Music is inherently political – an interview with death metal musician + PhD candidate Giovanni Minozzi

Giovanni Minozzi is nothing if not ambitious and multifaceted. Besides being the bass player and primary lyricist for the Italian death metal band Despite exile, he is on the verge of completing his Ph.D. in political philosophy and social science.

In light of these accomplishments, we spoke with Minozzi about his history with music and politics, why music fans are sometimes shocked to discover their favorite artists’ legislative stances, and more.

Growing up, were you aware of the musicians’ political views?

It was only as a young adult that I began to reflect seriously on political issues. One of the turning points was discovery System of a Down. They were very political to be mainstream, discussing the Armenian Genocide. It was with that kind of nü-metal that I delved deeper into the band’s musical undertones. Many of us were brought into metal by bands with strong political messages, but we didn’t quite understand what they were saying.

In recent years, people seem to have become more polarized, so they probably care more about lyrical content and judge artists accordingly.

Definitely. As our copywriter, they have always been important to me. We don’t claim to be a political band or push that part of it, you know? If you really want to appreciate it, though, you’ll want to delve into the songwriting. Even then, it is not a clear message. I would like to leave room for interpretation, but at the same time I try to convey my own convictions.

It’s great that you allow for that freedom instead of just proselytizing.

With metal, there is a kind of cyphered relationship to the content you receive. Black metal is perhaps the most famous subgenre of this. When I was a teenager, I listened to it without knowing the political content. Obviously, there are a lot of bands with different attitudes, so it’s something that pushes you to think for yourself. I’m not a fan of relying on preconceived stereotypes of what a band should be.

The most important thing is the community that music creates. I remember when my dad discovered I was listening Slip knot. He said, “What the hell are you listening to? What does that do to you morally?” [Laughs]. Becoming a serial killer didn’t infect me. It is actually cleansing.

Definitely. So you’re saying that artists have the right to express ideas, but they must never overshadow the music or the bonds between fans?

I agree with that. I studied philosophy and I’ve been our main lyricist for the last seven years, so that’s shaped how I think about songwriting. I’m not trying to tell people what to do; I’m just providing some nuance and complexity to what we’re singing about. Then it’s about creating a welcoming atmosphere, to the point that even people who don’t like metal can have fun at our concerts.

Quite. Would you say that Italian artists have more (or less) freedom to be political compared to artists from/in other countries?

Overall, we are less polarized than what you might see in America, but the issues are mostly the same. I always think it’s funny when someone discovers a band’s perspectives and says, “Oh, keep the politics out of it.” It’s kind of silly and weird because we kind of don’t want to be preachy (and metal fans can see through fakery), but still, you can’t believe that what artists do is completely outside the real world. Music is inherently political. It might happen a little less in Italy because the metal scene is smaller and not as mainstream (so debates about politics in music don’t gain as much traction).

Why do you think some fans are shocked when they learn about artists’ attitudes (such as with Rage Against the Machine)?

Well, people our age were born in a profoundly pivotal time. We thought that ideological contradictions had been done for music to be a neutral area that was not affected by politics. At its peak, nü-metal was sold as a product, and you might not want the product to force you to reflect on that sort of thing. With RATMI thought, “Okay, they have lyrics that everyone can understand, so what was so confusing?”

It relates to the larger idea of ​​separating the art from the artist. Is it possible to remain a fan even if you disagree with them?

It’s a complex decision, but it’s about taking responsibility and asking yourself why you like the band. I mean, I listened to a lot Chaos as a teenager and there’s a lot of crap behind what they did, but I’ve grown up and can admit I was naive back then. After all, the world is sometimes confusing, so you have to negotiate between opposite directions.

With music and politics, it is not a straightforward connection. There are works of art that are indisputably good and eternal, but maybe the creator(s) did terrible things behind the scenes. You should recognize it and see how it relates to their creations. It is not about separation or saying that your moral judgment and aesthetic judgment are mutually inclusive. They may be at odds, so it’s up to you to work through it and learn from it.

You have to put it all in context. I also think the disagreement from fans is probably related to how they define themselves by the people they admire.

Art is usually intended to subvert moral judgment. If someone takes a stand on an issue, acknowledge the choice, but don’t think it has to affect you on a personal level. Don’t project your personality onto the artist. Above all, the goal of metal in a political sense should be to benefit the kind of communities and messages that help society.

Thanks to Giovanni Minozzi for the interview. Follow Trod’s exile further Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify and buy their music through Band camp.

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