Between harmony and chaos – interview with BAD SECTOR

For about 10 hours the year 2011 will go down in history, so we here on Santa Sangre would like to finish it with something special. Here’s an interview with one of my favourite projects ever, very unique, constantly exploring new sonic territories and still surprising. Ladies and gentelmen, here’s Massimo Magrini and BAD SECTOR.

First official BAD SECTOR release, “Ze” cassette has been released in 1994. Did you ever consider 15 years ago that you’ll reach such a cult status today? That BAD SECTOR will be considered as a unique project, original and one of the  kind?

I had no idea about it. I just started the project to have a sort of…”shift” from my academic musical researches, using low-tech equipment instead of the expensive, custom hardware I used during my daily work.

Do you listen sometimes to your old music? How do you find it today? Are you still satisifed of what you’ve done back then or do you have thoughts like: “Oh damn, this or that should be done better or in different way”?

Sometimes, but not too often. Of course later releases have better production quality, I note it at first listen, but I still think that the raw sound of “Ampos” is very interesting.

Tell me about pre-BAD SECTOR era. What is the origin of your fascination of such unconventional, electronic sounds?

I started to experiment with sounds and home made electronic circuits when I was very young, around 13. I was playing with some oscillators, conmected together in a random way (now we could say… “circuit bending”!). A couple of years later I built my first analog synth, and I started to record my first cassettes, distributed to my friends. Few years later I founded a sort of post-punk band, mixing electronics with guitars and drum-machines.  Our sound was very similar to the early Killing Joke. In the same period I started to study computer science at the university, and “serious” electronic music. Once I finished the university I worked in the field of electronic contemporary music, in the institute where I still collaborate today. But, in some way, I was not satisfied: I was missing the post-punk / new wave / DIY attitude so I decided to mix all these experience into the BAD SECTOR project

Will we ever live to see you adding “normal” instruments to BAD SECTOR orchestra (alongside electronics of course)?

Sometimes I used treated sounds of them (piano, acoustic guitars), but I must say don’t like classical orchestral instruments. Probably I always associate those wooden instruments to aged, rich people in expensive clothes at the theatre!

Did you ever consider the possibility of someone joining BAD SECTOR? Or will it be always one man’s project?

BAD SECTOR is just a personal project. What I produce is quite emotional and it is strictly related to what I am and what I feel… it’s part of myself. It would be impossible to share this with someone else.

Frankly speaking it is impossible to describe your music with a simple label, “ambient”, “power electronics” or whatever. But one thing is certain – regardless of undoubtful experimental character of your music, melody and atmosphere is always very important. Does it always come naturally when you compose your music or do you try to pay attention and watch if the music doesn’t become _too_ experimental and too difficult for the audience?

I just proceed experimenting until the result is, in some way, touching. I always used simplistic melodies because it’s easy for me to work with them achieving this result. I like the contrast between harmony and chaos, I think it’s a methaphor of the whole existence. Of course, when the audience likes the results of my effort I am happy, but it’s not my primary goal, BAD SECTOR is not a “commercial” project (in the true meaning of the word).

Do you like extreme noise? What’s your opinion about this kind of music? Cheap shocking? Crossing the musical boundaries? Perhaps something else?

I like some Merzbow albums. I think he’s very skilled in using noise in a functional way. Noise must be organized and shaped in order to have a proper impact. Unorganized noise has very little informative content.

It is obvious that for every artist the latest release is the best or the most important. But – excluding “Chronoland” –  I would like to ask you which of your albums do you value the most and why ?

Every album is a picture of my emotions in a period of my life… so I cannot exclude one or another. Anyway, as I said, I think that “Ampos” still has something magic. “Kosmodrom” is an important work too, also because it became very popular, especially in Russia.

Right now, during writing these questions, I’m listening to BAD SECTOR albums and looking at the packages: classic jewelcase (“Plasma”, “The Harrow”), beautiful cardboard (Faria edition of “Dolmen Factory”), the book with poetry (“Reset”), vellum sleeve (“Polonoid”), plastic pack, eco pack… how important for you is the graphic design of your releases?

It’s very important. The “real object” is part of the work, it’s an added value, and it also distinguishes it from a downloaded file. But it has to be something special, not a cheap, standard jewelcase.
It’s good that in this scene most of people still like the physical release.

Although there are so many fascinating BAD SECTOR tracks, for me it is quite easy to pick absolutely favourite one – it’s “Time Singularities” from “Polonoid”. I’d like to ask you about the origin of this song.

At the time I recorded “Polonoid” I was really fascinated by cosmology, I read a lot of books about it. There are a lot of strange, complicated theories in this science field, and some of them have very evocative names. I simply chose a few of them for the “Polonoid” tracks. Even if it’s not a conceptual work, more or less the mood of the tracks reflect what I was able to understand from those books I read.

Let’s talk about “Chronoland” – can you explain the meaning of the titles of the tracks? What does these dates and places/objects mean?

The titles are timestamps in a standard format (in computer science). They are relative to particular events occurred in my life.

In my review of “Chronoland” I wrote: “(…)it seems for me that Massimo finally returns home after all these cosmic voyages, technological explorations, modern war actions. As if all this finally bored the musician who decided to tell the audience about himself, about his roots, memories related to the childhood and the place he came from. Maybe it’s a little misinterpretation, but for me personally all elements of this release compose in one sensible and melancholic piece.” So my question is: Is it indeed misinterpretation? What kind of story would you like to tell people with “Chronoland”? What kind of unconventional sound sources you used this time, during composing your latest album?

“Chronoland” was composed in a very special way. I used a portable EEG device: I linked some parameters extracted in real time from my brain signal  to the synthesizers controls. Then, for each track, I started the recording (only partially pre-programmed) while meditating on the memory of a specific event occurred in my life (see previous answer). So, yes,  it’s a sort of audio-biography, intentionally made using the shortest path from my brain to the loudspeakers: so it’s not work about nostalgia or something, but a sort of sonification of a human brain’s memory.

Do you feel fulfilled as a musician? Or are there still any goals or boundaries you want to cross with BAD SECTOR?

BAD SECTOR is just one part of my activities related to music, there’s also the musical research activity at the National Research Council (CNR).  Olhon is another important project I am involved in. In addition, during 2012 probably I will start another project, pseudo-rythmical but in experimental way…

I have to admit that I’m a big fan of Italian ambient scene – I love all these  projects which music is very far from your creations, far from modern technology – Alio Die, Oophoi, Aglaia to name a few. I wonder what do you think about such music? Do you know these guys personally?

I know Stefano Musso of Alio Die. He’s a very kind an clever person, I love his music. But I do not know the newer projects, as I do not listen to music that much as in the past…

Although musically you differ very much, there is still something in common – it is kind of spirituality which they are looking in nature, and you in technology – would you agree with such opinion?

Absolutely. I clearly see a red line that connects all of my works, even if they are very different. I tend to inject my personal feelings in every sound I use, disregarding their roles in the track’s structure.

Are you interested in literature or cinema? Is there any book or movie which made particular impression on you?

I love all the science science fiction movies made during the 70’s. I watched Robert Wise’s “The Andromeda Strain” dozens of times! I really like the aesthetic of those films. As far as modern movies I like Aki Kaurismaki a lot: he makes little, sometimes funny and touching movies using very few elements. Speaking about literature, as many other electronic musicians, I am a big fan of P. K. Dick…

Thank you for the interview. Last words are yours.

I just want to say thanks to all BAD SECTOR listeners.

BAD SECTOR official site
BAD SECTOR facebook

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