Malleus – rock art collective.

This interview has a chance to reach wider audience. Some readers might hear about Malleus for the first time ever. Thus, tell us few words about Malleus story.

Poia: Malleus Rock Art Lab are: Urlo, Lu and me (Poia). We can say that we’re an art collective and we’re devoted to the rock music. One day we decided to put together our main passions, which are music and art, and Malleus is the result of our very close connection to music and art. To put it in short, we just started as a joke before the end of the previous century. And then, few years later,  Malleus became our main job. In next couple of years we realized that everything was going good for us, better than expected. Plus, this connection between art and music started to take a big place in our minds and hearts. So, this is the starting point of what we are now, but we still remain connected with music. Malleus is just an another view from the usual view of the music. Let’s say that Malleus exists to give a visual shape to all that what our ears hear everyday.

What does Malleus create?

Poia: We started with creating covers for LP and CD records, then we also started making posters for the music, for live gigs mostly. At the beginning we made posters for our previous band (Judy Corda – we played there before Ufomammut) and then we decided to put this art into other bands. I would say we started with artworks for the bands, in general. And then we moved on to posters, it was another step forward. We didn’t make offset posters, but the collectible ones – silkscreen posters. It wasn’t only posters of course, we did lots of different things, like book covers and everything that was related to illustrations in general. But still keeping music as a core.

Urlo: Yes, at the beginning it was all around the music, but then it started to change. Now Malleus activity is much more diverse, Malleus do many different things. Gig posters are still very important, but it’s not the only kind of our projects.

Lu: The new thing is making of movie posters.

Urlo: Yes, and also some videos, visual works (not only for music) and so on.

Poia: Even wine labels.

Urlo: Yes, but this last thing is closely related  to music I think (laugh).

When did you notice Malleus becomes your main activity?

Poia: I’ve just used a word “joke” but for us it wasn’t a joke at all. I mean it wasn’t just fun with this. For us it was a serious game. We were like children who when they play are very very serious, and they treat all things even dead serious as well. At the beginning, Malleus wasn’t our main activity, but then we realized that there’s a chance it will be. So, after two or three years of doing all this Malleus stuff we looked around and once we said why don’t we decide to keep this attitude going, this “childish and serious at the same time” attitude and make Malleus serious part of our lives. So, I think it just came naturally, it wasn’t like a real decision. You know, when one day someone says “ok, let’s do this!”. We just did it, it simply happened. These were just things that were taking place.

Urlo: Yes, because basically this what we do is the only thing we actually can do. We are totally unable to do anything else, to do a regular job. The only option is playing music and drawing, and doing this kind of things (laughing).

How do you share work in Malleus? You avoid answering the question who is doing what in Malleus, saying that all of you, basically, do all the same things together.

Urlo: I work on the plans (laugh)

Poia: And that’s the reason why we haven’t any plans (laugh)

Who makes the sketches?

Urlo and Poia: Mainly me and Poia. And then we choosing colors all together. It’s a sort of lottery.

And when it comes to making decisions, choices about posters details, etc. What happens more often – do you communicate smoothly or rather go into arguments?

Urlo: Frankly, we usually argue, discuss, etc.

Poia: Yes, the ideas come from everybody. It’s kind of brainstorming. Then we work on the sketches and after that we decide together which color to use, if we should change anything and stuff like that. Actually, we are three, but we act like we were one. We are able to communicate despite the differences between us.

Urlo: When we’re working on colors, we make a number of alternative versions and on this basis we make the final choice. This is the way we also make Art Prints – to put it in short, this is the same poster we did before but in more limited edition with alternative color palette. In general, I believe that teamwork is better than working alone. We are doing something together, and then we can exchange thoughts, discuss it, take a lesson for the future. The more points of view, the more different perspectives, the better. It’s not always easy for sure, but overall it comes out positive. I like working this way.

Poia: Various perspectives and different ways of viewing the same object are important parts of our work. Sometimes it’s very helpful, other times it might be a limitation, but to me it’s very useful. There’s more advantages than disadvantages in it I think.

How important in the poster making process are computers and technology? The idea comes with pencil but how does it look like in next steps?

Lu: We don’t use technology too much but there is one fundamental step between the drawing on paper and the printing process. We need computers for deciding on colors and layout, and ink jet printer for doing films for burning the screens for the final handprint. But computers are only a tool, we have the rules on them.

Would you like to make a poster for Tarantino, for example for his last work “Django”? Atmosphere of his movies seem to fit pretty well to Malleus art. Lots of women and lots of blood.

