building soundscapes out of sixties architecture // interview + photos: calibro 35

 All photographs taken exclusively for Cool Brother by Andrea Venturini at Calibro 35's most recent London show at St. James the Great Church, Clapton

 

 

A group of Italians sit on precarious old wooden chairs in the backroom of a Clapton gothic church, chatting about soundtracks and crunching Hummus crisps. They’re not Vatican emissaries – but, in a way, they’re on a mission of faith. Bringing to London the word of who, to many, is a laic prophet, Italian score maestro Ennio Morricone. They’re the members of Milanese crime-funk band Calibro 35 who have gained, within their ten year career, a cult status among 1960s and 1970s soundtrack, jazz and funk lovers.

 

The band began as a studio divertissement by producer and ‘70s film fanatic Tommaso Colliva (Muse, Erykah Badu, Afterhours) who wanted to re-propose in a studio the iconic badass sound of 1970s Italian cop movies, the so-called ‘polizieschi’ or ‘poliziotteschi’ – in their trademark genre-defining pejorative name.

 

The films may not have been the best to remember, but their scores were a fascinating blend of jazz, funk and prog with a Mediterranean sensitivity and the peculiar composing techniques of a series of genius musicians and orchestra directors – including Ennio Morricone, whose songbook was last week brought on stage by Calibro 35 for a one-off Church of Sound performance.

 

Ten years and six albums in, Calibro 35 have developed their unique and constantly evolving sound, exploring cosmic jazz, afro-beat and funk, without losing sight of the golden-age of Italian OSTs.

 

Lorenzo Ottone meets the Milanese outfit in St. James the Great Church to discuss the Maestro and to talk about their new album, Decade, which explores the theme of Italian ‘60s and ‘70s radical architecture.

 

 

 All photographs taken exclusively for Cool Brother by Andrea Venturini at Calibro 35's most recent London show at St. James the Great Church, Clapton

 

 

 

 

Lorenzo Ottone: Where did the idea of giving a sound to Italian radical architecture come from? Is it a topic you’ve been into for a long time? 

> Tommaso Colliva (producer): I discovered it recently, just a few years ago. I’ve found it very fascinating, because I think it reflects our identity, joining the past and the future in a utopic way. [Architect groups] ArchiZoom and SuperStudio were both 3D design and bucolic elements.

 

LO: What is it that fascinates you the most, the aesthetic or conceptual side of it?

> TC: My interest started from the imagery. Then, when I understood its concepts, I realised that we were trying to do the same things and using the same approach as a band. We try to do something radical and utopian with our music.

 

LO: So you could say Decade is a sort of scaffolding on music sheets…

> Massimo Martellotta (guitar and synth): When the radical architecture idea came up, I approached some songs in a modular way, endlessly repeating elements like in radical architecture’s aesthetic. I’ve realised this especially afterwards, but I think this is a record much more thought out than our previous ones. We had to program the music in advance, because, for the first time, we recorded with a ten person ensemble, and we had five days to do so.

 

LO: Even though you live far away from one another and only meet sporadically in the studio, your sound is that of a close-knit band. How did the creative process develop, especially when dealing with complex instrumentals and a studio ensemble?

> Luca Cavina: This time everyone wrote their own tracks. We consulted each other just to understand the sound palette we could use and to avoid doublers. This meant that there were a lot of different contaminations.

> TC: There were some initial guidelines, and then it became a process of selecting individual ideas.     

 

 

 

 All photographs taken exclusively for Cool Brother by Andrea Venturini at Calibro 35's most recent London show at St. James the Great Church, Clapton

 

 

 

 

"We didn’t start like a band of friends all sharing the same tastes. We first went in the studio, not really knowing each other. None of us live in the same city, so we always carry this single identity. It’s beautiful. To me, this is the true value of being in a project like this." – Tommaso Colliva

 

 

 

 

LO: Is your evolution towards other genres – not strictly connected to Italian cop movie soundtracks – an evolution of personal tastes or a willing wink to grow foreign audiences who have been praising you album-after-album?

> Fabio Rondanini: I’d say it’s definitely a matter of taste. We come from years of van journeys and we’ve shared so much music that it’s more a matter of collective rather than personal experience. For example, we all love afro-beat and we jam a lot with it during soundchecks.

> Enrico Gabrielli (keys, flute, clarinet and saxophone): We’ve reached an age where we are mature human beings carrying our own experiences and tastes. This time, not having a strict initial concept brought us to put our personal aptitudes to the band’s service.

> LC: Decade, in a way being a birthday record, sums up how far we’ve gone in the last ten years. There’s a clear differentiation between the tracks each of us has written and, if you’ve been following us for a while, you can understand who wrote what.

> TC: We didn’t start like a band of friends all sharing the same tastes. We first went in the studio not really knowing each other. None of us live in the same city, so we always carry this single identity. It’s beautiful when one of the guys comes in and recommends an album I've never heard of and eventually end up loving. Then I come and suggest a record, and no one ever likes it [laughs]. To me, this is the true value of being in a project like this.

