Something Very Strange: Destrage Interview
“Contamination is uplifting, incoherence is relieving, risk is challenging and unpredictability is interesting.” - Destrage: More than just another metal band
“I perfectly understand those that don’t like Destrage, especially if they comprehend what we do. Taste is taste,” exudes Matteo Di Gioia, guitarist in mind-fucking Italian quartet Destrage. “I cannot say whether I’d like my band had I not been in it from the beginning. Listening to us may result in annoyance and we know it. But of course hate is immensely more valuable than indifference.”
In a day and age where it’s all been done before, Destrage are a rarity. Innovative, ingenious and so often staggeringly incomprehensible they strive to challenge the listener. Their latest album, Are You Kidding Me? No? is a banquet of different flavours and styles - of which there are just too many to mention - all merged together in one cinematic journey. It leaves you guessing. It never stagnates. And that’s the point. Listen to the record and you’ll ever love it to death or hate it with a burning passion. Either way, it draws a reaction from you, it has an undeniable impact.
“One can develop alimentary intolerance by abusing one single element. Contamination is uplifting, incoherence is relieving, risk is challenging and unpredictability is interesting. Humans are frugivores, but we are too curious to stick on apples only.”
Take a song like Where The Things Have No Colour for instance, it boasts trademarks from many different metal ideologies, from the grooves of djent and tech metal, to a massive, melodic chorus, a beautiful progressive interlude, orchestration, and so much more. There isn't a band out there that sounds quite like Destrage. It’s credence to their meticulousness and their undying ambition to shock, surprise and scintillate the listener as well as the musician.
“I think what you hear is the direct consequence of a load of different influences coming from everywhere in the music world, as well as from movies, books, food, travels and the female universe that is still unknown and has so much to give besides… Well.
“Metal is our native language because we have been speaking it for a while now, and just like other languages it is a mean to express a variety of emotions. Once you handle the basic grammar you can bring together a variety of words and arrange many sentences and communicate happiness, irony or sensuality sticking to English without necessarily switching to French or Java, right?
“Music is masturbation and should please the musician first,” he continues. “It’s our main goal to be happy with what we do, and to choose integrity above all. Yet on the top of that we realized fucking is much more fun than jerking off alone, and that’s why we try to include an overall sense of ‘pop structure’ to the songs and make them accessible - at least we try - so that we can get close to the audience and make love to them.”
"Music is masturbation and should please the musician first, but we realized fucking is much more fun than jerking off alone, and that’s why we try to include an overall sense of ‘pop structure’ to the songs and make them accessible"
It is this balance between ridiculousness and infectiousness that has seen the metal world look up and take note. Lead singles Pruina and My Green Neighbour – the latter a song about shooting zombies in the face – manage to both baffle us with supreme musicianship, leaving you picking your jaw up off the floor as well as captivating you with an insane degree of melodicism and memorability.
Many bands who stray into more progressive territories find themselves accused of being lost inside the hairy arse of their above-standard musicianship. Their talent and grasp of musical theory outweighs their eye for irresistible simplicity that gets crowds singing along. You dare not accuse Destrage of such banality and self-centredness however.
“It’s a big challenge for a proggy band to see its audience jumping and screaming instead of standing there and taking notes. We stand for fun. Music should be fun. Once you make somebody smile then you can reveal your deep soul and talk for hours about the way you see the world, while the other way around may not be as effective.
“When we feel something should change in the structure we take a break and spend a lot of time imagining how the song may evolve, and we do that leaving our instruments aside, so that we are free to think and to get a more distant point of view. Guitars and imagination aren’t always best friends. “We also try to balance the whole frame, keeping an eye on the overall progress of the album as well as the single songs, like in a movement. When a proposal comes we usually value the freshness of a mad idea coming from nowhere and then we work around it to make it fit where it has to. So it’s a crazy on - crazy off switch coming in waves.
“Other times those ideas you are talking about just come one after the other and they naturally go the flow, and we drink to that coz it’s fucking lucky.”
When Black Sabbath first emerged from the murky depths of Industrial Birmingham in 1969, their heaviness was incomparable. There was no other band doing what they were doing. When the Sex Pistols spat out their anti-establishment debut album, there was no other band quite as vindictive and snarling. But today, where the world is at your disposal in just a few mouse clicks, where hordes of bands lie at your fingertips, it’s nigh on impossible for a band to stand out as true originals. It’s all been done before, right? Nowadays no band can ever escape comparisons, for better or for worse.
“Yeah it’s quite funny when people try to compare bands with other bands ain’t it? You remind me of… X meets Y… The heavier version of Z… Of course music sounds like music just like chicken kinda tastes like turkey coz they’re both fucking birds but still many like to point it out raising the smart finger to the sky while chewing. I would be really impressed if someone comes up sometimes and tell me ‘Man, your music sounds like purple’ or, I dunno, Naples, or Anjelica Huston, or sandpaper. I would smoke with them.
“Jokes aside, it was never our precise intention not to sound like a specific band or to embrace a specific genre. Our (small) degree of originality comes from boredom. We easily get tired of ourselves and we like to explore new things. We think music is about risk, and we’ve got nothing to lose.”
Music is about risk. As those words resonate, it takes us back to where we began. Because of this band’s shape shifting nature not everyone will follow, understand and enjoy the craziness they offer. But the risk is paying off. People are taking notice because of that originality, because of their desire to leave surprises behind every corner, not because they are sticking to a tried, tested and much beloved formula. The romans may have built straight roads to reduce the risk of ambush, but Destrage have built a rollercoaster with Are You Kidding Me? No? where an ambush and unexpected change is always lying in wait.
While they may just seem like just another metal band on the surface there is so much more than meets the eye. The truly bombastic moments lurk in the nuances and minute details. Once discovered, your love for this band will only grow.
Matteo leaves us with one parting quip. It’s one that sums up this band’s entire mind-bogglingly enjoyable philosophy: “there’s no risk that we’ll ever go normal.”
Their ingenuity may fall on many deaf ears, but give this band half a chance and I assure you that you’ll become infected by its grooves, its sheer melodic power and its full blast riffery, like a zombie plague. Then we’d have to shoot you in the face.
Words: Phil Weller