I am not embarrassed to admit that our staff (a dysfunctional bunch of aged metalheads and retired goths) sometimes enjoy a nice pop record. Actually it happens more often than someone would expect. Well anyway, this is the case of the Milano-based duo Porta Vittoria. The fancy sounds of their debut ‘Summer Of Our Discomfort’ released by the influential label Old Europa Cafe this year, brings some fresh air into the postindustrial scene. After reviewing their album this summer, we still had lots of questions about art, philosophy, Shakespearean drama, The Freudian Eros, Count Dracula and other important names within the Western culture. This is what Lisa P. Duse and Christian Ryder told us.
MSATC: Let me briefly introduce you to our readers. Porta Vittoria is a duo consisting of Lisa P. Duse and Christian Ryder. Christian is also member of TourdeForce (electronics oriented project influenced by 80s aesthetics) and Consenso. Can you tell us a bit more about your musical background?
Lisa: We do listen to different kind of music, as We consider ourselves quite open-minded. Anyway I think We’re personally more attracted by sounds and suggestions from the past. We feel a sort of consolation from old melancholy and nostalgic tune.
MSATC: How did happen to sign with OEC? Did you know Rodolfo or you just send him a demo? Were you following this renowned Italian label?
Christian: It was nice to get in touch with this legendary label boss.
Lisa simply sent him a cd-demo and after few days We received a warm answer from him. It was a great surprise!
MSATC: The album was also recorded and mixed by Christian. So I guess he works in some audio visuals related job, doesn’t he?
Christian: Yes, I’m currently working in TV production as freelance consultant.
I engineered our debut album, but Lisa is learning some tricks, too.
Last month She recorded some tracks for our second album, a song titled “Revolt Against The Modern World”. Well, she did a very good work.
MSATC: You already have released five promotional videos. Why do you think the visual aspect is so important for PV?
Lisa: Besides the fact We love cinema, We thought PV had to transmit to the audience a strong visual suggestion, like a personal trademark. Then, probably PV will remain a studio project, so this promotional move was also necessary. You know, It would be really hard to transform our project into a live band. We also breath a widespread defeatism atmosphere in a lot of musicians, concerning their aspirations from touring experiences. It’s a bad business for underground bands.
Our way to sense and assimilate art must be definitely European, purely Romantic. – Christian Ryder
MSATC: Your influences include a wide range of mostly 20th Century writers, painters and film makers. Some of the song titles are taken from books like Thomas Mann’s “Death In Venice”, J. G. Ballard’s “Concrete Island”, Romantic French poet Gérard de Nerval’s “Le Rêve Et La Vie” or Stanislaw Lem’s “Solaris” (a film adaptation was directed by Tarkovskij in 1972) referring to last track “Cosmic Melancholy Of The Thinking Ocean”. Where does your interest for European literature come from?
Christian: Answer is simple: it touches our heart, it upsets our deepest emotions. Our way to sense and assimilate art must be definitely European, purely Romantic. It’s almost a matter of blood. Well, We are European. There must be a cultural element, too. A work like “Death In Venice” or “Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” scrape my heart off. Submit them to an arab attention: I suppose He can’t feel them that way.
Lisa: This album contains a lot of references to European works, but I truly appreciate all kind of literature in the whole world. Just to name some authors, I like Yukio Mishima, Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, Sylvia Plath.
MSATC: If we take your work as a whole, we notice a postmodern element dealing with decadence and nihilism juxtaposing with a great deal of irony, for instance, the disturbing images at the end of “World Crashing Down” video? Is this your way to react against the complex reality of our age?
Christian: Paraphrasing James G.Ballard, psychopathology is the only element that’s expanding the overstimulated panorama of XX and XXI century. That’s the immoral, violent, distorted and pansexualised reality We’re living in. We succumb.
How to escape? Back to nature? Most of us could hardly survive few days without… I don’t know, electricity.
Lisa: Yes, it’s our way to react against this reality. In detail We do like those disturbing images, intended to be an artistic attempt to provoke people.
Those frames are their daily media junk food. Our present and post-modern collective imagination archive.
MSATC: Your debut album title paraphrases Shakespeare’s play “Richard III”? I have my own interpretation about this but what is the ultimate meaning? If you switch “winter” for “summer”, does this mean that you are optimistic about the future?
Christian: You got the quotation. I love “Richard III”. When You’re walking through the summer of discomfort, it means You’re living the final (yes, optimistic…for once!) stage of a painful discontent period. Glimpse of hope and light, maybe. A pale sun in the distance.
The future, who knows? The future will be silent.
|Porta Vittoria: high-class sounds for modern incompatible societies.|
MSATC: Although most of the tunes could be labeled as electronica, pop or even lounge music, there are also two ambient/martial tracks with a strong oriental flavour (certainly very appealing) entitled “Kaziglu Bey” and “Le Rêve Et La Vie”. The First one being close to the beginning and the other close to the end. Does the tracklisting have any purpose whatsoever?
