Interview: Velvet May (Tears on Waves)

Interview by Helena Markos

In the photo: Velvet May from the isolation

Where raw romanticism meets dark and brutal expression, where pleasure meets pain, we found Velvet May’s music, founder or Tears on Waves label.  Dark, edgy, introspective and conceptual EBM textures, with a velvety  touch of retro, post- punk nostalgia.

Hailing from Naples, Andrea is now established in Berlin, where he has managed to develop his characteristic style and promote his work, through his own imprint.

Today, Andrea shares with us thoughts about his current situation in the midst of the pandemic,  his feelings during the lockdown, as well as the challenges artists  and DJs are facing. He also talks about his source of inspiration and future collaborations.

T.O.P: Hi Andrea, first of all I would like to thank you for your time to answer my questions. In what ways is the current pandemic affecting you, both as a human and as an artist?

Velvet May: Hi Natasa, I hope you’re okay. Thank you for having me in this interview! The current situation is affecting me in many good and bad ways right now. As an artist, in the first lockdown period of this very bad pandemic situation, I thought that there would be at least some positive aspects that I could get, like the opportunity to be more focused and have more time to work on new stuff.

But what I can say now, after many days of quarantine, is that the situation is getting very boring, it’s ok to have more time to focus on music, but unfortunately, without getting all kinds of emotions from the outside and without freeing your mind it’s difficult to create good things. I’m at least speaking from my point of view. I hope everything goes back to the way it was before. I’m enjoying days in the studio and at the park but I miss a lot travelling and seeing a lot of people who I miss.

T.O.P: Can you tell me few things about your journey into the music so far?

Velvet May: I’ve had the pleasure to get in touch with music since I was 12 years old (and not listening to the records collected by my father haha), listening to all possible genres but preferring more and more rock and electronic music, two genres at the same time very different where my hometown Naples, an artistic city, represents an excellent base to expand my knowledge about it.
I started playing in the first clubs in my city when I was 15, and then I started studying Sound Design shortly after the end of my high school. My city has really given me a lot, in terms of approach to art and culture, making me even more proud to be from there. I’ve made all kinds of music, even for the film and broadcast industry.
After graduating in sound design, I moved to Berlin, where it all begins, where the Velvet May project was born, which I carry on with great dedication, and where I now feel at home more than ever.

T.O.P: Looking back to where you started this journey, was there any person, moment or experience that have played a significant role for your expression and art?

Velvet May: We are sponges, and we constantly assimilate emotions and moments from the outside world. People and life experiences, good and bad as they may be, definitely played an important role in my journey. Some people, great friends and artists, have made me get in touch with the music I like and make me today more direct and vivid and gave me the strength and motivation to focus more and more on doing what I do, always trying to create something new, pleasant and different. On the other hand, the familiar and very private aspects of my life give to what I do a different colour, which you can’t do without and that makes you the person you are.


T.O.P: What’s the story behind your own imprint Tears on Waves?

Velvet May: Very sincerely I can tell you that my label does not have a very elaborated and founded story, like many other labels I know. I would be a liar not to tell you that it all started when I just wanted to self-produce my releases and not to have the burden of having to wait for what others did with them and especially when to publish them. Collaborating with other labels and being united by the same cause is a beautiful thing, sharing music and planning things with other people is a beautiful thing, but also having the confidence to be able to do it and express yourself without having to give account to so many people is a beautiful thing, too! haha. Especially at a time of maximum saturation that music is facing. I will have the pleasure of publishing more of my own work and some of the artists I love soon!

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T.O.P: You have recently released an outstanding EP, “Phoebe’s White Skin”, which is also the 3rd release of your label. The EP is characterised by EBM, poetic textures and a daring post-punk atmosphere. What are the emotions and meanings behind this work?

Velvet May: Thank you. I really appreciate you enjoying it! Phoebe’s White Skin represents many aspects like love, toxic love and even unrequited love at times, eroticism and the contrast of pleasure and pain (like a real sense of drowning). I really appreciate Charles Baudelaire’s literature (Yes, it is haha) and I can say that very often my music refers to and is influenced by his thinking. The intrinsic meaning lies precisely in recognising the different forms of relationship with others and what everything can spring from a person’s dramatic mind.

T.O.P: How do you feel artists and the scene will emerge in a post-virus era?

Velvet May: Tough question! This general lockdown has certainly slowed down the artistic processes of a lot of people, but not of a lot of producers I know. As I said at the beginning, you have more time to be in the studio, time to work on releases that could be released in a year or even two (not my case as I feel very slow during the creative process haha). Not being able to play around, many artists are unable to invest their lost money in what they love and so they will be slowed down as well. You try to do anything good you possibly can, which makes you participating in every way in the music scene, but without knowing how it will finally turn out.

T.O.P: In your opinion, what are the major challenges that artists face right now?

Velvet May: The major challenges are certainly shameless and sometimes inappropriate competition in certain situations. Trying to make yourself visible in a saturated environment where it is difficult to express yourself, especially in the lockdown period we are facing.

Many artists I know who were getting ready to perform in gigs and tours, are now seeing everything cancelled or postponed, and they’re seeing the fruits of their hard work fade away for a while and then they’ll have to work even harder.

T.O.P: Any upcoming projects or collaborations to announce?

Velvet May: I can’t say much and name names, but there are some collaborations and especially solo releases coming out on some thick labels this year! The next one is a various artist on a label is doing such a good work. Beyond these, I’ve had the pleasure to start a new project with a very dear friend of mine, bass player, great musical lover and owner of a very influential label of the moment. The project is totally unrelated to clubbing and I have serious intentions to take it forward in the best possible way.

T.O.P: Who is Velvet May outside the studio/venues?

Velvet May: I don’t like very much to talk about how I am, but I consider myself a very quiet person who tries to put everyone at ease and I always try to help where I can. I like to have fun with little and I always try to escape and free my mind in one way or another. As a good Italian, I love food a lot! haha.

T.O.P: Which piece of music or album would you suggest as a mind/soul healer?

Velvet May: Black Sabbath – Planet Caravan. Enjoy!