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Lorenzo Esposito Farnasari: “It’s an underused idea, but we certainly explore dissonance. Grey areas are usually more interesting than black and white.”

Lorenzo Farnasari, zanger en oprichter van het mysterieuze O.R.k., staat ons te woord over het nieuwe, beenvermalende album ‘Ramagehead’. We horen een ingetogen man die net genoeg prijs geeft om de air van mystiek rond de band in stand te houden, maar voldoende om de quest naar kennis te bevredigen.

Door: Bart Meijer – 4 april 2019

‘Ramagehead’ has been an incredible journey for me, as I am sure it will be for a lot of other people. It is such a beautiful record, I wonder how I never heard of this band before. As cheesy as this question my sound, can you tell us how O.R.k. saw the light of day and how the people that are involved got involved?
I had this other band called Obake with Colin and did a couple of other records with Pat. I asked Carmelo to join us as I wanted to start a new band. We’ve recorded a few rough ideas and have immediately recognized the potential.

What does O.R.k. stand for? (I did try to look it up but either my searching skills are outdated or it is a very well-kept secret.)
It’s an acronym, but I can’t really give it away, sorry!

You managed to find the time (since you are all also in other bands) to create this third album, and also to do a tour. Is the tour going to be with all the members who took part in making this album?
‘Ramagehead’ is our third album and we’re actually touring Europe for the fourth time in three years. There’ll be more live activity between the end of 2019 and 2020. We’re all investing time and energy, and definitely consider O.R.k. as a band and not as a side project. It goes without saying then, it will be me, Colin, Pat and Carmelo touring.

How does that work? I mean do you guys have something like a WhatsApp group that you use to fine tune your schedules? And once you have found the time, do you get together to write music and share ideas?
Internet made things easier than it would’ve been in the past. There’s a lot of back and forth online, but we’ve also managed to meet up a few times to improvise and work on structures.

One of the reasons I ask is because ‘Ramagehead’ does not sound at all like it has been put together quickly, although it does have a big degree of spontaneity. It sounds like a very well-thought-out album and it gives me the feeling it is a concept album. Is that so? And if so, what is it about?
As Colin usually says, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole when the synergy is correct. ‘Ramagehead’ comes after a whole bunch of gigs and many miles travelling together, that gave us a whole level of communication that didn’t exist before.

Perhaps in line with the previous question: since “ramage” has various different meanings, what does the name ramagehead mean in this case?
It describes the underlying feeling of being stuffed full of information from every angle.

What I am hearing a lot on this album is opposites clashing into each other, both musically and lyrically, it creates such a huge, emotional turmoil between my ears. I would not call it restless, because it is actually quite soothing, in a way. Was this done intentionally?
Actually it’s good that you hear it that way, cause it reflects the contradictory nature of our surroundings, which is kind of where the album title comes from

Your music can roughly be described as progressive rock. I say roughly because it does not fit that general sound, although it is definitely progressive in that it stretches and crosses boundaries. Anyway, what I was getting to is that you veer very much towards the darker and sometimes sadder side of music. Why is that?
People say that our music is dark, the live experience is quite joyful though… certainly from this side of the stage. It must be good catharsis.

Please tell us about the power and influence of dissonance.
It’s an underused idea, but we certainly explore dissonance. Grey areas are usually more interesting than black and white.

You got Serj Tankian to lend his voice on ‘Black Blooms’, and although your music is far removed from what System Of A Down does, he seems like a very obvious choice to make an appearance on ‘Ramagehead’. There is a powerful, melancholy side to his voice that fits your music perfectly. How did you get him to cooperate and what was this cooperation like?
I’ve released this Hypersomniac record with Bill Laswell last year, Bill wanted to share it with a few friends and thought that Serj might’ve been into that. He was indeed impressed enough to also check out my other stuff including O.R.k. This led directly to me and Serj connecting and discussing potentially collaborating at some point; it was just at the time we were working on ‘Ramagehead’, so of course a suggestion had to be made. I sent him the tracks as a “work in progress” and from this, Serj himself chose ‘Black Blooms’ as the song he wished to sing and work with us on.

The song ‘Beyond Sight’ has a vocal bit that reminds me a lot of the background sound/vocals of ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ by Massive Attack, I couldn’t help but notice this. Coincidence?
Everybody loves Massive Attack, but it’s certainly not a conscious influence.

There are other bits that are somehow distantly reminiscent of other bands. I am not sure whether to call them influences/tribute or sounds that just naturally developed in your own songwriting process, but are there any bands or musicians that have had an impact on your music? (And if so, which/who?)
There’s too much varied input from everybody in O.R.k. music to pinpoint specific influences. We influence each other more than what we’ve listened to in the past.

Finally, what can we expect from O.R.k. in the near future? Do you have plans or is it a matter of waiting until all schedules open up again?
We’re actually toured Europe early this spring with The Pineapple Thief. We’re gonna follow up with more dates later this year and in 2020.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to reply to this interview. If you want to share anything else with our readers, please feel free to do so?
We’re very excited by how things have really come together for this album. Having Serj’s input was very special, and having such a marvelous and fitting cover image by Adam Jones has really put the cherry on the cake.

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