NorthGate – Interview

- Can you explain the origins and the career of NorthGate?

The band was born at the end of 1992 from the ashes of the RUINS, which was mainly a post-punk band. I was alone so I changed my name into Northgate and went looking for collaborators, with the precise aim to create a project and not to create a “one-man-band”, because I hate this name! After a short time, I met Anthony Duman (formerly in Monumentum and today in Canaan), who at those times was involved both with his creation “Weltschmerz” and the “L’alternative dramatique” label. We started with the first demo-tapes and to prepare “gigs”. I must say that NG first events were real nightmares! The first LP, “Liturgie pour la fin de la Patrie” was released in 1995 in a limited edition of 108 vinyl copies, now sold out. Years later we decided to re-release “Liturgie…” in CD, with new unreleased tracks added. After a couple of dates in support to the LP, the label was disregarded and NG definitely changed direction. In addition to collaborating with Camerata Mediolanense, NG started a close relationship with “Der Blaue Reiter” (now “U-Bahn Enfant”), which gave a strong contribution to the “electrification” of NG sounds. The following recordings, from “Untergang Europas” to “Psychodrama” show a constant evolution. Despite the labels one can put to define our style, I define it simply “industrial”.


- For what reasons did the band call itself “NorthGate”?

The name underlines something which is constantly “cold” and coming from not reachable places… I surely believe in the diversification of cultures, and I don’t like the concept of “universal music”.

- Apart from you, are there other permanent members in the band? Or does the composition depend on the musical territory you want to explore?

Usually members change according to the musical project, with a lot of people involved. In addition to Anthony Duman, also Elena of Camerata M., the bass Yann and Egon, plus the Blaue Reiter brothers. In addition to me, current member are: Marco Koll (drums), Gustav (guitars), and Electronic Guerrilla (groove box and samplers).

- The album artwork from “Untergang Europas” to the last CD “The Blue Builders” is often signed Monica. Is this person also considered as an “artistic member” of NorthGate?

In a certain sense, yes: she’s very good in graphics. We usually develop together artworks for LPs. I considered mandatory to dedicate her “Monique Electronique”!

- 1994 saw your first tape release with “Statuae Curaeque Coniunctio”. However, the first official NorthGate track “Six Marble Trees” does not appear on this album but only on the “Apocalypse” tape compilation, released the same year. Was it a deliberate choice?

They were recorded in different moments. “Six marble trees” was recorded in 1992, when we used to “camp” in the War Cemetery of Trenno near Milan. “Statuae Curaeque Coniunctio” was released in 1994: we already can talk of an evolution in sounds. I decided to not include “Six marble trees” in the tape because its atmosphere was different with respect to the other songs.

- NorthGate is a formation that existed chronologically before Camerata Mediolanense. What lead NorthGate to collaborate with Camerata Mediolanense on the album “Musica Reservata”?

We can say that it’s like they were two parallel projects. The Camerata was born in 1992 as an ensemble almost exclusively dedicated to percussions, and only later other instruments were added… We first met in 1994, during the recordings of “Musica Reservata”. To tell the truth, in that LP I didn’t perform at all: I was only a friend of Camerata members at those times. But at the end of that year the band changed members. And this happened right when, upon release of the LP, proposal for dates started to come in.
Camerata needed a singer and a percussionist, and I took over both roles: this is how the whole story began!


- What do you reply when NorthGate is presented as a Camerata Mediolanense side-project?

People who follow us closely know very well that they are two distinct projects, and not that one is a side-project of the other. Maybe a lot of people has seen NG live with the same members of CM, and this has created a little bit of confusion…

- You are an eminent member of Camerata Mediolanense and NorthGate; do these two formations (on first view diametrically opposed, musically speaking) have a common musical influence?

Surely in the very first years… today, like yesterday, CM has well-defined cultural and musical influences. NG, after the “warlike” beginnings, have developed a sound targeted to change and to the path of my inspiration sources… one never knows!

- The majority of NorthGate’s older productions are no longer available today, because they were issued as very limited editions at the time. Is a compilation of all these ancient titles planned to allow a new audience to discover your musical evolution?

I have in mind an ambitious project for next year. The release of a double-CD collection, including what I think it’s our best, taken from demos, LPs, compilations, and unreleased works. It will be released for the 10th anniversary of NG: I hope to realize this project.

