A Chat With Matteo Salvestrini (Chaos Plague)

SL: Hi Matteo, welcome to “The Somber Lane” blog and thank you for giving us the possibility for this interview!
Would you please introduce yourself to our readers?

MS: Hello everyone! Thanks a lot to you guys of SomberLane for this space, this interview and the interest in our work! I’m Matteo Salvestrini: bass player, founding member and main-composer (along with Davide Luraghi) for Progressive Death Metal Band Chaos Plague. I’ve started to play and study electric bass when I was 14 years old, with Matteo Salvi in the beginning, then with Maurizio Dedoni and finally with Pino Saracini, now I’m self-taught but I’m trying to save a little money for some lessons from the great Jacopo Rossi.

SL: Since you’re a founder member of Chaos Plague, could you tell us something more about your band?
When did you found it? And how the band has evolved through this years?

MS: Chaos Plague is a project I’ve had in mind since I was 15 but, obviously, with another name and another musical offering.
I’ve met Stefano Taristano (drums) and Davide Luraghi (guitar) only in 2006, then a very cohesive collaboration was set up in parallel with a very deep friendship that we still share nowadays.
From our love for Technical Death Metal and bands like Cynic, Opeth and Control Denied came the idea to create a band of this genre. So we wanted to start immediately with original songs, absolutely no covers.
A couple of years later we’ve “moved” to the “Progressive shade”, finding our real place. And here we are now!
We had great difficulties to find a stable line-up: we went through several members as guitar player and as vocalists. Now we are definitively stable with Daniele Belotti behind the microphone and Lucio Duca as lead guitarist.
We melt the ’90s Death Metal with Prog aspects from Prog Metal bands like Spiral Architect, Cynic and Twisted into Form.
Let’s say that we want to place our music between Obscura’s “Omnivium” and Cynic’s “Focus”.
It’s not easy, it takes a lot of time and we need to grow up much more…and it’s only one of our targets.
We’re thinking, for the future, to add some aspects from Leprous and Meshuggah, but we will see for the next album, now we’re focused on the incoming first one!

The name Chaos Plague comes from a work of Nietzsche: he introduced himself, in one of his letters, as the “Chaos Scribe”. His strong belief was that Chaos is a unstoppable, powerful yet ungovernable interior strength. An energy that would lead the man who could control it to the “Ubermensch” condition.
“Plague” refers to the uneasiness that afflicts who recognizes the Chaos inside himself but lives in a world where this wonderful gift is constantly wasted and mistreated. It is the pain and the agony of being an outcast because of an inner condition.

SL: Since you’ve mentioned your upcoming first full-length album I’m really curious to hear something more about it. How soon we can expect it to be out?
Is there anything you can unveil?

MS: Eheheh…we’ve to wait a little to hear something from this work. I can tell that Andrea DeBernardi from Eleven Studio will mix the album, he is used to work with Alberto Bollati, Gianluca Ferro and others GREAT Italian musicians. Probably it will be available in the first months of 2015. We’ve had some problems during recordings and this entailed little delay. We’ve been working hard for this album.
You will hear a lot of new material: Chirality, which is present also in this LP, was the starting point for the new compositions. New songs are rich in melody and adrenaline! We’ve experienced many styles to create our own voice. I think that Chaos Plague has evolved so much…and it is in constant evolution! Progressive, heaviest Death Metal and a little bit of Jazz, trust me, it will be very interesting!
There’s an important Italian label which is interested in our music but, for now, that’s all I can tell.

SL: Great, so save a copy of the new album for me! Hahaha
Speaking of you, have you ever played a bass guitar with less than 8 strings?
No, seriously, I’ve noticed that you usually play very strange basses.
Would you describe your instrumentation?

