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CVLT Nation Interviews: HOLY

I hate best of the year lists, but I was forced to write one for 2013, and I found HOLY‘s The Age of Collapse LP in it, a record that hit me like a rock. It has everything I think hardcore stands for: honesty, aggression, breaks, blasts, melodies, great vocals…plus I met these guys a couple times, so I knew they had something to say. So here we go with what Tadzio, their bass player, told me…

…And, if you ever get the chance to see them live, DO NOT MISS OUT ON IT! It might change your world.

There are many reasons to start a band, besides the obvious one – like touring, meeting people, having fun – why does Holy exist? Is the difficult social, economic and political situation an influence on you? Is the fact that you’re from one of the poorest countries in Europe somehow influential?

I think that starting a band was my main issue from the age of 14, when I was a lonely fat kid with ugly clothes that had no interest in interacting with any schoolmates in my small shitty town. Music has always been the best way for me to escape from my shitty life. I never had any interest in wasting time like the other kids my age were doing. I’ve tried many times to do something (bands, shows etc) in my hometown, but the lack of people to get involved was a huge problem for me. Then many years passed by, I got older and moved to a bigger city, and had the chance to meet many people that felt the same need to play music and do things. Basically, HOLY started as a side-project of the bands we used to play with. We were friends and wanted to do something together. Than it became more “serious” than we expected; our old bands broke up, and after having recorded the demo (that become our first self-titled LP), we started playing intensively and enjoying the band 100%.

We always have enjoyed the musical aspect of punk, but of course we do care about the communication that should be the main strength of this musical genre. So we did our best from the beginning to communicate something lyrics-wise. Or at least we tried. Stefano writes all the lyrics, so maybe I’m not the right person to talk to…all I can say is that everything we consider wrong in the world that surrounds us can be an influence. I don’t like to tell anybody what to do, because most of the time I don’t have the solution myself. I don’t like to preach, I simply try to say what seems wrong to me, and let people make their own decisions. I think that this is the best way to make people understand.

Living in Italy makes us feel privileged in many aspects; we still have the power of choice because we have a reasonable life, economically speaking. Some other countries don’t have the same luck that we have…anyway, everything in this country is fucked up, the Italian culture and mentality is the victim of the mass media industries, so yes, I could say that this has influenced us. We always try to be the most rational we can, in any aspect of life.

This gives me the impression, that you, besides singing about things going wrong, also have some sort of positive point of view on things. Is there something HOLY stands for or wants to support in a positive way? Something you want to reveal to the people who watch you or listen to your music and read the lyrics? And what are the things you’re against? So what’s going wrong – in Italy, in our western society, in the “scene”?

I can say that I personally have a sort of optimistic-negative vision of the world. All the proofs we have from the human race bring us to the conclusion that we, human animals, are the main problem on this planet, but we also have the power of choice, and that can be evil or its opposite, at the same time. It can be beautiful, it can be deadly. In the end, it’s up to us. I can say that we stand for this: for the power to make choices that can help to make this world, if not better, than no worse than it is. We all have this wonderful power, and we all, together, can make things happen. It’s more than ever important to take a stand and a position against what we consider wrong. I think that evolution should bring us to the death of any form of exploitation – this should be our main goal as human beings. Being against any form of prejudice, discrimination and abuse shouldn’t be just a “cliche” of the underground punk/hardcore scene, it should be a mainstream shared opinion. Unfortunately, we often think that living in the same age and being grown up in a modern society that allows all of us the knowledge, that we all, people of the 2014, should agree on the same basic themes. But the truth is, even themes like the death penalty, human rights and racism are treated very differently by persons sharing the same background. And this is really sad to me.

Because you mention it, do you think that being aware of such things (racism, human rights… ), and standing up against them is still important in the punk/hardcore scene? Or is it really just a cliche? I have the impression that more and more such things have lost their importance for people who are involved in the diy-“underground”. It was always a scene of trends, but the most common trends nowadays seems to be occult, mystic or satanic, and apolitical. It seems that the majority of people who take a stand against such things are from the so-called mainstream, the people we always disliked, we always thought to be ignorant.

I personally dislike fanaticism in any form, I’m not the kind of person that considers just the political aspect of music, and gives value to something only if it speaks for or against something else. I don’t like slogans in general, and also I don’t like the “hardcore is just politics” attitude, nor the “hardcore is just having fun” thing. I really enjoy the artistic, iconographic, entertaining aspect of music. But I also appreciate the power of musical communication. I wouldn’t be the person that I am now if I wouldn’t have found people and bands connected to some ideas I (started to, and still) believe in. It’s like reading a book: you can like horror novels, giallo readings or philosophical essays. They can be very enjoyable in different ways, they have different ways of communicating different aspects of the human mind. It’s up to us to follow an idea or just enjoy the poetic value of reading.

