One of the greatest pleasures of life, unknown to us, especially in the first part of our growth and formation as human beings, it is to walk a path that changes, depending on who we come across, circumstances in which we find ourselves involved and coincidences that happen to us at unexpected moments.
A path that can bring either whirlwind turns to our lives, or just change the perspective of our daily life in an increasing way, pushing us to experiment with new working highways and human paths with a different eye, attentive to our substantial values, but widely, at the same time. to new perspectives and to those around us, at that moment in time.
When such concepts are brought to music, in Italy there is hardly anyone who has had the instinct and the courage to challenge new sound paths, coupled with romantic and profound lyrical mysticism, in the same way that one of the most talented musicians and producers in Italy, Gianni Maroccolo, has been able to do and still does, during his brilliant career.
On the dawn of the release of his new project, called Mephisto Ballad, created in collaboration with Antonio Aiazzi, a longtime friend and colleague from the times they both were with the hugely well-known Italian rock band called Litfiba, our site had the honor of speaking with "Marok" , the affectionate nickname with which Maroccolo has been known for years within the musical environment, about his incredible career and the numerous musical stages of an artist who has incessantly contributed to creating one of the most beautiful stages of music history in Italy for the last 40 years.
The historical (and hugely difficult) moment that the whole world is experiencing right now, it has blocked the entire musical context, especially with regards to live performances, for an . artist. In this respect, Bluebird Reviews is curious to know how much the last 12 months have created an impact not only in life but, above all, working wise as a bassist and as a producer. "Normally, I am used anyway to a fairly serene approach to life, which does not necessarily have to be understood as a superficial, light or fatalistic type of approach. I believe that all the difficulties must be faced and we should not allow ourselves the luxury, on whatever you are doing in this life, to let go but rather to face those circumstances for what they are, possibly without panicking. 2020 has certainly been a tough year for everyone and I'm sure we all have been through some difficult times or lost someone or something, in life. Including me, losing my mother in May 2020, even though for reasons unrelated to the pandemic. As a musician, I believe that the only thing you can do, even when ou are not on a stage, it is to try to continue playing, to produce new projects, a bit like it happened to me lately, with the release of Mephisto Ballad, together with Aiazzi and, during the first lock-down, with Stefano "Edda" Ramboldi. With Edda, I have loved working together and making a record, albeit remotely, with him in Milan, while he was taking care of his father and with very few tools available, literally only an Ipad and a guitar, without even a microphone. Where I live, not far from Livorno in Tuscany, I have a small studio where I put together what Edda had sent me remotely, plus what I had recorded by myself. Through that process, we literally "invented" a record that we then gave to almost 2000 people for free, instead of selling it. The record is called Noio Volevom Suonar and we were very happy that those to whom we gave it, they liked it. For me and Edda, this record was a bit like a form of therapy, to try to fight this huge black hole that is this pandemic, where we are finally starting (illegedly) to see a small light at the end of the tunnel. Undoubtedly, the situation we are experiencing has created and continues to create a lot of economic inconveniences for us musicians, including skipping concerts and daily life's expenses. All you can do is tighten your belt and try to get out of it; not necessarily get out in a better shape, but basically just get out of it ".
The friendship between Maroccolo and Edda, even though it dates back more than twenty years ago, had never led the two musicians to make a studio album together. "True, we met, albeit we didn't know each other as well as now, in the period of Ritmo Tribale (Edda's band, at the time), which more or less coincided with my last years of being with Litfiba. At the time, we did not have the opportunity to know each other, but we had the opportunity to meet again and also to get to know each other a little better during a musical collaboration, part of this unusual editorial series that involved me on a larger scale and called Alone, in which there was a new album coming out every six months. On the first record of this four part project (to date), I asked him if he would like to collaborate with me. He accepted, writing among other things a beautiful Mantra, something that he normally doesn't do, in his solo records. Edda is a Hindu believer and by the way, we had this great friendship in common with the late great Claudio Rocchi and since then, we have always been telling each other to try and make, one day, a record together, which we have finally managed to put together. This pandemic has been certainly the propeller that allowed us to do this, as all our artistic commitments had skipped a bit, both for me and for him. And for a couple of years now, we have also been cultivating a beautiful and profound human relationship, music aside, as often happens in my life, becoming close friends, almost in a brotherly way. The record we made together is, in some ways, the photograph of this beautiful relationship that keeps on flourishing between me and Edda which, most likely, will also allow us to work together again, on future projects".
