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Dope Stars Inc.

Dope Stars Inc.
Digital Warriors

15.07.2009

Архив интервью | Русская версия

Calling this Italian trio a revolutionary band may mean going too far, but the fact is that they were eye-openers for many people, yours truly included, on yet another way how you can brilliantly mix metal and electronics. Their first album “Neuromance” is still considered by many a groundbreaking and genre-fusing release, and now Dope Stars Inc. are about to release their third album, “21st Century Slaves”, which sees the band going even further in their experiments in mixing various influences into one unique form of music. We were lucky to catch Victor Love (guitar, vocals), Darin Yevonde (bass) and La Nuit (guitar) on the day after their brilliant gig in Moscow, but unfortunately the number of reporters willing to talk to the band was so high that we only had a few minutes for the conversation. Nevertheless, the guys turned out extremely nice and agreed to continue our conversation via email, which we did with great pleasure. After all, there aren’t many bands left that we respect so much and have not interviewed before…

Part 1: Moscow

You planed for almost two hours yesterday, which makes the longest set in your history. Was it a special gift for Russian fans?

Victor: We were supposed to play for 1.5 hours, but we had technical problems caused by vibration of the hard disc, so we played some of the songs again. So it happened that we played longer than usually, and it turned out to be a special concert. (everybody laughs)

Darin: We put together all the usual songs and the special songs.

What do you think about the Russian girls at the concert and all the crowd that visited the show?

La Nuit: They really were mad and hot!

Victor: We were here last year, and people are always very warm…

Darin: It’s so exciting. Usually we get this kind of response in the south, in the countries like Spain, but as to Russia, the first time we went here we thought that maybe people would be cold and they wouldn’t move. But they started to move as soon as the show began! (laughs)

Victor: For example, in Germany, it’s a lot different, people are quieter, but in Italy and in Russia they just want to have fun.

La Nuit: That’s the way it should be, because a concert is basically a party with great music, and it’s good to show that you are OK, that you are feeling happy.

You are about to release your third album called “21St Century Slave”. The title can have a lot of meanings, so what meaning do you want it to convey?

Victor: The new album has got a very complex concept. It’s inspired by cyberpunk literature, cyberpunk movies and cyberpunk subculture, such as “Cyberpunk Manifesto”. It’s also inspired by the fact that the modern times are becoming more and more similar to the worldview of cyberpunk imagery. The title “21st Century Slave” is more connected to the song of that name, and the song says that the people are being brainwashed by the mass media, by mega-corporations, and by massive advertising so much that you can’t distinguish between truth and lies. We deiced to use it as the title because it’s not that we are slaves of the 21st century, it’s that the society is becoming enslaved by technology, and that technology should be mastered by us. With the use of technology we can get free from a lot of things, we can reach new frontiers for the new world. The song criticizes these typical 21st century slaves, the people who are on social networks all the time, and so on. A lot of the technology is cool – the Internet, for instance, but we have to understand how to use it in a proper way, because it can turn against us. Like in the whole cyberpunk imagery, the technology is always a good thing, but it can become an enemy if you don’t take care of it and you don’t master it. This is the main concept of the new album, it’s about mastering the technology, because the technology is an alternative, and technology is the cure for the world.

Darin: Technologies are now really the power, the power of technology is maybe bigger now than human power.

Yes, the technology indeed went out of control yesterday! (everybody laughs) By the way, in light of the technical problems you had yesterday, have you ever thought about playing acoustically if such things happen?

Victor: (laughs) You know what? We can, because we’ve got an acoustic song on the new album.

Darin: That is the option! (everybody laughs)

Victor: We don’t know what exactly happened, because it was working very good before, and maybe it was the vibration of the stage that affected the multitrack. We just take it easy, as always, and we did more songs because of that.

