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Canaan/Eibon Records (Italy) - Nov.2000 « back to interview index

"Brand New Babylon", Canaan's third full length album to date, sees the return of one of the most interesting and creative Italian units.
The band fronted by Eibon Records headmaster Mauro Berchi have gathered a loyal fanbase with their previous two releases "Blue Fire" (now finally re-pressed sold-out) and "Walk Into My Open Womb", which the amazing work achieved with "Brand New Babylon" will certainly not disappoint.
This new album was released by both Eibon Records (on a luxurious leather digipack edition!) and Prophecy Records, and is one of our recommendations from this month's update. Mauro Berchi leads us through a trip into the dark lands of Canaan and tells us a bit about his work with Eibon Records as well, which we are honored to represent via Equilibrium as well.

Could we start with a short overview of how the project came to life and what you had in mind at that point?
Nothing particular I'd say. When we noticed Ras Algethi had no more reasons to exist, convicted in a self-limiting cage, we decided to put an end to the band and start playing in a new project that could allow us a larger freedom in experimenting new ways of composing music. Canaan was officially born in late 1995 as a 3-member band (me, Luca and Matteo). With this line-up we recorded our first album "Blue fire" in 1996. In May 1997 we picked up Anthony Duman (former Monumentum member) as bass player and with this strengthened formation we recorded the double cd "Walk into my open womb" in 1998 and the recently released "Brand new babylon" in March 2000, after signing a contract with German label Prophecy.

Canaan formed shortly after the demise of Ras Algethi, who were much closer to a Doom Metal sonority. Do you still see a link between both projects?
Not really. We do not deny the past, but Ras Algethi was just the first step in the evolution of Canaan, and it must be considered and regarded as such. Anyway, what's past is past, gone and buried, and I see no reasons to concentrate upon it.

Would you consider Canaan somewhat of a follow-up to what you started with Ras Algethi back then?
One thing is for sure: Ras Algethi established the right mental link between me, Luca and Matteo, and as such entitled the birth of Canaan as you all know and hear nowadays. We found ourselves being kindred spirits, and this connection was the one and only base Canaan is built upon. Under a strictly musical point of view, the two projects are miles away from each other in both complexity and depth.

You are also involved in Weltschmerz. Could you tell me a bit about this project and are the other members of Canaan also taking part in other parallel activities?
Weltschmerz is the long-time existing project Anthony Duman formed after his departure from Monumentum. Until a few months ago, it was a one-man band, with all the limitations this brings to composing music. After the successful CD "Symptomes de Ruine", Anthony decided to turn Weltschmerz into a real band, and therefore needed members to complete the line-up. The decision of choosing me came as a natural consequence of our mutual respect and admiration. We are the two Canaan members playing in the band - two other musicians (Andrea on drums and Alberto on keyboards) are completing the rite.

In a biblical sense, Canaan was the land that God promised to Abraham. How does this name adapt to the essence of the project?
In NO sense and NO way. I was fully aware of the "religious" implications of the name when I decided to pick it up, but please take notice that Canaan has N-O-T-H-I-N-G to share with the cancer called religion. I deny the essence of religions, and the band must NOT be misled for any kind of religiously involved people. The choice was rather based upon my love for the German progressive band Amon Dull II, one of whose songs was called 'Kanaan'.

One of Canaan's strongest points is that it manages to appeal both to audiences into the more melancholic spheres of Metal, but also to those into Darkwave or even Ambient-ladden music. How did you came up with this?
The approach simply came out by itself. We never planned anything, and never said: "ok, it would be good to appeal to this and this and this audience". We started playing, and saw things were freely taking a form with space for experimentation and for a melting of different elements. It's just our natural way to convey and freeze feelings in music, and I sincerely don't know how the next Canaan album will sound like. The challenge is open, and the creature is still in evolution.

Are there any particular artists that you would consider as major influences? Names like Monumentum, Lycia, Katatonia, Anathema or Cocteau Twins tend to pop to my mind when listening to you material. Would you consider these to be good references?
Not really. I appreciate most of those bands, but I don't think any of them had a role in consciously influencing us as musicians.

Samplers and keyboards play a very important role in your music. How was the process of adapting to this material after you experience with Ras Algethi?
Keyboards were very important in Ras Algethi as well. Moreover, I have been listening to experimental/industrial music since the early 90s, and this passion of mine clearly showed up when composing Canaan material. As far as I know we were the very first ones trying to mix dark and ambient, and according to the final result, we achieved our aim in a satisfying way.

