We interviewed them on our second issue and in just ten days they will be here in Seattle when their first US West Coast Tour will start. Do yourself a favor and, if you live near one of the nine cities that will be invaded by these pizza eaters, go see them live.
If you haven't gotten your copy, and you should fix that now, here's the full interview to introduce you to this punk rock powerhouse.
Lake Como is known all over the world for a few things, but I'm pretty sure punk rock ain’t one of them. This misconception is about to change. A handful of bands are fighting tooth and nail to keep the punk rock flame alive and kicking. If you already know Temporal Sluts and Faz Waltz, you are on the right path to redemption. For over 12 years these four juvenile delinquents spread their gospel all over Europe, and finally they got what they deserve: Dessert. Ladies and Gents, I present you the Undisputed Fat Rock Heavyweight Champions of the world. The Leeches. Here are their adventures according to Massi, singer and bass player in the band.
Interview: Miguel Basetta - Translation: SeawolfDee, Angelatini - Photos: Homeboy Photography and Paolo Proserpio
Ok, so for a starter, when did The Leeches start and what's the origin of your name.
We formed in the winter of 2002. We picked up the name from the movie “Stand By Me”. In the movie there's a scene in which the kids are trying to cross a swamp and half way through they are attacked by leeches and Teddy Dychamp, Corey Feldam’s character, starts screaming “Leeeeeches!” We thought it was the best thing ever.
At the beginning you guys were a trio, right?
Yes. We started as a trio with me singing and playing bass. Messicano on guitar duty and Mone on drums. Me and Mone had already played together in a band called Orange Juice from the Crypt and after that band broke up it just felt natural to keep going on together. We recruited Messicano from another local punk rock band called Serena Grandi Fans Boys.
Who are your influences?
That's easy! Angry Samoans, The Adolescents and all the first wave of punk hardcore bands from California; bands that we already liked when we were in OJFTC and when it was about time to start this new project keeping on the same path was a no-brainer. During the years we added some rock n roll elements to our sound after listening to Iggy & the Stooges and The Devil Dogs.
Your first release was a split cd with The Good Ol'Boys if I'm not mistaken. Is that correct?
Yep. Our very first release was in fact a split cd with The Good Ol'Boys, (for you who don't know, GOB was your editor's band when he was still in Italy) Dee's band. I believe it came out in 2003. GOB were supposed to put out a couple of split 7”s, but both projects went belly up and they found themselves with a bunch of songs and no record. Was exactly at that moment that, after my other band Mauser broke up, we formed The Leeches and we already had a bunch of songs ready to go. We all used to hang out together, us and the guys in GOB, all the time so it came naturally. It was supposed to be a split 7” but at the end we recorded so many songs that we opted for a CD. We used to play together all the time all over Italy. I remember, like it was yesterday, some memorable shows in Brianza, Milan, La Spezia at La Skaletta Rock Club (one of the best punk rock venues in Europe) and so on. But now I'm side tracked…
After that you released quite a few records.
The split was only the beginning and now we can count 4 full length LP’s (Fun is Dead, Eat The Leeches, Get Serious and Underwater) a couple of 7” a split 10” with Temporal Sluts and a “Best Of” for our tenth anniversary. Not bad for a lousy punk rock band, huh?
When did you decide was time to add a second guitar?
Right after the CD split we felt something was missing and after a little bit we figured out it was a second guitar and we asked Freddie to join the band. We found Freddie in an old barn outside of Cantu', our hometown, surrounded by old car wrecks, horses, bows and arrows and bullets. It was obvious he was the perfect guy.
I know you guys play a lot. How many shows would you estimate you have played?
I believe we have played something around 600 shows so far. No one ever kept track of that. We mostly played Italy but we went abroad several times: Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, Austria to name a few. I believe our golden era, when we played all the time, was between 2005 and 2010.
The best and worst show you've ever played?
I’d start with the worst: I remember that one time in Sardinia when we played on the sidewalk in a resort in front of French and German tourists that could care less about us. That night scarred me for life. Another time we played in a pizzeria in Switzerland for a middle school prom. The cook (ok, the guy that was making pizza) jumped on stage and requested a Green Day song. We didn't know the song but he started singing anyway and all the kids went nuts. What a night.
Ok but you had some great nights too, right? Any unusual anecdotes you wanna share with us?
Oh man, I have plenty of those! I remember the guys in Bad Religion in the backstage getting massages right before the show when we played The Alcatraz in Milan with them. I'm not talking about the kind with a happy ending. Danko Jones sitting in the locker room checking stuff on line constantly.
Is it true that Danko Jones looks like Messicano?
Well, they look alike a lot but he's way skinnier than our axe man. But Messicano is definitely better looking. I don't know what’s up with him but he gets better and better year after year. He's like Benjamin Buttons I guess. He gets younger…but I'm digressing again. What was I talking about? Ah yes, shows! We played with The Adolescents a few times and we ended up becoming good friends with them. They are awesome people. We played also with Agent Orange and Turbonegro lately and those were cool shows, too.
What can you tell me about the time you opened for Blink 182.
Oh boy, what a nightmare! We played this huge outdoor festival in Bologna, called Independence Day, in front of a crowd of 15,000 kids. We had so many people in front of us, obviously not there to see our show, that they almost immediately turned into a mush in front of our eyes. It felt like there was nobody there. And if you add to the fact that there was a gap between the stage and the crowd of almost 200 feet you get the point of how surreal it was. It was also the middle of August and there was a temperature of a million degrees. Never again. If I have to pick a show among all the ones we played recently, as the best one, I'd definitely choose the one with The Dictators NYC. I adore that frikking band!
