.:.WORLD CRASHING DOWN.:.
An Interview with Lisa Duse of Porta Vittoria
In the spring of 2013 and seemingly out of the blue, Italy’s Old Europa Café released the debut album Summer of Our Discomfort by the Italian duo Porta Vittoria. The eclectic album was a mash-up of multiple genres (industrial, jazz, dark cabaret, ambient, electronic, etc.), which Porta Vittoria labeled “Mediterranean-pop.” In stark contrast to other, more apocalyptic sounds of the post-industrial scene, the album was well-received, and both members of the project, Christian Ryder and Lisa Duse, were soon in demand for other projects.
While Ryder has had tenure in the scene via his TourdeForce project, Duse is otherwise a newcomer. Though she has shined only briefly in her short time thus far, she has done so brightly, finding success outside of Porta Vittoria with guest appearances elsewhere, even going so far as to start her own music project, Chants Orphiques, which has yet to see a release. Yet Duse and Porta Vittoria remain enigmatic in the post-industrial canon as a whole. Below you will find an interview from our contributor Nicholas Diak as he attempts to showcase this rising young starlet.
Heathen Harvest: Hello Lisa, and thank you for accepting this interview. Can you start off by telling us a little biographical information about yourself?
Lisa Duse: I was born in Florence, Italy, but in the town where I grew up the beauty of the Renaissance was quite far away.
I was raised in a desolate suburb. The playgrounds of my youth were empty fields with abandoned farmsteads, illegal dumps, and solitary rural churches. People from my generation who grew up in places like that had nothing to play with except stones, dead animals, insects, and occasionally a ball or a bicycle. There was nothing around: no shops, no cinema, and no supermarkets. The nearest news agency was about 150 miles from my house. Many people would consider all of these preconditions to be an unhealthy situation in which to raise children, but when I think to about my youth I have to admit that I find it quite romantic. Now, times have changed, and no parent on earth would let their child play in a desolate place without a smart phone in his pocket.
HH: What is your musical background? Have you been singing and making music for a long? How did you get into making music?
LD: I started singing fifteen years ago as a jazz vocalist. My musical background as a singer is in classic jazz and American standards, but I appreciate almost all music genres. I am not a sectorial listener. Duke Ellington and Miles Davis said there are only two kinds of music: bad music and good music. It’s really difficult to remember how I got into music; it’s like trying to figure out how I started breathing. I have been surrounded by music since I was a little child. I sang anywhere I could. I played the piano when I was in grade school. As a musician, I started learning to play guitar and bass at fourteen years old, but not actually for me.
HH: What music projects have had a profound influence on you? What bands and artists do you like to emulate or draw inspiration from?
LD: I was totally fascinated by those wonderful brokenhearted singers like Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, and many more. But most of my inspiration comes from vocal and music researchers like Diamanda Galas, Meredith Monks, Lisa Gerrard, Cathy Berberian, and more. Monks worship lots of saints, but this doesn’t mean they strive for sanctity; it’s the same for me. My favourite ‘Saint’ is Demetrio Stratos, who owns a special altar in my vocalists’ sanctuary. His research on the use of the voice as a musical instrument still remains unequaled.
HH: What was the genesis of Porta Vittoria? How did this project come to be?
LD: Porta Vittoria is a project started in 2011 in Milan. It was my idea. Christian Ryder is a great composer and I asked him to try to do something with different sounds—something ethnic but still jazzy and classy at the same time. You can judge the result for yourself.
HH: Urban ruins play a huge interest in the videos and photography of not just Porta Vittoria, but other projects you are involved in. What is behind your fascination with these ruins?
LD: I think everyone may find different amazing components in urban decay. I find an amazingly strong, romantic feature in ruins and abandoned buildings that is very inspiring. It probably reminds me of my youth. I adore taking pictures of abandoned buildings; some of my shots can be seen here.
HH: When you do your photography, what equipment and software do you use?
LD: I use a normal digital reflex, but sometimes I like to experiment with some vintage and lo-fi analogic camera. I don’t think equipment is fundamental for shooting pictures; it doesn’t supply a lack of creativity. I have seen horrible photos taken with a professional camera and very beautiful pictures taken with a smartphone.
HH: You mentioned literature is one of your other big passions. Diving into this, what books have had an influence on you, and what works and authors do you hold in the highest regard?
