INTERVIEW: Dutch Falconi

Pic by Linus Lawrence Platt

Hi Dutch, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

I’ve been doing great! Super busy constantly developing new material and I’m always working on the biz side of my music. Lately I’ve been trying hard to get folks to join my email list, even offering a free download on my website at https://dutchfalconi.com/.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single La Amante Del Inquisidor?

Yeah, The Inquisitor’s Mistress or lover in English. This song is kind of a ménage à trois

mash-up: Gitano-Klezmer-Big Band, if you will. There’s two species of melody weaving in and out of each other, one Judaistic in tone and the other decidedly Flamenco in flavor. Immediately for me, it conjured the Inquisition in Spain starting in the 15th Century and the way the lines went in and out of one another smacked of the power and pleasure exchange inherent in love making. I imagined a montage, of sorts, featuring a normally brutal Inquisitor and his fetching female subject in flagrante delicto corpus coitus. I suppose it’s an attempt to transform the inhumane torture of the inquisition into a sensual and erotically charged love story. Well, at least a bid to settle the score somehow. I’m not sure if this notion speaks of a thoroughly retarded sexuality or of an elevated and enlightened kink, but it really doesn’t matter to me. I think both ideas attempting to occupy the same space gives it a peculiar and interesting resonance. Maybe it falls into the literary area of erotic psychological drama? Certainly there’s overtones of this in Romeo & Juliet and the obvious parallels to Liliana Cavani’s film The Night Porter.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Not directly, I mean, I compose music with pictures in mind and sometimes they might seem weird and outré. Actually, I try to weed out the boring, average and pop-culture pictures in favor of the unique ones. It’s more fun that way and while it massively limits my audience, I prefer thoughtful quality to unremarkable quantity. Natch, who wouldn’t?

Any plans to release any sort of video for the track?

Ha! There’s no plans at this point, but that could be awesome! The scenic possibilities are stirring! It would have to be rather risqué, bordering on explicit. In terms of visual design, I mean you have all the symbolism, masking and robed garb of the Church of that period mixed in with the accoutrements of the Inquisition and the paraphernalia found in a dank and well funded torture chamber. There’s plenty of room for socially conscious comment, woke stabs at the Church and the conservative ruling class. You could even add modern or Sci-Fi elements. I think it could be made with a gender fluid cast, maybe even have the roles switching back and forth? Totally Trans, perhaps? Of course the director would need to have a strong LGBTQ+ consciousness and it would have to be shot with a decidedly female gaze. Know anybody to Direct? I could probably find a micro budget for someone who wanted to make such a music video? Hmm… Inquire via email, methinks— [email protected]

What is in the works in terms of music video, is a video for “Tonight Only” the first single I released from the new album “Curious Fabrications”. At the moment I’m waiting to see the most recent cut and I’m really excited about it. It’s written and directed by two up-and-coming filmmakers, Ramesh Borad and Jhanvi Chopda. It’s funny how this came about. I met Ramesh at University while I was still teaching a few years ago. When Covid hit, everyone kind of scattered and found their way back home and for him that was Surat in Gujarat. We kept in touch and the day after I released “Tonight Only” he messaged me and said he really liked the tune and thought it was wonderfully cinematic. I said “Why don’t you make a music video for it?” He instantly clapped back “Brilliant!” and started on it straight away. He and his partner in crime Jhanvi, penned a script that follows a little girl’s life and the lengths her parents go to in trying to control her. It has nothing to do with my original vision of the tune and that’s mainly why I’m so excited about it. When you’re making instrumentals, which is all the pieces on “Curious Fabrications”, you realize that more than anything else, the listener brings in their own ideas to the listening party. This is what the music said to Ramesh and Jhanvi, and I’m simply thrilled to be part of the conversation. Like all my creative work, once my part is over, my desire is not to control, but to inspire and to nudge the creativity of others with a dose of old fashioned permission. Make sense?

The singles come off your new album “Curious Fabrications” – whats the story behind the title?

I really struggled to find a title that could function on a couple different levels. As a title, Curious Fabrications is my heavy-handed attempt to address the virtual or facsimile-like nature of the pieces raw material while simultaneously implying a kind of filmic intrigue that I feel they impart. I wanted a title that suggested a potential mystery, something that might be unravelled as you listen, like a detective story. I toyed a lot with other titles like Facsimiles of Midnight, Scarlet Knock-Offs, Nostalgic Replications, Dead Ringer Dalliances, Replicas Under Glass, Sinister Fabrications, Naked City Mimeographs, before I finally settled on Curious Fabrications. I wanted a title that could support a hardboiled interpretation, film noir even, while still being post-modern and in the contemporary digi milieu. Like old Hollywood, these pieces are mainly edifice as they are more closely aligned to architecture than to literature: I built them with mostly virtual instruments. They are monuments in plastic to a by-gone area and are barely supporting their own weight, ready to crumble at any moment into a pile of 1’s and 0’s. As compositions completely created by me, down to the last milli-second, and without the benefit of master musicians embellishing them, they are chunks of my personal aesthetic.These are hand colored photographs of ancient ruins I’ve digitally printed on glossy card-stock then sent out as postcards. They are hybrids inside of hybrids and have one foot in song, one in jazz and one in the programatic cue of old fashioned film music. Certainly to me as the composer/ performer, each piece is curious and each is absolutely, a total fabrication.

