venerdì 12 ottobre 2007

Interview to Enrico Crivellaro

Enrico, you’ve been playing the blues all over the world for quite some time now. With your own bands, but also as a sideman for many great musicians. You are well known also because you embody a dream, something that can be reached thanks to determination and talent. It is time to make an assessment…what are you proud of, and what is that you aren’t pleased about?

Thank you for the question, and for using the word “dream”. In fact, I believe that life is made of dreams, and that the steps towards the unknown that we make in order to fulfill our aspirations are the juice of life. We can decide to live our life in a more conventional way, or we can decide to try our luck and pursue a lifestyle that is somewhat alternative. The latter vision entails major gambles, for instance the risk of spending years investing in something that eventually doesn’t bear any fruits. A more “normal” lifestyle probably doesn’t involve as many risks, nonetheless it brings about as many difficulties, and I have a great deal of respect for those who, unlike me, have chosen this other road. Having said this, since I was a kid my desire was to be fully involved in the music world, and I knew that playing the guitar in a band wasn’t enough—I had to understand more of the cultural substratum in which music is embedded. Music cannot be detached from culture, history and society, and these are the components that determine the birth and the development of distinctive musical genres in different geographical areas. Because of this, and given that I was a Blues lover since my teen years, at some point I felt that it was necessary for me to pack my things and go to the United States, in order to understand more about the Blues by becoming familiar with its cultural bedrock.
I can probably answer your question by saying that what I am most proud of, looking back at what has happened in these years, is the courage that I displayed when I got on that plane without knowing what I would have done, where I would have ended up living, when and if I would have returned home. The trip, which no doubt started with a huge dose of recklessness, has turned into my life’s most poignant adventure, and is not yet over. In the meantime the trip has become more of a metaphysical journey. I definitely had the chance to learn extensively about American culture and about the kind of music that I loved, but especially I started a journey towards my inner self, discovering resources that I didn’t know I had, facing ideas, beliefs and points of view that were new to me, learning to appreciate not only music, but rather people. I developed the mindset of recognizing the value of diversity as the source of cultural fertility, and as the basis for new ideas and new music. Jazz wouldn’t have been born without the cultural cross-pollination that came about in America, just like Bossa Nova wouldn’t exist without the Brazilian melting pot. The key to understanding music, and to making new music, lies in appreciating cultural diversity—not in being suspicious of it.
I could speak for hours about things I am proud of (having played with many of my idols, my studies and my degrees, the recordings I’ve made, etc), and also about the difficult times (the sacrifices, being myself the stranger/immigrant, working in a niche musical genre, the crisis of recorded music, and so on), yet if I am to assess what has happened during these years, I can only be grateful to the courage that I had when I made the decision of chasing my dream. Even though aspirations change over time, the habit of always taking the bull by the horns, of facing up to the challenge when we are faced with risky decisions, is the mental trait that I acquired from my first trip to the roots of Blues music.

You appear on several CD’s, you are a true showman, you have a few CD’s under your name and recently you have started a record label that promotes excellent musicians from different areas of the world. Which one is your real dimension, and especially which is the dimension of a bluesman nowadays? Does it make sense to still talk about the “bluesman”?

I am a big music lover, and I try not to confine myself to one single dimension. The musical universe is made up of two main worlds, the artistic and the business ones. Both of them comprise many faces, which sooner or later professional musicians end up exploring to a large extent. I have always been attracted by the artistic side, and I have never been comfortable on the business side. I like to go and listen to a good band, I like to play, I like to record and produce, while I simply can’t stand many of the professional musician’s tasks—like selling CD’s, talking about money, and self-promotion. I am not good at all at these jobs, and I think they do undermine the integrity of musicians, who end up doing commerce instead of art. To me being a musician means, simply, making music. This can be done in many ways—live, in the studio, and by producing other artists and helping them give their best. I never changed my mind, what’s important to me is the emotional side of music, and whatever I do I want this to come out. A concert, a solo, a record, a song must move the listeners. This is my conviction, which permeates everything I do with music. After all, I have one single point of view—I try to make the best, most emotional music I can with the resources I have.
Regarding the figure of the bluesman in 2007, the situation is quite multifaceted. Although it is a niche genre, and is not as commercial as other genres, the Blues has a large and international audience. I travel a lot and I meet many hard-core blues fans in Canada, in Brazil, in Australia, in Belgium, in Malaysia and even in the Caribbean. Just to mention some random places…but it is like this all over the world. Blues fans may not be millions in each country, but when you put them all together and sum up the numbers you realize that a bluesman has a much more sizeable audience than any Italian popstar, who is limited by the language to an Italian-only audience, or almost. Paradoxically someone like Magic Slim, who performs at festivals and in clubs all over the world, has a bigger market than Vasco Rossi, who sells out stadiums, but only in Italy. A modern bluesman should realize this, and operate with an international mindset. He or she may never play in huge stadiums (although people like Buddy Guy or B.B. King do!), but will will perform worldwide in a more-than-respectable circuit of clubs and festivals. There are several Italian jazz musicians, among them Paolo Fresu, Stefano Bollani, Stefano Di Battista, who have been able to rise above the local scene and join with full dignity the international circuit, even recording for Blue Note. In the Italian blues scene this has happened only in very rare cases, however nowadays I see several musicians who have the skills to achieve international recognition, just like several colleagues from Denmark, Holland, France and Belgium have already done.