The ethereal mood in Canaan's music seems to suggest a very peculiar state of mind. How do you achieve this in your composition process?
It is a very strange feeling... Sometimes it's like if our instruments are playing us rather than us playing them. On a more general level, the switch turning on our creative impulses is still unidentified. Quite often alterated states of conscience (either chemically or naturally) are helpful to turn visions into reality, but other times it's just a question of capturing that strange moment when we know exactly what's going on in each others' hearts and minds. And when we succeed it's very gratifying.

There's an inherent sense of isolation and sadness that is quite obvious in your music. Is Canaan your way to deal with these feelings?
Canaan is something more than the usual "band" - aka a group of people playing just to "have fun". None of us play to have fun, but rather to convey inner emotions in music. Isolation (and more in general what is called "depression") always played and still play a very important role in my life, and it is the one and only loyal companion of mine. It is then natural that Canaan's music evokes some kind of "liquid" atmosphere with feelings such as the ones you depicted being predominant. The band has a meaning that words alone can hardly frame. It's more a kind of "lifestyle", if you know what a mean, a closed circle of kindred spirits who try to mantain things under control by sharing images, words and music.

How does your music relates to you as individuals? I mean, do you have an outlook on life as dark and dismal as the one portrayed in your creations?
Of course. I could NEVER play a music that wouldn't reflect myself. We are all dark people, but please do not misuderstand me - I don't mean the childish wanna-be vampires and pretend sons of satan, the spikes and the grotesque corpse paints & pseudo-gothic clothing. We are people with some serious troubles in our working environments, in our interpersonal relationships, in our daily tasks. And these troubles ARE so serious they are conveyed directly in Canaan music, with the band acting like a kind of valve to discharge the tensions we accumulate. Consider the band like a kind of self-exorcism rite directed against all that's negative and all that poisons us.

'Deception' is also a very common word in Canaan's lyrics. Is there a particular event that prompted this or is this generated by an accumulation of different things?
Life is a continuous deception. Of ideals, morals, behaviour, codes, rules, so-called friendship, of your own life. These things slowly pile up inside you until the load is too heavy to be beared. Every small deception accumulates like a single dose of poison. Somebody learns how to take advantage from this slow poisoning. Others succumb. It is still uncertain to which category I belong. (I would say turning it into music is a good way of handling it. - Ed.)

Suicide tends to be a rather comfortable solution when one has to deal with such matters. How do you feel about this option?
I hope you won't mind if I do not comment too much on this. It is a very dangerous subject, as I feel my psychic equilibrium is not strong enough to think deeply about it. I am very vulnerable to many forms of self-inflicted damages, and suicide is one of these.

"Walk Into My Open Womb", Canaan's second album, was curiously a double CD release, which isn't all that common to see this early in a band's career. Why this decision?
While recording "Walk Into My Open Womb" we improvised three tracks we never rehearsed before. We decided to record them with the option of keeping them for a subsequent release, yet they turned out much better than we expected and we then decided not to leave them out of the album as they fitted perfectly the atmosphere and the general concept of "Walk Into My Open Womb". The only way to have all the material released without cutting off anything was publishing a double cd, and this choice came as perfectly natural..... I know the format is unusual, but this is a very positive thing after all, as people tend to remember easily a strange release, isn't it?

Can we talk about a conceptual album in this case or when referring to "Brand New Babylon"?
Both yes and no. If you mean "concept" as a thing based upon a precise philosophical theory or any other kind of generalized behaviour, than the answer is no. There is however a red-line throughout the album that binds all the tracks to each other, and it's a line made of self-deception, pain, isolation, loss. The negative feelings influencing and poisoning me and my life are the guiding line of "Brand new Babylon" and as such I can call it a strong conceptual issue.

There is a fair share of lyrics written in Italian alongside the commonly used English language. We don't really see that often
Once again, all I can say is that we compose music and lyrics in a very impulsive way. Some songs have melodies that adapt perfectly to English language. Some other ones require Italian. Some other ones need to be wordless and completely instrumental. We NEVER plan anything before, but just let words and music come out freely. Italian language is very beautiful and musical, and often seems the perfect choice to complement music...

