Tuesday 3 February 2015

Interview: XP8

Masters of alchemy... 

“[...] no one wants to be the old guy in a room full of kids looking at you like a dinosaur: I remember vividly making fun of those old goths that simply didn’t want to get the fuck out of MY clubs a decade ago, and the last thing I wanted to become was one of them.”

XP8 have been a staple of the alternative electro scene for well over a decade now. But with the release of the final part of their Alchemy EP series in the form of 'Three Of Three: Rubedo', the band will come to an end, leaving an impressive body of work and the odd bit of controversy in their wake.
Intravenous Magazine caught up with Marco Visconti for one last interview about alchemy, the band's career and why the time was right to pull the plug on XP8.

Intravenous Magazine: 
You released two new EPs last year, 'One Of Three: Nigredo' and 'Two Of Three: Albedo'. What has the reception to them been like so far?

Marco Visconti: It has been very good, as it seems both fans and critics liked them a lot, often mentioning the fact that we are seemingly releasing our best music ever. I am definitely quite happy with it, since both me and Marko wanted to leave on a high note and it seems like we are being successful at that. In retrospect, I don’t think the EP-vs-Album idea did work the way I wanted though, since despite the way music is actually consumed these days (streaming, streaming and more streaming) it seems like the average music fan still want to get an album loaded with tracks every one or two years as opposed of a constant stream of new material: I thought to try that model, taken from the dance scene, but clearly did not work the way I wanted it to work. The industrial fan’s attention is extremely fickle.

IVM: The EPs follow the theme of the alchemical process of turning base metals into gold. How do the EPs reflect the stages of this process and how does this tie into the XP8 philosophy?

MV: The idea of giving these EP an alchemical backdrop was entirely mine, as Marko is not interested in these subjects at all: he didn’t object about playing along with it, and so here’s the Alchemical Series. The idea behind is simple: as we approach a huge change in our lives, leaving behind a project that so defined us for fifteen years (a long period of time, I tell you), I felt the need to ritualise it, to give it a certain gravitas you seldom find in music these days – especially in dance music, however “alternative” you want it to be. In doing so, we are effectively going back to the true roots of industrial, with Psychick TV and Throbbing Gristle and Coil constantly bombarding their listeners with esoteric sigils, glyphs and hidden meanings. It’s up for our listeners to decode the actual message there: I dropped plenty of hints in the music and Marko did the same with his lyrics. Possibly knowing gematria might help.

By all means, this trio of EPs are a true, living hyper-sigil, the same way the whole run of 'The Invisibles' was one for Grant Morrison back in the 90s: and I should have known better than embarking into this trip because, like him, I had a very rough nine months due to it. But the birth pangs are almost over.


IVM: Last year you ceased playing live. What led to that decision?

MV: Playing live was what I loved the most about being a musicians, so that decision did not come easy, and yet it was one we just had to make because, simply put, there’s no space for a band like XP8 in the touring circle anymore. Not sure if there IS a touring circle anymore at all, due to the fact most people save up to go to festivals and avoid local shows. But we are at the point where the usual big names can somehow still tour (to an ever-dwindling crowd), supported by no-names who play for free, always the same three or four “bands” becoming nothing else than “that band that always open for tours”, before disappearing into nothingness while another take the same spot.
On top of that, two events last year further cemented the decision: the first, a tour with Surgyn and The .invalid which never saw the light of day due to the impossibility of making it work after crunching some numbers – despite all bands involved having either a solid fancies or a promising future, promoters quite simply weren’t sure they could recoup the budget requested (and we are not talking thousands…). Incidentally, The .invalid now is on hiatus and looks like Surgyn are going the same route, with one of them moving abroad to follow a different career. Second, the whole Alt-Fest debacle, which I discussed a lot on our website and not going back to it now, but really made me open my eyes on the true state of things for this scene.

IVM: After the announcement that XP8 would no longer be a live entity, you then declared the last three EPs to be the final releases from the band. Why have you decided it was time to bow out?

MV: I guess the reasons can be already glimpses from the reply I gave above, but there’s more to that… music genres have life cycles, and I simply realised the time for “industrial dance”, that weird mix of dancefloor beats with a more gritty approach, was simply over. I said it elsewhere and I repeat it here, we had it good for fifteen years, that’s a long period of time: I went from being in my early 20s to the gates of my 40s, that’s a huge chuck of everybody’s life right there. Nothing stays forever, surely not a super niche genre like ours. And it is always wiser to understand when it is time to move on, because no one wants to be the old guy in a room full of kids looking at you like a dinosaur: I remember vividly making fun of those old goths that simply didn’t want to get the fuck out of MY clubs a decade ago, and the last thing I wanted to become was one of them.
I strongly suggest all the people of my generation to consider doing the same, because this scene was supposed to be young and vibrant, while nowadays anytime you walk into a goth/industrial club or festival, everywhere in the world, the average age is 35 and that’s simply wrong.

IVM: You've been a presence in the alternative electro scene for over a decade now, how has it changed for bands like yourself?

MV: In more ways I can possibly tell here. The most important one is that a decade ago we all still believed we could make it to the next stage, in a way or another. But between the worldwide recession and the end of the life cycle of the scene (see above) pretty much no one did it: bands like Aesthetic Perfection or Faderhead – and I obviously talk from direct experience here – are more or less the only two of the mid 00s generation who somehow made it, and still both aren’t headliner material at the big festivals. That kinda speaks volumes on itself to me.

IVM: What advice would you give to young musicians cutting their teeth today?

MV: The usual – don’t do it. There is really no space left to make music your career nowadays, unless you have a huge budget to invest in it, all the right connections, and the will to eat so much shit you’ll drown in it. You could argue it was always the case, but I noticed how it just got more and more difficult each year for a decade now. So don’t quit your day job, and in fact just make a true career out of it. The days of rock and roll are over, the new rockstars are the programmers of the Silicon Valley.

Photo: Imago Mortis Photography


Are there any acts around today that get the XP8 seal of approval?

MV: 3TEETH, due to their clever use of aesthetics and symbology, along with providing a solid album. Mr. Kitty, Trust, and Alter Der Ruine in their new electro incarnation. Rave The Reqviem seems interesting, despite all the trite “evil blood gore” clichés. For the rest, I’ve been listening to music from other sources, and what’s actually heavy on rotation here are acts like Chelsea Wolfe, King Dude, Ben Howard, Damh The Bard.

IVM: You were originally based in your native Italy before moving to the UK. How did that effect the band?

MV: We moved here mostly because Italy is a sinking ship and no one really has a future there. We thought being London-based would help the band with getting more gigs, but as we already discussed, that wasn’t the case. No hard feelings, we should have done it ten years earlier to really reap some benefits.

IVM: Do you have any individual plans for future projects in the pipeline?

MV: Nothing music related at the moment. 

IVM: There is just one more EP to go in your release schedule. When can we expect it and how do you feel it compliments the previous two?

MV: You will have to listen and then tell me. To me, the three EPs are a single story and flow perfectly one into another, but it’s not up to me to judge if we were successful in it or not.

IVM: Your recent albums and EPs have been released through your own label, 2393 Records. What led to this decision and how successful has it been?

MV: The decision was made back in 2010 when we ended our five year contract with Infacted Recordings and I generally got fed up with having to deal with poor communication, lack of commitment, absence of sales statements and all the horror stories you always hear from every band who had to deal with labels at every level. There are exceptions, but they are very few and far between. Up to this day I have no clues how many actual units of those albums we actually sold. 2393 Records gave me the chance to actually monitor it closely and in that regards it has been absolutely successful. I never really developed it though, and so I can admit we did lack the extra media push, especially in Germany, where you either you buy your way into magazines or you are just not on the radar: but since the German market was never particular warm to our music, I don’t think in the end we lost that much.

IVM: As you've ceased live performances as XP8 and have announced your final releases, are there any special plans to mark the end of this chapter?

MV: We played a very successful gig here in London last August, at Slimelight, to a sold out venue. That was our swan song, and I have some very nice memories of it I will forever treasure.


Looking back over the course of XP8's existence, what do you feel are your biggest achievements and is there anything you would have done differently?

MV: I keep thinking that if I sucked up to Ronan Harris’ monstrous ego during my days of playing for VNV Nation, back in 2007, possibly I could have had some help from him or his contacts in further progressing my band. But as I will forever remember those months are an absolute nightmare, having to deal with this fascist idiot every day, I also realise it was simply not meant to be. This scene is also already so full of hypocrites and sycophants that I would have just gone and join their ranks.
XP8’s history is my biggest achievement already: we started with nothing, from Rome, where there was simply no infrastructure of any kind to support this musical endeavour, and we went on to leave a mark on this scene’s history, playing all over the world, hitting every major festival, magazine, and leaving as a legacy a string of hit songs people still listen to every day.
And that’s more than most ever achieve.

IVM: Finally, what are your personal plans for the rest of the year?

MV: I will play one last DJ set at Resistanz 2015 and then I will be done with DJ sets too. I will make sure to make it count!

The alchemy EPs, including 'Three Of Three: Rubedo', are available to buy from the 2393 Records bandcamp page. For more information on XP8, please visit the band's official website

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