At of the moment of publishing, Italy is still under complete lockdown, with extra rules being implemented, and this to cope as much as possible with the fallout of the Corona virus causing the hospitals to be inundated with victims. We spoke with Noemi Aurora and Maxx Maryan from the Rome-based electro metal act Helalyn Flowers and the electropop project ImJudas, plus with Audioglobe boss Sebastian Koch to know what this lockdown actually means.
Coincidentally, Helalyn Flowers’ recently released EP is called “Suicide Birds”. But I don’t hear suicide birds when speaking to the couple who is locked up in their flat in Rome.
But first here’s a report from Sebastian Koch, from Audioglobe, one of if not the most important distributor for the alternative scene in Europe, based in Seto Fiorentino.
SL: How has the corona outbreak touched you as a company manager and how is it affecting you in a personal level?
Sebastian Koch: We as company (Audioglobe Srl) will decide today, whether we send home all workers for next (hopefully only) 2 weeks. As all shops in Italy have to remain CLOSED from today, we can only continue supplying mailorders/online-shops (Amazon, Feltrinelli, Mondadori, Internet Book Shop etc. etc.). We will offer our workers the option, to choose themselves, whether they want to stay home, or continue working. There is enough work, also with shops closed.
On a personal level: As I have the sole custody for a 12 years old daughter, and with schools closed until (at least) April 6, I have to organize day by day – find a place, where my daughter can stay during the day – or remain at home myself. With some mothers of other children, we created a sort of ‘help yourself group’, and on Tuesday it was my turn, to have 4 Girls at my home. We were cooking together, playing, doing school homeworks, and we had a walk in the village, to buy some Ice Cream and play at the playground. But… as of today, also such elemental necessity as buying Ice Cream has become a big problem: The few food shops, that are still open, have a strict limit, of how many people may enter the shop at the same time – so each shop has a looooooooooooooooooooong queue in front, and you have to wait up to 2 hours, to be allowed to enter a shop. A good way to avoid these queues, is to go to tiny small food shops – like I did this morning. There was no queue at all, but each shop has a small table in front with disinfection fluid, and you must disinfect your hands, before entering the shop.
SL: What’s the atmosphere like with you and your family and friends? Is it a complete lock down as only seeing your own family members?
Sebastian Koch: For the time being, we are still able to go to work. But this might change within the very next days. Let’s see. The atmosphere in my family (consisting of my daughter, our cat and myself) is VERY bad. My daughter is crying a lot and very scared – myself I’m worried about the near future of our company, Italian economy (which is already bad without Virus…), our family, our life. My daughter is missing school and is very sad and down. Same for myself… It’s no ‘fun’. It’s like living in a bad ‘Science Fiction’ movie, really. Only that’s it’s for REAL.
From Seto Fiorentino we head for Rome to talk with Noemi and Maxx…
SL: How is it to live in Italy now that it is under complete lockdown? What do you notice as restrictions?
Noemi Aurora : We are trying to live as calmly as possible on these days, even if the situation is of an extreme emergency. Italy was officially declared a protected area yesterday evening. Cinemas, museums, schools have all been closed for days and any type of public assembly is prohibited. There are restrictions and hygiene rules to be followed to keep this virus from spreading. We are respecting every rule of course in these dark moments.
We are not really alarmed though, by respecting these precautions you can easily avoid being contaminated. Nevertheless, there are people who feel these rules are too invasive for the private life, they are rebelling in a rather childish way, looking for loopholes which in my opinion are useless. I believe that a short-term sacrifice by all of us is the bare minimum to avoid even more drastic measures in the future.
Maxx Maryan: The situation is constantly changing and in the last few hours the alarm has spread and the whole nation has been declared a ‘red zone’. I haven’t been out since yesterday morning, to go shopping and have some supplies for a week, but since our Prime Minister last night declared the maximum alert and quarantine, people stormed the supermarkets. As if someone had told them that food and food resources would end shortly after. Let’s say collective stupidity is always a highlight and in cases like this it makes its way more than ever (laughs).
