CVLT Nation Exclusive
Embers Tour Diary
Part Two: Iconoclast Interview
After an overnight flight from San Francisco to Milan, we were greeted by Claudio Troiseme from the record label Iconoclast. In his hand he held their brand new Embers double L.P. “Shadows” which Iconoclast released. Claudio and Davide had arranged the release of the record, booked the tour, and arranged for a van and back-line. From the airport Claudio drove us to his apartment in Bologna. The next day, the line-up was Axis of Desolation, Cauchmere from Canada, and Embers. During a break between loading in and sound check I interviewed Claudio.
Steve: When did you start Iconoclast?
Claudio: Iconoclast was born in 2008, but I wasn’t with Iconoclast in the beginning. It was Davide and another guy, Raulo, and they started co-releasing friends’ bands in DIY, hard-core punk, crust scene. Then when I joined Iconocclast with Davide in 2010 we started to focus the label more on the metal side of DIY music.
S: So the metal focus was a decision that you made when you started?
C: It was decision made together because we are both involved in metal music…
(Kelly interrupts to ask Claudio about setting up Embers’ merchandise)
S: So where we were at was you cam into the label and you and Davide together decided to make it a metal label.
C: It became natural since we both listen to a lot of metal and we both think that nowadays a lot of people coming from the DIY punk scene or crust scene are more involved in playing in a metal way of playing instead of a punk way, even if they still have a DIY attitude. So that’s why we started thinking that we would like to do a DIY metal label. First of all because we were listening to a lot of this kind of music.
S: The thing that’s interesting to me it seems that when you talk about DIY in Europe its DIY and then punk, and when you talk about metal it’s more separated and commercial then it tends to be in the U.S. Is my perception correct?
C: I think in the last few years things are changing, but some years ago there were two separate scenes. The typical metal head would go to metal clubs and never go to squats, and the same, punk rockers being close minded, listening just to punk rock and hardcore. But now there’s a crossover between the two things, so I think that things are changing now.
S: How does Iconoclast fit into that change. Is that something you thought about, or was it just like, “Oh, we like metal so let’s put out metal,” or was it both?
C: It’s hard to explain. First of all, we listen to a lot of metal. We’re not the only ones in the DIY punk community listening to this kind of music. I think that it is getting bigger. We realized that it made sense to make a label which is has it’s own sound that is more metal. It could be atmospheric, like black metal, black metal, doom, or sludge.
S: So I’m curious, the Embers album was the 12th release, and what was the first release after you and Davide decided to make it a metal label and have that be the focus?
C: I think that the first Iconoclast metal release is the Black September L.P. When the Black September release was out, we were still thinking about doing this, but we hadn’t decided to do that. After that L.P. we decided, “Let’s do that. Let’s focus more on metal.”
S: Which release was that? Was that 10?
C: Black September I think is 7.
S: 7? OH, so you’ve done a number of…
C: The number is…So there is Bhopal, it’s a friend of ours playing dark metal/crust, and then we started doing just metal. The Embers L.P. is the fourth.
S: Of the bands that you’ve signed that you consider to be metal bands, is it typical that they’re people coming from the DIY punk scene or is that not a thread?
C: It’s not. I don’t want to say that we just want to put out records coming from people just from the strictly punk DIY scene, but I think that we like to support the underground, because we know that the metal scene is full of racist stuff and fascist stuff, mostly the black metal scene. We want to be very careful about this. It’s not a rule. I don’t want to be narrow-minded, to say, “Okay, if you don’t come from the DIY punk scene I don’t want to make a record for you.”
S: I wasn’t trying to say is it’s only metal from people with roots in the punk scene. I was just wondering if that’s kind of a tenancy because…and I guess I should ask the question, since there is this kind of black metal nazi history in one area and then there is this other commercial metal history, how would Iconoclast fit into all that, and wouldn’t that by itself lend itself towards the punk DIY people that are playing metal and crossing over, or do you feel there is motion coming from people coming from a more commercial influence trying to be more underground and more DIY?
C: I think that…Okay, maybe I focalize your question, but I think that Iconoclast doesn’t fit in any nazi, fascist black metal or any commercial metal. We support underground music. That’s the point.
