Stefano Isidoro Bianchi – “It’s rare, I must admit, that I play a record just to listen to it”

Hi Matteo. I’ll be happy to take some photos of my records for you, but now I have to send out the January issue of Blow Up magazine and the packages are actually covering me the view of the LPs…

No problem, send that stuff anyway, it would be great to see the shelves before and after the shipping of the magazine copies! So… do you confirm me that you personally ship each copy of the mag?

Yes. I confirm your suspicion that I send all the copies of Blow Up. And that I put them in place… and that I also do the graphic layout of the mag and I take care of all the contacts with the typography, I go to the accountant… I confirm that I am completely alone, apart from those who write and send the articles via email.
However, the “before and the after the shipping” pictures is not a bad idea!


It really seems that your house and your life are overwhelmed by the music. There is not a single corner without records… Being you the director of one of the main musical magazine in Italy, I’ve asked myself many times WHEN do you find time to listen to what you feel like, not what you have to. I mean, I suppose you receive thousands of promos, and you have to review them and to prepare yourself for the interviews and so… Is there any moment left for the ‘real’ listening to what you want to listen in that specific moment?

Actually not only by music, you haven’t seen books and comics… Well, I must confess I haven’t much time to listen to what I’d like to; fortunately I have so many contributors in Blow Up who can do the work we have to do with promos, so I can keep myself enough free time to write articles and books more than reviews. But for sure the simple pleasure of listening to music, well, has partly gone with the business.

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I see… so, what’s the last record you listened for pure pleasure?
Well, there are lots of them! I mean, fortunately there are many new records that are very good, so it’s often a pleasure also to listen and review new records! It’s rare, I must admit, that I play a record just to listen to it; when I decide to write an article or start a book, I decide for a band or musician I love, so it’s a pleasure listening again to records I don’t listen to since many years, for example… The most recent have been the records of Gogogo Airheart and Panoply Academy, and above everything else all the records of Mayo Thompson for my book on the Red Crayola / Red Krayola.

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Moreover, I don’t want to be indiscreet, but… I’ve noticed what can look like female boots (‘shiny boots of leather’ maybe), and female shoes. If you’re not wearing that, is the person living with you appreciating music as you do? Or at least a bit of how much you do?

Ah ah, sure! She’s my wife, and she loves many – not all, I’d say – of my records.

Ok, I see… so which is the favourite music of your wife?
Mmmh… I’d say the music we listened to when we were young: Joy Division, Gang Of Four, P.I.L., Talking Heads, Patti Smith, later REM, Nick Cave, Depeche Mode, then Tom Waits, Nirvana and so… In general very few bands before 1976 and very few bands of ‘classic rock’.

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Funny! Many names would be very close to my favourites too! I think I could get along with your wife! So she sort of ‘cuts off’ stuff before 1976. What about you and the non-rock oriented music? I’m asking myself if you also like some ‘classical music’, or contemporary… Mozart, Wagner, Varèse, Bartók… Or you just love “rock and other contaminations”, as is written on Blow Up cover?

I really love everything everywhere, I’m just curious about everything and I have so many many records of contemporary classical and avant-garde/experimental music…

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Well, there’s another question I have in mind watching the stuff you have: do you keep the promos? Or you trash most of them? Or you just send them around to the Blow Up collaborators?

The policy of the mag is the same since the beginnings: the one who reviews is the one who keeps the record. Until today I have never trashed anything, not even the worst I’ve heard. Thank God I live in the country, so I have no problem with space; not all the records I receive is in my house, the ones you see in the pictures are the ones I keep for me, I mean the ones I love, of course in different levels, and the ones that could be useful in the future for the mag (articles and so). But consider that quite a few of the records you see reviewed or covered in any way aren’t promos, at least the ones I personally review because I still have the healthy habit of buying records, a lot of records…

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So I need to ask you: which is the last record(s) you bought!? I’m sure is nothing really recent, have I guessed?
Oh no, I buy old records, new records, everything I feel, really no difference. The last ones by now, January 2nd 2018? Here they are: “Lost at Last Vol. 1” by Langhorne Slim (new) and “Live at the New Morning, Geneva, Switzerland, 18.05.1989” by Spacemen 3 (old).

