Interview with Burning Gates by Tzina Dovve ( DJ Lady Davinia ).... Burning Gates… One of the finest Italian old-school goth acts to emerge on the dark scene during the nineties…… Burning Gates… Goth rockers reveal their story of the early goth days to lockdown days today…… An in-depth look on what this band is all about… Burning Gates… By Tzina Dovve ( DJ Lady Davinia )……
Tzina: Burning Gates have been active on the goth/dark scene since the mid 90’s, then after a long break in the early 2000’s, re-emerged on the scene in 2015. How and when exactly was this band formed to begin with and what lead to your silence and reformation again?
Danny: I’ll let the others answer about how we originally formed cos I only joined a couple of years later, but regarding the rather long hiatus I’d say we were still all rather young and, approximately 20 years ago, after 3 albums and lots of live activity, we probably felt we needed a bit of a break from each other. I also permanently relocated to the UK around that time, which certainly helped the decision we made at the time to put an end to the whole thing (technology wasn’t really conducive then to collaborating remotely as it is now). We all carried on making music in various other bands and projects, but despite the split we all remained friends and in touch with each other. Then, after talking about it a few times over the years, at the end of 2015 we felt the moment was right and decided to give it another go, initially for a laugh, with just a number of gigs across Europe for old time’s sake… During that time, we realised we enjoyed working together again and had quite a bit more to say, and so here we are.
Michele: The band formed in 1994, as Danny said, not with him initially, as he joined in 1997. In the early 90s, we all played in different bands, but mine split in ’92. I was then invited by Andrea and Davide to join theirs, which was more of an apocalyptic folk act (not exactly my cup of tea). I accepted on condition that I would be allowed to change the band’s direction at least partially. Legend has it that I was in fact tricked into accepting. They asked me to join because they wanted help and they actually wanted to get rid of some members of their band to be able to form a new one. This is how Burning Gates started. All right, what I’ve just said may not be entirely serious, but it’s not a million miles from the truth either.
Tzina: Who are the current members in the re-born Burning Gates?
Andrea: The current line up is Michele Piccolo on vocals and guitars, Andrea Cannella on guitars, Danny Tartaglia on bass and Davide Bo on drums. This is what I would call the band’s most representative and classic one. Not the first one (as we said Danny joined the band a while later, replacing the original bass player), not the one at the time we split (because Davide had already left the band a year before), but certainly the most long-lasting, tight-knit and, ultimately, the one that took us to the next level. Basically, this to me is what has always been THE line-up of Burning Gates.
Tzina: What is the story behind the name ‘Burning Gates’? Does this title represent what the band is all about? Can you elaborate?
Michele: After disbanding their previous band, Andrea and Davide finally admitted they wanted to play Gothic Rock, so we decided to start a new one entirely. We discussed the name at length, exploring several ideas. The evocative image of a burning threshold perfectly fitted the aggressive stance of our gothic rock/post punk sound; some sort of purifying passage to cross, through flames that burn in order to recreate.
Tzina: Who is the main songwriter in the band? Who is behind your dark creations? How is a Burning Gates song brought to life? What triggers your creativity and inspiration to write such melodies? What are your main musical influences?
Andrea: Compared to the 90s, when we used to begin from an idea by one of us (often Michele) and then developed songs pretty much together in the studio (still with Michele maybe a bit more prominent in sorting out the arrangements), we now work very differently, especially because of the physical distance separating us from Danny. I and Michele write in the studio (working on ideas of his and sometimes mine) and work out a skeleton of a song. Then we record demos and send the material to Davide and Danny, who personalise their own lines within the frame of a fairly defined structure. As for the lyrics, Michele is the man.
I don’t think we’d ever have been able to work like we do now in the 90s, but you know… after decades of making music, despite trying our hardest not to, I guess we just couldn’t help learning a few tricks of the trade!
Danny: Yes, back in BG Mk1… I wrote the lyrics to a few songs here and there too, but now they’re all Michele’s which is fair enough really, seeing as he’s the one singing them.