Darin: Anyway, we are about to change the line-up, we are getting a real drummer, so next time…

La Nuit: …And if that machine breaks again, we won’t give a fuck! (everybody laughs)

Victor: Most of the new album was recorded with real drums, and this is probably one of the last shows we are doing without a drummer. For example, already for the next tour that we will do with Deathstars, Diary Of Dreams and The Birthday Massacre in October we are going to bring out a real drummer. The songs on the new album that are recorded with real drums are so much more dynamic and more complete.

Will the drummer be a new band member?

Victor: He will only be with us for live shows. For the album all the drums were recorded by my brother, he’s a good drummer, but he’ll probably not be able to follow us on tour. We’re looking for a new guy, but it’s very difficult for us to find a new member. When you get a new member in the band, you have to be 100% sure about this guy.

La Nuit: A band is like a family. You have to trust the other members…

Victor: And there are a lot of things to do in the band. It’s not just about playing live shows, it’s about staying together for long periods of time. A drummer is also a very important piece in the line-up, he has to rehearse very often, so we have to find somebody from our city, and it’s not easy to find somebody for playing this kind of music there.

Your band name is very memorable, but at the same time there is Deathstars from Sweden, Deadstar Assembly from the U.S., and so on. Have you ever been confused with these bands? And what do you personally think about your fellow “stars”?

Victor: This is something that has indeed happened because of these “stars” in the name. That is why people tend to say, “Oh, they have similar names, so they all play the same kind of music.” We are all friends with these guys, both with Deathstars and Deadstar Assembly, and we’re looking forward to play with Deathstars. I personally don’t think we don’t do exactly the same kind of music, maybe it’s in the same area, and the fan-base is the same, but Deathstars have more metal influences, and Dope Stars Inc. are more into the rock’n’roll and punk side. Anyway, it’s pretty normal – every person needs to compare one thing to another.

Part 2: The Net

Let’s go back to your new album and discuss it in more detail, since it is once again different from the records you did before. What are the influences on the music of Dope Stars Inc. at the present time? What makes you do a different album every time?

Victor: The reason is that making one album similar after another does not make much sense. I mean, we are evolving as well as the music evolves for natural reasons. With the new album we both tried to make experience from the past and project this in the future, including more influences and improving what has been said already with new elements. However we feel that this new album can find a feeling that brings a continuative process coming from the past albums and also delivers a general improvement in the style, sound and production. Besides, what is more important than to impress the fans is to make them realize you are not stuck in the same things of always, as it would be both boring and artistically sterile. However we also included a good number of tracks that will please both the fans that liked our first album “Neuromance” and the second album “Gigahearts”, which will also make this new album more complete to define the kind of style we started in 2004.

LaNuit: Music and tastes are always evolving, so I think it’s quite normal for a band to present something new every time. On the other hand, the very sad thing could be doing always the same... I personally don’t like bands who clone themselves from one album to another. Recording a new album is something like a challenge where a musician is trying to convert his own personal music into a different world made of new styles, new sounds, above all NEW SONGS. Who dares, wins. (laughs)

One of the biggest surprises on the new record is the acoustic song you mentioned in Moscow, which is called “It’s For You”. What inspired you to write it? And don’t you think it will be too hard for some of your fans to accept such an experiment?

Victor: I don’t think one song in a set of 11 can be such a scare for the fans, especially considering all the very heavy passages the album got already. The album was originally planned to be a 10-tracks album but then we decided that we wanted to give a try with an acoustic track that could leave space for a totally new experiment. Of course, an acoustic track can be something that deals with an hard sound and leaves an impact anyway so when I was writing it I just tried to imagine an acoustic experiment that could include both the usual vocal style of our more melodic passages and be influenced by both the rock and electronic elements that always characterized our sound. I think that people that like the music as a whole and are not so narrow-minded to give too much importance to clichés or a defender attitude would like this experiment. It is not a song for the hardcore souls but since we already had a lot of tracks in the past with a very pop feeling I think it would not be such a big thing to accept for a large part of our romantic fans.

Darin: I love that song so much! It’s another Dope Stars Inc. music side, emotional and deep love pop song. You can hear some of our main influences in this song. 