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Here’s something I asked to most of the people here on Concrete Shelves: is there any order? I see yellow signs here and there, so I guess yes…

Yes, they are put in alphabetical order without distinctions of category, kind, or age (save the prewar folk-blues-country and few other exact genres). But some name whom I have many records of I keep aside.

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What do you keep aside then? Among the ones that you reviewed on BU, I remember a passion for Peeesseye/Chris Forsyth, a moving article about Bruce Springsteen, a strong appreciation for any stuff that Bruno Dorella does… what else?

They are so many… But with “I put them aside” I meant that they have a sub-division for themselves in the alphabetical order of the vinyl records, i.e. Husker Du or R.E.M. or Springsteen or Thin White Rope or Spacemen 3 or whatever. I didn’t mean that they’re in a different shelve.

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For some reason I found strange the presence of the blue plastic bottle on the ground. Not on a table… at a first sight, I thought that that room can be the shelter of a hidden person. Our someone is kidnapped there. Or maybe there’s just a much simpler reason for that bottle on the ground?

Aehm… that’s just a bottle where I keep the particular water for the windshield wipers of my car…



You even have tapes. Old tapes. Tenderly coloured and all in alphabetical order too. Can you tell me more about them?

They are very old cassettes mostly I personally made for car listening… So, some of them are compilations made by me, some are records I recorded to listen in the same way, and some are more recent ones, also original ones I bought because they were the only or last disposable releases (like Sun City Girls, Victor De Lorenzo, Loren Chasse and so). There is also some interview I made to musicians in very different places for Blow Up (Stan Ridgway) and other small and local magazines (Litfiba after a gig in 1987). Well, even if don’t listen to any of them since years and years, I’m very fond of all of them – that’s the reason I haven’t thrown away neither the ones that are of no importance at all, like my compilations…


Here is a difficult one, that I dared to ask also to your collaborator Vittore Baroni time ago, who also has thousands of records. Do you think it’s possible to tell a favourite ONE? He obviously said it’s impossible, but at the end, he elected “Eskimo” by the Residents.

It’s really so difficult and at last I think we have to choose a record we particularly have in our heart. Well, I’d say “Nebraska” by Bruce Springsteen.

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Ah, ok, Nebraska, so it’s the one you had also on your magazine’s “RPM” section. I well remember the end of that article, very moving, with something about your father. Anyway, who did transmitted this passion for music to you? Usually is a bigger brother, or one of the parents (mother in my case, for instance), of a friend… Or maybe it all came from yourself?

Absolutely no one. Neither my parents or my friends were educated to music, no one I knew when I was a kid listened to anything but the mainstream music. Music was for me a way to escape the world I was living in, a place where I could fly and build a world of mine under the covers in my bedroom. I dreamed of London, I dreamed of New York. I dreamed of Lou Reed and the wild side of life, I dreamed of Jim Morrison and poetry, I dreamed of Bruce Springsteen who was my older brother, I dreamed of Ian Curtis who dared to do what I dreamed to do and had no guts to do. Exactly the opposite of the quiet sunny Tuscan countryside I was livin’ in. Rock music ruined and saved my life, and I mean it (even if I absolutely dislike the old old old rhetoric of rock’n’roll that saves… I was saved also by books, so many books… but at 15 music is much more important than books, you know).

Stefano Isidoro Bianchi room of records (after having shipped all the Blow up magazine copies (January 2018 issue).
Stefano Isidoro Bianchi room of records (after having shipped all the Blow Up magazine copies (January 2018 issue).

It seems that you love music so much but I can’t find any trace of you playing. Did you ever played an instrument in a band or alone? Did you ever consider to make music instead of writing about it?

Well, I think I have touched a guitar once, and a drum set, and a saxophone. Just once in my life. Never played anything. I’ve never dreamed of playing anything. I love writing. Nothing else.

Stefano Isidoro Bianchi (Cortona, 1961) created the fanzine Blow Up in 1995, then the magazine Blow Up in 1997, and still does. He owns nothing but about 35,000 records, about 3,000 books and about 19,00 cats.

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