Alone I-IV, the multi-year project to which Maroccolo refers, was built in a totally direct and organic way, with a fabulous artistic combustion among all the Special Guests present on each record, something that positively and genuinely surprised everyone, just as if Maroccolo and his fellow guest musicians have been playing with one another almost all their lives. With this preamble, our site is curious to know if behind each release of the project, there was a basic idea on what the sound of each album should have been or if many of the songs belonging to the various volumes, were born as an ongoing impromptu, perhaps during some jam sessions or studio improvisations. "In principle, when we started talking to the creator of the whole Alone editorial series, who is Marco Cazzato, with Nelio Salvadori, who is also the one who then writes the songs' lyrics and the listening guide, within each album and Alessandro Nannucci from the label Contempo, I came up with the idea of creating a sort of "concept", which would replace the lack of vocal parts with a themed musical context. The idea was well received and accepted and each guest present on each record, gladly agreed to play following the thematic concept present on each of the albums. The choice of Special Guests playing on each record has never been a random one but based, instead, on the sonic need of the "concept" expressed on each album. I like to think that, with every artist present on each of the volumes of Alone, it felt like a sort of virtual game of musical table tennis had been created, in which sound suggestions are exchanged and where each guest, each artist and friend, has the most complete artistic freedom".
In the course of our conversation, Maroccolo mentions Claudio Rocchi, a singer-songwriter who sadly passed away a few years ago and with whom, in 2013, he recorded a beautiful and intense record called VDB23 / Nulla E 'Andato Perso, an artistic encounter of great depth between two musicians in perfect symbiosis, both musical and personal, an experience that, in some way, has also marked Maroccolo a little, from a personal point of view, in the way he deals with everyday life. "What you say is absolutely true, because one of my greatest fortunes, not absolutely sought after and as surreal as it may sound, it is that I have never thought in my life to become a musician, intended as a profession. I guess that I ended up being a musician, just because, probably, I had never wished to do it in the first place. It was a passion that I cultivated since I was a boy, a sort of past time for me, but I never thought that it would then turn into a proper profession. When music then became a real way of life, for me, it was there that I was lucky enough to be able to compare myself with other musicians and human beings. Because, when music binds you to other people, to other fellow musical colleagues, it's there that not only artistic but also human relationship start, something that, after all these years, I still consider surprising and very special. Relationships that, in a certain way, mark your life forever, helping you to evolve as a person and culturally, open your eyes even further. Claudio was certainly one of these really very gifted, special people. A bit like it happened with Edda, meeting and working with Claudio was an incredibly intense experience, not only for me, but I believe for both of us. An experience that led us,in view of that strong artistic and human bond, as a natural consequence, to work on the record that we made together. For me, I would define meeting and knowing Claudio as being in front of a truly enlightened person with a capital E. Enlightened because without arrogance whatsoever or without the presumption of attempting to teach lessons to anybody, something that I was able to verify personally on my own skin, since, for almost two years we lived back and fore in each other's house for many months, between his home in Sardinia and my home in Tuscany. Meeting a very special person like Claudio meant that, at a certain moment of my life,it was possible for me to carry out what I like to call my spiritual rebirth, in this life we are living on Mother Earth, giving me that strength to find the courage to re-discuss myself, to overcome fear and much more. Things like these may come across as obvious or elementary, if you wish, but the truth is that friendship has really had a big impact on both our lives, mine and Claudio's. When we made that record, Claudio knew he was going to meet his project of absolute rebirth (Rocchi passed away in June of 2013, due to an incurable degenerative disease), perfectly prepared to the idea that he would soon leave this earthly life shortly thereafter, with a direct destination to the Nirvana, since I do not think that Claudio will have the misfortune, let's put it this way, to be able to reincarnate, since he was truly a very enlightened heart, mind and soul. That record was put together entirely in an artisan style, starting from the material we used for the album cover and back (the paper came to us directly from Nepal) or using stamps to put marks on the cover itself .. It was a beautiful job in a total way, because that record contains moments, for me, wonderful, both in terms of lyrics and music, something that people are thankfully discovering gradually (the record is already on its third reissue) every day more".