- Today, how do you look upon the older works of NorthGate?

I don’t understand the artist that dismiss what they have done in the past. I like all my works, otherwise I would never have done them… I can only understand a preference for the live performance of new works instead of old ones… even though I’m used to put old works in the play list.

- How would you like them to be apprehended by a person who would have the curiosity to listen to them?

I would suggest to always try the reverse path, starting from the latest LP to arrive to first works. I’ve done it with some artists and found it is quite interesting…

- “Groina” is in my opinion one of the best NorthGate compositions. A long dark, ambient and ritual soundscape that creates a strange and attractive atmosphere. Can you explain in which conditions this recording took place?

This work was conceived and in part recorded inside the Charnel-house of Oslavia, on the border between Italy and Slovenia. The atmosphere down there is unbelievable, with “presences” conjuring up from the reverberations of your own steps, and it is also very cold. Using a portable recorder I taped the echos that characterize “Groina” (this name comes from the geographical zone where the monument is located) and later on I processed them in studio adding other instruments.


- One can only regret that this CD-R was produced in a very limited edition (35 copies sold with the Italian magazine “Ascension”). Are you considering a re-issue?

It has been a choice, since it is a work that reminds my beginnings. I’d like to reprint it on a picture disc, adding other works from those sessions…

- The last album “The Blue Builders” with its electronic sound will certainly surprise those who appreciated NorthGate’s more industrial sounding compositions. At the same time, it seems that this album perfectly reflects your vision of NorthGate “Nothing is sure for the future, everything is always in constant evolution”. What is your opinion?

I think that “The Blue Builders” is anyway “industrial”, despite the electronics divagations. I think it represents my current state of mind. Which is gray, due to the metropolis and its false inhabitants. Due to my job, I get often the chance to deal with any sort of incredible machinery, and this has generated most of the sound elaborations of the LP. Regarding the uncertain future, I think every day it’s worst. We have to cope with bad people, plagued by the crave for money and power… And even if I’d like to destroy this system, at the end of the day I’m somewhat part of it, with no choice but to fight for the survival of my music… hoping one day I can make a living on it!

- Would you say that “The Blue Builders” is an industrial album, but industrial music in another form?

It is for sure another kind of industrial music, maybe more mechanical… After all, the first forms of this kind were generated from electronic equipments, used by terribly creative artists, who revolutionized the landscape in late Seventies…


- Can you present in a few words “Barbie in der Sauna”?

It’s a project which was born with two friends of mine, Yann (who played drums in NG in 1996) and Dalila, when we took part in the compilation “Trees on oscillation”, where NG were featured with a unreleased track. That kind of grove involved us so much that we went further on the project. We are currently recording an LP, hoping to release it as soon as we can.

- Your last three albums were produced by the label Dirty Inside Records. Is it your own label?

Dirt Inside Records was born as a joke with the “Psychodrama” LP in 1998. After the “L’alternative dramatique” years, surely more refined from the artistic point of view, I had lost contacts with the rough side of the city. During the never ending nights dedicated to the LP, my friends joked at me saying that I was “dirt inside”, which was how the idea of a virtual label came out.

- Will this label produce other artists?

For the time being, we have in sight no more productions than the ones of NG and the newborn Barbie in der Sauna.

- Is there a new NorthGate album in preparation?

I taped some tracks with a noisy Mediterranean character during a short vacation in Croatia, but currently I’m involved with the last work and it’s early to think to something new.

- NorthGate has had the occasion to play live, notably during the last Leipzig festival. Are any other concerts planned during the next few months?

I think we’ll be back on stage in the first months of next year, but for the time being nothing has been planned yet.

- What is your cultural, political and global vision of Europe today? What do you think of the European Union and are you confident as to its future?

I believe European Union is a positive thing, since it is a fusion of rather similar cultures. It’s not like uniting different continents, but nations that have always existed in close cooperation. My political concepts to this regard are extremely futuristic: I never have regrets with the past. My interest for the past of Europe is exclusively cultural and choreographic. My only fear is that the union of nations with different traditions and religions will turn out in too many changes: cultures will eventually mix up too much, erasing any hint of the ancestral heritages of peoples. This is one of the dangers of globalization.

