Interviews

Inti Carboni: Meet the Italian Hardcore Head Who Became a Successful Filmmaker

Photo: Martina Trovato

Inti Carboni is a friend of mine from Italy who has been a part of the hardcore scene going back to the '80s. First as a fan, then as a booker and road crew member, he's made some of his favorite memories days on the road with such hardcore staples as Sick of It All, Agnostic Front, and Snapcase. 

Though he's still a passionate member of the hardcore community in Italy, Inti has carved out an impressive career in the movie industry working as a First Assistant Director, Producer, and Director. His resume includes projects with such directors as Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, and Ron Howard, to name just a few. 

It was a pleasure chatting with Inti about his life and career in this new No Echo interview.

Tell me about where you were born and raised and a bit about your pathway into music obsession.

I was born in Rome in 1971 but soon after that my parents moved to Sardinia, a beautiful big island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, back then very isolated. I lived there until 1988, but the rest of my  family was in Rome, so I would travel back there all the time to see my grandparents for the holidays. I discovered music at an early age through my parents, becoming obsessed with a Simon & Garfunkel tape and political Italian folk songwriters, but never really got into Italian pop music at all. My parents where radical political activists, so I grew up outside the norms of italian life and pop culture.

After my parents divorced, I started spending a lot more time on my own. My father worked long hours and my mother and my younger sister moved to Rome. I was struck by a late night Italian state TV show called Mister Fantasy, the first one that was showing music videos back then. It was 1981 and through that I started to get exposed to alternative music and culture. I would record the music with a tape player straight from the TV speakers and then play it back and listen to the bands I liked.

Who were some of the bands you were exposed to at that point?

Most of those bands where considered avant-garde and obscure for the standards of that era and none of my peers at school knew about them. Early Duran Duran, New Order were mixed with The Clash and some other semi-punk stuff, but as an 11-year-old kid, I could not really understand. It all confused and excited me. Also one music video that totally shocked me was the Afrika Bambaataa/John Lydon “World Destruction“ song. It was a crazy mix of seminal hip-hop and punk and it was all about the nuclear war paranoia, which was rampant at the time.

I was always the weird guy at school anyway, so that did not win me any friends, but just more bullying: it was all a blur of more music videos, strange '80s computer graphics and more feeling weird but not really knowing why. One summer two friends I use to hang out on vacation in Italy came completely changed: one was a punk and the other was a skateboarder. The punk guy showed me a copy of TVOR, an incredible Italian hardcore fanzine with lots of pictures that got me even more confused. I started listening to some of that stuff, started attending art high school where I found more outcasts like me and bought a skateboard. 

Fifth issue of TVOR zine, circa 1985

It's funny, but your story, at least so far, sounds like so many people I grew up with in the States.

Yes, I dove headfirst into the punk and hardcore culture, and also early hip-hop and graffiti. My sources where punk fanzines and skateboarding magazines. It was all done by mail and getting packages from all over the world was really exciting. It was Xmas every time I would open the mailbox. We built a small scene of skate punks, back when skateboarding and hardcore where basically synonymous. 

After I finished high school, I went on a Eurorail skateboarding trip around Europe with my crew, and by travelling between skate spots and punk shows, I got to meet people that became some of my best friends to this day. Then I moved to Rome and connected with the scene out there. 

The cultural and political influence of hardcore was huge on my life. It still is. I have been a vegetarian since I was 18. The straight edge lifestyle influenced a big part of my life and in a lot of ways still does, and the positive action, DIY, hard working, anti-racist, free-thinking foundation of the hardcore punk subculture is how I live my life.

Inti tearing it up in 1987

Outside of a few bands, I have to admit that I’m not well-versed on Italian hardcore. What was the scene like when you were growing up? 

