Simone Trabucchi (Dracula Lewis, Hundebiss Records) “This music is about now, without being novelty, without being banal. It’s expression with no romanticism.”

Labeling Dracula Lewis (a.k.a. Simone Trabucchi) as “dark” would be like calling The Devil “evil.” There’s a simplicity that’s missed with merely one word and such a let down without some description. Well, if you haven’t listened to the fellah’s newest mixtape, Technical XTC, prepare to forfeit all your innocence, because if you heard about Satan buying lives for their deepest desires, Dracula Lewis straight up steals souls, washes ‘em in vasts of sizzling acid, and removes the remains just in time to recover life; rinse, and repeat. And better yet, I want you to check out his list of contributors and tell me the boii ain’t got solid connections in underground music, ESP considering he’s resident to Milan.

As The Devil resides within the confines of Hell, Trabucchi is blissfully trapp’ttached to his label and crew, Hundebiss Records. Having put out works from all over the spectrum of musical genre and sound, Trabucchi has had the honor of releasing records from heavy hitters like Hair Police, Mudboy, Primitive Art, Aaron Dilloway, Rraro, Hype Williams, Lil Ugly Mane, Stargate, Popol Gluant, and Angels in America. Just this year, he’s also been privy to obtain Chicklette, including old label hands Sewn Leather and Jaws, a Lil Ugly reissue, and (of course) himself on tape as Dracula Lewis. Damn.

Below, Trabucchi gets super vicarious about the Italian living/scene, ownership of castles, trouble with the Latin Kings, modern folk music, and everything in between “dark.”

Living Italy, how do you meet up and make contact with so many musicians on your label?

I have been booking and promoting shows here since I was 16, and that helped a lot. I met a lot of people during the Hundebiss “Secret Show”-era too. We did a bunch of shows in the basement of our squat in the east-end of Milan, approximately at the same time I started touring as Dracula Lewis (mostly in Europe). That was fun and a good time to meet people. I’m talking about 7 years ago, but you know the world change so quick, that was before Twitter, right?

I first made peace with America was when I got invited to DJ at the last edition of the No Fun Fest in Brooklyn. But because I went there right after 9/11, it was a terrible place to hang. Seriously: scary and depressing. After that No Fun Fest I’ve changed my vision and I came back in peace, then I spent three months in L.A. I find myself more as a California-person. I met so many friends there. Now, I miss L.A. on a daily basis. I try to go there once a year.

Whoa, cool. How did you start booking and promoting shows when you were 16?

Vernasca, my hometown, is a very depressive place, so I’ve been obsessed with music since childhood, and all the people in the village know that, because at one point, an association of young guys (but were much older than me, like in their 30s) in charge of the summer programming at this beautiful spot on the top of the hill, asked me something like, “Hey kid, do you wanna set up a punk gig here?”

And I was like,”Yes, man, no worries, I will take care of that.” The month after, 13 bands from all over Italy literally invaded my little village: punx, skinheads, freaks, hardcore hooligans; I called the night VERNASCA CHAOS DAY. Eventually, riots started all over the village, and the summer programming association got scared, so they decided to call the police. The police came, they ran into the audience with their funny car, the music stopped, the people crossed their arms, and we were all united for a second, starring at the police; the police were shocked by the scene, make a u-turn, and they left, scared.

That night was when I learned policemen are all coward-assholes and you need a crew, or at least act as you are a crew.

Is this what started what you call the “Secret Show”-era?

Well, that was a very exciting moment of my life. We had this building from a connection between some friends and an art collector that was the owner at that time. The place was empty, my friends, they were using the place as an office for a little while, they left and they put me and Simone (half of Invernomuto, my art-duo project, and now DJs as Palm Wine) and Andrea (who was working on a book about Graffiti) in touch with the owner; we were looking for a studio and the owner was very mellow. He said, “Take this place. Take care of it. Have fun.” Instantly, we turned the place in our house, studio, and gig venue [AH-AH-AH].

So without paying any rent — without dealing with fucking club owners or pub-mafia — I started the secret shows saga, with the precious help of Barbara, which was my girlfriend at that time and co-founder of Hundebiss Records. The secret-shows formula was used because the place wasn’t legal, so we used that by necessity, but Milan, man, is a fucking magnet for assholes; it’s fashion city, you know what I’m saying? People always lurking, looking for the new cool thing. There was nothing cool about being secret, but for some reason (because it was “new”) the people started coming out. But I mean a lot of people. So, because of this success, we start booking one show a week; you can watch all the video-flyers on my YouTube channel. Plus we did crazy-looking shaped flyer.