Christian: We left nothing to chance! “Kaziglu Bey” is the first and older track We conceived. Lisa was pointing towards more radical and martial sounds. In the end the pop soul…prevailed! (that’s my…fault, I presume). The disquiet and oneiric “Le Rêve Et La Vie” was probably the last track of the album We worked on.
The symbolic manifesto of our project intent: (…) eastern and western world colliding and fighting – Lisa P. Duse
MSATC: “Kaziglu Bey” (The Lord Impaler) was the Turkish nickname given to Vlad Tepes. This tune definitely sounds Arabic to me? Are you interested in oriental music and/or cultures?
Lisa. Yeah, it sounds Arabic, but more precisely I think a sort of contraposition can be heard in the different track passages. “Kaziglu Bey” is probably the most clear symbolic manifesto of our project intent: oriental and western suggestions, eastern and western world colliding and fighting. In the final portion You can hear arabic chords, swords, chains and war percussions versus a church solemn organ and epic choirs. It’s like a battle between our western decaying world and the eastern one. We imagined Vlad the Impaler and the Ottoman Sultan.
MSATC: You define your sound as “Mediterranean pop” being part of the “musical globalism for modern incompatible societies’. Are you referring to multiculturalism? What are your views on this issue?
Christian: Rudyard Kipling said “East is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet”. A very simple, current reality. Modern societies and people are incompatible. Our musical globalism is an experimental fusion of differences, distances. I think this is somewhat… positive.
Lisa: As a matter of facts, a multiracial society is inevitable, too. Western world will not preserve its heritage and identity.
Money, mass media, technology: these are our decadence main keywords. – Christian Ryder
MSATC: I would say the album general mood is optimistic, isn’t it? However, there are also certain elements exposing the failures of current European society. The decadence of the Western World has been announced ever since notorious Oswald Spengler’s book was published in 1918. Do you think we are living in a point-of-no-return in European history? Is the back-to-nature mentality an alternative or an illusion?
Christian: I think there are some optimistic passages in the album, in sharp contrast with nostalgic feelings.
I do think We’re living in a point-of-no-return in European history: I can breathe this collapsing. Money, mass media, technology: these are our decadence main keywords.
MSATC: Is the back-to-nature mentality just an illusion? Maybe. Humans are thinking animals. To make a tabula rasa and start again into wide and wild nature lands must be harder for those who live and hunt in urban, degraded and high-tech spaces.
Lisa: In my opinion the back-to-nature mentality is not an alternative nor an illusion. Sick people essence would remain the same. Just like Albert Caraco wrote, a mass near-extinction should happen in order to give birth to a new humankind.
MSATC: The artwork (on a white digipak) is adorned with images of a post-industrial world, assembly lines shut down, buildings in ruins, ghostly portraits that are intertwined with the sensuality of the female anatomy. Does love, desire and the Freudian ‘Eros’ creative force give meaning to life or as Michel Houellebecq said “The universe is nothing but a furtive arrangement of elementary particles. A figure in transition toward chaos. That is what will finally prevail.” What do you think?
Christian: In my opinion main forces in our life are Eros (Life Instinct) and Death Drive.
This scares the hell out of me. As Freud described it, “the hypothesis of a death instinct, the task of which is to lead organic life back into the inanimate state”.
At the same time I don’t deny a colder, hermetic and fatalist rationality.
Beyond all, We’re particles in transition towards chaos, too. Or maybe We’re in transition towards nothing: a total absence of self – consciousness.
MSATC: For those unfamiliar with the experimental duo Günther Lause, should we get to know them? Why do you mention them in the song “Guenther Lause Ist Nicht Bekannt”?
Lisa: That’s nice! We never heard of that duo. Are they good? (Günther Lause is a techno duo from Munich. Not my cup of tea, ed.) Güenther Lause is the character of a Rainer Werner Fassbinder movie titled “Welt Am Draht” (1973), inspired by a remarkable science-fiction novel from Daniel F. Galouye, “Simulacron-3” (1964). (Blame Google for my laziness, ed.)
MSATC: Last May you published a tribute to the french synth pop artist Christophe with a version of “J’l’ai Pas Touchée” available as digital download. Is this a part of a larger sampler/compilation? Where the idea for this version did came from? Who suggested this?
Christian: The cover of “J’l’ai Pas Touchée” was a little gift in order to celebrate the release of our debut album with Old Europa Cafe. I’m a big fan of this legendary French artist, Christophe Bevilacqua. His melodies are miraculous.
MSATC: The very last question. Think about someone who visits Milano for the first time. Which places would you like to show him/her and which ones do not?
Lisa: Essential Milan: no standard glossy and fashion places like Vittorio Emanuele Gallery. True life in Quarto Oggiaro for the living (with a gun in your pocket). And Cimitero Monumentale for the dying.
Christian: I would show Mr. Berlusconi’s monument near Milan. It’s a great totem. Vaguely phallic.
MSATC: Thanks a lot for your time. Un caro abbraccio!
Porta Vittoria. We thank You!!