Still Screaming After Thirty-Six Years: An Interview with Raw Power

A couple months ago, with an almost devil-may-care, casual shoulder shrug, one of my all-time favourite bands in the history of forever, Italian hardcore legends Raw Power, quietly released Inferno, their new and twelfth (or so) full-length album since originally forming in 1981 in the northern Italian town of Reggio Emilia. The more things change, the more they stay the same all around as not only was Inferno released under the radar, but original member and vocalist Mauro Codeluppi is still screaming in his distinctive voice about politicians, war, taxes, injustice, the human crisis/circus and referencing Raw Power’s place in the whole mess. We caught up with Codeluppi via a sketchy Skype connection during which I tried to keep my fan-boy-ism to a simmering minimum while discussing growing old, not giving a shit and the lore surrounding the time they played with G’N’R.

 

Another new album on another new label. Things seemed to be going well with the last album, Tired and Furious and Beer City Records. Did something happen?

Mauro Codeluppi: The thing is is that we didn’t even know if we were going to record a new album or not. With Beer City, the agreement was for one record and we had a verbal agreement that said if we were going to do anything else, the first thing we would do was offer it to Mike from the label. When we decided we were going to do a new album, I spoke with Mike and he said he’d listen to it, but wasn’t sure he would be able to do it for whatever reason. I decided to shop it around anyway. This was all before we had any songs written or anything, just when we decided to actually do a record. It was way before we had anything for anyone to listen to. In the end, when we had the songs, I was already talking to Demons Run Amok and everything they said was fine with me. In the end, we decided to go with them and it was fine with mike. I think mike had a lot of things going on and probably wouldn’t have had the time to work on the record. So, the best option was to go with demons run amok.

 

With Demons Run Amok being based in Germany, will there be a domestic North American release?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. The agreement is that Indie Vox, the label in Italy that did the record in the first place, is going to do Italy and Demons Run Amok has the licensing rights for everywhere else. I can’t remember right now who’s going to do it, but they found someone to release it and it’s definitely going to be in North America. They sent me a list of all the labels in all the countries that are going to be involved.

 

You said that you didn’t know if you were going to do a new album, but when you did decide to, when was most of the writing done and how long did it take?

Well, the thing is that because we’ve never had a record deal with any label for more than one record, we are not under pressure to record anything. Once we’ve done a record, we’re finished and we can do whatever we want. That’s why we don’t have a record out every year or every other year and aren’t touring all the time. We put an album out basically when we feel like doing one. We knew we wanted to do one, we just didn’t know when we wanted to do it. It started about a year-and-a-half ago when we had some ideas and decided to put another record out. The musicians in the band always want to put out new records, the only one who doesn’t want to do new records is me. They want to play new stuff, but I thought as well it was time to do a new one and once we said we were going to do one, we had to get on with doing a new one, not just writing one song every six months or else we’d be waiting for years. We had some ideas and Marco [Massarenti], the bass player, had some riffs and some bits and pieces he had recorded. And once we started, it didn’t take very long at all.

 

The last record was recording in the US and was based around some time spent a couple short tours in the states. Was there a similar thing going on this time?

This one was recorded here in Italy, in Brescia. Indie Vox does a bit of everything; they have their own label, their own distribution, they book shows and tours and do recording. They have a very nice recording studio here in Brescia and it’s about an hour-and-a-half from where we are. Rather than shop around and look for different companies to take care of all these different things, we’ve known the boss of the company for years but we’ve never done anything together. When we had some of the songs recorded, I asked him if he was interested in doing the record and he said yeah. We recorded in his place and it took like five days because we did one day for drums, one day for guitars, one day for bass, one day for vocals then mix it. For us, this was something like a luxury because normally we record everything in two or three days.

 

 

You kind of already answered this question, but I was under the impression that when it came to putting together new material, you being the founding and longest standing member would be the motivator who got everything together. But I guess that’s wrong [laughter].

I think if it was up to me, we’d only do the old songs. Instead, I have to fight with them about putting songs into the set list, but I understand. I do prefer the old stuff because that’s what I like, although the new stuff is very good. Now that we’ve started playing it here live in Italy, I like them a lot more. We’ve done four or five shows and some of the songs from the new album and people seem to like them. Sometimes you play something live and it doesn’t sound right or the same way or as good as it does on CD. The ones that we’ve been doing live sound good and people are enjoying them. You get people pushing us for new records and stuff, but I still don’t think we should be recording every year.

 

Do you find there’s a difference in the reaction from older and younger fans to the older and newer material?

