While I was still in Texas, my friend Batu offered to ask me some questions for an interview… He said that it could have been interesting for my readers to know a bit more about me.
Here you can read my replies: the truth and lies from the mouth that matters, as a well loved bio put it.1
Q: Which type of music do you usually listen to? And which one do you play?
A: I have always been passionate about rock and it’s still a big love of mine, so that’s my first choice when I want to relax. I especially like Genesis, the Beatles, the Police, the Cure, and many many more bands than I care to list here.
I also listen to Miles Davis, whatever jazz album I put my hands on (I am a very messy jazz listener), and classical music, especially Ravel, Schoenberg, Berg, Satie, and Sciarrino.
During the last 12 months, though, I didn’t have much chance to access my music, so I ended up listening very little music apart from live performances (Finnish folk music, blues, lots of country, some musicals, and the pop/ rock music that my girlfriend suggested).
As for playing, again: I used to play a lot of rock and some jazz.
After my second year in Newcastle I pretty much stopped playing live (I was focusing too much on composition and musicology), but I have started again now. I am playing fingerpicking acoustic guitar, acoustic blues and I’m getting jazz lessons again. I missed it a lot and I wished I could devote more time to it. It’s never enough!
Q: It’s peculiar that you say you love rock so much and yet your first album, Valentine, is firmly rooted into jazz. Why is that? How did it happen?
A: One could say that “Valentine” happened by accident.
Originally, its recording was scheduled in winter 2010, with another album to be recorded in June 2010. Then this June album never happened for various reasons, and there was the chance to record “Valentine” in Austin… et voilà! It was a lot of work to make it come out 3 months before schedule, but everybody seems happy about the end result, and I certainly am myself.
There will be time to record more rock-related music further down the line, I’m sure. Actually, a new album is already underway…
Q: Let’s stick to “Valentine” for now. How did you record the album?
A: The sessions and the rehearsals were organized in a way similar to those of classic jazz albums from the 1950s.
Initially there were talks about dubbing the solos or some form of multitracking on at least some tracks, but as soon as we entered the studios it was obvious that the best approach was having the band playing live all the time and record the results. The musicians surely had enough chops to do so, and Barrett 2 and I agreed that way of recording would have given a more exciting result.
We only overdubbed the vocals and about 20 seconds of trombone solo and that was it.
Q: What are your major influences in creating this album? Is there anything Italian in the music?
A: As I said, I really like Miles Davis. I listened to his “Steamin’” and “Kind of blue” quite a lot while perfecting the arrangements, along with some old live John Coltrane performances that I found on YouTube.
I also listened to C.S.I.’s “Tabula Rasa Elettrificata”, and Francesco De Gregori’s “Viva L’Italia”, too, but I doubt that they played a strong direct influence on the music… with the exception maybe of Outside , whose nocturnal atmosphere has something of C.S.I.’s Ongii.
After listening to the rough mixes of Jamaica Junction, the music reminded me of some soundtrack of old Fellini’s films… which is funny, because I never really listened to Rota’s music except while watching the films and I certainly didn’t see any in Austin. I guess that counts as the Italian influence on the album.
Q: Talking about Jamaica Junction, what’s the story behind the song?
A: The lyrics say it all, pretty much. I was in the New York underground during my infamous Journey in Two-Thirds3, going from JFK airport to midtown Manhattan.
There were these two women, one obviously a transvestite, discussing about this man. The discussion become louder and louder, and eventually the “normal” woman was going to beat the transvestite, if their friends hadn’t separate them. Funnily enough, the transvestite was more polite and rather more feminine than the straight girl.
Q: What about the other songs? Any other funny story? Who is this Valentine?
A: Unfortunately there are no other stories… at least none that I want to disclose to the public!
Valentine is just a name of a girl I liked ages ago, when the very first version of the song was written. It was never completed and the new version, written in Newcastle for my Master’s, features brand new lyrics and several harmonic and melodic changes. Only the original hook and concept of the song remained.
Q: Talking about your lyrics, why do you write in English?
A: Well, it’s a long story. Let’s say that there are mainly two reasons behind it: first and foremost, you get more market interest if you sing in English. Italian label CEOs are historically skeptical about exporting, for some reason. Sure, everybody knows ‘O sole mio, Nel blu dipinto di blu (aka Volare), and other classics, and Italian artists like Ramazzotti or Pausini are known outside Italy. Yet, it’s a mystery to me why, say, one should export Ramazzotti and not CCCP Fedeli alla Linea/ C.S.I., Litfiba, Marlene Kuntz or others.
The second reason is that I feel I can’t compete with the work of people like De André, Guccini, De Gregori, Panella in his Battisti period, and a host of great lyrics writers that have populated the entire history of the Italian music. Some songs are really poems with some music on. English always seemed to offer a lighter approach, so I decided to use it from day one.
Q: Are you satisfied with the album? Is there a favourite song?
A: I’m really satisfied.
It all happened quickly and there was a big chance that something could go wrong. The album could have felt rushed or somewhat inferior to our potential. Obviously, having a bit more time we could have done everything at a more relaxed pace: the rehearsals and the recordings took 4 days altogether!
Having said that, it was a blessing that the quickness of the process infused the music with vitality and excitement. I think it’s a testament of the musicianship of those involved and, without false modesty, of the quality of the arrangements.
The two songs that I like the best are the oldest and the newest ones. Scene 71 was written for my Harmony 4 class at Berklee, in 2003. I love the sense of space I can hear in the music, which is even more evident in the piano solo section. Outside, instead, was written little more than two weeks before the first rehearsal. It’s very intimate and mysterious and I love that.
Q: Let’s talk about the future. Any more jazz albums in store?
A: Not for the moment, I’m afraid.
Before going back to jazz, I want to record some different music. I have material for at least 3 albums and with some luck I’ll record everything during the next 12 months. There should be a bluesy acoustic album, hopefully to be completed between November and December 2010.
Then I want to do something with my compositions for classical ensembles, if I find the musicians.
Finally, I have a choice between a dance-oriented electronic album, an electric rock project and putting together some sound collages. It all depends on how things go, what chances of performing life I have in Italy and in Europe and so on.
I can tell you one thing, though: the next jazz influenced album I’ll do will be a melange of influences. I want to reference Eastern European folk music and progressive rock. The ensemble will probably be smaller, too, maybe a trio or a quartet. I guess the pieces will be more structured and featured several completely scored sections.
This is just the plan, though, and things do change once you know things like which specific musicians are involved, where and when the album will be recorded, how much money I have for the sessions and so on.
Q: Are you going to stay in Italy for a long time?
A: I don’t know. I don’t mind staying in Italy, but I need to a steady, solid work environment. It’s not just the money, it’s how much you can challenge yourself, do something different, go crazy, if you will, and make it happen. We’ll see.
You might also like:
- Which bio? Be the first one to leave a comment with the right answer and you will win a free copy of Valentine! [↩]
- the sound engineer [↩]
- My winter 2009 trip: my laptop was stolen and I lost about one third of my pictures (and two months worth of composition work) with it. Hence the name of the trip [↩]