ITALIAN EXPERIMENTAL UNDERGROUND
Txt: Bertram Niessen / Eng: Ornella Pesenti
Digimag readers are probably bored by my long prologues on the reasons why I chose to interview someone. I’m unfortunately convinced, and I’m getting more and more into those convictions, that explaining the reasons behind articles is definitely one of the most important part of the article itself.
Well, Some weeks ago I was at Torkiera in Milan (for those who missed it, Torkiera is one of the few spaces of the metropolis that is seriously promoting musical experimentation, among all its proposals). I was resonating with Marco Mancuso about potential interviews. Suddenly, I saw the table of Afe Records and I asked myself: “Is it possible that we haven’t interviewed Andrea Marutti yet, one of the most interesting key character of the experimental underground of the last ten years?”. Yep, it is possible. So here I apology and remediate.
Andrea Marutti, aka The Afeman, Amon, Never Known, Lips Vago and tons of other names, is a musician that dedicated his time to that gloomy and not-defined genre the dark-ambient is, moving into other territories with his multiple collaborations. And he’s obviously Afe Records man, little but well known cult label that devote efforts to “braking down the barriers in electronic music since 1995″.
Synthesizing the complex panorama on which he works in a little introduction is tough work, so read the interview here above.
Bertram Niessen: It is quite clear that Afe Records has a clear and precise editorial line, even if it goes from pop musicians such as Bugo to extreme ones such as Maurizio Bianchi. It is hard to say what is really interesting and what is not in some of the genres you deal with. How do you choose what to publish?
Andrea Marutti: Well, first of all, I don’t want to be the one that enjoy someone else famousness, so I have to make a precision. Bugo “officially” participated with his name in Afe only to a remix project of my alter ego Wolkspurz & Ramirez, realizing his version. He appeared also in an album with an “alcoholic” improvisation with Rico of Uochi Toki, but I’m far away from saying that Bugo published an album with Afe! Talking about Maurizio Bianchi, things are dirrefent. ‘Zen Tage (Touka)’, his first album realized with German Telepherique, has been an important work because its first publication matched with a collaboration with an artist that has already been working for twenty years. Actually, it also was the first CD published by Afe “all alone”, without any other famous label support.
Next publications of Afe will include Maurizio again, this time realizing an album with the Israeli Maor Appalbaum. Focusing better the question contents, I think you got a nuance that is not so easy to understand, for those not into modalities and practices of label management. Sometime, in experimental music, the bound between a quality work and something gross is subtile. I also got some trouble rating some albums that I hence decided to to publish. Luckily my doubts faded when they smashed the public and the critic as well. It also happened that sometime albums that I considered little masterpieces didn’t satisfy the rest of the world… Taste is my only rule to publish albums, however the fact of being easily sellable is sometime necessary to balance the income account. Even so, I can proudly say I never published anything I disliked, sellable or not.
Bertram Niessen: As those into “noisy” circles, the italian experimental music panorama is fresh and alive. At the same time, it seems like there’s no real “scenes”… Why is it this way? Is it something typical of Italy or is it the same abroad?
Andrea Marutti: I’m not a “noise” fan, when it’s not intubated into complex structures and arranged with canons that give it an adult development and identity. I’d rather tend not to put “experimental” and “noisy” together, as it is too simple to say you experiment only making some noise without sense… I don’t think I got elements enough to say in Italy there are some scenes linked to experimental electronic music. In magazines and websites, new scenes seem to appear every day. I could be wrong, but I think this helps the creation of new trends and nothing else. Obviously in our country as well as everywhere else in the world, people with the same musical interests organize happenings, collaborations, etc…
Bertram Niessen: ndrea Marutti, The Afeman, Amon, Never Known, Lips Vago… All of your projects outed with different names. Do you have an “umbrella” project that covers all the others, or are all independent identities?
Andrea Marutti: Well, actually you didn’t mentioned all the names. The umbrella you’re talking about it’s nothing but myself and the desire to express in different music areas, using different instruments and manners. Frequenting different genres and having different pseudonyms made the alias affirm rather than the single identity behind them. So, during the decade, the success of Amon in the Dark-Ambient area made me identify with it. Some called me with that name rather than my real one. The affirmation of Afe during last years slowly transposed the identification/symbiosis to my label and myself.
