Month: December 2017

GHETTORAGA: LUCA FERRARI INTERVISTA UNFOLK (INTERVIEW EXCERPTS)

Una lunga ed esauriente intervista di Luca Ferrari é disponibile sul sito ufficiale della THIRD EAR BAND, gruppo esoterico tra i miei preferiti del passato… Una sorpresa di fine anno! Potete leggere qui alcuni estratti:

LCF: Your first solo album, this wonderful “spiritDzoe” published in 2014, is a syncretic fusion of lot of folkloric and WM elements… and it seems to me to detect in it bits of Terry Riley, Richard Youngs, Cuffern (that wonderful album “Wyrdstone”), Michael Cashmore, ‘our’ Third Ear Band… all in a very personal, unique style that it’s just yours, of course – this “Unfolk”music you’re playing for at least one decade… How is born your “unfolk” and this marvellous solo record?
AM: Well, last year we celebrated 10 years of Unfolk with a collective album and “spiritDzoe” was my previous effort, my only “solo” album so far: I must confess I’m still very fond of its silent and humble perspective. It was a sort of musical therapy for me at the time in a difficult moment (separation from my wife, health problems, issues in my daily job), and something which took shape directly in the studio, with few pre-conceived ideas playing virtually everything at hand, deliberately leaving noises and imperfections on tape as a sort of human document, for me intensity was more important than perfection, expression more vital than showing off. So after listening back to all the pieces of the puzzle it seemed like a ritual, I was searching for the primitive rhythm, the purest essence of sound… passing through all the elements and instruments, finally reaching it in the all-percussive ending. Frankly I never heard some names you quote, but of course I’ve grown up listening to Terry Riley and John Cale (who indeed followed the most unique and extraordinary path in music), the Incredible String Band, Art Bears, Stockhausen and “our” Third Ear Band: listening to “Macbeth” as a teenager was a life-changing experience. I actually saw Richard Youngs in Venice years ago and I liked the records, but I think we have a different approach, he seems to enjoy singing a lot, while I mostly love the instrumental side… even if I’m working on an album of “songs” right now! Perhaps we both share this idea of Unfolk (“non folk” in Italian), traditional elements to be transformed by the times we’re living, through new technologies and other cultures. My “Un-folk” is “Un-orthodox” folk music, “Un-known” tradition, an organic update of that timeless musical language… it’s also a vital transformation, a never ending work-in-progress… Listening to the recording after all these years, on that final section I was influenced by the style of The Art Ensemble Of Chicago and the master Japanese percussionist Stomu Yamash’ta.

LCF: And what about “spiritDzoe”, your first solo effort?
AM:”spiritDzoe” starts with a mandolin feedback (parte 1), I think the only one recorded so far… but I could be wrong [laughs]. After I used all the possibilities of that instrument (both acoustic & electric) on the previous cds (“Unfolk” & “The Venetian Book Of The Dead”), I felt the need to go beyond the strings, because nothing’s sacred in my opinion; plus I love feedback and I tried to obtain the right notes while moving the neck in front of a small Orange amp at maximum volume… I practiced for approx 30′ until I found the right notes; it was truly inspiring and it slowly became a “composed” piece, using a synthesizer drone like a tamboura… in early music is called “bordone”, nothing’s changed and both East and West share the same elements. Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music” and Derek Bailey’s guitar improvisations were other influences at the time, and of course Syd Barrett’s use of controlled feedback on early Pink Floyd recordings. And yes: World Music has a special place in my heart: I started studying indian music in the early 80’s, then Greek, Balkan and African styles; we’re in the middle of a crisis in our Western world and arts reflect all this, so I’m learning from other cultures… there’s always something new to enjoy out there! Anyway in the making of “spiritDzoe” I was listening to the so-called post-rock scene… bands like Rachel’s, Labradford, Tortoise and the most popular of them all: Talk Talk, their last recordings “Spirit Of Eden”, “Laughing Stock” and the acoustic Mark Hollis’ solo cd are crucial records to understand the evolution of alternative music, still important and influential… perhaps the last great records produced by a rock band. I’m so happy you love “spiritDzoe” because it comes directly from my heart, it’s sincere and true and definitely the difficult and esoteric side of my work. I’m not a full-time professional musician, I’m also a healthcare worker and parts of “spiritDzoe” were inspired by my job with disabled people; I realized I wasn’t paying much attention to rhythm, but I was amazed at how important it can be… I mean spiritually, physically and psychologically.

LCF: So you are inspired by a lot of references and different music genres… what do you think about the present condition of Western popular music?
AM: What can we say? Something radically changed after the 90’s and during the last few years it seems that all quality pop songs disappeared from airplay, leaving only the same old melodies, the same chord changes and the same electronic tricks with no ideas, but I think that it reflects society’s decadence… I’m not sure if we’re living through an era of transition but you can experience this in politics, arts, media and culture in general. Talking about music: we don’t have talented artists like we used to, they were creating art-songs with lots of ideas. Technology nowadays is often used with boring effects, take the Autotune for example: you can hear it everywhere, but few people can obtain original effects from it; it could be really interesting for vocal transformations (like Vocoder in the past), but I only heard John Cale & Todd Rundgren using it in a creative way so far… but the fact is they’re both 70, this means a lot to me: different generations, different understanding of music and social awareness… this is truly a “generation gap” in a negative sense. After the 70’s many people of my generation hated the 80’s, but I remember I was listening to a lot of great songs back then, post-punk bands, new wave and synth-pop… recently I transcribed many 80’s classics on my guitar for a live unplugged project and I decided to choose mostly electronic dance pieces because they were a sort of challenge: all results were great, I had fun with the chords and structures… really good stuff. Now it’s over, I hear only bad copies of old styles. By the way I always loved pop songs and I really miss a good song coming from the radio; I used to buy pop records once in a while, but now I can only feel a deep void, we’re quickly going into a black hole where everything is filtered through social networks and cell phones taking control of the lives of millions: it’s very dangerous… I ran out of facebook years ago when they blocked my account for no reason: I was only promoting my music but they didn’t like it! Young kids now listen to music in cell phones, with awful audio setups, playlists made of short fragments downloaded for free from the Internet.They just don’t know how to hear music anymore, they can’t imagine what a full album is, and they don’t care about the work behind a record… they take their files for granted. I think it’s our responsability: we created a lot of culture in the past but we destroyed it with apathy and laziness. It’s a complicated matter and there are many levels of reading this, but the truth is: today showing a new tattoo is much more important than sharing a record, sad but true. So I could answer that the condition of Western popular culture is the result of a dramatic change in Western society. From time to time we still hear some great music… at 57 I’m still producing new records with the same enthusiasm though: you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one (thanks, John!).

