Italy’s dark music scene is full of gems just waiting to be discovered, and every time I dig a little deeper I uncover another diamond. Horror Vacui is one of those diamonds.
So where did it all begin? The band first formed in 2010 after Koppa finally found the right members for the goth project he’d had in mind for the five years prior. “Everybody knew each other as we were already members of other bands still active nowadays, members of the collective of a squat here in Bologna or simply friends,” he says.
It was classic bands like Queen, Guns N’ Roses and The Doors that first got Koppa interested in rock music. Before long he got into the likes of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney and above all, Nirvana, “Then I started enjoying the sound from Seattle,” says Koppa. “Basically, Nirvana and Guns N’ Roses introduced me somehow to punk rock and it was there that I found my dimension. From punk rock I got into hardcore, crust and post-punk/goth rock, and that was it.”
The band’s name comes the Latin for fear of empty space, which in art is a term that refers to completely filling a surface without leaving anything blank. Is there a reason why they chose this name? “It came out once when Marzia, my girlfriend and guitar player was cleaning the room. And since she collects everything she finds I told her she was suffering from Horror Vacui syndrome.” And, that was how the name came about.
Their last album was called ‘Return of the Empire’, I asked what the meaning behind that title was and whether it has an underlying concept. “Yes, we wrote a song in 2011 called ‘The Fall of the Empire’ when our old president Berlusconi seemed to have a bad time running the country,” answers Koppa. “In fact he lost his power and somebody else became president. We thought he was fucked, but two years later he reappeared in the political scene and almost won the elections again, and for a while, he’s still been in power.” This triggered them to rewrite the song as ‘Return of the Empire’, “because this man was, literally, running an empire, he owns TV channels, newspapers, magazines, a football team, supermarkets…”
Horror Vacui don’t sound quite like any other goth band, but despite their originality their music still has a retro feel. “I wanted the band to sound like the bands I really consider the best goth-rock, post-punk and deathrock acts. Bands like Bauhaus, Joy Division, Christian Death, The Sisters of Mercy and so on.” Although they looked up to the usual heroes, they couldn’t shake off their inner punk and this is what gave them their unique sound: “Since we’re all into punk rock and hardcore it turned out to be faster and more distorted than expected, but we liked the way it came out and kept on walking that path,” he says.
I ask if there was a key to sounding retro yet original, to which Koppa replies “No keys, everything comes really spontaneous to us. Maybe the reason for our ‘originality’ is that we are so much into hardcore punk that we can’t simply play goth rock, but we have somehow to infect with our punk nature. Nothing is planned.”
It seems as though punk is in their blood, so surely it influences the band’s attitude and ideology? “Definitely,” Koppa emphasises. “You can tell by looking at pictures of us that we are full time punks. We are also active in other things related to punk rock, like running a squat, running a DIY label and we have political views that we don’t hide in our lyrics and our everyday lives.”
It’s quite clear that Horror Vacui are punks before anything else, but their music still has a very strong gothic feel about it. I ask if they identify with goth at all, but the answer is a resounding no. “I don’t identify with anything. I just say we’re punks to give an idea of what we’re like in our lives. No, I don’t identify with goth, but I do respect it,” explains Koppa.
On their Facebook page the band includes anti-fascism and anti-sexism under their interests section, does this actively influence their music? Koppa answers: “Our lyrics are about what we live and we live anti-fascism and anti-sexism everyday of our lives. So I would say they influence our lyrics, and so, our music.”
The Italian goth scene is small but interesting. There are always new developments happening over there, so I decide to ask the band what the scene is like there today. “So so,” says Koppa. “There are some goth-rock bands, but not many are like us. I would only mention Dystopian Society as another band that sounds like as and has the same political views and attitude.” But, not everyone over there is genuine it seems: “There’s a lot of poseur-ism and a lot of bands who have no problem in playing in a squat or playing in a politically active venue and then adding a member with right-wing views just because he or she is well know and has the right appeal and the right contacts.”
Punk is an attitude, and it is about the attitude before style or anything else. But not everybody is authentic: “There are a lot of people in it just for the trendy aspect and the fashion thing. We don’t give a fuck about it!” he says. “We play the music we like, in the places we support and talk about the things we experience for real every fucking day of our lives.” It seems they don’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone: “It’s not a race for the truest and not even for the trendiest. We’re just normal people doing what we think is good, and it seems it’s not really successful in Italy as it’s way easier to support those who kiss asses. That’s why we don’t belong to any scene but the political/DIY/active punk scene.”
“There are many many bands to watch out for,” says Koppa. One of those is Dystopian Society which has already been mentioned. “Then there are tons of bands in the punk scene that, like us, play goth-rock/deathrock/post-punk,” he says before going onto list some names: “Lost Tribe, Belgrado, Rakta, Spectres, Estranged, Crimson Scarlet, Catholic Spit, Droidz, Anasazi, Moth, Hemgraven, Arctic Flowers, Moral Hex, Metro Cult, Cemetery, Population… and the list can go on forever…” That really is a lot of bands.
Most musicans have an artist they dream of working with, does Koppa? “Yes, David Bowie because he was a genius, but he’s no longer with us. As long as I do things with my friends, I’m happy.”
Work is already underway on their next album. “We have four new songs that we’re already playing live and will be recorded for the next full length together with at least five more songs that are on the way.” But, there will be quite a wait until it is released: “I think nothing will be recorded before spring 2017. We have no rush,” he says.
Horror Vacui first visited the UK in September last year, and they’ll be back here again very soon. “We definitely want to come back for a full UK tour,” says Koppa. “We’ll play a festival in London on Friday 29th April.” The event they’ll be playing is: ‘South London Scum presents a benefit for Love Sex / Hate Sexism and The National Rape Crisis Helpline’, which will be taking place at The Dome, Tufnell Park in London.
To finish, Koppa says: “We’d love to tell your readers to support the bands they like buying their merch and going to shows. Money is something we all hate but we all desperately need to survive and hearing that people are not going to shows because there’s something better on the TV is not rock’n’roll at all! We don’t like to indoctrinate people, but suggesting all the people to believe in themselves only and not to trust the bastards that wanna rule over us by not voting and boycotting multinationals is always a good advice. Don’t waste your life, be free.”