Back to Italy. How are things here, comparing them with the situation abroad? Are things worse, like everybody is saying, or are they not that bad after all?

I don’t mean to be at all cost judgmental, but I must recognize that the state of affairs is much nicer in other countries. Particularly in Anglo-Saxon areas, but also in many other countries. A few months ago I was lucky enough to play in Puerto Escondido, Mexico—such a wonderful place. The owner of the club where we were performing came to me saying “it’s so nice when you guys are here. I would love to have live music every night, unfortunately we don’t have enough bands around here and I need to get a DJ”. Nice anecdote, isn’t it!
There are multiple causes for the Italian anomaly. Many clubs are outdated, there’s no circuit of radios that promote independent music, indie labels have almost disappeared, the management and distribution of royalties through SIAE does not help musicians nor promoters. Besides, for some reason the notion that live music is a business has never been imported into Italy. Anywhere in the world the band is used to draw patrons to a club, and ultimately to make the venue increase the profit. It just takes a trip to Dublin, Singapore, Cape Town…anywhere in the world, clubs with live music are filled with customers who often pay hefty cover charges, whereas clubs with no music are definitely not as active and lively. In Italy, conversely, live music is considered a useless cost, an extra expense with no return. As a result, Italian musicians—who are underpaid, forced to do music on the side, with low self-esteem, and who find themselves in an environment that doesn’t allow for exchange of ideas and growth—become mediocre when compared to their Northern-European, American and Asian colleagues. Mediocrity has, in general, been affecting the Italian music scene, and obviously this doesn’t help those who want to make music their profession. Being a professional musician, outside of Italy, is a full-time job. Italy unfortunately has slipped towards an amateur scenario, in which the fee for a live gig is the sole source of income for the musician. This doesn’t allow to make a living off music—in fact, money is generally somewhere else, not in fees for live gigs. For instance, when we tour Australia it is quite common that in the afternoon, before every concert, we appear on a national radio show. Radio and TV appearances help the musicians, both at the economic level via the royalties that are accrued, and at the image/status level. In turn this helps the radios, which certainly do not lack music, interviews and shows of the highest caliber, it helps clubs and promoters, and at the end of the day it helps nurturing a knowledgeable and up-to-date audience. This synergy is what Italy lacks, and regrettably so far I can’t see any signs that things will get better.

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2 commenti:

Anonimo ha detto...

I couldnt agree more. I am English born/bred, and live in Italy. I noticed very quickly after arriving in Italy, as a passionate music lover of all genres, that everything mentioned above, and more, is very true. I was up for a challenge, and am currently trying to fight the LIVE music battle, the politics, and the italians degraded opinions of LIVE music (The latter created because of the problems, so not their fault!).. and created 'made in europe'. (Which has a deeper meaning also!)

SO, Made in Europe.. battling for bands, battling for awareness in general, battling to allow a little fun, and battling through the 'euro per poster' the cost just to put one promotional poster up...! etc...

Unfortunately, we havent been able to locate a suited venue of our own.. for many reasons (Another topic of discussion!).. so we base ourselves in a theatre in Italy.

After the first years programme, with an opening audience of 12 people (including ourselves!) we fought on, suffered enormous financial costs (Flights are not cheap either when booking for nearly 200 people from europe).. but where should I get like minded, correctly minded, quality example setting musicians from to start the LIVE music/music attraction... ?? For the reasons in the above article is many answers..

On the final night we had peaked our growth to the triple figures... but we still have away to go, and we know it is going to take some time.

We were hoping we could spread the musicians and bands into other venues somehow, whilst here, to which we are also working on for next season, to spread more awareness and encouragement to locals to get involved with music, or just education to enjoy many different genres of music, for Rock to pop, from jazz to funk, from R&B to alternative, from Blues to acoustic etc..

Thanks for your report above, as its very refreshing to hear/read/see that we are not alone in our thoughts, and there really does need to be more people like ourselves encouraging the use of music, its values..its quality, its enjoyment, and its universal one language.. the one thing that can bring the whole world together.

Dont think I am allowed to use links here, but if you google 'vivaossola' you will reach our website..

Thankyou again.
abbey@ made in europe programma

Fabio ha detto...

Hi "Abbey"
Thanks for your post.
We are not alone, sure, but in Italy it's very hard to play live music.

Naturally you can post links about your occupation. I visit your myspace and the site, all is very interesting! Please inform me about the next season, about all you make for music ok? I will help you !

Good luck!

Bye.