Maroccolo with Claudio Rocchi
The year before Gianni Maroccolo recorded the album with Rocchi, the talented Italian bassist and producer announced that he would no longer recording or performing live. In 2013, however, a very tempting invitation arrived to Maroccolo, from Renzulli and Pelu' from Litfiba, asking Marok to be part of a reunion of the original live band. Maybe that mighty have been one of the determining factors that, perhaps, led Maroccolo to change his mind about retiring from the music scene. "I don't think that the Litfiba's reunion was the driving reason behind my change of mind, perhaps, I guess, it might have been only minimally. I believe that the main reason why I resumed playing and recording, it was one of the many natural consequences that came after the experience of working with Rocchi, because the depth of that experience with Claudio led me to change my mind, together with the infinite number of requests that came to me from many fans who have followed me for years and, with so much love and affection, asked me to change my mind about retiring. The record I id with Rocchi, back then, it was also born with the intention on my side to stop playing and to give that record as a gift to those who liked it, as a sort of "thank you" for following me on my musical journey for several years and for that form of artistic devotion that they had for me and my music. When Claudio understood my desire to leave the world of music, he told me to hold on my decision, for a little while. Claudio, under my request, produced that record (VDB23 / Nulla E 'Andato Perso) and, in the meantime, while we were working on it, I was already considering changing my mind, about my retirement from the music scene and it was then that I received the call from Piero (Pelu') and Ghigo (Renzulli), asking me to do this reunion together, which I accepted, meaning that I had definitely abandoned the idea of retiring from the music scene. The reunion experience was truly wonderful. At the beginning, the idea was to do just one concert together, then those concerts became two and gradually they grew, until they became a real Tour, made up of 17 dates, shared with a lot of Litfiba fans, old and new, while on stage there was an atmosphere of absolute serenity and cameraderie between us all. Without that serenity and cameraderie among all of us, I don't think that the Reunion Tour would have worked, because we all knew that it was a one-off project, a project that would not be prolonged and where there were no imposed rules, as sometimes happens in a group that plays more on an ongoing, regular basis".
Surely, one of the many musical projects by Maroccolo that has paid off highly, both in terms of commercial sales and under form of global appreciation from music critics and total devotion from thousands of fans, was the adventure with the band called Consorzio Suonatori Indipendenti (C.S.I.), a musical project that generated records of great sound escape and emotional impact, as often happens in projects in which Maroccolo is involved. An artistic adventure that was celebrated, in particular, on national television in Italy during the last months of 2020, to commemorate the release of the band's last studio album, Tabula Rasa Electrified (T.R.E.) back in 1997, through a splendid documentary broadcasted by Sky Italy, a well-crafted retrospective of a record in which Maroccolo and all the band members of C.S.I. talked about the way they created that seminal album. "Personally, I liked that documentary a lot. For the first time, to be honest, I found myself reliving a historical moment of my musical life approached in a very serious and respectful way, while remaining in a sobriety mood, stylistically speaking, considering that there was a lot of talk about effects, sounds, recordings, anecdotes, musical parts, etc used for that record. I'd like to thank in particular Stefano Senardi, the creator of the show, not only because he wanted to make an episode of that series about the C.S.I. but also because, on a personal level , treated the matter in question about the making of the record with great seriousness and competence, something that excited and pleasantly surprised me and gave me a lot of satisfaction, especially because the context of the program concerned me personally and still concerns me very closely. The documentary was recorded at different moments in time, by each of us and when I recorded my parts, I personally did not have high expectations, because it is part of my character and nature to be in that way. Then, when Senardi showed me the pre-edited version of the show, prior to its broadcasting, which is the same one that was ultimately aired officially on television, I felt so emotional that I watched it six times! (smiles). Strange thing for someone like me who, usually, when he makes a record, does not listen to it again until three or four years after its release. The most beautiful thing, in my opinion, of that documentary, is that, in addition to having documented the most popular album of the group with great accuracy, I think it also had the merit of making those who have seen it to understand the objective beauty contained in T.R.E. and also, at the same time, provided a beautiful and interesting insight into the history of the C.S.I.".
Maroccolo with Consorzio Suonatori Indipendenti (C.S.I.)
