Calligram Interview

Prosthetic Records

Position | Momentum is the sophomore full-length album from the UK black metal/hardcore band Calligram. It was produced by Russ Russell (Napalm Death). Vocalist Matteo Rizzardo, drummer Ardo Cotones and a special guest fill us in on the new album and other topics.

Chad Bowar: How did the songwriting process for Position | Momentum compare to your debut?
Ardo Cotones: To me the writing for The Eye, even though still laborious and painful as any songwriting process is, was a lot more straightforward because the world was pre-pandemic, and we knew exactly what we were going for. We started writing Position | Momentum with the same vibe, only we knew we didn’t want to write the same record again, but then Covid happened and all the negative shit that came with it. We stopped for however long the lockdown period was and that was enough to put us in this awkward vibe where we no longer knew what we really wanted and there was a lot of changes to songs, and songs being dropped then pulled back in, until we managed to find our feet again a enjoy the process. So the record has all these moments forged into the music. It was miserable, then it was confusing then it put us back on track.

What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
Ardo: I’d recently gotten my driver’s license and decided to drive to the studio. We couldn’t fit everyone plus gear in the car so Smittens and Tim took the Megabus (VERY cheap coaches in the UK, like a Greyhound) to save some money. The coach dropped them off in the middle of nowhere instead of the station. When I went to pick them up there were roadworks happening in this huge ringroad near their location. I couldn’t get to them and each time I made a turn it would take 15 minutes to get back to where I was. The whole ordeal took 3 hours, and it involved me reversing in a motorway and Smittens and Tim walking through building sites with heavy machinery, forests, streams until eventually they we found each other. All the while we told Russ that we’d be back shortly, and he was at the studio waiting until around 1 or 2am thinking we died or something. We laughed, drank some beers and he made me set up my drum kit in the middle of the night so we could start tracking in the morning.

How did you come to work with producer Russ Russell, and how was the experience?
Ardo: We knew Russ from his work long time work Napalm Death and their album Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism” had come out around the time we were finishing writing our album. We were listening to that a lot and loving the production. I decided to drop him a message with some of the demos to see what he thought about working with us and the response was a big F YEAH! So, then it was settled.

It’s super important for us to work with people that are as passionate about what we’re doing as we are and that was absolutely the case with Russ. We clicked instantly and it felt like we knew each other for years. The whole process was just the best fun any of us has ever had in the studio together. Russ understood our madness and was right there with most of the ideas we had. There are some hidden Easter eggs on the record that are reflections of how special those sessions were.

What was the biggest challenge in the recording of the album?
Ardo: There weren’t many challenges, we were prepared, and we always work on the songs a lot before heading to the studio. We had to make some changes on the spot which Russ pointed out weren’t working but the metal gods provided us with wisdom to come up with solutions.

How has your sound evolved from The Eye Is The First Circle?
Ardo: We worked a lot more on dynamics and consciously tried to avoid structures we used in The Eye… whilst keeping the DNA of the band. The faster bits are faster and the slower parts more elaborate.

What lyrical topics do you cover on this one?
Matteo Rizzardo: At first we didn’t really think about making a concept album. We just wanted to write music and lyrics as dark and chaotic as possible. It was after the lyrics were done that we sort of noticed a pattern. Every song, in its own way, sounded like an attempt of celebrating chaos. We were like: “here we go, here’s our concept.” It was like the album itself decided to take its own direction independently. It was pretty cool. Despite what I just said, though, Position | Momentum is not a negative album. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s a celebration, a honoring. Life out there doesn’t make sense at all, everything is chaos, and we absolutely love that.

Have you received any pressure to have English lyrics?
Matteo: No, none at all. Prosthetic Records are absolute legends and back us up 100 percent. Nowadays that “requirement” is dead anyway, hearing bands sing in their own native language is cool, at least to us.

What inspired the album title?
Matteo: Position | Momentum is a concept that comes from quantum physics. It basically says that when studying a particle you can’t know its position and its momentum (its impetus) at the same time. Basically, it’s a paradox. It’s strongly related to the idea of chaos/uncertainty and to the Heisenberg theory and it conveys very well our intentions of exploring the unpredictability of life and the full blown chaos that lies underneath the existence which is what this album is about.

