Confrontational is a European darkwave project that is turning heads with ass kicking new record A Dance Of Shadows. The album features mastermind Massimo Usai charting a dark yet infectious as a zombie bite (but much more fun!) course for the dance floor. With cover art from Branca Studios and a sound akin to the best 80’s horror and action cinema soundtracks that never existed but sound like classic cuts, Confrontational is much more interesting than the 800th metalcore band to hit up my email for coverage. In fact, I had to seek this dude out because I was so intrigued by the project.
Turns out we had some similar tastes and a mutual pal or two. That’s the power of the underground!
How did this studio whiz get Monte Pittman from Madonna’s band (and ex-Prong), Darren Travis from fucking Sadus and horror legend John Carpenter’s own son Cody Carpenter on this release? The music is just that fuckin’ cool!
A Dance Of Shadows is out on bandcamp now HERE and you ought to go support it!
Read our full Confrontational interview BELOW.
How did your amazing new record come about? It is really inspiring to see someone take the extra effort from art to guests to mood in the songs. Each track is like a mini-movie!
Thanks for your kind words on the album! I’ve started working on the follow up to my first EP, DONE WITH YOU, around April 2015. I intended to have those first 4 tracks act as the intro to a wider story. The mini-movie comparison is very fitting – I’ve been heavily influenced by cinema since my teen years, and now that I could afford the creative freedom to do so, I wanted to expand on this passion, letting it bleed onto my songwriting process. A DANCE OF SHADOWS is a love letter to the works of George A. Romero, John Carpenter, William Friedkin and Michael Mann. Their movies filled my imagination for several years, and I wanted to try and capture their elements of masterful story telling through music. I played, sang and programmed every note on the album apart from the spots taken by Monte Pittman, Cody Carpenter and Darren Travis. I’m very proud of these new tracks – they came out very spontaneously. Recording them was almost an act of exorcism in the truest sense of the word: I got rid of some demons through the sessions in the studio. This tension was the driving force behind the making of the album. I feel especially blessed by each of the wonderful collaborations that took place, including the very fitting cover art which was authored by Barcelona doom masters BRANCA STUDIO.
How did you get involved in such fun music to make? Did you have a lot of prior studio experience? For those who don’t know. I know you told me you were lucky to studio assist on a Killing Joke record. That’s amazing.
I started writing my own songs around 1999, and I started to learn about sound engineering in 2005. I’ve released a number of albums with the two bands I had founded, Dahlia Indaco and Recs Of The Flesh. Dahlia was active from 1999 to 2009, and Recs from 2004 to 2014. When Recs disbanded I knew I had to become a different person entirely to move away from some mistakes, so I became CONFRONTATIONAL. I can tell you those were not really fun moments, but I’m extremely glad about the way things turned out.
I’ve been a big KILLING JOKE fan for quite while. Paul Raven is a huge influence on my songwriting, his taste in bass lines was simply phenomenal. I’ve spent a year in Prague around 2010, where I’ve been lucky enough to assist Derek Saxenmeyer during the tracking process of Jaz Coleman’s vocals for their album ABSOLUTE DISSENT, which was partly recorded at FAUST RECORDS in Dejvická. The sessions with Sir Coleman were impressive. He has the loudest voice ever! Derek is a killing machine behind the mixing desk and I’ve tried to learn from him as much as possible during those times. Jaz is clearly very passionate about everything he records, and was actually rather inclusive in the studio. He went as far as asking for my advice (wait, what?!) on his lyrics for a wonderful song called “Industrial Suicide Tribe”, which ended up being discarded from the tracklisting. I still hope to see that track re-surface some day!
How did Monte Pittman become involved? He is so busy but seems like such a great dude. And you and I were talking at length earlier about liking his days in PRONG.
Yes, Monte is really busy recording and touring with MADONNA these days. I am a really huge PRONG fan, and I’ve had my first taste of Monte’s guitar playing through his fretwork on SCORPIO RISING. The PRONG fan community features some of the most amazing people I’ve ever got to know in all of my life, and I believe Tommy Victor is one of the best songwriters of our era. Hugely influential.
