Paolo Tofani: the door keeper, the key master

Четверг, 23 Сентябрь 2010, 16:56
Размещено в рубрике English Special и имеет 0 комментариев.

Quite formative on early Italian psychedelic pop scene, guitarist Paolo Tofani manned bluesy outfits I Samurai, I Califfi as different from mainstream I Dick Dick and routine cover bands.  In the wake of British Invasion frenzy he courts London club circuit and trade — to their cautious reception. Striking it up with the likes of Mike Oldfield, Keith Emerson, John Cage et al, Tofani however matured to completely discard and outgrow domestic Italian mentality – developing into truly a man of the world. He built – and perfected to connoisseur’s awe, own home studio based on multitrack overdub, while concentrating on AMS digital synth’s vast sound options. True to trend, PT switches to solo recorded albums – of which at least “Frankenstein…” ’71 LP lands collectable and treasured sample of wild Hendrixean idiom, with time. As he was delving into electronic wizardry, PT is rewarded with offer from forlorn Italy where, by the time, PFM prog band had been rising. Area free-jazz/vanguard quintet is formed in 1973 with Tofani on guitar/effects. Fronted by extravagant Greek vocalist and aided by private Cramps label, Area becomes Paolo’s major involvement. Until drag and disenchantment set in where vigor and challenge used to be. The next leg of career is helped along by Paolo’s lifetime search and world travels, culminating at Indian monastery. Under Prema Das moniker he sets out to merge East and West in own music and invents handy instrument, the visually and tonally impressive Trikanta Veena. Learning firsthand yet more Eastern performing technique — and customizing more instruments — PT creates unique computer-aided semi-acoustic act that proves dramatic both live and on CD’s. This  rounds up Tofani’s prior experience as man and musician. 2010 finds the 66 year old Tofani in that wise – and productive – form, seeking to expand into yet new territory. He initiates reunion with remaining members of Area and undertakes a no-profit/all-expense tour of Russian communal venues and spots in Moscow, Yaroslavl and Nizhny Novgorod.

On viable fruits and plans of his world crusade Paolo TOFANI talks to his biographer, The YelbTrib’s very own Vladimir Yelbaev. 


—         You are warmly remembered by rock aficionados for early 70s’ recordings betraying marvelous distortion guitar technique. Do you personally dig or miss the style?

—         In 70’s I did a lot of London cellar music, I was tuned into the scene, was married to an English wife too, somehow the point did not work, but I never actually stopped experimenting throughout 70’s and 80’s. I fell in with sampler language and computer programming from the first touch, I felt driven to perfect those and construct my own circuit boards. I was always interested in technological aspect  to take music to yet farther highs. That’s my credo.

—         How much of you is now into Eastern ethnical and then in Western rocking outlook and playing technique?

—         When I embraced Hare Krishna, I readjusted myself to better grasp whys, whats and who’s-what of life. I felt enriched with the knowledge. Presently, after some 30 years of my monastery monk’s crusade over the world, I realize I have  meaning and experience to pass over to audiences. I am not torn between cultures, you know, on the contrary I am comfortable sublimating them. It is with view to clearer consciousness that I do research in music. That is exactly why now I take up from where I left off 30 years ago when leaving Area.

—         Okay, what exactly fascinates you in the formula you’ve been working over  that long?

—         Fullest answer to that is to be found on my site, while in a nutshell, it is the marriage of ancient acoustic instruments, what Veena and Santour originally are, with amazing computer digitalized equalization and effect trickery. It is, simply put, the interesting sound and the birth of combined culture. Santour comes from Persia and my instrument was modified by Cashmere craftsmen. It is actually different in size, bridgework and tone produced by the strings. Live, I alternate my Trikanta Veena with Santour, they are my babies, you know. I also play electric  guitar which is further aided by remote control facility for the sake of a more interesting sound.

—         Indians are known to be strict about someone handling their musical tradition, are they? 

—         Oh, I met with quite an enthusiastic response from Indian musicians both prior and post my performances and progress. It is the issue of how diligently one is adhering to their raga mentality. One has to avoid harmony as there is no harmony in Indian classical or devotional music. I do so, and my improvisations appear as another avant-garde to an European ear.

—         Are we the listeners in  for another Area revival in that case? How good were the ex-member jam sessions?

—         Area revival?! I was just toying with idea to go onstage with the three musicians who are alive. I am still living, you know… I am entertained with what may come next, and all of us have had our metamorphoses. First I take the stage for 20 minute set with Trikanta Veena and Santour, then the Area keyboardist Patrizio Fariselli joins in, then I fade out and leave him on his own, then the double bass player joins him and gets his share too, and finally all of us close with some requested 70s’ material. What rejoices me is the sort of tuned response we get from youngsters who obviously never could have been around in the 70s’, in the first place. They approach me, inquire about how I do this and that, about what made me and what’s in my mind. They are socially keen.

—         How do you go about trade’s notion that digital kills music?

—         Digital is okay so long it serves to present and express yourself the performer, not enslave you. I wouldn’t be what I am but for all the digital machinery. Yeah, the talk was always there that digital is cold and let’s record in analog. Everything is usable. I am alone, and without my computer I wouldn’t be able to produce so much sound. I like the tone colour of it too. I have 122 channel mixer which capacity I never use up.

—         My friend and role model Iain Matthews ex-Fairport Convention has been scheming what you wheeled, touring Russia that is. Normally artists resent performing free where money is right to collect. Russia does lures many, but it is guarded vested territory for monopolist few promoters and their picked crop, that’s the catch. Did you ever give that the thought?

—          Nope. Not at that angle. In 1992 I already played Russia, and earlier when teaming up with John Cage for real avant-garde stuff I saw interest from Russian musicians. Jazz is popular over there. I always looked up to Russia with sympathy, and my Russian wife Irina teaches me Russian language. Somebody out there in Russia may grow interested in my music, and same goes for British market where I am not forgotten at all. I am on the lookout for the memento and keep my door open.

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