LaNuit: It’s a nice experiment, an electro acoustic track. I mean you can like it or not... and we clearly don’t expect that all our fans will love this song. I personally think it’s a nice ending for the album, something relaxing and easier just to say “good bye my friends, see you soon”.

You have stayed with Trisol Records since the beginning of your career. How much does the label help you to become more popular?

Victor: Trisol supported us a lot since the early stages in many different ways even though I can say most of the hard work always stays in the band’s hands. It’s not having a good label that makes the whole difference as it makes mostly the difference on the quality of distribution partners and basic promotion, but then as for all the bands it all depends on how much effort the band itself can provide on different levels. The networking and web promotion, the continuative effort to stay in touch with your fans and provide updated information as well as the coordination of street teams and local supports, the contacts with other bands in the scene, collaborations, the promotion with live performances and also a lot of other aspects that are managed by the band directly are a matter of radical importance for the success of a band. It is not only your band that has to be professional in exploiting their work but also the band itself has many duties to carry that are sometimes even more important than everything else. Some bands think that when they get signed then the game is done and they can finally sit down and have fun, but most of these bands that do like that then end up to face some really bad surprises. The work with the label is always teamwork that has the good of the band as the main targets. Most of the times labels also have a lot of bands to deal with, so they can’t follow everything, which is pretty normal. What is good for this new album is that we are working with four labels for different territories. Trisol is taking care of Europe, Subsound Records of Italy, our home country, Metropolis is managing North America and we also have a great label in Japan that is doing a great work. Also we are now looking for more partners interested in the rest of the countries still uncovered. Even if we can reach most of them through export it is always better to find a local entity that can do the best work and “know how” to do the best in their specific country.

Darin: Trisol always works hard for us, we had one of the best career starts in the beginning of this century! Starting with a cult label like this was a honor and a dream for us! We never expected anything like that!

You have said in a recent interview that you have more fans in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world. In your opinion, what is the reason for this?

Victor: That’s most probably for different reasons. Firstly, the U.S. is a very big country where a lot of different genres found quite enough good space. Secondly, it’s a country where the Internet and web promotion are very strong and where there are really few magazines. In fact, that’s because most of the people just look for bands they like on the net. In this scenario Dope Stars Inc. for a matter of attitude that is also connected to our concept, has always had a great advantage because we have always had a very strong presence in the cyberspace. One other reason is that our style includes a mix of influences that come from the European core, stylistically talking, but also have a strong American influence considering the rock’n’roll and glam components that got many followers in the U.S.

Darin: Yes, the U.S. is the larger fanbase we have, you know, the American way is the bigger and the biggest way! In Europe the first countries following us are the UK, Germany, Scandinavia, Russia…

LaNuit: First of all, the U.S. are so huge, that even if 100 people of each city like your music, you’ll obtain thousands of fans in all the territory. Then we could admit also that the U.S. market is quite different form ours: they are more into rock and metal and except rare great bands (such as London After Midnight and Ministry for example), you absolutely have to take a glimpse to the European scene if you want something gothic or industrial.

In the song “10,000 Watts” on the first album we can hear some lines in the German language. What was the reason for singing these phrases in German? And have you considered singing something in Italian?

Victor: It was mostly because when I tried, it sounded cool. I can’t really say actually why I decided to include that. Probably it’s because we were also influenced by that kind of scene, so it was a nice thing to do. When it was there it was fitting really good, and then we kept it. About singing in Italian, for a similar reason I’ve never been much interested as it does not sound very catchy. Italian is good for other genres but definitely not for ours.

Darin: It was like a tribute to all the German bands we listened at that time, especially EBM bands. No way for Italian singing, man! The Italian language is only good for Italian poppylovesingsongs! (laughs)

What is the situation with the industrial metal scene in Italy? Has it changed after you achieved international recognition?