LCF: Yes, I agree with you, we’re living in very strange times: it’s so easy to produce music now, but at the same time we have a huge amount of rubbish around… What kind of music you’re listening to in these very difficult momentum for popular music?
AM: Firstly I don’t rely on the web too much… I only try to get infos about some rare material or specialist distributions, but I still support the local shops a lot: they’re the most important source for culture and they must live! Inside the booklet of the new “Intuitive Maps” cd I wrote very “alternative” notes: I thanked all friends working in record shops, they helped Unfolk so much through the years. Plus I think that walking inside a shop and hearing something new is still a fascinating experience to me. I must admit I never listen to music on YouTube or Bandcamp, I don’t really like the sound on tiny computer speakers and I enjoy cds very much: I think they’re the best solution for sound today; I don’t believe in vinyl reissues, except for original copies or old analogue pressings. All new editions on vinyl transferred from digital masters are pointless to me, the sound is flat and the dynamics almost non-existent… we have the best support, why don’t we choose it? Having said that, the strangest thing is: I never saw so many new releases as in these difficult times… I mean reissues, remasters, unreleased stuff and live broadcasts: they’re financially impossible to follow. So, sometimes I prefer buying something old than new, I only bought one or two new releases this year, but I got lots of amazing stuff from the past… perhaps I’m getting old [laughs]. I like Contemporary Classical, electronic and concrete music, many rare and deleted recordings are available now, so it’s the right time to get them. I also love unusual Library music and jazz reissues (classic Sun Ra and Don Cherry recordings always seems to be inspiring), and I always love to hear the occasional african vibe. About rock music: it seems to me that the best of the last few years came from Eastern Europe, bands like Plastic People Of The Universe, Pulnoc, Reportaz, ZGA, Roz Vitalis… all very original and inventive. My favourite labels are ReR Megacorp and LTM (their 20th Century Avant-garde series is priceless), and I think Burning Shed has the best prog distribution… so I always discover stunning works I missed with unusual material and beautiful artworks. But I always ask my local shop first!

LCF: You’re from Venice, or at least I think so, one of the most famous historical town in the World. Is this fate inspiring in some way your own creativity?
AM: Good question. I was born in Venice but I live in Mestre (only 10′ by bus)… when I was a kid I spent every weekend in Venice because my grandmother lived there; I loved the City and the unique atmosphere, it was quiet and much different back then, less tourists and caos. Perhaps some traces can be found on my use of mandolin, it was a popular instrument in Venice during the past centuries (Vivaldi concerts are wonderful examples); funnily enough the instrument I used on the early Unfolk cds isn’t Italian but Irish! Another hidden influence could be my interest in world music because Venice was an important crossing of different cultures in the past. So I surely love that City but Mestre had a deeper and darker influence on my work: “The Venetian Book Of The Dead” is an album inspired by the industrial disasters in Marghera where many workers died by cancer in the PVC/vinyl factories (I wrote long notes about this album on my blog: unfolkam.wordpress.com): environmental issues are still alarming here for many reasons.
(…)
AM: I’m very proud that some of my cds have been linked to TEB by critics and listeners. I was a teenager when I first heard “Music from Macbeth” in a Venice record shop… I can still remember the feeling I had in my headphones, standing petrified and listening to a whole side without interruption, it was an epiphany of new sounds: those dissonant string arrangements by Paul Buckmaster & Simon House, the non-classical use of oboe by Paul Minns, Denim Bridges’ distorted guitar totally out of a rock context and Glen’s basic 4/4 rhythm patterns were a total revelation to me. The music was so simple and rich at the same time, leaving a lot for imagination. I actually watched the film many years later but I already made my own personal images with the music. Sometimes I think that soundtracks shouldn’t be made for a film! If music works you can close your eyes and live through a parallel dimension creating your own story… imagination is the key: that’s why I prefer records to films, and radio to TV. I’m working on a new project of songs right now with a deep subject: the musician’s oblivion… I think that music exists before and after its actual creation, so the composer’s ego is totally useless, he’s only a decoder of cosmic waves, nothing more. Fame, success and stardom are the other (wrong) side of the coin. When I listen to Third Ear Band’s records I always forget who’s playing and concentrate only on sound: the notes are living their own life both individually and collectively… that is a rare achievement in my opinion and all the best music should have this quality.
(…)

You can read the full interview by Luca Ferrari at:

https://ghettoraga.blogspot.it/2017/12/the-unfolk-music-of-alessandro-monti.html

Ringrazio Luca per il lavoro svolto in tutti questi anni e per aver pensato al nostro progetto: é stato per me un vero onore!
A.M.

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