Simon Balestrazzi – “When it comes to experimental, obscure and unconventional music, Italian musicians were and still are among the most interesting in the world”

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Well, you told me that you ran out of space for records and… they look really packed, I must admit. How are they organized? Or disorganized?

In strict alphabetical order. But with a few twists… being a potentially compulsive record buyer I forced myself to a rule: no record can be placed in the “archive” section before I’ve listened to it at least five times or three times in case of serious deep listening… so I have five different alphabetically ordered sets of records (that makes 15 sets considering CDs, vinyl and tapes). Of course also the ethnomusicology section has its own shelves.
Unfortunately it’s getting increasingly difficult to find things since, how you can easily imagine, the one and two-times sections are growing quite out of control… With the unrestrained mass of music we are nowadays overwhelmed by, a one-time listen is like nothing. And on top of all that there is a bunch of records I bought and not listened to yet. I console myself thinking about Nassim Taleb’s “The Black Swan”, where you can find this chapter, Umberto Eco’s Antilibrary, where the author somehow points out how the unread books are equally or more valuable of the read ones…

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Interesting parallel, I think I can get what you mean. Among all this stuff emerges “Thrash and Twang instrumentals”. Is one of the few that is really evident among others… You like the cover or you listen to it more often?

It is one of the best early 60s surf compilations ever! And I really love original surf music. Being a 4 CD out of the standard package it’s the best place I could find for it and, yes, I love the cover, but didn’t get past the third listening yet.

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One of the pictures shows a bunch of CD underneath a very strange end extremely dark frame… I guessed if it was a TV set or a window do a darker “another world”. Enlarging the image I’ve seen a (scary) mask in it. What is that? Is it your temple of doom?

Oh! That’s the “House of Blap”… Before we met, my girlfriend has been a Buddhist for a short while and the black thing is just a little modern altar that was so firmly glued to the bookcase that we’ve never been able to detach it anymore. So instead of the go-honzon I placed Blap, my old rubber monster puppet… he feels very comfortable in there… To be true it was meant to be the centrepiece of an assemblage of objects, pictures and lights, a project I never accomplished. Now it’s just a silly prank for nosy guests who can’t resist in front of a closed door.

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Haha! Like me I suppose, in fact Concrete Shelves is a whole product of an excess of curiosity maybe. Nice to have discovered Brap, I like him. I also like cats, so I see one here. I’ve asked Yan Jun and Andrea Marutti about their ones, features in the pictures they sent me. what’s your cat reaction to music, especially when you listen to extreme stuff such as Merzbow, that I see here?

I think I’m lucky, my cats have no problem at all with any kind of music, even the most extreme. They just get curious and maybe slightly nervous – you can tell it from the constantly twitching ears – when I listen to field recordings or when a very present and realistic sound come in, like those screeching and scraping inserts in some NNW old albums, or someone is whispering in the very close distance. That goes mostly for Lilith, the hunter one. Tanith, the one pictured here, and her brother Charles Dexter Ward, who still lives in my studio, grew up taking their naps on the deck right in the middle of my nearfield monitors…

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Talking of Andrea Marutti of AFE Records, and seeing Fabio Orsi CD and many Italian cassettes, it comes to my mind the last question. You’re on the Italian musical underground scene since ages. You’ve seen many things changing, but you’re still here doing music. What can you say about our country musical experimental environment? (it’s a hard and pretty generic question, I know!).

Yes, we could talk for hours about this and still be scratching the surface…
Italy is a weird country, here music in general is such a neglected and conservative art… many great artists of the near past just went unnoticed, they never had a chance. Even nowadays, in the era of the internet and of the “eternal now”, the problem is always present, despite the fact that in the last few years several books have been written and several gems rediscovered. It really is an unfriendly territory for unconventional music, I’d rather say. True is that is so fucking hard to be recognized or acknowledged as a musician. Forget it if your music belongs to a niche or falls beyond a hip and fathomable categorization, you’ve better seek shelter behind the shield of academia, maybe.
And even the most specialized music press doesn’t help very much. By the way, did you ever noticed as more and more journalists or even scholars avoid by all means to write about musical structure or the qualities of sound itself when reviewing or analyzing a composition, a song? If cornered they turn it to sarcasm and satire or sociological analysis in the luckiest of the cases… All this doesn’t help very much, in fact it doesn’t help at all.
Well, despite all that is my opinion that, when it comes to experimental, obscure and unconventional music, Italian musicians were and still are among the most interesting in the world.

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Yes, I can somehow agree. this last question from you brings my mind straight to the work of Dmitry Vasiliev “VIVA ITALIA”. It’s creepy and sad how I wrote the last question above here to you before that he tragically died a few days ago, on the 6th of September. He has been one of the most incredible supporters of our experimental musical scene, and now he’s gone. It sounds like a crazy and evil sign of destiny. I have no world about this… actually is not even a question to you, sorry…

His sudden passing really let me devastated. After years of correspondence I met Dmitry in person just a few months ago, when he invited me to play at Moscow’s DOM, along with Sshe Retina Stimulants. Not only he was a tireless enthusiastic researcher but above all he was such a nice and kind human being. He will be sorely missed.



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