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Insider interview with Marco and Piero


If there’s one thing you can be sure of about Insider, it’s that they won’t repeat themselves.  As a band constantly reinventing their sound, it’s sometimes hard to get a pinpoint on where the band is coming from, and that’s just the way they like it, preferring to craft songs that represent where they’re at and how they feel at the time rather than being mired down by their back catalog of people’s perception of what the band should sound like.  Bringing a myriad of influences to the table improvisational hard rock and hardcore music of a few sorts seem to be mainstays in the ever growing Insider back catalog.  While every album may have a distinct flavor and alternating lineups to some degree, there’s a thread that ties all the albums and the more you learn about the band the more it becomes apparent and makes sense.  Growing from humble beginnings and changing the lineup drastically several times core founding member Marco and Piero have managed to craft and hone a unique approach to creating some of the most interesting and out there music I’ve ever heard.  Albums like Jammin’ For The Smiling God show off the improvisational psychedelic aspects of the band, while the absolutely jaw dropping ...Vibrations From The Tapes… took that even farther, culling tracks from half a decade of recordings to create my favorite album to date.  Land Of Crystals and Simple Water Drops are nice mediums between the two, presenting some definite impov moments, but also displaying a pretty clear vision, making it apparent the band knew where the albums were headed, if not how they were going to get there.  Event Horizon marks a turning point for the band as Marco started his own label Andruid Records which released Insider’s newest effort.  While it’s been years since they’ve been out on the road Insider hopes that this can be a kind of new beginning and is beginning to look into touring for the first time since 2002!  I heard the tracks from …Vibrations From The Tapes… and had to learn more about this band, and the farther I dig the more I found, and the more that I found the more questions I had.  So I tracked down Marco and Piero and conducted a thorough examination of what Insider is all about, what they have planned and when I can expect more of those sweet, sweet jams!
What is Insider’s current lineup?  I know there’s been at least one change that’s taken place since you started back in the 90’s.  Can you tell us what lineup changes have taken place?  When those were?

Marco & Piero:  The current lineup is Marco Ranalli – guitars, Piero Ranalli – bass and Stefano Di Rito – drums.  Yes, there have been some changes over the years, the lineup for the first album back in 1996 was: Marco Ranalli – guitars and vocals, Piero Ranalli – bass, Giuseppe Miccoli – drums.  Land Of Crystals, the second album in 1998, the line up was: Marco Ranalli – guitars, Piero Ranalli – bass and drums, Eugenio Mucci – vocals.  Jammin' For Smiling God, the third album in 2000 was: Marco Ranalli – guitars, Piero Ranalli – bass and drums, Andrea Sestri “Sigly” - vocals.  Simple Water Drops, the fourth album in 2005, the line up was: Marco Ranalli – guitars, Piero Ranalli – bass, Eugenio Mucci – vocals, Gregorio Angelucci – drums.  …The Vibrations From The Tapes…, the fifth album in 2012, the lineup was: Marco Ranalli – guitars, Piero Ranalli – bass, Stefano Di Rito – drums.  The current album Event Horizon lineup is: Marco Ranalli – guitars, Piero Ranalli – bass, Stefano Di Rito – drums.  Therefore, as you can see, the core of the band is represented by Marco Ranalli and Piero Ranalli while singers and drummers have changed over the years. 

Are any of you in any other active bands at this point?  I know at least two of you have had other projects in the past but I’m curious what you still have going on?  Have you all released any music with anyone else?  If so can you tell us about it?

Marco:  No, right now I just play with Insider.  There are other activities that I engage in a lot.  My passion is recording and I spend most of my time in the recording studio, where I have the opportunity, and the technical means, to deepen my knowledge of old analog equipment.  I’m looking for some way of integrating these old machines into the new digital systems, giving rise to hybrid processes; both extremely functional and very efficient.  I also recently started to build stringed instruments of various types, and I have to say that working with wood and other materials has been a real process of discovery for me.  I enjoy building Theremins and guitar effects as well.  You’ll find a section dedicated to these collateral activities on the Andruid Records website.

