Discovering GARDENJIA was a total “eureka moment” for this metal listener. All those months searching for a band that combined atmosphere with a heavy, melodic, and modern metal sound had finally paid off! Hailing from Puglia in Southern Italy, this band has been around since 2011 and has so far released an EP called ‘Ievads’ and more recently their debut album ‘Epo’ in May this year. Both recordings breathe new life into the modern metal scene and take the listener on a journey of ascension to a higher plane of audial existence. Raffaele Galasso (vocals / guitar / bass / synths) is here to tell us more about the GARDENJIA story so far…
I have spent a long time looking for a band that plays music like you do so it was very exciting to find GARDENJIA. You are creating amazing soundscapes through melody, ambiance and raw brutal instrumentation. What set you on this path and what attracts you to explore the darker themes that you do in your music?
Thank you. Essentially two things. The music and the way we are I guess. We all listen to different kinds of music, not just metal. The coexistence of many elements in our music is thus a natural thing for us, as there is only a single color or shades, as there are so many types of different emotions that make a persona. With regards to our interest in the dark atmospheres and dark, it is something to which we all are naturally inclined.
‘Giada’ is one of my favourite tracks on EPO. That song is epic and the lead guitar is amazing. What songs are you the most proud of on the album?
Thank you, it’s always a great honour to know that our songs reach someone’s soul, we could say that is the greatest thing for a composer. All the songs anyway. We put the same passion and research in all the album. I read several reviews where we were almost offended by the very technical side of our music. This thing is ridiculous and almost always makes me laugh when I read it, just as Giada for example is a pretty simple song, the main riff is composed of four notes, as well as other tracks on the album technically quite simple (‘Touch Of Glory’, ‘Fire Walk With Me’). Strangely, few focus on the text, partly in Italian, on the arrangement of strings (influenced by the soundtracks of Hitchcock) and other small things. There are obviously very complex songs (‘Shapes of Greys’, ‘Epo’, ‘Ante Rem’), but the search for technical and complexity is functional for the song, she said the orders during composition. The lyrics are crucial. ‘Epo’ for example, is a song that deals with the nature and conflict with humans. There are many ways to represent musically this contrast, we have simply chosen to compose a song more epic and majestic as possible. Whoever wants to get closer to our music should know that every sentence and every word is associated with a music section. Also in ‘Epo’ for example, the first section after the intro is a majestic and regal gait, while the text speaks of a man metaphorically entering into a sacred temple, represented by the forest, whose trees become the great columns of a cathedral.
When I first listened to the EPO album on your Bandcamp page, I’m sure there was song with an ambient intro which ended with four chord progression very reminiscent of MNEMIC just before the heavy part of the song starts. What happened to that track? The MNEMIC song I’m thinking of is ‘Heaven at the end of the World’ about 18 seconds in.
I know MNEMIC but I had never heard that song. I finished listening to it right now and I think you are referring to the first version of ‘Ante Rem’, the first version of ‘Epo’ in fact contained a different arrangement of that piece, with a longer intro, very melodic and space, in contrast to the hellish mood of the song. The intro ended with a passage similar to what you described. We eliminated it because the opening words in the new tracklist of the album was now entrusted to ‘Epica’. The song is ‘Ante Rem’ anyway.
You added tracks to the start and end of EPO on the re-release. What about the original tracks… did you change any of the song arrangements?
Yes There are so many small changes to the tracks than the first version. Essentially they were all faithful to the original. The vocals has been made a bit slimmer by eliminating redundancies, all parts of synths have been revised and reduced to the bone, even for more space in the mix. In dusk, for example had a different incipit, the interlude was different and there was no break we have now, which highlights the clean guitars before the chorus.
GARDENJIA’s artwork is dark and has a lot of depth which really compliments the music. Who is your graphic designer?
Thank you for the kind words, it’s a creation of mine.
EPO was re-released through Memorial Records. How did you become involved with this label?
I was searching for a label with a promo and when I received the answers by labels, Memorial records offered better conditions for us. We have total artistic freedom with them, and for us it counts a lot.
I enjoy the intense parts of GARDENJIA’s music but also the atmospheric parts, they really make it multi-dimensional. In your interview with Hard Rock Italy they described it as “Sostanza Astrale”. I like that, do you think it sums up ambient aspects of your music well?
