Christine Plays Viola Interview by Tzina Dovve

Christine Plays Viola… One of Italy’s finest darkwave/goth acts on the scene for over a decade… Singer Massimo Ciampani gives an insight on his band..Past, present and the global pandemic effects on the future… Christine Plays Viola… By Tzina Dovve…

Tzina: Christine Plays Viola are an act on the dark/goth scene for some years now. How and when exactly did you form and who are the current members?

Massimo: The project was born around 2008 from an idea by Fabrizio Giampietro (guitars) and Daniele Palombizio (drums) to which Desio Presutti (bass) and the former singer Christian were added shortly after. Originally, the band did not have a very well defined identity: in it flowed elements of indie rock, inserts of wave and a focus on the development of an airy environment partly alienating. With time, and also as a result of Massimo entering into the band following the departure of Christian, the shot of our compositions was definitely veered towards sounding darker and direct with the intention of recovering some sounds of the 80’s and reinterpreting them with a personal approach. Over the years, the line-up has changed. There was the entry of Daniele Vergni on synths and drum-machines in 2015 and after the departure from the band of Daniele Palombizio on drums and Desio Presutti on bass, it is currently composed of me (Massimo Ciampani) on vocals, Fabrizio Giampietro on guitars, Daniele Vergni on synth and drum machine, Marco Di Ianni on bass and Gianluca Orsini on drums.

Tzina: What inspired you to create this band and give it the particular name Christine Plays Viola? Is there some sort of symbolic meaning behind this title? Can you elaborate on this…

Massimo: Our name can be interpreted as a tribute to the class of Siouxsie and the Banshees, where Christine, the protagonist of one of their distressing and gloomy songs, plays one of the sweetest of the sweetest of instruments, the viola, determining a sort of contrast between darkness and light.

Tzina: Your band’s sound has a mix of both synth and guitar elements to it. Who is the main songwriter in the band? Where do you draw your inspiration from to create music and what are your main influences?

Massimo: Fundamentally our approach to composition has always remained unchanged; starting from the individual ideas offered by guitar riffs or synth mats proposed by Fabrizio, each of us contributing to create the right alchemy and shape the pieces in such a way that all the characteristics of our sound are evident without this implying having to submit to pre-established schemes or restrictions of any kind.  A Christine song is never structured according to canonical forms but rather turns out to be the meeting of different elements even apparently distant from them which together contribute to define the peculiarities of our sound starting from a classically darkwave base.  Ambient ideas appear in our sound, alienating electronics and vocal melodies not necessarily referable to the stylistic elements of the dark tout court. If we look above all at the lyrical aspect, I am personally influenced by my emotions, by the flow of my life, by the books I read and the films I watch.  It all helps to create a substrate with more or less dark shades that accompany an emotional complexity that has always distinguished my personality with many facets. As much as I focus mainly on the darkness that permeates our souls, on the difficulties of interpersonal relationships, on feelings such as despair, surrender and precariousness of life itself, I always try to cling to a faint hope … with small elements that can give us the strength to go on. In the past we have faced a real ‘ concept album ‘ In Vacua ‘, where we have transposed Francisco Goya’s ‘ Black Paintings ‘ into music; a testimony to the extreme darkness that prevails in human souls, the horrors and the territories that surround us and that pierce us. We’re surrounded by an aura of mystery, a vice powerful and incomprehensible, moments of lucid madness that make us sink into a distressing and mysterious atmosphere in which plunges who contemplates the works. There is no peace but nostalgia and melancholy, a sense of overwhelming emptiness, a ‘ vacua ‘ in fact.  The one that every man carries with him, and in many aspects. They are pessimistic paintings, imbued with an admirable expressive force that leave no space for any hope, but which may be subject to multiple interpretations. Evil is never tired of repeating itself, in various forms, with accents always darkest in which the artist tries to carve out a glimmer of salvation by impressing ‘ a kind of magic ‘ at work.  The artist through the optical illusion that creates, turns the inexpressible need to look inside the inner self.  An introspective analysis that passes through images of the external world, towards a clearer possession of our existence. The salvation of mankind lies in the acceptance of its fragile nature, through the creation of multiple images of its own prisons in an artistic practice that exorcises the power and tries to cancel the despair. In ‘ Spooky Obsessions ‘, the lyrics are inspired by stories of people at their moment of death that remember the trauma suffered in life and the concerns that have gripped their souls and minds. Evil, fear, obsession, demons are all alive in their minds! Now in our latest release ‘ Fading ‘ the slow fading of pain, the weakening of an opaque and submissive mood are small steps that lead us to acquire a new awareness, to cultivate a new hope. Aware of the risk of facing a life full of pitfalls, lost in the shadow of remorse that takes us away… far away.  Mindful of our dark past, and after years spent fighting the clouds that clouded our mind, we challenge ourselves. Now, we can find the answers to take care of us and not to fall down by appealing to values such as love, friendship, our faith, our intimacy: a boundless ocean where we can still find meaning to continue living. All this wandering of the soul that seems to allude to a fantastic and impossible dream. On the contrary, it makes us the last great heroes. Speaking instead of our influences, these are mainly related to the Anglo-Saxon wave / goth scene of the 80’s, bands such as: The Cure, Bauhaus, Killing joke, Virgin Prunes, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Chameleons, Joy Division, The Sound, The Mission, The Sisters Of Mercy, Fields Of The Nephilim… are the foundations of our sound. Surely however, we can’t forget the influence that bands like Depeche Mode and Duran Duran have had on us.