The biggest restriction is that of being segregated at home, but, believe me, it doesn’t bother me in the least since everything I do, even professionally, happens here in the house and I am absolutely not someone who has a great social life! (Laughs)
SL: The area where you live has 100 confirmed infections, what are the precautions you take?
Noemi Aurora: It is spreading rapidly, and the local structure is forced to transfer cases that require intensive therapy to the Spallanzani hospital in Rome which as you can imagine has a limited number of beds, despite having increased them by 50%. There is a sort of manual of behaviors to be followed or avoided to combat the epidemic: first of all wash your hands frequently, therefore avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes if you have not had the opportunity to do so, and avoid attending crowded places.
We appeal to our individual responsibility, we ask ourselves whether going out is absolutely essential and we hope that others will do the same.
Maxx Maryan: First, avoid going out, except for specific emergencies. This is the biggest precaution we can take. Others, like washing your hands often, is not a problem for me since I am obsessive in nature and I always wash them for anything! (Laughs) There’s more, do not greet each other warmly with kisses and hugs, no problem: I hate to be touched! So, it’s kind of like I always live under virus alert, now that I think about it, ha ha!
SL: How has your daily life changed now? You are not allowed out I guess, how do you kill your time?
Noemi Aurora: Personally we are not experiencing this period with panic or extreme discomfort. Fear feeds the disorder which is the worst enemy of these situations. We rationally agreed to stay in the studio and took advantage to focus even more on our musical projects. After all, it doesn’t differ much from our habits. We have always had a similar lifestyle, spending hours and hours in the recording studio to compose and create without realizing the time that passed. In some cases it is better to grasp the positive side of what happens to us. I will certainly remember this period as the most profitable on a creative level!
Maxx Maryan: It is also not a problem for me, since I always have a thousand things to do at home and everything I plan and implement takes place at home. I do what I always do: I spend hours in the studio, especially now that I’m working as a producer / engineer for a French band that I will be able to mention in due course! Not to mention that I’m also finally finalizing the latest tracks for the ImJudas debut album. In addition, I always study guitar, I read piles of books and magazines and I listen to piles and piles and piles of records!
SL: What effect does it have on the local music scene besides concerts being canceled?
Noemi Aurora: It is definitely affected. Most of the concerts have been canceled. Major names like Dardust or Modà are forced to postpone their dates. The thing that does not fit at all is that access to public transport, gyms and shopping centers should also close, which has not yet been done. It’s a bit of a contradiction …
Maxx Maryan: I am now reading the updated list of the concerts canceled so far and I can tell you that there are many and especially those announced in the stadiums for next summer. No name for which I go to tear my hair, of course. I just hope this will help to kill pay-to-play and to change jobs for so many assholes who don’t give a shit about music.
SL: In Germany a band called K.I.Z. said during a concert that Corona only hits white old males… I suppose that this kind of nonsense would not be tolerated in Italy?
Noemi Aurora: It is not even something I want to comment on … I am noticing a sort of mass reaction in giving the worst of oneself during these days of tension. Unfortunately there are always those who say stupid sentences, it is inevitable. If you think that in Italy there have been cases of beating by young boys against Chinese people, accusing them of being the cause of the Coronavirus. This form of injury is intolerable. Fortunately, there are also many people who contrast this delusion with solidarity and empathy. I hope they remain a majority.
Maxx Maryan: I don’t know that band, so I don’t even know if they said that by provocation, but, even if it were, this is not the scope and the period to make situationism about this thing. So, I would say that it is a bit like some stars and stripes big red-cock-head that insists that “a flue must not stop life and the economy”.
I simply think that much of what will come out of so many mouths these days will end up anonymous in the web’s algorithms. The smart thing would be to ask questions about what’s going on, but always not underestimating the dangers of the virus, because “the threat is real”, as someone sang.
SL: The news we get here says that hospitals are really under pressure or near collapse due to the huge amount of sudden influxes of sick people to hospitals. Do you hear anything from this?
