Interview with Riccardo Campa
Hello Riccardo and welcome to Space Sound Records
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
I do many things. Besides music, I deal with social science. I teach sociology at the Jagiellonian University, Cracow. I write books and
articles, especially on the social impact of new technologies. I am also President of the Italian Transhumanist Association – an organization that promotes the use of new technologies to extend the human lifespan and to slow down the aging process.
2. How did you get involved in music and do you have a music background?
I started when I was a six year old child. At that time, the mother of my friend and neighbor was a music teacher. So I had access to many instruments and also to knowledge. When my parents noticed my interest for music, they sent me to a school where I learned to play piano. However, when I was 15 years old, I won a school prize as best student of the year, and with that money I bought a guitar. It was love at first sight. I quickly learned playing by myself and now I play guitar much better than piano. Sometimes passion is more important than school.
3. Tell us about your musical career. How did it all start and describe the projects that you have been working in and how they were set up.
This is a long and complicated story, because I am a poly-instrumentalist and a quite eclectic artist. When I was a teenager in the 1980s, I played guitar, bass and keyboards with different bands. In 1985 I joined a band called *I CANCELLI DELL'ALBA*. We recorded a long instrumental suite entitled “Paranoia”. I played keyboards with them and the genre was prog rock, very close to kraut rock by Neu. The composition got a positive review by Rockerilla – an important Italian music magazine, and a fragment of the concept album is still available on YouTube. Then I played the bass with THE NIGHTFALL, a band playing dark music. In 1986 I decided to create my own band, because I wanted to play my own songs. The name of the band was CHARISMA. I was the guitar player and the genre was initially new wave. Thanks to a few changes in the line up the sound gradually became more italo disco oriented (this is what happened to many Italian bands at that time, for instance GAZNEVADA). In that climate, I met Robert Bravo. I played with him, the first time, in a disco club near Brescia called Skipper. I played many concerts with my band, but unfortunately we did not release any tracks.
In the late 1980s the band felt apart because of the most dangerous band killer ever: military service. One member was coming back and another was leaving. This happened to me too. When I finished my military service, the CHARISMA project was over. So, in the 1990s I joined a heavy metal band called MESSERSCHMITT 109. With them I won an Italian music competition called “Maratona Rock” in 1996. In the meantime, I was working as a journalist. One year later I formed a group called LA BANDA, with a
completely different music orientation: swing-jazz. With them I played guitars and I was the main vocalist. We recorded a single entitled “Al Capone” (side B: “Mia”), also available on YouTube. Noticing that my vocals were quite appreciated, I decided in 1999 to start a solo career. Concerning the sound, I tried to create something between pop and electronic dance. My first solo album was released in Poland in 2001 (“Nessunluogo”). A couple of songs from that album were used for the soundtrack of “Non sono io”, a movie by an Italian film director - Gabriele Lacovone. I also starred as an actor in that film. After this, I decided to go back to old school italo disco, but your readers already know this part of the story quite well. In conclusion, I can say that I have played many different instruments and many
different genres, with many different bands. However, my solo career is strongly connected to electronic music and italo disco.
4. Besides music what other hobbies do you have?
My academic career and music absorb most of my time. I am also interested in painting and art. I read and write novels. Recently,
I started making (filming, editing) short movies. However, I also try to spend my free time travelling. I like adventures, visiting new countries, meeting people.
5. Where did you get your inspiration from?
Like most musicians, I am mainly influenced by the music I listen to. However, also being involved in other forms of art and culture, I cannot deny that some inspiration comes from outside the world of music. It may appear strange merging easy-listening pop music and so-called high culture, but I do not treat such distinctions too seriously. So, for instance, the lyrics of my album Nessunluogo drew largely on my readings of Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophy. Or another example would be a song like Cyborg Woman, which is a translation into music of my transhumanist philosophical orientation: living longer, getting stronger, thanks to new technologies.
6. What other music interests you?
I listen to many genres of music. I will tell you the artists I have been listening more up to now. As far as electronic music and new wave is concerned, there are - Rockets, Kraftwerk, Devo, John Foxx, Gary Numan, Eurythmics, Tangerine Dream, Ultravox, Human League, Simple Minds, Joy Division, New Order, Depeche Mode, Sisters of Mercy, Wire, Tuxedomoon, Alphaville, Frankie goes to Hollywood, David Sylvian, Andrea Chimenti, Garbo, Morgan, Litfiba, Diaframma, Subsonica, Scortilla, Bluvertigo… But then, I also like heavy metal, and I've listened a lot to: Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Metallica, AC/DC, Manowar, Motorhead, Judas Priest, Kiss, Faith no more and Dream Theatre. So, having such wide and eclectic taste, I also like bands that mix electronic sound and heavy metal, like Rammstein or Die Krupps. I also really like rock and progressive rock: David Bowie, Queen, Yes, Jethro Tull, Rush, Marillion, Premiata Forneria Marconi, Le Orme, Franco Battiato. As regards classical music I have listened in particular to Ludwig van Beethoven, Maurice Ravel, Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, and Carl Orff. Finally, with regard to swing and jazz, I have listened to Paolo Conte, Frank Sinatra, Renato Carosone and Fred Buscaglione. I have probably forgotten many important artists…
