Keeping Punk Alive in Venice

IMG_3610Welcome to the first in what I hope will be a series of interviews throughout this trip. I’m hoping to highlight one band from every country I visit. In Italy, Enrico Ganzerla (aka Ganz), vocalist and lead guitarist for the punk rock group On My Arms, was kind enough to meet up with me in his beloved Venice.

On My Arms is a four-piece pop punk band. The group is six years old. Aside from Ganz, there’s also Ale on guitar, Remo on bass, and Marco on drums. The guys have all been friends since forever, though. They’re a tightly-knit punk-loving family inspired and influenced by the likes of the Ramones. They write fun-loving pop punk songs that are young at heart.

I was initially supposed to interview the whole gang, but life intervened, and only Ganz was able to make it. C’est la vie. Ganz was a true ambassador for his city, taking me on a bit of a walking and tasting tour of Venice. Plus, he was a genuine, hilarious, and friendly guy. It was an absolute pleasure to meet him. It felt like I was talking with an old friend. We discussed his city, his band, and his love of music. This will be a common theme in these interviews.

You can check out the band at:
https://onmyarms.bandcamp.com/album/ready-to-go
https://www.facebook.com/onmyarmspunkrock/

If you could describe Venice in one word, what would it be?

A beautiful lady. A beautiful lady that you have to know how to take care of. It’s kind of messy…the tourism everywhere–but there are spots that are incredible. For me, it’s the most beautiful city in the world. I really love the city.

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have?

Nobody is living here for real. In fact, there are tourists everywhere. It is difficult to find a spot where you can buy something if you live here. For example, that’s a shop that sells the newspapers, but mostly gadgets. Here is a bar, kebab pizza–typical slices that tourists buy. The only real thing you can see is that shop that sells equipment for the boats.

It’s a beautiful city, but you have to know it to amuse yourself.

What is your favourite Venetian dish?

Sarde in Saor. It literally means sardines with flavour. It’s sardines stuffed with onions. The sardines are fried with flour. No water, no beer; just water. You fry them, and after you fry them, you let them rest for two or three days with the stuffed onions that have been cooked for an onion with vinegar. You put them together with raisins.

That sounds pretty interesting, but it also sounds like it would taste your breath smell terrible.

Not really. You have to not take too much of them.

There is also moleche. They are crabs that are changing the shell. They are super soft. You take them, you put them in egg and flour, and then you fry them. They are awesome. It literally means the white part that is inside the bread–because they are soft.

In Venice bars, we have something called cicchetti. In the rest of Italy, it means a small amount of super alcohol; but here in Venice, it means something you eat with a couple of bites. Like a tapas.

I even like the bigoli salsa. Bigoli is a type of fresh pasta. They are like spaghetti, but a little bigger. They are cooked with sardines, onions. We usually eat it Christmas Eve. Family dish. Bigoli literally means family dish. I really like them.
On Punk Rock in Venice

Now on to music–what is the music community like in Venice and the surrounding area?

The northeast of Italy has always been–there’s always been a lot of activity around music and underground music. Every kind of underground music. I can tell you in the last 15-20 years, I’ve seen things changing a lot. Now only few bands can go to big clubs and play underground music in Italy. Even in the north of Italy. 

In the south of Italy, you can find amazing bands–even in the centre of Italy–but they have less chances to tour. If they want to tour, they have to know that every fucking Sunday they have to go across the country. Every time. It’s not like us that we can have a gig ten to 100 kilometres from here.

We have gotten back to playing in bars where you don’t have any stage or PA. It’s like going back. There are less people attending the shows, but the ones who come to the shows, they have–we call it “attitude.” I don’t know if you know what I mean. You find the same people in the show everywhere you play. I won’t say that we are survivors, but people attending the shows has been decreasing each year.

Why?

There are many reasons. Starting from what actually a club can offer to someone, because it’s easier to ask a DJ to make a full set of four or five hours of lots of music. Everybody will like it. It’s less expensive. Nowadays, Italian bands play for a piece of bread and a glass of water.

For example, we tour mostly the north of Italy, and we just ask for the expenses for the gas on the highway and for sleep. We are always using our wallets to pay everything.

But I don’t want to seem that I am disappointed about it. We know it. If we knew it and we were disappointed about it, we would’ve probably started a cover band playing the Clash or the Ramones, and we would’ve had something more, but we don’t want to.

How do you think your band fits into the community? How does punk stand in the community?

Venice and the surrounding suburbs are not punk rock cities like they used to be in the 90’s or early 2000’s. Nowadays, in Venice, there is a huge organization of bands that play hardcore punk, and they make one of the biggest hardcore festivals in all of Europe. It’s incredible. It’s the Venice Circuit Festival. So nowadays hardcore is going well.