My Chitown friend Karen, arguably the biggest PRONG collector that’s ever lived, introduced me personally to the band and their core fan base around 2004, and I’ve been in touch with most of them ever since. I’ve been involved with the band in a number of ways through the years, most notably with a remix of “THIRD OPTION” for their POWER OF THE DAMN MIXXXER album, and I’ve kept following Monte’s solo career after he left the band.
His latest release, THE POWER OF THREE, is one of the best metal albums of these recent years and truly kept me sane during some tough times in 2014. When I wrote a song that I thought was fitting to his style, I sent it over to Monte and asked him what he thought. He came up with some really perfect riffs and one hell of a soaring solo for “Like A Curse”, turning it into an instant favorite of mine. I find Monte’s attitude truly inspirational. I’m forever grateful for his contribution and I’m looking forward to seeing him performing live someday soon, hopefully.
What were some synth records that influenced you? I’m assuming John Carpenter’s Lost Themes? Ever get into any Futurecop! stuff? My favorite 80’s soundtrack besides Halloween is actually the Ladyhawke soundtrack Alan Parsons produced for Andrew Powell, haha. Or Beverly Hills Cop, haha.
Oh man, the Beverly Hills Cop OST – now that’s a real classic. I am a proud owner of an original CD pressing of that OST from 1984! I loved AXEL F growing up. I’d put that stuff as background music to these weird comics I’d draw during my childhood years. That’s how I’d spend my free time back then: comics like DYLAN DOG, the occasional videogame and a bunch of movies on my VCR. My mother had this soundtrack CD compilation that featured a bunch of classics from the eighties, and I got exposed to a lot of that music that way. Obviously the GHOSTBUSTERS theme, the BACK TO THE FUTURE theme… but also weirder stuff like “Tubular Bells” from THE EXORCIST. After that, as a teenage horror fan, I started to buy a bunch of soundtracks from the movies I liked and found out about new music that way – for instance, the SCREAM soundtrack introduced me to obscure gems like BIRDBRAIN, while the ALIEN 3 score schooled me on the teaches of Mr. Elliot Goldenthal. Kind of a schizophrenic listener, really.
But above most of these, there stood John Carpenter as a giant. His first movie I’ve ever seen was ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. I think I was 14 years old at the time, and prior to this my only other “hard” movie had been DAWN OF THE DEAD. I was afraid of horror flicks as a kid, but also strangely fascinated: by confronting my fear of feeling fear I grew up loving horror movies and cinema as a whole. DAWN had me in disbelief – George Romero instantly became a role model for me – and after ASSAULT I was totally hooked on the darker side of the silver screen forever. Obviously, Carpenter movies always had the best scores for me. PRINCE OF DARKNESS is nothing but a fucking masterpiece. THE THING is the best sci fi movie ever made. The man is truly a genius. Naturally, I’ve also loved LOST THEMES and when I found out that Cody Carpenter co-authored it, I went on to discover his solo work with his project LUDRIUM. I was totally NOT surprised that, just like the old saying goes: like father, like son. I think it’s wonderful that a son and father can relate to this level and make music together. It’s gotta be magical.
You have no idea how happy I am about the track that features Cody – “To Live And Die On The Air”. To have his lead synth on top of a song I wrote… it’s dream-like. He’s such a stellar musician. That is probably my favorite track I’ve ever wrote – surely my most personal. We’re fresh off the set and almost done editing a video clip for it… can’t wait to share it with everyone!
We are a metal site and love synth and darkwave stuff also but can you tell the readers what you told me about loving Testament, also? Haha. It was a big deal they played where you live, right?
