Although guitarist Chris Porcianko speaks about another band, "criminally underrated" is a nice label for Vanishing Point, too. For about a decade this Australian act - with Chris, Silvio Massaro (voc), Tommy Vucur (git), Adrian Alimic (b) and Christian Nativo (dr) - has been delivering excellent Prog/Melodic Metal albums in series. Yet in Europe they are still scene underdogs. STALKER needed to find out why.
AC/DC and Crocodile Dundee are perhaps the cliché impressions we have of “down under”... how much is the cliché true, and what is it like for a Metal band in Australia?
We have a growing scene here, in which many bands are now releasing some great stuff on the worldwide music scene, although the Metal scene here is still underground, and while we don´t have our album sales in charts here, we have a healthy scene. Australian bands you may have heard of are The Eternal, Psycroptic, Alarum, The Amenta, Black Majesty, Dungeon and many others, while that is just scraping the surface, there are many bands here that are doing great things. The main problem is the distance to Europe in which it can be hard to save money to tour, we have long distances here as well when we do local tours, it takes 1000 km just to drive from Melbourne to Sydney, which can be a pain in the ass. Still we are grateful for the fact that we are still doing this and have not broken up or gone totally broke - heh heh.
What is the most popular genre?
That would probably be Death/Black Metal, yet we have many melodic Metal bands breaking through, which is a cool thing. Apart from that in Australia there is a lot of attention paid to shit like throw away mass marketed garbage, in which commercial radio tends to wrap itself in, you know, the kind of stuff that sells a product instead of it being a song, which is sad.
Your last names already give the idea of your European origin (Italy, Croatia). So how long have you (your families) been living in Australia? And could you introduce yourselves a bit?
All of us are born here, yet we have family that did emigrate to Australia many years ago, Silvio is from Italian/Sicilian background as is Christian Nativo, Tommy and Adrian are from Croatian background, and my parents came here from Poland over 38 years ago, so yes, we are Australians, yet we are proud of our European heritage as well, we are - as one could say - a band of many languages - heh heh.
Are you full time musicians or do you have to pay your rent doing other jobs?
We all have full time jobs, it´s the only way that a band can survive here, unfortunately we don´t have a government who recognizes the work that bands do, especially within this genre, so funding is extremely difficult, and as a result a lot of what you hear on record came from our own pockets.
Some of us within the band are renting, but a majority of us have mortgages as well, I have a young family now, so I have to work. I don´t think there will be a day when I will be able to live from music alone, unfortunately, so I have to be responsible and provide, be the hunter, hah hah. I´ll be honest with you, we would love to live from doing this, yet we are not holding our breaths, so we just do what we do, but we have to work hard for it.
How much do your European roots influence your music?
I admit that European music does inspire us, considering our backgrounds I would say that over 85% of our music is naturally more European sounding than Australian, but we don´t concentrate on sounding like that, it just comes out that way naturally.
What are your major influences, what inspires you for your lyrics?
Lyrically we pretty much write how things may be for us in our real life, whether it be about negative aspects such as depression and the lack of understanding that comes with it, positive aspects such as love and growth, and even socially aware songs about the way the world seems to be heading towards darker times: Climate change, world affairs with so much conflict going on - we touched upon that in our last album with "Season Of Sundays" and now on the new album with "Hope Among the Heartless" and "Ashen Sky". I don´t sit down and have a page of subjects to write about lyrically, I tend to write lyrics at the oddest of times. So I would say that my approach to lyrics is somewhat spontaneous, I´m not into writing about dragons and all that fantasy stuff, I get more enjoyment out of reading about real life stories, and whether they leave me smiling or pissed off, then I deal with it best by putting pen to paper.
Is everyone of you involved in the songwriting process? How do you create new stuff?
Everyone is involved in one way or another, we all have a say in the songs and musically we create the songs together as a band. When we write lyrics it is pretty much Silvio, Tommy and myself, Tommy has started to write more and more lyrics, which is really cool, and Adrian, our new bass player, has some already for some new ideas for the next album.
