Introducing: IKITAN

Italian instrumental trio IKITAN recently released their debut EP ‘Twenty-Twenty’, a bold, ambitious one-track piece running twenty minutes and twenty seconds in length. Band members Enrico, Luca, and Frik Et were on hand to talk us through the thought process behind ‘Twenty-Twenty’, the background of the band, as well as offering up an insight into the music scene in Genoa. Get acquainted with IKITAN below, and don’t forget to check out their specially curated Spotify playlist: some great new music waiting to be discovered there.

What are the origins of IKITAN? How long have you been playing together?

First of all, thanks for giving us a chance to talk to the readers of Devils Gate!

We’re the IKITAN, an instrumental trio from Genoa (Italy), and we play a genre that can be defined as heavy post-rock with a pinch of stoner and progressive. The band was born in what seems already a long time ago, and it was September 2019.

IKITAN is Luca Nash Nasciuti (guitars), Frik Et (bass) and Enrico Meloni (drums and cowbell).

What is the meaning of the band’s name? I believe that it ties in with the stunning artwork on the debut EP “Twenty-Twenty”?

You’re right, well guessed. The cover was painted for us by our friend and amazing visual artist Luca Marcenaro and it depicts the angry and mighty IKITAN (who’s IKITAN? FInd out in the next paragraph) in the act of smashing some stones above his head. There are other interesting elements in the cover such as the puppy zooming in, the Sardinian nuraghe, and of course loads of cactus due to the desertic setting!

With regards to the band’s name, Luca came across “IKITAN” one day by randomly surfing on the Internet, and he found it, from an uncertified source, as “The God of the sound coming from the stones”. He just fell in love with that name and it has been an inspiration ever since. Now you can see the connection! 🙂

As we put together the trio, “IKITAN” sounded just perfect for the band. The fact that it is from an uncertified source, and we then found out once for all that this meaning of IKITAN doesn’t exist, well… it doesn’t really matter anymore. IKITAN is the God of the sound of the stones, period.

We think Luca Marcenaro gave full justice to our idea and we truly feel like the artwork represents us and our music.

“Twenty-Twenty” is a 20:20 one-track instrumental suite, that’s quite a bold move for a debut EP! Was your debut always going to be in this style? And, how structured was the end result? Or was it recorded as a jam?

We’re a band that loves jamming and improvising, both in the music and in the “what’s gonna happen” sector of our musical life. This means that, as much as our music was born during jam sessions (and future music will also take shape this way initially), the end result is definitely not a long 20-minute-20-second jam. The songs were learned and recorded in different sessions and to be honest with you we’re trying to imagine how to recreate it live because being only the three of us… it definitely presents some challenges! 🙂

For what concerns the final idea, as said we’re very much into letting things go with the flow and follow them. So we didn’t sit down and plan “let’s do a long song and then connect as many dots as we can”… it really just happened to be this way.

By the end of Spring of 2020 we had enough material to put together three different songs and, considering the overall situation caused by COVID, we said: “it’s our chance to put the word ‘end’ to this first part of the story of the band, nobody knows what’s gonna happen next, so we want to set this moment in stone” or, well… on a cd.

These three songs were somehow linked among them and at one point we also started thinking about just releasing the album as one only song and debut with a one-track EP. It was all very random and things clicked one after the other quite surprisingly.

Also, we’re very happy about the final result sound-wise: our guitarist Luca Nash is also a sound engineer and a music producer in his “real” life, the whole album (except for the drums, recorded at Mattia Cominotto’s Greenfog Studio in Genoa, one of the most renowned in Italy when it comes to rock music) was recorded at his private studio so we could do things at our pace and in a stress-free environment.

The end result is very much planned, meaning that we spent a few weeks working on these three songs only, making sure they had meaningful connections, the whole thing was interesting to listen to (you know, not so many repetitions of the same thing and the likes) and we could add a few extra special sounds and effects here and there… You can even find a special sound which regards one of the elements of the cover we spoke about above, let’s see if the readers of Devils Gate can find it! 😉

Are there any drawbacks to not featuring vocals? Or is that a help?

