The Spiritual Bat

DH: Tell us something about your artistic development. When and why did you start your musical career?

Rosy: the reason why I studied music was the sort of trance that music induces in me… at university I became particularly interested in ethnomusicology and shamanic drumming… But my studies were mostly theoretical, while I wanted to explore the real power of music, so the more I studied the more difficult it became to reach the old trance-like feeling, the connection between body and soul… I knew the only solution was to play…

Dario: something between a need and a natural evolution of the tight relationship between image and sound that has always been a fundamental thing in my life. These two elements are what allow me to communicate with humans beings and the cosmos. When I was about eighteen I was in a sort of band but it wasn’t until 1992 that I started the Spiritual Bats project, which I consider a sort of creature of mine…

DH: How long does The Spiritual Bat exist and when and how did you meet?

D: The Spiritual Bat is a new project, born in 2004 in New York but it is an evolution from the "Spiritual BatS" project which I had conceived in 1992 with Matteo, while I was working with the Alchemisti Painters. At that time, being a painter, I made music moved by the need of transmuting Image into Sound. Matteo then added the lyrics and vocals. The vinyl EP Spiritual BatS was recorded in 1993. The project was destined to have a new line-up for each recording, but always featured artwork by the Alchemisti Painters (Biennial of Venice, 1986 Art and Alchemy section), as well as their installations and projections during live performances… Rosetta joined in 1995, after the recording of Confession, and helped me with a lot of the work involved in the releasing and promotion of the CD. Then she became the drummer, learning the Confession songs for the Alchemy night at CB’s Gallery in August 1998 and then recording both acoustic and electro-acoustic drums on Sacrament. In 2004, due to incompatible artistic choices, Matteo and I decided to part and the band split up.

R: Yes, I used to live in New York… After graduating, I was travelling on a sort of grand tour in which I first went west, ending up in New Mexico, and then I came east to Italy, passing through Greece… Here in Italy I first went South to Calabria, then North to Milan… I had met some Goths in Milan who asked me if I wanted to go to Rome to see a Spiritual Bats concert… I was ready to go back to New York, so I figured I would finish what I was doing in Milan with a percussion group called Vulcanica, go to Rome and watch the concert, and finally move back to the States… but when I met Dario and his music that was it… It seems I was looking for something which I found when I met Dario. He invited me to stay and join the band in some way, as a percussionist, perhaps, and he convinced me to stay… No, actually I was totally and magically entranced….

D: So now the "The Spiritual Bat" is basically Rosetta and I, but we love and look forward to playing with other people. In Through The Shadows we had the honour of having Bruno Lombardi on the Flute. He was a member of the National RAI Orchestra for over 20 years, I think, and worked with Morricone, with Pavarotti, with most of the great directors in classical music. But he is also the type of musician who likes experimenting with other dimensions… And Alessio Santoni, an excellent drummer who plays all styles… They are two good friends of ours, who are not from our same scene, but we had been talking about doing something together for a long time and it was great fun to finally do it…. We welcome them to play with us any time. We look forward to playing with them again, but don’t exclude and we actually hope there will be collaborations with other musicians, too.

DH: Why did you change the name The Spiritual Bats to The Spiritual Bat?

Dario: The main difference is that, although the music themes still come from me, now it’s just me and Rosetta, and the lyrics and vocals are now hers. With the name we chose to underline the continuity in the evolution. In the song Through The Shadows you can hear the passage from the old to the new Bats. The original name was actually Matteo’s idea, back in 1992. In 2004, as I said, he and I took each his own direction. For him the Spiritual BatS and gothic were dead and buried. But I had given my blood to this project, the music had come from my most intimate feelings, and I personally didn’t feel like abandoning or burying it. It’s like my child. Plus this name reflects perfectly my personal dimension of shadows. I myself didn’t feel so dead… so I playfully changed the name to the singular.

DH: Your music combines several music styles like gothic, rock and medieval. Which roots in a musical sense do you have? Are you at least a gothic band?

Dario: Well, that’s a difficult question. We don’t really worry about defining our style… It has been described by other people as old-school yet modern gothic, Elegant Dark, Batcave, Gothic rock, with influences from the 80’s underground and post-punk: Siouxsie and The Banshees, Joy Division, Christian Death, Bauhaus, The Cure, but also Dead Can Dance, Classical music, Pink Floyd, with references to Shakespeare and Tolkien, and with a lot of imagery that makes the music feel like a sort of soundtrack. And in the instrumental tracks it leaves the listeners a space to participate, to create their own lyrics, their own story, their own film.

Rosetta: Actually, I personally listened to completely different music before meeting Dario, from Opera to Jazz, to ethnic music from gamelan, to ragas, African drumming and Cuban santeria ritual music… I don’t know if any of that can be heard either in my drum arrangements or my singing, but it certainly is a part of me. I discovered gothic music late, but I don’t mind, because to me it’s still fresh and I feel as if I were eighteen years old.

DH: Your new album is called “Through The Shadows”. Is this your first release or had there been other releases in the past?