Our songs usually start with a guitar riff, guitar melody or vocal melody, we have no set formula, we have always written the music in the rehearsal studio together. Yet for the next album some of us will be bringing more complete ideas/songs to rehearsal from our own recording set-ups we have at home, for the last few months I have been trying to get my head around recording on the computer and so far so good, even for a technologically misled idiot like myself - heh heh.
I tend to write a lot of the lyrics in Vanishing Point, although I do have Silvio playing an active part on how some words or sentences will be in the end, because he has to be comfortable to sing the lyrics, so as a result I have to bend sometimes - heh heh - which, mind you, I have no problem
with, because I truly feel that if everyone likes the song then everyone will feel the song and not just play because they have to. I´m really proud of Tommy´s work lyrically, he has really come into his own and in such a short time as well, he makes something sound so abstract in a certain way, then when I delve deeper into what he has written, it makes sense - which is cool.
”If everyone likes the song then everyone will feel the song and not just play because they have to”
What is the most important song for you on the new album, and why?
That´s a hard question, because they all have a special meaning to me, but I would have to say, at the moment it´s "I Within I ", because of the lack of deep awareness for depression and the total lack of understanding there seems to be about it, swept under the carpet in many instances simply as someone having a shit day. I have friends who suffer from it and in the past I have dealt with it myself as well, so I know how hard, yet positively rewarding it can be to eventually overcome it. The other song is "Ashen Sky", because we as mankind seem to suffocating ourselves and getting closer to eating all the money we can get our hands on, while slowly destroying everything. I mean, who is truly fucking stupid, is it us for letting it happen, the media for feeding us bullshit, or is it just the way it is and we should accept the consequences, I think not
........actually I truly hope not.
The spoken text in “A Day Of Difference” - who is it, from where is it taken? What is it all about?
It´s from the movie "Man Of La Mancha" with Peter O´Toole, I believe, to be honest I don´t know the exact meaning behind it as it was Tommy who put the idea forward, sorry .
Why do you use some Italian words on “Hope Among the Heartless”?
Well, the idea initially happened when I didn´t have any lyrics written for the first verse - heh heh - and Silvio mentioned that he had a cool idea that was in Italian, so he sang the words to me and told me what the words meant, and I thought it sounded great and fresh, so we went ahead with it. Silvio has a good voice, and when he sings with emotion he could tell me bullshit, yet it would sound cool, especially in Italian, which sounds smooth and emotive.
You´ve been in the Metal scene for more than a decade – what has changed in a positive / in a negative way?
I think the positives are many, there are so many bands within the genre that it seems to be more healthy than it ever did before, that now more is accepted amongst the media, and the next generation of fans are flying the flag and carrying on, which is a good sign. I mean, there are so many places to play, if you have the financial support, and many people seem to be living off it, which in a way is positive, I suppose. I really don´t know that much about it, because we still see ourselves as struggling - like we always have - so for us we feel privileged to just do what we do, the only reason we play this music is because we enjoy it .
The negatives, there seem to be many bands just releasing contract fodder each year, just to keep "product" regular, which for me seems to be sad, because some of these bands sound tired in my opinion. Maybe someone will say the same of us, I don´t know, yet I know that perhaps there will come a day when it might not be fun any more, and if that day comes then we will finish - but I can´t see that for a long time, we´ll see where the waves take us.
For us the biggest problem - like for many bands from Australia - is to tour Europe and other continents, because we have to pay so much money from our own pockets to tour, which we don´t have. At the same time when you are signed to a small label, sometimes you don´t get tour support, and as much as you put work into your music it seems that at the end of the day you are still stuck looking at the same studio wall - heh heh - which can be frustrating to the utmost degree.
Unfortunately in this industry there are some business people involved who think that unless you have a certain "viable value" you are certainly doomed, which is fucked if you ask me, because Metal music is about music and the passion behind it, not corporate whoring.