I was a teenager around the tail end of the golden era of early Italian hardcore. I think the first show I saw was Raw Power at their prime in possibly 1986: I got really scared! It was the first time I saw a guitar player diving into the crowd and back then you would not see that on TV! Also the crowd was really scary! The early Italian hardcore scene was made of amazing people with a lot of creativity and resilience. It took a lot of courage and curiosity: being a punk meant being harrassed daily by normal people and the police. Unfortunately, I did not get to see Negazione or Indigesti or CCM. Those great bands where either breaking up or turning into bad metal, and people where losing interest. Then in the late '80s, Youth of Today came bursting through: it was a whirlwind of new bands, new zines, new shows.

Before the Youth of Today/straight edge era, the scene was mostly made of older people that had their prime in the early '80s and by the time it was 1988 they where really jaded. There was a big cultural clash between the new kids and the older generation. It was people in their late twenties that suddenly had to confront a wave of 16/18-year-old kids with a different look and approach to things. Because of that experience, I always try to be supportive and understanding of new kids.

Growing Concern and members of the Roma Crew, 1989

What bands did you see, from there or touring, back then?

I used to travel a bit for shows before I moved to Rome. That meant taking a train, then a overnight ferry, the another train to Milan. I saw Amebix, the Accüsed, Raw Power, Anthrax on their Among the Living tour, and last but not least Youth of Today. I was so happy to see that Sammy was younger than me. I used to be the youngest kid at those shows! In 1988 I saw a lot of bands around Europe on my Eurorail trip. We started the trip in Germany in Münster, at the Skateboarding World Championship: the city was over run by hundreds of skate punks, Rodney Mullen did his freestyle run using the street skate structures and using Bad Religion’s Suffer as a soundtrack. I interviewed Bill Danforth for a skate magazine and he told me about being in stagediving pictures in the Negative Approach 7”. We also got to see a whole Team Alva session in a bowl.

Then Crucial Youth and Jingo De Lunch in Amsterdam (that was fun), Gauze and Chaos UK in London and on the way back to Italy after a month of travel, Bad Religion on their Suffer tour! That was intense! In that same year I saw Gorilla Biscuits on their first tour in Bologna. Luke broke his leg and Walter played drums and because he could not play some of the new songs, as a filler they played Judge, YOT and SOIA songs! It was awesome!

Me and my friends in the Roma Crew would travel all the way to see shows. The big change happened when Marc and Ute of M.A.D. started booking shows in Europe. They are the originators, the real godfathers of hardcore of Europe. They had a great attiude and taste and brought over the best bands. And because of them, other people started doing tours too. In the late '80s/early '90s, I saw the best shows: Rikk Agnew, D.I., Slapshot, Agnostic Front, Madball, Down By Law, Upfront, Into Another, Endpoint, Warzone, Integrity. Also I got to see several times the greatest european band of the '90s: Manliftingbanner. I think some of the most intense shows I have ever seen where the Agnostic Front ones when Roger just came back from jail, on the One Voice tour. The band was at his top, he was fierce, and the crowds where hundreds of absolute lunatics.

Jon Salemi (Snapcase), Toby Morse (H2O), Inti, and Lou Koller (Sick of It All) on tour, circa 1994

How did you get into booking shows in Rome in the early ‘90s? What were some of the highlight bills you put together?

I moved to Rome after I finished high school in Sardinia and started living with my mother and my sister. I became immediately friend with the Growing Concern and Open Season kids, who where the core of what became the legendary Roma Crew. The punk scene was very patronizing over the new breed of young kids and we wanted just to get shows. Most of the bands would stop in the north at Milan and Bologna, so we would travel there all the time. The Isola Nel Kantiere in Bologna was a squat run predominantly by young kids from the hardcore scene who where incredibly cool and dynamic. They would do mixed bills and started incorporating elements of hip-hop culture in their posters and their after show parties.

Inspired by them, we decided to start booking our own shows in Rome, filling a gap because none of the old punks where doings shows for the kids. We started by doing Rome hardcore only shows, then we added out of town bands and soon we moved into doing foreign touring bands, juggling between grimy squats and indie clubs. We used guerilla marketing tactics for our promotion, catchy posters, and wanted to do shows with mixed bills and young bands. Also back then the music scene was very stale, so we did about 10 shows a year and each one of them was an event.