Punk rock…we play to 30-50 people in bars. It’s not going so well. In fact, there are always the same bands, the same people. It’s not easy to find something new. But I think things will change. For example, if there is a big punk rock concert–if NoFx comes, it sells out. Marky Ramone plays Trivizo, which is close to Venice, it doesn’t sell out, but there are lots of people. And when you play shows, you can always count on people coming. That’s why it’s interesting for us to go outside of Italy.

I think things will go better because in Italy there are lots of good punk bands. I think In Italy there are the best punk bands in all of Europe. I’m pretty sure of what I say. In fact, when I talk to other bands from Europe or the US, they tell me it’s super cool to tour in Italy because there are lots of nice places, you eat well, Italian bands are super cool–but the fact is that most of the time, you don’t play in a place that you don’t think would host a concert. Sometimes you even feel ashamed of this.

For example, there is an American band that is waiting outside the bar, and you have to remove the tables, remove the chairs, remove the pool table and darts to find a place you can fit the drum kit. Sometimes you feel ashamed. But there are lots of people trying to make concerts here. They are all bars, like I told you, but still, they try. There are still people trying. It means some time things will increase. That’s why I think things will get better.


On the Band:

Why do you think you guys work well together?

We are really close friends. The band is a family. I knew people who don’t get along with their band colleagues, and they can’t stand each other. There are people who think, “I really don’t like him, but he plays really good.” That’s pointless. We’re not going to be rich; you have to spend your spare time with the people you like. We are really close friends. That’s why I think things are going really well. We share everything.

And what’s the writing and recording process like?

We always try to make things different for each record. Even with the band I had before, I always tried to make things different. For the first record, we mostly got together and tried to work together on songs from the beginning to the end. On this record, we started to work differently. It’s more interesting for us. In the room, me and the drummer try to find new tunes, record them, and work on the songs in separate rooms. Together, but in separate places. It’s more interesting to make things go after you get a rough idea of a song. Instead of trying to work on a song for 2 hours in a room–maybe you can’t find anything good one day–it’s better to work in a different way. So we made this different way, and we really like the new songs. The approach was different, and the sound is different.

How has the band or the sound evolved?

Every year that passes, we are always less–how do I say in English? For example, when we started, we wanted to make a record with many guitar tracks, many things; at this point, we want to sound as natural and real as we can, with nothing artificial. We just want to look exactly like what we look like when we play live music, because we really like to play live shows. On the record, we want to give that impression. Now I can tel you that we are more conscious of ourselves and our music. But we are really more rough; not in the songwriting or melody, because it’s very melodic punk rock, but we always count on making a strong impact on the show and the record.

It’s always good when the record reflects what you hear live.

It’s not necessary that it sounds exactly like it, but we don’t want to use, for example, the triggers for the drums or modelling amps, because if we learn to play together, we want somebody to listen to our songs and recognize that we are playing.

How do you prepare for a live show?

For us, if all of us are happy, we absolutely do nothing before the show. For us, playing a show is not something that gives us stress. It’s important for us to be happy before the show.

You said before that the Ramones are the greatest band in the world. Are they the band that made you want to pick up the guitar?

No, because I discovered the Ramones when I tried to look for earlier punk rock.

I have an older brother who is 3 years older. When he started high school, he bought a cassette of NoFx’s, Pump up the Volume. He threw the cassette away. I found it in the garbage. There was this strange cover, I put it in the stereo, and I think even if i didn’t speak any English, I learned all of the songs in a week.

and then I found out that there were Italian bands playing punk rock. They had records in the record store. Listening to them make punk rock and singing in Italian, I thought, “Well, it’s not something that they can only do overseas. We can make it. Why don’t we try?” That’s the reason why I started.

I discovered the Ramones when I started studying punk rock music a little more. Since I heard them, I heard the Green Days, the Nirvanas, and I instantly understood what they were.

With the other band I played, we had a chance in 2006–11 years ago!–we opened for Marky Ramone. It was a big thing for me. I was 18. I couldn’t believe it.

What inspired the first song you wrote?

School. I still remember it was school. I don’t remember the name. When you have to repeat a grade, in Italian you say, “Bochato.” The song was about the fact that summer was coming because I have to study, because if I don’t pass the exam in September, I will have to repeat the year. That was in second year of high school.

What is your most prized musical possession?

My guitars.

Can you think of a time when music had a profound impact on you in a personal way?

Most of the time, I feel a strong connection with the people I play with. Since we are good friends, everybody knows each other’s problems. Every time, we try to cheer up, and when we play together. This happens several times. It’s not just the fact that you physically sweat and put out anger and stress; it’s also the fact that you’re doing it with your friends, and it’s the best thing that you do. It’s the moment when you can make everything clear in your head. Many times, I leave the practice room, I leave thinking things are better than when I came. There is a strong connection between us.

I think any type of music is a way to communicate with somebody. You cannot make a song and say nothing. In every song, you can find any answer you need. That is the magic of music.

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