I auto-called myself “The Afeman”, my fault, and I lost the control on the situation. The most who met me during last four/five year knew me as “The Afeman”. So we could say that “the public” – and not only – never knew me as Andrea Marutti… I started publishing stuff with my own name. Now, to recover my identity – musically, online and in my everyday life – I’m trying to use other tactics as well, because I’m kind of bored of being identified with all my (old) nicknames. It will soon be released an album under my name for a big sector label, and this could help the object I’m directed. I say, I blame myself for the situation, but it’s never too late to adjust the target. I hope the public won’t take this as a way to put on airs, to be up on oneself. Amon, Afeman or everything else do not change the substance and I’m still the same person no matter what my name is, but as I already feel to have too many weak point in my life, I would simply like being called with anything but my name.
Bertram Niessen: Talking about your music projects, how hard is staging around for those into niche music? Or maybe I should ask if this is a problem for you…
Andrea Marutti: I never really questioned myself about that, in the sense that I always preferred the studio activity, that is more congenial to me. But I never said no to such requests. So all of my lives since 1997 have always been the result of extern inputs, accompanied – at least the first times – by my curiosity to measure with live context, to hear how studio compositions could have sound. Once the initial boost ended, I started getting bored and above all considering concerts a straining. I almost abandoned this type of activities.
Since 2005 anyway, I develop I new set based on improvisation that allowed me to find new stimulus, turning my mind again to live set. If particular economic and technic exigencies are requested, I think it is easy to find places where own live-sets can be proposed, even for those into experimental music and research. Unfortunately the majority of available locations have no support or bad acoustic. Moreover, concerts are often heard by habitus and not people who are interested to the performance itself. There’s no worst show than the one executed in front of a chatting public, totally disinterested to the musical proposal. When I’m living this kind of situation, I express my discomfort turning the volume up and saturating the high frequencies. If I’m in charge of the mixer, I win. But, as it wouldn’t be the reason why I’m there, this couldn’t do anything but create sadness and suggest me not to propose such kind of situations. Obviously, till the next time.
Bertram Niessen: Anyway, the thing I always found interesting is that interesting music is played in particular places. Is there any location that stroke you more than the other?
Andrea Marutti: For sure! Because of my last answer, people could think I only played in bars, and this in largely inexact. In July 1997 I had the opportunity to participate to a festival in Bologna inside the exhibition stands of the city. The stage was built in a square inside two high towers projected by the Japanese architect Kenzo Tange. The prominence of the buildings made the experience unique. Last summer, I played in Arichiaro, a little village near Catanzaro, inside an agriculture territory converted into museum/artistic space by his owner, my friend Tommaso Cosco, great listener of “alternative” music and “spiritual farmer”.
Playing in the middle of nature, listening to my music spreading harmoniously between hills and valleys, as well as among the public seated around olive trees, has been one of the best satisfactions. I remember with pleasure the night held in 2004 at Lab12 in Vigevano, which has been for years the home of my friend Patrizia/Madame P. I had been staging for some time and for that occasion Lab was crowded as never, with some people I hadn’t meet for ages as well as friends from afar only for my live-set. A fantastic concert and a period that I remember with nostalgia.
Bertram Niessen: How do you work on your music? Do you start from a concept or are you more interested in improvisation?
Andrea Marutti: Things never happen the same way. Sometime you have an idea and realizing it brings success. Or maybe the attempt remain an attempt but creates conditions for something else. There are periods that I work on sounds and I create a sort of library. Then I go back to them and try to create a structure that can valorize and complete them. During the last years I realized some stuff taking parts of my concerts, not modifying the original contents and using them as base for more complete songs. A part from experiments with different recorders, once my music- rhythmic or not- was organized with a sequencer and was based managed with synthesizers. During the year, I started using a couple of samplers, but I almost abandoned the MIDI.
