When Måneskin won Eurovision 2021 with ‘Zitti e Buoni ‘, they delivered a much-needed post-pandemic protest anthem. Two years later, Rolling Stone France meets the four members of the new rock & roll torchbearers in a Parisian hotel room : Damiano David (vocals), Victoria De Angelis (bass), Thomas Raggi (guitar) and Ethan Torchio (drums).
How did you meet and start making music together ?
Thomas : We met each other at middle school. Me and Victoria were friends before meeting Ethan and Damiano. Damiano was playing in another band and was looking for additional musicians. We met and we started rehearsing, got a great connection and decided to start our journey together.
Did you go to music school in Italy ?
The band : We all did !
Do you remember your first gig ?
Victoria: There weren’t many spots available for young bands to play, so we started performing at school parties and in restaurants. Our parents’s friends owned a restaurant. We asked them if we could play at their place. There were old people dinning there who screamed at us to turn down the volume and shut up while we were rocking out ! It was fun ! We played a lot at parties and in the streets, started to make our own music videos, got some fans and got bigger and bigger until we were featured on television.
And your first musical thrill ?
Victoria : When I started playing guitar, my teacher gave me the album Master of Puppets (Metallica) and it blew my mind. I told myself, whoa, I wanna be like them!
Thomas : My father used to play a lot of vinyls of Metallica, Skid Row, Anthrax… But I remember, when I was at middle school, I heard ‘Stairway to Heaven’ for the first time, and I knew I wanted to do the same !
Ethan: I used to listen to Jazz and Classical music. My mom had all of The Police’s CDs. When I discovered this band, I discovered rock ‘n’ roll and I wanted to dig deeper into it and get to know other artists.
Rush is your first album after your breakthrough at the Eurovision. How did it change your lives ?
Victoria : It changed a lot ! We were so happy to be there, because we worked a lot for it. So many crazy things happened since then : we developed a lot as individuals, especially with this album. Before making Rush, we could take all the time we needed to record and chill out. This time, we needed to make the best of the time we had. There was more pressure. This is a completely different experience which put us in a different mindset, but it was challenging. Being placed into a different context makes you discover new things about yourself.
How did you cope with pressure ?
Victoria : We tried not to think about it. If you do, when you’re in the studio, it ruins your mood and creativity. It is better to go with the flow, have fun and do what you like. On this record, we tried to trust each other more and to give more space to each one’s personality. Even if somebody’s idea sounds like nonsense in the first place, we still go for it. We’ve lived in the same house for three months, spending our whole days writing together. We ended up with so many songs, then sat down, listened to them and chose what felt right for us. Since we had more freedom, the creativity was flowing through.
Thomas : We tried to mix all our influences. Radiohead is a big one, of course, but there was also Queens of the Stone Age or Idles for a punkish song like ‘Kool Kids’.
Ethan : Travelling gave us the opportunity to meet a lot musicians and play incredible gigs. We tried to include all of these experiences into our record.
Lyrics on your previous albums were balanced between English and Italian. On Rush, there are three songs (out of 17) in Italian. Tell us about this choice, was it done on purpose?
Damiano : It was more like moving back to the source. When we started, all our songs were written in English. We wanted to break through the Italian market so we needed to write lyrics in Italian. Of course, we love doing it, but on the other hand, we have always been comfortable writing music in English. It’s also an opportunity to be understood by most people in the world.
Victoria : We like both languages, we believe music is universal, so it doesn’t matter if it’s in French, Dutch, Italian or whatever. What matters is the quality of the song and the message it conveys. It wasn’t planned, but since we were outside Italy for most of the year, we were surrounded by English language and were influenced by many English-speaking musicians, so it felt natural. We want to keep writing songs in Italian because it’s an important part of our music and culture, but we don’t feel it’s more important than English. We hope people can enjoy the music regardless of its language.
What is the most personal song on the record?
Victoria : ‘Kool Kids’
Thomas : ‘Gossip’ and ‘Don’t wanna sleep‘
Ethan : ‘Kool Kids’ as well. It’s the most punkish songs. Punk is about freedom, and I like freedom.
Damiano : The whole album is personal, but I’d pick ‘Time’ and ‘If Not For You’. In these songs, I talk about the negative sides of fame. It doesn’t mean I don’t like it. Yet, I felt I had to talk about the negative side because so many artists have been overwhelmed by it in the past. Having the courage to talk about these things, using my own experience was important to me.
You worked with several new producers. How was it like ?
Damiano : It was a new experience. We were happy to find new ways of expressing our ideas with Max Martin and the other producers. It was like going back to school again! We learned new things, but in the end, it’s still about the four of us jamming in the same room !
Tell us about the input of external songwriters.
Damiano : I think writing lyrics is very personal. People approach it in their own way. Working with other songwriters allowed me to share ideas and different perspectives. It was also very helpful because it allowed me to become a better songwriter. I have learned a lot from these talented people.
The song Gasoline is inspired by the situation in Ukraine. What do you think about the state of the world nowadays and the role that artists should play?
Victoria : We believe we’re not here to influence anyone. It’s not our job to do so. There are experts to talk about these issues. What matters to us, as were are musicians, is Music ! We are musicians, not politicians. We don’t want to tell people who they should vote for. We don’t want to influence younger people who look up to us and follow our ideas, and tell them whether they’re right or wrong. Yet, when we see injustice (whether it is racism, homophobia, misogyny or war), we speak up and we don’t care if people agree or disagree with us. There are many fucked up things nowadays and war is one of them! There are many things we can’t change but every time we speak up about something, it’s because we really care. We feel close to our Ukrainian fans. We did a fundraising campaign to help them and made the song ‘Gasoline’. But it’s not about expressing our opinions on the reasons that triggered this war. We sympathize with the people. We support freedom of opinion !