S: Well I guess this is a good moment to bring up your relationship with Mila because he does the record label Break the Chains which does punk/metal releases, and that why I was thinking that Iconoclast is doing something metal, and Agipunk is more punk, and Break the Chains is trying to meld those two things together.
C: There are three different things because Break the Chains is owned by Mila and Paulo from Children of Technology, and they mostly focus on the crossover between metal punk in the old stuff. All the metal punk going out recently on BDS, Toxic Holocaust, new Darkthrone stuff. With Iconoclast we are more on the atmospheric and obscure, and dark style of playing metal. It’s two different things.
S: So how does Iconoclast fit in because on the website it says it a “sub-label”? Did it start out like that, or did it merge into that?
C: No, it merged into that with a proposal to Mila to distribute our records, and then we became a kind of sub-label, but Iconoclast wasn’t born as a sub-label of Agipunk. It’s different for Break the Chains.
S: Well it seems that Mila also likes metal.
C: Yeah, Break the Chains is Mila, Paulo. Iconoclast is Davide and me.
S: So just to say it, you are driving Embers on tour which is one of the reasons we are doing the interview, and also Iconoclast put out the record so it’s almost like everything is working together, and we’re pretty excited about it. So you’re not only doing Iconoclast with Davide, but you and Davide are driving bands around. How did that happen? Was that something you were doing before the label, or is that something that came out of the label?
C: We were doing that in parallel because of the friendship we had with Mila, and he always needs drivers for bands on tour, and we started driving bands that Mila booked, and now we are starting to book bands ourselves. We use the Agipunk equipment and the Agipunk back-line. So everything born spends time this way. I mean, when you asked about the European tour; Okay we all play in bands. We all book tours. I can book the tour. Why shouldn’t I do it? Why should I ask someone else to do it? When you have a label you want to take care of the bands whose records you put out. For me it’s very spontaneous. If you and I are in contact about the record and you ask about a European tour; I want to take care of this.
S: For me it seems, and maybe this is because this is the first thing we’ve released by someone other than ourselves, but my experience is you rent a van and the back-line from one person, and someone else books the tour, and someone else puts out the record. It’s not like this, where you guys put out our record, then you book the tour, and you’re personally driving us on that tour. I think that, to me, it seems uncommon. I don’t know. Am I wrong? Is this something you’ve seen with other bands on tour?
C: I don’t think it’s uncommon. I don’t know why. There are no labels in the States that book tours also and drive for bands?
S: No, bands…
C: In Europe, there are some labels that do great work with this. First of all, Alerta Anti-Fascista; Timo does amazing work with records and booking. I think it’s spontaneous. When you have a label you want to take care of the bands.
S: Maybe it’s just my experience not having worked with labels before and also having toured in the U.S. a lot.
C: I think that many European labels also book and drive bands like Yellow Dog in the past. Like Trujaca Fala the label from Philip.
S: I think in the U.S. if you’re a band that’s underground typically there’s no drivers that drive vans. If you have a driver then you’re not a band that’s underground, or if you’re underground then you’re a band with a medium sized draw playing larger venues in a bus the size of a commuter bus. Very few bands that I know rent vans or have drivers. Usually they own their own van and they drive themselves.
C: I also play in bands and, except for the band Judah I have with Agipunk people because they have vans, we have to rent it.
(Someone interrupts and Claudio begins speaking with them in Italian)
S: So I’m curious, so you and Davide decided, “Okay, let’s do metal, let’s be DIY, and fuck fascist bullshit.” What else would you say about the philosophy behind Iconoclast or is that it? Is there a political thing?
C: No, no, no it’s not a political thing. We just don’t want to have anything do with…Okay, when you grew up in the DIY punk scene most of the time, 99% of the people you know they will never be related to nazi or fascists. For metal it’s different because sadly…
(Kelly interrupts asking for the keys to the van)
C: I don’t know how it is in the States, but here, especially in Italy, the metal scene also belongs to the Nazis and the fascists. I don’t want to say that I do Iconoclast because I’m political. No, it’s a record label. I do music. But I don’t want to have anything to do with Nazis or fascists.
S: In the states it’s unheard of to be a nazi metal band. That’s ridiculous. It’s a ridiculous thought.
C: You don’t have NSBM bands?