Victor: I guess there is not much of a scene here for any alternative kind of genre. For the rock and metal scene it’s not that big too, but that’s mostly because Italians both on the fan and business level get interested mostly in what happens outside their country instead of looking inside their homeland. That’s a pity because there are indeed a lot of good bands in the underground that could not find a way to come out because the opportunities are really low. Not only on the label level, but also on the live side. It is also more difficult for an Italian label itself to find opportunities towards other realities outside, than for labels in Germany, Finland or the UK. So this makes things even harder. Moreover, foreign labels always tend to sign mostly bands that they can find in their own country because it’s easier also on the business level to manage. This situation also makes for an Italian band harder to make their success grow on the large scale because the local support has always demonstrated to be a key factor for bands in other countries. As a matter of fact that if you are from Germany it’s easier for you to book dates in Germany as you can also ask for smaller fees as you don’t have to face the travel expenses and also making more live shows gives a band both experience and a budget to invest in the future. Since Italian bands can’t have anything like that, then you should really try to make your very best to hope for a door to open in your career.

Darin: In my mind, we are in a dead end scene, all is mixing up without any distinction which we had in the past. It’s hard for Italian bands to grow up and become someone in Italy. Only Lacuna Coil and a few others like us have managed to make it.

LaNuit: We have always had very good alternative bands here in Italy. The problem has always been the same - there’s no option for an Italian goth/insdutrial/metal band to explode until they don’t realize they have to work abroad... And I can assure you it’s really hard. Considering our achievements in Europe, I think we’ve partially refreshed the Italian scene: a lot of national bands are full of hopes now and write us everyday just to have some suggestions. On the other hand, European labels are more interested into the Italian alternative scene and that’s a really good restart for everyone. 

What do you know about the electro/industrial scene in Russia? There is at least one band you should know – Xe-None, who did a remix of your song a few years ago. What can you say about this band, and about other bands if you know any?

Victor: We’ve been in touch with very few bands from Russia and actually is really difficult for us to get informed about the Russian scene especially because of the language that creates a sort of wall in the between. Moreover, I barely follow the current international scene as a whole for the matter of time, and most of the bands I know or have followed recently are more or less bands I have worked with. In the past I had much more time for this, but since a while I unfortunately have not much time to hang around and check other bands. Xe-None did a cool remix. The other bands we have been in touch are SKD that played with us at the latest show in Moscow and with which we spent also a great time together. They are very cool guys that really have a passion for music. Also we’ve been in touch with Unreal that played with us in Moscow one year ago but apart from this there is not much I can actually tell about the scene. What I know is that there is a very great support for our band in Russia which makes me think the scene for this kind of genre is pretty cool.

Victor, you write all the music and lyrics for Dope Stars Inc., and you are also the frontman. What do other members contribute to the band?

Victor: There are a lot of things in a band that are important on different levels. As you said I write all the songs, that’s true, and I am also the producer and sound engineer so it’s pretty normal that I take care of that side of the band. When I write new songs I am also very fast and provide most of the time a complete arrangement and that’s because basically when I write a new song I see it and develop it as a whole. Besides, when you are the singer and also playing guitars, synthesizers and programming the drums, it’s pretty normal that the result is more or less that actual finished song. Then when I have a bunch of material ready we decide first which one to release and what to trash and then we start working on the production of it, final arrangement to make the song shine in the best way. I can say most of the times the guys have a big respect toward what I write and that’s a good thing because we share the same vision in music. I actually do my best every time to take into account what is the stylistic line we want to follow. But having said that, there are really so many other duties in the band that are very important. From the live performances to the dirty work of everyday, we work as a team to get the best results. The new line-up of me, La Nuit and Darin us working at full speed, while that was instead a slow process in the past with our former members that besides being totally vain in their efforts also created lots of problems that made us lose a lot of time. To be in a band is like a family where everybody essentially does his best basing on what he actually can. And even if I still have most of the load because of a pretty natural fact, being the frontman and also the guy that keeps all contacts in the business, the other guys always help me on a lot of things that I’d never be able to do alone.

By the way, what happened to Alex Vega and Grace Khold? What are they doing now, are you still in contact?