Inti at the Sick of It All merch table during his first European tour, 1993

What are some show highlights from that era?

I think the best shows we booked where the original RMHC only shows — so much fun, with kids flying all over the place. Also some of the first hardcore/hip-hop mixed bills. Hardcore, graffiti, and b-boys in Rome in the '90s where definitely part oft he same culture and we all hung out together. A big part of the audience at the Derek B/Public Enemy/Run-D.M.C. show in Rome in 1988 were hardcore kids. As far as foreign bands, I remember the Sick of It All show on their second European tour, with AJ from Leeway playing bass. They left their van parked near the Colosseum and got their instruments stolen right away! We all pooled in money to get them a decent guarantee and they played with the opening band gear. 

After that we started booking more out of town and smaller foreign bands. The first foreign band we did was Rorschach. The best shows I remember where Face Value with some herb filling in for Erba (we missed you, Tony!), Feeding the Fire/Spawn, Bloodline and Transcend and three H2O shows we did during  a few days off they had on the SOIA/CIV/H2O tour. We all hung out for a few days, lots of people sleeping on the floors of my mom’s apartment and a CIV show in a squat that turned into a Gorilla Biscuits reunion with our good friend Gianni Pantaloni AKA Johnny Pants (R.I.P.) joining them  as a roadie for the rest of that tour.

Roma Crew with CIV and H2O at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, circa mid'-90s

You mentioned that you spent many years working as a roadie for bands like Sick of It All, Agnostic Front, and Strife. Tell me about that era in your life and some of the memories that stick out.

I met the SOIA guys through Marc of MAD. Some Roma Crew kids and me travelled all the way to Austria to see them on their first european tour. They did a great show, playing two sets because they did not have enough songs! We hung out with them backstage and kept in touch after that. On their second European tour we booked the Rome show and they all slept at my apartment. About a year later, after I was done with a film job in northern Italy, I went to see them playing on their tour with Black Train Jack. I hitched a ride on their tour bus for a few dates and ended up staying for the whole tour, filling in for merch when their German guy had to go back to Berlin for a dental emergency! After the tour was over, they asked me if I wanted to keep working for them in Europe and I said yes! I lived the hardcore version of Almost Famous, that Cameron Crowe picture. They where my favorite band, at their prime, and we ended up becoming friends for life.

Marc from MAD was their tour manager back then and he would not only book their shows, but also set them up with younger cool support bands like Snapcase or Strife. He was also the first one that got hardcore bands at big European rock and metal festivals and that was great. We got to see a lot of mainstream rock, metal and alternative bands that way. And SOIA owned the stage everytime with all these normal rock types being speechless.

Toby Morse writing lyrics before an H2O set in Europe, 1994

It was great travelling around Europe, doing lots of sightseeing, making friends everywhere, witnessing the start of H2O when it was just Toby scribbling lyrics on a notepad, food fights with Snapcase, giving rides to hardcore kids on the bus, trading t-shirts and fanzines. I still see those as the best years of my life. Before that I did a few tours with Rome’s Growing Concern, then three full european tours with Sick of It All, one California tour with Rancid and SOIA, and a part of a tour of South America with Agnostic Front.

Of all the bands you toured with, who did you bond with the most and why?

As I said,  Sick of It All are my favorites. We still see each other every time they are in Rome or in Italy and every time I am tempted to leave everything and get on that bus for the rest of the tour! We also bonded so much with Snapcase, on their first European tour, that both bands and the road crew was in tears when we said our goodbies at the airport. SOIA are an interesting group of people: hard workers, fair and down to earth. They have that punk/hardcore mentality of the '80s, when the scene was not divided into subgroups and you had a sense of community and political awareness. Snapcase where young and nice, coming from what was good of the early vegan straight edge scene, before everybody became a puritan conservative asshole. 

