Monday, March 30, 2020

an interview with Giöbia

Like the film soundtracks of fellow Italians Goblin, the keyboard-heavy psychedelia of Milan's Giöbia has a story to tell - even without lyrics. Since the release of their latest album Plasmatic Idol dovetailed with my growing interest in classic psych, prog and kraut rock, I reached out to the band to find out more about their backstory. Guitarist/vocalist/organist Saffo Fontana was kind enough to answer my questions.

Dreams of Consciousness: Please introduce Giöbia - who are you, where are you from, and how would you describe the music that you make? What does the name "Giöbia" mean/signify?

Giöbia is a band from Milano, Italy and counts four members: Bazu (vocals and string instruments), Saffo (organ, violin, vocals), Detrji (bass) and Betta (drums). Since the beginning we have always played psychedelic music, even if through different genres. When we started playing in the '90s our reference bands were Hawkwind, Gong, Ash Ra Tempel, Amon Duul II or the British bands of Delerium Records scene like Ozric Tentacles, Porcupine Tree, Dead Flowers, Mandragora

Over the years we have experimented psychedelia through different genres and inspirations, from the first album with the current formation with a garage sixties album (Hard Stories), to subsequent productions influenced by progressive, heavy and of course space rock…we are always searching for new and different sounds and we like to experiment with instruments with evocative tones such as oud, sitar, psalter, bouzouki, and darbuka. Two of us are music therapists, so we are used to working with instruments coming from different cultures; one of us is luthier and it is inevitable to try to mix these kind of sounds with the most pure rock...this is our way of making music.

Our name - Giöbia - comes from an ancient pre-Christian festivity celebrated in Northern Italy where a big straw puppet resembling a witch is burnt as a propitiatory ritual towards the forces of nature.

DoC: Please give a short history of your band - when did you form, and what were your goals at the time? How close are you to those goals now?

The band's current line-up was formed in 2007 and the only goal we set for ourselves was to try to be original, and to find a personal way of finding and expressing our identity within the vast genre of psychedelia…In fact we appreciate in particular bands that manage to create an original sound, mixing a proper early 70s hard rock, krautrock, psychedelic and progressive rock sound with some tasteful 60s melodies, among them surely Sacri Monti, Mondo Drag, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats

DoC: Giöbia takes a great deal of inspiration from the progressive and psychedelic bands of the Sixties and Seventies. What is it about that sound and that era that inspires you?

There are so many bands to mention and each with its own particularities embodies one of the many facets of psychedelia: Can, Faust, Tangerine Dream, King Crimson and many others. Our influences are related to the more classic psychedelic bands like Pink Floyd, or ‘60 garage band like The Yardbirds, The Animals, Blues Magoos, The Chocolate Watchband, Kaleidoscope…but also the bands on Delerium Records like Porcupine Tree, Ozric Tentacles...we also like space rock bands like Hawkwind… Since then we experienced and changed a lot over the years ... the only constant was that we are a band playing psychedelia in all its forms. This probably is our vocation.

The aspect of psychedelia that we particularly like is the possibility to escape out of a certain time and a certain economic and political condition: Transcending the here and now to other distant spaces and dimensions, or fall into the most hidden depths of ourselves. We look for a sound that can transform the perception of things, and bring the inner self to the surface.

DoC: You released a new album this past February called Plasmatic Idol. Where was it recorded? What was the writing process like? How would you compare Plasmatic Idol to your previous albums?

Plasmatic Idol was recorded at Trai Studio in Inzago, engineered by Fabio Intraina and mixed at Bazu's house in Milano. The album was mastered in Austin by Brett Orrison (The Black Angels, Jack White...). Initially we worked in our studio in Milan - this time the first idea was to try to make a more progressive album, and we liked the idea of having a more raw and clean sound. We recorded the songs at Trai Studio, starting from a precise idea of sound. In the mixing phase we modified this original idea and we decided to come back to a sound that can be more recognizable, and that we feel is more like the “Giöbia sound” - for example we used a lot of tape delay, and we also added some synthesizers. At the same time, we worked on lyrics to which Melissa Crema contributed a large part, and completed the work.

DoC: What can you tell me about the lyrical themes of Plasmatic Idol?

There’s not a main theme linking the songs or a common thread running through them, although perhaps it can be found by the listener. The themes are events that happen to us in life that lead us to the darker or more hidden side of ourselves, those experiences that must be transformed into something different to be exorcised and can be communicated through the language of images evoked by music .

DoC: The Plasmatic Idol album cover was done by French art studio Metastazis, and features the Hindu god Ganesha. What direction did you give Metastazis for the artwork? How does Ganesha tie in to the themes of the album?

At the beginning we let the artist listen to our music and we chose the graphic elements from his optical art portfolio in black and white that did not include any figurative element. He wanted some more inspiration and asked us if the album for us was more bright or dark, or if it made us think of winter or at the contrary to summer, so we explained him that the tracks are very different but for sure we have a dark side, that in this album we have more progressive tracks than the previous album, like a perfect soundtrack for an old horror B movie - but at the same time we have songs in the 60's style.

When we decided about the title Plasmatic Idol, he suggested to add an idol in the center, something pagan and mysterious, as an "actor" of the scene... we suggested him that about the concept "plasma/ plasmatic" you can think about something very "human" and let’s say “alive” (plasma of the blood/fluid of life) and at the same time something that is connected to a distant and ethereal/ gaseous atmosphere (phenomena such as lightning and aurora borealis, the Sun, the stars and the nebulae all are in the form of plasma). Also in Italian "plasmare" means "to give shape" ...I think that all those considerations helped him to choose the perfect combination of two color, one cold and the second warm, which you can perceive separately as opposites, but which are “shaped” together as in a single psychedelic vision.

At the end we really like the artwork of the cover, it's psychedelic with a strong impact and also a bit disturbing at the same time…

DoC: There is a surrealist/psychedelic video for "Plasmatic Idol" (the song) created by Andrew Knives. What can you tell me about the concept of the video? How did Andrew become involved with the creation of the video?

In this case we have given the artist a lot of freedom, but we have chosen the song "Plasmatic Idol" that we think is quite evocative and that we were sure it could be a good source of inspiration for him because we knew him and we liked his style.

DoC: This will be your first album for Heavy Psych Sounds. How did you end up on the label, and how do you feel you relate to the other bands on their roster?

For a long time Gabriele Fiori asked us to collaborate with him and since we knew Heavy Psych Sounds is an Italian label (while our previous label Sulatron Records is a German label, and we play mainly in Germany and north Europe). We also knew that he works a lot in Europe, so we decided to sign with him. For sure, beside some exceptions such as The Sonic Dawn, we feel quite different from most of his bands, most of them more framed in Stoner Rock.

DoC: Giöbia is based in Milan. What is the scene there like? What would you say makes it different from other scenes in Italy?

Here in Milan, it is not possible to talk about a real psychedelic scene, and the fact that most of the live music clubs have closed in recent years has not helped... since the 90’s, Giöbia has always tried to play psychedelia without ever becoming repetitive, and at the same time we have never been afraid of being continuously involved with new goals and always new inspirations that could stimulate us to give our best. I think we managed to create our original and unmistakable way of doing psychedelia.

DoC: What's next for Giöbia?

After the first European concerts in February/March, unfortunately due to the emergence of the Corona Virus we cannot be sure that we will continue the Plasmatic Idol tour in May, as it was planned; but we think positive, so here are our next shows.

Giöbia on Facebook

Giöbia on Bandcamp

Giöbia on Youtube

Born Too Late:

Episode 117: