PROGRESS MAGAZINE > UK
1. At what point did you first become interested in avant garde recordings? Was there any one record or exhibition that sparked your interest?
Fabio Carboni: hem, let's see...not sure but i would say the first time i listened to Luigi Nono's "Prometeo" on the italian RAI Radio 3, a classical station run by the Italian national broadcasting company, comparable to BBC Radio 3 in Britain. It was 1985 (or 1986?), when some of my friends started turning towards heavy metal...at that time i was into W.A.S.P., I clearly remember being blown away by Blackie Lawless's voice...And I still remember the first time I heard what was then radical contemporary music (Nono's "Prometeo"), I
was knocked over by it. I had never heard anything even remotely.
Bruno Stucchi: being older than Fabio, I started as many other of my age from Kraut/popular electronic/spacey music (you can guess the names) and I as I wanted to know more I took the "M" volume from a huge enciclopedia which was taking the dust since ages on my father's library shelf, and went for "Electronic music". Believe it or not, I found almost two two pages on the topic, and all the names and refernces were there, to fuel my interest and curiosity forever. The difficult part was finding the records and -above all- the money to buy them. The first record was "Visage", by Luciano Berio with the astounding voice of Cathy Berberian (I fantasized on her like a sort of avantgarde Madonna), which I ordered from the local Classical music shop and painfully awaited for one month. It was the beginning of a long,
adventurous and somewhat difficult trip, still lasting today.
2. Did it inspire you to make your own music as a musician/artist?
Fabio: Not really, as I'm not a professional musician, I'm just a hobbyist who wants to reanimate some early intuitions
Bruno: I am a designer, and yes it inspired me to compose.visually!
3. Did you run record labels before Die Schachtel?
no, we're a pair of genuine newbies
4. With Die Schachtel, was there any particular artist whose work you wanted to release, or even a particular period of music?
Fabio: Yes, aim of Die Schachtel is to publish both archival and unreleased material from the most interesting (and often unknown) names of both the electronic avant-garde music and the sound-art scene, of the period
1960-1980. A special attention is given to those artists who, although recognised as pioneers and masters of their own genre, seldom had the possibility to publish their music, and consequently never gained a wider
recognition for their work. The ambitious task is "completing the map" of the sound territories occupied by experimental music (especially Italian), and thus create (or re-create) a relevant link with the new generation of
experimental musicians, which very often (at least in Italy) have few or no awareness of the extraordinary musical and creative heritage left by great musicians like Pietro Grossi, Enore Zaffiri, Franca Sacchi and others. When talking about them, the usual comment is: "Who?" a scenario familiar to all who have championed the cause of their own personal favourite amongst neglected musicians and losers (and it is remarkable just how swiftly a craftsman and all his works can disappear into the shadows).
Bruno: Of course I'd die to find - lost in some obscure archive - some early and hidden gem from some master of the avantgarde (mainly Maderna, or Berio, Nono etc) and publish it, although I suspect there is no real need for it. The huge satisfaction is to find something REALLY obscure (like in the Cilio case) and bringing it back to life - sometimes a new birth.
5. From the beginning, were you sure you wanted to release records, or was there an intention to release books and films as well?
Fabio: We are already working with different with media, actually we're going to publish a book on the performing voice and sound poetry: we're also managing to publish a serie of video-art DVDs. We are also going to open very soon (October 2004) a Die Schachtel space: a red room (an all-red box in fact) which will function as an art/sound-art gallery as well as a listening space. It will host sound installations, art or design exhibitions and special events. Of course, it's a no-profit, zero-budget initiative, related with our desire of a more extended research, wich derives from our aim to work with ideas: an attempt to alter the distribution system of an idea trough artistic practice
Bruno: One day I'd like to publish a series of book/records dedicated to the avantgarde cover art design, and related topics: there is so much which has never been seen by the design world, also because very often the original records are rare, and have never been rprinted with the original covers.
6. And art exhibitions? How involved were you with the recent Franca Sacchi
exhibition in Milan?
In a very easy and smooth way, asking her to exhibit her work in her friend's art gallery...really, that's it!
7. There are several other Italian labels that specialize in releasing archival work, like Nepless and Algha Marghen. How does your choice of releases differ from theirs?
Bruno: Isn't that weird? I mean, we all know how poor and neglected is the contemporary "adventourous" music scene in Italy (in the last decade of The Wire I can't remember more than three or five mentions of Italian artists really on the edge: name them if you can). And surprisingly we have a number of labels which painstakingly produce and disseminate some of the most interesting stuff on the planet, no matter where they come from. It might be a case of some sort of psychological hole-filling?
