Around 1995 I got in touch with the anarchist HC band ‘D.D.I.‘ from Pavia. Their singer ‘Mila’ [Gianpiero Milani] ran AZ Autoproduzioni (distro and label), together with the band’s friends Irith Davidson, Piero Majocchi & Luca Musso. AZ came from Astro Zombies, which was a zine before. Unfortunately I never got ot read that (written in Italian)…
There were 4 issues of Astro Zombies: n° 0, 1, 2 and the last n° 3. We started in 1989 and it lasted until 1993, something like that… #1 (1990) was with ‘Kina’, ‘Maze’, ‘M.D.G.’, ‘Klasse Kriminale’, etc. #2 (1991): ‘Die Kreuzen’, ‘Hard-Ons’, ‘Infezione’, ‘Fall Out’, ‘Disforia Psichica’, ‘Clima Famigliare’, and more #3 (1993): ‘Nausea’, ‘M.D.C.’, ‘Instigators’, ‘Political Asylum’, ‘Contropotere’, ‘Panico’, ‘Peggio Punx’, ‘Sovversione’, ‘Pedago Party’, ‘Permanent Scar’, ‘Bandiera Dell’Odio’, ‘Disciplinatha’, plus interviews with DIY labels such as Edizioni Storie Tese, Mister X, Lega Dei Furiosi. Each issue also had tape/demo/record/zine reviews, scenereports, political articles on DIY and anarchism. The last one was too big/ too expensive to photocopy and was never released it as such.
In the late ‘80s in Pavia, a small town near Milan, in Northern Italy… Luca & me were close friend from childhood and we were in the same highschool. In 1988 we were 13/14 years old and we started to listen to punk (‘The Clash’) and then to hardcore (‘Minor Threat’, ‘Bad Brains’, ‘Black Flag’, ‘Misfits’, ‘Hüsker Dü’, ‘Bad Religion’). In 1989 we turned to DIY hardcore punk, buying zines and records by mail directly from the bands. We were writing to lots of people, we were receiving lots of flyers, small advertisements in the mail… That year we decided to start our own fanzine, we called it Astro Zombies because our ‘Misfits’ addiction at that time.
Doing the zine was lots of fun, an occasion to write to many people and to travel around to see gigs and meet people. We were teens and being punk was freedom, solidarity, anarchy and love (and lots of fun!). We learned how to be and to do things DIY, not for profit and money, to share ideas and life, to keep away any commerciality regarding things related to music. We also tried to avoid this in any aspects of our life (job, food, hobbies, friendships).
In the same period that we were doing the zine (early 90s), we started to go to squatted Autonomous Social Centres (Centri Sociali Autogestiti), where most of the hardcore-punk bands were playing at that time: Leoncavallo and Laboratorio Anarchico in Milano, El Paso in Torino, Scintilla in Modena, Forte Prenestino in Roma, Treblinka in Udine, etc. We met lots of bands and people, did funny interviews for the zine and started our distribution, AZ, that later in the 90s became a big distro and D.I.Y. record/tape-label. I remember the interviews with ‘NoMeansNo’ in Leoncavallo in 1990, ‘Victims Family’ in El Paso in 1991 and Dave Smalley of ‘Down By Law’ in Gramigna (Padova) in 1992. But the interviews were too long, our English very bad and they were never published… We mostly published interviews with Italian bands for this (linguistical) reason…
Astro Zombies zine evolved into AZ, no just a zine but distributing and producing lots of different kinds of D.I.Y. material (records, CDs, tapes, T-shirts, books, videos, zines, anarchist newspapers, pins, badges etc.). AZ ended around 1996 and evolved to Agipunk, (just ‘Mila’).
In 2008 Dario [Quatrini] (guitarist of ‘D.D.I.’) and myself did a book (Make Music Not Money). [In which some interviews (‘Contropotere’, Nausea’, ‘Panico’, ‘Peggio Punx’) from Astro Zombies #3 are included.] I still organise gigs and events under that name. (‘D.D.I.’. reformed at that time for an Italian tour (8 gigs) to promote the book.)