MS: You’re very kind! I’ll save it as the pack arrives!
I know: my instrument generates much interest! I play a 7 strings fretless bass made by SiC Instruments.
It’s a custom variation of his Grizzly model. It’s called “7 Sins”.
Simone Calabrese custom-made this bass for me.
The body is made of bubinga pommelé with an NT neck, made of a sandwich of wengé and flamed maple; the astonishing pick-up was made by I-SPIRA, another great Italian brand, and it’s another custom project, based on my musical demand.
The bass has a progressive asymmetrical neck profile, a little ergonomic miracle…for this feature Simone has gone beyond his limits. It’s a simple concept: I wanted a bass with a very natural sound, great dynamics and a great presence in the mix, in each frequency range.
Simone had made something unique: 7th Sins is THE bass, for me! It can produce a nice, warm and smooth tone or a deep, furious growl only by the touch of fingers! It’s incredible!
The real challenge in the design phase was the seventh string. When SiC told me about this collaboration I’ve immediately had the idea of an instruments with a LowF#,  so the lower string would be usable and audible…it’s perfect!!
But I must thank another Italian artisan (well…of Italian origin!) named Christopher “C3” Cardone: the head of Kalium Strings! Chris is a great American bass player who experiments a lot in music…so he has decided to create his own strings…and, trust me, he produces the BEST strings on the planet! Kalium’s offer is very wide regarding sizes, they offer from 0.008 till 0.252…so…I’m stable on .175 gauge! Pretty large, don’t you think?! 😀

Both SiC and Kalium have honored me by including my name in their artist pages, and I’m very grateful to them!
Even Davide and Lucio are part of SiC artist rooster, we’re very proud to have an Italian brand tied to our art!

People often ask me:<Why 7 strings?> well, is a matter of possibility! Obviously I don’t always use the lower and the higher strings, it would be insane! I use the “central” 5 strings most of the time, but have the CHOICE of playing a note or its octave up, or down, it’s stimulating!
Actually I don’t need 7 strings to play, but I like having them! Many bass players prefer to extend their range over the HighC to gain an HighF. I don’t share this mindset: in my personal opinion, the highest possible register of bass is HighC one, over this point the sound becomes too “acid” and shrill.
I think that LowF# has something “more” than LowB: it has a unique growl and a fantastic way to fill parts. It’s a little bit difficult to use in clean parts but all you need is a smooth touch and it will be perfectly appropriate for every situation!
On the other hand, I found lower strings than F# are unusable, it would be like a Godzilla blurb!
Although, whichever idea I have, there are many great musicians that use these strings. Music is freedom and that’s perfect!

For what matters amplification, I use a very clean Preamp, made by SFX ( another Italian artisan in a foreign country) with a t.c. Electronic stereo equalizer and a P.A. stereo power amp, something like 1000W per channel. The set piece is the cabinet, my last handcrafted Italian equipment: an A.T.S. cabinet! This jewel of technology can give back a perfect sound, with great headroom and punch, with a lot of definition and dynamics. A.T.S. cabinets are made with a great care and “tuned” wood tables: they’re amazing!

SL: So Matteo, who are some bass players that influenced your playing style?
And which artists/bands influenced you as a songwriter?

MS: The first influence of my style is, sure as hell, Jeroen Paul Thesseling. When I’ve listened to Pestilence’s Spheres and I was completely enchanted by his playing as Obscura member, Jeroen gave a great lesson on how fretless bass “should be” played in that genre!
As many fretless bass player, I’ve moved to this type of bass thanks to Steve DiGiorgio’s work. When I’ve listened to Death’s ’93 album “Individual Thought Patterns” I’ve decidms1ed to get a fretless bass and learn to fit it in a Death Metal situation
Years later I’ve took a distance from DiGiorgio’s playing , that has coincided with my discover of Focus, by Cynic, and Sean Malone became one of my most looked up artists.
Several years later Traced in Air was released, and Sean, also thanks to his masterpiece Emergent by Gordian Knot, really became a great source of inspiration, together with Robin Zielhorst too
(impressive on stage with Cynic on that tour!).
Currently, my music frontiers are much wider! I’ve several bass players who inspire me, from many bands and different types of Music: first in line are Thesseling and Malone, Lars K.Nordberg from Spiral Architect, Erik Aadland from Twisted into Form, Emilio Dattolo from Illogicist, Faust and Gory Blister, Andy Marchini from Sadist then I name Alain Caròn, Jaco Pastorius and Rocco Prestia.
But I’m always searching for MY own voice and style!