LD: Literature is one of the most fundamental features in my life. It always has been. I cannot imagine my life without books and I can’t spend one single day without reading a line. I simply accept it like a disease of the soul. Literature is also one of my main sources of inspiration and a recurring feature in the music of Porta Vittoria. With my side-project Chants Orphiques, I have the opportunity to express this obsession at its best. Many authors have really touched the chords of my heart, but I don’t want to start now with an infinite list. Probably Fernando Pessoa is an author who best describes my inner world; I love the saudade as a form of art. Pessoa is also strictly connected to fado, a musical genre that I find very interesting. Other authors that are very important to me are Pier Paolo Pasolini, Dino Campana, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Yukio Mishima, tons of Russian poets (Majakowski, Ahkmatova, Blok), and many more. Inquiring minds can enjoy finding most of those writers in the songs of Porta Vittoria.
HH: Literature is a fundamental facet of your life, but I see a huge cinematic influence in the work you’re involved in as well. Can you elaborate on any relationships or influence between the film world and you?
LD: I do like films and everything connected to that world. I love Spaghetti Westerns, German expressionism, and Japanese movies. Some of my favorite directors are Werner Herzog, Federico Fellini, Elio Petri, Marco Ferreri, and Ciprì & Maresco. I appreciate the work of actors like Gian Maria Volonté and Klaus Kinski. I watch a lot of movies of any kind, but I have to admit that I take my music inspiration from somewhere else. Cinematic influences in the work of Porta Vittoria come entirely from Christian Ryder.
HH: You have been very much in demand as of late, with vocal guest appearances for Macelleria Mobile Di Mezzanotte, TSIDMZ, and Tourdeforce, along with starring in a music video for the American act Retrogramme. How are all these collaborations coming about? What do you look for to find interesting when doing these appearances?
LD: Every collaboration came to life in its own different way. It depends most on the kinds of feelings and relationships I have with other artists. I was totally amused when Adriano Vincenti from Macelleria Mobile di Mezzanotte asked me to create some voice inserts for his tribute to Atrax Morgue, ‘High Heels Inside My Throat”. It was a good opportunity to try something completely different and the track came out magnificently. ‘Spiritual Struggle’ is another old collaboration between Porta Vittoria, TSIDMZ, and Foresta di Ferro. In this case, Sol Mutti from TSIDMZ sent us the track and gave us total freedom of musical expression. It came out as a wonderful epic soundtrack that was very suitable for that album. I made appearances in some TourdeForce tracks as a guest vocalist as well, but ‘Adolf Hitler Platz’ is by far the best one. It’s a kind of tragic love story: during WWII, before leaving for the front, a German soldier promises his girlfriend to meet her again in a famous town square. He keeps on looking for this place, in vain, like a ghost, because it has been destroyed by British bombing. I love its romantic atmosphere and deep meaning.
I don’t like to consider collaborations as an aseptic sounds exchange—there should absolutely be more than this. I need a good dose of communication and mutual confidence since I am not an executor and I don’t record my voice for commissions. I am usually open to any genre of music, but normally, the more experimental is, the more I like it.
HH: For Porta Vittoria, you’ve just collaborated on a song with Sonnenkind, but what are the future plans with this project and when can we expect more amazing music from it?
LD: The collaboration to the track ‘Die Brücke’ with Sonnenkind is only a pleasant break from the creation of the new Porta Vittoria album. I loved the original version of Tring Cong Son‘s chanson and the adaptation came out very good thanks to Christian Ryder and Rudolf Seitner’s composition skills. Regarding the new Porta Vittoria album, there are a lot of new songs in progress and we are working hard on it. It will surely be released by the end of 2015.
There will also be a split album with the project Post Contemporary Corporation consisting of two different versions of our song ‘Heimat’, which was written in 2011 with the guest voice of Valerio Zecchini. The album will be soon released as a limited edition vinyl.
HH: What are the possibilities of you and the projects you are in performing live? Or do you eschew live gigs and prefer studio work? If so, why?
LD: I totally eschew the live experience because I don’t actually feel the need to show myself to the public. I am a very reserved person and I don’t do music for entertainment purpose. My words may sound harsh, but I feel this kind of alternative scene is becoming more and more like a circus, and I don’t really want to take part in it. The ‘stage affair’ is another cliché every musician has to face, sooner or later. The common rule is: ‘If you don’t play live you’re worth nothing’. Did I already say that I hate rules?
