Interview: The Mon
As The Mon, being able to have the guests that joined me in EYE has been surely the most important thing so far.
The Mon, the solo project from Ufomammut lead vocalist, bassist, synth player and founder Urlo is shortly going to release second album EYE and it is an atmospheric and cinematic sonic journey bolstered by a multitude of electronic elements. Ahead of the record release, Gavin Brown caught up with Urlo to hear all about EYE and the process of its creation, working with the various guests that feature on the album and what Ufomammut are up to next.
E&D: Your new album EYE is out soon. How did the process of the composition and recording of the record go?
Urlo: I wanted to do something different from Doppelleben, my first solo record, and I wanted to get away a bit from those dynamics that I had often adopted also for some parts of Ufomammut songs. I wanted to go a little further and to do that, I had to dig into myself. I started with acoustic “skeletons” and then I built the entire record around them. Then I started thinking that I should have involved more people, artists I respect. I started with my partner who sang with me in “Secret” and therefore, happy with the result, I went further by inviting Steve Von Till, CHVE, Sarah Pendleton and Dave W. And now that I listen to EYE, I must say I’m very happy with it. Especially because I recorded almost everything by myself in the room I keep calling my little home studio… hahaha!
E&D: You have already released the track ‘Where’ as the first released from the new album. Do you feel this was the perfect introduction to EYE?
Urlo: I think ‘Where’ is a very representative song for this record. It’s a rather bare, melancholy song, born from a series of chords played on an acoustic guitar and written straight away. There are no guests, it’s just me and I think it was important to use a song like this as a forerunner of the new album.
E&D: Do you feel that this track was the perfect introduction to your new music?
Urlo: Yes, it is. I’ve been playing a lot of acoustic songs lately, trying to create more intimate music. I’ve already written some new songs, having fun with a 12-string that was given to me, an old EKO from the 70s that I’m very happy with. It won’t be the only way, tough. I don’t want to be too boring!
E&D: Can you tell us a bit about the hypnotic video for ‘Where’?
Urlo: I’ve had this calavera doll for a very long time and, one night, looking at it, I thought it was the perfect representation of death, a dressed up and glittery skeleton that looks at us smiling, waiting to pick us up. The lyrics of ‘Where’ are both a dedication to the person I love and a vision of our life, in which all our experiences will inevitably end in a beautiful sleep. I had this macro lens for my camera, I started shooting puppets and this calavera for fun and in the end I fell in love with these images and I decided to create a video clip, and it fitted perfectly to the song.
E&D: Colin H. Van Eeckhout from Amenra features on the album. How did you hook up with him and what does he bring to the track he appears on?
Urlo: I’ve known Colin a long time, I remember we met almost 20 years ago, then we toured together with Neurosis more than 10 years ago and we met from time to time to festivals and gigs around Europe. I’ve always considered Amenra a great and unique live band and Colin is a magnetic guy. Also with his solo project he’s able to hypnotise you. I love his voice, so I needed to ask him if he was interested in being in a song of The Mon, and he did it double, with ‘My Rotten Heart/Into Nothing’ and then ‘To The Ones’, and I’m so grateful to him because he gave so much to these tracks writing the lyrics and singing them with his magic voice.
E&D: You brought out the tracks ‘My Rotten Heart’ and ‘Into Nothing’ which featured Colin at the end of 2021. How was that release received?
Urlo: It was ok, it was just a song, I worked on a video and we released only 200 copies with Supernatural Cat, but it was great, it opened The Mon a little more to the outside world!
E&D: Steve Von Till also features on the album. Can you tell us about his contribution to the music?
Urlo: Steve is what I would call a “Maestro” in Italian. It means “Master”, but also “teacher”. When I asked him if he wanted to be a part of this album, he decided he wanted to do something on ‘Confession’. The song was just the guitars and some synths, a repetitive arpeggio and a final vocals repeating the same phrase. He wrote the lyrics, sang and added synths and atmosphere to the entire track. He taught me some tricks too and it’s been great to share music in this way. He also suggested some ideas for mixing and it was really amazing to have him forging this song with me.
E&D: Are Amenra and Neurosis both a big influence on your music and your outlook as a musician?
Urlo: I think Amenra and Neurosis are great bands, I think they’re 2 of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. I’ve been listening to them since a long time, but my roots and influences are a little different. I love Colin’s voice and Harvestman has been a very inspiring project for me, same Neurosis. What I admire the most is their incredible attitude and power.
E&D: What are your personal favourite songs/albums from those bands?
Urlo: I’ve loved Mass IV of Amenra, and well, picking a record of Neurosis is not easy. I’m surely attached to A Sun That Never Sets and ‘Stones From Me Sky’ is an epic song I love, and the first Harvestman still remains a wonderful album to me.