What are your goals and expectations for the album?
Ardo: We hope to tour as much as we can; hopefully get some decent festival and tour offers for 2024 so we can play in front of as many people as possible. The live show is really where people can get what we do, so we hope to be able to take that everywhere we can.

How was the video shoot for “Frantumi In Itinere,” and how did you develop the concept?
Ardo: It was a really fun process working with Billy Howard Price. We also worked with him on “Ex-Sistere,” the first single. He has his unique editing style and that was what we were after; someone that could translate the chaos of the music into visuals. We handed as much info about the album and the songs to Billy and let him make the creative decisions so probably a good opportunity to get his take on it.

Billy Howard Price: Anyone with a discerning eye might notice a few nods to Chris Marker’s “La Jetée” thrown in here. Although this video is far from a slow and reflective meditation on dystopian time travel, I thought it would be cool to reference the look of one of the slowest and quietest films ever made, in a video for a barbaric black metal song with an almost unbearably quick editing style that hurts your eyes to look at. Remains to be seen how successful or pleasant a juxtaposition this has proven, but I hope that this video at least matches the unrelenting heaviness of Calligram’s dense and overpowering music.

What has been your most memorable Calligram live show?
Ardo: Incineration Festival 2022, we played early, opening the Electric Ballroom and were nicely surprised to see 800 people there to watch us.

You have some UK shows coming up. Any plans of North American dates on this album cycle?
Ardo: Not as of now, because The Eye… came out bang on in the beginning of the pandemic, we don’t think it did the job of raising the band profile as much as we wanted, to be able to arrange a US tour off the back of it. Now with the new album we want to see how it does and take that step when we know people will be there for the shows.

How did you get started in music?
Ardo: I personally started when I was 15 after listening to Sepultura’s Roots. I’d never had any sort of contact with the heavier side of music as my mates were all into punk rock but when I was given a little cassette of the Roots album and heard all that screaming, I knew it was what I wanted to do and started to dig deeper to understand what that was. It was hard getting international music where I lived in Brazil, so I went mostly to local shows. There used to be an awesome scene in my region, so it wasn’t very long until I formed a band and started playing shows. To this day I feel very connected to the Brazilian scene because those were my early references.

Who were your early influences and inspirations?
Ardo: As I mentioned, a lot of the local bands in my region in Brazil were my first references but then I started to learn where their influences came from which was stuff like Mercyful Fate, Slayer, Cannibal Corpse and Dark Funeral. I had a strong connection to punk because that’s what all my friends played in their bands so when I discovered Ratos De Porão, who are a vicious mix of punk/hardcore and metal, I was in love, and they are a huge inspiration to me to this day.

What was the first metal concert you attended?
Ardo: I went to see some local black metal bands in my area. I had no clue what any of it was or meant, but there was a band that did a ritual on stage with a little coffin, and they burned some shit inside it, upside down crosses, spikes, blood, the whole lot. I went to see them a few times later and once the singer ripped off a dove’s head and drank the blood onstage. Lovely stuff! If you’re curious, the band is called Dark Paramount and their 1996 demo Yarva Archaeus Daemonicus is available on YouTube.

What are some of your non-musical interests and hobbies?
Ardo: This actually made me think I might need some new hobbies because a lot of the stuff I do outside of the band is also music related. I’m a big fan of word cinema and I’m an audio visual producer for work so I’m always seeking inspiration on that front.

What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
Ardo: Some of the records I’ve been spinning hard lately are Poison Ruin – Harvest, Dormant Ordeal – The Grand Scheme of Things, Burner – It All Returns to Nothing, Anti Ritual – Green, Terrorism, Tenue – Territorios, Liturgy – H.A.Q.Q.

Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Ardo: Thank you for taking an interest in Calligram. If you’ve taken the time to read this then we sincerely hope to meet you on the road at some point. Find us on social media to keep up with what we’re up to. Much love.

(interview published July 14, 2023)

Watch Calligram – “Frantumi In Itinere” Video


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