- To what extent could your work with NorthGate be considered as the expression of an attachment to a certain European culture?

I think that our music –especially at the beginning- was inspired to traditions of ancient Europe. A sort of nostalgia was intended also in my overall image and in the way I used to dress. But something did change. Even though I’m always quite tied up with European iconography, at least at an artistic level, I can’t stand the economic speculation which is being made on it. Nowadays one can find awful bands dressed in many different ways, hidden behind the comfortable flag of being part of a political circle, or an esoteric one, or industrial, or –mainly- folk-apocalyctic. These bands try to represent in their texts a vision of an “ethic” already played by hundreds of clones of the very first bands to enter in this sector… Luckily enough, I consider to be very far from such a scenario: when I play I describe what I feel around me… it’s a sort of never ending search, and my appearance is absolutely simple!

- Are there any authors and/or works of art that you consider important and which, in a certain way, can have influenced Northgate’s music?

More than from literature, I think I’ve drawn inspiration from other musicians. After a plain “gothic” beginning, around mid-Eighties, and a visceral passion for Siouxsie and the Banshees (they are unique and inimitable), I approached the industrial scene with Coil, Test Dept, Eisturzende Neubauten, Foetus, SPK, and the sound alchemies of Ain Soph, Autopsia, Nocturnal Emissions, and so forth. To this it has to be added also my passion for new wave, both British and Italian.


- You seem to be particularly attached to Milan. What would make you leave this city one day?

I think I won’t be able to leave Milan. I was born here and it represents a never ending source of inspiration. When I have time I know where to go to find peace and silence, just out of town. But also after a short trip out, I look forward to come back into town. Luckily enough, I work during the night, and I live traffic and hectic schedules in a different way with respect to others.

- What do you think of Internet? In relation to your musical activity, do you intend to privilege this communication and diffusion tool in the future?

I think the Internet is a very important communication tool: anyone can find information on your activity, but only who’s really interested looks for contacts. I now manage all my communications over the Internet.

- Are there projects for an official NorthGate site?

I’m looking for the right people to do it, since I’m not able to do that by myself. You’ll see something quite soon.

- To conclude, the usual Heimdallr question: what albums are you listening to at the moment and what are you reading?

The LP I’m currently playing most of others is “Tomcats screaming outside” by Roland Orzabal (Tears for Fears), and I’m reading for the umpteenth time “The Lord of the Rings” by J. R. R. Tolkien. I know those are two quite different things, but I think also it is a typical symptom of metropolitan psychosis!

Interview: Nathalie F. (October 2001)


NorthGate – Discography:

“Statuae Curaeque Coniunctio”, tape - L'Alternative Dramatique, 1994
“Magenterror”, live tape - l'A.D.1995
“Liturgie pour la fin de la Patrie”, LP - l'A.D. 1995
“Untergang Europas”, split tape with Der Blaue Raiter, self prod. 1997
“Fest der Wandervogel” CD-R live, Operation Miranda, 1997
“Liturgie pour la fin de la Patrie”, CD + extra tracks, Dirt Inside rec. 1999
“Psychodrama”, CD, Dirt Inside rec. 1999
“In Every Dreamhome a Heartache”, CD single, My Castle, 2000
“Groina”, CD single of 35 copies with Ascension magazine, Dirt Ins.2000
“The Blue Builders”, CD Dirt Inside, 2001

“Six Marble Trees” on “Apocalypse” (tape, with Jack or Jive, Lonsai Maikov, Weltschmerz, Kranium... Abyss Records, 1994)
“Archangel” on “Onore Alle Arti” (CD, with Endura, Lautrec, Camerata Mediolanense, Regard Extrême, Allerseelen, Ain Soph... My Castle, 1995)
“Building Area” on “Oktagon The Sampler” (CD, with Camerata Mediolanense, Ain Soph, Argine, T.A.C.... Oktagon Records, 2000)
“Various#Electronics” on “Trees on Oscillation” (LP, with Barbie in der Sauna, bism, H.I.V.+... Divine Comedy Records, 2001)

Side-project (Barbie in der Sauna):
“ Shell Beach” on “Trees on Oscillation” (LP, Divine Comedy Records, 2001)