8. The first time I heard anything by Luciano Cilio was from an mp3 on your website. I was amazed at how moving it was, very much like Nick Drake's recordings. Then I read your notes on Cilio, his eventual suicide. How is he regarded in Italy, and what part does his work play in your life?
Fabio: Again, the usual answer would be: "Who"? A singular talent who passed almost unnoticed during his brief lifetime, Luciano Cilo produced few compositions of dazzling, somber beauty. These pieces have come to be his only album was ignored at the time of its' release well, and Cilio, already a brooding loner, plunged into serious depression that often found him unable to make music, until he committed suicide aged just 32.
Bruno: One day Fabio brought me a CDR saying: "This is one of my all-time favourite albums. Tell me what you think, and especially if you are interested in publishing it, because I'd really love to do it". I read the name and the sparse info and said: "like what, a Neapolitan musician? O sole mio and all that crap? You mad?" Then I listened to the record and I was completely overwhelmed by the music and the feeling. Tell me I am a We
weren't sure about releasing it mainly because its (wrong) association with Progressive music. We both liked too much the music to drop the project, and then Fabio sent it to Jim O'Rourke, who gave us an enthusiastical feedback: at that point we were absolutely convinced. It looks like the CD is obtaining a great success - we could even end up reprinting it!
9. Are you interested in eventually releasing work by contemporary musicians?
Fabio: Sure, this is the point. I would start releasing contemporary artists, but I'm not not that confortable with to-day experimental music. Though my experience as listener determines fairly little for myself beyond like/dislike and emotional reactions, i'm not able to see any urgence in most of the music I hear trough. I'd say, I don't like much experiments (!), as there is not much value in isolated experiments...Can it be a focus of experimental music to experiment with the audience? Can it be experimental to realize a work so completely innocuous that it is impossible to recall? Plug modem/ hard disk into recorder - press record - release as limited edition vinyl ("fuck, a ZX Spectrum, weirdo!) is the way? An experiment in music must necessarily redefine constantly the forms and language of music? Need experimental music always push formal boundaries, or is it equally possibly to create experimental music completely within genre boundaries, yet subvert the genre simultaneously? Hip, I know, these are all questions. But Cecil Taylor was right saying: "The problem with being 'avant-garde' is that those guys always depend on what's already been done, because they feel some need to stay 'ahead' always, when they could just be working." I feel the same way about self-proclaimed experimenters - above all, if you please, send your demos to: Die Schachtel, via Tadino 30, 20124 - Milano, Italy.
Bruno: Fabio's very philosophical, as usual. I agree with him of course, although I suspect that there are a lot of possibility out there, and that we can help. I am really impressed by what Rune Kristofferson (of the Rune Grammofon label) has been - and still is - able to do for the Norwegian new music scene, regardless of any genre boundary or preconception. I'd really love to do the same for the Italian music scene. Let's see what happen.
10. The Italian avant garde has a history dating back to the Futurists. Politically they were fascists, but traditionally the avant garde world are very left wing. Are the artists you work with influenced by politics and how important is it to today's Italian artists?
Bruno: yes, everything in Italy is politics these days, although I can't think seriously about it. Of course all the artist we are working with are or were in some way or the other linked to the left wing, even the most extreme one. But, no, we are in no way making any political statement or trying to instigate any revolution. We are happy to light some small sparkle in people's head - the biggest form of revolution I can think of.
Fabio: I agree with Bruno as well...but, I cannot think to Futurism as a right-winged political entity. Initially, there were close similarities between Futurism and Fascism and the worthy aspirations of both to become the dominating political force that would be able to drag Italy out of poverty and into the modernism of the Twentieth Century. To me, Futurism is the prototype for all the avant-gardes: a group armed with a global, artistic and extra-artistic ideology that embraced every area of experience - from art to politics, from moral ethics to lifestyle. In its beginnings the Futurist movement had been of anarcho-socialist inspiration and part of its programme had been to support interventionism in the Great War.
After 1918 it went through a reactionary introversion which in the end left it closely aligned with the far more ambiguous policies adopted by Fascism (and indeed in some cases inspiring those policies). But though Futurism thus eventually found itself suspended somewhere between modernism and traditionalism it continued to play the role of an extremist "left wing" within Fascism and as such was able to continue upholding the aesthetic approach to life and to keep alive the cosmopolitan spirit that at every step was completely in opposition to every racist manifestation of Fascism and its rhetorical obsession with the past.
interview by Hassni Malik, september 2004