I think it’s a beautiful definition, we have voluntarily searched for this effect in the composition of synths. But it’s not only “sostanza astrale”. As I said before the synths in ‘Giada’ have precise bearings. In ‘Fire Walk With Me’ for example, there is a section where the synths blend with the sound of the wind and the sea during a storm, recorded live by the sea. This union gives a sense of darkness and void impossible to reproduce with electronic synths.
I was listening to your demo for ‘To The Light’, and then after that the cover for U2’s ‘New Years Day’. Both songs are almost polar opposites! In saying that you’ve really taken ‘New Years Day’ and made it your own. What made you pick that song?
Ahah thank you. the reason is always our love for music. We do not want to be a band-dimensional but multidimensional. If tomorrow I will want to write a piece of tribal music for example, I would never be influenced by the fact that the GARDENJIA are essentially a metal band. We have always tried to push the boundaries of our sound in an attempt to create something unique and ours, which is why the interest in worlds and atmospheres that may have nothing to do with metal. As for the cover of U2 I can tell you that we are fans of lot of music produced in the ’80s. In those years, U2 were not the choreographic slot machine they are now. ‘New Years Day’ is a song against war, a topic that is dear to GARDENJIA. The text is wonderful, as in the representation of the bloody events that actually happened, there is also a reference to a story between two lovers. The atmosphere is cold, glacial, almost post-apocalyptic. When I hear the solo of the edge in that piece, I always shiver. I believe that when a song is so beautiful can be reread in every possible way, and it’s also an adventure and a challenge to reproduce it in a personal way.
Do you take any inspiration from guitarists like Jakub Zytecki and Ganesh Rao? Your leads and heavy layered mixes remind me of both guys at times.
Of course I know them and admire them both, great musicians. I also find lot of elements in common, just like you said, but I would not speak of influence. When we started writing the material for GARDENJIA we did not know them. We enjoyed them later. The characteristics that you have described are common to many modern progressive bands, and I think they are elements that are defining new ways of doing extreme music. Personally I have always been attracted to grandiose epic and dramatic sections from classical music.
I see in another interview you mention ULCERATE is an influence. They’re a New Zealand band who signed to Relapse. How did you find out about them?
Great ULCERATE, GORGUTS and along with a few other bands (I would add that I love DEATHSPELL OMEGA) are showing what it means to do intelligent and original metal, and are already very copied by many small groups in the world. I listened to new bands just out, even in Italy, which reproduce guitar parts almost identical… I’ve known ULCERATE on Youtube though, as we are always looking for interesting bands to listen to.
After listening to your music, the last thing I would’ve expected was for a Saxophonist to join GARDENJIA. How did you identify a need for saxophone player and how did you come to recruit Ezio?
I have not investigated thoroughly, but among the first experimenters who have dared to introduce a sax in a brutal there is John Zorn that we have always admired. So for us it was not such a strange thing to enter a sax in our music. With regard to the new currents in metal music, I think every time there is a sax in a metal context, it is a thinly veiled homage to Thordendal, and I think we all know why (SOL NIGER). If you think that we are also hardcore lovers of BOHREN & DER CLUB OF GORE and Badalamenti, you can better understand why the use of the sax. Loving that kind of music comes naturally metabolize and insert it into our world. Ezio is a great friend of us, so it came naturally to collaborate together.
What gear are you using to create the music and where did you learn to do record and mix it yourselves?
Very simple and basic. We do all by ourselves with an old quadcore pc, reaper, a basic audio interface (Presonus Firestudio) and a couple of small Yamaha monitors. I have an old RG 7240, Giuseppe plays a Schecter, both with seven strings, Antonio has a vintage drumkit.
What’s the metal scene like in your part of Italia? Are you guys doing live shows yet?
There is a small metal scene. We live in Puglia, extreme south of Italy. Thanks to Berlusconi and the other political mafia this land is back to thirty years ago, when the mafia had his hands on everything. There are no possibilities of future in this land, for the majority of young people. How could a metal scene flourish in this context? It’s almost impossible. For this reason, the scene is weak. There are no places to play and the audience is small and disinterested. There is a large economic gap between north and south Italy, and the bands obviously have more chances in the north. These days we’re doing rehearsals finally with a good bass player, Paolo, an old friend, and we want to play live as much as possible in the future.