In un fine giornata primaverile più caldo del revolver di Ugo Piazza in Milano Calibro 9, la Super Stanzy Delegation™ – per l’occasione rappresentata da Pizze di Liquirizia e Wilson Wilson (da qui in poi WW) – viaggia verso la città del vizio e del peccato. Il Biko accoglie i londinesi Italia90 per l’ultima data dell’atteso, tematico, quasi eponimo primo tour italiano. Gli highlights del breve soggiorno, come ci spiega poi la band, sono stati (manco a dirlo) Bologna – con un Covo stracolmo condiviso con i Qlowski – e Macerata, dove al Dong un manipolo di pipistrelli goth si è abbandonato al loro live, stropicciando le ali in attesa del dj set a tema. Noi, però, ci permettiamo di aggiungere anche la data milanese. Quando salgono sul palco i quattro, infatti, si capisce immediatamente che l’occasione è speciale, o almeno questo è ciò che noi percepiamo, mentre l’energia elettrica si accumula sulla pelle pezzo dopo pezzo. Il concerto è stellare – nel senso tipo le stelline scoppiettanti di Capodanno. Gli Italia90 si muovono sul filo di un rasoio decisamente (post)punk, con il basso gommoso che rimbalza tra note allungate e fughe splettrate, la batteria che è un ibrido contemporaneo Strokes-Wire, e la chitarra che sprigiona fragore e lancia allarmi, chiaccherando con l’abbaiare sguaiatamente britannico della voce. Dopo due encore, raggiungiamo in camerino J DANGEROUS (batteria), UNUSUAL PRICES (chitarra), BOBBY PORTRAIT (basso) e LES MISERABLE (voce) – estenuati ma visibilmente felici.
I think I know the reference behind the name Italia90 – but why did you choose it? Is it because Italian culture has any kind of special appeal to you? Were you looking forward to this Italian tour?
J DANGEROUS: About the name, we have no good answer for it – it’s boring. We us three like football and Unusual Prices wasn’t in the band when we chose it: he wouldn’t have approved, probably. Yes, we have been so excited to come here, more than anywhere else. And there’s various reasons. One: food! But also, because we’ve had a lot of Italian fans for a long time – and you can tell from social media, it’s been people with Italian names liking our stuff for years and years.
UNUSUAL PRICES: Best food, best wine, pretty good music. We’re talking Puccini, Verdi…
LES MISERABLE: And thanks for the battery. Thanks for the violin – lovely music!
J DANGEROUS: Lasagna, lasagna!
WW: What’s your favourite football team?
LES MISERABLE: Bologna.
WW: Why? It sucks! Wasn’t it you that was holding a scarf from Parma Football Club in a photo or something?
LES MISERABLE: Not me.
J DANGEROUS: Parma are cool, though.
I’d like to talk about aesthetics for a moment. Looking at Les Miserable’s outfit, I obviously think about iconic British subcultures – you are often sporting the Laurel Wreath on stage. When you see young people wearing those classic garments, do you think that there is still some kind of sentiment rooted in identity and subculture? Is there any sense of belonging left? Or is it merely fashion?
LES MISERABLE: There’s a bit of both. I think you can tell. When subcultures become influential in mainstream fashion, there’s elements that integrate into that. But I think you can tell when someone has just something that originated there, or if they really are part of a subculture. It’s probably less tribal than it used to be, but people who are still part of a subculture identify with other people involved in the same thing. That’s what’s all about really, innit?
J DANGEROUS (to LES MISERABLE): And the way you look all dressed and hair and stuff… people come up to you and talk to you because of the way you look – and it’s almost always about music.
LES MISERABLE: yeah, that’s true. People just constantly walk up to me and say: “do you like reggae?”
Yeah, it kind of goes full circle! And I believe that this is also what makes you so appealing for us Italians. There is this crossing of paths between the imagery of football – which Italians are obviously nuts for – and a very fascinating British sound that Italia90 represents. And that’s an interesting combination.
J DANGEROUS: Yeah, Italia90 is supposed to sound slightly exotic. We could have been called something like fucking UK Sludge!
BOBBY PORTRAIT: It just sounds cool.
LES MISERABLE: There is also a thing now where bands like being very English and adopting English culture, and even parts of English culture which have been seen as not things you would wanna like. I think there’s a thing with some English bands that are really going into that again, d’you know what I mean? They are trying to turn this Englishness into a really positive thing.
J DANGEROUS: There’s bands – and some of them we are friends with – that have songs about pubs, or fish and chips or that kind of thing.