E&D: The album also features appearances from Sarah Pendleton from Subrosa and The Otolith on violin and and David W. from White Hills on guitar. Can you tell us about their contributions on the album?
Urlo: I know Sarah and Dave since a long time. I’ve always been in love with the violin of Subrosa and Sarah was in my mind since a long time, for The Mon. When I sent her the tracks and she answered me with some ideas I was amazed by what she was doing. The tracks wouldn’t be the same without her violins, I’m so grateful, and Dave did something incredible too. He built carpets of guitars that enter your mind in a subtle way. I will never be tired enough to repeat how much I’m happy about what my guests did for this album!
E&D: Who would you love to work with on a The Mon album in the future?
Urlo: This is a difficult question. I have so many guests I’d like to invite the list would be too long, and well… I don’t want to ruin a possible surprise!
E&D: Did you want EYE to have the same atmospheric and haunting quality as your debut album Doppelleben?
Urlo: I think the 2 albums are different. Doppelleben is in some way linked to Ufomammut while I feel EYE more free. I think this second album is more personal, far from what I’ve done in the past, even if, obviously, still mine.
E&D: The album has a cinematic feel about it as well. Did you want this to come across in the new music?
Urlo: Yes, for sure. I see The Mon a little like a soundtrack for an imaginary movie.
E&D: Would you love to compose music for films as well?
Urlo: I’d love to. I listen to a lot of soundtracks and I love composers like Clint Mansell, Cliff Martinez, Jocelyn Pook, Hans Zimmer, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, Max Richter to name a few. And well, the master of all soundtracks Morricone!
E&D: What are some of your favourite ever movie soundtracks?
Urlo: I love all the soundtracks of Refn movies (Drive, Too old to Die Young, Copenaghen Cowboys), the classic Star Wars, The Road and The Proposal by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, all the Sergio Leone westerns (The Carillon theme of “For a Few Dollars More” is one of the greatest songs ever)… and well there are so many ones to name I would never end!
E&D: What have been the biggest influences on the sound of EYE?
Urlo: Difficult question… I like to create atmospheres and honestly I don’t have a single influence. Some songs were born in a way and then turned to something totally different, for example, and I’m working at bringing The Mon live, thinking it would be interesting to transform the songs in different ways from what they are on the album…
E&D: Do you work in a totally different way when composing the music of The Mon compared to Ufomammut or are there similarities?
Urlo: It’s different. With Ufomammut I’ve just a bass in my hands and a microphone in front of me. Then I’ve Poia and Levre as “additional instruments” and composers. With The Mon I can range between different instruments, starting from a theme and then layering around it. It’s surely a more free process. And I’ve no limits.
E&D: Are you constantly creating music and do you like to keep busy with it?
Urlo: Well, not constantly, but I surely couldn’t live without music. It’s something that is a part of my life and in my blood. I write music for 30 years now, even more. And I want to go on doing it. It’s a way to discover ourselves. And when I don’t write music I work around it with my “real job” at Malleus, the art lab I run with Poia and Lu (www.malleusdelic.com if You want to check). We’re mainly poster artists… but we do album covers, videoclips and such… so music is always the fulcrum of everything, and we also run a small record label called Supernatural Cat.
E&D: What other music are you working on currently?
Urlo: I’m writing music for a Malleus project about tarots.It’ll be a very long term thing, because we’re doing all the Major Arcana as posters and I’ll have to write 22 songs! Then I’m finishing an acoustic project I’ve written last year (I just need to mix it) and I’m working at new music with Ufomammut.
E&D: What do you like to do on your down time to relax?
Urlo: I like to read books and watch movies. Then I love to walk in the nature when I can. I also like to ride my bike, even if I’m a little scared since the accident I had, but I’m trying to overcome my fear.
E&D: Will The Mon be doing any live dates in support of the album?
Urlo: I’d love to. I’m working on the songs to bring them live.
E&D: Would you ever play live with both The Mon and Ufomammut on the same bill?
Urlo: I don’t know… maybe at some festivals. Never knows. Hopefully in different days!
E&D: When can we expect new music from Ufomammut?
Urlo: Very soon.
E&D: What Ufomammut gigs have stood out to you as the most memorable?
Urlo: There’s a been a lot of great and memorable moments with Ufomammut.
Some festivals have been incredible to us, like Roadburn in 2011 or Hellfest several times. I’ve loved a lot of shows and one I always remember is Salt Lake City. There was a small crowd, but it was so loud it was amazing!
E&D: What have been the biggest highlights of your musical career so far?
Urlo: Well, I must say I feel very lucky to do what I do. There’s been lots of highlights. As The Mon, being able to have the guests that joined me in EYE has been surely the most important thing so far.