S: No, not really. I mean sometimes you will go to a metal show and see someone with a patch that’s just a metal fan that has heard some European, like Burzum, or some shit like this, and they have this patch and that’s as far as it goes. You never go to a show and see a metal band…I guess there are some metal bands that are a-political, and sometimes when you’re a-political you can accidentally be pro-America, but it’s not…
C: Of course, I don’t want to say that all the metal heads are Nazis because, of course, here you can find some metal head with a Burzum patch and he isn’t a Nazi. He’s just a guy that likes Burzum, but in Italy you can find poltical metal bands. That’s the point. And you can also find musicians that don’t care about anything and play with everybody, you know, with Nazi bands.
S: But I think also in the U.S. there is a history of the metal scene like thrash, speed metal, death metal, and there isn’t really isn’t a black metal scene rooted in the U.S. You have Megadeth, Metallica, and you know, the big four, Slayer… So what do you have? You have political anti-authoritarian, anti-war lyrics on one hand and then you have satanic lyrics. Then there’s bands like Nuclear Assault and other bands.
The punk political analysis and the metal political analysis in a lot of it was really similar. It was, “War is bad. There’s these corporations that profit from war, and they’re corrupting to the system.” Things like this, and there was more Nazi punks then there were Nazi metal in the States. When I was growing up I never met any Nazi metal heads, but I met lots of Nazi punks, but that all died out, and no one thinks of punk rock as being Nazi from that time period where there’s people listening to Screwdriver and stuff like that. It’s a weird thing. There’s no association.
C: I think that’s just a different background because in Europe punk and hardcore were born as political stuff like Discharge and Cress or old Italian hardcore, and also early Napalm Death. They’re all political bands. Maybe I am wrong, but a lot of hardcore bands coming from the U.S. in the, 80’s were not political, or not strictly political.
S: The punk bands?
C: Hardcore bands. I don’t know like the Boston Hardcore scene maybe. I don’t know.
S: Yeah. I feel like in my experience the metal in the U.S. was more political than the metal in Europe, and the punk in the U.S. was less political than the punk anywhere else because you had a lot of punk where it was… I mean, when you talk about bands from the West Coast like X and Black Flag it’s barely political.
C: Minor Threat also.
S: Well, that was the whole straight edge thing, but there were a lot of bands that were talking about being on the street and being a degenerate and then that went off all the way down to the depravity of G.G. Allen. So then you have G.G. Allen and this whole scumfuck thing on one hand and on the other hand you had Nazi punks. So there was just a lot of either a-political or bad politics in the punk scene, but there was also a lot of other stuff for me.
And it was always mixed together in the ‘80’s. You know you had bands like Christ on Parade and then Neurosis. It was like, “metal, punk, what is it? I don’t know” For me as far as metal or punk I was just always confused. I was like, “I don’t know. It’s angry, and that’s how I feel.”
C: I totally agree with you, and I can tell you that it’s because in Europe the ‘80s punk hardcore bands were strictly political. Words, ideas, and communication was more important than the music. It was not like that in the States. You could see a lot of European hardcore always being political and DIY. You see a lot of old U.S. hardcore turn into thrash metal and being commercial and on major labels. I totally agree with what you say. It’s different but (round?)
S: Sometimes when people call us black metal which was totally something that was an accident for us because we weren’t trying to play metal or not play metal or play this or that. We said, “Let’s just play music together and see how we feel.” Then people said, “Oh you’re playing black metal” Then we come to Europe, and for some people in Europe, in some areas, if you’re in Germany or even Slovenia or wherever…If someone says, “This is a black metal band.”, I mean, black metal has been banned in some countries. There’s a country in South East Asia where it’s been banned. I’m like, “Are we crust metal? Are we black metal? Are we blackened crust? Are we darkened?…”
C: It’s just definitions.
S: But how do you overcome that though? How do you get beyond that?
C: When you don’t see on the table, “Okay I play black metal. I play death metal. I play this. I play…” and you just play what you feel like doing, I think you are beyond any definition. You are not going to be a tribute to the true Norwegian black metal or the true Swedish death metal. You just play what you feel like playing. For me it doesn’t make any sense to make definitions.
S: And if people have a problem with that, then fuck ‘em. (laughter)