The first batch of SOIA roadies was great people too: Squirm, Toby Morse, Tim Shaw, Lenny Zimkus. I have a lot of love for them.

Sick of It All, Snapcase, and their road crew, 1994

Hit me with a crazy tour story!

Later on, as I was travelling around South America after I finished working on a film, I ended up doing merch for Agnostic Front on their Victim in Pain lineup tour in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. That was a crazy experience.

Stigma got an allergic reaction while getting yellow fever shots in Colombia and almost died. So, he had to spend the remainder of the tour as a sober vegetarian and me as the expert on that lifestyle: “What can I eat, kid“?

AF tends to attract a variety of rejects of society and various mutants at their shows, most of them looking like characters out of a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and they all wanted to be my friends. Roger was travelling without a real passport, he was still a cuban national with no real citizenship back then. That was fun. There’s also a whole NYHC/Rome connection, where we all became good close friends with Walter, Sammy, and Charlie and all that gang. A connection that still stands even if we all got old!

Tim Armstrong, Inti, Jon Reed on the SOIA/Rancid California tour, 1994

You work in the film world these days. How did you get your foot in the door? I know how hard that can be.

I was attending college in Rome, studying political science, and wanted to become a diplomat. Work for world peace and all that. Right after I finished high school I got a summer job at a film festival, organizing and delivering the film reels to the projectionist. Back in the celluloid days that meant heavy work! After that, I kept working as a errand boy for a few more film festivals and slowly started getting work as a Production Assistant on film sets and got sucked in and dropped off college.

My big break was after I stopped touring: my knowledge of English was pretty good and I got the chance to work at the Cinecittà Studios on a big Sylvester Stallone movie called Daylight. While on that film, I was able to climb up the professional ladder pretty fast: after a few weeks I got assigned to their 2nd Unit, who was filming all sort of stuff, from detail shots to big F/X and VF/X sequences. The Director/DP took me under his wings and a few months of work became the equivalent to 5 years of film school.

Inti at work on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou w/ Bill Murray, Angelica Houston, Wes Anderson, and Noah Taylor, 2003 (Photo: Philippe Antonello)

That was obviously a smart move.

I invested the money I made in a laptop computer and a copy of Movie Magic Scheduling and started to work as a 2nd AD right away. It was right at the time when a lot of American big budget films where shot in Italy, so I had a good run and eventually climbed my way up to First Assistant Director, which is what I do now for a living. I think my hardcore background gave me a good platform for working in films: long hours in adverse weather, resiliency, capacity to adapt to different environments and people and positive reaction to sudden drawbacks: PMA all the time! I also tend to hire as many hardcore kids as I can in the films I work on as extras or bit parts: you can see a lot of Roma hardcore cenesters in Gangs of New York! And now some hardcore kids works with me as ADs and PAs… There’s a few bonafide hardcore people doing great stuff in film business now. The work of Patty Jenkins, Dito Montiel, Jeremy Saulnier, Marcos Siega... it's outstanding and you can see that they have a different, special creative eye

Rome hardcore crew as extras on Gangs of New York, 2001

I have worked on more than 40 feature films, lots of commercials, and music videos. My favorite film experiences where The Legend of 1900, U-571, Gangs of New York, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Mission: Impossible III, Angels & Demons, 007: Spectre, Wonder Woman, Inferno, and a really good feature that will come out soon called The Burnt Orange Heresy.

In the last few years, I have been producing on the side and directing a bit, but so far ADing is what puts money in the bank.

Gangs of New York AD crew w/ Martin Scorsese, 2001

On the directing side, who are some of the bands you’ve done music videos for and how has that experience been?

The first thing I directed was a music video for Roman band, Strength Approach. They had a song about church and pedophilia and asked me to do their video. I wrote a treatment with a journalist that wrote a book on that matter, underlining illicite actions of the Catholich Church for centuries. That came out pretty good, and it felt pretty easy!