Plus everything was well curated, from sound to the location, from promotion to the accommodation, and everything was rough, but cool — family-style. Everybody had great time over there. Then after three wild years, the owner sold the property to a new biz man, and that asshole forced us to move out. We left and the Hundebiss secret show-era is now a local legend. The place is at the moment squatted by old ravers without teeth. They have no water or electricity, and everything inside is now cover in dog shit and they’ve burned everything just to have some warmth. I think the new owner deserve this.

And I wanna say something: We invented this thing called video-flyer. We were the first that used fucking YouTube as a way to promote gigs. Somebody has to speak the truth! I will never gain any money from that, but [it] is good when people understand they are followers, not leaders.

Where’d the hook-up happen for No Fun Fest DJing?

Carlos Giffoni. He is very well-connected with the whole Italian scene. I took care of him the last time he came to Italy. We did a secret show and then drove together to Codalunga, which is one of the best location in Italy for noise and experimental shit.

When I started playing as Dracula, the idea was seriously to play some contemporary folk, using scraps and cheap instruments; I was going through “DESTINITY,” a crazy favela-style second-hand store as my music shop. My aim was to evoke a forest-scenario, like robots tripping in the woods.

What post-9/11-esque shit did you experience that made it scary and depressing?

Man I was playing guitar in a punk band, and to me, as a young Euro-kid, punk was anarchism, riots, having fun with friends, and a good method of thinking for traveling all over the world. For some reason, we ended up playing in the San Diego suburbs for a marine that just came back from Afghanistan, and I was 20 years old and I was like: there’s no way I’m gonna play for a fucking marine.

Plus, I didn’t expect to meet so many young kids full of patriotic bullshit. I mean do they really think terrorists from Afghanistan destroyed the twin towers? I’m not into conspiracy theory, but this is a fact: the U.S. president was dealing with Bin Laden for [a] long time. There was so much shit behind the curtains. So much shit you can’t clean with a fucking shirt that claim: ROCK AGAINST TERRORISM. You are a fucking terrorist and your ignorance is the worst bomb that can explode in my world.

Is touring in Europe harder now than pre-9/11?

No. Touring is fun and easy. Actually, the Dracula Lewis set-up was conceived as a “Ryan Air band.” The idea was to carry just fewer gears; enough to fill a hand luggage on a Ryan-fucking-Air cheap-and-scary flight to tour: today Bruxelles, tomorrow Berlin, the day after Lyon, smooth operator-style. So touring Europe is always great. People are mostly mellow, they cook food for you, don’t let you sleep in the streets, pay you money for playing, and give you free drinks. What more do you want? Pick-up at the airport? Most people do that as well, and most places also have a good P.A.

Selling records is very bad; it’s nothing like the U.S. I don’t know what happened here, but except for Germany and U.K., Europeans don’t seem very fond to the record culture. And I’d rather use the word “culture,” but you know what I mean. Probably in the north is better, but I’m always kind of confused about the north. I love Finland, though.

“Ryan Air band,” huh? So more like faux international spies? Has anyone ever stopped you for being suspicious on tour?

Carrying electronic devices is always suspicious to the guards. I always calculate an extra 30 minutes at the security checks, questions in an office, trying to explain, “What is a sampler?” They ended up usually saying: “Oh… I see, you are a DJ!” That’s it. There’s no fun at the airport, really.

Aside from keeping consistent with your musical equipment, you DO change up languages in your lyrics a lot, yeah?

Yes. In the new mix tape, I sang 50-percent Italian, 40-percent English, and 10-percent Spanish. I will sing more and more in Italian. But you know some songs are good in English. I feel I don’t wanna have barrier about that. I would love to learn Chinese to sing in Chinese.

Would you consider yourself a shaman of positive influence by way of darkness?

I seriously disrespect the way “rock tradition” and the society of spectacle changed the meaning of shamanism. I’m not that arrogant, though, to define myself as a shaman. I think we all need more shamans and more oracles, on a daily-life basis.

From where do you root the vibe of most Dracula Lewis vocals?

Well, I’ve listened to a lot of old Memphis stuff and Southern rap in general. I’ve got deep in that because of my brother Robert (a.k.a. JAWS), who did two incredible mix tapes called 4 Corners back in 2011. Then everybody started with that thing and were talking about Memphis rap, dirty South. But he’s my man and somebody had to say the truth about that. He’s the guy that made that thing cool again for y’all.

Plus, I’ve grew up with dark music, from punk to hip hop — I was always looking for dark sounds and imagery; I don’t mean strictly horror stuff, which is of course a big reference to me, but yeah, fuck that in a way. I mean dark sounds, creepy chords, melodies, voices. Hard core.