Piero:  Yes.  Currently I have my own project Unimother 27, an experimental Krautrock style music project which has released three albums: Unimother 27 in 2006, Escape From The Ephemeral Mind in 2007 and Grin in 2008, all of which were released by Pineal Gland Lab.  In the past I played with the prog–rock band Areknames and made three albums with them.  The first Areknames in 2002, the second Love Hate Round Trip in 2005 and the third Live At The Burg Herzberg Festival 2007, those were all released by Black Widow Records.

Where are you all originally from?

Marco & Piero:  We’re all from Italy.

Were your homes very musical when you were younger?  What was your first real exposure to music?  Were either your parents or relatives, musicians or extremely involved/interested in music growing up? 

Marco & Piero:  It’s difficult to give an accurate answer to this question, because no in our family nor any of our relatives have ever introduced us to music.  Our grandmother, when she was a child, played the piano and painted.  But that wasn’t the spark.  That was probably due to a television program we saw when we were kids.  There was a 70’s prog-rock band that played and we were glued to the TV the entire time.  From that point onwards we’ve never stopped listening to, or playing, a certain kind of music.

If you had to pick one defining moment of music in your life, a moment that changed everything for you, the way you looked at the world and opened up new possibilities.  What would it be?

Marco:  I would just have to thank my grandmother who gave me my first acoustic guitar when I was ten, which I still own and take great care of.  And then she also gave me my first electric guitar when I was fifteen.  I live because I eat music daily, in all its forms.

Piero:  I think it happened when I heard Gentle Giant for the first time.  It didn’t seem possible that five people could create a magic so incredible through music.  I was fifteen and that moment was so important to me that I thought one day I wanted to be a musician like them.  Then, at the age of seventeen I bought my first instrument, an electric bass.  From that moment on, my life was forever changed because music has been the focus of my existence.

Where is Insider currently located at?

Marco & Piero:  Currently Insider is located in Pescara, Italy.

How would you describe the local music scene where you’re at?

Marco & Piero:  Pescara’s a small town but the music scene’s very diverse, from extreme metal to psychedelic music.  There’re always several guys playing, but very few of them are able to stay together long enough to actually make an album.

Do you book or attend a lot of shows locally?  Are you very involved with the local music scene?

Marco & Piero:  Our last European tour was in 2002, with the Belgian band Hypnos 69 right before the release of Simple Water Drops.  Our attention has been focused mainly on the recording studio and the label Andruid Records.  We haven’t played live since 2002, but our intention is to literally start over at this point.  With Event Horizon, if possible, we’d like to organize a good European tour and play a bunch of festivals...  We'll see!

Do you feel like the local music scene has played, or still plays, a large or important role when it comes to defining the sound of Insider?  Has it played a pivotal role in the history or evolution of Insider?

Marco & Piero:  As musicians we try not to make our work derivative, as a result our compositions don’t really have specific reference points, we just abandon ourselves unconsciously to the mood.  As listeners, we could make an endless list that ranges from Karlheinz Stockhausen to King Crimson but it would be impossible to list them all here.

When and how did you all come to meet each other?

Marco & Piero:  It all started many years ago in a basement.  It was just the two of us.  Then when we moved to Pescara, we went in search of another drummer and a singer.  The other members have always been people we’d already played with in other bands, or been friends though.  We’ve never auditioned or took out ads to find them.

How did Insider come to be a band and when exactly was that?

Marco & Piero:  As we said before, it all started in 1985 in a cellar.  And over the years and after a couple of demos, first as City Sewer System and then as Insider, the Self-Titled album, produced by us and mixed by Paul Chain, was released in 1996 on Freak Out! Records.

While we’re talking so much about the band’s history there’s been a pretty distinct shift in songwriting from the first album to say the least.  1996’s Self-Titled debut was pretty dead ahead death metal while last year’s Vibrations From The Tapes as well as this year’s Event Horizon and even the Simple Water Drops albums display a much more psychedelic and space rock twinged vibe teamed with your trademark metal.  Can you talk a little bit about the growth and exploration of Insider’s sound and music over the years?

