During the Eighties in Italy, music was welcoming with open arms new musical waves, such as New Romantic, New Wave or Synth-Pop coming from the United Kingdom and also the Stadium Rock, Pop and R&B from the United States of emblematic artists of that decade, such as Bruce Springsteen or Michael Jackson, among many others.
In all this, the Italian musical platform was strongly supported by a conspicuous number of artists, whose purely songwriting vein and style, although supported by great lyrical creativity, did not offer many alternatives or innovations, neither sonic nor lyrical.
It was on September 21st 1981, a fundamental date in the evolution and growth of Italian music of that decade, that saw the birth of the album called A Berlino.. Va Bene (In Berlin.. OK), by a very young Italian artist from Milan, Garbo, who completely took the whole Italian music scene by surprise, thanks to an electronic record of great and sophisticated emotional impact, both from a musical and songwriting aspect, an album that reached the top of the charts of the best-selling albums in Italy at that time.
After forty years, the Milanese artist, a true pioneer of a sophisticated and innovative Electro-Punk musical genre that has inspired and continues to inspire many generations of musicians, has decided to celebrate such an important artistic birthday through a celebratory live Tour currently still ongoing, that is touching many cities in Italy, where Garbo performs, together with the entirety of the A Berlino .. Va Bene album, on stage, also many of the chart hits belonging to subsequent albums of his career, throughout the whole of the Eighties and beyond.
Garbo (born Renato Abate) has kindly agreed to have a chat with us of Bluebird Reviews, not only about the A Berlino.. celebratory Tour but also to make a personal reflection on a glorious career like his own, which still sees Garbo today as one of the most influential and leading figures in the growth of Italian music of the last four decades.
As an introductory question, it comes spontaneously to mind to ask Garbo if he considers the celebratory Tour of A Berlino .., that he is currently undertaking, more as a celebration or as an opportunity, instead, for him to revisit a fundamental Polaroid of his musical past and compare it with the present one of Garbo, man and artist, in 2021. "As you said, beyond the personal celebratory moment aside, 40 years of public music career are not few, really but rather a lifetime to me. As a consequence, for this Tour, I wanted to reflect on this important landmark of my music career, after so long time. Apart from that, yes, this Tour is also a way to re-verify the current reality, in some ways, of what has been done in the first years of my career and what was often considered, in my opinion, even excessively by the Italian music press, about my early records, "a music style that was very "ahead" of what gravitated in music in Italy at that time". If it was true what the press was saying, back then, about records like A Berlino.. Va Bene and Spostati (Shifted), it means that there had to be, in those records, elements that led to research, experimentation and therefore to "dare" in directions that were, for our country at that time and for the way we had in Italy to conceive music, perhaps a bit unsettling to few, but rather alternative and innovative, I like to think. Realizing that today, for example, whilst performing on stage, I see that my audience is not only made up of 40 or 50-years-old people but also by a much younger age range who clearly could not have been aware of my musical beginnings, that tells me that perhaps, some music is not much affected by temporality, by something that can date and be buried over time. I have never been an artist who makes news, through my lyrics, for example and I believe that my sound, since those times, was and still is a work-in-progress one, aimed at pure and simple experimentation. That's why I realize that, after all, records like A Berlino ... are not affected by time or age at all".
When A Berlino .. Va Bene was released in 1981, the music scene worldwide was starting to become very aesthetic, especially with the arrival of music videos and MTV. In that scenario, we ask Garbo if he believes in the fact that historical period has perhaps helped the cognitive dissemination of an artist like him, who equally embraced the aestheticism of the current scene of the time with a lyrical hermeticism of great refinement and uniqueness, perhaps never previously heard of in Italy. "Well, look, surely my way of researching Art, through Art, it was not related only to sound and composition, from a lyrical point of view. There was also, and consequently, immersed within the whole body of work my overall personality, a philosophy of life that included, at 360 degrees, everything, from my way of speaking, my thoughts and all this beyond the sound, the standard 4 minutes of the song format and beyond the conceptual aspect of an album. So, even if it is simplistic to say it, even my look was included in that globality I was telling you of; my clothing, my face, my complexion, my hairstyle, shoes, everything. In all that, it was contained what I thought it was a world, a world that invested every aspect of my life. When I told you "Forty years of self-celebration", that meant that this Tour is something I do, above all, for myself, for those who are close to me and who are part of my life. Not only because I released, what was thought by few at the time, a bizarre debut album but most of all for that musician, that is myself, who was and is basically a person who was growing up and who, as a boy, was becoming a man through that time. It is a musical and personal period of my existence that contained my philosophy of life, something I believe that people have been able to perceive it, which makes me enormously happy".
