Interview: MONOLITHIC ELEPHANT

Monolithic Elephant, a Psychedelic / Progressive Rock trio from Milan in Italy, recently released their self-titled debut album. We had an opportunity to talk with the band members about the record, challenges, Milan’s local scene, gear, and also what it’s like to live in the city based in northern Italy.

Read on!

You released debut album “Monolithic Elephant” recently. How do you feel about the release?

When we listened to the album’s final version it was a thrill.

We are really happy because we put a lot on work on it and the result is quite good. Of course there is room for some improvements but up to now we are very satisfied. To be mentioned, our friend in Inzago (Fabio Intraina) who recorded this album, did a very nice job combining his experience with our personal needs for each single track; same regarding Giovanni Versari who did all the mastering process. We are getting a lot of positive feedbacks here and from other countries as well (UK, USA, Europe in general, South America). That means a lot to us.

How much of a challenge was to work on the album?

Since we started playing, none of us planned anything about the kind of music we were going to perform. The creative workflow has been totally free, we just jammed together and then did some connections that sounded musically suitable. That was the first rough step, then some more accurate thoughts came in, bringing us to the final result. We worked hard in studio as well but always with that confortable feeling you have being among friends who share your biggest passion. Maybe we just exceeded with wine during our stay in the studio, but that’s not that bad, right?

What other artists similar to your genre that are coming from Milan are you friends with? Recommend us some great bands from your area.

There is a thriving music scene around Milan which should be more exposed than it is now. There’s a huge variety of genres, we can mention some of our friends we use to play together in some clubs like Dylar, Verbal, Mexican Chili Funeral Party, Maledetta Dopamina, La Sindrome della Morte Improvvisa, Fitzcataldo, L’Era del Bantha, Vander Waals and many others…

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What is your opinion about the current progressive rock scene?

Sincerely, we are only now discovering some contemporary bands because we are more used to classical prog scene like King Crimson, Gong, Pink Floyd and some Italian bands like Osanna and New Trolls.

Can you tell me something about your influences?

Besides the ones we already mentioned, we have to say we get a lot of influeneces from movies authors, trying to get some moods out of them. Mostly John Carpenter and Ennio Morricone.

Individually speaking:

Santo (drums): from a musical structure’s point of view, I can not ignore my influeces coming from Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Cream. Also drums from Queens of the Stone Age.

Alessandro (bass/synth/backing vocals): during the last couple of years I’ve been listening to quite unrelated musical genres. Some Queens of the Stone Age, some Muse, Radiohead, Black Sabbath and a lot of Emerson Lake Palmer and also some experimental electronic music.

Andrea (guitar/vocals): regarding sound’s power, definetly Melvins and Black Sabbath. Also Queens of the Stone Age. What I like to listen to does not automatically match what I like to play. Talking about our album I got many influences from the first Pink Floyd, from Radiohead and from Led Zeppelin (Physical Graffiti particullarly).

What are you listening to these days?

Andrea: Mad Season, A.A. Bondy, Nirvana
Santo: to be honest? really? …Paolo Nutini. Also Mothership’s last album.
Alessandro: during these days mostly R.E.M. (…)

Your 5 favourite records of all the time?

It’s impossible to think about a definitive list. For the moment:

Alessandro: Origin of Symmetry (Muse) – Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath) – Tarkus (Emerson Lake Palmer) – Ok Computer (Radiohead) – Wish you were here (Pink Floyd)

Santo: White Album (Beatles) – Led Zeppelin I (Led Zeppelin) – Closing Times (Tom Waits) – Ramones (Ramones) – Kind of Blue (Miles Davis)

Andrea: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (Pink Floyd) – Abbey Road (Beatles) – In Utero (Nirvana) – Stoner Witch (Melvins) – Pink Moon (Nick Drake)

Can you tell me a little bit more about the gear you use to record “Monolithic Elephant”?

Andrea: I used my beloved Gibson Firebird non reverse custom paired with my Orange OTR / Hiwatt cabinet. Also a Fender Jaguar. Then a bunch of pedals, the one I’m most fond of is my Russian Big Muff.

Oh I also used my old Eko acoustic guitar in some points.

Santo: Gretsch Drum kit, paiste/zildjian cymbals but to notice a great supraphonic by Ludwig.

Alessandro: I use some basses depending on the moment. Mostly ’76 Gibsonn Ripper, a BlackBeard Guitars Precision-like bass, Status bass. For ampification, Hiwatt custom 100 head and ampeg 8×10 cabinet. Some pedals like classic sansamp and sometimes tronographic rusty box.

Talking about synths, Moog sub 37, Nord Electro 4, Arp Odyssey, Moog Minitaur and some modular synths (mostly make noise and buchla music easel) for different sound behaviours.

Besides the release of the album, are there any other plans for the future?

The only plan we have now is to play live as much as we can to bring our sounds to as many people as possible. We still got some random ideas and we carefully put them aside for the next album.

Non-musical question: what is it like living in Milan? What is the life like in there? It’s mostly known as one of the world’s biggest fashion centers, and also for Derby della Madonnina.

Living here is nice, Milan is a good city even if many times is so crowded because of random events linked to fashion/desing/art but it’s not a bad environment to live in. Our drummer is from Sicily and he doesn’t agree with that (Sicily is better – Santo).

Alessandro: I’m not a big football fan, I follow basketball mostly.

Andrea: I’m a big fan of Milan Football Club even if I normally prefer F1 races.

Santo: I like Juventus football club (which is from Turin, so nothing to do with Milan actually – Alessandro)

Any words for the potential new fans?

Hope you all like and enjoy our work and also hope you can see our shows live somewhere soon. Thank you everybody for the support.

Get Monolithic Elephant’s debut album from Bandcamp, and follow the band on Facebook.