Asia Argento: Rock-n-Roll Suicide

Asia Argento talks with All Andorra about her latest musical projects

Asia Argento is mostly known to the mass audience like an actress and a film director. Having artistic roots from her great-grandfather- the well-known futuristic composer Alfredo Casella, father – famous horror movies creator Dario Argento, and mother – actress Daria Nicolodi; had a huge impact on Asia’s development. She started appearing in movie’s since she was 9 years old and played in a few during her teenage years as well. At the end of the 90’s, Asia started as a multi-language actress with roles in American movies like Michael Redford’s “B. Monkey” and Abel Ferrara’s “New Rose Hotel”. In 2000 she made her debut as a film director with a very sincere movie using autobiographical tunes named “Scarlet Diva”, in which Asia also played the main role. In 2004 she directed her next film “The Heart is Deceitful Above All things” where she also played a role. The last film directed by Asia “Incompresa” starring Charlotte Gainsbourg , was released in 2014 and happened to be the critics favorite and one of the most noticeable premiers during the Cannes Festival.

During her many years spent in the movie industry, Asia showed her ability to be organic in different genres, starting from roles in big action or historical block busters like “XXX” or “Marie Antoinette” to more art-house oriented, European movies like “Go Go Tales”, “The Last Mistress” and “Obsessive Rhythms”.

Besides acting and directing, one of the Asia´s main passions in life is music. Being a serious record collector and a music lover since her childhood years, Asia has taken part in collaborations with many musicians. She recorded tracks with various big artists such as Tricky and Placebo, and collaborated a lot with less famous but not any less interesting people from experimental and underground circles. In 2014, Asia Argento released the album “Total Entropy” which summed up her best musical works to that point. Asia also occasionally plays DJ sets at different kinds of events in which she shows her unusual musical taste to the public.

All Andorra was lucky to arrange an interview with Asia Argento. Asia told us about her new exciting project “Rock-n-Roll Suicide”, DJing, her favourite collaborations, directing musical videos, as well as what she is focusing on in her career at the moment and her views on performing in Andorra.

Interview: Dmitry Tolkunov

Hi Asia! Thank you for finding time to talk with us. We have noticed (while checking your social media before the interview) that you are having a lot of DJ sets in Italy now. Anything else interesting happening in your musical world?

Yes, I can say that at the moment I’m very into different musical projects and enjoying them much more than movie jobs. I play a lot of DJ sets, do different types of gigs, more electronic ones for dance night clubs, and more mish mash for venues with eclectic musical policies which I enjoy most of all. Besides my DJing, I started a project called “Rock-n-Roll Suicide”. Basically it is focused on finding promising new rock-bands and giving them a possibility to play and to get more attention and publicity in order to help them start their careers. I want to bring good rock music to dance clubs.

The thing is that there are a lot of good rock bands in Italy as the scene for them is not big, so usually they play in really small live music venues. I can’t promise the bands that will be involved in my Rock-n-Roll Suicide events big record deals or that they will be in the charts, but at least I can guarantee them attention and a chance to play live for a big audience, which is really important for a young band. When I DJ in Italy, usually a lot of people come to see me. I haven’t launched “Rock-n-Roll Suicide” officially yet but I’m going to do it in the next few weeks, but we already did a first test event around Christmas in which a band that is going to have a residency on my nights played live and I joined them for a couple of songs and DJed after the show. 2000 people came to see it, it was a big success that showed how this model can work. I already have an offer for a monthly residency of Rock-n-Roll Suicide night in one of the best clubs in Italy – Tunnel, in Milan. The first event will be on Feb 1.

So, you will have one house band that will play at each event?

There will be one resident band that will perform at every party, a young band from Rome called Red Bricks Foundation. Actually I’ve been in touch with them since I was working in the jury of Italian X-Factor. I chose them for the show as I was responsible for the bands there and they were kicked out just after I left the project. I think the thing is that they were not well looked after in X-Factor since I left as they were asked to perform unsuitable covers for their musical style. And the music they play is really great and a kind I like, it’s really noisy and punk style. I really want to help them and feel some kind of responsibility towards them.

But also on each night there will be some new band presented and I’m scouting now intensively in Italy for new talent.

I like them and feel some kind of responsibility towards them

So the live part of Rock-n-Roll Suicide events will reflect your taste in rock music and your DJ set will continue this rock vibe?

Well my sets there don’t mean to be 100% rock. I would prefer to be more eclectic in them and to play different music genres – rock, funk, hip-hop, electronic. I enjoy playing these kind of sets most of all and the idea of Rock-n-Roll Suicide is not to create a rock event, but to bring good rock music in to dance venues.

It sounds very inspiring and we wish you luck with the project! You have been involved in so many musical collaborations, do you have some favorite and most memorable ones?

I’ve been doing music for a long time, since I was 25 with many musicians and done stuff in different styles – psychedelic, rock, techno, downtempo. Probably one of the most memorable collaborations was working on music together with Anton Newcombe from one of my favorite bands Brian Jonestown Massacre. He is a real musical genius, he can play every instrument and he taught me a lot, it was a pleasure to work with him. But I learn a lot from each musician that I have worked with and the main thing for me is to learn not to be afraid of my own voice.