Now, I prefer working with audio software. I use several analogical outboards, effects and pedals, but I do not dislike the use of dedicated plug-ins near the instrumentation I own, integrating the project with field recordings and “poor” electronic. I missed the comparison with other musicians, excepts for some remixes or “performance of services”. I then realized my ambitions collaborating with Giuseppe Verticchio/Nimh for “Hall of Mirrors”, with Andrea “ics” Ferraris (Ur, Aichamber3 and lots more) in “Sil Muir” and, recently, with Davide Del Col (Ornament, Echran) in our creature “Molnija Aura”. These collaborations brought me to know and experiment composition methods and expressive modalities, enriching the number of sound solutions I can use.
Bertram Niessen: One last question about Afe Pins, a sort of mania in Milan (not fashion, I think coolness has nothing to do with it). How is it going? How do you choose your subjects? How is your relationship with people coming at your table?
Andrea Marutti: Well, I hope this mania will grow and spread as much as it can… I’d say it’s going well. I always loved pins, since I was a child, I wore them even if I didn’t know their subjects. Some years ago I decided to start the production of some Afe pins as promotional gadgets, after which I created the conditions to make them on my own, following the natural instinct that brings me to be independent in realize what I need. So I bought the necessary and I began. Tables set during concerts attracted public attention and, more than single pins, I received requests to realize hundreds of pieces for bands, labels, etc.
I consider Afe Pins as an entity completely separated from Afe Records, and the approach I use is different for both of them. Pins is an occupation I consider as a real job, in the sense that it is an impersonal activity where I’m not so emotively involved as I am in the label. What I want to say is that I can realize a band pin even if I do not like its logo, while I’d never publish an album if I dislike it. The label is an activity for myself, because it makes me feel better. Pins are an important voice in the blank for my own economy. I enjoy bringing Afe table in situations available to host it. The best thing is the relation created with people visiting our tables. Pins give infinite conversation arguments, turning the job into a pleasure. The majority of the proposed subjects are in fact suggested by people who visited the table. Parameters on which I realize pins are for example requests from the public or my interests, that sometimes make me create absurd pins or even worse
Bertram Niessen: Ask yourself anything you want, if you want..
Andrea Marutti: Ow, here’s the part where “Ask yourself a question and answer”! Well, as we’re at the end of the interview, I’d say a classic “What is brewing?” or “What are your future projects?”. And this would be my answer: I’ve been preparing next Afe publications that will be ready for October 2008. There may be some albums that will be out some months ago, but I’m not sure about that. During last years, the number of label publications has surely grown, from 6 of 2004 to 24 of 2007. I think it is impossible to do more than that, I think it’s even too much. I think next year I’ll try to reduce the quantity of productions, as I think I reached the top of my possibilities. In any case, among the programmed album, there surely is: an inedited album composed by John Hudak, the re-edition (with bonus tracks) named Amon vs. Mortar of tracks published on vinyl by Oktag in 2000, Maurizio Bianchi album with Maor Appelbaum, the return of Brian Lavelle and an intense collaboration between Daniele Brusaschetto and the Norwegian Origami Galaktika.
At the moment, I’m waiting to receive material from some other Italian and international artists, but nothing is decided yet. Personally, I should publish for Nextera my first album with my real name. The label from Czech republic already catalogued musicians such as Lustmord, The Hafler Trio, Clock DVA and many others. Some “aggressive” experiments are waiting publication under an American label, and I hope this will happen soon. The second chapter of the “Hall of Mirrors” project, recorded during the summer, is waiting to find its best collocation, as well as “Utopian Suns”, the debut album of Molnija Aura, and the Sil Muir album, still without name.
I hope Sil Muir finds a house, as we already assembled lots of material that we’re still finishing. Next year a French label will publish a MiniCD-R that contains two songs mixed by the American Mike Palace/Horchata by me and Sil. My track is about fifteen minutes and was recently included in the compilation Table For Six: All Quiet?, out with the Belgian label EE Tapes. Some other tracks will appear on a 4-way split and a compilation edited by the new label Kosmik Elk Mind. Nothing else!.
I would strongly thank you for the interview and hosting me on Digicult.