1-When and why did you start making music?
I was born in Italy, in Verona, the city defined by Shakespeare with this statement: “There is no world without Verona walls….” I come from a poor and common family. In this I feel ideally close to many southerners American artists – obviously, I’m not going to compare myself to their greatness … I think of Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Glen Campbell, and many others. Actually, the Gabanizzas didn’t have a farm and didn’t pick up cotton, but we lived for 5 in a small two-room apartment, with an outside toilet without hot water – some reminiscences of that period are described in my song “Joshua’s wooden cabin”. Do you remember the Ingalls outside toilet in Walnut Grove? It was exactly like that. We spent the days (I did not use to do a lot of homework) listening to music and from what my family told to me, I started singing when I was aged 3 the hits of the time: Candida, San Bernadino, Eloise, etc. Some time ago, writing about my brother Max, a “Journalist” (with such a superficial writer, putting air quotes is mandatory), claimed he learned to play bass listening to the Italian band “Pooh” because that was the only music we had at home…Far from it! My father and my mother were great music lovers, even though they didn’t play any instruments. My musical culture was facilitated by this since I had at my disposal hundreds of vinyls of all kinds, from Benny Goodman to rarities like Upsetters’s “Return of Django”; a marvelous collection which featured the greats of the time too, as Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Edith Piaf, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Cat Stevens, Mahalia Jackson, Huriah Heep etc. We had an old red turntable and I and my two brothers took turns playing each of our favorite vinyls. I made this long introduction because I firmly believe that the roots, where we come from, is always of primary importance. In that context of open-mindedness (there were also many books at home), my “conscious” passion for singing and writing was born. We, the 3 brothers, each started playing an instrument and we formed our first Band: the Monsters. Our days were made of music, a bit like Bill Monroe and his family and it was not uncommon for those who came to visit us, the few who succeeded because mother was very ashamed of our poverty and even gave a non-existent address of residence just to keep visitors away, it was not unusual I said, to find us engaged in one of our exhibitions, made of overturned jam jars or coffee jars covered with oilcloth … Well, we were children.
When things became more serious and roles defined, the band split and everyone went his own way. At the time, in 1978, I was 10 years old and I already played keyboards and drums in a folk band with which I had my first live concert that year. Soon after I bought myself a guitar with the money earned working in a bakery and I learned to play that instrument too, in order to be completely independent as an artist. My first compositions date back to that era and some of them, duly revised, have been included in my albums. I believe in freedom, firmly. Especially in that of the mind: Body may be shackled but the mind wanders free. Therefore, my vision combined with my innate curiosity and desire to learn, both in literature and in music, leads me to explore, to try, to knock at unknown doors. I don’t like to be labeled. For me, it is always a problem when I am asked what kind of music I do. Also because I don’t have a genre. I have many in fact: rock, hard rock, classical, Celtic, country … And frankly, I find the question highly reductive. What does that mean: what kind of music I do? I make music, isn’t that enough?
2-Which famous musicians, do you admire? Why?
Oh, this is a difficult question for me. Because of the way I see the world of music. In my view, there’s no musician more important than another, of course, when we talk about someone who has chosen music as a way of life. Therefore, to some extent, I admire each and every musician living above or below the earth we stand on. Because our path is full of hardships, kicks, dust and blood. However, if I have to mention a few names…Jeff Christie, the unforgettable author of Yellow river, who literally made me jump on the boat of music with his masterpieces. I have all his discography… I had the chance to listen to his precious suggestions while working at my previous album Roses in the sky. I can’t thank him enough for this. My friend, the late Vic Elmes, an amazing guitar player, one of the greatest and underrated musicians I ever saw and a wonderful human being. Donovan, the Scottish Bard, who might have easily become an arrogant famous guy but instead never lost touch with his humanity. Elvis Presley…a true artist in the round, who came up from poverty and reached the stars. Bob Dylan, which inspires me through the years. Neil Diamond, an artist that taught me so much with his marvelous career and poetry. Freddie Mercury, the only one that can’t be ashamed to stay on a stage beside Elvis: not only I admire his voice, his talent, but the dignity with which he faced his terrible disease. Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell, with which I share so much. I can state that Chester literally saved my life. Yes, it’s true. Aside from this, have you heard his voice? Wow! Many others I admire indeed, but I should stop here I think, with a woman: Kate Bush. First, I was desperately in love with her. But apart from this little detail, I think she is a true modern poet. She can fuse in a personal and unique way poetry and music, creating not even songs, but musical mirages. Just listen to her, closing your eyes, and you’ll understand what I mean.