HH: The visual element has been very important to the projects you’ve been a part of. There are many music videos handcrafted for Porta Vittoria that you star in, along with starring in a Tourdeforce and Retrogramme video. Are these music videos important, outside of listening to the music as is? Have you done any acting yourself, since your presence in these videos carries a lot of your charisma?
LD: Visual elements are clearly important for the project Porta Vittoria. It allows us to go further than the mere sound. It’s another medium to express emotions and experiment with our artistic impulses. They are not always strictly connected to the deeper meaning of the songs, they live their own lives.
As for Retrogramme’s ‘She Gives Me Nightmares’ video clip, the subject is a bit different since it was commissioned by the band. I enjoyed playing the part of a mysterious and vampire-esque enchantress in a German Expressionism movie atmosphere.
No, I have never done any professional acting in my life; I definitely prefer to be on the other side of the theatre.
HH: What are the barriers that you have to deal with in the music you make, be it the way music is sold and consumed, politics, finding new listeners, finding your muse or inspiration, etc.? What problems do you face and how do you try to overcome them?
LD: I have to admit that the few obstacles I had to fight with are all concerned with some idiotic clichés in the underground scene. Every musician is subjected to those clichés or will have to face them sooner or later. With the following words I don’t want to be considered a feminist, but it’s very sad to admit that female musicians are the most subjected to these clichés. It seems that if you want to have a chance to be heard you have to show your body, wear thigh-highs and other dark/fetish/gothic apparel, do the carnival on stage, and sing like a soprano at the Metropolitan Opera House. If you follow those rules, you are conforming to the fashion and are accepted, otherwise you probably have no chance to get the attention you want. I usually do what I want anyway and don’t care about what people may think about my music. It’s too weird, even for weird people.
HH: One of the unreleased songs of Porta Vittoria is ‘Revolt Against the Modern World’. Many post-industrial bands take this stance of rejecting or being critical of modernity. What are your reflections and views on modernity?
LD: ‘Revolt Against the Modern World’ is a song we made for a compilation featuring several Eurasian Artist Association related projects and it will be included in our next upcoming album. It was intended as a tribute to the philosophy of Julius Evola.
To answer your question, we should first define the words ‘modernity’ and ‘postmodern’. I like to consider myself a ‘Neo Futurist’. First of all, to be critical of modernity doesn’t mean to demonize technological development, otherwise I would be here writing with a feather and sending you my replies using a carrier pigeon. I consider ‘modernity’ to be all of the characteristics that you can find in countries that are led by capitalistic economies and democratic political structures.
It’s quite clear to everyone that some aspect of modernity and globalization may bring a lot of benefits to people, but the other side of the medal is a loss of traditional values and culture and a growing sense of alienation which may lead to the loss of a conception of what it means to be a human being, and these are probably the aspects criticized by some post-industrial bands.
HH: You are working on your own solo project outside of Porta Vittoria. Can you elaborate on it? What type of music you’ll be making, guests on the project, the name of your project, etc.?
LD: Chants Orphiques is my new side project—a way and a need of exploring different means of making music. The aim of this project is to experiment with something different from the classic song structure and a different way of using voice. I am trying to explore the character of poets and writers who suffered from mental disease through their own words and put it into sounds. I am very attached to this project for many reasons. It allows me to blend together the two biggest passions of my life: music and literature. Furthermore, it gives me the opportunity to make music with a lot of musicians and artists from different musical backgrounds. It’s an amazing artistic challenge for me because every track has its own personality.
There are no ‘guests’ in this project. Rather, there are real collaborators to whom I give a total freedom of artistic expression. Just to name some: Valerio Orlandini, Solimano Mutti from TSIDMZ, Giovanni Leonardi from the project Carnera and Siegfried, Lorenzo Gasparella from Ambient Blackhearts Division, La Colonia Nera, and many more. The project is still open for a short time.
HH: And finally, this last space is for you. What comments, statements, or anything would you like to end this interview with? What do you want to leave our readers with?
LD: Thank you for this wonderful interview and thanks also to our Porta Vittoria fans for their unconditional love and support. To everyone who has never listened to our music, what are you waiting for?