Fireworks

Fireworks Magazine Online 39 - Belladonna

BELLADONNA

For a band that have been described as "the most listened to Italian band on MySpace" it really is surprising that Rome-based Belladonna still remain unsigned. Formed by guitarist Dani and sensual lead vocalist Luana back in 2005, the band played a recent promotional show in London to promote their second album release, 'The Noir Album', where Roland Oei caught up with Dani to get some more details.

 

Can you give us a brief history of the band and the highlights of your career so far?

Me and Luana put the band together in early 2005 and at the first we were writing all these songs and we just wanted to record them and play them live.  There was no master plan.  We started doing demos in a rehearsal room and then when we opened our myspace page in 2005 all hell broke loose.  There was this huge word of mouth thing that happened around us so we were forced to release those demos and from there one thing led to another.  One of the songs made it into the ballot of the Grammy Awards in 2008 and it was a big thing for us that lead to many other major things like playing on the same stage as Nine Inch Nails, Korn an Duff McKagan and then we went to the states to record our second album with Sylvia Massy who produced Tool and System of a Down and she was really into our band so we went to her studio in California and recorded our second album there which has just come out in England.

 

What do you think caused the popularity on myspace? Did you have someone actively adding your profile to key sites?

What made it all snowball was when we put our first video on youtube which was Black Swan.  It became really big and this was in early 2006.  One of our fans was saying on her website in a blog, this is just to give you an example, she was saying oh I have taken some videos off my myspace page, including the Belladonna one like Swan, not because I don’t like it but because everybody has it.  It was like everybody on MySpace seemed to have our video.  For no particular reason, I mean I don’t know.  I guess it’s a combination of luck and our music striking a certain chord at that moment in time with so many people.  So we started receiving all these emails and comments from all these people and me and Luana, we don’t have anybody working on it - we do it ourselves, we always take great care in answering every single mail and we still do.  We always answer everybody personally.

 

You are on your own label Belladonna records.  Are you happy to stay that way or are you looking for a major label to back you?

We are very happy to stay on our own.  Belladonna records is just a name.  We had to say something so we just wanted to make it clear that it is our own operation.  It’s not a label as such, we are not signed with anybody.  I mean we would love to be with a label if we find one that is good enough but it’s like we are happy being single and when we receive an offer we will consider it.

 

Did you finance your videos yourself and who came up with the ideas for them?

Some of them are zero budget.  The 'Foreverland' video for the song off our first album we just did it on the mountains in the snow and me and Luana had the idea for the story and we just shot it ourselves and edited it at home.  It didn’t cost anything and most of the videos are done that way.  We are not video makers you know, we are musicians but we know it is necessary like people want to know what you look like and videos are a standard way to present your band and we had a great time doing them.  We prefer to do them ourselves and present the band the way we want to present ourselves.

 

You have come up with your own genre which you have called Rock Noir.  Can you explain what that sounds like?

Yeah sure, when we started recording our songs, we realised that they didn’t sound like anybody that we knew so we felt it was necessary to give it a term, to define it, to describe it in some way.  It’s certainly rock.  It’s not Metal or anything but it is certainly rock.  The Noir thing comes from the mystery, the erotic element that we have in our songs and the fact that many of our songs are like tales, they are stories with characters and something happens in the song like in old folk music.  There’s a big element of story-telling and all the stories have elements of mysteries so that’s pretty much a Noir thing and some stories are like short films and they are very Noir in their content so we thought Rock Noir is an apt way of describing it.

 

What else do you think the music has in it, besides the Rock elements, that makes you stand out from other bands?

For me when I hear a record that I love, I hear the personalities of the musicians that recorded it.  So when someone is doing something that comes from the heart then it becomes unique because the purer you are the closer you are to your own self and the more peculiar it will be, so I guess that’s what makes us unique.  That’s actually the most frequent comment that people tell us, that we are unique, so people don’t really put us in the same record space and we take it as a compliment because it means what we are doing is pure and true to what we are.  We go out of our way not to sound like anybody else.

 

When you recorded the album you didn’t use pro-tools and you recorded the songs live.

Yes, that is something that we really wanted to do.  We did try you know, with Sylvia Massy with click tracks and pro-tools with a lot of overdubs, and she did a great job but then when we heard it, it sounded like an American band. I mean it sounded great but it didn’t sound like us so we spoke with her and said that we would prefer to record it live and she said well I am not sure, so we tried, we just stood in a circle and recorded it live with no click tracks live and it just worked and she was like yeah, this is great, let’s do it this way.

 

Was it harder to record it live?  Were there many mistakes that needed to be sorted out?

It was easier, it was more fun.  If there was a mistake ... like on 'Stairway to Heaven' there is a mistake that Jimmy Page does half way through the song.  It’s on the right channel about half way through the song.  I never noticed until I really studied the song.  When you do a mistake like that it doesn’t really matter.  People don’t really hear it and it makes it more human.  Like our faces are not really perfect, not even Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie are perfect, and it’s the imperfections that make us unique and beautiful.  That is what I believe.

 

You say that you have more fans abroad than in Italy.  Why do you think that is?

I am not sure, maybe it has something to do with the fact that our lyrics are in English?  So they are more easily understood abroad.  In Italy we don’t have a Rock tradition as such, I mean people love Rock n' Roll but they seem to like bands only when they are really big, like Metallica and Iron Maiden, that play big arenas but new bands always have a hard time in getting themselves known.  This is because in Italy the TV is so powerful that unless you are on TV you are not on the map so it’s just a completely different set up media-wise and so people get influenced in a different way to the rest of the world where the TV is not unimportant but the printed media and radios still have a big influence as well.

 

You do most of the writing with Luana.  How does that partnership work as far as writing is concerned.

It varies depending on the song.  What happens is one of us has a snippet of something and then we develop it together.  We do it with guitar and voice or with piano and voice and we finish the song that way, lyrics and everything before we even play it to the band.  If we feel it is strong enough then we go ahead.  But it is all done in a stream of consciousness sort of way.

 

What are the plans for the next year?

Our plans are to do lots of gigs and we are already working on songs for our next album and we plan to record it in the summer for a late 2010 release or early 2011.  We will have to see.

 

Any message for your fans in the UK?

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody for their support which has been incredible and very important for us because we are a do it yourself band and I know it sounds very corny but without our fans we would be nothing.  So we are very grateful and honoured.  I would like to say to everybody go to www.belladonna.tv and they get directed to our MySpace or look for us on twitter or Facebook where we are easy to find and just drop us a line.  We answer to everybody and keep in touch.

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