You have been working with producer Paolo Sannazzaro since your debut album. How important is his contribution for what you've achieved with Canaan's sonority?
Paolo played an important role in our first two albums. He is a very professional sound engineer with both a perfect knowledge of technological means and a very good taste for sound and melodies in general. His help was precious in giving a definitive form to the sound of our previous CDs. "Brand new Babylon" was however recorded and engineered by myself and Luca with the help of a new engineer called Max (who worked mainly on drum sounds). Paolo was unavailable for personal reasons, and we thus decided to go on alone. The result is very satisfying, thanks also to our previous experiences. I do also have a small home-recording studio where we recorded and pre-produced all the samples, and me and Luca have good knowledge of recording techniques and this helped us out in giving "Brand New Babylon" its ultimate form.

"Brand New Babylon", Canaan's third album, is your first on Prophecy Productions after having released the first two on your own label, Eibon Records. Why this move?
Because we were a bit tired of self-promoting ourselves. Prophecy is a good label with a good taste and a good approach to music. When Martin shown interest in releasing the new Canaan album we thought it would be good to try this new way. And so far I can say we are satisfied with how things turned out. We are currently discussing the chance to repress our now deleted first album "Blue fire" via Prophecy as well.

How do you regard this album in Canaan's career, now that you've moved to a new label and all that?
We haven't moved to another label. Our contract with Prophecy was just for one album, so I can't say anything changed drastically in our "career" (?). We consider "Brand new Babylon" as our darkest, most complete and mature work and surely as a very important step in our musical evolution. There will be more in the future, though nothing is sure and nobody knows what will happen in the future...

How has the album been doing so far, by the way?
I don't know. The first 5.000 copies should have gone by now. But you'd better ask Prophecy guys about the album, as "Brand new Babylon" is mainly a release of theirs.

Although you have a complete line-up, there haven't been any live performances by Canaan, if I'm correct. Why is this?
We do not like concerts. We do not like drunk people going to a gig just to "have fun". We do not like performing in front of an audience who is NOT listening to music but just to the chaos surrouding them. We do not like what happens when the MASS gathers. We would accept to play only in the right place, with the right audience and under the right circumstances. Which won't ever happen I guess.

Tell us a bit about the Eibon Records. What's your policy for signing a particular artist?
I sign only bands with a strong personality and only bands whose music appeals to my own tastes, no matter what they play... I'm tired of seeing FAKE musicians being considered masters and I'm sick of seeing CRAP labels releasing hundreds of CDs for the crap human mass, and I'm trying to keep Eibon above the miasms of this MEDIOCRITY.

The label roster is quite varied, hosting some peculiar Metal titles alongside Dark Ambient or Goth/Darkwave artists. Is it easy to work with all these different genres as a label?
Why shouldn't it be easy? (I asked because the distribution outlets might differ for either genres in some places. - Ed.) I release anything appealing to my own tastes, and I don't care how people will react. Those who approach Eibon products generally know of the quality and of the efforts behind each and every release, and even though the stylistical diversity could be initially misleading, those who possess the necessary intelligence to UNDERSTAND and not only LISTEN TO music, discover good music. To my own eyes, there are just 2 categories of music: good one and bad one...

Each of your releases is presented in quite exquisite form. Doesn't this turn things excessively expensive?
Yes. Definitely yes. Though I have a far too strong respect for music intended as ART to care too much about financial issues. My profit margin is reduced to the bone (it also happened me to sell things under cost and loosing money on a release....) yet I don't care, as long as I can enrich my cds with the best possible packaging and material. EIBON is heading toward a full quality approach, and if this means earning no money at all, then it's ok...

To wrap things up, could you tell us a bit about your plans for Eibon in the near future? Is there anything relevant happening in the Canaan field in the meantime as well?
As far as Eibon is concerned, the next releases will be Bad Sector "Toroidal Body" and Murder Corporation "One Life By Murder". Shortly after I'll have the pretty much anticipated This Empty Flow album "Nowafter". As for Canaan, the band is currently under ice until new rehearsals will take place. We will probably start composing new material in the middle of 2001. A new album is 100% sure at this point. Thanks for the interview.

interview by João Monteiro
Mauro - Guitars, Keyboards, Samples and Vocals
Luca - Drums and Keyboards
Matteo - Guitars
Tony - Bass

"Blue Fire"
CD 1997 (Eibon Records)
"Walk Into My Open Womb"
Double CD 1998 (Eibon Records)
"Brand New Babylon"
CD 2000 (Prophecy Productions/Eibon Records)
"Blue Fire (Repressing)"
CD 2001 (Eibon Records)
"A calling to weakness"
CD 2002 (Eibon Records)
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