NERO KANE, A ROCK AND ROLL DAVID, AND HIS MUSE, SAMANTHA STELLA
The American West and cowboy myth has always evoked images of Jesse James, Billy the Kid, and in most modern terms cult of Sam Shepard.
Rock and roll was born out of this self-professed outlaw, king of orgiastic pleasures, evident in blues men, Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon, and Muddy Waters, among many.
What evolved from this black epithet for sexual romp was the whitening and Europeanizing of boogie chillin’. Johnny Cash, commercially, a face for a movement of country rebel crooning, songs inspired by gospel and mountain music, led a charge of inspired white American musicians who wrote songs about pride, love of a woman, and the American prairie.
A latter day change in this movement of self-professed liberty was the early 1990’s Palm Desert, California sound which combines elements of psychedelia, blues, heavy metal, hardcore punk, alternative rock, and other genres, often featuring “distinctive repetitive drum beats, a propensity for free-form jamming, and “trance-like” grooves”.
Songs, from this movement, channel a disillusioned internal disassociation. Rage can lead to seduction, morbidity can create an allure of enlightenment.
Italian musician, Nero Kane, has now joined a growing force of musicians and bands who experiment with this musical element. Two years ago, he and his muse, Samantha Stella, embarked on what they called the Natural Born Killers tour of the California landscape.
The collaboration between the two artists started in 2015 with the direction by Samantha of three music videos (“Tomorrow Never Comes”, “No Sense of Crime” and “Death in June”) for the previous project by Nero Kane (called NERO, with the album “Lust Soul”), where they also were the protagonists. In 2016 they premiered in Milan and Los Angeles, a performance called, “Hell23”, a special project inspired by Cumaean Sibyl, a priestess of Apollo, the Greek-Roman god of the Arts, Music, Poetry and Prophecy, as well as death and destruction as described in Homer’s Iliad. It suggests a shamanic journey in the dark depths of the afterlife. Musically, the performance develops from the song “Spirits”, from the album, “Lust Soul”, by NERO. The visual and performance vocabulary includes the use of symbols from Neo-Classical sculpture, geometry, Samantha Stella’s motionless body and repeated gestures – a reoccurring theme in Stella’s Corpicrudi project. Since 2016 they feature a blog of visions and poetry called “Love Comes In Spurts”.
Samantha Stella, visual artist, performer, art director for art and fashion events and musician, works on projects mainly focused on body and live art, through the use of different languages – installations containing structural and bodily elements, photo and video, revealing reflections on the thin balance between the opposites – life and death, eternity and caducity, good and evil. In 2005 she co-founded with Sergio Frazzingaro the visual artist duo called CORPICRUDI (literally “rawbodies”). Their work is featured in contemporary art galleries, museums, historical buildings, churches, prisons and castles, in collaboration with writers, fashion designers, visual artists, musicians, composers, directors.
Nero Kane is the nickname of Marco Mezzadri, a musician already known in the Italian underground scene. After the release of his rock-wave album “Lust Soul” under the name NERO, he is now focusing on a new intimate, minimal and decadent path.
Love In A Dying World, a forthcoming album recorded by Nero Kane in Los Angeles with producer Joe Cardamone (The Icarus Line / Holy War), where folk-rock-blues atmospheres combine European roots with American desert sounds, is also an experimental film with direction by Samantha Stella filmed during the journey with Nero Kane through the desert and solitary landscapes of California, and a performative / installation declination presented in museum / gallery settings.
The film is an atypical road movie of which the two artists are protagonists shot by Stella with a small hand-held camera, structured in different chapters, each chapter mounted on a song by Nero Kane (the album is in English, only the last one is an instrumental track). No dialogues, but the words from the lyrics are the only comments on the visions of love, death, decadence, loneliness and a spiritual vein (two songs were inspired by a Hymnbook from the Presbyterian Church bought from an old antique dealer near Joshua Tree, during the journey). The precise and detailed filming of the movie marks the sovereignty of a dying landscape with vivid colors. The movie, which is the first one by Samantha Stella, was shot entirely without any additional light; neither was there any color added during post production.
As a performance duo, Nero Kane and Samantha Stella are perfectly matched; he of the younger, self-reflective, Trent Reznor mode with guitar, she the longer-haired, Polly Jean Harvey-inspired, chanteuse and model.
Their performances are indeed of the body, an uncanny sex appeal, relevant in robust musculature of the male and female body, sleek, perfectly built, smoothly skin-toned appeal clothed at times in Nero Kane’s leather jacket, tight cowboy pants, boots and Samantha Stella’s trendy rock and roll attire, fish net stockings and pumps.
The music is haunting, ghost-like torture, spread out evenly, made up of Nero Kane’s melodic, well-structured guitar hooks, and effortless playing.
There is a worth of stylized lyricism, evident in the music and lyrics, which cry out,
Precious love… Are you my love? A resistance of love, mired in a quiet death and bad lament, almost a recalling of Jim Morrison’s death wish sans the drugs.
The continuous death-toned musical scales are eerie, a super-charged Angelo Badalamenti influence, from the David Lynch movie soundtracks.
Two Samantha Stella videos made available for preview are “Hell23” and “Tomorrow Never Comes”.
“Hell23” is a send up of Juliette Lewis’ performance in Kathryn Bigelow’s movie “Strange Days”, whereby Samantha Stella encourages performance of a rock goddess, in her handling of the microphone, gestures, dances, poses and imitations of sexual ecstasy.
Nero Kane’s aura of a rock and roll, “David”, is immediately captured in his physical presence, as his guitar haunts in a daunting monotonous, death call.
Samantha Stella’s chanting of the words, The spirits are coming, The spirits are here, is a foreboding expectance within this exciting example of a gripping video, reminiscent of Kenneth Anger.
The staged performance in the film is aggressively rock and roll, means of self- possession, self-sacrifice and ultimately, an act of self-love.
Juxtapositioning of the dominant male and female sexual persona carries over from Nero Kane, possessed by his guitar playing, and stoicism, giving off fits of passionate resolve, along with the effectiveness of Samantha Stella’s, diva, self-challenge, sexual threat, playfully demonstrating release of tension in her body undergoing pleasure.
“Tomorrow Never Comes” picks up from Vincent Gallo’s film “Honey Bunny”, where a model standing on a miniature revolving stage, spins around.
Nero Kane and Samantha Stella, pose as mannequins or rock and roll icons in different positions, set to the raging fury of the song, “Tomorrow Never Comes”.
The sexual urge in the film is obvious, signifying elements of hyper-masculinity and hyper-femininity. There are hints of eroticism and sensuality, role of the two performers as lovers and yet there’s a dispassionate idle and lost seclusion, a yearning for and wanting of love, most desperately, sex.
Once again, the Samantha Stella use of the body and flesh as statement flows evenly through the video, referring to the figures as inspiration for fashion.
Use of black and white film gives it an art edge, which makes it powerful in its significance as music video, relevance of Nero Kane and Samantha Stella as photographic muses and models, and certifies their roles as rock and roll, Romeo and Juliette.