Anton Newcombe is a musical genius, it was a pleasure to work with him

From the musical collaborations that I’ve done recently the ones to be mentioned are my cover version of Suicide’s song “Dream, baby dream” that I have done with my long-time friends, a French band that is based in the UK –The Penelopes. It will be released on their next album. And my work with Indochine, a French band, that is very big there and is even said by some critics to be the Depeche Mode of France. I’ve done one single with them called Gloria, it went platinum in France and Belgium, it was my first platinum record, and took part in a few shows with them this summer which were really big – for around 20 000 people. Also I directed the video for Indochine’s song “La vie est belle”, it’s kind of extreme like most of the things that I’ve directed and became very popular – it had more than 8 000000 views on Youtube.

It’s kind of extreme like most of the things that I’ve directed and became very popular – it had more than 8000000 views on Youtube

Do you have any plans to direct some more musical videos in the near future?

Nothing is confirmed at the moment. The problems with directing videos nowadays is that there is very little money in this industry if you want to shoot something really unusual and underground like things that I like to do. A typical example could be a video that I made for The Pop Group not so long ago. I have been their fan for many years and was really glad when I heard that they were having a reunion and felt honored when I was asked to direct a video for them. The budget for the video was around 1000€, it’s a kind of situation when you ask everybody to work for free. The video was shot in my garage where my daughter and her classmates played, and I did all the lighting and make up for it. I’m still really happy that we did it, but prefer more well-paid jobs. And if we talk about some musical videos with bigger budgets, usually it is something very pop and mainstream which is not my cup of tea, and I have much less artistical freedom in those cases.

The budget for the video was around 1000€, it’s a kind of situation when you ask everybody to work for free

Actually the last thing I directed in music were some visuals that were used in Loredana Berte’s show projections. Loredana is a famous Italian singer, she is quite poppy, but I like her spirit and have directed a few videos for her before. The images that I chose for her projections will maybe be reworked into a video eventually, but I’m not sure at the moment as Loredana is touring right now.

Loredana is quite poppy, but I like her spirit and directed a few videos for her

As a person from with a background in cinema but who was always very involved in music, have you ever had the opportunity to produce music for the movies you were directing?

I’ve created some melodies for my last movie Incompresa, but mostly it was a job of putting together the movie’s soundtrack. The movie takes place in 1984 and the goal was to find some music that reflects this time, but weren’t the hits of that time, but something more unusual, because mainstream music in the 80’s was mostly horrible and very commercial. It’s a little bit like my DJing, I’m always digging for something rare and forgotten.

 

It would be interesting to know about your musical roots – how has your taste developed over the years?

I have been into music since I was a child and my first heroes were Elvis and The Beatles. I remember how I saved some money to buy their records. Then hip-hop came in to my life when I was teenager, as I was also really influenced by punk and metal and at the same time by techno which was very popular in Rome at the beginning of the 90’s. I was a raver and went to all these raves. I think I was lucky enough to witness the birth of different genres and it really exploded my brains and gave them extra gigabytes and the capacity to observe different musical styles.

And I still love to buy records. Actually, I have never bought music digitally. I don’t even have Spotify. I’m not a very materialistic person, but I prefer to have music as a physical object and really love all my vinyl records and keep them in a good state. And this is why I love DJing, it gives you the possibility to play all your favourite records for people.

So, do you prefer to play vinyl when you are DJing?

Yes, I like the sound that vinyl produces and I don’t use a computer in my sets – only vinyl and CD’s. A few years ago finding a working vinyl player was a problem in some of the clubs and I had to play CD’s instead of vinyl when these players were not available. But now it seems that vinyls are back and I don’t come across these problems anymore and I’m really happy about it.

You have been DJing for many years and have been in different situations – at sophisticated private events and in big techno clubs. Do you have any memorable and funny stories of your gigs to share?

One of the stories was incredible. I was DJing in Rome at the concert of one of my most favourite industrial bands, Throbbing Gristle. They had a reunion tour after many years of silence. It was a big show, around 5000 people came and Throbbing Gristle did two sets there and asked me to play a set in between them. I was really puzzled when I was selecting records for this set and thought what the hell will be right to play between two Throbbing Gristle sets… I ended up playing a lot of Lou Reed, psychedelic music from the 60’s and 70’s and early techno tracks. It seemed that the crowd didn’t enjoy my music, it was rude and aggressive, and people started to throw things at me! And I was really punk at that time, so I showed the crowd the middle finger and really didn’t care much about their response to my set, because Genesis P-Orridge from Throbbing Gristle who invited me to play was sitting in the booth during the whole set and hiding from the beer cans that were being thrown at me. So I had already gained respect from my favorite band and that was enough for me. And when I came home after it I realized that it is even good to get hated for the kind of music that I played. It means that in some way I’m pushing the right buttons when provoking such a reaction. At least it was very negative but an emotional response. And to get people happy and make them dance during my sets is not my goal.

Have you ever been to Andorra and what would you think about the possibility of DJing here or performing one of your musical projects?

I haven’t been to Andorra yet. But I’m really up for performing and discovering new places. So if there was ever a possibility to perform in your country, I would be happy to take it up.

We will be happy to see you in Andorra someday too and really hope that it will happen!