Among the many merits of an artist like Maroccolo, there is also that of wanting to save and preserve important unreleased material that did not end up, for various reasons, on studio or live albums. In the case related to his experience with C.S.I., Maroccolo worked incessantly on what was a sort of swan song project of the group, an album released in two volumes called Noi Non Ci Saremo, a collection of unreleased and scattered live performances recorded by the band during the numerous tours, through the years, of the Consorzio Suonatori Indipendenti. Given the bassist's desire not to leave the aforementioned material to rot in an archive or database, but rather give them new life through that collection, our site wishes to ask Marok if the publication of that double album was a unanimous decision of the band or if Maroccolo had to face internal ostracism from the band, before releasing that splendid collection. "You know, that time was a time in which we had all decided and accepted the fact that that, as a band, that musical project had come to an end, as it turned out to be. In spite of everything, however, we kept, even for that record, a sort of natural balance that had been established, through the years, in our history as a band, where I was responsible for what is normally called in Lyman's Terms, the management of the artistic production of the records, including the one you mentioned, as well as taking care of live performances. When it came to having to definitively close the circle of our history, as a group, I thought that, to do so in a definitive way, a series of small elements and sound documents were missing to complete the circle. I asked the opinion of all the members and every member of the band gave me the green light to go ahead with the double album. What I did, then, as documented also on the two records, is nothing more than a continuation of what I normally did within the C.S.I., that is to mix the sounds a little, cut and reassemble some things here and there, remaining though always consistent with what had been the artistic path of the CSI, from a sonic perspective, so as to give the project itself an artistic function and a real raison d'etre. On the other hand, the selection and post-production work was very long, lasting almost a year, since I had to listen to a lot of material. I had, together with who has always been involved in recording all the CSI records with me, namely the late great Giovanni Gasparini, to work in the studio, in the end, for almost six months, between the time spent choosing, editing and remix certain things included in that double album. It was a painstaking work of which, however, I am really proud. I think that record is, among other things, for those who do not know the history of C.S.I. in depth, the cognitive tool suitable for understanding and also appreciating the artistic path we have made together with all the members of the group".
In a global music context, it has often been the case that many world-famous bass players, such as Maroccolo, have also ventured into the role of album producers with great success. Something that, perhaps, may also be due to the fact that many bass players, by virtue of the sonic role they cover within a collective, in the studio and on stage, are even more capable of bringing that order into the construction phase of a record. a little more than other band members may be able to achieve. "I couldn't be able to tell you. Personally, since I was a kid (I could have been 7 years old), I've spent endless hours, even nights, secretly from my parents, listening to records and with this acoustic guitar we had at home, I tried to simulate all the parts I was listening, so if, say, there was a drum rhythm, beating on the kick drum, I tried to recreate it in an artisan way. With the same guitar, I tried to recreate the bass line or the chords.. in short, I tried to understand which it was the concept behind the building of the whole wall of sound, that hidden alchemy that, in some mysterious ways, made possible, just like a mosaic, would stitch all together those little pieces of sound and create a wonderful final composition. I believe that, right from the start, I was intrigued by the Why and the How that alchemy comes to you, what was causing it, to the point that over the years I studied composition but, above all, ensemble music, arrangements and harmonies. Then I ended up playing the bass purely by chance. When, at the time, I was doing after-school music, I followed everything that was taking place and, during the essays, where there was no bass player available, I would take the bass and say to myself, "Ok, I'll try". From there then, over time, I got more and more pleasure and satisfaction in playing the bass, because, in contemporary music, the bass is a rather atypical and fundamental instrument, at the same time. Even if it does not stand out, from a purely sonic point of view, in a normal collective, it is for me that fundamental ingredient that determines harmonies, counter-songs, the type of rhythmic writing style that you give to a piece and much more. In short, despite its small four strings, it gives you that power of essentiality within a project, a collective. Perhaps for this reason, since the early years with Litfiba, I have always liked more than anything else to put everyone's ideas together, rather than thinking about my bass line. I remember that with Litfiba, the music was born through jam sessions and while we were playing, I was the one who came to a bass line and able to keep it ongoing non-stop for seven / eight hours, so that everyone could then align in. Or, it would sometimes happen to me that, when we had the feeling that we were playing some interesting and cool stuff, I could be the one that often said "Guys, let's stop right there, we have something going on here." In short, I think I've always had a natural predisposition towards this type of thing and basically, towards sound. Among the various study trips I have done over the years, I happened to make electronic music and phonology at the Conservatory in Florence and then, immediately, go inside recording studios to sweep the floor or bring coffee, with the intent, fundamentally, to understand how certain things were born in studio and to understand the functionality and also the importance of