I think that the music I started listening to when I was a kid totally influenced my life, my choices, the way I think, act and live my life now. And I’m so thankful for that, I couldn’t see myself any differently. I don’t want to talk bad about any “scene”, but I have some problems also talking good about it sometimes. I think that the DIY community is the perfect ground in which to start something that should be spread outside of the underground. I know so many examples of activists or people involved in bringing something good to this world that started from the punk scene. Every community has its problems and trends, but I don’t see how values can be considered trends…

I get your point – although I have a lot to criticize, I do love the whole DIY idea, it gave me so much and affects so many aspects of life, even besides the “scene”…what are the positive aspects you see, especially for the band? Are you guys involved in more activities than playing in a band, touring, communicating your ideas? How did you integrate DIY ideas into your “normal” living?

The best thing about playing in a punk band is having the chance to travel the world and meet people while you’re playing music. The “touring” aspect of the band has always been essential since the birth of HOLY. Unfortunately, we’re not kids anymore, some of us have regular jobs that are difficult to escape from, and some of us have random jobs which are easy to quit. Enjoying the music we make and being supported by people all around the world that are enjoying it with us is the greatest thing ever. Making friends, (sometimes) falling in love with somebody you met on tour, talking and sometimes fighting each other, and being friends in general is fucking great. Not losing focus on writing music and trying to do the best to express ourselves doing it. We have had some great experiences in the past few years that made us think that punk is still a great way to communicate, interact and learn how to be a better person, day after day.

Playing intensively doesn’t allow us much spare time. Between the band and work it’s hard to have time for anything else. I have been setting up shows for the past 10 years in Milano, and for a couple of years I’ve been doing it with Giacomo (as KNIFE SHOWS collective – also the rest of the band helps, together with MARTINA, our beloved friend and HOLY’s fifth member). In this city we arrived at a point where if we don’t do things, probably nobody will, and being me the first in need when we’re on tour, I know how important it is to find people who help and care about touring bands. I try to be that kind of person. Apart from that, we all have a working life pretty disconnected from the DIY scene (I work in a vegan restaurant and I am a part-time bike messenger, Stefano R. is a librarian, Giacomo just quit his job as a clerk in a shop and Stefano C. works in a call center). We don’t feel comfortable in jobs that won’t allow us to have the free time we need to live our life, this is the main thing we have always been looking for.

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Talking about spending as much time as possible living this dream of having a band, I know you guys tour a lot, and you toured different parts of the world – is it easy for you to get the tours booked? I know you do this yourself – will you continue like this, or do you plan to maybe get someone to do this for you? Some sort of agency…?

And, since we already spoke about touring, I know you will tour Europe and the States this summer – is it just you? Or will you take another band with you? And will you tour other places as well in the future? As you toured the States before, is there a difference between touring Europe and the US?

We always did every tour by ourself; it’s definitely the best way to find shows with acceptable and enjoyable conditions. I used to play in other bands before HOLY, and doing a tour with a booking agency is a way different. First of all, a booking agency takes money from every show, and this is a loss for everybody (the band, the promoter, the crowd). For a small band like us, it’s a loss because nobody would do a show for us with high money guarantees, and with a low guarantee we would lose money, just benefitting the booker… In the end, it’s always a matter of 50 euros, but at the end of the tour this can be the difference. On the opposite spectrum, for the “bigger” bands: the bigger you are, the easier it is to find shows for you, so sometimes it’s just a matter of laziness and being “professional”. There are some cases where big bands are doing their booking DIY, and this is the demonstration that it’s always the best and cleverest way to act. We don’t need anybody to do anything for us, the delegation system is old and wrong. Punk started as a DIY way of living, and if they could do tours in the 80’s writing letters and calling overseas, why shouldn’t we be able to do the same, or even better, with modern technology?

Another negative aspect of booking agencies is they try to make money and earn as much as possible from every show, not caring at all about any rational tour schedule, and booking shows around Europe like playing Monopoly, forcing the band to do 1000 miles without any meaningful geographical route (it’s happened to me many times under a booking agency). Show-wise, everything seems to be sterile and “professional” – arriving at the club, loading in the gear, sometimes not even meeting the booker of the show, playing, going to sleep and so on. For me, touring is not this chain of events itself, it’s meeting people, feeling something, doing it. Money ruins everything…

For the tour we’re doing in July, our dear friend Flo from Trapdoorz is giving us some help because he’s helping TORSO (Giacomo’s side project with 3 Americans) for their 30-days-tour, and we are doing part of it together. But it’s much different, because it’s not a booking agency, it’s a cool guy helping bands to come overseas.

