Today, I’m very pleased to present you an interview with one of my favorite bands – Messa from Italy. The extreme diversity of their musical background immediately proved to be essential in the construction of the band’s sound: prog, black metal, punk, dark ambient, jazz, blues and doom… all those influences have been channelled into a sonic cauldron that the band defines “Scarlet Doom”.
Messa plays evoking doom metal with a dark jazz twist. Deliciously haunting female vocals, Rhodes piano and 70’s fuzzy guitars combine to conjure a sound that is all of their own. With influences as diverse as Windhand, Bohren Und Der Club Of Gore, The Devil’s Blood, Jex Thoth, Angelo Badalamenti, Bell Witch, Urfaust, John Coltrane and Aluk Todolo, the band has moved from the droning occult doom of their first LP »Belfry« to a new, darker and more atmospheric approach clearly showcased in their latest record »Feast For Water«, a concept album centered on the introspective, symbolic and ritual features of the liquid element.
Sara – Vocals
Marco – Guitar, Bass
Alberto – Guitar
Rocco – Drums
How did Covid-19 lockdown affect you as a band?
Messa: Despite the various lockdowns, we managed to write a record – which we are currently recording right now. We miss playing live a lot, but we think we were penalized up to a certain extent. For many bands it was a lot worse. We can’t really complain, we had no tours planned for 2020. We wanted to concentrate on writing new music, and so we did. With some delays, but it’s ok.
Can you reveal how you first got together and how Messa was born?
Messa: Messa started in 2014, when Marco and Sara started developing a concept and some musical ideas for this project. Soon Alberto and Rocco joined, and everything fully began. After some months of rehearsals, our first record »Belfry« was born. The line-up is still the same to this day.
You are all involved in some other bands like Restos Humanos, Nox Interitus, The Sade and solo projects as well. Is Messa your main priority?
Messa: We actually don’t play in the first three mentioned projects any longer. But for some of us there’s some new stuff in the making! Alberto still plays in Incolti and Little Albert (his blues solo project). He also formed a new band called Solo (70s italian pop). Sara joined Bottomless (American doom) on bass, and Rocco started a new band called Thysia (black metal). Messa holds a special place in our hearts for sure.
Can you tell me something more about the music scene in your part of Italy?
Messa: We don’t really feel like we are part of a so-called scene. We just think it’s a matter of mutual respect and collaborations. There are many musicians we met through these years we have a big esteem for. Lots of the connections we had since the start of Messa blossomed into friendships too.
You have defined your music as “Scarlet Doom”. Can you explain that a little bit?
Messa: If we’d think about a color that would “fit” the music and the mood of Messa, that colour would be that shade of Red. You know, Type O Negative for example had this thing with the Green color. Same for us, but with Scarlet Red. It’s the colour of fire burning, of blood in all forms.
You seems to have such a diverse specter of influences from black metal to jazz and blues. What do you think is the most important part of your memorizable sound?
Messa: We honestly don’t know! We just trying to do our own stuff.
How much do you think has the band’s sound evolved from your early days? Did you have the clear vision back then when you started?
Messa: We had a certain kind of vision from the beginning already. It kept growing and moving the more we went ahead – and still is. The more you follow the path, the more things become clearer and sharper. Our creative output and aesthetic is a consequence of all that happens to us, which makes everything more unpredictable.
Your second full-length album »Feast For Water« from 2018 got you the recognition worldwide. Were you ready for such a massive reactions?
Messa: No, we were definitely not expecting it. We were shook by such positive response and reception from people. We were happy to know that our work was appreciated and understood.
Do you think people are open enough for such a experimental approach to metal music nowdays?
Messa: Metal was at the beginning an experimental approach to Rock music itself. Just think about Black Sabbath or Judas Priest, for example. So yes, we think that many people are open to different musical proposals, just like it was in the past. One of our aims is to bring something new to the table, we don’t wanna be another of the two thousand bands copying Electric Wizard, so to say. We don’t wanna be predictable. At the end of the day we are just trying to make our own music and channeling something bigger than ourselves.
What is your songwriting process like? How important part of your creation process is improvisation?
