revenge gives a good overview of Testing Vault as a live experience. I was looking at the live shots from 2006 and it’s just you doing everything. Have there been many Testing Vault live appearances and what is your live musical set up?

I’m happy you’ve liked it because it has a rough quality… that was a bootleg that a friend recorded for me because he has known me from 13, 14 years, his name is PR and he was not sure if I had pressed the “record” button of my little high resolution recorder during the performance because of my anxiety! So, yes, on that occasion I was completely alone on stage, and was very difficult for me to “entertain” the public, also because I don’t use playback tracks or shit like that, I play all in the moment because of this Testing Vault doesn’t make so much live… One is for the loss of “entertaining”, the other is because… I don’t like the audience at all, hahaha!

Anyway now with my new album The Laughing Torso I’ve choose to take with me my longtime friend and musician PR in a little tour with me for have some fun and cause some damage in some Italy’s places, so he can stay at the bases and control the noises with me, and I will have a sort of “Einstürzende Neubauten” irons I’ve set-up to have a superior “tribe-live-form” and a “mood-ianic space” where I can sing and dance, I’m sure it will be a complete success and we will be filmed by another guy we know well and make a DVD of the events including backstage scenes and all the rest, we are also planning to make some covers of Rozz Williams and Coil material… backing to the performance point, for me is truly important to express myself with the body in a Testing Vault’s performance, let’s say I agree with those people say that the front man must have a sort of “shamanic” power on the audience, he must not just play the clown, but try to spread his soul with screams, hands, phrases and poetry… about the other live appearances of Testing Vault you can hear the truly first Testing Vault live appearance in Some Voices Say Rosemary’s Not Dead is the live title-track… It was in an Art School, I’d asked to my girlfriend to assist me in this performance half naked and on the ground while I “mummify” her with colours and paper… was very intense for both of us and for the audience too, someone was disappointed and scared by the music that never changed during this covering process… It was great to see how people reacted to some sounds. I’ve also made some other little shows I call “ghosts concerts” because they were made in empty places or without any advertisement to an audience, and that was really funny too, because I’d surprise the audience with white noise, screams and other things… I can say that the live form of Testing Vault it’s more wild and lunatic than the studio albums, where I try to create some little paranoid images with completely different ambiences. But on the stage this music must have another kind of strength so I rape it in the worst way I can.

I think it would be good to expand the Testing Vault live experience as you can expand the sound more through other people and I can see live performance art fitting in brilliantly with the Testing Vault aesthetic.

I’ve been teased by having heard the demos for the new CD The Laughing Torso and look forward to hearing the full album, tell us more about that.

About the live experience, I definitely agree with you… Testing Vault has a strong surreal aesthetic and I want to show that in the purest form of live concerts, sooner or later!

About The Laughing Torso, it is a work I’m very proud of, it’s released by Final Muzik, an Italian label that is very talented and composed by positive people who work with enthusiasm and joy on a release of “old industrial music” like the mine… I really appreciate this, I’ve became friends immediately with Gianfranco, the boss and his assistant Deison, I love them both! About the work I can tell you, this is the first Testing Vault release that has a larger availability first of all, so the fans won’t be disappointed and they can find the album in a very simple way; second point is it is also the music release I’m most proud for a combination of elements that for Testing Vault are new: the production is done by me and it’s very clean, also if the sounds are lo-fi like ever, they are powerful and “dirty” in the right way to be dirty… I’ve also collaborated with Val Denham on one track and was a real honor for me because I love his artworks, poems, music, voice and personality, we have been friends for two years and we felt a strong emotive connection between us, so for this I’m now also working on Val’s next album called Titania… I’ve played on a couple of songs, six, seven, I don’t remember, and they rock!

There are also other two guests on The Laughing Torso. One is my longtime friend and collaborator PR that has played on one song with a carpet of noises in total freedom while I played the slide guitar, the mixer and sang about an old man eaten by zools, it’s a nightmare I had years ago, when I was a, well, let’s say “punk”… an extreme situation anyway… and the other guest is Flavio Rivabella aka D.B.P.I.T., who is a great trumpeter and he played on two songs, Sexasperate and Out From My House, maybe one of the most powerful songs on the album… his style is amazing and he has played his parts in a few days with a bass I sent him with descriptions like “this piece must sound like a sort of spot for the Manson Family with an addiction for Shamanism in the present years”, or things like that so, it’s difficult after all to work with me because my inputs aren’t clear at all… Doriandra of EXP was to play on the disc too, but had problems with her machines so unfortunately she’s not appeared on this album, but we are currently working together on some songs for the next Testing Vault release, she is very talented and lovely and it’s a pleasure to play for her voice and ideas. Coming back to your question, The Laughing Torso is a photo album of surreal, paranoid, ugly photos that comes from my mind… it’s a drama exposed in music and (few) voice. It will have a strong impact on sensible people, I’m sure of this. It’s not just noise, it has more inside… and, an important thing, it’s influenced more by Premature Ejaculation than Throbbing Gristle or Coil this time, and this little change of style has given me a bunch of new ideas for other songs… just thinking I’m planning another release for this year!

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