3-Were you influenced by old records & tapes? Which ones?
Like I said, my parents had a great collection of vinyl. Among those were even a good number of 78RPM. Most of all I loved and still love Edith Piaf. She influenced me on a certain dramatic way to express love, on stage and living the words you are singing. I remember a quote from her when she toured on the United States: “I want to make people cry even when they don’t understand my words.” What a great woman!
5-Let’s Talk about your forthcoming album and your latest single
The album is called Out of Darkness. I’ve chosen this title because the featured songs are made out of the darkness in which I was sinking, but also out of it. So it’s a ying/yang title. Every song in the album is like a book chapter. There are lights and shadows, falls, relapses, joys and loves, the abuses suffered during my childhood, depression, suicide, the attempt to break that veil of darkness which weighs down the soul and mind. Eventually a kaleidoscope of emotions. Last but not least, it’s a sincere work. I believe this is a virtue. Maybe some Record Company don’t feel that way, but believe me, Man, for someone who has had to live years on masks for the sake of civil coexistence, being fully himself is a gift.
About the single. “Straight to the heart”, is a love song, a very intense ballad that speaks of those who do not abandon you. The kind who remains at your side even when you are unbearable, when everyone leaves you, in the worst moment, the darkest, when the whole world seems to give up on you. Certainly, there is behind this song a bitter feeling of back and forth, which nevertheless leads to the joy of a reconfirmation which is purposely repeated by the refrain at the end of the song. Yes, I was inspired by personal experiences. There were moments when I thought I had lost everything; I gave up hope and the will to live. This happens when love seems to end. Or when it goes into crisis. What was there before and maybe you took it for granted now no longer exist. You ask yourself a lot of questions and your mind endlessly goes through the various stages of the breaking giving you answers that sometimes you don’t want to hear. Or cannot hear. Because everything is so hurting. It is a vicious circle that you can break only at the price of painfully growing up, accepting what happened or, in the best case, restoring a balance where the balance was broken. With Straight to the heart, I wanted to crystallize this process of hurting and healing. There is a lot of pathos in this song.
The personnel involved is First-Class.
On Drums, Robby Pellati, famous for his collaborations with Willie Nile, Elliot Murphy, Willy de Ville, Robert Gordon, and multiplatinum Italian singer Ligabue.
On the bass, my brother Max Gabanizza. He has multi-fold collaborations among which stand out the ones with Chuck Berry, Badara Seck, Andhira, Christie, Cristiano de André, Mogol New Era, Mauro Pagani.
On electric guitar, Luca Marcìas, guitarist of the American band LEVELS. he recently performed at the opening ceremony of the Universiade with Malika Ayane and collaborated with the famous Italian singer Antonella Ruggiero.
The mastering was carried out at the IOMastering studios, Los Angeles, CA, by a milestone of the field: the Grammy-nominated and multiplatinum Don Tyler.
Don has a terrific career as a musician and engineer as well. He runs at present his own Studio but previously worked at Precision Mastering, the famous studios located in 1008 North Cole Avenue, Los Angeles, CA. Don has worked with artists such as Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Stone Temple Pilots, Janet Jackson, Waylon Jennings, Tina Turner, James Blunt and many more. For his talent, his magic, his skills, I call him an alchemist of the sound. And it’s a great honor and pleasure to have him on my staff.
6-You released a great video clip, what can you tell us about it?
I’m glad you brought this up. The video clip was directed by Oscar Serio. Oscar is a musician and one of the most prolific Italian videomaker. He is a pure genius and loves what he does. You can see his passion through his works, and, last but not least, he is a romantic guy. Very sensitive and compassionate. Just the right director I needed to give my videoclip the right atmosphere. Now we had to find the female co-protagonist and Oscar mentioned Martina Sacchetti. As soon as I saw her I understood she was the perfect fit: she has the kind of beauty that is never vulgar, and which is raised up on a pattern of hardships and sufferance. I suddenly understood she was a fighter, a female warrior which always had to fight to have what she desired. In few words, she should understand the role she was going to interpreting and, most of all, she would have certainly understood ME and all the feelings involved. She didn’t disappointed me, indeed: she did an outstanding work.
