INTERVIEW & ART:CAST #112 Nicodemo & Volantis

Italian brothers in mind Ale and Vincenzo, alias Volantis and Nicodemo, love what they do with their boutique label Alzaya – which shortly had its fourth release, a six tracker from the duo itself provided with remixes from Bell Towers and Andras – fight passionately to then come up with future defining decisions and approaches for their musical vision. So far it is to be said that the Milan-based artists have succeed, even though the pandemic sort of came into their way when hosting events. However, with their positive mindset and philosophy to expand and extent the consisting Alzaya-cosmos one does not have to worry about the two. In order to gain a deeper understanding of their mindset, the label, their relationship, what connects the both and the label with the scene Torture the Artist spoke to the visionary artists, who do not necessarily use the word to describe themselves and what they do. Additionally Vincenzo and Ale mixed and compiled the latest art:cast episode to provide one with even further understanding of their musical state of mind and being.

We make art because we like it and we have built our lives, obviously also on a professional level, around it.

Torture the Artist: It’s not been too long since your last release, Spaziotempo, was out on your label Alzaya. Spaziotempo is Italian for time and space. Do you perceive music differently during these times and do you feel it’s taking up more space even though the act in-between, the clubs, are closed?

Ale & Vincenzo: We think that looking at the time specifically, this event that involved the whole world has frozen a fundamental part of the music: the sharing. Even the spaces being used have changed and this inevitably affects both the composer and the listener. Despite this, if there was no music, many people’s lives would not be the same. Surely, in this last year and a half, music has developed itself and found a way to be something important with a different point of view; however, it will go back to being what it has always been, all the people who are close to us want to go back to sharing those emotions that only a dancefloor or a listening room can give you. In a few years, we will probably look at the publications of 2020/2021 as a period influenced by some trend, which only by listening to ourselves again in a couple of years we will be able to find.

Milan is a city with a lively artistic ferment and represents the starting point for many prominent personalities of the peninsula.

Torture the Artist: Alzaya is considered a boutique label (https://alzaya.bandcamp.com), which means it’s a label run by artists on major labels but is still fully owned by the major labels. However, these labels are intended to appease established artists or allow them to discover and promote newer artists. Firstly, what’s the ‘major label’ Alzaya belongs or is the term ’boutique label’ more of a reference to the fashion-conscious city of Milan, where you are based?

Ale & Vincenzo: The term “boutique” was used because the idea of the label is to provide a niche product, with the flavor of quality handmade. Milan is a city with a lively artistic ferment and represents the starting point for many prominent personalities of the peninsula. We like to think that Alzaya can become that point, a window on quality producers in Italian electronics. Surely the idea of the sound we want to propose is well-defined and there are many talented artists who would not be in line with the flow we offer; let’s say that the leitmotif of our electronic music is romanticism and the dreamy atmospheres of the past projected into the future.

Torture the Artist: Following the question before, what are ‘newer’ artists that you have discovered because of the label, and have you had more discoveries due to the pandemic as you simply had more time to listen to music?

Ale & Vincenzo: One of the discoveries of this pandemic was a Venetian boy, based in Milan, Acidgigi. He sent us some demos, we caught up and we were amazed at his sound despite being only twenty-one years old. He released his first Eon Alzaya in February, it’s called Hypersomnia and it’s a journey into his sleepless nights.

We would like to expand the roster and involve artists from all over the world, contextualizing them in our catalog and creating some exchanges and collaborations with the artists of the label in Milan.

Torture the Artist: For now, mostly you’ve only released original tracks on Alzaya combined with remixes from the likes of Bell Towers, Nachtbraker, or Andras. Do you see Alzaya as a platform to release your music or consider it a “family thing”, meaning you release music from befriended artists, or to what extent are you open to release music from artists that hit the vibe/ sound of Alzaya?

Ale & Vincenzo: Alzaya started with the need to propose our vision of electronic music, which was born in the studio, without specific references, but alive with many quotes. Nachtbraker was the first remixer because we had the opportunity to play with him several times in Italy and we became friends, so we were able to share with him our music and let him propose his vision. However, we are working with other remixers on the next releases and tons of other music made in Milan: we can say that the next release is a collaboration between Volantis (Ale) and Paula Tape, a longtime friend and collaborator. Of course, we would like to expand the roster and involve artists from all over the world, contextualizing them in our catalog and creating some exchanges and collaborations with the artists of the label in Milan. Luckily, we have always organized events and we are well connected with artists all over the world. We have many projects for the foreseeable future and also some interesting collaborations that we’d love to create.

Alzaya is the label through which we would like to connect our music made in Milan with the rest of the world.

