Delicious harmonies, unlikely melodies and fresh takes on storytelling: Dash Majesty talks to Sicilian creative Carlo Barbagallo, whose latest record 9 comes as the result of a gargantuan collaborative effort.
Dash Majesty: Hello. Tell us who you are and a little about yourself.
Carlo Barbagallo: I’m Carlo Barbagallo, Sicilian born musician, composer, sound engineer and producer. You can listen to and download all of my solo work from my Bandcamp page. I have also played in Suzanne’Silver since 1996, L.B.B. (a trio with composer Jean Francois Laporte and drummer Emilio Bernè), the CoMET collective, and various acts as part of the multimedia project E<->CB. I’m currently more active as a sound engineer and producer, working on electroacoustic composition and improvisation, which I’m documenting on the blog Noja Recordings Archives.
DM: Some of your work, particularly 11 Dreams, is somewhat reminiscent of The Kinks’ early tracks. Was this deliberate? Do you draw inspiration from other artists of that era?
CB: I love The Kinks, but I think their influence in some of my music is quite unconscious, I’ve never thought about it. I appreciate their way of mixing different musical culture in their music – that’s one of my main focuses as a musician. I would definitely say I’m inspired by a lot of English and American music from the sixties.
DM: Your voice has a delicious old soul/bluesy quality to it. Have you any roots in these genres?
CB: Thanks to my father I have always listened to old soul, blues, rhythm & blues and funk, and I currently listen to a lot of these genres daily. I think it is in my veins, and in 9 I tried to show that, surrounded by a lot of other musical influences.
DM: You have worked with a huge number of other artists for this release. How did you find this collaborative environment? Were you able to gain influence from the other creative minds around you?
CB: Collaboration has always been very central to my creative approach. I have always tried to keep a sort of creative family around me, so it was quite natural that all these companions joined the album recordings. 9 is not my first solo release for which I’ve collaborated with others: Quarter Century was a sort of compilation album of collaborations, and Blue Record was conceived in a collaborative environment in a vintage recording studio.
9 involved a very long development process – almost three years of work in my mobile recording studio, in-between touring, productions and other compositions. You can imagine how many musical meetings, experiences and discoveries happened during such a long period of time; and it’s as though all of these influences have come together for the album through the participation of all the artists involved. I mostly let everyone be free on the songs, with just a little bit of direction. I then edited all the pieces together with a sort of acousmatic approach. I think the influence of each artist can be heard in it: there’s electroacoustic experimentation, soul and funk moods, free jazz approaches, post prog attitudes, pop and a lot more.
Studio work and live performance are two complementary but integrated worlds of expression for me. I need both to live.
DM: Explain the title 9 for this record.
CB: The meaning of the title could be considered as a measure of time passing, but you can find many other meanings. Its shape is like a loop, not a loop without limits such as ∞, but a loop that presents an escape and therefore does not remain within its own cycle. The songs of 9 tell a story, it is almost a concept album, similar to Gentlemen by The Afghan Whigs and Serenade in Red by Oxbow, which chronicles the crisis of a broken relationship and its resolution through reflection on the time spent within it.
DM: Do you have a preference for live performance or songwriting?
CB: I love composing, recording and producing music. The studio, or any room organised temporarily as a studio, is my natural habitat because I have recorded music since I was a child. I also started performing live when I was very young, so I could say that the stage is my second home, and, consequently, various means of transport. Studio work and live performance are two complementary but integrated worlds of expression for me. I need both to live.
DM: Talk us through the spoken word section at the beginning of Nothing. Where did the idea for this come from?
CB: 9 tells a story and Nothing is the darkest moment in the story: the protagonist is closed away in his room, depressed, smoking another cigarette, trying to write but tired of living his drama. The first part of the piece, with the water drops from the silk, cigarettes burning and the two voices, paints a picture of this scene. The male voice, performed by Luca Andriolo of Dead Cat in a Bag, is the protagonist; the female voice, performed by Elaine Bonsangue of E<->CB, could act as the inner voice of the man, the woman inside his head or a voice from a ‘nowhere-place’ e.g. an airport or train station, that offers observations and judgements in a language he is unable to understand. The rest of the piece develops with different homages to film soundtracks, influenced by the likes of Morricone, Komeda and Tarantino.
DM: Which future projects of yours are you looking forward to sharing?
CB: I will be supporting 9 through live shows and various other forms of media during this year and the next. E<->CB are currently working on video clips for a couple of the songs on the album and we’re also starting to work on some mixed media pieces, but it’s too early to talk about them in detail. I soon hope to release an album I composed for the electric guitar and live electronics titled iAmInTiLt,BoB! and a series of recordings of free improvised music.