Interview on Progrésiste
He gave us the opportunity of a four page interview, plus Misera Venere & Misera Venere (Reprise) from our album “di Carne, di Anima” in the sampler cd attached to the magazine. Wonderful! And it’s astonishing how the word of mouth is slowly spreading our work across the world. Thanks, Bernard & Progrésiste!
Ahah, that’s funny! Well, our name Gran Turismo Veloce and Alfa’s GTV are strictly connected. The appellative “Gran Turismo” was born here in Italy in the late 60’s / early 70’s and then exported all over the world. We do think it is something Italian to be proud of and, of course, we hope that our music will follow the same path. By the way, Alfa’s “Veloce” cars had no frills and went strictly to the heart of competition; we try to do the same: no trappings, we just boost our creative engines.
Alfa or Roméo? What is your favorite car? What does it have that differs from others?
We all loves Alfas, especially those from the past, when Alfa was synonymous of “Heart and soul”. We may say that Flavio loves weird and “boor” cars, Stefano and Claudio opt for practical vehicles, Massimo loves the comfortable and fast ones. You know, to each his own. The result is that when we go gigging, we have to borrow a shabby 1998 Renault Kangoo with 342.000km on its back, in which we have to play Tetris with our instruments. Sooner or later we won’t come back home, I guess.
Elegance and simplicity? Tell us about the soul of GRAN TURISMO VELOCE.
You hit the point! We mainly compose music by following our soul rather than chords or harmony: we choose sounds that give us the goose pimples. Most of these sounds are produced by vintage instruments, like Minimoog, Taurus, Mellotron and Hammond. We feel it is important to use original instruments because their sounds are still unique and absolutely non replicable by digital samples or VST instruments as far as depth and dynamics are concerned. Of course modern electronic sounds or heavy metal riffs can help as well. As we always say, we listen to almost everything from J.S.Bach to Meshuggah, so we just draw off the right cards from the deck with extreme naturalness. We never write down with a blueprint in mind, most of the time everything starts with a simple riff or a basic idea. Then the river flows… Maybe the artist who represents us best is Alan Parsons, who walked fearless from epic and symphonic to electronic.
Vitality or necessity? One day four young men with nice hair (well, at least three of them) found a progressive rock band. They would not have done better to watch TV?
Is it OK if we laugh again? When we started, Flavio had long, blond hair and Stefano wore an “à la mode” hairdo. As time went by everyone got the “GTV HAIR CUT”. The luckiest one is Massimo: genetics already did the job! By the way, we never had and still don’t have the progressive tag in mind when we write our music. Progressive is something which people refer to as “something strange”, a song in which time signature changes along the way. We wouldn’t say that since we use Minimoog or Hammond Organ we play progressive rock. We were once labeled “a complex rock band” and we like this definition best. The big issue, however, is that in today’s music business, anything without tits doesn’t sell. We even tried to turn on the TV rather than playing music, but we were overwhelmed by Berlusconi and tits, again. We don’t have tits and we use Minimoog. We’re kinda screwed.
Real or virtual? Where does the inspiration come from?
We have a sort of cinematic inspiration: as soon as a new theme comes out, we loop it and we think about which kind of movie would fit best with that tune. Let’s say this new theme suggests a horror film, then why don’t we write something in a horror fashion? So a horror inspired text would follow. This is why we don’t have a favourite topic and why our arrangements may feel very different from one another. As far as sounds are concerned, as weird as it may seem, we usually choose sounds that make us laugh. For example, we laughed to tears when, while mixing, we decided to put a delay on the snare of “L’Artista”, or when we decided to put the tubular bell in the last seconds of “Quantocàmia”. We’re like kids in a playroom.
Intelligence or indecency? Some compose by telling stories; others compose by telling their stories. And in GTV?
In “di Carne, di Anima” we tried to avoid absurd topics, differently from what often happened back in the ‘70s. We sing about love in Misera Venere and Misera Venere (Reprise) which can be read as the rise and fall of the perfect girlfriend, or we sing about the natural human needing of fears (La Paura). Quantocàmia is the Sicilian slang for “How many trucks!”, while “L’Estremo Viaggiatore” is a sort of a “2001” space journey. We sing about artist’s feelings in “L’Artista” and “Sorgente Sonora” or something between love and eroticism in “L’Indice e l’Occhio”. So… both intelligence and indecency.
Highway or country road? What song was the most difficult to compose? What happened?
In medio stat virtus: highway is so boring, country road is too complicated. Something in between can give you the right speed to get to your destination in time, while looking at the landscape properly. We really didn’t have troubles writing the first album. When we get stuck in something, we usually pass away and we start a new song. Solution will come. Time is our greatest friend: we never write in a hurry. Even when the opportunity of publishing “di Carne, di Anima” was real, we had to write two more songs and record the whole thing in three months, but we didn’t panic. We just opened a beer and had a chat on how to get through it.
Melody or complexity? Is it necessary to write the music having in mind the one who will listen?
We don’t think it is necessary, but it helps a lot. However, we don’t write songs for Britney Spears or Tokyo Hotel (can we say Tokyo Hotel in an interview?): our main goal is not to go on air on the big radio stations, or to break progster’s hearts. We don’t throw in a Taurus “pedale” to be endearing, or indulge in an electronic loop to be more pop-friendly. We think our primary peculiarity is that we write what we like to hear. Period. What is amazing is that sometimes we’re so lucky that people like what we like…
Sensitivity or technique? Describe the role of your favorite instrument in the richly arranged L’indice e l’occhio.