My idea is nobody on my label is doing experimental or avant-garde music… I’m playing with cheap technologies. This cheap technology has a story; the language that technology develops has a story. What I’m doing is easy, easy to make, easy to spread, easy to listen in a historical perspective.

Is Robert (JAWs) your actual brother? Where’d y’all meet up?

Nope, not my actual brother, but a very good friend. We met at a club in L.A. called M-Night Bar or something like that; a very old fashioned 80s yuppies-style bar, open ‘til late at night; smoke was allowed inside, bouncers outside [were] taking care of the situation, beautiful atmosphere inside. There was this guy (Robert) with an Excepter’s back patch and I was listening Debt Dept. by Excepter in loop at that time. So I started [to] talk to the guy, [and] he told me: I’m playing in Excepter! So we became friends, then it turned out he was very good friends with my ex-girlfriend, so we had some parties together. He was brilliant, sophisticated, sleazy, adorable. He sent me a CD-r when I went back to Italy, it was “Stress Test.” I suddenly released that on vinyl and I still think [it] is one of the greatest record of the post-noise generation.

This “Witch Doctor” track on your newest mixtape Technical XTC is DOPE: who are these characters you create (i.e., “Witch Doctor,” “Cheetah,” Dracula Lewis) to you?

Unfortunately, “Witch Doctor” isn’t on the mix tape anymore, just the earlier versions I sent out. Eva (a.k.a. Orphan Fairytale) said I wasn’t mystic enough. The lyrics of that track [are] from Motorhead, [the] “Cheetah” lyrics are from Lil Wayne, and Dracula Lewis is fictional, but not too much. I think there’s nothing fictional about being dirty, sometimes. The fact that 99 percent of music avoided slackness is kind of sad. That means you can get crazy about a very mediocre-slack song, like the butt song Jenny From the Block and her new friend from Australia just did, which is very mediocre and full of stereotypes. You also need class in being slack. Suicide taught that a long time ago.

Speaking of class, I heard from Spencer Clark you were buying a castle or two in the Italian country-side, care to comment?

You know, there’s this old church in Vernasca (my home-town) on the top of the hill, which documents said the owner of that place in 1600-something was a guy called Simone Trabucchi. I showed the evidence to the mayor and to a lawyer, and they were like, “No shit man you deserve that place, by right.” So now it’s mine and you guys are very welcome if you wanna come and party up there. It is very windy, though, I have to say that. [AH-AH-AH]

I’m actually planning to buy another one. It’s this crazy castle 40 km away from Vernasca in Bardi. I hate that castle because I think [it] is an evil-castle that rich people bought: satanist without culture, medieval people… You know what I’m saying? We have an old psychic-beef, and I think I need to ketch those vampires, kick ‘em out, and bring positive energy on the valley.

When did you and Spencer Clark meet up, and how has he NOT landed a release on your label, yet?

I met Spencer during the Skaters era, they came to Bologna at Netmage Festival. I was doing Invernomuto at the time. Skaters were playing on a Roland Lethem movie, and it was legendary. Seriously amazing. I suddenly became friends with the whole crew: James, Labanna, and Spenzy, of course. Some months later they came to my place in east-end Milan, we had a great night, we played football, Lieven destroyed a window with the ball, and the Latin Kings almost killed me the day after. It was good. Good memories.

Two years ago I came to [the] West Coast for a very (unlucky) love-meeting, and so I left L.A. for a small tour on the West Coast with my fella JAWS. We reached Portland and Spencer was waiting for us. We spent three days partying, traveling, and generally having great time. So it was great to meet a friend again, and… we take care of each other.

For example, Spenzy was reading a book David Keenan gave to him and Amy (Spencer’s lovely girlfriend), about paganism in Renaissance art. They came to visit me and my crazy girlfriend last summer, and we spent 10 days driving around and discovered crazy symbols in late-night museums, churches, fountains, and grottos. I will release something of Spencer one day, I’m sure about that. But it might be something bigger than a record. Maybe a[n] Opera?

You mentioned being more of a ‘California person,’ why?

I’ve been traveling since I was very young, and I have friends all over the world, but there’s something in L.A. that make me feel at home. I don’t feel the same in New York. I think it has more to do with the landscape than the social-system or the people. For sure, the fact that L.A. isn’t filled with Italians as NYC is, is probably a good reason.