Bluebird Reviews has had the opportunity to hear some very positive comments from fans and music press, regarding the celebratory Tour of A Berlino.. Va Bene, especially regarding the fact that there were different age groups present at the concerts of the Milanese artist, as the artist just mentioned. It is therefore a logical segue, to ask Garbo if he was flattered by the fact that a record like A Berlino ... managed to transcend historical eras and still be an object of interest and appreciation by today's young people. "Well, it flatters me a lot and reassures me, for a fundamental reason; I, as a normal human being, will not survive to time and history. I know that I will leave, like everyone else, this mortal soil at some point, also because I don't think I have ever known "Highlanders" in real life (referring to the eponymous film with Christopher Lambert, containing the subject of immortality but seen in a fantasy style), if not in art and film fiction. I think the goal of an artist (and perhaps the dream of all humanity) it is to find immortality through one's art, that sense of being able to survive in time and forever, through your talents. Given that the flesh, the body of a human being will not live for eternity, for an artist the only way to survive time and the mortality of the body, it is to give voice to his own art, trying to create, through it, an eternal communicative bridge that crosses the centuries and the future generations to come. When an artist realizes that he can become, even in its own small way, a sort of generational heritage to be transmitted over time to those who will come after us, it means that those artistic expressions he has been working on, have been good and significant enough to allow them to cross the threshold of time. I believe that this is one of the objectives of Art, the ability to "remain" over time, through one's own artistic expression".
One of the strengths (and merits, at the same time) of an Italian composer and musician like Garbo, lies in the fact that his music evolves over the years without ever sounding neither old nor anachronistic, certainly also thanks to the collaborations he has often undertaken in his career with young Italian artists, such as with Eugene, on this latest Tour or as he did with Luca Urbani for many years, especially on a magnificent live record like Living, released by Garbo a few years earlier in 2017. Our website wishes to ask Garbo how he chooses his collaborators, when it comes to working in the studio on a new album or as far as the musical production or co-production of one of his live Tours is concerned. "Look, everything happens very simply and instinctively and by mutual positive attitude. When there is harmony between people, everything becomes very simple. You mentioned two beautiful people, even if there have been other collaborations with other artists, over the years but for example, with reference to Luca or Eugene, every aspect of each project we have worked on together, it has always been dealt in a very spontaneous and organic way; through an acquired friendship, sharing of thoughts, sometimes even extra-musical, of paths, not only musical ones but also of life. Just as it happens in a relationship of love between two people, the possibility arises to work and walk together for parts of one's life and realize things together, like projects or else. For me, this is, above all, what allows spontaneous combustion between people; there is no technical or musical-scientific calculation upstream, only the need to share what has been done in an organic way, by giving to my collaborators the opportunity to add their creativity and often allowing them also to add their own artistic contributions, to something that may sound new or unknown to me or I never thought of before".
Among the many inspired albums published by Garbo, throughout his glorious career, Bluebird Reviews found particularly interesting a record called La Moda (The Fashion) , released in 2012, which synthesizes, through beautiful arrangements and particularly cutthroat lyrics, a period of contemporary Italian history of that specific era in a highly lucid and inspired style. What is the most immediate memory that comes to the mind of Garbo, thinking back to the making of that record, it comes straight from the Artist Himself. "Apart from the very fruitful collaboration with Luca Urbani, on that record and throughout the whole time we have been working together, what I remember most and with pleasure, it was the possibility of creating very spontaneous records, through very few creative sessions with Luca and other artists with whom I was collaborating at the time. The fact of creating almost instinctively, from the conceptual moment of a record to its final recording, greatly favored the fact, in my view, that in the body of work in which we were immersed, there was a lot of contemporaneity, a very healthy tension and even, sometimes, emotional laceration. In fact, as you said, that particular record you just mentioned, it was at times quite sharp, rough, both from a lyrical point of view and also for what concerns searching for the right sound. That is a very interesting factor, for me, whilst working on a record. My latest works have all been generated in this way, in a very extemporaneous way, quickly and with a lot of immediacy, a creative process that I really enjoy".
Anyone who knows the music of this talented artist knows well how Sky has always been a constant theme in Garbo's songs. And in this respect, we would like to ask the Italian artist how his relationship with it has changed, from the time of A Berlino . was released to today. "I don't know if it happens to you but, to me, still to this day and not necessarily as a dreamer, to look a lot at the space, the sky, almost in search of signs of life that go beyond our small planetary dimension, which is getting more at risk and more compressed and, alas, compromised each passing day. The sky for me resembles what we called earlier in our conversation, as "eternity", it resembles something extremely changeable and in continuous, perpetual motion, even if we do not notice it. That is the highest view that I have, of the sky. I always happen to observe the sky almost every evening, at sunset, during the night and until dawn, because then, when the day finally comes, the atmosphere filters completely the space and we end up grasping only a slice of that space. I would very much like to think that I could have been involved in astronomy, since I was a child, but it didn't work out like this, in the end. But I've always had this passion about space and the sky, because, for me, space means many things and assemble perfectly all the references that I quote throughout my whole discography".