Michele: I have to admit my creativity was, and to a point still is, often fuelled by alcohol. I’m certainly not an alcoholic, but sipping a nice scotch or gin & tonic has always helped my inspiration. Regarding our musical influences, we’re all pretty much the same age, so we grew up with punk, post-punk and goth in all their possible forms. Many of the artists we listen to are the same for all of us, though there are differences too, but what mostly influences our sound is the gothic rock/post-punk of the mid-to-late 80s: Fields of the Nephilim, New Model Army, Killing Joke, The Sisters of Mercy to give you a few names… but there are many others.
Tzina: After three albums, a single and a number of participations on compilations and tributes Burning Gates just released a new 4 track maxi CD ‘Before the Rain’. How has this release been received by your fans and the music press so far? How happy are you with the outcome of the songs on this release? What makes them different from previous work?
Andrea: At the time of our reunion, we also released a ‘ Best Of ‘ CD for the Austrian label Strobelight and subsequently in 2016 a live CD (featuring the recording of one of our shows from that tour) for Swiss Dark Nights. In 2018, still on SDN, we released ‘ New Moon ‘, a new studio album (our fourth). This is to say that the new single is not the first studio release after many years of silence, but rather the continuation of a path that had already begun. Its reception has been really good, and we have only heard good comments about it. Unfortunately, the current situation prevents us from trying it out live at the moment, but judging from the comments on social media and the reviews it would seem ‘ Before the Rain ‘ has been positively received. We certainly are very happy with it, especially because the logistic issues of the present Covid-world made working on it rather complex in every stage. I think the two new songs are a logic progression from what we did on ‘ New Moon ‘ and I believe they represent our sound and songwriting very well. The single format also gave us the freedom to experiment new solutions with the remix of ‘ Before the rain ‘ and, even more so, with a new version of ‘ Only the memories ‘ where, for the first time, we made rather substantial use of keyboards and programming. This experiment also seems to have been well-received, although I’d like to make clear it certainly doesn’t herald a change from our usual Gothic rock approach…
Tzina: Is ‘ Before the Rain ‘ a prelude to more music in the pipeline? Can fans expect a full-length album by Burning Gates in the near future? Are you working on any new material at the moment?
Andrea: In the last year and a half, we’ve been working between one lockdown to the next, in every available window, and we’ve written several songs (among which we chose the two we released on the single). We’re certainly not short of ideas and we’re determined to carry on with this creative work, finalised at releasing our fifth studio album. Caution suggests that we don’t make any announcements in terms of timings just yet, because once more we’re going to have to deal with the pandemic and all the related limits and restrictions to all those freedoms we enjoyed and probably took for granted before. We certainly hope we can proceed with it in the not too distant future.
Michele: It certainly is! As Andrea just said, this isn’t the time for precise dates, but we are working on our fifth album.
Tzina: Burning Gates are part of the ‘Swiss Dark Nights’ record label music family. How did this collaboration come about for the band? How do you feel being part of this Swiss label in this digital age?
Michele: I met Valerio, the man behind SDN, in the summer of 2014. He came to play near Turin with the band he was in at the time, Yabanci. Alex Daniele of Ascension Magazine & Promotions introduced us. At the time, I was working on the From the Fire CD, a semi-acoustic project of mine in which I re-arranged songs from my previous bands including Burning Gates (our reunion had not yet been decided then) and Ordeal by Fire. Our first collaboration started then. From the Fire’s ‘ Through the Oceans of Time ‘ was released as a co-production with Swiss Dark Nights. When he got to know about the BG reunion, Valerio was immediately very interested in adding us to his roster of bands and our first release for SDN came a couple of years later. ‘ The Ritual Will Never Die ‘, a live album which was recorded during the eponymous re-union tour, was released in 2016. And we just went on from there… Personally, I’m very happy to be part of this ‘ family ‘. I really appreciate Valerio’s hard work as he really gives his all for what he likes and he supports bands at the beginning of their careers, but at the same time gives a bunch of old fogeys like us a new lease of life!
Andrea: Swiss Dark Nights has been essential in supporting us during this new start. Valerio Lovecchio, the label boss, believed in us and has always spurred us on and put us in the best possible position to be able to work and focus almost exclusively on the music aspect of it all. We can only be proud to be part of this family.