Marco & Piero:  It’s true, every album has had an individual path.  The metal element, for us, has always been an experiment though.  We’ve never been part of the metal scene.  Our background is completely different, we grew up with the bands of the 70’s.  There hasn’t been any progression per say, our approach is always the same.  We’re just very curious, we really like to experiment and combine our sound with very different styles from our own.  Even John Zorn, and he’s a jazz musician, has used the metal style to expand his music.  Our old albums still sound good even though they’re not easily placed within a single music style.  We’ve never been a metal band, we call ourselves the experimenters and live in our musical era with curiosity.  So it may happen that we do albums completely improvised like Jammin' For Smiling God or …Vibrations From The Tapes… and we plan and write to make others, or it may happen that we do albums with a definite pattern like Land of Crystals, Simple Water Drops, The First or Event Horizon but without writing a chronological progression of music.



Can you describe the current sound of Insider to our readers who might not have heard you before in your own words?  I am absolutely terrible at describing the way a band sounds and just end up ranting and raving forever rather than successfully describing anything ha-ha!

Marco & Piero:  We define our latest album Event Horizon, in this way: abrasive totally instrumental psychedelic prog-rock characterized by a complex structure.  A sort of dry, harsh and sharp heavy-prog.  A spectacular succession of instrumental intersections and disorienting changes of rhythm.

What about your musical inspiration?  With the varied sounds in your music I’m interested to hear who you’d site as your major musical influences?  What about influences on the band as a whole rather than individually?

Marco & Piero:  Individually, each of us carries with him a musical culture which then contributes to making up the original sound of the band.  Perhaps the influences that act on the sound of Insider as a whole, and at first listen pop out immediately, are those of two historical rock bands: King Crimson and Black Sabbath.  When we improvise our inspiring muses are Jimi Hendrix, Ash Ra Tempel, Guru Guru, Hawkwind, Faust, Pink Floyd, Agitation Free, Can, etcetera...  We’ve shortened the list, otherwise you wouldn’t have published the interview, ha-ha!

And what about Insider’s songwriting process these days?  Is there a lot of jamming and exchange of ideas when you’re all together playing and practicing or does one of you approach the rest of the band with a riff or more finished idea to work out and arrange with the rest of you?

Marco & Piero:  The last album Event Horizon, was born in the rehearsal room through the contributions of everyone.  The songs took shape during jam sessions and were then arranged with the help of the experience that we’ve accumulated over the years.  It was definitely a collective work from beginning to end.

Do you all enjoy recording?  How do you handle recording?  Do you prefer to head into a studio or work from home?  As a musician myself I think that most people can appreciate the end result of recording, I mean there’s not a whole lot out there that beats holding an album in your hands knowing that it’s yours, but getting into the studio and actually getting stuff laid down, or even recording it yourself for that matter, is a whole other situation!  How is it in the studio/recording for you all?

Marco & Piero:  The recording studio for all of us, is a symbol of freedom.  We transform simple intuitions into something more complete.  No time limits, no external contamination.  It’s how we transform a rough diamond into a diadem.

Your first album I’m aware of was 1997’s Self-Titled Insider CD on Freak Out Records.  Can you share your memories of recording that first album?  Where was it recorded and when was that?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?

Marco:  In 1997, we didn’t have a recording studio and it was hard to produce that first album.  I bought a Fostex R8 8 track reel-to-reel and a Fostex 8012 mixer.  It was recorded in an old country house.  We risked the building collapsing on us every time we were there it was so unsafe!  We had to remove the equipment every time we recorded, because we couldn’t leave it there unattended, and then we would have to reassemble it when we returned to record the next time.  The final mix was done by Paul Chain in his studio, with the appropriate means which allowed us to realize the CD.

You followed you Insider with Land Of Crystals a year later in 1998 on Dolmen Records, displaying a markedly different sound while still remaining heavily rooted in the traditional metal sound of your first album.  Can you tell us about the recording of Land Of Crystals?  Did you intentionally set out to change up the sound a little bit or was that a natural progression inside the band?  When and where was that material recorded?  Who recorded it and what kind of equipment was used?

Marco:  In 1998 the Stellar Madhouse Studios was born when I built it in my bedroom.  I recorded Land of Crystals using a Fostex 20-channel mixer and a Fostex B16 16-track reel-to-reel.  We didn’t have a real recording room, so the instruments were recorded live.  We just used one microphone for the vocals.  The final mix was done by Paul Chain in his studio again.


