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14/05/2008 – Interview with STIGMA

At the end of March this year the Italian formation STIGMA (official website) released its debut album "When Midnight Strikes!" via Pivotal Rockordings. I found this an interesting release, in general. You can read the review of "When Midnight Strikes!" at this location. The band plays Deathcore, but with edging more towards Metal than Metalcore, which isn't exactly my cup of tea. The band has shared the stage with many big(ger) names, so that already means something and should help to get the name out.

To know a bit more about this new release and the what/when/where/how of STIGMA, I sent a couple of questions to Stefano 'Vlad' Ghersi, the vocalist, who was very collaborative in his replies, as you can read below. Enjoy and I can only advise you to check out the band and their music if you like a heavy mix of brutality and melody.

Stigma logo

STIGMA... what's the story behind this name?

Well, it came out in one of our first rehearsings. Actually, Morgan was the one who found the name. The main reason behind STIGMA was a sign used in the past to mark thieves as well as a dismissed letter from the Greek alphabet, then we found other hidden meanings that made us to choose that name, like the fact one of our early days favorite guitar players was Vinny Stigma from AGNOSTIC FRONT, so it shall be considered as a tribute too.

Stigma VladYou guys play Deathcore, or at least that's the most appropriate term for your music. Yet the music leans more towards Metal than Hardcore. Did you sort of wanted to combine the best of both worlds?

Yes, totally! We always tried to mix those different types of sound, because they have always been a part of our musical background. STIGMA was born as a old school Hardcore band, mostly influenced by acts like RAISED FIST and STAMPIN' GROUND, and then moved to Death/Grind when Flavio and Stefano joined the band, so when we decided to write our first ep we wanted to write songs that could represent everything we've done till that moment, and so we started to create our own mixture of Death Metal and Hardcore.

Related to the previous question: how are the musical tastes divided in the band? Who likes what?

We are all big fans of melodic death legendary acts as early IN FLAMES, DARK TRANQUILLITY and AT THE GATES, as well as European Hardcore bands like RAISED FIST, STAMPIN' GROUND, MORNING AGAIN and early ARKANGEL. Next to that we always try to listen to many other styles in extreme music, from Black Metal to Metalcore, from reborn Thrash metal to Grindcore. Usually we share music so everyone has the chance to listens to the same things of the others, so we don't have really different tastes. Well, Flavio came from the Grindcore scene and Andrea was into Power things, but now they're not listening to that stuff anymore.

You're signed to Pivotal Rockordings. What made you choose for them and who else showed interest in signing you/the band?

We're very happy and satisfied to work with Pivotal, it's is definetly the best choice we made at that time of our story and the guys are proving us every day that they love our music, as we all do. We got a very odd problem with a rip off by an Australian label, which left us in a hole just two weeks before entering the studio to record "When Midnight Strikes!", so we waited a bit before signing with Pivotal. We just wanted to be sure they were 100% into the project and willing to push it at the best. We got other offers, one of them from a well known European indie, but no one gave us the same guarantees as Pivotal, and once again, we're ready proud of our choice!

Is everyone a self-taught musician or were there any lessons before STIGMA was born?

Well, Andrea and Stefano just stopped to go to music lessons, they've studied hard for like 6 years, I had violin and musical lessons in high schools, but I'm nearly self-taught with vocals, Morgan and Flavio followed lessons a long time ago, but they're mostly self-taught.

"When Midnight Strikes!" has been out since a few weeks. I guess you're very satisfied with the end result, right? Or would you still have wanted to change something?

Yes, we are very happy with it! When we started to write those songs we just wanted to release something done at our best in several subjects: songwriting, production, artwork and video. Considering the budget we had and the fact it's our first album we feel very proud of "When Midnight Strikes!", it's solid, well recorded and with a good atmosphere through the whole tracklist. I have a couple of vocals parts I'd change, but I think it's normal, being perfect is something impossible in music.

When Midnight Strikes! coverThe cover art was done by Davide Nadalin from Nerve Design. How did he get involved? Was this the label's choice or did you already know him?

We already knew him, he lives close to our hometown and we already worked with him in the past. As for the label, we got problems with an American artist who was keeping on not respecting deadlines for sketches, so we realized that we had the best option living 20 minutes from our rehearsing place and immediately called Davide, who proved us he was really into the job and provided us that killer design. We're very happ with it, it really represents the music and the concept, keeping that bit of grotesque because of us as zombies in the front cover.. I love it!

There were also a few guests on the album:
* Tom Zlinsky
* Mike Lunacy
* Alberto Zannier
* Ivan Odorico
Who are they, what kind of bands do they play in and what input did they add to the respective songs?

Tom is the singer of North Carolina's death unit THE CLASSIC STRUGGLE, they have a new album coming out on Metal Blade during summer, check them out cause they rule... He got in touch through the My Space and sent us those sweet backing vocals for "I Am Dracula", I really enjoy the mix between my vocals and his hi scream, it's really savage!! ahah!

Mike is the singer of drama gods DARK LUNACY, they're one of the most respected Melodic Death bands here in Italy and he has been very supportive with us since day one, so it was natural for us to ask him to join me in studio to record the epic "Walking The Fields Of Apocalypse". He has a very unique type of growling and it's perfectly suitable with the mood of that song.