In 2015 some of the people that were in ‘D.D.I.’ (Gio, Lelo & Edo) reformed with me and a saxofonist under the name ‘Malabrocca’. We play around (old Italian harcore punk with sax), we organise gigs in Pavia and annual Punx Pic-Nic, and we’re recording our first record and printing T-shirts…
‘Panico’ interview [Translation (by Piero Majocchi) below]
[HC band from Torino with] Fabrizio: drums [ex ‘Impeto E Assolto’] / Walter ‘W. Ego’ Daziano: bass [ex ‘Kollettivo’] / Vanni Picciuolo [ex ‘Franti’]: guitar, sax & sampling / Sergio Tosato [ex ‘5° Braccio’ & ‘Contrazione’]: vocals, sampling & graphics
To be read with a strictly Piedmontese accent… [Piedmonte is the region around Torino]
Luca [Musso; AZ]: Why are you here?
Vanni: Ha ha ha (?!?).
Sergio: This is a good question…but: we received a call from a person that was nice on the phone and told us about this event that has been going on for years; in reality we don’t know much about the organisation though… They seemed like nice people so we decided to come. Then we learned that ‘Kina’ were gonna be there too and we always enjoy playing with them… It’s summer… Some outdoor concerts are always good after having played so intensively, sweating like beasts…so I don’t know anything else to say.
Piero [Majocchi; AZ]: Why did you choose to make a song with Majakowski’s words? [Vladimir Majakowski; Russian poet]
Vanni: Well…so…the story of the track is quite complicated, in the sense that in Torino there’s a group of anarchists who have created a publishing-house called Nautilus that deals with all kinds of media: books, comics, records, videos, etc. They had the actual idea in mind to do something on suicide, that’s why they [Nautilus] released a book on the subject translated from French (Suicide, Method Of Use) and contrary to what the title might implicate, the book is aimed to explain the way to regain possession of your body and therefore it’s about the freedom to be able to choose whether to die or not, beyond any morality, rules; the state of things as they are. It’s a book that caused a lot of scandal in France and even here in Italy it was banned, and the anarchist publishing-house (the same as mentioned above [Piero: Nautilus; still active today]) was planning on making a video about that. In a somewhat strange way, it also dealt with Majakowski, as he committed suicide, and his life as revolutionarian poet. So we were asked to make a audio track for the opening of this video, and for the end of it. We did it within a month. [It’s the first track on the Scimmie LP] Sergio used very beautiful poetry and made – as they say – a cut-up [mash-up]: he reassembled pieces and constructed the first part of the song, and we added the words of the note he left when he decided to do take his life. In fact, the lyrics [made with a cut-up of Majakowski’s words] start with a text of criticism on suicide, because there was a friend of his who decided to commit suicide: he writes a poem referring to this act, substantially condemning it, and we wanted to put together the two situations highlighting the contradiction between this moment of his life where he commited suicide and his criticism on suicide as a way to end your life.
Luca: Sooo…less questions about ‘Panico’ but more about the Torino scene: ‘Franti, ‘Orsi Lucille’, etc.? All right?
(Shit music in the background makes things difficult to hear.)
Sergio (intervening quickly): Questions about Torino!
Vanni: Ah yes.
Luca: …It doesn’t concern you directly but d’you know something about Inisheer [independent label from Torino], is it permanently finished…?
Vanni: Stefano Giaccone [co-founder of ‘Franti, together with ‘Lalli’ and Vanni], right? Together with ‘Lalli’ he created it [the record-label Inisheer] but he decided essentially to quit because he has been planning to do things like publishing records on his own label for some years… How can I put it… After some time it became a routine: setting a goal, producing a series of things and then always do the same things, like what happens in political parties and in capitalistic society: continually being forced to play a role, something that binds you to a script, prescribing a whole series of behaviours that you must have, so therefore he has decided to stop this. Despite this Stefano and ‘Lalli’ are still continuing to produce material and distribute it. Even more… Lately we started playing together again, so we’ll see. For the moment I can’t tell you what will happen. We formed a band, Walter (our bassplayer who’s rolling the joint) is in it aswell. Then there’s also another band with ‘Lalli’ [Marinella Ollino] (the vocalist of ‘Franti’ [HC folk/art-rock]. Stefano [Giaccone] is joining us on this tour playing drums.