To be honest, we feel liberated in some ways. True, having vocals makes you more “normal” and likeable by people who maybe are not so much into music. Being instrumental is a bit of a nerdy choice if you think about it, but we’re very comfortable in doing this at this stage of our life. All instruments have the same importance, we can vary from one genre to the other without worrying about, “is s/he gonna be able to sing it?”

Thinking about the listener, then, even people such as our parents can listen to our music: no screaming or growling or aggressive voices (like in some bands in the past) actually make this type of music way more accessible.

It’s a very two-fold topic: it can be a relief for some listeners and a blocker for others.

So the answer is: for the time being it’s definitely a help. As with everything that concerns IKITAN, we don’t know what’s gonna happen in the future though, but being an instrumental trio, for now, is just perfect.

What went through your head in the run-up to releasing your debut EP? Were you excited? Nervous? – Both?!

We were indeed a bit nervous when we had to push that “publish” button on Bandcamp and do the premiere of the whole song live on YouTube on the morning of Friday 20th November 2020!

We haven’t had the chance to play live to support the album nor before its publication so we were very thrilled and excited about the reaction of the world out there (and we still are). We’ve been “in the shadow” until that very moment basically, with very little social media presence, and a very restricted number of friends and relatives who knew we had “a new band, yes, but they don’t have vocals, that’s weird, right?”

Every time we receive a review or an interview request (like this one) we’re always very humbled and flattered, to know that someone out there enjoys what we do is very nice.

As well as a digital release on Bandcamp, “Twenty-Twenty” is available as a limited-edition digipack with a free poster (200 copies), it would seem that having a physical product is important to the band?

We’re not teenagers anymore and we spent a lot of our younger years playing in purposeless bands. Which was just fine for those years, don’t get us wrong. Sometimes we’ve produced physical products (read: CD-R with a B/W photocopied cover and the band’s name randomly written by one of the band’s members) which, as important and life-changing as they were back then, now are quite meh.

This time we said, “fuck it, let’s get it right!” so we invested some money and effort to do something that could make us proud and that could stand the test of time… even graphically and from an aesthetical/physical point of view.

We must admit the overall situation dictated by the pandemic made us realise it might have been a case of “now or never” as this whole thing was conceived around July/August.

So “Twenty-Twenty”, published in a professionally-looking digipack with a free poster and a sticker, is a nice object to hold in your hands and easily stands the comparison of being placed side by side by albums published by “real” bands! ahah!

We really wanted to give more value to our project and close this first part of the band’s history as nicely as possible. Hopefully, we managed to do it! ,-)

As far as what people should expect when checking IKITAN out, is it a case of expecting the unexpected!?

We wouldn’t go that far as “expect the unexpected”… you’ll need to check it out yourself. 🙂 If you like interesting and progressive music, you might take an interest in our project.

What is truly unexpected is that people actually like the same stuff as we do! As you know, nothing gets created in a vacuum, the influences are quite evident, so it’s very nice to see that our album is appreciated.

We came out of nowhere, no social media presence, no gigs, no feedback from anybody other than the three of us… we didn’t have that many expectations when the album was released so we’re beyond grateful, humbled and flattered about the response received so far. THANKS!

In terms of a similar audience: who would be the ideal act for IKITAN to support?

There are indeed a few bands we like and truly respect that we’d like to tour with and, without looking at the moon and say things like “Tool” (even writing that makes our legs shake!), we’d be very happy to be touring with local bands like ourselves, the underground is burning with fresh talent.

If we had to pick a band on our wishlist, our London-based friends Gramma Vedetta are worth a mention for sure.

COVID-19 aside, what is the music scene like in Genova?

This kind of links back to the previous question.

We all live in Genoa, one of the largest cities in Italy, located on the North-West coast, and a major European harbour. Luca and Frik Et are the true Genoa dudes, and Enrico is from Sardinia.

Genoa has been and still is one of the Italian capitals of prog music, bands who were born in the 70’s such as New Trolls, Nuova Idea, Delirium, Latte e Miele are from here. Not to mention the “Genoese songwriters” scene, with mind-blowing artists such as De Andrè, Gino Paoli, and Luigi Tenco who were huge in the 70’s, and so on.