Messa: The songs were written throughout several months in our rehearsal room. Marco or Alberto used to come up with some riffs and an embryonic structure. The second step was arranging and working all together in order to shape the songs and test if they worked or not. If the instruments dialogued well with each other, we’d move to the final part, where vocal lines and lyrics were added. We often clashed with each other’s opinion, and spoke openly about what we liked or disliked.
Your lyrics seems to be very introspective, symbolic and ritualistic. Can you reveal what are they about?
Messa: We think it’s a subjective experience. We like people to find their own meaning and explanation to them. Writing lyrics is like locking an entire bone inside a box and throwing the key away. It’s like a closed world. My meaning will never be exactly like yours, and vice versa.
You have signed with Svart Records this year and entered the studio to record your new album. Can you tell something more about that?
Messa: We are very happy about collaborating with Svart. We are honored to join their family, it’s a label we admire a lot. Many Svarts’ bands are some of our favourite ones of the decade (Beastmilk, for example). As we said earlier, during 2020/2021 we had the chance to write and arrange many songs, so the whole album is ready by now. We are currently recording it at Outside Inside Studio, with producer Maurizio Baggio. It’s a beautiful place in the middle of Montello hills, and it’s exactly the ambient we needed for recording. We all took Covid tests to enjoy the experience without taking any health risks, and then we closed ourselves inside the studio for an entire week.
What can we expect from your new release? Have you already set the released date?
Messa: Aside from a very short moment, there will not be Rhodes piano any longer. It was perfect for the mood of »Feast For Water«, but for this new record we opted for some other instruments we’ve never used before. We didn’t want to repeat ourselves. We have no official release date yet, but if everything runs smooth we plan to release it in Autumn 2021.
»Hour Of The Wolf« is on his best way to become the ultimate doom metal classic. What an epic song! Could you imagine your live set without this track?
Messa: Wow, thank you! We didn’t play that song in every show after the release of »Feast For Water«, to be honest. We chose to play songs from the second record instead. But it’s a song that many many people ask us to play. Sometimes we use it as an encore, and the audience appreciates it a lot.
Do you have your favorite Messa song/-s?
Messa: We don’t think we have a favourite song above all. All songs represent what we are, like the multi-faceted parts of the same stone.
You did a music video for the pair of songs, »She Knows« and »Tulsi«, that deliver kinda 12-minute short movie sequence. Can you tell something more about that video?
Messa: The video for »She Knows/Tulsi« is the result of our collaboration with Laura Sans, a video maker from Catalunya. We always relied on her for our videos. Laura knows well the aesthetic we desire for Messa, and she always delivered what we were hoping for. The shooting was done in February, in the middle of the night. The amount of cold and humidity which pervade Venice at that time of the year is unimaginable. Shooting in Venice is complex because obviously you can just tour the city by feet or by boat… but we don’t like easy things! The whole video is divided in chapters, tied to the song and its content. We wanted the video to be very noir and dark. We are satisfied of the result.
As one of the most hard working bands in our neighborhood you supported artists like Sabbath Assembly, Dopethrone, Emma Ruth Rundle, Witchcryer and more. How many EU tours you did so far? Which one did you like the most?
Messa: We did at least 4 EU tours, 1 USA tour… It’s almost impossible to choose one of them as our favourite! We always had a lot of fun and shared great times with the band we were on tour with. Every one of them is special to us, and we cherish those memories.
In the last few years you played almost every big festival in Europe, such as Desert Fest, Hammer Of Doom, Roadburn, Hellfest, Up In Smoke Festival, Devilstone… Is there still a festival where you haven’t been playing yet?
Messa: We had the chance to play many cool festivals and we are grateful for that. But we have not played all of them yet, for example we never played Wacken, MetalDays or Party San. There’s one festival we’d really like to play, and it’s Brutal Assault. We are long time fans of the Czech fest, we’ve been attending it at least 7-8 times.
You are able to play many hardcore punk shows as well. I actually saw you live on No Sanctuary Festival in Rijeka for the very first time… and punks also loved you. How would you explain that fact?
Messa: That show was incredibly cool. We were pleasantly surprised, because Messa was the most “out of the box” band that evening, but the response was so great. Sara played hardcore punk for years, and most of us frequented the local punk concerts for literally ages. On a certain level, we’re not out of the element as you might think!
You also played in the USA a while ago. What can you tell me about that experience?