TESTAMENT rounded my top 7 around 2000, together with SADUS, DEATH, KREATOR, SEPULTURA, CORONER and MEGADETH. Those are the bands that basically taught me how to sing and play guitar, which I consider my main instrument to this day. Back then I’d spend hours and hours learning their riffs and writing down tablatures for some of their most intricate parts. That’s how a dude from Sardinia ended up getting in touch with SADUS, a band I’ve worshipped for a very long time. I ran a fansite of theirs and I was very active on the forums at Ultimate Metal and Abrasive Rock around those years… it all felt like one big family. That’s how the collaboration with Darren Travis came about – we became very close friends over time. He’s a hero for me. Two thirds of SADUS – Jon Allen and Steve Di Giorgio – were part of TESTAMENT back around 2000, and when they toured for THE GATHERING I was so mad I couldn’t get to see them live. That’s the worst part about growing up in this island, most of the shows never make it this far and stay confined to mainland Italy. So when TESTAMENT played here last year it was like hell finally froze over, with Steve and Gene Hoglan back in the fold none the less! I was very happy to spend some time showing Steve and Eric around my hometown and I was also very glad to see local thrashers COMA opening up the show right before TESTAMENT took the stage. That was a great moment to witness, I was really happy for them. To top that off, SOULFLY and OBITUARY also played Cagliari only weeks before that gig, turning 2014 into the most metal year Sardinians have witnessed so far. We need more of that.
I really like “Flat/Line” perhaps, over all. It has the serial killer/knight rider feel but more ominous than cheezy. People always want to be funny but sometimes you can make even elements from 80’s soundtrack or new wave/pop influences and horror still feel like a really moving song. I feel the vocals on this record really help also to strike a good balance. Some of your songs feel like being pursued, but in a good/scary way. It’s kind of like fear /adrenaline makes people on edge or feel alive/sexy.
You nailed it, that’s exactly what I was aiming for. Those are all great definitions for what I try to bring to the table. I strive to keep my songwriting elegant and to the point, and I would not want for any of this to be labeled cheesy… that said, I certainly don’t take myself too seriously, but I treat my music with a tremendous amount of respect. I truly mean the things I’m singing about, and I am mostly confident in the songs because they’re honest and direct. I’m very glad you’re able to connect to the intentions I’ve had in mind when writing them.
Are you looking forward to Synthzilla Festival on Halloween? I bet your stuff kicks ass live. I have heard the experimental fests have been good in Europe this end of Summer/early fall. My friend Yasmine from Tearist just played at Incubate in Tilburg and said it was good.
The invitation to Synthzilla was actually one of the main inspirations behind this album. It’s the very first retrowave festival to be held in France, and the line up is insane – Carpenter Brut, Perturbator, Dan Terminus, Thomas Barrendon …and myself. Madame Pauline, one of the organizers, is really a force to be reckoned with, and her enthusiasm propelled my determination to write the best tracks I could, specifically with this event in mind. It was a great motivation and I hope everyone will react to the songs! It’s actually the first festival I’m going to play as CONFRONTATIONAL, and I’ll perform there with my partner Giulia. We’re very busy with rehearsals these days and we’re looking forward to bringing our best show ever to Lyon. I bet Incubate was great, that last line up they had was really insane. I must admit I haven’t really had a chance to experience a lot of festivals around Europe lately, been too busy in the studio.
What would be your ongoing plan for this project? It is awesome you have the ability to do whatever you want. It feels like people forget that is an option in 2015. It was cool talking to you about underground artists and how some of them we admire are cooler to meet or interview than a pop star, haha.
That is a good question. Can people really do whatever they want? I don’t know for sure… I only know music is the one constant thing in my life that keeps saving me, so I keep giving back to it. I’m looking forward to meeting new friends, creating new collaborations. It’s probably crazy, but I mainly aim to reach as many new ears as possible, and finding some truly interested listeners dancing in front of my eyes one day. Dancing to the songs I wrote. That’s what I dream about, and I hope I can make it come true by playing as many shows as possible wherever an audience wants us to play. I want to get this music out there and see how people react to it. I want to look straight into their eyes, and I want to show them a really good time. If my music can reach you, then everything makes sense for me.
I really like “You’ll Be Mine”, also. Maybe one of heavier tracks. It has this like dirge/wave under the dancy parts. So cool. How’d that song come about?
I agree, it’s one of the songs on the album where the PRONG influence is most audible. I used to write more in this style when I started to compose for CONFRONTATIONAL, so I think it’s a song that has something in common with my first single, “Done With You”. Somebody in France called that “synthetic cross-over”. I’d rather call it dark retro wave, but I see their point… it’s just the stuff that comes natural for me, a kid into scary movies whose fave albums include Michael Jackson’s DANGEROUS, PRONG’s RUDE AWAKENING, Johnny Marr’s THE MESSENGER, and A VISION OF MISERY by SADUS.