"Blind men, blind men... and oooooccuuuult foooorcis..."
Gianni Della Cioppa: Hi Robert. We've known each other for many years and it is almost superfluous for me to ask you this question, but I make it for our readers: You were always a musically extrovert personality and full of curiosity, open to many sounds, but how was this morbid love for obscure things, for sounds mysterious created and how did you decide to apply it to the music?
Robert Measles: Certainly it arises from a desire for culture. This brought me to the study of philosophy (even without attending university) with and in-depth ego, I would say almost childlike... It may seem trivial and maybe does not matter a lot in my background, but at the end of the 70's I was very impressed by KISS, because they combined a visual-style theater with their rock style and I thought to, in a sense continue the same thing, but in a more intellectual way. This was the dark rock I meant to create.
GDC: I can say without a doubt that you were among the first in the world, if not the very first, to combine Heavy Metal with new wave and dark rock, a sound that in the 90's, under the portrait of gothic metal (even in its one hundred facets) has become a real trend. But not only so as a musician - in 1983 you indeed founded "Metal Thunder" (a fanzine that also involved myself) where you provided space not only for HM but but also to new wave and dark rock with reviews and interviews. At that time you also suffered attacks by purists on both sides. Today, do you feel in some way one of the beginners of this combination of metal and darkness?
RM: I had a passion for all intellectual rock. In the new wave for example I liked Wire very much. They had nothing to do with HM, but played an introverted form of rock. These particular things I have always drawn from, and then I thought that in rock so gloomy as ours was, the search of new solutions could give something new. I refer to Living Mask of course, because our first album instead had its roots in classic Sabbath's doom, albeit with some facets of our custom.
GDC: Then you grow into the need to turn that passion into something even more "you", a real band, BLACK HOLE. Tell us how the group was founded and the objectives that you had set in advance. Why did you combine the music to the spirituality of man? I remember you were one who documented much, you read many journals. We have been together in stores where they sold esoteric items, we have visited gothic cathedrals, old cemeteries, cities in ruins and ancient places around Italy...
RM: The band formed a little late compared to my passion for the esoteric, the afterlife and paranormal phenomena - topics that you can find in the lyrics. Just like what happens to many rock bands, all conspired from the meeting with the guitarist, Steve Fox Bianchini. As he played alone in his basement I asked him to form a band inspired by darkness, with gothic sounds with the lyrics concerning the afterlife and the search for the self; this gave him the enthusiasm and from there we started.
I must say that it was he who had the idea of the name of BLACK HOLE. He had recently seen a movie with that title and since it contained the word "Black", I said it was fine. Then we recruited a drummer, Paolo Veronese, who we unfortunately had to send away after about two years because he was entering a world of drugs that was not acceptable with my lifestyle. After him Mauro Tollini joined us, bringing a surge of technique and imagination to the band - thus was born the first true incarnation of the Black Hole, a true trio. We spent much time in the rehearsal room, playing a lot to define the style and nuances. I think that few groups at the time had our pace, some weeks we rehearsed every night, and that's how a solid repertoire was forged that lasted over time.
GDC: After a few demo tapes which were heralded vast potential, you decided that the next step would be a proper LP. A bold move at the time, when publishing an album of Heavy Metal in Italy was really hard - not like today where the recording of a CD is a goal easily attainable. How did you choose the recording studio and as the sessions were held?
RM: Once fifteen songs were prepared, I decided that live concerts were not important to us (indeed BLACK HOLE have played no more than ten concerts in their history). Instead, to launch our philosophical message it was important to record an album that would become a real legacy. Thanks to my sister I met a friend who had a recording studio in Venice. We wrote some letters to make agreements and after some phone calls and visiting the studio we put down the recording sessions.
The atmosphere was very nice and comfortable and I liked the fact that we always started recording late at night so I could sleep a lot during the day, which I always liked. We recorded for about a week, finishing half of the material, then I felt a strong sore throat and we had to stop the vocals. In fact I recorded two songs half-heartedly, so once healed I went back alone to sing those two songs, even did some retouched instrumental arrangement and followed the mixing in person. The experience was very constructive. We stayed in a hotel all at our own expense, and thus we could focus on the music as authentic musicians.
GDC: Can you tell me about the album cover? The idea, concept, design and meaning?
RM: For me the cover image is the song "Spectral World", both as lyrics and as sound. This is a world that is not defined and is represented by these uncovered coffins, which in fact have nothing inside, there's just black, a "Black Hole". Regarding the addition of a greek temple it's due to my desire to raise myself to the infinite and for me this temple represents precisely this desire for the noble and the unlimited. Even the logo is mine, the whole cover is a drawing that I made by hand and I appreciate much graphics of typography, so I tried to reproduce it faithfully.
GDC: After the publication of Land of Mystery, which gathered good reviews, you did a few concerts, but dark/doom did not live a good life at the time and so you went on alone. In David MacAllister you located a faithful companion in adventure, so the recordings are born that will become the posthumous album "Living Mask". Why wasn't it released at that time?