Marco & Piero:  We’ve already partially answered this question.  Your point of view is that there was a progression in style, we don’t see any evolution in our style.  Our approach to music is always the same.  Each album is what we wanted to say at that moment, it isn’t something belonging to the past and or having to do with what we’ve done before.  We use styles without identifying with them.  And it’s for this reason that all our CDs seem very different and kind of disorient the listener if you listen to them in a row.  The evolution and progression, according to our point of view, only affects the recording techniques and thus the sound in that regards.  For us it’s important that the music dictates the times, where we’re at now, and not what we’ve done or released in the past.  We have no shortage of time.  We work in our highly professional studio that allows us to process and reprocess everything in absolute tranquility with our ideas.

Two years later in 2000 you dropped the Jammin’ For The Smiling God EP moving farther away from the Self-Titled album and more towards the stoner space rock sound that you have morphed into on Beard Of Stars Records.  What are your memories of recording that album?  Was it very different than the sessions for the earlier releases?  Did you set out to do anything markedly different with that EP?  Who recorded that and where was it recorded it?  When was that?  What kind of equipment was used?

Marco:  In 2000 Jammin 'for Smiling God was born from the jams Piero casually played together with the help of a drum machine.  It is, wrongly in my opinion, considered the work that best represents us.  The other albums represent us in the same way without any distinction.  It was recorded, mixed and mastered by me with the same equipment used for Land of Crystals.



Simple Water Drops seemed to be a real turning point for you all after a lengthy break from releases some five years later in 2005 but released again on Beard Of Stars Records.  Was recording that album very similar to your earlier albums?  When and where was it recorded?  Who recorded it and what kind of equipment was used?

Marco:  Between 2000 and 2005, I built my new recording studio Andruid Records.  In the meantime, I worked as a live sound engineer on tour with different bands, and in the clubs of my city.  I earned enough money that it has allowed me to purchase the equipment and musical instruments that I wanted.  I became, unintentionally, a collector of vintage analog machines and have bought and sold many.  I have a large number of very rare analog synthesizers, some reel-to-reel recorders, Tascam, Studer, Revox, Fostex, all kinds.  I currently use these recorders to work in the restoration of old tapes and to give a more full-bodied and warm sound to digital recordings.  Simple Water Drops was recorded, mixed and mastered by me again.  It was mixed using an old Soundcraft 1S model, customized by an engineer friend of mine for my specific project.  It was recorded with a Fostex B16 reel-to-reel and poured onto a Tascam 8-track half-inch on two tracks.  The other tracks served for overdubs.


Are any of those earlier recordings still in print or available anywhere?  Were the limited releases when they came out?

Marco & Piero:  Of course, they’re still available and are on sale through our label Andruid Records, just contact us by email at insider.mothersky@tin.it.  If you prefer, they are distributed by Clearspot Worldwide Distributions.

In 2012 you re-emerged with a new album …Vibrations From The Tapes… on Phonosphera Records and limited to only 200 copies.  I’ve heard Vibrations From The Tapes and it is a ground-shattering sonic assault on the senses!  When was Vibrations From The Tapes recorded?  Who recorded it and where was that?  What kind of equipment was used?  Was this album a conscious decision to try something new and different or has the band just changed and evolved over time?

Marco & Piero:  We always improvised during the sessions in the rehearsal room, and we’ve accumulated so much stuff over the years we decided to propose the idea of releasing ... Vibrations From The Tapes ... to the label Phonosphera Records.  It wasn’t a conscious decision to try something new and different, we wanted to release it much earlier, but our label wasn’t yet ready.  In the future there will be other volumes like ... Vibrations From The Tapes  ...


While you might have taken a few years between your last few releases you followed up Vibrations From The Tapes pretty quickly with this years (2013) Event Horizon another exploration into stoney psychedelic kraut-metal, this time on Marco’s Andruid Records.  Are you falling into a rhythm with recording at this point?  Has it gotten easier at all over the years?  Did you try anything radically new or different when it came to the songwriting or recording of this album in your opinion?  Where was Event Horizon recorded?  Who recorded that material?  When was it recorded and what kind of equipment was used?

