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INTERVIEW: Matteo Di Gioia – Destrage

Progressive metal has really expanded in the last several years and the movement is now decorated with a wide range of bands that push their sonic soundscapes into new and exciting pastures. With a career spanning 12 years, Italian progressive metallers DESTRAGE may not have reached the same heights as some of their peers within the scene, but dig beneath the surface and the Italian five piece offer an expansive and insightful audio experience. Before a show in support to PERIPHERY in Manchester (read our review here) we caught up with guitarist Matteo Di Gioia to discuss the reception to their latest record,  A Means To No End, their approach to song-writing and how metal’s loyal army is the backbone for bands to develop.

So we are coming to the latter end of the tour with PERIPHERY. How has it been for DESTRAGE?

Matteo: It’s been great I must say! It’s definitely been a fun tour to be in!

It’s been all over Europe and the two dates here in the UK, has there been any standout shows in particular for you?

Matteo: Yeah, both shows in Italy were really energetic and I think for us, it’s home and there is a particular vibe in Italy. It’s like people are starving for music and the moment anyone hits the stage you can just feel the energy from the audience!

And touring with a band like PERIPHERY who are leaders of the progressive metal movement, how has that experience been for DESTRAGE?

Matteo: It’s been so great! I must say the level of the musicianship on this tour is unbelievable, I really feel bad about myself! Everybody is so fucking skilled but there is a lot of sharing too! Music wise we are often jamming together and we’ve been exchanging tips and tricks, it’s amazing.

So do you feel this tour has been very beneficial for you as a musician?

Matteo: Yeah, definitely.

Your latest record, A Means To No End, was released last year. There’s been enough time now for fans to digest it, are you happy with the reception for that record?

Matteo: Yeah, I’m quite happy. It’s definitely a tough cookie for many because it is not as energetic as we’ve been in the past and I think it needs a few listenings as a whole, from beginning to end, to really get what we were trying to do there. But yeah, I’m quite happy with the reception, it is definitely pushing us further.

I like what you said there about playing it from start to end because quite a lot of music fans now just listen to singles via streaming…

Matteo: That’s how we considered the transitions from song into another, we really meant it to be like that and some people who listen to it intensively, like on heavy rotation, will go “yeah, you’re supposed to listen to it twice” because it has this circular aspect. When you get to the end you get the same sound at the beginning and you can easily slip into another listening. I think it’s important when you are designing an album, not only writing it but designing the whole package, to think through the succession of the songs. That makes sense and we love to work in that cinematic way, so if you are sitting down and get your headphones on you will get this narrative side to our music.

Was that always the intention?

Matteo: No, when we were writing them they came up in different orders. Then, once you have everything we spent a lot of time focusing on where to put what so it makes sense for a full listen.

So how do you feel A Means To No End holds up compared to your back catalogue?

Matteo: I’m really happy with the music we put there, I find it very mature. But, we can do better and we will do better. I’m not one of those guys who will go “yeah this is the best we’ve done, everything else sucks”, I think everything you do at a certain point in your career has something to say and it matters. It’s like a family portrait. This is what you have in the moment, this is what you put on your records, so definitely we were different people two years ago, even six years ago.

Yeah, so it is just a natural growth really isn’t it? Now, DESTRAGE’s style is quite difficult to pigeon-hole into one sub-genre…

Matteo: We gave up on that!

So for someone who has never listened to DESTRAGE before, how would you best describe your sound?

Matteo: I’d tell them to just come to one of our shows and figure it out yourself. I don’t like to level things, even my thing.

So really the live experience is the best way for someone to discover what DESTRAGE is all about?

Matteo: Yeah, it’s a good thing! You get a lot of energy and if you want to go into a more focussed listen then you can just listen to one of our albums.

I can imagine DESTRAGE have quite a wide range of influences to have such an expansive sound, who would be some of your biggest musical influences?

Matteo: I don’t know right now, I can’t really tell you because each one of us has a lot of influences and they keep on changing! Now, with Spotify it’s becoming addictive! But on the song-writing on this last album I can say that we really had strong influences from ALICE IN CHAINS and QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE. Old material from Mike Patton and my all time favourite Jason Forrest, we also listen to a lot of noise and instrumental music, I’d really suggest people listen to a band called ZU. They are like dark jazz, they’re Italian. I think there is a lot of material everywhere, like if you have your eyes wide open and ears wide open, there is so much!

I guess that can only be a good thing if you have such a wide range of influences?

Matteo: Oh yes definitely.

With DESTRAGE’s career spanning about 12 years, you’ve seen progressive music and heavy music in general expand and develop. Would you say that the metal scene today is in a good place right now?

Matteo: I don’t know, it has some healthy aspects. Like I really do love that people are still supporting the music, this is something that doesn’t happen everywhere. People still go to shows, people still buy CDs even though it is kind of pointless at this time. I realise this but I also understand that people like us do buy music out of respect. This is something that the metal scene has and I hope that it will never change. It’s an active scene, it doesn’t go with hype with a huge following. On the other hand, I think it could use a bit more fantasy. It’s quite a conservative environment, not always, but sometimes it is. But, I am happy to be part of such an environment!

And really just to close off, once this tour comes to an end what’s next for DESTRAGE? Do you have much planned for the summer?

Matteo: Not yet but we are working on it! Then we will see, but many many things will happen but something I really need to do is write more music! I think I could have some time to do it and you never have a private zone on tour where you can just dig into your own thing. It’s always like everybody is with everybody, it’s very difficult to find your focus. But, as soon as I go home I will probably dig myself into that and there’s always time and space to play live! This is something we really like doing.

Well brilliant, best of luck for the remaining dates on the tour, thank you for talking to Distorted Sound.

Matteo: Thank you!

A Means To No End is out now via Metal Blade Records.

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Distorted Sound Issue 24 COVER