In August we’re leaving for 2 weeks in the USA – we’re doing the East Coast with our buddies in Dangers and Graf Orlock (we’re more than stoked about that!), then in October we’re planning to be back in the UK for a week, but nothing’s confirmed yet…Yes, the US is a lot crazier and way different from Europe, better and worse for different reasons, but it’s my favourite place to tour so far, together with Germany. The punk community over there is much bigger than we expected, there are so many good bands, so much great food to eat, so many good places to visit…but I also love the atmosphere I breathe in Europe, the shows here can be very warm and funny.

You say that you don’t need anybody to do anything for you…didn’t you also do all your recordings by yourself? How did this work out? And are you content with how it turned out?

And, what makes a band “professional” and why criticize trying to be professional? In my opinion, it’s turning your back on the people who used to help you when you were unknown – what do you think?

All our records have been recorded in our rehearsal room (every record in a different one, we’ve had many different practice spaces in the past 3 years), with the help of some friends. For the second LP and the new EP, we did the mix at Hate Studio, in Vicenza. I think that recording in the place where you make the songs gives much more life to the recording, and I think that the record should sound real, like we sound when we play live. I don’t like the fake sound that I find sometimes in some modern punk productions. No fake feedbacks, triggers and bullshit like that, we want to sound 100% original. Also, recording in our rehearsal space helps us save a little money, which is not bad to me…

The problem to me isn’t “being professional” itself – I’m literally obsessed with precision and details, and often I have had problems with the people around me because of this aspect of my personality. There is a problem, to me, if you live it, the punk thing, like a job – I’m not touring, playing and making music because I want to earn anything from it, I’m doing it because I love it. There is no “pole position” to achieve, that’s why I don’t like careerism in general and in the punk movement even more.

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So you basically have 100% control of all things concerning HOLY – do you want to continue like this, or did you ever think to change and go to some real studio f.e.?

Don’t you see a difference between taking the band so seriously that you quit your job and tour all the time, and somehow make a living out of it, like a lot of bands from the States do, and trying to be as big as possible, using promoters, agencies, bigger labels, paying to get some press … ? And, would that be an option for you guys, to quit your jobs and just tour the whole time, or record new songs and release them, and then tour again?

We thought about going to a proper studio, but in the end we followed the natural choice of recording again in our rehearsal room…we all did record in different studios in the past, so we don’t see anything wrong with that, it’s simply that we feel better doing it ourselves.

I don’t see anything wrong in living with music, it’s something great to me. But it is stupid to force yourself to think that you’ll achieve a point that will never exist. We play punk, and punk doesn’t allow you to live playing it. Also, making money and living from music on such a “low” level makes everything worse…you start thinking about the band as a job, so all the enjoyable things make space for the stressful and hateful moods…I prefer to avoid that, I still live the band as an escape from ordinary life. We’re too old to quit our lives for playing, but I still always wish I could play more and work less…in the end, I just care about a place to sleep and some food, and I’m happy. But never say never, I guess…

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Do you enjoy having these two lives, the punk/band-life and the ordinary life? Or do you just use the one to make the other possible?

And, what you just said brings me to some ordinary questions – what plans do you have with HOLY besides the upcoming tours you mentioned? New recordings? More touring next year?

I think that the life spent with the band seems to be better than a vacation for us, and I think that it can be so enjoyable thanks to the fact that isn’t our main routine…being on tour ALL THE TIME would be like having a regular job to me, so I think that it’s the best to do the two things separately. So even if I wish I could do it all the time, I guess it’s still better this way, even if it’s hard to make all the working problems fit with the life on tour. We need to work for living, unfortunately, we’re not rich at all, so we do our best to make enough money at work before leaving, to pay bills and rental after the tour…

By now we’re focused on the artwork for the new EP, which will be the best stuff we have ever done so far, in my opinion. It will be out in June on Adagio 830 in Europe and Vitriol in the US, then we’ll tour Europe in July, the US in August, the UK in October…keeping it busy, I guess!

Top Banner Photo by Silvia Bibi Patron All other photos by Fabian Reichenbach

Written By

I've been part of the diy scene for about 20 years now, and sometimes I feel too old for it, sometimes it pisses me off, sometimes I hate it... but actually I love it, and can't get away from it... I've had so many positive moments, I've met so many friends and good people... I'm using this here as an opportunity to give something back to the world of hardcore, punk, underground metal... I also run a small label called Vendetta and a record store called Bis Aufs Messer out of east Berlin. - es gibt kein ruhiges hinterland -

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