Our chat with Gippy from Genoa-based label Lanterna Pirata
RP: Lanterna Pirata isn’t just a distro. It primarily focuses on releasing and co-releasing records. By now you’ve helped to put out over 50 of them. How do you choose the records you want to release?
LP: I’ve always assumed that hardcore is not as much a music genre, as it is a way of doing things. There isn’t really something like “master criteria” according to which I choose the releases, but there obviously has to be some common ground in tastes and some form of human affinity with the people who are planning to make a record. Hardcore speaks and it uses the music as an “instrument”, almost as an “excuse” to do so. I’ve always written lyrics for all the bands I’ve played in so far. Maybe the lyrics are usually the part that I notice the most and that I pay the most attention to. I also tend to focus a lot on bands from the Genoa or Liguria area, because it makes it easier for me to follow the whole production process and I also get to know the people behind the record a lot better. Making a record is always an awesome way to get to know each other. This also goes for the people I’ve known for a long time.
RP: Talking with Cocks they told me that you refused to help co-releasing their first EP, even if you were all friends. According to them, it turned out to be a really good move, because the experience of self-releasing their first record taught them a lot about what DIY is about. What’s your take on the story?
LP: Yeah, it’s all true. Completely self-releasing the very first record without any help from the outside is actually a piece of advice I often gave to many bands of friends throughout the years (it recently happened with FRATTURA from Imperia, as well). The reason behind this advice is quite simple: when you are self-releasing a record from start to finish, especially if you’ve just started a band (and you don’t have a lot of money), you pretty much have to carefully consider every single aspect going into its production, distribution and promotion. This rings particularly true for the “physical release” side of things, which is often overlooked, as we live in a digital age and instant access to music is often taken for granted. I believe the process of self-releasing a record is a crucial step in the development and growth of any band, because it leads to a lot of questions and thoughts about what the band actually wants to do and about how they want to do it. It helps them to develop skills and a sensitivity that are absolutely essential for any future collaborations and projects. Looking at Cocks now, it’s safe to say that it all worked out great.
RP: You play in two bands (CGB and LEISFA), you run your own label and you are among the organizers of Adescite Fest. We could say that your life revolves around music. How and when did you first get into punk?
LP: My brother and I were kind of thrown into it, way before we even knew how to read or write, because our parents happened to be (and actually still are) excellent musical terrorists. We were especially raised on records and tapes by the Ramones, The Stooges (Mum has an almost religious devotion towards anything Iggy-related), Kortatu, Dead Kennedys, Rancid and tons of similar great stuff. I’ve later had a phase, where I got to re-contextualize the whole thing in a more “conscious” manner. The environment we lived through at school was full of spoiled rich kids, who sadly inherited their parents’ mentality and were always hell bent on climbing up that precious extra step on their social ladder (getting to know and hate them was quite easy), while we were pretty much the only kids coming from the poorer, low-income neighbourhoods. It really felt like two separate and constantly conflicting worlds, and it was a very alienating experience. Getting into (mainly Italian and American) hardcore punk and especially into its more political incarnations from there was kind of a no brainer and logical, almost physiological response to an environment I perceived as extremely hostile and reactionary. Simply put: It was the perfect soundtrack to say: “Fuck you! I’ll never fit into this!”
I’ve always found it fascinating, how punk and hardcore deal with a lot of crucial issues and topics in a very explicit way, and how they can promote a life that is not based on passive acceptance of our surroundings. They are literally cultural portals that greatly contributed to shaping my way of thinking and being far more than school would have ever been interested in doing. Without some of this music I wouldn’t have approached anarchism the way I did and I probably would have ignored tons of interesting literature they made me hate at school. It’s all a matter of contextualizing.
So yeah, my life kind of revolves around a type of music that is luckily concerned with not being just music. Yet, I could never see my musical activities as a job. I’ve been feeling the need to focus more on other things, lately. One of the best ways to write heartfelt and relevant music is doing other things.
RP: Hardcore punk and music market. Can these two things coexist harmoniously or do you believe some kinds of music should stay independent?
