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How the New West Was Won: An Interview with Alessandro Mercanzin of Delrei

Interview by John Wisniewski for MK ULTRA Magazine

Through a haunting and cascading landscape of electric guitars, shards of Americana and echoes of filmic gunfighter ballads, DELREI has presented a strikingly refreshing sound to a moment lost amidst a sea of contrived indie rock mediocrities, a zombie horde of ubiquitous cloned plastic pop divas and a dark music scene that needs to cast a light on its anemic overabundance of dimly dark synth suburban combos in Joy Division T-shirts.

Italy’s own Alessandro Mercanzin is DELREI, who recently described his epic Projekt Records album “Desolation and Radiation” as “a wordless vision of a lost world from the future.” Further stating, “to me it’s melancholy, filled with lost dreams. With a ghostly sound in my mind, I wanted to pull off dark intriguing riffs, and I found I could say a lot of things with a few whispered notes from my guitars. These songs paint dramatic scenes that take me to a reverb-drenched wasteland in a parallel world.”

Along with producer Maurizio Baggio, who has also worked with moody acts like Soft Moon, Boy Harsher and Nuovo Testamento, Alessandro has delivered an album with an adventurous sound that features various guitars, vintage instruments, reverb and even a traditional Sicilian harp. We sat down with Alex for a brief chat about DELREI and more.

John Wisniewski: Please tell us about the recording of “Desolation and Radiation.” What was the concept behind the album?

Alessandro Mercanzin: It’s a journey in a dystopian future told through 11 songs. A lone wanderer braves a merciless nuclear-blasted wasteland trying to survive his fate. Last year’s events inspired me greatly: the pandemic and the war at Europe’s gates pushed me to make my solo project. My goal is to lead the listener to connect with it because of this crazy present.

JW: Are there any composers or music artists that inspire you?

AM: There are so many, I’ve always been hungry and open minded about music, to me every decade is cool.

I can say that 70s Punk rock, New wave and Post punk are the bones of my musical experience but I also love Country and Blues .

That said at the moment I’m listening a lot to Morphine, Wipers, Snakes, Guano Padano, they are perfect examples of “straight to the point bands” . About the composers I would say that the combo D.Lynch/A.Badalamenti is an endless source of inspiration, Woody Jackson, Daniel Lanois other greats that comes to mind .

When I was a kid I discovered the guitar sound of James Wilsey. He’s famous for the 2 suspended notes from Chris Isaak’s song “Wicked Game,” and that’s what hooked me from the very beginning. I like his solo album “El Dorado” released in 2008 from Lakeshore Records. It’s really interesting; his guitar voice is so recognizable.

JW: What sort of reaction do you receive when you play live?

AM: I’m not playing live at the moment, but I’d like to in the near future – maybe just me with some visuals. I’ll let you know next time.

JW: Are you influenced by films and film music?

AM: Absolutely. Over the years I’ve been interested in instrumental music and film soundtracks. I grew up with the Italian spaghetti western movies and music particularly those ones from the Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone era and also from 70s and 80s Italian directors Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci or Americans John Carpenter and David Lynch.

Movies that above all were my muse: Hardware (1990) – a B movie with a cool cast (Carl McCoy from Fields of the Nephilim + Iggy Pop), Mad Max, Escape from New York. These films realize the feeling of the future western.

JW: How do you conceptualize, then plan out and arrange your compositions?

AM: From the very beginning I need to follow a guiding light that inspires me. It could be a story from a book, a song, a movie or its soundtrack, anything that catches my attention.

About the compositions, if I’m around I usually record my voice or whistle a melody with my cell phone. Once I sit in front of my computer, I start playing and experimenting with sounds. Sometimes it’s cool and sometimes it’s a frustrating job 🙂 In any case I have 2 rules: 1. Less is more and 2. Never start a new project before the previous one is done.

JW: Any future plans and projects you would like to share with our audience?

AM: I’d like to make live streams and play live, At the end of August I’ll be in the studio for work on the basic tracks. I’m also collaborating with a cool Italian-American producer for a cover album. I’ve been asked to rework a song from one of my favorite bands, but I’m sorry I can’t say more at the moment 🙂 Aside from this I‘ll keep making new music for the next album.