Once I was at the dub-club at Echoplex in L.A. — I used to go there alone early at night to get in for free — and I was dancing in my fur-coat my mom gave to me; it might be a little weird-looking, but trust me it is cool and warm. So I was dancing and suddenly I was surrounded by girls bouncing their butts. I was keeping it cool: not going too far, not leaving my zone. I was the only white guy at the club besides the DJ. A couple of dudes came to me and asked where I was from. More like where my neighborhood was, or where my affiliation lied. I answered, ‘I’m from Italy, man.’ And they left, with a big question mark in their eyes. Italy is an exotic place where wine is constantly spilling out of public fountains and we are all affiliated to the Godfather.

Do you see the Hundebiss Records based around friendship with the artists you sign?

Actually, I think you can easily read that we like folk music; we are doing folk music for the Twitter age, but without being so lame like all the “internet-culture” music. So you can listen to Dilloway and to Lil Ugly Mane, to Chicklette and Primitive Art, to Stargate and Jaws… And I’m sure you will have good time… And I’m sure they are telling you more about the world we are living in now than Waka Flock Flame or a fucking well-dressed, short-hair revival punk band from Northern Europe, or more than a revival psych rock band from California or some hashtag micro-genre starlettes.

This music is about now, without being novelty, without being banal. It’s expression with no romanticism. It’s an attitude. And it is fun. Please, don’t forget it’s all fun. But not funny.

From what tropes do you devise this meaning of FOLK for Hundebiss?

Raphael Lyon (a.k.a. Mudboy) released a record back in 2005 called This is Folk Music (TMT Review). I really enjoyed that record while listening to Harry Smith’s Anthology of Folk Music around the same time, constantly. So, my idea is nobody on my label is doing experimental or avant-garde music. There’s no avant-garde this days, or maybe there is, but it’s in some zone I’m not interested in. I’m doing folk music, I’m playing with cheap technologies. This cheap technology has a story; the language that technology develops has a story. What I’m doing is easy, easy to make, easy to spread, easy to listen [to] in a historical perspective. I’m talking about now, all the music I released is about now, and it could have an historical meaning in few years.

There’s no fucking retro in Hundebiss, there’s no retro in Dracula Lewis; there’s no vintage, no good oldies, and no place for nostalgia. Plus, I avoid heavy and sterile conceptualism. Listen to the Hundebiss releases; go deep: Dilloway is using tape machines in that record and there’s his little kid crying; he’s talking about his life — daily life. You listen to “Cheetah,” and it’s about to trying not to be late for a date. You listen [to] Problems, by Primitive Art, and you have the picture of two young kids struggling between everyday problems, from racial tension to homophobic society to trying to find the money to pay the rent and survive through another MDMA-night. Then you have Jaws’s Stress Test & Keys to the Universe… I mean the whole Jaws-thing is a gigantic opera about financial crisis. And Lil Ugly Mane: a fictional character, but how deep about the everyday-feeling he went?
Even an instrumental act like Stargate; his romanticism, his reference to trance music. That’s folk to me.

As a label owner and a musician who releases PHYSICAL music in the modern-day, how would you define one’s “ownership” of music?

I think is funny to play with the authorial role; it has always been challenging and always been an issue. I play with samples, I don’t pay for samples because I’m not Kayne, but I think [it] is a shame Jay-Z didn’t pay Lee Perry for sampling Max Romeo.

What emotion/theme do you feel specifically afflicts Dracula Lewis music that’s NOT as realized as people think?

Well, Lisa Blanning at The FADER wrote this: “Dracula Lewis project is evolving from its more abstract noise beginnings to a serrated, but instinctively tuneful and sexy id-rhythmic present.” And I’m very bad talking about my music, so I think she got the point. When I started playing as Dracula, the idea was seriously to play some contemporary folk, using scraps and cheap instruments; I was going through “DESTINITY,” a crazy favela-style second-hand store as my music shop. My aim was to evoke a forest-scenario, like robots tripping in the woods.

I’m still in that mood, but suddenly I’ve started to write some songs, and with songs you need a topic and with beats you need to stay focused on the movements of your body. So my music became something more sexy, very primitive and gaunt, in a basic way. And to be honest I’m quite happy about the audience response. Now is time to give ‘em something unexpected.

What was the first release you EVER owned (on cassette, LP, CD), and can you recall a specific memory that reminds you of this release?

The record was a 7-inch produced by an Italian label called Applequince, a compilation of punk/hardcore bands from Italy: the packaging, the songs, the incredible attitude that was coming out from that record, was simply impressive.

Actually it wasn’t the first record I owned, but it was definitely the most inspiring in my young age…

In your newest mixtape, you’ve a variety of producers and collaborations… How did you make this possible, and was translation ever an issue, or was translating the VIBE of your TRACKS more of an issue?

