This is an interview by Alessandro Lonoce @ PugliaSounds, Italy.
Here's the English translation:
Hello and welcome to PugliaMusic.it. Let’s get started with a short introduction to our readers. Who is Marco Schnabl?
Hi all. Marco Schnabl is an artist who prefers to talk about himself through his music rather than in any other way. He’s been playing music practically forever and traveling around the world since 1995. He has played in two continents in various bands, his historic former band above all, the "Foghenaist" (later "Mother of Pearl"), winners of Arezzo Wave in 1995. He had a long human and artistic experience, living for almost 15 years in London, becoming what he is today.
A winning mix of brit rock, soul, blues and a touch of psychedelic sound, but if you were to tell me about your music where would you start from?
I would start from the days when as a teenager I listened to Kraftwerk, Lucio Dalla, Joe Pass’ jazz and the early U2. I think I've istened to hundreds of thousands of albums and I can’t tell you what I really like because it totally depends on my mood. I can get up in the morning and listen to Meshuggah’s "Chaosphere", David Sylvian’s "Gone to Earth", Shostakovich’s Op.110a or a live album from Stevie Ray Vaughan. I have absorbed and devoured music since the day I was born and what I do now is the result, more or less successful, of this assimilation as well as my complex human experience.
You returned to Italy in 2010 after thirteen years of intense musical activity around the world. After a break of four years from the music industry, 2014 was the year of your comeback. What are new ideas and motivations?
Actually in 2013 I released an instrumental album titled "Been waiting a long time" in digital format only. I had written some material in the previous decade, and I just wanted it to come full circle. I have not promoted that album much because as I was recording it I also knew I didn't want to play instrumental music. In 2014, in fact, I felt the strong need to write songs. Above all I felt the desire to sing and write my lyrics. I have always been singing in reality, but for a number of reasons on which I will not dwell I never did it as a front man. I think I have stored so many life experiences (and not always happy ones) that at some point in the path I got the urge to talk about them. I started to do it in a completely natural way and I immediately felt at ease. I started to write my songs during the summer of 2014 with a creative energy I never felt before. Clearly times were ripe.
It’s quite limiting to define you just as a musician because you are also a sound engineer, a composer and a producer with a whole bunch of international experiences and collaborations. Which of these professionals are more committed today?
If you mean which ones I'm more involved in now, definitely the artist/musician/composer one. I worked as a sound engineer and producer for some of the largest studios in Europe, working with highly successful professionals. As a result I have acquired a know-how which even I sometimes am amazed of, and I use it now to do what I do. From the production of my album, meaning recording, mixing, arrangement and performance, to the production of my videos. The fact is that in my 13 years in London I've done just about everything and having first worked for MTV and then as a sound engineer, as well as playing consistently, I learned a lot.
What are the challenges of participating to musical contests/festivals, in addition to performing and been compared to other bands?
I'm not a big fan of contests, honestly. I don’t consider art as "competition”. I haven't got this approach anymore. I choose very few contests to attend to at the moment because I want exposure after a tremendous job behind the scenes. Certainly when I participate in a contest I have no expectations. I just like to go on stage and enjoy it.
As a producer and composer which parameters are important to you, in judging the song of an artist in a competition?
I only have one: what that artist has to say. I can feel it instinctively as I come from a generation that looks after content, not technique, nor aesthetics. I do not care whether a song is "beautiful". I care that the performer is an integral part of it with his heart and soul. The Anglo-Saxon experience has given me this way of appreciating art.
How would you describe your music to those who still don’t know you?
I believe that the best way to define my current production would be "elegant and visceral rock-soul". I definitely have punk rock roots that I have no intention of denying, but at the same time I love the elegance of classical orchestral music as well as Norwegian avant-garde jazz. I still struggle, just like any artist, to put myself within a specific music genre. Eventually rock ranges from Cream to Led Zeppelin to Black Sabbath to Sound etc ... etc ... Yet each of these artists is still very different from the other. Therefore, how to define myself? I think the adjectives "elegant and visceral" suit me perfectly.
Making music is also a synonym for communication. What do you wish to communicate through your songs?
For me it means to make those who are listening to me feel exactly what I feel. It’s a matter of guts...
Which artists of the past do you feel closest to and how do you think your music fits into that tradition?
To answer this question, I should write a book, because of everything I have listened to and metabolized. I started with listening to Italian singer/songwriters like Lucio Dalla, then going through blues, rock (extreme rock too), the punk phase, jazz and everything that is in these “boxes”. I love a great part of classical music and I can get lost in the ethnic music of Selvaganesh or Bassekou Kouyate. But basically I prefer visceral and real artists. Springsteen, Buckley, Mitchell, early U2, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Joy Division. I could list dozens. The thing that all the "big" ones have in common is their honesty in communicating what they feel. This is the quality that gives me the goosebumps more than any other aesthetic or technical feature. So I cannot answer precisely but I can tell you I prefer the Anglo-Saxon musical tradition, which is the result of their genetic culture. At the end of the day, my last name is Schnabl and in my opinion there are Saxon elements I have mixed with Mediterranean ones, integrating them with those of the Anglophone tradition during my years in London.
Back to Italy, how difficult is it to be a musician in this country compared to those you visited?
Italy is an absurd paradox. From an economic point of view it is much easier to make music here than in Britain, for example. Simply because of costs. Yet Italy is so shut against what is happening in the rest of the planet that most artists fail to understand the current languages and end up producing things that in the end are all alike. Apart from the purely artistic discourse, I believe that the difficulty in Italy depends on factors that go beyond the simplistic lack of music venues. The problem is much bigger and more severe and is of a social nature.
What kind of impression do you try to give in your concerts and how different are they from your recordings?
I’m no longer interested in giving any impression. I went through that stage when I was playing in the band. I laid attention to aesthetic details that do not matter to me now. I just try to close my eyes and forget everything around me to get fully in touch with myself. Only then I’m able to "talk". Basically I have exactly the same approach in the studio and when and if I record a second album I will do it with a well-oiled band, completely live in the studio. This is what I learned in London. For this record that did not happen simply because I wrote and played everything myself. I had the desire to express myself at 360º and I went along.
Looking at several young bands of Apulia, full of talent and plenty of new interesting projects, we notice a great number of these tend to "waste time" seeking maximum visibility at the expense of a more "refined production". What advice would you give to them?
I believe that seeking visibility is not a bad thing at all. Rather good instead. Unfortunately not everyone is artistically valid, and by that I mean capable of transmitting and communicating. Which is normal and natural, since it is necessary to have felt certain things the hard way, having lived in some social and cultural contexts, having known pain. Typically in Italy you live too well to be able to feel these things at a very young age. The one and only advice I could have for them is to understand that music, like any other art form, is only a means to communicate what you have inside. If you have nothing to say...don’t even try.
Do you currently rely on a booking agent and promoter?
Yes, I have a promo agency in Milan (Musicommunication) which is following me, giving me a huge help in the promotion of my work.
A project you're working on and one you would like to work soon?
Right now I'm only focused on my project. It's exhausting to take care of the promotion and there is a lot of work to do behind the scenes to prepare the album release, which will happen this summer, as well as events/concerts and more. Therefore I would have absolutely no time or peace of mind to devote myself to something else. I'm about to launch a crowdfunding campaign through the Ulule European platform (www.ulule.com) that I hope will help me to finance the album release on vinyl, another important detail of my artistic project. It will start in at most a couple of weeks and will continue for a month and a half. Then I'd like to first of all set up my own proper studio and in the future I'd like to work with artists that I admire. I believe that sooner or later everything will happen.