Noemi Aurora: Yes it is the truth. It is necessary to select the patients to be hospitalized on the basis of age and pathologies. This is terrible. Any of us would like to avoid living this experience. For this reason we must comply with the prevention and contagion measures so that the health system is not brought to a definitive collapse.
Maxx Maryan: It is happening in Northern Italy, and more precisely in Lombardy where 6000 cases have been recorded. There are already rumors of doctors who choose who to live and who to die … Obviously, conspiracy fiction is also a virus!
SL: Here in Belgium, up until today life continues as if nothing happened, measures are not forced, but just advised (as of March 12 there are finally some restrictions in place). I see countries like France, Austria taking a lot more measures. What do you think of that?
Noemi Aurora: Probably the number of cases is very low and does not put the population in a state of alert. But preventing the spread of Covid-19 would be the most intelligent move you can make, just to not end up like Italy.
Maxx Maryan: Here everything happened very quickly and who knows that in a few hours the same will not happen in other European countries.
SL: Do you have friends or family up north in the most affected regions? What do they tell you?
Noemi Aurora: No we don’t. But I know that people are very upset about this situation because until a few days ago in northern Italy people continued to frequent bars, restaurants and crowded places as if nothing had happened. I understand avoiding an attitude of panic or paranoia, but I do not share this attitude of carelessness and selfishness. It harms them and others.
Maxx Maryan: No, no family members, but a bunch of friends and acquaintances who are all well. They only had to face specific restrictions orders before us Romans.
SL: I saw images of people queuing early in the morning to get access to supermarkets although the Italian government said there would be enough goods delivered everywhere. Is this panic omnipresent? And how do you see it?
Noemi Aurora: Some people have no balance. First they pretend that nothing happens, then they unleash compulsive panic shopping. Disrespect is also noted in these attitudes. Stocking up for a whole year and leaving the shelves empty is a form of exaltation. It only feeds the atmosphere of fear.
Maxx Maryan: It is stupidity that is omnipresent. Mass hysteria is a proven phenomenon of psychology. I have heard of people who have emptied the shelves just to deprive others of their purchase and therefore to resell that merchandise at exorbitant prices at a later date. Can we say that situations like this allow the rottenness that is already inherent in people to emerge freely?
SL: A friend of mine who lives in Sicily said that Italians really act very correct as far as respecting the anti-contamination rules, like keeping 1 meter distance in coffee bars etc.. Is that typical Italian? Here in Belgium people still kiss, give handshakes and go to concerts.
Noemi Aurora: Not everyone is so respectful. I don’t think it’s an Italian or Belgian problem, it simply depends on the individuals themselves. What distinguishes us Italians at the moment is an efficient public health system. I hope, however, that all will end as soon as possible with the least possible number of victims. It is only up to the collaboration of us individuals to know how to stem it at best.
Maxx Maryan: I don’t know, there is likely to be more civilization in Sicily. As far as I’m concerned, yesterday I had to brutalize a lady who was stuck to Noemi and I see people going to have aperitifs in bars, or people who complain because they want to go out anyway because they get bored at home. One wrong thing, in my opinion, is that the Italian government focuses so much on self-responsibility, when in reality people do not understand a shit and, on the contrary, need a gendarme who reminds them of the ordinances.
SL: And good advice you can give us?
Noemi Aurora: I believe that the moment we are living must make us think and cheer on the things we have taken for granted. Virtualization, climate change, taking human relationships and reciprocity for granted. It seems it’s time to tidy things up and enjoy these days of falling smog, enjoying the moments of reflection and taking advantage of these days to find our passions that routine had made us forget. If we join forces we’ll make it!
Maxx Maryan: What I would like to advise is not to be afraid and to always maintain a strong objectivity in processing the news and information that come to us. The reasoning extinguishes the ardor of the disturbance. Use this period of segregation as a chance for yourself as an individual, as the smog is disappearing from the cities so your heads will also lighten, perhaps never being afraid to ask you questions about what is happening.
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