”Metal music is about music and the passion behind it, not corporate whoring”
What is from your perspective the biggest difference between the scene in Europe & Australia? Are the fans also different?
The fans here are no different from Europe in comparison, the only problem we have here is that a majority of our fans are overseas and we try hard to get to them, but no luck so far for the last 5 years - heh heh. In all honesty Metalheads here are like Metalheads in Europe - we like good music, good beer, loud music and a positive release, which is why Metal fans from anywhere - in my opinion - have respect for each other, no matter what language they speak .
How do you define the development of the band since “In thought” (1997, re-released 2006) and “The Fourth Season”?
It´s hard for me to answer that, as I only contributed one song to "In Thought", 95% of the album was already done before I joined Vanishing Point; from "Tangled In Dream" (2000) to "The Fourth Season" I can say that for sure the band has grown as individuals and importantly as musicians, within the music we create, we never have been a band to be over-analytical about what we do, we just do it, and as long as we enjoy it and it sounds fresh to us, then we are happy with it .
What has changed with the new band members (Adrian Alimic, Christian Nativo)? And what happened with the previous members?
Nothing has changed really, Adrian and Christian are two very talented and young musicians who will show us old bastards in the band how to properly play our instruments, hah hah. We haven´t had a chance to write with them as yet fully, but I´m confident with the guys and we all get along well, which is important in the band.
Our previous guys Jack and Joe both primarily left due to family reasons, Jack is now the father of twins and Joe will soon be a father as well, perhaps they were not enjoying playing music anymore, I don´t know, they are quiet guys and maybe I will never know. Nevertheless we are still regularly in touch and I consider them as brothers, we have been through much together over the years, so I have respect for them and their decisions, no matter how hard it was to accept.
What do you think of reality TV shows concerning new Idols or creating a new band?
I don´t think of them at all, in fact the less I think of them the better.
Global connection, Myspace on one hand, downloads and Internet pirates on the other – is the world wide web for you rather a chance or a curse?
It´s a double edged sword in many ways, I think the internet and myspace can be a positive medium for further exposure - we have had many people discover us through myspace - downloading can help a band in terms of exposure, if the band is not known or starting out, it really to me is all like how tape trading many years ago, this time using the internet. But to what degree do they have exposure, who know´s, what I do know is that every time we release an album it has been downloaded a few thousand times even before the CD is on the shelves, so it can be hard to swallow such a pill. I think the whole downloading issue has really screwed a lot of bands up, because at the end of the day it is the bands who seem to suffer the most. I´m all for checking out music, but if you like it, be honest and buy the album - not only will you have the whole legit CD with artwork, you also will be supporting your chosen band who may have the chance to tour your way sometime.
Is there something in the past that you regret, see as a big mistake? Something you felt incredibly lucky?
Of course we have had some unfortunate mistakes and been screwed literally thousands of dollars out of our own pockets, there have been so many - it would be a chapter on the do´s and don´t as a band - heh heh. As a person I have made mistakes and maybe in the past I may have procrastinated over some things which I should have done, yet I don´t really have any regrets, as I believe that everything happens for a reason. I make my own decisions and I don´t take lightly to being told what to do, but hey that´s life, and I´m living it, I have a beautiful and very supportive wife, I have two beautiful children who make me the happiest I have ever been, I have a great bunch of guys I am in a band with, I´m content .
What happened during your worst live show?
I think the worst was breaking a guitar string on the first chord of the first song at the start of a concert - heh heh - to actually having no amplifier working halfway through a concert, when we played in San Sebastian in Spain many years ago, supporting Gamma Ray, my amp shit itself and there was no way it could have been fixed for the last 15 minutes of the concert, so I had to just look like I was playing. I was very pissed off with that back then, but now I laugh
when thinking of it........ and how many musicians would you know who would admit to having to mime in front of thousands of people - heh heh.
If your song is to be used as soundtrack for a panty liners commercial, would you agree?
