Interview by Simon Wiedemann
Interview with with Daniele Lupidi (vocals/bass); Massimiliano (guitars/keyboards); Gianmarco Agosti (drums)
1. You formed in 1993 under the name Necrospell. What was the reason you later changed your name to Valgrind?
Max: We changed the moniker because we weren’t willing to be somehow associated to some esoteric black metal acts. We considered some aspects of that a bit out of our genuine and intense approach to speed metal. We were disappointed by some artificial moods considered cool at that time, but basically we were teenagers, since the beginning fans of mythology. Then, after the first two years of activity, we thought to change the moniker to VALGRIND, a name that sounds more imposing and reminds to mythology.
2. Valgrind is the main entrance to Valhalla in Norse mythology. Is there a reason you chose that name and not another Viking name?
Max: We choose VALGRIND because it is the symbol of the entrance to glory. We didn’t want to celebrate in particular way a pantheon of divinities, neither to paint a fantasy atmosphere around our music. We always wanted to give a mythological aura to complete our artistic proposal that we always considered as dark, speed, orthodox, classic death metal.
3. Why did you disband in 2003 and reform in 2008?
Daniele: There were some personal problems between the founding members, I remember I thought it was a real shame putting this band to rest… Luckily me and Max never lost the contacts during the following years and in 2008 we decided to reform, at least to record the material we were working on in 2003. I moved from guitars to vocals and we completed the line up with a couple of friends. We enjoyed the process and started working on brand new material soon after!
4. What inspired you to start a band? Was it a death metal group, a thrash one or something a little earlier?
Max: The band started in 1993 as a sort of speed black/thrash ensemble, strongly based upon the first records of Florida’s death metal legends like Morbid Angel and Deicide in terms of lyrics and atmosphere. Maybe at that time it was very cool to be inspired by them, we were teenagers and we always wanted to write our own music without boundaries, in the most instinctive way.
5. You will be releasing your latest album ‘Condemnation’ on 27th July 2020. What makes it different from your other releases?
Daniele: I think it’s the most complete Valgrind album. It contains elements of all the previous catalogue as well as some of the most advanced and technical material we ever wrote. Guitar-wise, we started from where “Blackest Horizon” began but with a more aggressive vein. I hope the true death metal fans will appreciate the effort! Also the production is cleaner while retaining a natural sound.
6. How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?
Gianmarco: Valgrind is 90’s pure death metal incarnate, a Morbid Angel/Pestilence/Nocturnus blast of old-school goodness aided and abetted by outstanding songwriting and exemplary performances!!!
7. Who did your album’s cover artwork? What is the reason behind the black, white and yellow colours?
Daniele: I did all the cover artworks so far. This time I wanted to do something different and started experimenting with pens (BIC pens to be precise!). The color choice was natural, I used black and brown pencils on dark ivory paper, it almost reminded me of a drawing on an old parchment. The dark brown frame completed the “ancient book” feeling.
8. Once the lockdown is over due to COVID-19 are you planning to tour?
Daniele: Of course we want to promote the new album in the best possible way. Live shows are what a musician should do to promote his own music… we hope the pandemic will cease to be soon!
9. Your lyrics are heavily based on the myths of legendary creatures in ancient cultures. Do you have a favourite myth or legend?
Daniele: We’ve always been fascinated by ancient cultures. The new album songs deal with the “Legendary beast/divinities/animals” themes. We wanted to concentrate our efforts on something coherent through the whole record. The last song of the album is maybe my favourite one lyrics-wise. The “Goddess of Sea Salt” is Tiamat, mother of cosmos, and I wanted to use the metaphor of her defeat to reflect on nature’s destruction caused by humanity.
10. What is the death metal scene like in Italy? And how has COVID-19 affected the band, as well as yourself personally?
Gianmarco: The death metal scene in recent times has produced really interesting and impactful bands. Italy has an internationally recognized technical/brutal death metal scene. Talking about those with a classic, 90’s inspired approach to the genre, the underground is literally festering with sick bands, with great musicians and intriguing projects.