How was the recording and writing process?

Well, this album is almost entirely digital and made with virtual instruments, something I’ve never done before. Big Band albums I’ve done in the past with human players like Crime Boss Hootenanny (2000) were actually much less time consuming to make. I never intended to make such an ersatz collection of songs. Initially, I wanted to learn the notation and DAW software that so many folks seemed have migrated toward during the twenty years I was away from music. As I started getting into it I realized I had another album on my hands. I like to work everyday, starting at the same time in the morning, if even just for a short time. Everyday I must move the ball a little further down the field (to paraphrase my brother) and this way I’m always developing the next piece or set of pieces. Really, it’s a discipline I adopted in my decades doing animation. When there’s SO much work to do ahead of you, you just put your head down and do it, everyday. It rapidly becomes second nature. My writing process starts with ideas on piano, often just fragments. Like an old Polaroid, as the pictures begin to develop in my head so does the piece and pretty quickly I have to start killing ideas and phrases just to keep the damnable thing in the box. I do as much of my arranging and development in a piano reduction style as possible before I start breaking out to the different virtual instrument libraries. I tend to build the bottom first— rhythm section with bass, then I frequently try and sketch out who gets the various melodic lines by section and then work out the harmony with a standard “instrument choir” concept like, reeds together, high brass/ low brass etc. I work velocities, CC’s and the articulations as I go, usually with a big helping of experimentation. I always have my cadre of instruments around and a couple mics eternally set-up so I can record double bass or whatever when I need to. It seems there’s no average time it takes to go from idea to mix. I’d say two days minimum to two weeks max per piece once I’ve really dug into it. Of course really, digging “in” could take a couple sessions before the piece begins to seriously reveal itself.

How did the pandemic influence the writing on this album?

It dominated the context of this record. I mean, this is my “lockdown album”.  I never thought I would try and make a virtual Big Band album, a true “solo” album if you will. It’s funny because I think it was a wishful endeavor, me sitting alone in my studio trying to channel sixteen other musicians to play with. I frequently thought about the players in my orchestra of twenty years ago. In my case the pressure of being locked away for many months resulted in an explosion of creative work. I think everyone can relate to the human scale of the pandemic and for me, this is how I dealt with the claustrophobia of it all. Sure, while constant political turmoil, economic evisceration, social upheaval and apathy toward the changing climate factor significantly in the ambient anxiety I feel/ felt during the making of Curious Fabrications,  the lockdown order was really a gift of time. Time to stress out yes, but also time to make stuff. You know?

What role does Sacramento play in your music?

Sacramento is my hometown and I still spend a lot of time there. It is an incredible place to “woodshed” as they say and one can actively work on their craft without too many distractions. Sacramento’s municipal inferiority complex has become so tiresome, I have long stopped railing against the utter bullshit of becoming “world class”. Right now, the huge influx of folks from the San Francisco Bay Area is really altering the social and economic landscape and a lot of really incredible people and long standing local institutions are being squeezed out. At this point the world is so connected that it’s difficult for me to imagine that geography amounts to much in terms of influence on art making. I mean, sure if you were actively trying to fix ideas to a place or its spirit, but in the case of this record, its only impact is through sheer osmosis. The pieces on “Curious Fabrications” really center around the big, cold, naked cities, you know, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago. You may have noticed a few references in the song titles like Fog City Majesty or Left on Figueroa? These are specific references to SF and LA.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs?

“Curious Fabrications” is unabashedly inspired by Film Noir movies and the writing of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, among many, many others. I realize it has become something of a cliché or even a joke to many folks who really haven’t immersed themselves in it, but it is such an incredibly magnetic genre. These’s SO much art and media that draws from it, I mean Blade Runner is hardboiled through and through and so is Showtime’s Ray Donovan. As a source of inspiration, once you tap it with a dime-store shiv, it’ll spill delicious scarlet for years.

What else is happening next in Dutch Falconis world?

Right now I’m putting the finishing touches on a collection of thirteen pieces for an October 2021 album release I’m calling “Budapest Undead”. The idea for this album is that it’s the soundtrack for a low budget Horror film that, well, never existed. I‘ve wanted so badly to start doing film scores, but haven’t found anyone yet to work with, so I just thought, to hell with it, I’ll do an imaginary score to an imaginary movie and I’ll do it in time for a Halloween release! One of the great things about composing in a film music style is that you are freed from traditional structural forms (if you want to be) and you can really write with very few boundaries. It is pure emotion and intention. I’m rendering these in a decidedly orchestral setting with ample helpings of Hungarian and Cigány overtones via cimbalom, fiddle and bandonéon. I think it may be my best work yet!

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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