Alberto and Ivan are both from Death Metal masters SLOWMOTION APOCALYPSE, great live band and coolest buddies ever, they both added their touch to "To Be Really Dead... That Must Be Glorious!" and let it become one of the highlight tracks of the album.

A video was shot for "I Am Dracula" some time ago. What was it like and did you have control over the what/when/where/how aspects?

Yeah, we shot the video for "I Am Dracula" last spring and had a great time, even if we had to work 14 hours a day for 3 days in row because of time schedule, eheh! We worked with an Italian director called Enrico Caputo and we told him we wanted to do something suitable with the concept, so we got the permission to use a dismissed church as location directly from the town council and we asked friends, girlfriends and people everywhere to join the shoot... When we realized we needed a Count we asked to my ex-art teacher and he agreed, acting like a killer Dracula in the shoot, as well as Metal Girl, an outstanding break dancer from Belgium, who came and rocked the spot! Considering the budget we had and the fact we had to work with a very limited time frame we're very happy with the final result, everyone should check it out on our YouTube Channel!!

Stigma - bandThe lyrical aspect of "When Midnight Strikes!" is horror-inspired. Do you use films, books, etc.. as material to write songs about or do you take real-life situations to be used in a horror context?

There's no connection between the concept and real life, as those old movies, "When Midnight Strikes!" is just fantasy and parody, nothing more! Yeah, I chose to pay tribute to the early horror cinema because of the common passion we all have for classic movies, and so I decided to start reading again all of the Lovecraft, Poe and King's books as well as watch again all of my favorite old movies like "Nosferatu", the first "Dracula", "The Bride Of Frankenstein" and "White Zombie".

Speaking of the lyrics: is there a sort of red line on the album or does each song stand on its own?

Songs are not connected if is this what you mean, they touch similar subjects and have common atmospheres, but "When Midnight Strikes!" is not a classical concept with a unique story divided into paragraphs, it's just a tribute to all the legendary characters and stories of that time.

Music or lyrics, which comes first?

Music, even if we usually choose what the lyric will speak about and so try to create a link between music, atmosphere and lyrics I'll add in a second time. When everything is ready and fine for everyone in the band we do a rough record of the song and write down some ideas to use for production when studio time will come!

Does each member in the band have his own task or is everything done on a collaborative basis, where ideas from everyone are used?

No, we work as a team and everyone shall give inputs and suggestions on all the different aspects of our sound, from structure, to riffing and lyrical rhytms. We've always worked this way 'cause we wanted to create something that incorporates all of our influences and personalities, and I really think we'll keep on writing songs this way.

For the recordings you worked with Ettore Rigotti. Did he offer you advice or do you prefer to work on the songs until they're fully done and stay with that, without further changing?

He gave us some suggestions, but structures where already set and he was very pleased with them... Working with Ettore has being a very cool experience for us all, because of his skills and his hi professional style of working. We learned a lot and we litterally change our way of playing and working in studio, which is something that gives us better perspectives for our next releases.

"When Midnight Strikes!" has, next to the video for "I Am Dracula", a bonus track: a remixed version of "Epitaph Of Pain". Was this to indicate how you sounded at that time (2005) and how you have grown musically over the years?

Well, "Epitaph Of Pain" have always being a part of our live sets and we decided to feature that song because, as you said, we wanted to let people understand how STIGMA sounded and how their Deathcore sound evolved from Grindcore to what we play today. We still love our old recordings, but when we listened to "When Midnight Strikes!" for the first time we felt like finally we created the music we wanted to do from the beginning, this is definetly the best STIGMA so far, and I can ensure you our next release will be even better!

Do you have tour plans or will you remain in Italy and start touring internationally when the next album is done?

At the moment we're mostly playing here in Italy, we'll finish a first complete run in June and then we'll play in France and Germany during summer time. We're still waiting for confirmations from Spain and UK in the fall, and then maybe yeah, a full Euro run in 2009 is in the schedule!

Italy has many Metalbands, especially in the Power Metal genre. But how does the media deal with Metal? Do you get enough attention or is it mostly via the underground scene that promotion is done?

As in most of other countries metal is gaining every day more attention here, and things are definitely going better for extreme bands in the last couple of years. As you said Italy is known for Symphonic Power and Gothic bands, but I can say we've very hard working and professional extreme bands who are touring hard nearly everywhere, like TO KILL, SLOWMOTION APOCALYPSE and many others. Let's hope things will keep on getting better for Italian Metal, you'll be surprised!

How much time does STIGMA consume for each of you? Do you still have time for hobbies, for example? Can you easily combine it with the studies or jobs you have?

Yeah, STIGMA consumes us half of days, haha, but we all have other interests and of course yes, we combine it with work and university doing a lot of sacrifices, but getting proper support from everyone so things are pretty easy and well-organised at the moment. Morgan works for a beer company, Flavio and Stefano works in music shops and me and Andrea are still in college.

That's all for me. Many thanks for answering and if there's anything I forgot to ask or you want to add, be my guest. Good luck with the upcoming gigs, the work on the next album and any other plans you still have.

Thank u man, this interview has been really cool! We reccomend you to keep yourselves updated on our My Space page and definitely come to say hell-o if we'll play in a town close to you. We've just started the songwriting for our next album and I can give you my word it's going to be badass!! Keep safe!

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