Mauro [Bianchi, AZ]: And in this sense also previous projecst [bands]… (pause of about 5 seconds) such as ‘Orsi Lucille’ or ‘Environs’ fall within this perspective?
Vanni: Yes, yes, certainly…
Mauro: Playing again together in another band and then stop…
Luca: …and I think this is also the reason that ‘Franti’ broke up and then the members continued more or less to follow the same musical style…
Vanni: …You see, this story of ‘Franti’ [Piero: a very important band in Torino during the 80s; but not playing ‘hardcore’, more like melodic ‘punk’] is a strange one because, personally, I had a lot of arguments with Stefano [Giaccone; vocals/sax/guitar]; I never felt that he had quit definitively. Somehow I believe that this thing continues to live and the fruits continue to florish. [Piero: ex-members of ‘Franti’ continued to play together in other bands] So for me it’s not easy to say that ‘Franti’ broke up; even today in reality it’s not true…compared to what I was saying before, we continued to work with this [Piero: anti-commercial attitude] in mind. For example: even ‘Orsi Lucille’ [musical project by ‘Franti’ members 1989-93]; it would have been convenient to release the record under the name ‘Franti’, certainly from a commercial point of view, unfortunately it would have had a different impact, but we absolutely wanted to avoid this logic, to think in these terms. In fact, apart from the drummer, it’s practically all of us [‘Franti’] plus other collaborators.
Luca: …It’s a contradiction: in the end the people are the same and the music has changed but not that much.
Vanni: Yes but you see: it’s not contradictory because somehow some things weren’t right about this ‘Franti’ thing. Let me explain: in practice people put ‘labels’ on us that we didn’t like very much, so somehow re-using the name would have meant living up to commercial trends that today, undeniably, exist and are strong: I knew, paradoxically [Piero: in the late 80s ‘Franti’ repressed all their records in a box-set; this was intended to have a cheap and politically correct price but now it’s very expensive on the collectors-market], that today our box with all the ‘Franti’ material…
Luca: How many copies did you make?
Vanni: 300…and unfortunately Massi, the bassist, argued furiously with Stefano because he claimed that the price was 12.000 lire [nowadays 6 euro] while Stefano, who knew the distribution-game, had set the price at 18.000 [9 euro] for 4 records, which in short…was bullshit even at the time when we did it… Today this box-set has become a rarity and sells for 200-250.000 lire [100-150 euro]: insane! We don’t want this kind of speculation, we preferred not to go into this direction.
Mauro: And being so…‘engaged’ in your collaborations, did you feel a particular atmosphere by setting yourself certain objectives: certain names, lyrics or topics to be treated?
Vanni: No. Usually with respect to the way in which one expresses one’s self, in my opinion, maximum freedom is needed: I mean, one can also sing ‘love’ songs, sentimental songs; the problem is to see how the individual wants to achieve what (s)he has in mind: if (s)he’s working inside the official business, if (s)he wants to stay out of it, if (s)he’s somehow opposed to the pre-existing state of things and then, regarding collaborations, we always gave more importance to the brains of people than to technology. We never gave a fuck if someone played good or bad, oh well, within certain limits of course; however we’ve always favoured the human side: becoming friends or not. In this case: basically this is the way we decide with whom or how or when to do things.
Mauro: OK, but I was referring to those different influences in your collaborations, namely ‘Environs’ on the jazz-side, ‘Orsi Lucille’ on the rock-side, and ‘Franti’ again something else…
Vanni: No. Absolutely not [Piero: they don’t want to be labelled because of music]: it’s simple when you work together of course…
Mauro: (Not to harrass anyone but…to understand…) In this sense I meant atmosphere. You know, with one name you do this, with another name you play something else…
Vanni: No, nothing was planned. When you find yourself having to collaborate with people and if there is no hierarchical division of labour, there’s a kind of alchemy created, a chemical reaction where certain things mix together. I mean: as long as we played together as ‘Franti’ certain things that Stefano played and others that I played, in some way got mixed in that situation. When we got together as a ‘Panico’, others things I had in my head emerged much stronger, they clashed or coincided with what Sergio, Walter and Fabrizio, the old drummer, had in mind. Then (when playing together) the personality of an individual, a colour emerges…
Sergio: Exactly, it’s like putting different colours together, mixing them results in another colour. So, if you put more red or blue you will get green, purple!!! (?!?)
Vanni: As ‘Franti’ there was a lot of discussion regarding the lyrics in English; I was quite against it but Stefano, being born in America and therefore exponent of his own different culture (having lived there up to 7-8 years), instinctively felt the need to express some feelings in English. For example in the last thing he did, Rust Of Keys [LP on Insisheer, 1990] under the name of ‘Howth Castle’, he wrote lyrics in Italian and then translated them into English. You understand that if the problem had arisen within another band, someone would have told him: “Hey, what the fuck are you doing, let’s keep writing in Italian!” and the songs would have been in another way. And this is exactly why there’s no hierarchical structuring of the work, there is no ‘boss’ who gives orders: ‘you do this’ or ‘you do that’. We decide all together, even quarrel, not everything is a bed of roses: there are those who see it black and there’s those who see it white…
Sergio: …And there are those who see it gray!
Sergio + Vanni: Hahaha
Luca: Getting back to the way you were saying before: one of the most beautiful things that can be sensed in what you do, Inisheer or Blu Bus [label founded by the people of ‘Kina & ‘Franti’], is exactly the atmosphere of doing things because you like doing them, because it really means something to you; we find ourselves among friends, we do something spontaneously…we feel it; I believe all those who listen to it, can feel it.
Sergio: Well, this makes us happy because this is the goal why we do stuff. It’s what underlies everything, even of starting to play: the need, the desire to communicate. So what happens very often is that one has intentions and cannot obtain results, in the sense that the problem is also making people understand what you want to communicate without necessarily being rhetorical or using slogans. What we’re trying to do, and I also believe bands like ‘Kina’ or the people you mentioned earlier and who basically have the same spirit, is to attack the levels of communication that exist.
Il Pezzo [Francesco Pezzoli, AZ]: Since you did some songs over again that were already on the cassette [selftitled; 1989] for Scimmie [LP released in 1990]: did you do that because you thought that the message of the tape hadn’t reached enough people, or because you weren’t happy with the recording or just for no particular reason?
Sergio: Basically for the first reason you mentioned: the cassette is a medium that reaches only a limited number of people.
Vanni: For example, about the issue of recording music: there’s the old diatribe: it’s always a problem when you have to decide whether to record or not. Personally, together with the other members of the band, I believe that real music is what you listen to live and that the recordings are always snapshots, so the actual recording always has to be planned in some way, for me it’s a means through which you can communicate different, alternative contents. We recorded focusing on [Rosa] Russo Jervolino law [Italian politician], the law on drug-addiction and drugs in general (as they’re called). [Piero: a law against cannabis-use] When we decided to do this, we combined the two aspects of the problem: being able to reach more people, because the tape from this point of view is limited, and trying to communicate some issues that we liked. Therefore we included the fanzine, the contributions of other groups of anarchists who always have expressed themselves against this law that was strongly desired by [Bettino] Craxi [Italian prime minister] in a “police-repressive” way.
Sergio: We also used the record as a counter-information tool: we worked together with the people who were closest to us, especially from El Paso [anarchist squat & HC/punk venue in Torino; Piero: still active today] and contributed to the release of the record, since this is a co-production. The idea was to put out as many opinions as possible, even conflicting ones. In fact, if you go and read the various inserts of the LP, this becomes clear.
Luca: For example ‘Kina’ [band from Aosta, running Blu Bus recs] and Mister X [D.I.Y. HC/punk label from Pinerolo (Torino)].