With regards to the metal and rock scene, Genoa gave birth to bands like Necrodeath, Sadist and Malombra (to name but few) in the most extreme sector, and Isaak, Gandhi’s Gunn, Meganoidi, La Maschera di Cera, Il Segno del Comando, La Coscienza di Zeno, for what concerns prog and rock “at large”.

We won’t go too deep on the very lively pop and indie scene, but surely there’s a lot to check out there too.

Talking a bit more about the present, Genoa boasts a huge variety of bands and genres, from hip hop to rock, jazz, metal, prog, reggae, songwriters, stoner rock and everything in between. Some of the bands we just mentioned are still active and they’re a pleasure to watch live. We can’t avoid mentioning our good friends and amazing bands Isaak, CRTVTR, Burn the Ocean, Kurt Russhell, NAAT and Temple of Deimos.

The city, despite being one of the most populated in Italy, is quite small when it comes to the local scene (which city is not like this, after all?), and in one way or another, we all know each other either by name or personally.

A few music shops and music labels exist and resist, providing invaluable support to emergent bands and famous ones by organising festivals and concerts, and offering showcase opportunities. We shall mention at least two of them: Flamingo and Black Widow.

Music clubs have been suffering massively in Genoa even before the current pandemic, with just a handful of venues surviving. Such a shame for a city that truly was and still is very vibrant in terms of ideas and bands.

Let’s see what will happen once this whole situation is over, we can’t wait to hit the stage as we released our debut just in the middle of this situation and have never played live. Weird times we live in!

Last but not least: we’ve put together a Spotify playlist that contains some great rock, stoner, post-rock, and prog artists from Genoa and from other cool places all over the world. Let’s support the underground, these bands are smashing. You can find the playlist here.

The new music scene is bursting at the seams with fresh talent, in what ways do you feel that a band has to stand out from the others trying to build a name?

You need to do what you like, as simple as that. What a few years was fashionable won’t be today and maybe it will be again in a few years’ time. Only quality and value stand the test of times.

I also believe that there have been enough “waves” within rock music as a whole that everything has already been said and, if something it’s old enough, it’s already been re-valued massively. And the cycle goes on, constantly self-feeding itself.

There’s nothing extremely new out there and everything can be extremely fresh and interesting at the same time (if the ingredients are well mixed together) and the internet gives bands and people the possibility to discover any type of music from any part of the planet (and beyond).

So fuck the trends and follow your heart. Ugly is the new cool.

What are your first musical memories? And what was the lightbulb moment that made you go “I want to do that”?

Luca: Can’t really point at a moment in time when I had such a revelation. From the very first guitar lesson I took up until the last note I played a few minutes ago, I’ve always had one goal: enjoying music and having fun with it. Right now, I believe I have the right equipment to reach my goals whilst having fun… and that’s how I want to continue!

Frik Et: When my mum was pregnant, she used to listen to a lot of music like Pink Floyd, Dire Straits… I guess it all started from there! I remember that I was around 13 when I started playing around with the guitar. I soon realised music was the only way I had to fully express myself… haven’t stopped since that very day.

Enrico: I’ve been wanting to play the drums since I was probably 6 or 7. My parents wouldn’t let me play until I insisted so much and eventually (and randomly) started getting into rock and heavy metal when I was 10-11 years old.

Then there was no turning back: I started listening to Dream Theater, Aerosmith and Iron Maiden thanks to my elder cousin and I knew that would have been my passion for the rest of my life. At that point, with zero idea of what I was doing, I started learning the songs by heart, trying to replicate them on pans, pillows and just thrashing things around. So cliché, right? But that’s what you do when you don’t have the drums! ahah!

Funnily enough, my sister and dad both play the guitar, and my mom loves singing, so music has always been around at my place. I guess that’s why I had the impulse from a very young age.

Personally, who has been the biggest influence on you becoming a musician?

Luca: For sure Gianni Martini, my first electric guitar teacher. A really rock’n’roll Master, in every side of life.

Frik Et: Musician might be too much to define me (lol) but now, seriously, I think it dates back to when I was very young, and with my uncle, we had this turntable and a ridiculously loud sound system. We used to drive our aunt crazy with rock albums (I remember a Rush cover somehow), she entered the room and started speaking but we could only see her lips moving, no sound at all from the poor woman! So my uncle is definitely an influence in making loud noises. Since then I decided I also wanted to be loud and make people crazy with wild volumes.

