Hostile but principled: Dalila of Italian Oi band Ostile

Attending Oi and punk gigs in Italy, it’s impossible not to encounter skinhead girl Dalila as she seems to be at all of them. A native of the Varese province in Lombardy, north Italy, she is also fronting her own band Ostile, who have been active since 2017 and have released the album Cresciuti In Fretta on the Milan label Rockout Fascism, known for releases by bands such as Zeman, Feccia Rossa and Les Trois Huit. Valentina Infrangibile spoke to her.

Valentina: Hi Dalila – please introduce to the band to us.

Dalila: OK, so we came up with the idea on a cold night in Turin after a chance encounter with Ruspa, a dear bass-playing friend I hadn’t seen for a while. We were both on our way to a gig at the Askatasuna autonomous community centre. At some point during our conversation, it became clear that we both really wanted to get back to playing music again. So we said, “let’s do it, so what if many miles separate us”. The Ostile project officially started in February 2017 with Ruspa on bass, Dalila on vocals, Prato on guitar and Federico on drums. Now it’s Andrea on guitar and Tommy on bass.

Why did you choose the band name?

The skinhead subculture is a hostile movement don’t you think? And then, there are those who are hostile to us. The word hostile encapsulates a bit of everything that we are and that defines our environment. It’s the first name that we thought of and the only name that we would give this band.

What’s your experience with being a woman singer in the Oi scene? Do you ever feel that the band is under-appreciated – or, on the contrary, that you’re a bigger pull because in Italy there are few bands with female members?

Very interesting question, The first time I’ve been asked this so directly in an interview, though I knew it would come sooner or later. I’m proudly female, proudly feminist, and proudly part of both a band and of an otherwise all-male collective. I’m proud to be a skingirl and part of this movement. And I’ve never felt under-appreciated either within the movement or on stage. On the contrary, I hope that an example of being a singer and a woman in a street-punk band can wake everyone up a bit, because we girls can also pick up a microphone and a guitar. Certainly much of our environment is purely male and may have been adverse at times, but from my personal experience, I can say that I’ve always been appreciated and respected.

What bands do you take inspiration from for your very hardcore-influenced sound?

We’re inevitably influenced by hardcore because both Fede and I previously played in a hardcore punk band called Anestesi. In the first Ostile line-up Ruspa was writing some of the lyrics and music, and he too grew up on punk and hardcore. Andrea, our current guitarist, is a punk. So it’s hard not to be influenced by ‘too-pah, too-pah’ [imitates the sped-up polka beat that is the backbone of hardcore punk – Editor]. Our bass player Tommy, on the other hand, is more inspired by traditional British Oi and American Oi from the 80s, mixed with some hardcore and the more introspective French Oi of today. We can assure you that the second album will be very different, though.

On your album Cresciuti in fretta there’s a song called ’Ventanni’ (20 years). Is it about anyone in particular?

The great guys of the Skinhead Genova crew inspired me to write it. At the time their collective had been newly formed, they were really young, and seeing all this attitude in people like them inspired me and gave me faith that the scene was still alive. Beyond that it’s obviously inspired by all the young skinheads and skingirls who come into the movement. I’ve seen some really young ones lately [That’s probably more than our British readers can say – Editor]

What makes a good gig for you – any best and worst ones you played?

There is no best or worst gigs, really. There’s gig like that last one in Rome when you’re more charged, and then there’s those where you aren’t in great shape, or you’ve drunk too much and don’t really give your best on stage. One thing that’s constant is our attitude and the passion we put into it. That, in my opinion is the most important thing.

We always have a great time. There are more heartfelt gigs such as the one for Dax or Gnappo, comrades and friends who are no longer with us – these concerts were really moving to us. For us, that’s also part of music, especially of our music

[Davide Cesare, also known as Dax, was an anti-fascist from Rozzano who was stabbed to death by two far-right activists in Milan in 2003. Damiano Zorzo, known as Gnappo, a working-class activist from the Milan area, was found lifeless in his home in 2021 – Editor]

What’s the song ‘80s’ about? It contains several quotes from historical Italian Oi and hardcore bands – for example ‘Oi! Fatti una risata’ by Klasse Kriminale and ‘Tutti pazzi’ by Negazione.

Ruspa, where are you? This question would have been better answered by my former bass player, because it was his lyrics and music. But I think he just wanted to pay tribute to milestones of punk and Oi especially from the 80s and 90s by writing a cool lyric where other people’s lyrics would become Ostile lyrics too. You can only find this song on the record, though – we don’t do it live anymore.

Your song ‘Questa è la mia vita’ contains references to the working class, and at the beginning you speak of refusing to conform to society. Are you or were you working class?

We all come from the working class and although I unfortunately recently lost my job, we’re still part of it. The song speaks precisely of this predicament, but at the same time of the good fortune to be part of this movement, which helps us combat the alienation caused by work and all the aspects of life that oppress us.

‘Incoerenti senza storia’ you talk about right-wing street politicians invading your city. Now, I know that the Varese has been the territory of various far-right groups for years, and it has always been governed by the institutional right-wing parties. Are the lyrics specifically about the province that you come from?

I should probably preface this by saying that only Fede and I are from Varese, while Andre is from the province of Lodi and Tommy is from the province of Milan. Having said that, fortunately it’s a bit quieter in Varese right now, although we’re always keeping our eyes open. Unfortunately, the right wing has always held sway in our town. Despite the fact that the current mayor belongs to the Democratic Party [Italy’s major “centre-left” liberal outfit – Editor], there is a tacit agreement between institutional politics and the fascists. They’ve always allowed them to open their offices, their bars, their tattoo studios and whatnot, even though the slogans prominently displayed in their venues are very specifically linked to the extreme right. To walk the streets here being SHARP is not easy, and we’ve had our problems too. But I repeat: the situation is much calmer now than it used to be.

Some of you are part of the SHARP Milano collective. How important is it for you to be part of an anti-fascist collective in north Italy today?

Well, it’s very important. For me it’s not just a question of north Italy. We must never stop talking about anti-fascism and we must never stop being anti-fascist. As I said before, I’m happy to see young people come to our movement and join our circles, and this is one of the main reasons. Because when as a 15-years old set foot in a centro sociale [a left-wing community centre, often squatted and used for political, cultural and social events – Editor] for the first time you also make a political choice. And that’s invaluable, because we won’t be around forever and fascism unfortunately still exists and must be fought by all means necessary.

Looking at the trends in the Oi music scene in recent years, which developments do you like and which ones not so much?

We like seeing new, young, talented bands. What we definitely don’t like is that our music is becoming too commercial and commodified, with too many overpaid artists. If you play in a community centre, maybe for a benefit, then don’t ask me for a 2000 EUR fee, for fuck’s sake!

Which Italian or foreign band would you like to play with?

We have already played with Nabat, so we’ve ticked the Italy box. As for foreign bands, we’d like to play in France, with Rixe or Lion’s Law – hello Wattie… And we’re looking forward to get a call from The Oppressed or Cock Sparrer one day, but maybe we’re aiming too high, haha.

Are you planning any releases with Ostile, and are you involved in any other projects?

Federico is playing drums in Sempre Peggio and Tommy plays guitar in Dirty Job. And yes, of course we are planning to release new stuff, but the road is still long.

Thanks for the interview, Dalila.

Thank you too. I’ll leave you with a quote from the band Dalton: “Siate, siate, siate…Skinhead” [be, be, be a skinhead].


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