How did you get to work with Tom Morello or Iggy Pop ?
Thomas : We played at the Roxy Theatre (Los Angeles), we met Tom there. After that, we spend three months in the studio in Italy, he came to join us, we jammed together and ended up making ‘Gossip’.
Damiano : It’s amazing to be able to collaborate with them! We look up to The Stooges and RATM. We grew up listening to their music. It’s a beautiful experience to meet our heroes but we also try to stay focused and learn from them.
Were you impressed to play with him Thomas ?
Thomas : Not really. It was not easy to play with a huge legend like Tom Morello. He showed me lots of cool things and was really easy-going and humble !
Are there artists you’d dream to collaborate with ?
Victoria : There are many but Arctic Monkeys would be my choice.
Ethan : Metallica or Queens of the Stone Age…
Thomas : …and Guns N’ Roses as well.
Damiano: Miley Cyrus, Foo Fighters… I don’t know, there’s a lot !
Tell us about your experience of opening for the Rolling Stones ?
Victoria : It was crazy ! We had been playing covers songs for so many years. It’s been an honor to play with them. It’s refreshing to see these legendary bands being so passionate about what they do even though they are nearly 80 ! They could have stopped ages ago because they already made History, but they’re still going. It’s beautiful and was very inspirational for us.
You define your music as free. Why ?
Victoria : I think nowadays, everyone overthinks music. When we used to go in the studio, we played music, had fun, and if we liked something, we’d go for it. Now, there are so many people trying to push ideas and tell us what to think or do. We need to keep our free spirit and do things we like, without thinking about all of this bullshit ! That’s what happened with Tom Morello. He didn’t come in the studio to tell us what to do. He took his guitar, played and some magic happened. It’s not something we planned. We just kept it real!
What does it mean to play rock ‘n’ roll and talk about subjects such as sex and gender fluidity in Italy, the “Head office” of the Catholic Church?
Victoria : It adds fun to what we do! If people get pissed off about our lyrics or the way we perform, it means that it was needed! If people are narrow-minded, maybe they need something to happen in their lives! (laughs)
Did you have problems in Italy doing that?
Victoria : Some people criticize us. We got censored, but not banned. People still have strong opinions on some topics because it triggers their fear. There are conservative people in every country, whether it’s Italy, the US or any other one.
You played a different version of ‘Zitti e Buoni‘ at the Eurovision, without the swearwords. Did they censor you?
The Band : Yes but we played the real version WITH swearwords when we won at the end! Glad you noticed!
Victoria, do you feel you have an important role to play as a woman in the music industry?
Victoria : I’m happy when I see little girls attracted to music. I hope I can inspire them through my freedom, the fact that I don’t care about other people’s opinion. I don’t want to victimize myself, I do what I think is right. I hope they can see and understand that it doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a boy, you can dress the way you like, behave the way you want to behave and play what you want to play.
People accused Maneskin of queer-bating, what is your answer to them?
Victoria : I would tell them that it is stupid because you don’t need to associate sexuality with the way we dress. It’s an even bigger stereotype to say that a boy is queer because he wears makeup. Makeup is genderless. I don’t understand why people get mad about how other people look. Why should you care ? I would never tell anybody that the way they dress is ugly !
Damiano, you appear naked at the end of the video for ‘Gossip’. How do you feel about nudity and was it some kind of provocation ?
Damiano: I don’t think it is provocative. I see why it is interpreted that way, but to me, it’s just about being comfortable with your own body. It’s more normal than what people think. I don’t read people’s comments and I don’t really care! (Laughs)
What is your relationship with fashion?
Damiano : I feel like it’s a plus. If you make good music, you can try and experiment with the way you look, it’s part of your aesthetic. However, it should never get more important than music! Music comes first!
What’s your relationship with social media?
Thomas : It’s the new television. We try to share music on social media in order to reach more people. We stick to music channels. YouTube is my favorite one.
Victoria : Every night, before he goes to sleep, Thomas watches YouTube for hours ! (laughs)
Thomas : You can find longer videos there, compared to other platforms, I like that, and I can also read the comments about the band.
Damiano : There is toxicity there which is getting worse and worse I must say. Yet, it is part of our job to use social media. They are part of our everyday life now, so people should be educated on how to use them. I think I have found some sort of balance and managed to use social media in a healthy way. If fans talk about some personal stuff, I can get angry, but if it’s about music, I don’t really care.
You said that being on Eurovision “was a way to reach your goals”. Did you have a plan in mind?
Victoria : We did not have a plan. We just wanted to play our music in front of as many people as possible. We wanted to travel, meet our heroes. We didn’t think it would go so well. It’s been crazy. We told ourselves : « now we’re famous in Italy, let’s do the Eurovision and get famous in the rest of Europe! ». Even if only 10 people in each country like us, it’s better than nobody!
Do you have a clear idea of where you want to go from here ?
Victoria : Yes! I think that what matters for us is to keep doing more music and believe in what we do. And also play thousands of shows!
In seven years, there has been no change in the Måneskin line up. Tell us about your relationship between each other.
Damiano : We are lucky we never had to work on keeping the band together. It is just natural for us : we have a common goal and we stick to it.
What do your Italian nannies think of this rock & roll business?
Victoria : Some of them are cool and rock & roll, some are a bit less (laughs). I remember mine trying to watch the video of “Gossip” with my 17 year old cousin. She asked : « But why did they block it on Youtube? » My cousin said : « Because it shows boobs and dicks » and she replied : « It’s okay it’s not that bad ! » (Laughs).