Sergio + Vanni: Exactly!
Sergio continues: This also happens within our band. But the problem is to get all opinions out, the problem is not the existence of different positions. This is another matter that we in ‘Panico’ have confronted many times, even when you go play in a different places and you’re confronted with different situations. But all in all the problem is to join forces to move forward.
Vanni: It’s increasingly difficult to do counterculture…
Sergio: …It’s true: it’s increasingly complicated; there are people who’re divided and no longer work together, the last few years [1991!]. That’s negative and the idea of making a broad co-production was also intended in this sense: bringing together more forces.
Il Pezzo: With the demo-tape or rather in the additional booklet there’s info about the R.A.F. [Rote Armee Fraction]. Do you share their ideals or did you just talk about it…?
Sergio: The demo-tape and the record are both co-productions: the booklet of the demo has two parts: in the one half the lyrics, in the other half the contributions by others [Piero: such as the R.A.F. article]. Basically, we don’t share their ideas at all but we ‘trust’ the people who wrote these things since we’ve known them for years. If you read the R.A.F. article, you’ll see it’s a R.A.F. history, no position is taken, at the most one can see sympathy. However, it’s counter-information to let this generation – which is not mine or Vanni’s – know about something that at the time (when we were your age) was discussed. So it’s an attempt to create a kind of ‘historical memory’.
Vanni: We also published this article to say that those people were not monsters but people who were involved in politics and choose a very precise methodology, giving their lives to that end, and be protagonists of history and not just figurants, people who have, as a matter of speech, played all their cards and were then executed: this is the thing to emphasize. They were killed in prison by applying the death-penalty illegally, even outside the bourgeois legality. The real problem is recognizing that there was an armed struggle in Europe, a big political movement, which is being demonized nowadays; we think of those years as the crazyness of a gang of possessed. But in stead they were people who had roots in our society. At that time [Piero: the 70s], 600 people were imprisoned in Torino: all of them knew each other, they were friends, comrades, etc.
[Piero: lyrics to the song Ascolta (“listen”)]
LISTEN, IT’S INSIDE ME, I FEEL ITS WARMTH BETWEEN THE HAIR OVER THE BODY, BETWEEN THE HAIR, IN MY THOUGHTS, IT’S INSIDE ME WITH HIS DESPERATE SMILE
LISTEN, TAKE THE SOUNDS, MAKE THEM SLIDE, LOOK, TAKE THE COLOURS, SPEAK, TAKE THE WORDS BUT CHANGE THEIR SENSE
LISTEN, LET TIME TAKE HIM BY THE HAND, WATCH, LET THE WIND SPEAK, LET THE BRAIN SHUT OFF THE VOICES
[Piero: the text is poetic, about emotions and feelings, it doesn’t have a distinct meaning but very general… the translation is quite literal, everyone can interprete it as they want…]
Il Pezzo: Do you actively participate in the management of El Paso?
Vanni: For a while we tried to rehearse in a cellar under El Paso where there was a good sound. I believe that Sergio is the most knowledgeable about the matter, having participated in the 3 attempted occupations of squats and social centres in Torino and they were always repressed… If you wanna say something (he turns to Sergio…).
Sergio: Well…the history of El Paso is a long story that begins in 1981 when some of us organised the first concerts with bands such as ‘5° [Quinto] Braccio’, ‘Declino’ & ‘Kollettivo’. Around these bands an anarchist punk collective was born (81-82). The first occupation was that of 1983 in a cinema that turned into a ruin shortly after. However, we had already been evacuated, and then others followed when a collective called Avaria had undertaken many initiatives for some time. Then most people went away until the collective was almost dissolved. Those who remained in the collective continued until the occupation of the real El Paso [Piero: in 1987]. In the beginning I participated actively, then slowly I got out of it, mostly because I had a slightly old mentality of doing things and it’s correct that the people who’re there now – who are from 22 to 25 years old – and were very much involved in the occupation (they lived inside the C.S.A. [Centro Sociale Autogestito, self-managed social centre]), took initiatives and things their way. They are actually running El Paso, and I usually do things with another mentality. Another reason for me leaving the collective is that I started working with a few people around me, people that I felt completely at ease with. Now I’m able to do the things I like, as the people from El Paso can do things their own way once the ‘old guys’ like me have moved away. This is how the ‘Panico’ project started for me: I met Walter, Vanni and now Riccardo (the new drummer ). Sure: playing in a band is much different than occupying and running an anarchist squat but I think it’s important that both experiences exist: social centres without bands are like empty recipients.