Torture the Artist: The name Alzaya is rather popular in English-speaking countries according to stats from countries where it has been looked up. How did you come up with the name and what’s its meaning?

Ale & Vincenzo: Alzaya is not a personal name, it is the internationalization of a thing: “Alzaia”. The Alzaia Naviglio Grande is the junction point of two rivers in the heart of Milan through which Milan was connected with the rest of the world. In the past, boats came and went from the city and had to pass through there. Metaphorically, Alzaya is the label through which we would like to connect our music made in Milan with the rest of the world.

Torture the Artist: Alzaya is (much) more than a label, it basically combines events, a radio show, and a label. What else could you imagine including into your ‘cosmos’ and what’s your vision for Alzaya?

Ale & Vincenzo: In January 2020 we started to take care of the artistic direction of the Superlove Club here in Milan and we were excited about the experience: the club started very well and we had prepared a beautiful program. Unfortunately, because of the outbreak of the pandemic, this lasted not so long, but we are going to resume that activity as soon as possible. We would also like to develop a line of merchandise, using visual trips, from the designer of the label’s covers, Riccardo Corda.

Torture the Artist: What’s a track that gets any of your parties started?

Ale & Vincenzo: The first track released on our label: Volantis – Nuova Meta

Torture the Artist: As before mentioned you Alzaya combines a lot of fields (of work), what’s everyone’s task, e.g. who curates the music, who schedules the radio shows, who organizes the events, etc.?

Ale & Vincenzo: Everything was born by exploiting our singular and shared skills and let’s say that today we are all well-coordinated on all the activities. Specifically, Ale (Volantis) is the person in charge of the artistic direction and of the studio activities, Vincenzo (Nicodemo) is mainly working on the musical research in all its aspects, both concerning potential collaborators and to future shows. Together we create events and with the fundamental contribution of Luca Martinez, we make connections and develop relationships with other national and international realities.

Torture the Artist: Since you work together in so many fields, you, additionally, produce music together too. This means you do spend a lot of time together. How do you give yourself some rest from each other and does your friendship sometimes suffer from your work relationship?

Ale & Vincenzo: To be honest, since we’re flatmates we’ve become like brothers. Obviously, there are often points of disagreement, but we cannot live without each other for various reasons. We try to stay balanced and every now and then we scream a little to let things cool off, but after a while, we laugh at it.

Torture the Artist: How and when did you meet and decided to take the ‘Alzaya-route’ together?

Ale & Vincenzo: We met during the design week in Milan in 2016. Vincenzo organized a house party on the top floor of a building in the city center and Ale had been invited to play some music. The party was amazing but a little too crowded, about 150 people stopped by, concerned by the weight the terraces were sustaining. From that night, a friendship and an inevitable collaboration were born.

Vincenzo does not compromise on enjoying life. (Ale)

Torture the Artist: Alessandro, what does Vincenzo refuse to compromise on?

Ale: Vincenzo does not compromise on enjoying life. I’ll let you close your eyes and imagine what this means …

Torture the Artist: Vincenzo, how much of a flexible person is Ale?

Vincenzo: We can say flexible is not the best way to describe Ale!

Torture the Artist: Who, except yourselves, would you like to sit in the studio with, and why?

Ale: I am quite interested in a collaboration with Sui Zhen and maybe I’ll text her asking to do something together. Fingers crossed it works.

Vincenzo: I would like to meet System Olympia, a rising talent producer in my opinion, in the studio.

Torture the Artist: As mentioned earlier, for your latest release Spaziotempo, you had Australians Bell Towers and Andras for the remix duties. What’s an artist you’d love to remix one of your tracks and, to turn the tables, who would you like to remix?

Ale: I would love to remix Donato Dozzy and would like a remix by Call Super.

Vincenzo: I would to remix Laurel Halo and would like a remix by Dauwd.

Torture the Artist: What’s noticeable absent in your lives?

Ale: Easy one, it’s sports.

Vincenzo: Water

Torture the Artist: With Milan being a fashion metropolis, what‘s the worst outfit your parents made you wear as a child?

Ale: A brown t-shirt with a Mexican skull. They told me “Honey, this is for your DJ-set tonight…”

Vincenzo: I’m not from Milan and I was always naked on the beach, as a child, in Calabria.

Torture the Artist: Who represents yin and who yang in your relationship?

Ale & Vincenzo: Yin = Vincenzo and Yang = Alessandro

Torture the Artist: Why are you artists?

Ale & Vincenzo: We don’t often use the word artists to define ourselves, we make art because we like it and we have built our lives, obviously also on a professional level, around it.

Words by Holger Breuer