Tzina: As I understand, there have been re-releases of some of your older work such as your album ‘ New Moon ‘ on vinyl during 2020. How have these releases been received by your fans? Do you believe there is a nostalgia for vinyl once again in this downloading world, even more so during lockdown days and this pandemic?
Danny: Vinyl has certainly made a comeback in recent years, but whether the pandemic had anything to do with it I’m not sure as I think it started earlier than that. Whatever the reason, however, I’m very happy about it as because of my age I grew up and fell in love with music on vinyl (I didn’t get my first CD player until 1989 and even for the following few years I carried on buying mostly records, cos CDs were much more expensive at the time). During the 90s we would have loved to release our stuff on vinyl, but it wasn’t really commercially viable (we had a song on a compilation and released a split-single with German band The House of Usher on vinyl, and we were all really proud of those). I’m therefore very pleased we were able to release the new album in this format too, and I hope we can carry on doing that for the next.
Michele: The re-release of ‘ New Moon ‘ had already been planned for 2019 so the label decided to re-issue it on vinyl as well and this seems to have gone down rather well. I was certainly pleased, for the same reasons Danny mentioned. As for nostalgia, I believe something of the sort does exist, but I wouldn’t quite call it that. I think during the 90s the market took vinyl away from us in order to sell the new media, CD, and did that by discouraging or making it impossible for most to release new material on vinyl because of the costs associated with it. In fact, though, the beauty of vinyl as an object is unrivalled. I believe downloads will do the same, in fact they are already doing it. The same for CDs, which many young people currently aren’t interested in, regardless of any pandemic.
Tzina: Burning Gates have released a few music videos for older songs throughout the band’s music career. Are there any plans for any new music videos? How important are videos and the visual aspect of the band to you?
Andrea: During our first incarnation we never made any video clips. Recently, instead we released a couple from ‘ New Moon ‘ collaborating with Domenico Morreale, a director we have a very good relationship with, both professionally and personally. Conceiving and making the videos of ‘ New Moon ‘ first and then ‘ Fields of Rape ‘ was very stimulating. I am fascinated by the possibilities, but I know I have very little knowledge of the means and tools needed to do a good job in terms of videos. For sure nowadays promoting ourselves with well-shot videos with good content has become essential. Before Covid struck our plan was to release a video for the new material too, but at present we’re not quite sure whether and when it will be possible to do it, but it remains one of our objectives. Once again, it will be outside circumstances rather than our own intentions, however, which will dictate what we will be able to do.
Michele: I really enjoy making them and watching them, but I don’t think they play a particularly significant role in our music.
Tzina: Your band has always been an active live band since the beginning of your existence on the goth/dark scene. Participations in well-known festivals such as ‘WGT’ and ‘Carnival of Souls’ just to name a few. What do you miss most about performing live? Are there any plans or shows scheduled for when the world finally re-opens?
Danny: Personally, there’s nothing I like more than playing live. It’s the reason I started making music over 30 years ago and I haven’t stopped yet. I love being on a stage, I love the opportunity to travel to places I wouldn’t necessarily get to go to and meeting people that I wouldn’t otherwise meet (some of whom go on to become lifelong friends), so we’re certainly going to play live as soon as it’s feasible! Sadly though, I’m not quite sure when that will be at the moment, and if I’m honest I’m rather pessimistic about being able to do it in the short term…
Michele: I couldn’t agree more! Since we were kids, the main reason for forming a band for us was playing live. Through the years, especially recently, I’ve seen many bands form with the sole intent to record a couple of songs (often not even well, in their bedroom) to then upload on Youtube, Bandcamp, Soundcloud and whatnot and try and get famous on the web, dishing out merch like there’s no tomorrow. I miss everything about playing live, even the boring bits like soundchecks for instance. Even the endless van journeys with loading and unloading the van (all right, maybe this not so much).
Tzina: Burning Gates have participated in a number of streams on social media during this pandemic. What are your views on these streams that bands have been doing in order to keep in touch with their fans around the world? How does it feel for you to be a part of this virtual world?