LP: That’s one big question. Let’s say that the mere existence of the (not just musical) market tends to conflict a lot with passion in general. It’s not just a matter of hardcore punk. Rather than coexisting harmoniously I would say they coexist in more or less conflicting and belligerent ways, depending on what you choose to do or say in a given context. The issue definitely goes a bit beyond the discussion about the same old question “what is punk/hardcore?” The massification and commercialization of some “sounds” that took place in the 90s and the more recent digital revolution have been major game changers and impacted the whole musical landscape in ways that aren’t always obvious, especially for people who didn’t experience certain things first hand. I don’t think any of these phenomena have exclusively affected good or bad changes, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find ways of efficiently communicating and surviving, because we live in a world that has undergone a lot of changes in a relatively short amount of time. I feel like today it’s almost as the “fictional narrative” that people are constructing around certain events matters far more, than the way these events did actually unfold in the first place. Telling these two things apart is becoming increasingly difficult. The barrier has blurred and life is far more disorienting as a result.
I obviously don’t have a definitive answer for what “independent” really has come to mean in the year 2019. We have to keep in mind that self-releasing a physical record implies putting out a product into a society that is structured and works like a marketplace, whether we like it or not. So making the record does not disrupt the root mechanisms of our society in any significant way. We have the choice between creating a “product” more or less tailored to “mass audiences”, or completely disregarding the set of values that society considers dominant and creating something completely different and based on different criteria. I’ve always preferred the second approach, because the punk rock I like has always been focused on a political message that is really hard to “water down” and I believe that one of the main things punk should be concerned with is leading to some questioning of our surroundings, encouraging people to oppose capitalist society. There are many different ways to achieve this goal, and there is no universal formula for it, as something that really works for someone could be downright ineffective or even harmful for the next guy/gal, given their different views and levels of sensitivity. There are punk rock bands that have managed to write catchy music while keeping their message intact and not watering it down too much or at all, even if they have made compromises when it comes to record distribution etc… (Anti-Flag and their for Blood and Empire record being the first example I can think of). They have influenced countless people, who previously weren’t even aware of the existence of things like punk rock. However, there are also many bands calling themselves “independent” (I guess someone would call them “indie”) who are putting out a lot of innocuous and complaisant pop music for spoiled kids. I kinda respect the first ones, even if I’m pursuing my passions and my projects in a different way, and I somewhat pity the second ones, as their communicative impact isn’t all that different from the one of the gatekeepers and purity preachers you sometimes meet in the “underground scene”. Summing up: Does “independent music” actually exist in 2019? To which extent? These are definitely all questions well worth asking, but providing an answer can be really hard if we are willing to dig deep enough. There’s one thing I’m fairly sure of: regardless of the music, the “marketplace society” we’re living in isn’t leading us anywhere good and is having devastating effects on what should actually matter most: community.
RP: Tell us about three good albums or Eps that came out in 2019.
LP: I’ve really enjoyed the long awaited comeback record by Ghetto 84 from Bologna. Their new “Ultras Rock’n’Roll” LP is as much of a masterpiece as their previous 1995 Records “A Denti Stretti”(which might just be my all-time favourite Italian Oi! record). Another great record is the debut CD by Fronte della Spirale from Campobasso, who sadly already disbanded. I’m sad I never got to see them play. The tape Ep by Destinazione Finale and the new CD by Minoranza di Uno are also new records that are well worth checking out. When it comes to Lanterna Pirata releases, I’m particularly glad to have contributed to the release of the “4 Fulmini” 4-Way split. It contains four bands of friends that I’ve always deeply admired (5MDR, Losco’s Brigade, Zona d’Ombra and Shameless). The new record by Almenoseimetridaterra is also awesome. It’s a new and very young band from Genoa.
RP: Lanterna Pirata has its 10th anniversary this year. Any birthday wishes?
LP: Meeting cool new people and making cool new records for at least another ten years or more would be terrific. I’d also like to witness the end of capitalism and to see all the cops vanish from the face of the earth. Is it too much to ask? Maybe… One can still dream, though, can’t he?