7. What made you change your style from Rock music to Italo Disco?
My 2001 album Nessunluogo was already something between pop and 1990s italo dance. A few years ago, I realized that I have many unreleased 1980s italo disco tracks. Old school italo disco. And I also noticed that outside Italy many people were still interested in this genre, especially in Poland, where I live now. So, in 2008, I contacted Kimmo Salo of Flashback Records, asking if he was interested in releasing those tracks. With Flashback I started a very fruitful collaboration. In the last three years, I released “Another day”, “Madness”, “Desperado”, “Casanova”, and “Looking for a way out” (rearranged by Andy Romano or Laurent Gelmetti). I wrote “Celebration” for *THE FLASHBACK BAND, *a quartet formed by me, Tiziana Rivale, Fred Ventura and Felli. I also wrote “Nineteen Eighty Songs” for Marc Fruttero and I arranged the 1980s version of “Stay” for Albert One and of “Change your mind” for Tom Hooker. In 2010, I also released “Mistress of my heart” (written with Tomek Gillert) and “Delantero” with Space Sound Records. And here we are! Ready to releases a full CD album!
8. The modern music studio has moved from hardware to software. What are your thoughts about that change ?
In spite of the fact that I am a traditional musician, meaning that I write songs with a standard structure (verse, bridge, refrain, etc.), and I mainly
compose on traditional instruments like guitars and keyboards, I am in favor of technological progress. Therefore, I tend to use new tools and get benefit from them. I love new technologies, because they give us many more possibilities. So no problem using sequencing machines, recording software.
9. Can you try to explain how you compose a song? What comes first - melodies or rhythm and why?
I generally compose the song on my guitar, as if it were a rock song. More rarely I compose on the piano. When I have chords and melody, I build the full song within a sequencing machine or sequencing software, adding drums, bass, keyboards. Finally I record the vocals (and the guitar, if needed). Indeed, most of my italo disco songs could easily be turned into rock songs. Actually, If you play them with distorted guitars and real drums, I guess they would sound like “epic metal”. This applies also to most of Mauro Farina's or Turatti-Chieregato's songs. In my view, this is “the secret” of old school italo disco. Its background is prog rock and epic metal, not so much 1970s American disco music.
10. What comes first - melodies or rhythm and why?
I always start from chords and melody. Then I write the lyrics. Finally I think about rhythm and arrangements (sound, bass, drums, and the like). This because I am basically a musician, not a disc jockey. And for this reason I always ask the opinion of djs, before releasing. They know better than me if it can work or not on a dance floor.
11.What has been your biggest musical challenge so far?
Shifting from a traditional approach to music to a software based composition. In other words, from analogue to digital recording.
12. Is there anything that you dislike about this genre?
I find some italo disco tracks cheese and monotonous. I personally prefer powerful and dark atmospheres. However, I will not mention any specific
artists or songs I dislike, because I respect my colleagues even when they do something I don't appreciate. And I respect their fans too. I generally
don't like people going around in the net writing nasty comments about this or that artist. If one doesn't like something, IMHO, one should just ignore
it and enjoying what (s)he really likes.
13. Are there any group or artist(s) that have influenced you?
Probably all the music I have listened to in the past has left some trace inside of me. For long time, I have been listening to tapes more than vinyl or CDs. When I was a teen ager, I almost totally wore out a few tapes through playing them so much. For instance, “Metamatic”* *by John *Foxx*, “Vienna”* *by Ultravox, “Galaxy” by The Rockets, or “The man machine” by Kraftwerk. As far as italo disco is concerned, I find the production of Mauro Farina, Roberto Zanetti, and the Turatti-Chieregato team quite inspiring.
14. I guess this question follows on from the next but do you have a favorite artist and why?
It's really hard to choose only one artist, but if you put a gun to my head, my ultimate choice would be David Bowie. I like Bowie because he is eclectic. He does not repeat himself. He merges the strength of rock, the sophistications of electronics, and very nice vocal melodies. I like his classic songs like “Life on Mars”, “Space Oddity”, “Ziggy Stardust”, “The Supermen”, “Starman”, “Heroes”, “Changes”, “Loving the Alien”… But I think that his recent production is on the same level. Albums like “Outside” or “Earthling”, both released in the 1990s, are real masterpieces. However, if we restrict the choice to electronic music, John Foxx would be in first place. And his album “Metamatic” is the absolute masterpiece of the genre.
