I first heard Italian drone metallers Ufomammut on their 2004 sophomore outing, Snailking, and at the time, I’d never come across anything like them. Their tones were so viscous, their riffs so heavy they wrapped around your head and felt like they would never let go. To date, I’ve yet to come across an act anywhere in the world capable of building an oppressive atmosphere as well as Ufomammut can. They make crushing audio seem like a natural, organic process. It’s gorgeous.
The trio—Poia on guitar/synth, Urlo on bass/vocals/synth and Vita on drums—have put out four records since Snailking, culminating with the latest, Eve, from this year. As one long piece of music separated into five tracks, Eve is Ufomammut’s greatest achievement yet, in terms both of creative scope and massive tonality. They drone, they rock, they pull you in and push you back out, putting you right where they want you at every given moment of the record. The process is staggering, challenging, engulfing, and finally, exhausting.
Not only does the music require emotional input from the listener, but it relies on a visceral, almost primordial, response. You cannot use it for sonic wallpaper. It simply can’t be done.
Ufomammut also operates as the visual arts collective Malleus, and Eve, like its predecessor, Idolum, was released on the band’s own Supernatural Cat label. In the email interview below, Urlo discusses crafting Eve, being self-sufficient as a band and whether or not there’s any chance of seeing the band play in the US again anytime soon (they were on the West Coast last year).
Where did the idea for making Eve one long song come from? Was there something specific that made you want to do it, or did it just feel like the next logical step coming off of Idolum?
The first idea was to work on a record structured and inspired by “Meddle,” by Pink Floyd, so a long song and five shorter satellites.
The only mistake has been to start working on the long song, and then, when we noticed it was growing longer and longer, we decided to work on only one piece. We split it in five movements to make it easy for the listening.
And to be honest, even if with our previous albums we meshed one song into the other (I mean, there were songs but our albums always need a complete listening). We think this is the most focused of our career.
Eve came out naturally, though. Even if there was a project, it was not a “real” one. Eve is what we need to do now.
How did the writing process compare to past albums? Were the parts written separately?
Before starting the working process of Eve, we listened to some old unpublished crap Poia and Urlo did with their previous band Judy Corda. We focused on one song called “∏.” It was an instrumental song, very cool. It became the rough beginning and the end of Eve, we worked a lot around it to make it fit, but this was the beginning. Then every part grew one into the other naturally, like it was all written in our minds.
It took about a couple of months to write Eve, when we entered the studio with Lorenzo Stecconi in Roma, it was clear what we wanted.
How did you decide where to split the tracks up? Was there something that made you go that route instead of having it all as one long track?
The song is one, but it seems that there are five main movements in Eve, flowing one into each other. We were thinking about people listening to the song. It’s always a little boring when you’d like to listen again to one part of a long song and you have to search for it with a CD player.
What do you think repetition brings to the parts of Eve? What has always struck me about Ufomammut is that you guys can drone without being boring or inactive. Do you think about building parts on other parts, or is it just what comes out of jamming?
For Eve we tried to focus more on dynamics. We had those riffs jamming, but we wanted to reach the “climax” slowly, in a sort of “progression,” working with volume and different sounds, slight changes of tempos.
How did Eve finally get pieced together?
We recorded the song in our rehearsal room, in a rough way, just [to] have the chance to listen to it, trying to understand timing and changes.
What was the recording process like? How much of the album was done live, as opposed to being overdubbed later?
We had the main structure of Eve, so we started in recording drums, playing a guide track, and then we added everything else
How much do you add to a song once the basic tracks are down? There’s always a lot of noise and extra sounds happening, how planned out are those beforehand?
We left a “range of unplanned,” holes we can eventually fill under the mood of the moment with solos and extra noises.
In terms of the album art, is it harder to make art for your own work or easier?
It can be very hard! We don’t know what we want.
You went kind of minimalist with the Eve cover, or at least the logo for the album art if not the slip-cover of the CD. What was it about that design that appealed to you specifically? What inspired you in terms of visuals?
We often go minimalist with Supernatural Cat covers. Posters are usually more complicated. Eve’s cover is both: there’s the Eve logo, a woman with snakes instead of hairs, like Medusa, coming out from an eye. But there’s a sort of sun/planet made of moving snakes in the background. It’s always the same story, the opposites…
Now that you’re making albums, doing the art and putting them out on your own label, how does it feel to be a fully self-contained band? Are there times you wish you could pass the buck to someone else?
Yes, sometimes it happens, but we realize that we need to work on our thing by ourselves, for being really satisfied. And sometimes this is not enough!
Any chance Ufomammut will be coming to the US for shows? How was your experience here last time?
It’s not depending on us. It seems lots of people would like to see Ufomammut in the USA, but there’s not a single booking agent interested. We don’t have plans for now, though. Last time was great, really great.
Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?
We’ve a new Twitter account where you can follow us (the name is ufomammutmafia—just to remember we’re from Italy), a new website, we’re on tour and we’ll be till October. Then we’ll start in working on the next album.
Eve is available now on Supernatural Cat. More info and updates at ufomammut.com.
JJ Koczan originally posted this interview on his blog, The Obelisk, but likes Ufomammut so much he wanted to make sure you saw it here too. firstname.lastname@example.org.