Il Manifesto review – 11/01/2017 – English version

29 Agosto 2017


This interview was published on the Italian communist newspaper Il Manifesto on 11/01/2017

If you are familiar with DJ Balli, you probably know his output is often over the top, against common sense, and mostly oblivious of any music barrier. But you might also know that his is a well thought out and accurate, although nutty, research. Rancid Opera’s Azionismo Bolognese in Rap (out on his own Sonic Belligeranza) is his last weird project, comprising three tenors–MC PavaRotten, DominGore and CarrerAXE–doing decadent and gory rap on top of Italian opera mashups.

“In the Italian version of my book Frankenstein Goes To Holocaust, I analyse the phenomenon of horror rap, where the rapper hides behind an ultra-violent alter ego. It’s quite a scenographic genre, which oddly reminds me of Italian opera, with its dressed up characters and its (more often than you think) violent arias. Verdi’s Trovatore sports a mother throwing her baby in the fire, a castration pops up in Donizetti’s Lucia di LammermoorLucrezia Borgia gets as far as talking about incests, Jewish people are thrown in boiling oil in Halévy’s La Juive… If the US underground is rapping on necrophilia and Satanism, I cannot but dismiss those themes as quite traditional here in Italy: basically, Italian opera in an advanced state of decomposition. In Fitzcarraldo, Klaus Kinsky wants to bring opera to the Amazon forest: Rancid Opera drags it to the morgue.

Rancid Opera isn’t just about provocation, it’s a project full of obscure symbolisms. You also target opera as a way to talk about Italy and its obsession with outdated cultural goods.

More than opera, we like to talk about rap music, a cultural form which, thanks to social media platforms, is still currently shaping our collective imagination. In our album, we tried to expand its cultural references, from Viennese Actionism to Italian B-movies (one of our songs is a collage of Italian cult director Mario Bava’s film titles). Italian rap is still quite derivative, it apes US street culture: we feel more like opera singers using a language that is spoken by a 60-million tribe.

With Rancid Opera, DJ Balli toys with the grotesque, especially when it comes about live gigs, with all their set of hatchets, blood and necrophilia. It also brings to the fore Morro’s disability (he was born armless) in a B-movie setting of the Belcanto.

Morro is an Italian-Malgasy singer. The idea of being onstage bearchested is his own: he uses his disability as a (very punk) way to provoke, thus making it part of the Rancid Opera apparatus, but in a lighthearted way. His body becomes part of how we communicate onstage, from MC Pavarotten’s growl to MC CarrerAXE wrapped body (a direct reference to the aforementioned Actionism, particularly the work of Rudolf Schwarzkogler), to my warped voice and the videos sampling from opera and Italian gore movies.

In your lyrics, you reference to the clash between the anachronism of a post-Romantic sensibility and the current death-ridden time we live in–I’m thinking about “Turandeath” now–where there is little space for dreaming…

That song is a mashup of Turandot’s libretto, we only rap the original lyrics by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni. The focus is on beheading: we were struck by the fact that Isis-affiliate Jihadi John was a former rapper. Rap music is also used for propaganda. That’s a battlefield, too.