I’ve been going through some Italian articles regarding Italia90 in the last few days. You’ve already been labelled as a post-punk band, and you’ve been associated to the idea of “post-post-punk renaissance” the press has talked about a lot in recent years. What do you think about it? Does it make any sense?
UNUSUAL PRICES: I think post-punk is one of the least well-defined genres of any music. Basically, any music that came in the 80s and had a guitar that was influenced by any of the music that came in the late 70s is considered post-punk.
BOBBY PORTRAIT: It’s almost like a negative description, like “this is not punk, this is something else”.
UNUSUAL PRICES: Yeah, if you compare like Orange Juice and Joy Division – there’s almost nothing in common, it’s just music that came after punk at a certain time and stylistically it’s pretty hard to draw a circle around everything that contains that genre. The fact that there is a resurgence – I don’t know – in the same way I find it hard to see how there’s much similarity between a lot of these bands. Most genres you can pinpoint particular stylistic motifs and textures. But if you try to outline a post-punk band, it’s pretty hard to have an all-encompassing definition of it.
LES MISERABLE: The way people talk about it kind of implies that there has been this moment in London when post-punk came back, but that’s not true of us and not true of any band I’ve ever met. It’s just that there was a new wave of a lot of bands that played something that most easily could be described as post-punk. Punk was something that happened and people got into that and was well defined. But no one in London in the last ten years has felt part of a new movement, we never got together and said “let’s make post-punk music”. I don’t feel part of any post-punk scene.
J DANGEROUS: There’s like 5 current bands around the thing you are talking about and the advertisement they make. Italia90 might sound like some of these, but not intentionally.
BOBBY PORTRAIT: It’s just PR… they are successful British bands, someone’s putting on a gig – how do you get people to come? You say those bands sound like other bands you like. I think there’s no need to pay so much attention to that.
While you were on stage, I couldn’t help but notice that Les Miserable has the PIL logo tattooed on his arm, which suddenly made me realise that Bobby’s bass tone and playing reminded me of Jah Wobble’s. So now I wanted to ask each one of you to pick an influential record, or just one you particularly like.
UNUSUAL PRICES: We have spent so much time together on the road, which implies listening to music together and sharing things. Actually, I think our taste is so disparate and that fuels a lot of energy in the band – there’d be a particular idea, and we’d try to contrast it with other influences. I’m really into electronic music and that’s why I have crazy pedals and try to contrast a bit with this standard post-punk set up for a band or whatever.
BOBBY PORTRAIT: It’s interesting you mentioned the PIL tattoo, because when we started playing together, they were one of the few bands we had in common. We wanted to have a particular sound, and they were one of the few we did reference.
LES MISERABLE: If each one of us had to pick a song on a particular theme, the four places we’d go are usually completely different – nothing in common.
UNUSUAL PRICES: I really like the new Richard Dawson’s record, by the way. The one he did with that Norwegian metal band – it’s called “Henki”.
J DANGEROUS: If it’s an answer on how I play drums, then it’s definitely The Strokes. That’s all I wanna do. That’s all it is, really.
LES MISERABLE: For me, a record that I remember when I first listened to I was like “that’s what I want to do” would be “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”, and then Public Image Ltd. I just love the bass lines.
UNUSUAL PRICES: PIL are like a sort of Frankenstein creation, because Jah Wobble was into reggae and stuff and brought all of that in like a sort of punk band.
LES MISERABLE: To be fair, that fusing of dub with punk without it being a punk band playing a reggae song – that’s the think I’ve most looked up to.
BOBBY PORTRAIT: I’d say maybe a band like This Heat or Camberwell Now – post-punk but loads of different influences in there. And Lifetones, which combines bits of dub with a touch of world music and jazz but it’s still a like a kind of recognisable post-punk record.
WW: Before we let you go, here’s a final test for you. You have to pick one: Twix or Mars?
UNUSUAL PRICES: For me it’s Mars.
UNUSUAL PRICES: Ok, wrong answer.
J DANGEROUS: I’m 100% Twix, genuinely. The thing that’s nice about Twix is that it’s sweet and savoury, but that’s like choosing between my children to be honest.
UNUSUAL PRICES: Where do you stand between Mars ice-cream VS Twix ice-cream? Cause Mars ice-cream is fucking sick!
WW: Oh, that’s another story , man!
LES MISERABLE: I eat Twix more often, but when I eat a Mars it’s a bigger, man.
J DANGEROUS: I agree with that! It’s like a luxury. I carry chocolate with me, almost always. And it’s usually a Twix.
BOBBY PORTRAIT: We could probably do half an hour more on this question.
J DANGEROUS: I once saw a boy vomit after eating Twix and Pringles. It was at a cricket game. That’s very British.