Andrea: Actually, I must say we’re not that enamoured with the virtual world. I understand its uses and potential, but perhaps we’re a bit too old school to fully embrace it. Our general attitude remains very rock as we turn on the amps and play. We took part in an initiative for our label (Swiss Dark Nights) on their Facebook page during the first lockdown, in order to do our bit for the family and remind our fans that we’re with them at this strange and difficult time, but that home recording of a playback version of ‘New Moon ’ has been the only experience so far in this regard. More generally I think sometimes the excessively amatorial nature of these initiatives doesn’t really help bands in any positive way. Of course, it always depends on the spirit you approach these things with, on what you want your communication to be and on everyone’s attitude about it… as well as on the resources you’ve got at your disposal. On top of that, on a purely practical level we still have a bass-player who lives in London, so even just managing to all be in the same room is impossible at present…
Danny: Yep, if the last year has taught me anything is that, distance CAN be a problem at times. I hadn’t really seen it like that before, certainly not in my adult years …
Michele: We’re not part of the virtual world… fortunately!
Tzina: Do you believe this pandemic will have a permanent effect on the music industry especially the live music scene globally?
Andrea: I’m afraid the effect could be huge. At the moment we do not yet know whether and how this permanent state of emergency will end. In time, it’s possible that moments, conditions and solutions will be defined which will allow big events to resume, but I fear the number of restrictions and conditions to be adhered to in order to make them feasible will make smaller events with limited budgets impossible to run. This would really be devastating for the scene, so I hope I’m just being my usual pessimistic self.
Danny: Sadly, I agree with Andrea entirely. I’m sure somehow, things will eventually resume, but how and when I really can’t say (other than it will be later than anyone is willing to admit) and I strongly fear some things will be gone forever. I really, really hope I’m wrong but I suspect the days of jumping on a plane to play or even to go to a gig or a festival in another country on the weekend are gone… if not for good, for a very long time.
Michele: I suspect we are all in agreement here! What I’d like to add is that some things of the music industry which are going to disappear forever will not be missed though. At the moment what everyone wishes for is to go back to normal, even when normal was shit! Human beings are rather stupid unfortunately, so I also fear the music industry which will survive the pandemic won’t be the one that concerns us, sadly.
Tzina: How has this previous year and lockdown days affected you as a band and musicians?
Andrea: We live between Turin (me, Michele and Davide) and London (Danny) and this has been a problem, but has also indirectly been a resource in some ways. Because, precisely due to the distance, we had already created a new way of working compared to the way we used to, which allowed us to make ‘ New Moon ‘ in 2018. And in many respects, I believe that to be our best piece of work so far. Me and Michele spend a lot more time in the studio and use technologies which in the past were much less accessible or versatile. Drum machines, sequencers, programming… they are things which allowed us to work even remotely. So, at least when we weren’t stuck at home during lockdowns, we managed to write and work on new tracks. The problem is recording, though, because international travel is effectively impossible at the moment and Danny hasn’t come to Turin for over a year now, I believe…
Danny: Quite so. Before this whole thing started nothing was really impossible, it just took a bit more organisation, whereas now everything is much harder or just plain unfeasible… and what adds another layer of complexity is that different countries are almost invariably on different trajectories or at least at different stages in the way they are dealing with the pandemic. For instance, here in the UK we’re just coming out of 3 months of lockdown, while the north of Italy that was relatively open is shutting everything down again, who knows how long for…
Tzina: Anything else you would like to share with your fans? What can they expect from Burning Gates in the near future?
Danny: You should ask the virus I suspect! Seriously, like it has been said earlier, as soon as we can we plan to get back on a stage, record and release new material… I wish I could be more precise but I’m sure you understand I really can’t at the moment.
Michele: I’d like to thank everyone who carried on supporting us and reassure them that, as Danny said, we’ll get back on stage and deafen you with tonnes of decibels as soon as it will be possible. Please continue to buy music from independent bands and labels, it’s the only way to try and keep an underground scene alive beyond the pandemic.
Keep healthy, look after yourselves and each other.