Given the success that the current celebratory Tour of 40 years of A Berlino.. Va Bene is obtaining, our website wonders whether, given the great importance and beauty of another fundamental album like A Berlino..'s follow-up record, Scortati from 1982, Garbo is planning to repeat an operation similar to that of A Berlino .., that is to take Scortati as well on Tour to celebrate its 40th anniversary next year. "Look, in the meantime this live celebration is taking place and still going, I would like also to clarify that this Tour does not focus solely on my first album but touches a little and, above all, the global fundamental steps of my musical beginnings. On Tour, I also play songs that are of great importance to me, although they may not be necessarily part of my first albums. I can tell you, as an example, some of the hit singles that have had an important meaning for me, in the course of my career, from Quanti Anni Hai? (How Old Are You?) to Radioclima, up to the beginning of the Nineties, essentially. In reality, on this Tour, as well as celebrating 40 years since A Berlino .. Va Bene was first released, I celebrate also my first decade of artistic activity, through what embodies my way of introducing myself to a hypothetical audience, which I thought I could reach, at the time. I told to myself, "Well, I want to give myself and my music to people, even knowing that I am not a national-popular type of artist and I will not reach, in my musical message, huge interest from the masses but instead, to the people who will perceive my way of making music". To them, I wanted to give them these elements, about me and my music, this information about my vision translated through my musical trademark. I think I've succeeded, over the years, to reach this goal and to represent him properly, on this Tour".
It may sound like a recurring question, in these strange moments in the history of the world we are experiencing, to ask Garbo how much these last two years have affected him not only on a human, but also artistic level, given the almost impossibility of going on Tour constantly, due to the pandemic and whether perhaps if he had decided to focus, like many of his colleagues, to start working on new material for a possible new record release. "Well, perhaps unlike many of my colleagues, I had already planned, even before the pandemic took hold in such a dramatic way, to be able to stop for a while, perhaps unconsciously, also to reflect on these 40 years of my history and take some time for myself to make some considerations about this new era we are living in. The pandemic has done nothing but to accentuate this reflective process that I had already planned for myself. I took advantage of it and enjoyed the silence, something that came as a natural, although sad for some, consequence of this pandemic. I am not one of those people who started singing on the balcony or one of those who started doing virtual concerts online, but I consciously preferred silence to everything. Personally, I believe that silence has done good to many and made people think a lot, about this strange period we are living, because I believe that there are too many people doing too many things, right now and in my personal opinion, quite uselessly. We should also have the courage to be silent, often and I think that the whole society needs these moments of non-saturation and concentrate instead and above all, on reflection".
Before parting company with this incredible artist and extraordinary human being, a passage from a song from the album A Berlino.. comes to mind, called Futuro (Future), which goes like this: "..Let's live this future time a little and then, let's live it a little more. We can call it Future, if you want ... ",. It is, we feel, legitimate to ask Garbo if, after 40 years in the business, such a sentence may carry a slightly bitter taste, given the times we are living in, especially for that young 23-year-old artist, who, back in the 80's, looked to the future with open eyes and hopeful heart. "Alas, you touch a very delicate and important key, through your question, which brings to a somewhat obvious answer on my part; It is evident that the twenty-year-old boy you mentioned was a dreamer and idealist and, like all boys who dreamed of a better future than the one they were living from all points of view, especially from a social perspective, back then, things did not go exactly as they hoped. I find that there is a lot of psychological violence, in these times we are living, a violence that annihilates, day after day and more and more art and culture. I feel I live in a country where culture is, right now, being lost in pieces, split into voluminous shreds and with it, the historical path of our existence. But since I am naturally an optimist, I still hope that there is, as someone likes to say, always a possibility and as a consequence, I like to think that there will always be a way to improve the future we will face, in years to come. The concern, now, is no longer addressed either to Garbo, the man over sixty or not even to that twenty-something-year-old you mentioned, but it is, more than anything else, aimed at those who will face the music after us, the children, the adolescents of today. There are even those, within the governments around the world, who are thinking of going to live, in future, on other systems, in places such as Mars or even to create livable bases on the Moon, an idea perhaps interesting but highly difficult to realize. As I just said and at the cost of repeating myself, what I hope, fundamentally, is that these Men Of Tomorrow's World can grow into a better, more promising future, a future that offers them many better prospects for life than those we are experiencing right now ".