roles such as creating arrangements, those who take care of the production aspect or the sound engineer. All fundamental figures, for those who make music, as they must, in some way, photograph and, possibly, give added value to the language that every musician has. Moreover, in the period with Litfiba, I was also curious to know everything that revolved around the life of a musician, because I always had the impression, at the cost of sounding presumptuous, that things happened only because someone was playing and nothing more. But then, in the end, in the relationships with the labels and with the managers, in all these situations you always found people who told you what you had to do, something that I felt did not apply to me at all, since I thought it should be me, as a musician, to ask you, manager, label, etc. to do things for me or for us as a band and not the other way around. It is for this reason that I wanted, in the end, putting a lot of effort, to understand everything that revolves within a musical project and the process that leads to the finished product. And this not only for studio records but also for what the process aimed at publishing involves, as well as for live music, for contracts, legal aspects, for everything related to music, in short. The knowledge of the system and the laws that gravitate around music and how I had to move around and behave, from time to time. It was a bit like going to a university, to an academy where you self-taught yourself on how to regulate yourself in that world. Before I left Litfiba, at that time, Alberto Pirelli (our manager) proposed me to make two artistic productions, one for a Greek singer-songwriter and the other for a Sardinian group, back in the 80s. It was a wonderful experience for me and I must admit that production is something that fascinates me very much. This also made me understand, in the following years, that the figure of the producer can be especially useful when you start making music, that is, to say, when you enter a recording studio for the very first time and maybe you need someone who tell you how to tune the skin of a snare drum, which strings you have to use, this kind of thing ... In fact, looking back, I realize that ninety percent of the records I have produced, over the years, are all debut albums from bands or singer/songwriters".
Maroccolo with Litfiba
Maroccolo is one of those artists at 360 degrees, always attentive to new and stimulating layers of sound that can derive from any musical genre. A little bit the synthesis of what happened to Maroccolo with a project called Deproducers, where together with fellow musicians / producers and luxury collaborators such as Vittorio Cosma, Riccardo Sinigallia and Max Casacci, Maroccolo and the Deproducers undertook a sound concept closely linked to science and genetics. One wonders, once again, what was the driving force that pushed Marok to be part of this very interesting project. "You know, the desire to experiment, that never ends, no matter what age you are. The Deproducers project has arrived at a very late stage, age wise, for me but I also believe for all those involved in the project. It's an idea that came mainly by Vittorio Cosma, who decided to invent this sort of collective that includes four musicians, apparently coming from quite distant musical worlds. From the beginning, the idea of this project tickled me, because I saw myself around an imaginary boxing ring, where there were these four boxers inside, ready to "fight" with each other for good reasons, from a sonic point of view and on how to set up the whole project (smiles). We had, all of us, however in common the fact that we came, musically, from the sounds of the late '60s and' 70s and we certainly did not want the purpose of this project to be just to get together and see what could arise from improvised jam sessions. We felt a bit the need to have an idea that could act as a guide and that could give us all a very specific direction. Among other things, since we all agreed that we did not want to have a singer, within the project, but purely the desire to face a dynamic, let's say, of a group, we decided to use science as a common thread, with the scientists themselves to narrate each matter in a poetic way, above all, in the simplest and most direct way possible. Since I also like to think that nothing happens by chance, it just happened that one day, in Milan, Cosma entered the Planetarium and met Fabio Peri, who was the first scientist with whom we made our first album on Astronomy as a subject. as Deproducers. From there on, then a series of very interesting concerts started, in my opinion and then a whole series of other musical chapters followed too, always themed, such as the second on Botany with Mancuso (Plant Neurobiologist) and so on".
Before ending our wonderful conversation, with who has always been recognized as a giant of Italian music in the last 40 years, an artist who has always loved and still loves playing with music and experimenting with all possible angles and nuances of it, we ask Gianni Maroccolo if he would like, in about a hundred years, to be remembered for his enormous contribution to the history of Italian music of this last half century through a single adjective, that would incorporate all his artistic qualities and his boundless talent. "Probably the word Alchemist. I like the idea of having lived and having contributed, in a certain way, to causing certain beautiful stories that have occurred in Italy on a musical level. By the way, your question is also a little something that I asked myself already from the time when I moved away from Litfiba, when I began to understand not what I wanted from music but rather the need to continue playing it, without having the need to undergo a series of mechanisms, of things, that happen within the whole world that gravitates around music. From there, I thought what my hopes were, if it was about chasing and achieving success, being able to become popular, ranking the music charts, making a lot of money ... In the end, I realized, as futile as it may sound, that all I wanted was just to leave a small mark of my passage on this earthly life and, if I can do so through music, I will be the happiest person in the world, both in this life and in the others that I shall have to live, when I reincarnate".