Through The Shadows is the first recording we publish as The Spiritual Bat duo. Before that there were Spiritual BatS (vinyl EP, 1993), Confession (CD, 1995) and Sacrament (CD ep 1999). There is also a very beautiful video clip, Funeral Cries, that was made by The Alchemisti Painters and Claudio De Grazia, which due to a lack of funds circulated only on VHS duplicates. (Through The Shadows) (Sacrament) (Confession)

DH: You planned Through The Shadows as a instrumental record, now it features the great voice of Rosetta. Why did you make the decision to record some tracks of the album with her voice?

R: The music has always come from Dario, even in the previous line ups, when Spiritual Bats was a full band. Sometimes the songs are born on the guitar in one day, after a highly emotional time. He plays a newborn song obsessively, over and over until it becomes complete. I love hearing how it develops, I love doing things and bumping into Dario and his guitar, coming across the sound of that new haunting melody. I sometimes have to duck to avoid the guitar neck. As far as the lyrics, I have just debuted as a singer and author on this album. And this happened in a quite peculiar way… A few years back the band Spiritual BatS had broken up, hence the name change to The Spiritual Bat… The two founders, Dario and Matteo, the singer, had taken different directions, and so did the other band members. So Dario and I continued working without a singer, without a band, we were ready to make instrumental-only music… In the previous line up I played drums. But eventually I ended up programming only, because I didn’t really like playing my electro-acoustic kit anymore, and because I had never became a quite the drummer I wanted to be (you can hear my drumming on Sacrament). Now, honestly, we had to find somebody to perform my parts on the acoustic set… I needed somebody technically better than me to play my own drum arrangements! So, when we had the opportunity to have Alessio Santoni for a recording session… we rejoiced! At that point, the only problem was that when we set up that session for Alessio… I kind of felt I had to find another role for myself. In a mix of joy for watching Alessio play and sadness for giving up my drumming, I found the inspiration to write the lyrics for some of the songs, and a few months later I recorded the vocals. That was a very emotional period in which thoughts that I had written previously resurfaced… things previously written for no specific purpose, mostly about feelings related with the conflict between being an artist, an alien, in a way, and trying to live harmoniously in a material world.

DH: Are you planning to record more tracks with Rosetta in the near future? Will there be a second album?

R: We have already got some songs that we are recoding for a future album and they are even already included in our live set…. But what will happen is anybody’s guess. The intention is to continue making music forever, it’s our spiritual dimension, what makes us feel more than just flesh and bones. I will probably continue singing but not every song will necessarily include my voice… Or we might all be dead, or one of us might get terminally ill… so yes, until we can we’ll go on, just to thank fate for still being alive. I like singing but I also like exploring other possibilities, mainly percussions…

DH: “Through The Shadows” has a very dark atmosphere. In which circumstances did you record the album? Are there any experiences that influenced you when recording the album?

In few words? In Through The Shadows we narrate “…the Spiritual Bat’s journey through the undistinguished shapes of nightmare, surviving the adrenaline of sacrifice… having broken its wings off to hopelessly jump blindfolded into the vortex of wordless soundscapes, a paradoxical act of faith, seduced by melody… the soundtrack of an odyssey, irresistible temptation of drowning in silver waters… resurfacing through the whirlwind of an overwhelming emotion, the craving of a creature who is unable to dance… scarred by tremendous battles against invisible Fear constantly undermining the flight, the stagnant hovering in the dark mist… the Bat alights on the ruins of collapsed symbols and broken oaths, only to breathe in the ashes, to silently mourn the loss… it awakes to an ancient voice crying for eternal youth, but it has to march on, still on the run, still in the maze of the nightmare, until it summons the ritual, the painful solution, the light…”

DH: I like very much the song “Newdance” from your album. What is the song about? Where do you get the ideas for such songs?

Newdance is about being unable to move, feeling incapable of moving, while your strongest desire is that of letting music transport your body, craving the lightness and grace of dancers.

DH: Is your music a reflection of the society in which you are living? In a way, perhaps. Mostly the music comes from intimate feelings, but society ultimately does have an influence on who we are and how we feel… “Twins” is a theme that Dario played over and over in September 2001 in New York, as we lived the tragedy of the Twin Towers, through the total absence of planes in the sky above us at first, and then the roar of military planes that increased the feeling of fear and suspence.

DH: Will there be a chance that The Spiritual Bat perform in Germany on stage in the near future? Which further plans do you have with The Spiritual Bat?

Well, as we said, performing live is one of our objectives. We must keep a promise we made to our friend and sound technician Claudio Mura, who passed away in July 2008. You see, we never really pushed ourselves to go live, we never cared for it, our personalities are quite timid and reserved. So our live appearances have been very rare, and for us it was always a torture… Claudio was right, we were just scared, and we still are, but now we are determined to do it, not only for Claudio but also for ourselves and for our fans… We want to do it and see if we can make it an enjoyable experience, both for ourselves and the listeners. And we do hope to come and play in Germany very soon. If you have any suggestions as to where we might play, let us know! For now we have a couple of dates in the USA: we are playing at the Vendetta Festival in Denver, CO (with Kirlian Camera as headliners) on September 27th and we have a gig in Seattle, WA on September 28th.

DH: Thank you very much for answering our questions. We wish you good luck and much success. Your last words please:

Thank YOU and you readers for your attention. We are flattered and we hope to meet you in person one day. Please keep in touch: (Through The Shadows) (Sacrament) (Confession)

Interview: Andreas Ohle