Urlo: Yes, it could happen. Because, for example, the guy who has done this poster is also an Italian (Federico Mancosu). But what I noticed… This poster is cool but at the same time it’s very simple, very easy, very impact poster I would say. It’s way different from what we as Malleus usually do, I think. I don’t know. I would love to do something for Tarantino but I’m not sure we are the right ones, I mean if Malleus is right one to do this actually.

In 2008 Malleus released a book Hammer of God which was an overview of Malleus works since its beginnings. Do you plan to release another book, a continuation of the story?

Poia: Yes, we’d like to do it for sure, because we have done a lot of new posters since then. Thus, we’d like to expand them as well. Maybe we’ll do another release, but we have no precise plans about it at the moment. I have no idea – when. For now it’s one of our ideas. It’s sort of a plan, but with no schedule.

According to the story of Malleus in the book Hammer of God, Trinity of Malleus are the mysterious followers of mission started by three ancient wizards of Grantorta (the one with great beard, the one with enormous eyes and the powerful witch). Could you please explain what is that story about?

Urlo: Well, the city where we live is called Tortona. Tortona it Italian means Great Cake. “Torta” is a cake and “Tortona” is like saying a big torta, a big cake. So, we came up with the idea of living inside this big cake, like in the big apple. It was pretty funny idea, the realism of this big torta and we decided to use it.

Lu: But Tortona itself is not so beautiful and sweet. It’s not like a cake.

Shots from Tortona on the Internet look pretty cool.

Urlo i Lu: No, it’s impossible. Really?

Poia: I always said that it’s not that bad when you compare Tortona to other cities. It’s one of the better cities in Italy I think. Area around Tortona is very nice. But it’s true that the city itself is not that great. There are always worse cities and better cities, and worse and better places inside each of them, so… But outside is really very nice. Lots of fields and things like that. It makes this area a nice place.

How do you deal with bringing Scared People out from the grey zone of shadow and sadness?

Poia: I have nothing to say about it.

Urlo: Well, you know, using inks, colored inks. The end. I don’t know. We try to do our best. In my opinion it’s good to be the scared ones, sometimes. It makes you think. You start thinking over issues you didn’t think before.

Why do you hide behind nicknames?

Urlo: Actually, I don’t know. We don’t like our real names that much. They are too… Mine is very common. I don’t know, they sound… It’s just that I don’t like Italian names. I simply prefer nicknames. And it’s easier sometimes. Well, not with mine actually, because everytime I have to say it to someone, it’s very difficult  to understand because there’s “r” inside, so you have to spell it like “Urrrlo”. Poia is simple.

Poia: Yes, but my nickname came natural since the school period when I was young. “Poia” was my nickname since then. So, it just remained during the years, but I have no problem with using my real name.

Urlo: I don’t have a problem either, I just prefer to be known with this nickname, not my name. “Urlo” was that name that my mother called me when I was a child. “Urlo” means scream and I was always crying and screaming as a kid, so… It’s not that good. And Lu is just from Luisa, a short version of the name.

In Malleus artwork we can find some similarities to creation of Mucha, and then Rick Griffin for example. How much of Malleus’ distinctive style (previous and current) has been influenced by those names?

Urlo: Mucha and Griffin were of course two of our main and the most important inspirations. Together with few others, like for example – Andrea Pazienza, Mike Mignola, Schiele, Moebius, even if those inspirations and their influence on us are not that clear in our art. Also, Warhol, Klimt, Kirby, Toppi, and also work and attitude of many other artists, not only the famous but also less well-known. Or just single images, accidentally encountered pictures, erc.

Lu: There are many sources of inspiration. The idea can be derived from any source, you can find it everywhere. It’s not just illustrations, paintings, posters, but also movies, music, and anything else.

Poia: Yes, the longer Malleus exists, the more we work, the more different those sources are. They come from many different directions. At the beginning we were mainly inspired by other artists works, we were definitely much more influenced by figures like Griffin, but later it started to change. Over time we became more hungry for something different, something new. We started looking for new sources, new perspective, new visions. We are trying all the time to move forward, grow, evolve, do not close in one manner, differentiate our ideas. Keep changing. Even if our “core” of creation is still the same. We don’t  want to limit ourselves to one category of sources, we don’t want to close ourselves in any framework. The most important thing for us is to remain free, watch reality, always be open to what’s going on out there.

The first posters You made as Malleus – for Orange Factory – were done in 2000 and made with offset technique. Why you broke up with offset?