Technique should always be dominated by sensitivity: of course it would be frustrating to write something complex without the ability of playing it. “L’Indice e l’Occhio” is a homage to Philip Glass, who had a crush on Prophet V, especially in his Koyaanisqatsi period, but the use of arpeggios comes from the old times, from classical music. The fact is that people often forget that almost everything has been done already. When we added an arpeggio at the end of this song, we added it doubling cellos with a synth, covering over 400 years of music. Anyway, “L’Indice e l’Occhio” is a joint between “di Carne, di Anima”and the next album, which will have a lot of orchestral parts in it.
Baby boomer or Generation Y? What is the average age of the musicians? And the standard deviation? And their consequences?
Our average of 27 years old is ruined by the bald, 33 years old, fat guitar player. Do the math.
We don’t think we should answer this question right now… it will be history itself to tell us! Many people say we’re the key to bring back progressive rock to the radio and to big audiences like it was in the past. We are obviously flattered, and we indulge in dreaming of being a kind of modern P.F.M. which ousted Eagles in the U.S. charts… but we come back to reality in our messy rehearsal room at the outskirt of Grosseto, invaded by mosquitoes in summer and rats in winter.
Now or never? You present a radio program and you’d like your listeners to discover music, from other bands but introducing to the world of GTV. You’ve got time for five songs. Which ones would you choose? With what intention?
Here’s our playlist:
J.S.Bach – Toccata und Fuge in D moll BWV 565
We find this composition is the first example of popular progressive rock: almost everyone knows it, but hardly anyone is aware that there are elements which will become a standard in ‘70s prog, such as the use of “pedale” and the overall harmonic movements. Think about Toccata und Fuge with a Taurus…
Bach is an everlasting source of inspiration.
Pink Floyd – Echoes
Unlike other 20mins long pieces such as Genesis’ Supper’s Ready or Yes’ Close to the Edge, Pink Floyd managed to expand the archetypical song structure into a suite composition without denying its classical form (intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, finale). We like when very complex things happen through the simple yet powerful song model.
Alan Parsons Project – I robot
This is one of the first attempts of blending electronic music with funky rhythms in an epic atmosphere. What else?
Prodigy – Smack my bitch up
This is the ultimate loopin’ stretchin’ pitchin’ extravaganza: an original song entirely made of bits and pieces from other hits, on a programmed boosting drum. Our music of course
doesn’t need such additive manipulation, but we do enjoy subduing samples and loops to our needings.
Meshuggah – New Millenium Cyanide Christ
We find Meshuggah’s rhythmical decomposition very inspiring. It is a new way to conceive rhythm, very useful to achieve a strange kind of groove, especially when blended with an orchestra like we’re going to do in our next album.
One for all or all for one? How is decision made in the band?
We’re like knights of the round table, at least when we are writing songs: everyone has the right to say his own impression. Our roles are implicitly defined: Claudio, Flavio and Stefano are those with academic studies on their background, Massimo supplies his laziness with a talent in discovering the big picture. Sometimes a decision must be made and there comes out the big voice. We will not say who he is.
Mussolini or Gandhi? There is still always a leader, right?
Ok, you want that name. Someone has defined Massimo an “illuminated despot”. Maybe because he’s the oldest one? Maybe because he turns into a Balrog when he gets upset? Maybe because he often cooks delicacies for his GTV friends? Maybe because he is bald? We’ll never know…
Both Devo and Kraftwerk has been important, but if we have to choose, we strongly prefer Kraftwerk! Image is something that gives music an additional way to be remembered, especially in live acts. I mean: many people remind of Devo just because they were dressed in yellow, others refer to Kraftwerk as “those who act like robots”. Maybe in time someone will think about us like “the prog mechanics”. Who knows? We decided to have a stage costume because nowadays image is more important than ever. And if you think about it for a second, you’ll notice that even those who deny uniforms wear, of course, an uniform: dreadlocks in reggae, torn shirts in metal and… do we really need to talk about hair metal!? However it’s funny when someone from the audience asks for a red overall merchandise… we should think about it!
Vigor or torpor? How does it feel when taking in hand the first copy of his first album?
Holding the printed copy was nothing special, even if we were really pleased by the graphic design: we spent a whole day between fish slices and stinky innards with
Francesco Rossi – our trustworthy photographer – and we did lots of layout previews. The real thrill of having a proper CD distribution is to get reviews and interviews, and we’re definitely astonished when someone from abroad asks for an interview… It is also amazing seeing your name and CD cover on Google results.
Velvet case or chainsaw? And what do you do with that first copy of that first album?
It’s on the shelf, together with the print previews and the paintings we used for our self produced EP “In un solo brivido”. We must say we don’t think that the physical copy of the CD does justice for all the work behind it. Everyone can write, record and print a CD nowadays, the small yet great difference between “In un Solo Brivido” and “di Carne, di Anima” is that having a label, as indie as it is, gave us the opportunity to be heard all over the world. The rest is pure passion, and it will always be.
We like when foreign people call us “GTV” and not “Gran Turismo Veloce”. Hopefully it will bring us luck as it happened to Premiata Forneria Marconi which was renamed P.F.M. when abroad. But, since we perfectly know that we are far from that kind of success, we still maintain our feet firmly on the ground and we keep on playing. We are looking for a booking agency or a promoter to increase our live activity in Italy and abroad. Meanwhile we are composing our second album which will probably be a concept album about popular fairy tales. You can find “The Selfish Giant” and “Alice in Wonderland (suite)” on Youtube. We wrote them in Italian but we’re wondering to record the album in English.
What’s your advice? Please give your suggestion!