Enrico: If I can call myself a musician… LOL! (See how the rhythm section shares the same sense of humor? ahah!) Not sure if anyone, in particular, took me to start playing drums, I felt close to music since a very early age as my sister, 5 years older than me, is a classical guitar player. On top of that, there’s always been music in my house when I was a kid, “something” was always in the air as I mentioned in an answer above, and that’s surely helped.

What was the last gig that you attended as a fan?

Frik Et: The Tool appearance at Firenze Rocks last Summer. Looks like ages ago, I miss concerts… And hell yes, it was one of the best ones of my life.

Luca: Tool as well, I was with Frik Et (we’ve been friends for ages), and Enrico was there too, but we didn’t know him back then!

Enrico: Dream Theater playing “Scenes from a memory” from start to finish in Milan just before the first lockdown in Italy (mid-February 2020). I’m not the biggest fan of the band, but I do love a couple of records from their career, “Metropolis Part 2” being one of them.

What album do you have in your collection/Spotify playlist that would surprise most people?

Luca: Baby Shark… actually only a song, not an album. Yes, I have a little niece… and that’s what happens!

Frik Et: “Straight Outta Compton” by N.W.A. because a bit of gangsta-rap in the morning is always good!

Enrico: Rondò Veneziano! If you haven’t heard of them, imagine what could sound like classical music with a pop song structure and… drums! Used to be extremely successful in the 80es and to this day is one of the fondest memories of my childhood. My parents still have a couple of vinyls at home. I never get tired of them.

Although 2020 was a year to forget, there had been some great music released; what would be your album of the year?

2020 has seen the release of IKITAN’s debut piece of art, and for this reason alone it’s an unforgettable year! Jokes apart, the past year has seen so many incredible albums that it was very difficult for us to get a list of one each, but here it goes:

Luca: “Live at Giant Rock” by Yawning Man. They’ve been such a great influence on my songwriting and an endless source of ideas. This live album truly captures their essence: no-frills desert rock at its purest! Long live the Giant Rock!

Frik Et: “A Celebration of Endings” by Biffy Clyro. They’ve always treated us with albums with great attention to detail plus some excellent lyrics which are never predictable. A band that has always been 100% on stage and I’m sure these songs will be amazing in concert.

Enrico: “Metal City” by Raven. I’ve always been a great fan of heavy metal and NWOBHM has a special place in my heart. Raven’s latest effort, with the non-human new drummer Mike Heller (ex Fear Factory), has the same kick-ass attitude found in their first mind-blowing albums. I’ve been lucky enough to see them live a few times and they never disappoint. Athletic rock for the win!

Who would you class as an underrated songwriter?

Luca: More than songwriter, a band: Blind Melon. Can’t say no.

Frik Et: Rory Gallagher. Many people don’t know him and he’s a truly underrated artist. Was he born in America… we would be referring to him as a “classic”!

Enrico: John Mortimer from Holocaust. Not only did he inspire the likes of Metallica (who were partially responsible for their comeback in 1989 thanks to a cover of “The Small Hours”) and million metal bands, but their 90’s albums contain some truly obscure, progressive songs that are among my favourite ever. I met him in 2013 in Edinburgh and was totally starstruck! The band is now as tight as ever and they continue to release incredible albums.

What are your plans for 2021 should COVID ever disappear?!

We can’t wait to hit the road (or well, even to get on a stage!) and do some concerts. As said, we have not been able to do any concerts since we formed so now, with an EP out and a full length under the belt, we think it would be nice to play some of our songs live!

In addition to that, thanks to the situation we’re in, we’ve been playing as often as twice every week, so we wouldn’t be surprised to have a new album (like, a real album this time) ready by the end of the year. Who knows!

How active are you on social media and where can people connect with you?

You can buy “Twenty-Twenty” on Bandcamp (first things first). You can also follow IKITAN on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And to manage these accounts and try to spread the word about a crazy debut made of one only song lasting 20 minutes and 20 seconds keeps us quite busy! 🙂

Thanks, for the opportunity to share our music and project, and thank you if you reached the end of this interview! Now check us out on Bandcamp. 

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