RM: In the late 80' the record store Black Widow was about to become a small record label (now a consolidated reality in the record world, but Robert, who today is no longer into underground, does not know it at all!/ED). We discuss the possibility to press Living Mask that they had heard in a preview; they told me that my desire to go "beyond" in the pursuit of sound had distorted the product and the initial idea. In short, like all the other record companies they wanted Land Of Mystery Part 2, but this was not in my visions and I gave up. They even asked me to bring out the drums in acoustics and not in electronics and do some structural changes. Since we had already spent much more time on it than the first album it seemed to me like an operation without sense, and so I said, I quote:
"if you wish, these are the tapes, if you do not want to publish, amen. Who knows, maybe one day someone else comes forward?" ...which then happened, given that ten years after the album came out on your Andromeda Relix label (Gianni Della Cioppa is not only a writer, he is also the mastermind behind this label/ED).
GDC: What are your feelings knowing that your art has been revived in the world and that many underground bands and fans are citing you as one of the most original and creative dark/doom group?
RM: Since I've been out of the artistic loop for many years I have been advised by a friend that BLACK HOLE is often mentioned in the world of the internet, so I have read almost everything that concerns us. There are many positive reviews and some small notes indeed, but I accept everything regardless because what's was written is almost always true.
The only thing that I have not accepted - I do not remember who wrote it - is that I made Angel of Lucifer to the tune of Phantom of the Opera by Iron Maiden. I think there is perhaps a similarity within the intro, though in our part there are jazz steps that have nothing to do with Maiden. Someone said that I copied the song from scratch, which I did not like at all. I find this distasteful. If one listens, it's quite obvious that they are different...
Otherwise I can say that this appreciation have made me feel proud and perhaps there is a regret of not being born ten years later. Maybe then they would follow me better, because my style wouldn't be so strange anymore, especially for the record companies. Perhaps I would have a different musical career, closer to what I hoped to do at first.
GDC: Since you finished your adventure with BLACK HOLE you've almost given up music, even as a mere listener. Why? Especially considering that you played in a band, ran the fanzine Metal Thunder, then you were a concert promoter (Death SS, Crying Steel, Steel Crown and many others) - in fact you were a real prime mover who suddenly decided to disappear from the scene!
RM: This is a good question, but there is no one single true reason. Certainly there was the disappointment of the contract signed with King Classic Records and never materialized. It was a real blow for us, also because we sent them two tapes which we had not kept personal copies of. It was a serious mistake. The idea was to contribute to a compilation with a song, and then to record an album with them since they had heard and liked our music, but after sending the tapes we did not hear from them again...
With David MacAllister was born a beautiful relationship, perhaps too visceral and deep. He followed the ideology of my music. He wrote Dark Theatre, I just added some details and this makes you realize how he could follow my footsteps. I consider this song one of the most bleak and evocative that we ever made, with this weltering of sounds interwoven with keyboards, guitars and a flood of Metal and in a variety of effects...
My abandonment was also born due to a sense of rejection, which I have not asked myself too many questions about. I just pulled the plug and since then I have devoted myself to other passions. I became a football (soccer for our american friends) coach and I like motor racing. Sometimes I think back to the third album we never made, which was to conclude the Black Hole-trilogy that we had conceived... I do not see any opportunities at the moment, even if I see that Deep Purple still play, so never say never!
GDC: During all these years, have you found any bands that got you really excited? Or is rock really dead for you?
Sometimes it happens I hear something interesting but it's individual songs. I will never dig deeper, having sold all my vinyl discography years ago. As I said before I pulled the plug and only recently started listening again with joy, buying my favorite bands on CD and DVD. Now I'm fascinated by live concerts, especially of bands that have marked my artistic growth. I personally believe that the two decades from 1970 to 1990 is something awesome. There were lots of creativity, not only in HM but also through the perversions of punk and some histrionic new wave. I love that time, although I am no longer directly involved and when I listen to that music it's as if it had happened only the other day ..but I do not like the dark/gothic rock of recent years. Why not add something really new? It's like stirring things already done.
Fundamental bands are the usual: Black sabbath, Van Der Graaf Generator, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin - these are the groups that have marked my youth and I like Tangerine Dream very much, because I have never hidden my love for electronic music and I expressed this with "Living Mask" back then ...but I do not think I have a lot of imagination today. I love Iron Maiden, Queensryche and Dream Theater - absolute cornerstones. I also liked Joy Division ("Closer"), Bauhaus and Echo And The Bunnymen, but for me the true psychedelia remains that of Pink Floyd and Van Der Graaf Generator.
As you see they are not underground names - I've listened to thousands, but ultimately the music that endures over time is that of groups that have made their mark in history and everybody knows that. Because of this, although I am proud, I wonder why there's so much resonance around Black Hole?...
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