Messa: The tour we did with Witchcryer in 2017 was the first USA tour for Messa as a band. We had a lot of fun, some of us had never been to the States previously so everything was new to us. We enjoyed the hospitality of the South and met many people we still keep in touch with these days. We have a special place in our hearts for Austin and our friends there. Touring the USA is very different from touring Europe. In EU you’d be usually welcomed with food, drinks and a place to sleep. In America you basically play, get paid cash and then sleep in a motel – and you pay it on your own, with the income from the concert. The counterpart to this is a very kind thing: many people open the doors of their homes to host you for free. One thing that also is “uncommon” for us is to embark in longer highway travels, because in Europe every city in the tour is closer than in the USA.
Where in the world did you have the best response ever?
Messa: We had great responses in many countries, it would be unfair to choose one of them above all. We have very warm fans and we appreciate it. We are Italian, we’re hot-blooded, you know.
What would be your favorite activity to kill time on tour?
Messa: The majority of the time spent on tour is actually inside the van, that portion of the day is not really exciting. But you have time enough to dissolve the hangover from the previous night, or just let silence reverb inside your head while you’re watching the landscape shift from one country to another. When we toured with Discomfort in 2018 we had a Playstation inside the van and we made a huge tournament with all the band members, like total nerds. The best is when short distances allow us to visit the city we are playing in, but it happens rarely.
What music do you usually listen in the van?
Messa: Could be anything! Music in the van totally fits with the different tastes we have inside of Messa. We might listen to Alice Coltrane and then Sadistik Execution. Strange match, you’ll say! But we have some favourite ‘tour songs’ by the way. One song that keeps us going in tough mornings is »Star Rider« by Hällas. And two cult favourites are »Don’t Fear The Reaper« by Blue Öyster Cult and »Doctor Doctor« by UFO.
You already appeared in Slovenia numerous times by now. Where did you like it the most?
Messa: We love Slovenia so much! The audience was always great in Slovenia. Difficult question… Maybe the gig in Koper we did with our friends Assumption and Mist. It was cool to share the stage with them. It was freezing cold outside! Some hours after the concerts finished, we ended up drinking whiskey on stage while our guitarist Alberto was improvising with the Rhodes piano.
Are you maybe familiar with the scene here?
Messa: Slovenia is a country we enjoyed many times, because of cool concerts, summer festivals, and great outdoors. We have connections with some Slovenian bands, for example Siderean (their new record »Lost On Void’s Horizon« is absolutely killer), Mist, Extreme Smoke 57…
Sara did recently some guest vocals on the latest single »Tentacles« by Italian “brassmetal” band Ottone Pesante. How came to that interesting collaboration?
Messa: We played a show with Ottone Pesante in 2017, and we got to know each other. While they were recording »Doommood« they asked Sara if she wanted to collaborate and sing on »Tentacles« and she accepted, since she appreciated Ottone Pesante’s unique musical proposal. It was a nice territory to discover and experiment.
But this is not the first “unusual” collaboration for Messa. You’ve been joined by tenor saxophonist Lorenzo De Luca as a special guest on Roadburn Festival 2019 in the Netherlands. What was that experience like?
Messa: Lorenzo recorded the saxophone on »Feast For Water« so asking him to join us at Roadburn was a natural consequence. We rehearsed together and arranged a setlist for that show only. We really wanted to make a special show for Roadburn. He provided the mood we needed for our set, and it was cool to have a saxophone joining the other instruments – just like the record itself.
What is currently in your heavy musical rotation?
Sara: »Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea« by PJ Harvey, »The Evil Year« by Paga.
Marco: »Night Time« by Killing Joke, »Street Worms« by Viagra Boys.
Alberto: »Patchouli Blue« by Bohren Und Der Club Of Gore, »Carboniferous« by Zu.
Rocco: »Om kosmos och de tolv jartekn« by Wagner Odegard, »Self-surgery« by Mrs. Piss.
Do you have a memory of a song or an album from your childhood or teenage years that you are emotionally linked to?
Messa: Each one of us has stories to tell about this, but there’s a common band we used to listen heavily in our childhood years. That band is Led Zeppelin! They were fundamental for the musical developement of all four of us.
Thank you so much for this interview! Do you have any last words?
Messa: Thank you for having us! We hope to play in Slovenia very soon, let’s keep our fingers crossed.