Working on this videoclip, for me it was a wonderful experience, in some ways it’s been hard too. Wonderful because I had two great professionals at my side. Hard, because I had to interpreting myself, therefore, I was forced to get back those hurting feelings, that pain, that despair, and re-express them by acting. In the end, of course, I collapsed, because Martina’s acting was so realistic that the thought of my woman leaving, really made me die of terror. But There was also a moment of magic in the final scene. I think you can guess by watching the video. A person who suffers violence in his childhood, will carry a burden forever. Some days the burden weighs more, some other days it weighs less. But it is always there on your shoulders, like a bagpack. Well. When I found myself on the station platform in front of Martina, everything was so true that for a moment she was no longer Martina neither I was myself. We really were two people in love deciding to live a bright future. For a moment, I felt the burden of pain slipping away; just for a moment, forgetful of myself, of my past, resting my forehead on Martina’s, I was finally and completely free. And I cried of gratitude. Because even if only for a moment, with her acting and her talent, Martina managed to make me feel how I felt in those distant childhood days, when the clouds were only those in the sky and the heart knew no horror. Then Oscar said, “Stop, this one is good.” And everything came back to its place, backpack enclosed. I will never thank enough Oscar and Martina for what they did and how they did it.
7-How do you feel about the internet in the music business?
Well, I am ok with it, as long as it is a mean. Don’t get me wrong: I am not the old man hating computers. Internet and computers can save lives, and as long as this is the goal, God bless internet. But sometimes internet becomes a true WEB. In the music business, internet has a double result: the one to approach chances and majors to everybody, and the one to destroy this chance in front of the eyes of the dreaming musician. Once it was possible to send stuff to major labels, or dream outside their bureau, right now, “We don’t accept unsolicited material”. And this, despite being an understandable behavior in face of the increasing army of new musicians, it’s also stupid and harmful for the music business. The Major Labels have lost touch with the true world, the living magma where the music really born. No chance there would be today for Elvis or the Beatles, they would probably be ending their days on a tavern, or even worst, inside a stinky manufactory.
8-What are the plans for the future?
My plans are to release Out of darkness and touring the United States. All the rest I leave it to the white page. There are plans to bring to the theatre my script, writing new books and a country album on progress. I have a lot of fish to Frye.
9-Could you briefly describe the music-making process?
As far as writing is concerned, I do not follow a true working methodology. And this also concerns my parallel activity as a poet, novelist, and essayist. Let’s say that my mind is a minefield and the randomness of the day can trigger and light the fuse. A bit like the involuntary memory described by Marcel Proust. Because in any case, I believe that the creative process must be free from the conditioning of any kind. And just as Proust’s involuntary memory is the true memory, because it brings back the object that we are recalling from the dark place within ourselves right where we left it, untouched, with its colors and flavors, so it is concerning writing that comes, for me at least, from a casual stimulus.
Of course, as a professional, I can write and I do write songs that develop a voluntary message, but they are not the best ones. Generally, when inspiration arrives, I grab my guitar and excerpts of text fall on my head. Sometimes the urge becomes so compelling that I have to get up at night to throw down some musical notes. Have you seen “Jazz singer” with Neil Diamond? The scene where he gets up at night and composes “love on the rocks”? Here I am; to quote one of his most famous successes:
“Well except for the names
And a few other changes
If you talk about me
The story is the same one “
Concerning the recording process, things are different. Nothing is left to chance because I want the song to sound like I hear it inside my soul. Let me make myself perfectly clear, I don’t enslave musicians, on the contrary, I leave them much freedom and they can add things or change their parts, but all within the range which allows not to distort the song. For me, the recording studio is a second home, if not my home. I feel comfortable over there, and I would live my life among microphones, pianos, guitars, and drums. When I have to sing a song, I don’t perform it, I interpret it because I believe that a true singer is not a simple performer but an interpreter too – even an interpreter for himself. In my case, as a songwriter, I try to make the interpretation of my own feelings through singing, just as I would if I had to sing someone else’s song.
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