15. Do you have a favorite Italo Disco album and why?
I don't have favorite albums in this genre, but I do have some favorite singles. For instance, “When I let you down” by M & G is absolutely spectacular, and I love also the newer version by Fred Ventura. Other great songs are “Hold the line” by Chester, or “Ticket to Los Angeles” by Gaznevada. In general, I have good feelings for all the italo disco hits I used to dance to in the 1980s: “People from Ibiza” by Sandy Marton, “Looking for love” by Tom Hooker, “Future brain” and “Mad desire” by Den Harrow, “Two for love” by Miko Mission, “Another Life” by Kano, “Diamond” by Via Verdi, “Only you” by Savage, “Ferma il mondo” by Tiziana Rivale, “Comanchero” by Moon Ray, “Tarzan Boy” by Baltimora, “Happy Children” by P. Lion, and many others. Then, I also have nice memories concerning some italo-related hits like: “We fade to grey” by Visage, “Relax” by Frankie goes to Hollywood, “Big in Japan” by Alphaville, “You spin me ‘round” by Dead or alive, “Blue Monday” by New Order, “Face to face heart to heart” by The Twins, “Touch in the night” by Silent Circle, “Tora Tora” by Numero Uno, “Don't you want me” by Human League… Ok, I could go on and on, but I'll stop there!
16. What sort of gear do you use?
When I compose a song I mainly use traditional instruments, like electric guitar, electric bass and keyboards. However, in order to transform the ideas into a concrete track, then I use software like Fruity Loops, Cubase, Audacity, Studio One, etc. both to record audio tracks or as sequencing machines. In other words, I work also with MIDI files, samples, drum machines, synth simulators, and interfaces like Audiobox USB.
17.Would you be interested in working with other artists. If yes who would that be?
I would love to work with Fabrice Quagliotti. For those who like space rock and electronic music, he is a living legend.
18. Can you tell us a little bit more about your album ''Obsession''? How many songs will be on the album who was involved in the production and how long take you to produce the whole material for the album?
There are 13 songs plus an intro. Apart from my own role in songwriting and performing, Tomek Gillert and Andy Romano played a big part in arranging or co-arranging the songs. One of the songs was arranged by Savino dj. Marek Kolodynski and Kimmo Salo helped a lot with their precious advice. Krzysiek Palich made the cover project of the CD. British guitarist Matt Hammond helped me by proof reading the lyrics. The mastering is Damian Lipinski's work. And finally, I should mention the female vocalists: Joanna Lakomska, Madlena Krok, and Monika Oczkowicz. Three Polish women. Even if a few songs are old tunes, it took more than one year to finish recording the new ones. A big work.
19. What is your favorite track that you've composed for the album?
Very hard question! I obviously like all the songs. However, if you're still holding a gun to my head, I would say: Secret Agent Man.
20. Are there any future plans, perhaps second album?
I already have material for another CD album. So why not? In 2011 I also plan to release my fourth vinyl maxisingle. Old school italo disco, of course!
21. Any thoughts on how we could improve the genre (musically and gaining more mass appeal)?
Focusing more on videoclips. Youtube is the future of music. Or I should already say “the present”. Of course, people still like collecting CDs and vinyl. That's why we make them. They also enjoy listening to a CD while driving a car or sitting on the sofa. However our society also requires a visual contact, image, look. And people spend more and more time in front of their PC. Videoclips would help a lot promoting the new wave of italo disco.
22. What's your favorite TV show?
I rarely watch TV. From time to time, I watch the news, some football matches, political debates. However, my favorite programs are documentaries about science or history.
Now for something light hearted. Just give the answer to one you prefer or “Neither” if they aren’t applicable. (No explanations required!!)
1. Tea or Coffee? - Coffee
2. Market or Shopping Mall? – Shopping Mall
3. TV or Sport? - Sport
4. Books or Cinema? - Books
5 Resort or Camping? – Both
6. Summer or Winter? - Summer
7. Cat or Dog? - Neither
8. Beer, wine or Spirits? - Wine
9. Blonde or Brunette? – Blonde, Brunette, Red-haired, and even Bald – if
she has a nice body.
10. Sweet or savoury? – Sweet
24. What should your fans do if they would like to contact you to give some feedback ?
They can find me on facebook. I would appreciate some positive feedback. I like to have direct contact with fans, even if it's sometimes hard to chat with everybody.
25. Before we end this interview we wonder if there is something that you like to say to your fans:
Only one thing: Thank you so much for listening to my music!
Once again thank you for allowing us your time in answering these questions, it is very much appreciated! We hope this gives the spacesynth community a little better insight into you as an artist.
Space Sound Records TeamMarch 2011