Tzina: Your latest release, your fourth full-length album, was released in May this year under the title ‘ Fading ’. After eight previous releases under your belt so far what makes this album different from your other work. What is the album ‘ Fading ‘ all about and what does it mean to Christine Plays Viola?

Massimo: I think that the change and the evolution of the sounds have always been the fundamental principles of the band’s musical proposal. Also in this fourth full – length album, CPV present a more intimate piece of work, in which the use of less angular sounds is evident… sometimes more acoustic than in the past, but without ever distorting the imprinting maturing in the band from its debut. With hindsight, I can safely tell you that we should probably recover some immediacy of the past and also some basic darkness that has always been alive in us.

Tzina: Released during lockdown and with a rather melancholy atmosphere to it how has ‘ Fading ‘ been perceived by your fans so far? How content are you with the overall outcome of this album?

Massimo: We’re going through a difficult period and the compositional process of  ‘ Fading ‘, in my opinion, has suffered a lot from this aspect. Songs like ‘ In The Dark ’ or ’ You’re No One ‘ represent the maximum expression of the melancholy that one breathes while listening to the album. In previous productions, our proposal has always been far from trendy sounds. Even in ‘ Fading ‘ the artistic approach was completely anarchic and devoid of any desire to follow the mood of the moment, without compromise, but with the aim of producing an album as honest as possible. For these reasons, we feel satisfied with the result obtained, even knowing that not all the listeners who follow our project may have agreed on the artistic choice made.

Tzina: You also released the lyric video for the song ‘ Still ‘ earlier this year and most recently for the track ‘ Through The Night ‘ from this album. How important are music videos to Christine Plays Viola? 

Massimo: We think that a video clip can be able to capture the attention of a listener more by trying to convey the meaning of the song itself with greater emphasis and clarity. Not necessarily the images we have used for our videos were directly linked to the lyrics of the songs… we like to be carried away by the melodies in such a way that the imagination slowly takes hold and gives rise to scenes… fragments which we then try to amalgamate into a story of complete meaning.

Tzina: These past months have been very challenging for all humanity around the globe. How much did these months affect you musically? Was it a more creative period of time for Christine Plays Viola?

Massimo: I must say that unfortunately this pandemic has penalized us a lot, and not only from an artistic point of view, but also on a creative level, since we were forced to lockdown, but also later on in a slightly more relaxed atmosphere. We have no longer had the opportunity to perform live and even the promotion of our latest album did not go as we hoped. We found ourselves rather disappointed but also emptied in the soul and for this reason we understood that we had to find a turning point to ensure that the band did not disappear and that we could once again find the desire to move forward. The turning point coincided with the entrance of a new drummer in the band after a few years in which we experimented with more electronic and less  ‘ rock oriented ‘ sounds. For us, this basically involves a new beginning, and in the future we would also like to regain possession of some surely dark sounds that have always been part of our DNA.

