All that geeky stuff | Heart of Darkness

Ahead of a December 15 showcase of local progressive rock music – during which they will also be joined by Shlamizard and Krishna – Jimmy Bartolo of Heart of Darkness speaks to Teodor Reljic about the band, which consists of himself and his brother, John

Heart of Darkness performing at the Mediterranean Literature Festival 2017, Fort St Elmo, Valletta
Heart of Darkness performing at the Mediterranean Literature Festival 2017, Fort St Elmo, Valletta

How would you describe the sound and approach behind Heart of Darkness, and what led up to it?

It’s just rock music really; I mean, it’s a little spaced out but there’s beating drums and guitars get thrown on the floor every now and again – so there you go. As far as the approach to the music, I don’t know, I think not having enough money or patience to include more than two musicians on stage at the moment is affecting the way I’m writing this stuff. Using bass loops, drones, effects... all that geeky stuff.

What’s it like to be a sibling musical duo? Was having a band together something the two of you always wanted to do?

Well we’re in the same boat, at least as far as careers go. We’ve been making music together for a long time now though usually as someone else’s backing band, so I guess this is pretty new for both of us. Thing is, we have a decent working relationship that you don’t really find too often. We trust each other enough to do this thing the way it needs to be done, even if neither of us knows exactly where it’s going. If it didn’t feel right we wouldn’t be doing it together. We also both just really want a Grammy.

What’s your songwriting process usually like, and how has it evolved over time?

A lot of the stuff we’re doing now are ideas that I’ve had piled up over a long period of time. There are drafts that have been made in Malta, melodies hummed in Berlin and chord progressions strummed on a guitar in Corktown Detroit. I’m not a huge fan of this process; it’s just a lot of listening and rewriting day after day after day which most of the time leads to nothing, but you know, friends have been asking us to play some shows with them so it’s working alright for now.

Heart of Darkness has appeared on the scene at a time when the prog genre appears to be hitting a stride locally… what would you attribute this to, and how does it feel to contribute to that?

In a weird way maybe what we’re doing is a little progressive in a more soundscaping or psychedelic kind of way, I don’t know. There are certainly a few local bands who have the technical playing nailed down really well and are raising the bar locally in that prog/fusion genre, you know. I mean, look at The Ranch! Whether this music will be on that train is really beyond me right now, we’re just doing what we do.

My brother and I have a decent working relationship that you don’t really find too often

What do you make of the local musical scene? What would you change about it?

There’s been some exceptional music that came out this year, from The Velts to Brodu’s album Tfejt, I certainly can’t complain on an artistic level as to what’s been released. I would love to see more of these alternative bands spending more and more time touring to build a bigger and wider audience, the music’s definitely getting better and anything that inspires the next generation of Maltese songwriters that there’s more to music than Eurovision and Paceville is a good thing.

What’s next for you?

Right now we gotta play this show as best as it can be played so people come watch us again. Shlamizard are sounding awesome and Krishna are always a pleasure to watch live so it’ll be a fun night. I think an official release or official anything for this music is a little too soon. Either way, we’re still working on demos to help craft the sound and songwriting a little better; we just don’t want to rush it. Apart from that, taking it outside Malta for a little while sounds like a right idea as well – we have a lot of friends scattered around Europe and the US who play in some pretty badass bands and we’d love to share the stage with them.


Heart of Darkness will be sharing the stage with Shlamizard and Krishna at ‘TakeMeToYourLeader’, at The Garage, Zebbug on December 15. Entrance is at €7. Doors open at 21:00

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