Urlo: We started with a few posters for our bands. First was Judy Corda and then Ufomammut. They were offset posters, not the silkscreens. Then Ben and Sarah from Orange Factory asked us if we wanted to do a poster for their gigs. Orange Factory organizes concerts in Belgium with mainly international underground bands.  I would say we started making posters thanks to them. Before that, as we have already said, we did only covers for LPs and CDs. After a few years, in 2002, we finally made our first silkscreen poster. It was for an exhibition in the United States, in Philadelphia, and its title was “Artifacts of the Improbable”. It came in a strange way because we wanted to start printing in silkscreen, but we didn’t know how to do it actually. So, we went to posters exhibition in Milan, we met Firehouse team there and also for the first time time we saw their works. It was very cool to see the colors, this deep difference between the offset and the silkscreen.  We were impressed. You cannot compare silkscreen with offset, there are like two different worlds. We were lucky because we knew two guys from Tortona who started working in silkscreen printing in the ’70s. We asked them if they could teach us how to do silkscreens and so on, and they agreed. So, we started our silkscreen adventure at the end of 2002. First silkscreen poster was made by Malleus around November or December 2002. We are very old now. We started all this 12 years ago, it’s a very long time.

Poia: We choose silkscreen and left offset because silkscreen gives a lot more options. These two techniques simply cannot be compared. Silkscreen is a totally different world, you can see the whole process of creating a poster, step by step. This method of printing can be considered much more artistic, much more advanced. On the other hand, silkscreen means higher costs, both when it comes to money for materials and to amounts that buyer pays for the poster. Anyway, the most important thing is that every silkscreen poster has its own unique story. And in offset there’s no magic.

This totally incredible paper You use for prints comes from one source? Is this created on Your special orders or You get a “catalog resources”?

Urlo: We buy it at the supermarket (laugh). No, in Italy there are good paper factory called Cartiera. So, we use different kinds of Cartiera, for different papers, for example the black one comes from one factory, the glittered one from another factory, and so on. Mainly we use Fedrigoni, this is an Italian one too.

Poia: We tested lots of papers during the years and some of them were not so good for our kind of printing. And some of them were better. So, little by little we discovered the best papers for the best results. This is not just a matter of paper, but also inks that are applied to it. Every time we have to study every single poster to choose and use the right paper. Plus, it’s always a progress in what we know about papers, we still learn new things about it. Some papers react to the water in a wrong way and then poster isn’t as perfectly flat as it should be. We need to analyze the quality, details, the overall effect and decide whether the paper was adequate, whether to change it in the future, because, for example, another one gives better results. The only chance to know all this is check it in practice.

Tell me few words about Amen poster. Why and for what purpose it was done? Why did You put on that poster photo of Ratzinger, at that time already known as Benedict XVI?

Urlo: It was for a show in United States about political freedom “What happened to peace” and so on. And we did nothing special actually. We just took a picture of the pope and then we just took a wall that was probably used several times in the past and we put these two things together. So, the art print is scaring people like the pope should I guess.

Lu: Maybe it’s because he looks evil to some people.

You’re right. And some of them might feel afflicted.

Poia: Yes, it might be this but it’s not our problem, it’s just a problem of what you see when you look at the image. There’s nothing more than changing colors and just putting a real photograph of a real person in there. It was one of the few  photographic processes we have made in Malleus till now. Amen wasn’t the only one.

Urlo: Exactly, everybody sees in the image what is in his/her background. So, If someone sees evil in it, it’s because he thinks that pope is evil after all. Perhaps.

Poia: This is a really deep question. From our point of view it’s always a matter of colors and nothing else. This is also question why a red color is so negative. I don’t know.

Urlo: Thus, I must say that when I saw you some time ago dressed in black with those red shoes, I thought, OMG, you = evil (laugh)

Poia: Red is blood, black is night, both things are often scary to people. Perhaps this is the problem.

Urlo: Moreover, the pope (now ex-pope) is totally similar to the emperor Palpatine of Star Wars, the evil emperor.

Poia: And we’re not the first ones who noticed this.

Do you have any surprises for Asymmetry audience in Wroclaw? What will You play there?

Urlo and Poia: Oro Opus Primum and Oro Opus Alter. I hope we will have enough time to do both, because to us Oro is still one piece. Even if we split it into two parts and released as two separate records it’s still one complete piece. So, I think we will play Oro as a whole which means Opus Primum and Opus Alter together.

Thanks for your time!

Malleus: We thank you, ciao!

Interviewer Małgorzata Napiórkowska-Kubicka