Tzina: Do you believe that this pandemic will have a long term effect on the music and arts industry globally?

Massimo: Pulling the plug on all events has caused an immediate crisis for the live music industries. The restrictions have generated economic damage that cannot be easily remedied for the sector, and it is not clear at this stage how long it will continue. This will be determined by the spread of the virus, and by the policies that governments will implement to combat it. Regarding the future, it is unlikely that things will ever be the same again, rather I imagine a scenario before and after Covid19. People will react and respond uncontrollably. Some will desperately want to go out and head straight to the nearest event, as a reaction to being limited. Others will be more cautious about returning to crowded public spaces, but it will likely take some time for the situation to stabilize towards a new balance.

Tzina: As l understand Christine Plays Viola is an active live band with a number of performances at various goth/dark festivals including the participation in Whitby’s ‘ Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival ’ in April last year. How did this arise for the band and how was this experience for you at one of the biggest goth festivals in the UK?

Massimo: The band has been active for several years and with many gigs on its shoulders. This has allowed us to achieve popularity in the goth/dark scene and has opened the doors for us to participate in quite important festivals such as: ‘ Wave Gotik Treffen ‘, ‘ Castle Party ‘, ‘ Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival ‘; and many others. The experience at the ‘ Tomorrow’s Ghost’s Festival ’ was fantastic. First of all, I would like to point out the splendid location of the town of Whitby, a magical place that manages to inspire and bewitch like few others in the world. The Abbey and its ruins overlooking the North Sea are just some of the beauties that the town of Whitby is able to offer its guests. As regards to the festival, in essence, we have noticed a great level of professionalism of the technicians and of all the people who spend so much time on the front line to organize the event. The performance itself was intense, and we really enjoyed ourselves in front of a competent and warm audience.

Tzina: Do you enjoy the atmosphere of festivals amongst other bands or do you prefer doing exclusive shows? Do you have any plans for upcoming live performances in the near future despite these dark uncertain times?

Massimo: Personally, I love the atmosphere of festivals the most. In this context, you have the opportunity to compare yourself with other very valid realities from the most disparate places and above all you perform in front of many people who love the genre and who may have never listened to you before. Unfortunately, exclusive concerts do not always turn out well.  Sometimes, we have been in front of very few people… maybe even after very long trips to reach the place to play… but this is also part of the game.  We always try to give our best performance nevertheless!

Tzina: Many new bands have emerged on the goth/dark scene and a number of old bands have re-united over the past few years. Do you believe there is some sort of goth revival happening at the moment around the world? Do you follow the scene? Any newcomers you admire?

Massimo: In my opinion, the darkwave scene is experiencing a golden age because there are so many noteworthy realities. In general, I think there is a return to the mood and sounds of the 80s not necessarily only in the goth / darkwave field. However, I cannot help but underline that the proposed solutions are definitely more linked to the synth, and therefore more oriented to dance, and frankly they are starting to become a bit too inflated and sometimes I have difficulty distinguishing the individual bands. I mean, in my opinion, that many bands have little desire to take risks and to contaminate their sound. They focus on danceable songs that are easy to be grasped by the public. Their music is not particularly elaborate from a strictly compositional point of view. This inevitably affects the market, as the public’s interest in certain sounds is certainly greater than for a sound like ours, for example, and all this implies even less chance to perform live. But this … is just my personal opinion! There are several bands that have hit me lately and among the many I would like to mention Whispering Sons, Spectres, Sure, Second Still.

Tzina: Anything else you would like to share with your fans? What can they expect from Christine Plays Viola in the near future?

Massimo: As soon as it will be possible to find ourselves in our rehearsal room we will start writing new material. We hope to be able to return to the stage as soon as this terrible pandemic will be a distant memory! Thanks for your attention and see you very soon!

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