The next video was another political one for Strength Approach called "Carry on the Torch." In the last few years many neo-fascist bands in Italy have started saying how much they are inspired by hardcore bands. I wanted to show them how the bands they mentioned have a anti-fascist stand and we don’t want any of their racist bullshit in a worldwide, open-minded scene, where creed. race and sexual orientation are not discriminated against.

After that I did what I think is my best work so far: a music video for Born from Pain, a song and a video about substances and abuse, iterally shot in my apartment and at a camera rental house in two half days:

The only narrative film I directed so far, its a skateboarding short film for Murder, set in the Cinecittà film studios. That got real good reviews on The Berrics, Ride Channel, Juice, and got awards and nominations in a lot of italian and international film festivals:

You produced a documentary I loved called S Is for Stanley. Tell me about that project. As a Kubrick geek, I need to know!

Alex Infascelli, the director, met Emilio De Alessandro, who was Kubrick’s driver and personal assistant for 30 years. An Italian author wrote a book about this great story and once the rights went for sale, we made an offer and a creative pitch and got the option on the film rights. Even if we all worked in films, we had no idea on how to finance and produce a documentary and it was harder than expected to make it. We pitched the project to networks, studios and film markets for a year and nobody was interested. We decided to do it anyway and self financing it. I put all my hardcore DIY skills in the production and approached it as it was a hardcore fanzine/show/record and little by little we where able to make it.

Once it was completed, we started sending it to film festivals, without much luck, until the Rome Film Festival decided to program it and that literally made the day. We went from nobodies to great international reviews and feedback and through that we where able to find theatrical release in Italy and Japan, US, and Canadian distribution on Netflix through Rat Pac and we ended up being nominated as Best European Documentary at the EFA, Italian Golden Globe and winning Best Feature Documentary at the David di Donatello: that’s the Italian Oscar!

The human experience of learning of Stanley Kubrick through Emilio’s personal life was priceless. Emilio was a hard working Italian immigrant that worked as a mechanic and eventually became a Formula Ford race driver. After his first son was born, he quit racing and started working as a minicab driver. One night through a London snowstorm he delivered a penis sculpture on the set of A Clockwork Orange. His racing background impressed Kubrick who hired him as his personal driver who turned into close collaborator and personal friend for 30 years. Kubrick‘s work mode was a cross between a paramilitary operation and a religious cult and the level of commitment required burned out a lot of people, including ultimately Kubrick. Emilio was there through thick and thin and we tried to document his human journey.

Photo: Romolo Eucalitto

What else are you working on these days? What’s the next project?

I have produced several music videos, a contemporary art piece and 3 feature documentaries. That does not really pay much at all so far, so as a day job I work as 1st AD on features and commercials. I recently got in the qualification list for the DGA and I am waiting to get my first union job so that I can get in for good. I wrapped on an Italian comedy that we filmed over the summer, and I am now on a string of commercials that will keep me busy until the end of the year. After that, the future is unwritten. On the producing side, a film I have worked on called Friedkin Uncut just came out in the US and we are working on two more feature documentary projects that I can’t really speak about yet…

What’s your all-time favorite hardcore record?

Although I don’t buy as many records as I used to, I have a pretty large collection. I would say that there’s a bunch of classics I listen to, and sometimes I whip the vinyl out and get on a binge of old bands. Recently, as I was home breaking down and scheduling a new script, I listened to the whole Jingo De Lunch discography, a great band from the late '80s and I can’t get enough of all the records that X (John Doe and Exene Cervenka) put out.

There’s 3 records that gets me pumped and inspired every time I listen to them:

Bad Brains, Rock for light 
7 Seconds, The Crew
Youth of Today, We’re Not in This Alone (strictly first Caroline mix, the one where the drums sounds like they have been pushed through a flight of stairs)

As far as old italian bands, nothing beats these two gems from 1985: 

Raw Power, Screams from the Gutter
Indigesti, Osservati Dall’Inganno

Also one of my favorite obscure records is this Rikk Agnew one, where all the instruments are played by him:

***

Follow Inti on his personal Instagram page.

comments powered by Disqus