In these 3 months of lockdown, we all had more time to think better about the future of the band and the next steps to take after the release of Condemnation, and for myself I have had more time to increase my personal targets on the drums and develop new ideas for upcoming Valgrind songs.
11. What’s it like being on the Memento Mori label? Do you think it’s important for a band to be signed, today?
Daniele: I still believe that being signed to a label is important. It gives you a solid image and consideration in the scene, and permits you to concentrate more on doing music instead of promoting yourself 24/7. Of course it’s also important to be active and in touch with the scene. Memento Mori is a label we deeply respected even before signing with them.
12. What was it like recording ‘Condemnation’? Do you have a set way of doing things?
Max: In these last years we’ve been focused into an organized method to record our stuff. The process is simple: First we compose all the music and the lyrics in complete artistic freedom. After this we reserved ourselves just a couple of months to arrange the songs and to rehearse together. At this point we record demos of the songs that we consider ready to be recorded. Then, if we are satisfied, we book the studio.
We enter the studio together and try to give the most real and “honest” performance because we prefer the warmth and the slight imperfections of the 90’s releases to the cold perfection of some modern releases. Condemnation was recorded in this way in 4, 5 days, mixed in a second moment, mastered by Damian Herring in the U.S.A. as we wanted his personal final touch to lead the release to the right direction. So we can say that the Condemnation sessions was a good experience and a huge step forward.
13. Have there been any other bands that have caught your attention recently?
Daniele: There are many killer bands we discovered lately… Gorephilia, Horrendous, Void Ceremony, Verthebral, Tomb Mold, Coffin Curse, Horrified… I personally love when old fashioned bands try to insert some unusual elements and do their own thing. It is more or less what we are doing somehow, trying to avoid stereotypes while keeping it “real” and Old-School.
14. Have you ever been given advice from another band or musician? If so, did it influence your sound? Also, what advice would you give to someone wanting to start a metal band?
Max: We received many pieces of advice and suggestions during the years. We listen to them carefully even though we have our personal vision of what we have to do in our records. We have used our experiences in those 20 years, good and bad ones, so we challenge everyday ourselves and our crew to improve in all the actions needed. We only can give the advice to be tenacious, to feed the passion inside, to be ready for every experience that an artistic life can bring. At this time some modern cliches are in opposition to these words but we are sure that only passion and consistency can last a long time.
If you want to start a metal band leave the shortcuts and the fashions to others. Metal is attitude, metal is music, music is art, art is passion and passion is forever!
15. What are the pros and cons of being in a band? Is the music industry everything you thought it would be?
Gianmarco: The pros are really too many to list, one of many is that you can have fun with other people and at the same time do what you like most (in this case play your own instrument), go play in clubs and make people know your music. Always meet new people, sharing the interest of music and more. Rather than cons, I would call them “commitments”, or all the work behind it to keep a band alive and healthy… I speak of course of the underground reality of Valgrind. (From the investment of money for the recording and sponsorship of their own album, to all the various sacrifices made to get to where we got-in our own small way).
As for the music industry, I believe there are many excellent medium-small labels in the world, born from the genuine passion for extreme music and which are able to offer you good conditions to promote your band (album reprints, shirts, etc).
As for the big labels, nowadays I think it’s shit for various reasons.
16. Do you have any other interests and hobbies outside of music?
Daniele: Painting, reading some intriguing books, watching sick movies, animals, assembling an aircraft model kit every 3 years hahaha… we are pretty normal guys.
17. Do you have any plans for the rest of the year for the band?
Daniele: This Covid emergency cancelled all live booking plans for 2020 of course. And 2021 looks very “packed” already. We will resume the rehearsal sessions as soon as possible and perfect the live tracklist at home. We need to stay strong and focused during these tough times.
Thanks for your time. Is there anything you’d like to add or say to our readers?