Vanni: But as far as the people who occupy it are concerned, the squatting thing is very beautiful because by squatting, they try to fulfill their needs: have a home, express themselves…
Sergio: …Of course, this is clear. In fact, there are other important things besides music: political discussions… The important thing is that the tradition of Italian punk is not lost: punk is essentially an instrument, an attempt to communicate. Punk was born, especially in Italy, because it was no longer possible to say anything: the seventies had just ended and the era of ideological disengagement had already begun; [Piero: in the 80s] there was some sort of communication-block that prevented counterculture and favoured compliance with the rules.
Vanni: So it’s right to talk about the political disengagement after after the “years of lead” [Piero: how the 70s are called in Italy: the years of the armed struggle movement], but also about the crisis of the working-class, the lay-offs…
Mauro: …The PCI [Partito Comunista Italiano] that was looking for a compromise with the DC [Democrazia Cristiana] at all costs…
Vanni: Yes, in the end there was this compromise, there was this alliance: what they call ‘Consociativismo’ [Piero: the official alliance between the Communist and Christian parties in the 70s], was in practice the agreement of the establishment, the government, with the executive group of the PCI. No law passed that was not agreed before. Today it has become clear how big the collaboration of Pecchioli [Piero: PCI politician] was with the police, with the secret services, providing them the names of people, groups, comrades of the PCI to try new political paths. In fact Kossiga [Piero: DC politician], who then was minister of the interior, said: “Pecchioli attacks me now but then we were sitting at the same table.”. In terms of repression, what the PCI did in Italy at the time is as serious as the action of the Brigate Rosse [Red Brigades; Piero: armed communist group] who – by choosing armed struggle – destroyed the rest of the movement causing a mass repression by the state. In both cases [Piero: Red Brigades and the state] the repression took place in a very Leninist way: the party takes the leadership over the masses and decides from above on what to do. The Brigate Rosse have decided to kidnap Aldo Moro [prime minister; Piero: killed by the Red Brigades in ‘78] and to strike with this enormous blow of power against the state. While the PCI has has allied itself with the state in an incredible way and in 2-3 years time a desert has been created: the movement was over, everyone in jail… Practically police-repression was followed by layoffs and social repression.
MONKEYS: THEY STAND ON OUR SHOULDERS. EVERYONE HAS HIS/HERS. THEY WEIGH. IT MAKES US VERY COMFORTABLE TO JUST LOOK AT THOSE OF THE OTHERS. MAYBE THE BIGGEST, THOSE THAT TAKE YOU TO YOUR GRAVE, AFTER SELLING EVEN YOUR FRIENDS. THE MONKEY, THE HEROIN EMPTYNESS FOR EXAMPLE, OR THE MONKEYS COCAINE AND ALCOHOL THAT BURN YOUR BRAIN. BUT THERE ARE MORE MONKEYS … THE MONKEY OF POWER AND ITS BUROCRATIC-MILITARY DELIGHTS, THE MONKEY OF TOO MUCH FOOD THAT MAKES YOUR HEART BREAK. AND WHAT ABOUT THE MYSTICAL MONKEY THAT TAKES YOU TO THE CLOSED CONVENT?
WE ARE THE MONKEYS, ANCIENT ANIMALS, THE USUAL OLD STORY, ALWAYS THE SAME.
THIS RECORD IS A CO-PRODUCTION OF IRA [Piero: Torino HC/punk band and label with El Paso people] – BLU BUS (AOSTA & TORINO) – MISTER X – NAUTILUS – PANICO