Marco:  Event Horizon was, of course, recorded in my new recording studio, Andruid Records.  The equipment is all strictly analog, the computer has been used only as a digital recorder.  We used a Soundcraft series 1600 preamplifier for the recording and mixdown.  I used two compressions, a vintage DBX compressor, an old Lexicon for rooms and some Roland space and echo delays.  The mix was passed into a Studer A812.  We, however, have fun.



Marco started his own label Andruid Records a while back.  Can you tell us a little bit about Andruid?  When and how did it start?  Does Andruid release material from any other bands other than Insider at this point?  Do you run the label with anyone else?  Is Event Horizon a limited release?  Do you plan to continue to release Insider material on Andruid in the future or are you looking to worth with new record labels in the future as well?

Marco & Piero:  Andruid Records was officially born with the release of Event Horizon.  The label was created to produce the works of Insider and the parallel works of individual members outside of Insider as a band.  We can’t currently satisfy the requests of other bands.  We'll see if in the future if that will be possible.  Yes, we continue to release Insider material on Andruid in the future.  But we also don’t dismiss the idea that there may be collaborations with other labels and other bands, we’ll see what happens!


There was five years in between the release of Land Of Crystals and Jammin’ For The Smiling Lord EP as well as a pretty noticeable shift in the sound of the music.  Then there was the seven year span between Jammin’ For The Smiling Lord and Vibrations From The Tapes.  Do you guys just make a record when you feel like it and not worry about the time between or what caused the gap between those albums?

Marco & Piero:  We believe that we‘ve already answered this question.  The music dictates how we feel at the time and isn’t dictated by what we’ve done or released in the past.  We have no shortage of time, we work in our highly professional studio which allows us to process and reprocess everything over and over in absolute tranquility alone with our ideas.

Does Insider have any music that we haven’t talked about yet?

Marco & Piero:  Excuse us, but we don’t understand this question.

I know Event Horizon just came out, but does Insider have any other releases planned or in the works at this point?

Marco & Piero:  We have no other releases planned at the moment.

Where’s the best place for our U.S. readers to pick up copies of your music?  With international postage rate increases this last year I try to provide people with as many options as possible for imported releases!  What about our international and overseas readers?

Marco & Piero:  Yes, we understand perfectly copies can be bought directly from the label Andruid Records, Clearspot Worldwide Distribution or KozmicArtifactz  in Germany.
From Italy the shipping costs only for one copy are:
-             One CD + €4,50 (Priority Mail -NO TRACKING NUMBER)
-             One CD + €8,00 (Registered Mail - TRACKING NUMBER)
Obviously, the larger the weight of the package the higher the shipping costs.

And where’s the best place for fans to keep up with latest news like upcoming shows and album releases at?

Marco & Piero:  The official website of Insider is under construction, it will be ready soon, but don’t you worry!!!  But you can use these pages to keep up with Insider for now: Andruid Records, ReverbNation or Facebook.

Speaking of upcoming shows what do you have planned as far as touring goes for the rest of the year?  With the New Year right around the corner what about 2014?  Do you have anything planned as far as next year goes yet?

Marco & Piero:  We have no scheduled dates, the tour has yet to be planned.

Do you spend a lot of time on the road?  Do you all enjoy touring?

Marco & Piero:  No, since 2002 our activities have been strictly in the studio.



You have played with some great bands.  Monkey3 is just an amazing outfit in my opinion!  Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to share bills with?

Marco & Piero:  Yes, in the past we played at some festivals with other bands like Colour Haze, Hypnos 69 and Astrosoniq.  We also played with Treponem Pal.  We had great fun on tour with Hypnos 69.  We remember it with great pleasure.

Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to share here with our readers?

Marco & Piero:  The experiences are all unforgettable...  Even the negative ones!

Does Insider have any major goals that you’re looking to accomplish in 2014?

Marco & Piero:  No.  For now we just want to enjoy the new release and support it with some concerts if we can.

Do you have a preferred medium of release for your music?  With all of the options available to musicians today I’m always curious as to which methods artists prefer and why.  What about when you are listening to and or purchasing music?  If so, can you talk about why?