You are a smart guy because you understand potentials and you reveal the truth behind the curtains. Yes, I did have some problems, in particular with Primitive Art and Orphan Fairytale. Primitive Art sent me a very good loop, it was amazing, something like Craig Leon playing [the] District 9 soundtrack; I fucking hate to talk about music like that, so I’m sorry to you and your readers, this is not Vice Magazine, but hope you got the picture.

For some reason, we ended up playing in the San Diego suburbs for a marine that just came back from Afghanistan, and I was 20 years old and I was like: there’s no way I’m gonna play for a fucking marine.

Anyway, Primitive Art, sent me that loop, I’ve started sing on top, in Italian, it was fun. Jim from Primitive Art came to my place for three days, and we did a bunch of takes, we came out with an Italo-Spanish song that was dope. But my friend Matteo Pit from Primitive Art said it wasn’t cool enough. So what I can say? We will save the energy for a new songs in the future, they need to finish some new recordings, the world is waiting for that. Then Orphan Fairytale told me I totally misunderstood the mystical vibe of his song; well, I’m not a mystical person, I’m a Mista Thug. She’s gonna use the song in the new record she’s working on; that song is dope and it will sound much better without my vocals.

The rest of the people was stoked, amused, interested in other people[’s] reaction[s]. Some people never get back. So this mixtape it was definitively an experience. At the end of this adventure what can I say: it was a a fun project, very challenging, very difficult, very fun somehow. I will never do it again.

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat is the sample at the beginning of this mix (NOT D/P/I, but the voice)? I can’t place it and feel foolish.

It’s from a spam video about “How to Improve Your Bank Account.” The guy — the voice-over guy — is going very deep and harsh on the video; he apparently has a secret way to gain profits and his gonna tell you (the listener) the secret an old friend of him decide to share with the world. I listened to the fucking video thousands of times, still have no idea what the secret was about, but I was feeling very horrible because I was the target, he was very specific about my economical situation, about my bank account; how the finical crisis affected me personally; how the future would be disastrous if I don’t make the right decision right now.

So, I sampled the first part, then I put a laser sound and an explosion. “Never dreamed to have your bank account look something like this?” SWOOSSHHHH BANNNNNGGGGG: fuck you and my bank account, fellah.

Oh, shit, that’s right. You and Alex played some sets together recently in Italy, no?

I was touring as opening guest for some dates of the latest Sun Araw Euro tour, and I was feeling my old set was a little to harsh for the crowd and their fan-base, so I came up to Alex and I said: ‘What if we improvise every night?’ It’s just so rare being together with him that [it] would be stupid NOT TO use this time in a more creative way. Of course, he was more than down, and I think we did a couple of great shows; for some reason it was like riding a big wave, feeling the wind trough our hair. Our craziest set was in Lubijana.

Considering your latest release is referred to as a “mixtape,” what constitutes it as a mixtape? How are mixtapes perceived in Italy?

Man, stop talking about Italy like a weird remote place in the fourth-world! Italians are pretty much like New Yorkers, but they don’t call everything organic, we call it “bio.” A mixtape is something that has changed its meaning during the years: back in the days it was something like a homemade compilation, then it became something very creative in the hip-hop culture, from recordings of the jams to the first experiment with R&B, a capella, and hip-hop beats.

More recently it became something like an unofficial album, something with a bunch of producers, and one rapper or a full crew singing on top of that. Is important that is UNOFFICIAL, so is something fresh and spontaneous, wild and funny. I’ve listened to way too many Trap-A-Holics and Gucci Mane mix tapes in the last [few] years.

And I think is kinda funny in the TECHNICAL XTC mix tape there’s basically no hip-hop. So, the mixtape is available at Dat Piff for free but you can get also some physical copies through my website and soon at Boomkat.

If you COULD collaborate with others that you haven’t yet, who would it be?

Powell, Nate Young, Jennifer Herrema, Kate Bush, Martin Rev, Alan Howarth, Bizzy Bone. I would love to produce a dub-power electronics record with Fka Twigs. I know she’s a Whitehouse fan.

Who would your dream tour mates be?

I think that Italian tour in 2012 with me, Bill Kouligas, Luke Younger, Steven Warwick, and Dennys Tyfus was almost perfect. Touring with my friend Lorenzo Senni is also amazing because we are wild and chill at the same time.

When’s that U.S. tour, boiiiiii!?!?!??!

I will come to U.S. in springtime for sure, so please write me if you wanna book some gigs. I’ll end up in Vancouver B.C. for sure. So write me fellas. I just need heavy bass.

Most Read