Victor: I think everybody almost know what happened. Alex got now his doom metal band and he is finally doing what he really likes to do in the world of music, which is a good thing for him and also for us, because in the end it’s always better to have a common vision. It is an uncomfortable feeling if a band member does not delivery any good. About Grace I think he is actually doing nothing. More or less what he was doing before in the band. I remember he stated he’d started a new band but I barely think, considering what I experienced with him, that he’d find another guy like me that is going to take him abroad and get all the related problems of his impossible behavior. Some time ago he started a clothing company with a friend of us but he has been basically kicked off from it too cause of similar reasons. I think he is probably working as layout designer for some magazine or something but I do not have any contact with him anymore.

Darin, we saw you in Moscow onstage wearing a Hanoi Rocks T-shirt. And your bio says that the band was launched after you came back to Italy from Finland. How much has Finnish rock music influenced you? And what do you think about the recent outbreak of Finnish love metal – H.I.M., To/Die/For and so on?

Darin: I love Hanoi Rocks! It’s one of biggest rock‘n’roll band in the world! I have a close connection with Finland and the Finnish people, I have a lots of friends and people I love there. I can say it’s my second home and one day I’ll move my half size ass over there! Finnish music has a huge influence on me, from the particular sounds and feeling to attitude. It’s great to see a country where rock, metal and extreme music is so popular! I was really in love with HIM when “Razorblade Romance” came out! It was a perfect mix between pop rock and 90’s gothic metal with a few 80’ influences. 

Victor, you have recently started a new band called EpocHate. How do you manage to find time to combine so many occupations? Dope Stars Inc. seems to be taking a lot of your time, you also work with other bands such as Latexxx Teens, and now you have a second band going on…

Victor: The Epochate thing is something that I totally embraced because is a project that I really believe in as it is a totally new genre and a very exciting experience. When I got in touch with Noras and we started this project we could not even imagine that it would have turned out such a big thing for both of us. Noras is a very talented composer and for me he is a real genius. It’s probably the first time that I felt like a symbiosis in composition as we could merge our styles and create something really new in a very natural way. Also it has been the start of a great friendship that is growing bigger every day. When we started I was kinda free from many tasks even if I was really busy working as producer with other bands. However the work with Dope Stars Inc was mostly focused on live shows, and at the same time even La Nuit was busy with Latexxx Teens’ new album. and Darin started a new side project, Enemies of the Sun, both albums that I worked on as producer. Epochate came in a perfect timing and. in fact, just after I finished to work on the debut album, I started to work on the new album for Dope Stars Inc. I am a person that whenever finds time for something new is always happy to join, as for me experiencing music as a whole is the most important thing in my life as an artist. But I can say I always have enough energy to take care of both, also because now we are also supported by many labels and by the other band mates which freed me up from a lot of things. Still a very stressy period but I can survive. (laughs)

You have said many times that your musical roots are in the music of the 80s. At the same time, you have said that your behavior is just the opposite to what rock stars of the 80s did. Isn’t there a kind of contradiction? Don’t you think that when it comes to bands of the 80s, such as Motley Crue or Guns N’Roses, the music and lyrics go hand in hand, and you can’t separate one from the other?