Umm err you have won the undisputed prize for the craziest question I have ever been asked hah hah - shit I don´t know, maybe Bring On The Rain or Hollow, pardon the irony - heh heh
You have some contacts to Finland (Finnvox Studios, Sonata Arctica covering your song “Two Minds One Soul”) - so how was Helsinki? Which other Finnish bands do you know/like?
It was awesome, Finnish people are very welcoming and polite from the people I have met, I have friends who are Finnish, and they are very sincere people who seem to enjoy their Vodka and swear a lot in Finnish - heh heh. The Sonata Arctica cover was the ultimate honour for us, not only as a band, but also because we became close friends with them. From time to time we hear from the guys, they have a great sense of humour that is similar to the silly Aussie humour we have.
I have many Finnish bands in my CD collection that I enjoy, as I worked in a Metal CD shop in Melbourne years ago. Besides Sonata Arctica and Nightwish I like Before The Dawn - absolutely awesome, a criminally underrated band - Swallow The Sun - I have their "The Morning Never Came" album which is great, very melancholic stuff which I enjoy, then Divercia´s Cycle of Zero album and Mors Principium Est as well. That´s the reason why we had "The Fourth Season" mastered at Finnvox, the sound, the reputation, the quality, words cannot speak highly enough of it.
The most absurd thing that happened to you?
I don´t know, what you may think is absurd I may think is normal and vice versa - heh heh.
Actually when we played with Gamma Ray and Sonata Arctica many years ago in Helsinki at Nosturi, the guys from Sonata Arctica walked on stage during our set brushing their teeth - which I thought was weird in a subtle way - heh heh - nevertheless, when we upped the anti and had Silvio proceed on stage during their set with only a towel wrapped around himself and start to shave, his towel dropped and his bare ass was there for all to see in Helsinki - which was funny, I think his mother saw the photo years later, and being an Italian lady she was not happy - heh heh
Which band would you enjoy touring with? And are you coming to Europe soon?
It would have to be Sonata Arctica, simply because we had alot of fun with them last time. Then again we have played with many bands both in Europe and here in Australia - and we have never had any problems with any bands, so there are many we would like to tour with. We played here with Nightwish in Melbourne years ago - nice people, just honest and hard working - and with Gamma Ray - always like hanging out with old friends, nice guys, we get along great. We just recently completed an Australian tour supporting Dragonforce which was cool as well, nice guys - they like a drink, they swear like there´s no tomorrow and they play well every night - so when an opportunity comes up in the future we would love to tour.
“We hope to find a manager“
So far there are no plans to come to Europe, I´m afraid, but I sincerely hope that we will make it this time, because many people are constantly asking us to come over to tour, but no promoter ever email us. If nothing happens with The Fourth Season for touring, then we may have to change the way we have dealings in the future, and kick some people in the ass. Being so far away sometimes is not only extremely hard, it can be frustrating - the distance, the lack of interest, I´m afraid.
What do you plan in the near future?
We pretty much want to release consistent albums, which we will be doing, plus we hope to find a manager who will be part of the team of Vanishing Point - if you know of anyone out there who likes this type of music, then please let them know. I really can´t say anything else other than we will make more music and hopefully tour overseas more often. Mentioning other ideas could be a little premature, and if they don´t come to fruition then at least we don´t look stupid - heh heh.
We have an “Aussie Bar” in Helsinki, people there said that the famous Fosters isn´t such a good brand... so which Australian beer would you recommend?
I would definitely say: stay away from Fosters - it really is better used for watering the garden - heh heh, actually it has been that long since I had a can of Fosters lager, I can´t remember, I must have been too drunk - hah hah. A really good beer here is Boag´s light, with full flavour brewed in a traditional manner, without all the additives etc. Apart from that a good pint of Carlton Draught straight from the tap at the local pub goes down extremely well, especially on a hot day outside when the temperature hits over forty degrees celsius.
Thanks for the advice, and for the interview...
Thank you sincerely for your time, and please pass on our thanks to the European fans we have, we seriously hope to make it over there for this album - fingers crossed.