Do You feel that your location aids or hinders your musical career-how are the arts+music currently in Bangkok?

I am actually a pretty reserved guy, and certainly not somebody who likes knocking anybody’s door to be heard or noticed. So, I guess, no location would have helped or particularly hinder my careers in such a deep way. Right now, I’m living in Bangkok where I’ve been 8 of the last 12 years. It has a nice indie scene, bands are trying to get rid of the old cliche of the mainstream music, and most of them are starting secularizing the singing of their language. Not saying that it is not a nice sounding language the point being that having tones of its own, this creates a  problem for singers. So, it is an evolving scene which is interesting to follow and there are lots of places where those bands go to perform for a set.I love those clubs.

2) First music that you remember hearing?

I must have been 4 or 5 when my grandfather gave me this tape cassette. It was a mix of classical contemporary, I guess some Tchaikovsky and surely other Russians stuff. The stereo system at that time was in our sitting room, a place that, as a kid, I was not allowed to use. But I remember sneaking in and turning the volume up, and my sitting room would suddenly become the set of the music itself. I ran back and forth when, hide myself when  in danger, rest when overdriven , and fight with any power I had left, when the enemy become a danger. All of this, dictated by the rhythm and the feeling the music was giving me. I cannot remember a better game, in fact, it is the one I’m still trying to play!

3) Greatest album of all time?

For somebody like me, that has experienced every sort of music, spending way more time listening than studying  instruments, it is a difficult question. There is no doubt I have my favourite albums, but to name one, it really would like turning the others down. My thought is, anyway, that music would had survived and developed the way it is now, even if those albums had never been released. In fact, any big act or album in the history of rock has always been the result of an increasing underground movement that pushed those genius artist to do what they did. Eventually something similar would have come.

Following this thinking , I will say “Fulfillingness’ First Finale” from Stevie Wonder. He did what nobody else had even tried to do before. The use of synths, bass, voices, drums, the overall arrangements were unheard and clearly coming from one mind vision one that made it completely unique and personal, indicating where black music would go, and anticipating by far, what the computer made easy for everybody later on.

4) Best record that you have personally made (+the worst)

Best? Hidden Roots” no doubt. The worst are all the ones that didn’t really represent me, hence, almost anything outside “Hidden Roots”. When you start acting smarter, thinking about this incredible sum of forces that form the market as something that you can manipulate and eventually outflank it, in that very moment you are losing yourself and becoming an hybrid thing that stands in between your urge to communicate your vision, in the exact way you feel it, and the way you think people needs to hear it. Most of the times you are just becoming an ugly monster with three heads and 5 feet. So, in my life exists what is inside Hidden root, and what is outside. I choose the inside.

5) Best live band that you have seen?

In some way, there have always been a disappointment in most concerts I’ve seen. This disappointment I felt, in fact, had nothing to do with the skills of the performers, but it was more due to the fact that I could not completely recognise that sound that was imprinted from my hours of daily listenings. I am a record lover, and mostly for rock and pop, that magic it is somehow still difficult to represent. If you sum it to the fact that I’ve lived most of my childhood in a city that did not have many chances to host the artist I was aiming for…the answer comes pretty easy: Stevie Wonder in Rome. He presented himself with all of his charisma and emotional content and he could have just played with his piano or cappella, I would have loved it the same way. I’ve seen also some outstanding jazz concert, I remember a terrific Jarret Trio at Umbria jazz. But as you might notice, I’m mentioning all incredible performers that don’t need a cohesive sound (underline sound not interplay) that is a distinct sign for a band. But maybe I just get too attached to the records.

6) Most underrated artist/band of all time?

I’ll get this one straight: The Beach Boys. Now, famous as they are, it is difficult to say that they have been underrated. although, in a sort of way, their masterpiece “Pet Sounds” has been. In my very humble opinion, although overall greater, the Beatles never reached in just one album such perfection, and actually The Beatles themselves, knew it very well. Pet sounds, with this unique, consistent sound and style, is the prototype of contemporary music, the way it will have been in the future. Nowadays music owes a lot to them, and in this regard, they are definitely under rated. Besides, in Italy, when you say Beach Boys, people right away start thinking about Barbara Ann…

7) What musician have you worked with that has taught you the most+been the most inspiring to you?

I cannot really mention any famous one. But famous or not, I had some very important collaborations in developing my music. The one I want to mention is Toni Verde, a musician and my first producer that has been successful in different areas. He taught me music by watching it from the outside rather than from the inside, as most of my collaborators, myself included, were doing. I was just coming from my experience at Berklee (college of music) and my thoughts about music were always, the music itself. Therefore, when used to decide to play a guitar or bass part, not being the most skilled musician , I would start being fascinated and worried at the same time. He always said, you cannot play…and so? Music goes beyond that! I was shy and unaware of my skills but he also predicted me I would have sung in a beautiful falsetto, but that I was not ready at that time. I thought he was crazy, as I would not even hit a single falsetto note at that time, but he is a visionary and here I am, after many years, playing instruments I didn’t know how to hold, and singing mostly falsetto! I guess everybody should meet a Toni in their career! 

8) What  in your life are you the most proud of?

When I was young I used to live in a middle class building, although, just few meters away there was a little street, and for some unknown reason, many of them did not have the same degree of education that me and my friend, gathering just below our building few meters away, had. One of my childhood dreams was to befriend one of those guys and to show him the way I perceived things, I wanted basically show him that there was also a different way of interpret life. I could never manage to do it.

But later on, I moved to Thailand and I met the person that today I call my wife regardless of the fact we never got married. She was poor and knew only about that little world she was living in. As small it was her world, her smile was so huge for me. Now she is a citizen of the world just as I am, she can talk about movies, music, food. She is my miracle. And this, is something that makes me very proud.

9) Outside music what do you do in your spare time-interests and hobbies?

I’m a food lover. Food, for me is just like music, has got all those little nuances that you can hear and make music great. As a song as got its own structure: how does the taste start, how it develops, how long it last in your mouth? Some foods : you want that flavour to stays as long as possible inside your mouth, to reach your nose, go inside your bones. To keep going with my parallel with arts It would be like watching another movie after “Once upon a time in America”. Or listening another song after Pat Metheny’s ”James”, but I want that feeling to stay with me as much as I can. One more bite, movie or sound would just kill it. But food it’s also heritage, tradition. In a traditional dish I can taste the history of a whole people, I can feel the scent of a land. Just as much the sound of an instrument can take me directly to a different country, or, even better, to an imaginary one. If you see me swaying my head, you know right away that I’m having a flavour orgasm. I do the same for music.

10) If the roles were reversed who would you like to personally interview-a hero or personal inspiration(maybe not even a musician)

Jon Anderson. The first question would be: describe to me how you composed and recorded “Close to the Edge”. Which one was the first idea, how it developed. How deliberate was to take little fragments of the song and make out of them another part, did you already have the melodies and insert fragments of them, or they were developed from that little fragment you first sung?

by Mark Dean

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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