It’s difficult to describe every aspect and each reason behind each album I’m going to name…let’s say that those are only a few “starting points” for many elements of Chaos Plague’s music:

Omnivium and Cosmogenesis by Obscura, Focus and Traced in Air by Cynic, Spheres and Testimony of the Ancients by Pestilence, Exivious by Exivious, The Insight Eye by Illogicist, Deliverance and Blackwater Park by Opeth, Then Comes Affliction to Awaken the Dreamer by Twisted into Form, A Sceptic’s Universe by Spiral Architects and finally I can name Sadist by Sadist.
And the list could be much longer!

SL: What would you suggest to someone who wants to try and learn to play an instrument?

MS: To learn an instruments is something really precious, invaluable and it enriches life. I think the first and most important feature for studying Music is humility.
Nowadays it’s a common lack in musicians: there’s a lot of arrogance in new generations, I think that the new wave of Metal Core has introduced the idea that the only important thing is to downtune guitars.
Obviously I don’t think that is important only to play tons of notes per riff, but I’m sure that is fundamental to know and study groove as well as harmony!
It’s very important to admit our limits in order to overtake them! It’s just a matter of honesty and dedication.

I think that’s not necessary to play every day, even if it helps a lot, but is important to appreciate and interiorize what you’re studying! So it’s not a tragedy if you can’t play for a one or a couple of days, but if you’re playing a bunch of notes ad you don’t know why: that’s a problem!
Another new slant I’m noting is the obsession for extended range instruments. I see that young musicians want 6, 7 or 8 strings guitars or basses before they can really handle and take advantage of them.
Fortunately this isn’t the majority, so far, and I encourage everyone who’s reading this interview to find an instrument he or she likes, and start this great passion! Love your Music and keep your enthusiasm alive and well!

SL: What do you do for a living if music isn’t your job?
Do you have any other hobby, what do you do in your free time?

MS: I’m graduated in Chemistry but this crisis is a very arduous time…so…
I’d like to say “Music is my job!” but the truth is that is nearly impossible to maintain yourself or a family with music, and a lot of musicians who can do that are barely involved in Metal Music.
Italy is a very strenuous scene for Metal, there’s no REAL support from Italian audience, we’re as fascinated by foreign bands as disinterested in Italian ones. Bands cannot sell their albums and merchandise, and for a pub is really expensive to organize live events.
So this is a vicious cycle: emergent bands cannot grow up, audience cannot know new bands…
Let’s consider also another issue, a problem that I think is not discussed at all: here in Italy there are MANY pubs but FEW live clubs. It’s a subtle but significant difference. A pub isn’t geared to render well a band, it has not the right acoustics and the right space that a live club should have, simply a pub doesn’t have the need to spend money in these features, no wonder that tribute and cover bands work so much. People already know the songs they play, no matter what the quality of the show is or how good is the sound.

I love the instruments world: amps, cabinets, effects, woods, construction. I find stimulating to discover and try new instruments and to experiment with sounds and technique! Even if I think I have found the stable situation for Chaos Plague’s bass sound, I’m on constant survey!
In addition to Music I really like to read a lot of books and philosophy ones are my favourite.

SL: Ok Matteo, unfortunately the interview is already finished. But if you have anything you would say to our readers, your fans, anyone you’d want to thank, well you can do it now.
Thank you very much for your time, it’s been a pleasure to have you in our little somber blog!

MS: Thank you very much to you Somber Lane guys for this interview, I really enjoyed it, and thanks for the opportunity to bring our music here on your pages!
Thanks to whom will read this interview till the end! I hope you will go to Chaos Plague’s official website or Facebook page and listen to our material!
In Chaos Plague’s name, I’d like to thank also Emilio Dattolo and the entire staff of Music Solutions Agency/January Born Killers, friends before coworkers! Obviously I use this occasion to thank our supporters: SiC Instruments, Rotodrum and Kalium Strings.
Last but not least: thanks to our fans!! Your support gives us the energy to continue this adventure, because we put our forces and our passion in our art but only because it’s meaningful to someone! That someone is you all and we’ve very grateful for your support and your patience for this first album!
I’m sure: if you’ve appreciated the EP you’ll love the album.
Stay tuned on our pages for news and details!

Thanks from the bottom of my heart

“Chaos upon Us All!”

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