Do you play any Dictators' cover live?
Oh yes we play quite a few: “The Party Starts Now”, “Who Will Save Rock 'n'Roll?”, “I Stand Tall”. Ok, but we play this last one only to warm up at rehearsal.
Do you play any other covers when you play live?
Oh yes. We like to please our crowd so we have a few sing-alongs just to keep everyone in party mode till the end of our set, you know the classic stuff: The Ramones, The Rolling Stones, Cheap Trick. Stuff like that. We like to add some covers to our records too but usually we pick less famous songs. Lately we recorded Tom Petty's “I Need To Know” (that I know has being covered by other bands) and
“Me 262” by Blue Oyster Cult, band that we like a lot. And as a matter of fact the guys in the Dictators like them too, and when we played with them Mone was wearing a BOC t-shirt and all the guys in the band went crazy. Especially Ross the Boss. And they are also Daniel Ray's favorite band. He told us that in the studio.
That was gonna be my next question! Right before that show you went into the studio to cut your latest record “Underwater” with Daniel Ray. How did that happen?
Our record label, Tre Accordi Records, set it up. We were talking with the guys in The Valentines, another band that was on our label, that worked with Daniel Ray on their last record and they told us they loved it. At that point we got all excited about the possibility of maybe working with him, and we asked our boss if he could make it happen and he said yes. At the same time we played with CJ Ramone, he was touring with him, so when we met we suggested that and since he liked us he sais yes right away. We recorded with him “Underwater” at Saman Studio in Milan in ten days.
How was the experience of recording with a guy like Daniel Ray?
He's a very reserved and gentle person. He worked with us, helped us with the song writing but without imposing himself. He played on some tracks and sang back up vocals. The acoustic guitar that you hear in the intro of the song “Into the Storm” is in fact played by the man himself. He insisted.
Speaking of “Into the Storm”; tell me something about your lyrics. Where do they come from?
I'm definitely influenced by movies, history and food. Tales of sea monsters, zombies and food but sometimes I like to go deeper. What is my secret ingredient? My not so perfect but straight to the point English that makes everything interesting and funny at the same time. We don't take ourselves very seriously.
Name three movies that influenced you that can explain what The Leeches are all about.
As I said before “Stand By Me” is definitely in the top three for obvious reasons. Then I have to name “A Nightmare on Elm Street”; “Dream Warriors” was the first single out of our third record and you bet your ass it’s about Freddy! Last but not least there’s this movie called “ La grande Abbuffata” that is one of those 70’s Italian masterpieces with the great Marcello Mastroianni that is about food. I'd also like to add some movie trivia here: in this movie there's another great Italian actor, probably not well known in the US, called Ugo Tognazzi that is cousin to our buddy Roby of Temporal Sluts. It doesn't matter but I have to share this with you anyway.
You also released four videos so far and they all could be considered short movies. Wanna talk about them?
We released four videos so far. One for each record. The first two, “Big Gorilla” and “Fun is Dead” were two short self explanatory stories while “Dream Warriors” and “Piranha Boys” were part of a more complex plot. Think about a monster movie divided into two mini-episodes. The first one about an Italian werewolf terrorizing Messicano in some forest in the south of Europe, and the second one where our heroes, yes us, had to fight a vicious humanoid piranha coming out of a lake somewhere in northern Italy. There's actually another video in the making but considering how slow we are, it will probably be out for our 20th anniversary in 2022 .
You have different side projects, to keep you busy. You also play in Alpha Flight, right?
Yes, I do. I play in Alpha Flight with two ex Good Ol'Boys. At the beginning it was an instrumental band with two bass players and one drummer. After a little I joined the band as guitarist and our friend Carolina got the singer gig. Why two bassists? No frikkin idea. But they sound really good together. One plays straight bass lines while the other is more like a mix between a lead guitar and a keyboard. Does that make any sense at all? Playing live is a challenge but is also fascinating. We put out a CD a year ago and a new 7” is coming out right now.
What do you like better? Playing bass and singing like you do with The Leeches or just playing guitar?
If I have to be honest, I’d rather just sing or play bass. But I always complain and I guess challenges are what make you stronger, right?
Can you explain to me how in the hell you and Mone ended up playing in TV Smith's band? (TV Smith of the Adverts, in case you were wondering)
We need to go back and talk about The Valentines. At one point they were his touring backing band and right before one of their European tours, the drummer had to step out for personal reasons so they asked Mone to join them. The next year the bass player had to cancel too, so they asked me, I learned all the songs and joined them for their tour. We also played The Rebellion Festival (the most important punk festival in England) and I had a blast. TV Smith is the most humble person you will ever meet. He was so grateful and never stopped thanking us even if, believe you me, we were the ones that should do the thanking. One night Gaye Advert showed up and she was standing right there in front of me. It was like being back in school for the finals. I was a nervous wreck. She’s retired now and they live in Sheperd Bush, the same neighborhood where The Clash started.
Your show are known for being crazy and out of control. Do you ever plan what you're going to do on stage?
During the last part of the set I hand the bass to Freddie, so that I can focus on singing, and that's when the magic happens. Usually I get naked and I start throwing food at the audience. Sometimes I don't do that. It's not really set in stone. I just go with the flow. I'm a huge movie geek and I'd like to get into the movie biz or performing art eventually. I’m also a devoted Alice Cooper disciple so I take any chance I get to add some acting to my performance. You can see everything at our shows, especially food fights. Sometimes people like it, sometimes they don't. We are there to entertain the crowd, but first of all we wanna have some fun on stage and we wanna make every Leeches show a memorable one.