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De Staat's frontman Torre Florim during their show at Rock for People festival | Photo: Daniel Válek, Rock for People
De Staat's frontman Torre Florim during their show at Rock for People festival | Photo: Daniel Válek, Rock for People
Ricardo Delfino -

De Staat: “It’s About the Symbiosis of Analog and Digital—Making the Machines Work for Us”

Hope, the smaller version of one of the Czech oldest larger festivals Rock for People, took place in the middle of August. The international line-up included The Hives from Sweden, winners of Eurovision contest Måneskin from Italy, GHØSTKID and Leoniden from Germany, the Texan duo Missio, and the extravagant Dutch outfit De Staat. That hot Saturday afternoon, I learn that there's one more free slot for an interview with De Staat's frontman Torre Florim and keyboardist Rocco Bell. As I have been I following this extravagant band—that has almost twenty awards to their name—for a few years now, I don't have to think twice. I'll take that slot!

Let's start in the past. How old were you when you stood on stage for the first time? Do you remember?

TORRE: Probably thirteen or something. I was with a school band, that kind of thing.

ROCCO: I remember I did a Will Smith rap at a neighborhood party. I don't even know if people paid attention but I just memorized the Wild Wild West theme song and went for it. I don't know why. I didn't think about this for a long time. Maybe I was eleven or something like that. When was the Wild Wild West movie released? (Rocco starting to rap) “When I rolled into the Wild Wild West...”

TORRE: Why would you think I would know that? (laughs) 

ROCCO: 'Cause you talk about Will Smith all the time, man.

TORRE: Okay. If lip-syncing counts…

ROCCO: I wasn't lip-syncing, I did the rap!

TORRE: I was also performing on stage when I was about...ten or nine! I was doing Freddie Mercury. 

ROCCO: I did Freddie Mercury as well! I did “Mama, I killed your friends!” I have a lot of photos.

Like the whole thing? Galileo Galileo Figaro?

ROCCO: Yeah!

Were there any musicians in your family? Or are you the only ones doing music and playing instruments?

TORRE: You know Pavarotti? Yeah. That's my father.

ROCCO: Damn. Now I have to come up with something better than Pavarotti. (laughs)

TORRE: I have an uncle who's a drummer. And some other people in my family are also musicians. My father was a bass player in a blues band in the early days. 

ROCCO: The same with me. My mother is a little bit musical, but my father has a big record collection. So I grew up with jazz music usually from the '60s and '70s.

Is there a record in your life that you like to play over and over? Something like your personal evergreen?

ROCCO: I have that a lot. If I find a song that strikes me, I can listen to it for one week straight. I just listen to that one song over and over again.

TORRE: I always come back to "Fun House" by the Stooges and "Hello Nasty" by Beastie Boys. 

Torre, I met you around the festival area, walking amongst the fans and visitors. Do you usually do that, or was it just this time?

TORRE: I always like to look at the festival, what it's laid out like, what it feels like. To see the stage from where the audience will stand. But I usually don't really hang out at the festival a lot before I play. I usually like to chill out a little bit before the show. So I'll be back here in the beautiful... between these four walls... with this fridge.

ROCCO: Sweating like a pig. 

TORRE: Sweating like a pig and waiting for the show. Yeah, that's usually how it is. After the show, anything is possible.

Looking forward to it. Rocco, would you tell me something about your gear? Are you loyal to a brand or are you more into experimenting?

TORRE: Everything Casio, right?

ROCCO: I like Casio. Casio made a lot of good machines. The CZ11. . .  I don't know. I wanted to impress you with the serial number (laughs). I think I really like stuff that KORG, the old KORG, did. Like the MS-10 that I use. This was also the first synthesizer I played. Thanks to that I learned about synthesis. And after that, I began to wonder: how am I going to make that work? And because it's so simple—it's got only one oscillator—it translates to other simple machines, like Roland Juno. I also like using my KORG Poly 800. That's like KORG's answer to the JUNO 106. They wanted to make a duo oscillator machine because JUNO was kind of pricey back then. They wanted to make a cheaper alternative to it. It has a digital interface that the Poly 60 which we used also had (laughs). I'm sorry, man. It's just that I know my machines so well. I know exactly how I can get what I want. A little bit of a dirty sound or a beautiful sound. I know exactly how to make it and how to use it. I'm not really a good player. I'm not really a technical player, but I can make the machines work for me. So it seems that I am a really good player! I like using effects. They open up the sound. And yeah, I like the old things because they have knobs and you can turn them and it's easy. And you can do it on the spot. But there's also a lot of good new machines that have that old sound but are a little bit easier to use. You can save your sound, they got digital effects, things like that. And you can be purist about everything so it has to have a '60s spring pedal or something. But if you use a digital way, nobody's going to hear that. Maybe some crazy snob like this guy over here (points at Torre). It's about the symbiosis of analog and digital, making it work together and seeing what you can get out of it. And realizing where it doesn't work, where the technology fails and maybe identifying a glitch and using it in the end. I make the machines work for me and that's always how it should be. Never work for the machine.

Don't make the Terminator turn into reality. 

ROCCO: Exactly! 

De Staat performed a stunning concert at the Rock for People festival despite the sudden interruption caused by a collapsed fan in the crowd and waiting for the paramedics to get her to safety | Photo: Daniel Válek, Rock for People

On your previous record, you have proven that you can bend and blend various music genres. Is that an outcome of jamming in the studio till something works out or is it more of a structured composing process? Or both?

TORRE: Both. I usually make the demos of the songs. Sometimes the song is pretty much like that and it might change a little bit. And sometimes the song changes a lot once we start playing it together. It always goes through the filter of the five of us. It usually starts with me planting a seed and that seed could grow into a small plant or into a big tree already. If it's a big tree, we have to cut it down a bit and if it's a small plant, we start to make it grow together and see how it ends up. Everything you hear on the record is the sound we make together. Every demo I've made has become way better once we started playing it together. Then it really starts to make sense.

De Staat won the UK Music Video Award for their video "Kitty Kitty."

Let's talk about the lyrics. Or, better yet, the concept. With "Kitty Kitty," you addressed the political situation in the United States and the rise of the orange boy Donald Trump. Are you working on new songs about current events or political or social topics?

TORRE: Those are always there. Most of the songs that are gonna be released soon are not as specific as that one. That was just, you know, my best side. When we play this song, everybody immediately understands what I'm talking about. It won't be that clear with the newer songs. If you're gonna think about them, you're gonna know what they're about, but if you'll just listen to them, you're gonna feel the energy. I like to look at things from a distance to see if there's something funny or if I can use it in a funny way. That's what I love to do. But there's gonna be a lot of songs that are very personal. So it's gonna be all over the place in the new stuff. 

When is it going to be released?

TORRE: Some of the stuff will come out at the end of the year, some in the next year.

Looking forward to it.

Tagy Rock for People De Staat

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Ricardo Delfino
Singer in Crossroad Bros, band manager (The Wild Roots, Seventh Passion), PR manager (AMPromotio…