Well, we’ve only played the new songs in Italy so far, so I can’t tell you about that outside of Italy, but here I know older people are happy and enjoy the new songs as well. These are the kind of people who know the old stuff by heart. What I do is go and speak to some of them about it and if they say they’re bad or don’t like them, I listen to them. These are people in some places that I’ve known for thirty years and I know that they wouldn’t lie to me. So, if they say the new stuff is good, then I believe them; if they say the new stuff is bad, then we’d stop playing them. From what I’ve seen, older people like me and young kids are liking the new ones. So that’s very good.

 

You do a fair amount of singing in Italian on this record.

I don’t think we’ve ever sung in Italian before, except for the very first album where there were bits and pieces in Italian, but this is the first time we’ve done whole songs in Italian. This is something because we don’t have to answer to anybody we can do what we want. While I like the idea of singing in English and I think English is the best language for this type of music, because we’ve never done it before, I figured we could try it and see what it sounded like. To me it sounds weird and to me I’m still more comfortable singing in English than Italian. When I sing in Italian, people have told me I sound like a foreigner trying to sing in Italian [laughs].

 

Your new bio says that the title is a reference to the way of the world, how it’s all going to hell. Are you surprised that you’re still singing about, and screaming at, the same stuff you’ve been since the beginning?

I know. Things haven’t changed since 1981 and I don’t think things will ever be improved. The problems that we had in ‘81 when we started are exactly the same today, maybe they’re in different areas of the country or different countries, but it’s still the same. In Italy, things are the same and it doesn’t look like anything is ever going to change here. The things that bothered me when I was young are still bothering me now. Sometimes I think about writing about happy things, but there aren’t that many and there’s nothing really happy to write about. I’m sure there are people who write about them, but I don’t think this kind of music is for that. On the other hand, when we play, it is the happiest time that I have in my life.

 

There are two songs I wanted to ask you about. “Jurassic Hounds,” which is about being old, and “How Many Bands.” Is that one about band reunions or the number of bands around or what?

Well, we wrote about reunions on the last album [a track titled, ironically enough, “Reunions” –KSP], but this one is about how when I go and see bands or we are playing with bands on a festival or something. The bands I generally listen to and keep an eye on are the older bands that have been around before or from around the time we started. I see some members from these bands switching from one band to another or going back and forth from a band they formed to their old band. This is fine, anybody can do what they want, it’s just that sometime it seems like it’s a way to make money. I understand that as well because if that’s your job and what you do for a living you’ve got to make it to the end of the month…but for me, it’s strange seeing one guy in this band, that band, another band and sometimes it seems like a rip off. But if you want to do and that’s how you make a living, it’s your choice. “Jurassic Hounds” is just about being old and being at that age where maybe you should just stop, especially in my case. I do this mostly for fun and it’s tough for me, but it’s a pain in the ass for lots of the people around me. There are people who’ve been waiting for me to pack it in for the last 20 years, but it’s too good to stop and it’s too much fun.

 

Here’s my question. Knowing that you’re going to be playing shows and festivals with these other bands, were you at all nervous about writing “How Many Bands” and eventually pissing someone off you know or would play with?

It all depends on whether we do the songs live [laughter] and we don’t. Oh wait, we do [laughter]! First of all, I don’t care. And I don’t think any of those people are listening to our records anyway. The way I did the song it’s so that it’s not directed at anyone in particular. It’s because there are a lot of people doing this, so if you take offense at it, that’s too bad. But I don’t give a shit anyway, it’s what I think. Anybody can do what they want, but on the other hand, I can say what I want and if you don’t like it, that’s too bad.

 

For years I’ve heard about how on your first US tour, you played with Guns ‘N’ Roses, but have never heard the full story. Obviously, it was a pre-mega-fame Guns ‘N’ Roses, but what happened?

Well, since I heard this, I’ve always been vague about it because I wasn’t even sure if it happened or not. So, when people would ask about it, I would always be, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. If you say so.’ I’ve been hearing about it for years, everywhere. But, a few months ago somebody did some investigating at the club where it was supposed to have happened and confirmed that it happened: the same night we played, Guns ‘N’ Roses played as well. What happened? I don’t really remember, especially because when we started touring the in US, we would play shows where there would be ten other bands on the bill and a lot of the time I never managed to see most of the other bands because we were doing other things or we would be at the bar when the bands played. But now it’s been confirmed that we did play with Guns ‘N’ Roses, but I didn’t see it. I was at the bar.

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