Victor: When I talk about influences from the 80s I am referring to the music and not to the lyrical content. Besides, the 80s is not only about rock’n’roll but also about different genres that exploded in the electronic area. With Dope Stars Inc. we always had a concept that capitalized on cyberpunk imagery which has not much to do with that. The artificial pleasure concept for instance is related more to cyberpunk readings and movies than to such kind of 80s concepts, something that probably not all the people got yet. I think that trying to act or pretend to act like these rock stars of the 80s is kinda lame and funny, as we are not living in the same period, we didn’t experienced the same aspects of society of the times and we are a different generation. Most of the bands that do that are either trying to impress the fans with such a cliché attitude, being so sexy and cool, spreading overheard slogans and selling a couple of copies more or are just so strongly influenced by these concepts lyrically that they like to repeat them. But this is something that has no background in Dope Stars Inc. and we never had interest in placing such themes in our lyrics apart from ironical purposes. Besides, if I should like a band for such attitude or lyrics I’d better go for the one you named, as it is more coherent and real. Of course we have been fans of these bands by the times and they influenced the music and our lifestyle also, but this has nothing to do with what we are doing personally in our project. An influence is one thing, to steal a whole concept is another. If we wanted to marry this concept totally then we would have been just another 80s rock’n’roll band mixing this or that to make it look cool but that’s something we’ve never been interested in since our style research is contaminated by various scenes an things on the musical and lyrical level. Besides, while on the music level to have an influence is a thing that is impossible to avoid and is of course merged with other influences, to copy really precise concepts in your lyrics mostly means you have no much imagination or nothing interesting to say yourself.

Everybody knows what Cyberpunk is. But what does “Vyperpunk” mean?

Victor: The song talks about a war between a biomechanical entity and its central processing unit (mainframe). This entity realizes that its “life” is no longer worth living because of the absence of free will and personality and decides to compile a virus called “Vyper” to destroy the mainframe and then auto-destruct everything. This will cause the termination of the entity itself that is way too tired to “live” in a virtual reality where he feel like an empty drone overloaded by unsolicited electronic junk. From this comes the title “Vyperpunk”.

As you are the band that takes advantage of current technology so much, what do you think about future of CD as a medium? Do you think all the music will be digital in a couple of years, and everybody will be downloading everything from iTunes and so on, or is there still a chance for CDs to survive?

Victor: Probably that can happen even though the most important side of the actual CD as a whole packaged thing is evolving in a different direction. We’ve have always worked in our project as both a musical and visual experience that can be totally embraced if you have the actual CD. This is something that with the new album is even stronger as we worked with a very talented designer, Machine Room that has been finally able to translate in visual the concepts and scenario presented in the album, where it’s not only about artworks but the band is part of it with hi-class conceptual photography that immerges the band in the set as if it was some kind of movie. I feel that even though downloading is a quite an easy thing for the kids, to have the real thing makes a big difference. Unfortunately these kind of emotions has been a bit lost for the new generations that just wants it now and wants it all and most of the times end up not listening to the whole bunch of therabytes they downloaded but just like to get snippets from here and there without really experiencing each project as a whole. Fortunately the loyal fans are much clever than this and still buy the albums. To buy the album is both a thing you do for yourself and to support the band, or rather I should say, to support the label that then support the band and vice versa. It’s not big news that every independent band does not see much of the gains out of album sales but more or less survives thanks to live shows and merchandise. But supporting the labels means to have more CDs pressed in the long run and help then to get the music of the band distributed more. So if you are a real fan and can afford to do it - of course not everybody can - it’s about your conscience to decide if you want to download it and then also support the band buying the real thing. Downloading is a great first step to get involved in the album, but then if you really care for a band and want to see it playing in your city and deliver more albums then you should definitely support buying the original.

What are your expectations from the upcoming album release? How far do you think it will take the band?

Victor: I think the new album is the strongest release we have had till now and also this has being really pointed by all the people that listened to it and the business partners that are now working with us for the future of the band, which also increase in large numbers day by day. Also the first feedback of the media on this has been really positive so we hope that with this album we can make a next step to a higher level that would basically help us to arrange more extensive tours and spread the word of our music all around the globe.


Dope Stars Inc. on the Internet: http://www.dopestarsinc.com 

Special thanks to Bella Ananyeva (E-Music) for arranging the Moscow part of this interview, and extra special thanks to Victor Love for agreeing to complete it via e-mail

The Moscow part: Questions by Roman “Maniac” Patrashov, Dmitry “Ward” Kulikov, Natalia “Snakeheart” Khorina
The virtual part: Questions by Roman “Maniac” Patrashov
Photos by Natalia “Snakeheart” Khorina, Dmitry “Ward” Kulikov
May 17 - June 4, 2009
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