Marco & Piero:  We would have liked to have released stuff on vinyl but production costs are always very high.  Therefore, we’ve always preferred the CD to get the album out to more people.  I repeat that vinyl is unsurpassed.  As listeners we like vinyl because it has a completely different sound than digital media, it’s soft and warm.

Do you have a music collection at all?  If so can you tell us about it?

Piero:  Maybe you wanted to say a “music collection”?  If so, I’d been a vinyl collector for a while.  I had almost a thousand vinyl records.  I was a fan of psychedelic music, kraut, progressive and hard rock of the 70’s.  Then one day, it happened that I sudden had a need for money and I had to sell everything.  I assure you it was very painful.

I’m a second generation music collector and if there’s one thing that growing up around thousands of albums taught me it was, there’s more to an album than just the music.  There’s something magical about having a physical object to hold in my hands, artwork to look at, liner notes to read.  They all serve for a brief glimpse into the minds of the artists that helped create it and make for a more complete listening experience, at least for me.  Do you have any such connection with physically released music?

Piero:  Of course I understand you very well.  I have the same feelings about physical music...

If you can’t tell I’m passionate about music.  I’m passionate about collecting it, I’m passionate about talking about it and I’m passionate about the artists that make it.  That being said digital music is a hard subject for me.  On one hand I think that digital music, especially when teamed with the internet, is exposing people from all over the globe to a whole universe of music that they otherwise would have never had the opportunity to listen to.  And on top of that if independent artists are willing to spend the time to promote an online presence and put some work into it, digital music appears to be helping to level the playing field for independent artists who are dedicated and hardworking enough.  On the other hand it’s changing the face of the music industry as we know it drastically to say the least and destroying decades of infrastructure inside of the industry.  As artists during the reign of the digital era what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?

Marco & Piero:  The era of digital has broken down the boundaries between people, so the connections have become easier and faster.  We like it a lot.  It also made it possible for everyone to put their music online, which in turn has made it possible for everyone to make music and even promote it without too much effort.  We remember when this wasn’t possible and to get results, it took time and sweat.  Instead of discouraging us, this gave us a lot of strength and will to continue to do so and will even make us better.  For a guy who starts and has all these means at his disposal everything is easier, but they’re definitely less prepared for failures.  They want to get everything immediately without any effort.  So we just want to point out that there are positive and negative implications.  If they understand the real value of what they’re doing, everything is okay.  Otherwise it’s just a waste of time.

I try to keep up with as much good music as I possibly can!  I spend hours at the local shop and pouring over reviews, articles and stuff online more than I would like to admit, but a lot of the best tips that I’ve ever gotten come from musicians such as you!  Who should I be listening to from your local scene or area that I might not have heard of before?  What about nationally and internationally?

Marco & Piero:  That’s a pretty big responsibility to put on us, but okay we’ll try!  We recommend you listen to bands that make up the history of Italian music, such as Area, PFM, Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, Perigeo, Rovescio Della Medaglia, Le Oorme, Goblin, Sensations’ Fix, Osanna, Balletto Di Bronzo, Biglietto Per L’inferno, CIRCUS 2000, etcetera…  We think that at this point, the readers understand our musical tastes.  Sorry but the list really is endless.

Thank you so much for taking the time to make it through this monstrous interview!  I know it can’t have been too much fun but I hope it wasn’t too awfully painful.  Is there anything that I might have missed or that you’d just like to talk about here?

Marco & Piero:  Thank you very much for the interview and the space that you have given us.  A warm hug to all our supporters and the readers of It's Psychedelic Baby.



DISCOGRAPHY
(1997)  Insider – Insider – CD – Freak Out Records
(1998)  Insider – Land Of Crystals – CD – Dolmen Records
(2000)  Insider – Jammin’ For The Smiling God  EP – CD – Beard Of Stars Records
(2005)  Insider – Simple Water Drops – CD – Beard Of Stars Records
(2012)  Insider – …Vibrations From The Tapes… – CD – Phonosphera Records (Limited to 200 copies)
(2013)  Insider – Event Horizon – CD – Andruid Records

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2014

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