D//E Interviews: Confrontational

Massimo Usai's creative persona as Confrontational last year delivered our favorite synthwave album of 2016, Kingdom Of Night, the middle entry in an ongoing trilogy, the last part of which we cannot wait to hear when it's ready, possibly later this year.

Massimo answers our few questions about him and his craft brightly and thoroughly, and provides much interesting insight about the mystifying enigma behind Confrontational.

Read below and enjoy his music and videos through the players in between...

What's the earliest memory you have that involves music?

Probably the earliest I get to remember is cruising in the car with my parents when I was around three or four. Tina Turner was playing on the radio, and the song was a live version of The Best. I clearly remember focusing on the different parts of the track for the first time in my life, specifically the pulsing bass riff that works throughout the song for mostly on the same note. I remember I had this wild idea that each time a song got played, the artists were actually performing live from the radio station, like each performance was actually broadcast specifically for the people who'd tune in at that specific moment.The second earliest memory is seeing Michael Jackson's THRILLER video, probably around the same time. If my warped memory serves me correctly, I saw it at the theater right before Snow White played, that special double billing they had around the time they put out the cartoon in a new remastered version (early eighties anyway).

How would you describe your own sound?

Dark retro wave. A dream within a dream.

Is there another kind of career you would ever attempt to pursue besides music?

Directing, maybe acting, or writing scripts. Something to do with cinema, or words. I love working with words and writing lyrics is something I really enjoy because, in a way, you get to create a story for each track, and paint a broader picture within a full length album.

Your album earned a well deserved entry in our Albums Of The Year list. Which 2016 albums did you enjoy most, regardless of genre or style?

I'm very thankful for that! Here's my short list: John Carpenter's LOST THEMES II, Unity by LUDRIUM, The Shape by DANCE WITH THE DEAD, No Hard Feelings by HANTE, Machines of Desire by PETER BAUMANN, Station Nova by WAVESHAPER, Inverted Grasp of Balance by MONTE PITTMAN, X - No Absolutes by PRONG. These artists are all pushing the boundaries of music in their respective fields and own ways, and I am excited to be making music in the same frame of time. I feel like my work gets influenced and inspired by their persisting passion.

Branca Studio from Spain, mostly known for their doom and occult designs, are responsible for the amazing artwork of your albums so far. How do you feel about the parallels between synthwave and metal? Do you listen to metal yourself?
BRANCA STUDIO is nothing short of amazing. Pol is by far my favorite designer of these times, for sure, and I am beyond grateful to be working with him. I feel great about the parallels - in a loose way, I feel it's a continuation of the same genre. The same dedication from crowds in the underground, the same DIY mentality and attitude. It's a world I feel a part of. Of course I still listen to my faves: SADUS, Judas Priest, old school Sepultura, Cavalera Conspiracy, Kreator, Prong of course...

In an ideal world and apart from artists whom you have already worked with, whom would you imagine as the perfect people to collaborate with?

Ooooh... random order... Noelle from DAMONE, Meg Myers, Lauren and Teddy from Cruel Youth, Adrien and Franck from Carpenter Brut, Tommy Victor from Prong, Elliot Easton from THE CARS, KK Downing from Priest, Marty Friedman, Vincent Feit, Fabio Frizzi, Daniel Davies, Chrome Sparks, Tying Tiffany, Peter Baumann, Claudio Simonetti, Nile and Johnny Marr, Disasterpeace, The Raveonettes... dream list, I know - but there are so many artists I'd love to work with.

Do you think there are any significant differences between European and American synthwave?

I'm not sure about that. It seems like most of the European kind is more directly influenced by the French Touch, and the American kind is more directly involved with metal. But then again, it's really all mixed up - take for instance DAN TERMINUS, who admittedly treats his synths like heavy guitars. I love this reversal of roles. It's exactly how I approach a lot of my guitar playing, making my SG sound like a synth, or an electronic bass, but also keeping room for arpeggios and a little riffing. I think synthwave is an open gateway to personal interpretation.

How's the scene doing in Italy?

Live shows are hard to come by, sadly. But the recording scene is wide. We have MASTER BOOT RECORD who is tearing up everything apart, a total revelation. There's ORAX, Cosmo Cocktail, Vincenzo Salvia, the guys from Sunlover Records and a few others. But sadly I don't see a lot of shows happening here so far. And obviously things are even more messed up in my island, Sardinia. We're kind of in a vacuum, even though I recently played a surprisingly well received couple of shows, at FLORIO in Cagliari, and NEW KISS in Sassari. So I don't know, who knows what's gonna happen in the next few months? It feels like globally it's a good time for being into the eighties.

You must be hearing a lot about your work's cinematic qualities. What's your relation to film and film music?

The very first recording project I worked on, in 1998, was a soundtrack to a script I was hoping to turn into a movie back since when I was 14. I'd recently seen DAWN OF THE DEAD, and ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, so I wrote this kid story about an invasion of living dead in a small town school. George A. Romero and John Carpenter influenced my start into getting creative first hand. Growing up, cinema kept me sane throughout a rather lonely childhood, so I love the medium and I consider it a big part of my upbringing.

Is composing for film or video game music in your future plans?

There's nothing I'd enjoy more. I'd love for that to happen and I am trying to move in this direction too, trying to spread the word that I am available for projects like these.

What should we expect next from Confrontational?

I already have most of the final album in the trilogy written. I'll take a little while to make sure the songs are the very best I can come up with. And in the meanwhile I hope to play live as much as possible, with my brother Juan on the Simmons drum kit. I've been listening to a lot of old school stuff on vinyl lately - The Cars, James Brown, Nona Hendryx, The Smiths - and it's influenced and revitalized my guitar playing and my aching to play drums. I've been jamming live with some friends and it's helped me keep my interest in playing fresh, intricate phrasings that I enjoy playing at the same time. I'm digging deep into rhythm and I think this will seep into the new direction, even tho I am definitely researching within the atmospheres of my previous works.

Also, we're working with BRANCA STUDIO and BRONSON RECORDINGS on the LP for KINGDOM OF NIGHT, which is due out for pre-orders in a few months if all goes according to plan. Keep on checking on confrontational.net for updates.

Pre-order Confrontational's A Dance Of Shadows on vinyl

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