The Turin Negazione, active between the eighties and nineties, was a legend in Italian hardcore punk and more. Also celebrated abroad among the best exponents of the genre, along with other bands such as Raw Power, Indigesti, Wretched and Declino have inspired dozens of bands and an infinity of people, not only from a musical point of view, but also thanks to their affiliation, to their positions and to texts that mixed the political dimension with the more intimate and personal, and remain forever in the hearts of those who met them.
At the end of 2021, Marco Mathieu died, who in addition to being a great journalist was the bassist and founder of Negazione along with Guido “Zazzo” Sassola and Roberto “Tax” Farano, while a number of drummers over the years have given change in the group. It is inevitable to him that the first book by Dee’Mo is dedicated, a graphic historian very close to the hardcore scene first and then to the rap scene, who was also a roadie of Negazione.
To create Negazione – Collezione di attimi (published by Goodfellas), 376 pages of color photos and short texts, in large format, Dee’Mo symbolically returned to sit in the van with the band and retell their story through images.
We talked about it with him.
Was Negazione your first contact with hardcore, or were you already part of that world?
My family had just moved to Bologna, in 1983 I had participated in the Raf Punk tour and the squat houses in the Marconi district in the center for a few months. It was there that I met the first members of the Negazione who arrived in the city to take part in the national coordination project PunkAmInAzione. Around the same time, my ratings shifted from anarcho-pacifist punk of English descent to American hardcore. Speed change, which also corresponded to a change of attitude: The more I realized that there was no room for us, the more the feeling of frustration grew in me, the less I became interested in dialogue with the rest of the world.
How was your story with them? Were you a fan before you were a roadie?
Here it is useful to make a premise: the bands consisted of children from the stage, we all lived roughly in the same state, they supported each other. Everyone made their contribution, it was customary to play several roles: you could be the editor of a fanzine at the same time, play in a group and promote concerts with other bands. The dividing line between the listener and the player was not recognized. Just look at the vivid images that are prevalent in “Collezione Di Attimi”: Band and audience become physically one. The very concept of “fan” was not part of our culture. I would rather use the term “supporter”. So it was between me and Negazione, and more generally with the Torino scene. First a friendship was born, then I designed my first works of art for them, and later they suggested I accompany them on tour.
In those years, was there an impression that you wrote an important story that would go on, or did you not think too much about it?
It was definitely not in our thoughts. In fact, one of the most beloved passages in Marco Mathieu’s lyrics is the end of “Amaro Sorriso”: “Nothing will be left of what we are. Rebellion against our destiny. Small threat at the wrong time”. Compared to the generation of our older brothers, and I refer to the 77 movement that had filled the streets a few years earlier, we felt in every respect a world separate, a disillusioned minority with no opportunity to really influence the rest of society.
How did you live the end of that experience?
Like a suspended time wandering in search of another sound, another energy to represent me. After a few empty laps, it didn’t seem that far from where I was: I was already using spray to transfer my artwork onto the walls, my first contacts with writing took place while traveling around Europe with Negazione. From graffiti to Hip Hop, the transition came naturally to me.
What does it mean today, after so many years of career in graphics, to curate your first book about them?
I could not have imagined a better option, even to remember Marco Mathieu. As I wrote in the introduction to the book, my story with Negazione corresponds to many “firsts”, starting with the artwork created for their first ep. There were so many pictures to draw on, more than we were hoping for. Others have been restored in a completely unexpected way. When it came to shaping the story, I approached the project as the direction of a documentary. It would not have been possible without the support of Tax, who was the guitarist in Negazione and who took care of the entire archive, the scans, prepared me a timeline for the band that I could orient myself by. A book like this, of over 300 pages, is a long-distance journey, with its own weight, it becomes an object you look at and consider, it has its own rhythm: full-page images exploding in your face, changing with reflective moments. All in all, it’s an experience I can not wait to repeat.
If we look at the band’s lyrics, if the former above all had a political drive, over time they became increasingly linked to existential questions: do you think that was the group’s added value?
Negazione was formed when Tax and Orlando leave their first band, the 5 # Braccio, because, I quote: “(…) we wanted to do away with political slogans”. With these common rooms, they join Marco and Zazzo. Their mindset was certainly political, the same was the occupied spaces they played in, the same were the choices of self-management and self-production that governed their path. In the very early days of Tax’s texts, a gloomy Torino photographed with the college districts built around the factory. I remember it myself as a hostile city, the pages of the local news were scary, or it seemed to me that came from Bologna, where the mood was different. In Marco’s texts, on the other hand, one was able to read a horizon of hope, he was able to fix in words even moments of serenity, laughter, bonds of friendship, sharing. The existential key has always been present, even in the texts written by Zazzo or Fabri. If you will, it was the uniqueness of hardcore.
We know that before rap, another important person in your life, Neffa, was one of the many drummers in Negazione; in the book we also see a photo of Deda. What connected rap and hardcore in those years?
As I said, we arrived at hip hop when the first season of hardcore had exhausted its explosive charge, the historical bands were moving towards other sounds or had disintegrated, in the US as in the rest of the world. But when it came to approaching hip hop in our own way, with our own identity, all of our past experiences in the hardcore circuit turned out to be a wealth, beginning with the basic choice to use Italian. The same goes for the self-production and distribution of our first ep: Being able to count on already acquired know-how and on an already existing circuit was a huge advantage because we did not have to wait for the record companies to notice us.
Can you still see some of that story in today’s music? Does the spirit continue?
It’s not so important that it continues straight in the music. Ideas and attitudes can express themselves in a thousand ways. There is definitely a hardcore scene: it has gone through other seasons after ours, it still manages to be a sound and a world where it is still possible to recognize oneself. Zero Limestone comes from there, just like Gipi.
Many of the values and issues that were part of our culture today have entered the mainstream debate. Eventually there was something left.
In the introduction, Skat talks about trying to “understand the meaning of life”: in this sense, what have you learned and what can we learn from Negazione?
About the meaning of life? Personally, I’m still looking for. Maybe that’s the point.
In this journey, the story of Negazione is a road movie from which everyone can draw inspiration.
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