 

  

 

 All photographs taken exclusively for Cool Brother by Andrea Venturini at Calibro 35's most recent London show at St. James the Great Church, Clapton

 

 

 

 

"Ennio Morricone is a chess player before being a composer. He moves composing elements like figures on a chess board. Through using a just few elements, he doesn’t only get you, but also projects you into the film" – Enrico Gabrielli

 

 

 

  

LO: What would you say is Ennio Morricone's best work?

> TC: What he doesn’t like [everyone laughs].

> EG: He insists his best work is The Mission [looks slightly disappointed].

> TC: His political films, to me, are the best stuff. La Classe Operaia Va in Paradiso (The Working Class Goes to Heaven), Svegliati e Uccidi (Wake Up and Kill)… And the material I’m really interested in is in the two compilations, Film della Violenza and Crime and Dissonance.

> EG: I think the best Morricone is the 1960s/'70s one, when he worked with amazing studio musicians who guaranteed a certain sound.

> MM: I often argue this. He had an amazing team of people to pick from who also gave him lots of inspiration, like [guitarist, composer and iconic spaghetti western OSTs whistler] Alessandro Alessandroni.

> TC: And they say he was a nasty one to work with. No one wanted to work with him, because hassled people in the studio [laughs].

> EG: I don’t doubt that. He’s a chess player before being a composer. He moves composing elements like figures on a chess board. Through using a just few elements, he doesn’t only get you, but also projects you into the film setting. He knows how to properly write music, but at the same time, he uses empathy over empiricism. I’ve never seen anyone composing like him, working on the colours and atmospheres of a film scene. I am thinking, for example, to how he evokes the velvet interiors in Una Lucertola con la Pelle da Donna (A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin) or the factory environment in La Classe Operaia Va in Paradiso (The Working Class Goes to Heaven).

> TC: Well, his collaborations with [Italian film director] Elio Petri are all amazing. A quality trademark. There’s this funny story about Petri showing Morricone the final edit of Indagine, dubbed with the wrong music. Morricone at first was puzzled, but then reacted in his own unflappable way, not caring too much, because, in the end, he had done his job [everyone laughs].

> EG: There’s a piece of footage where Morricone is in France, along with Peter Fonda and Sergio Leone, collecting an award, and he thanks everyone like a bureaucrat. He’s a very simple man. Basically, he only cares about chess, Roma football club and his wife.

 

LO: So, you think he’s the best soundtrack composer ever, sitting above anyone else…

> EG: Morricone is the greatest living rockstar! I mean, touring with an orchestra at his age.

> TC: It isn’t simply a matter of writing better songs than others. He has a pivotal cultural importance, because he changed the way film music is conceived. Morricone came and introduced the use of different instruments in a character’s theme to highlight his changing moods. I’d say there’s a correlation between Morricone and Hans Zimmer, because they have both been game changers.

 

 

 

 All photographs taken exclusively for Cool Brother by Andrea Venturini at Calibro 35's most recent London show at St. James the Great Church, Clapton

 

 

 

 

"If I’m proposed some good clever hip hop, I’m sensitive to it." – Enrico Gabrielli

 

 

 

 

LO: A lot of comedies, soft-erotic films and also thrilling had shake or easy listening tracks like bossa nova and samba. Have you ever thought about expanding your recordings in this direction?

> MM: We did a few shake things adapted to our sound. 'Giulia Mon Amour' is one of these, for example. It’s a funny aspect that I see, like an enjoyable holiday destination to go to, but I’m not sure about a whole album.

> EG: It’s not something that's in all of Calibro 35’s DNA.

 

LO: You’ve been sampled by Jay-Z and Dr. Dre, you’ve covered Beastie Boys and much of your work could fit into their The In Sound from Way Out! Is hip hop something that fascinates you?

> FR: On one hand, we play the origins of hip hop. On the other, both me and Tommy [Colliva] are passionate about it. Now hip hop has reached its creative peak, also mixing with contemporary music. There’s some very cool stuff out there.

> EG: If I’m proposed some good clever hip hop, I’m sensitive to it.

> TC: Who knows if one day it’ll come a hip hop album… [smirks].

 

 

 All photographs taken exclusively for Cool Brother by Andrea Venturini at Calibro 35's most recent London show at St. James the Great Church, Clapton

 

 

 

 

"Many praised the idea, but as often happens with ambitious projects, it didn’t succeed."  – Tommaso Colliva

 

 

 

 

LO: You’ve released a comic, you’ve got records inspired by pulp novels, space-age and by radical architecture. Is it true you’re working on an anime?

> TC: Yes, it was an idea we had for our 4th album, Traditori di Tutti. The record was the imagery soundtrack to the only [Giorgio Scerbanenco’s] Duca Lamberti trilogy book that hadn’t been adapted to the big screen. Enrico [Gabrielli] had the brilliant idea to invert the process, followed by Sergio Leone with Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Instead of bringing Japan into Western world, we would have transported a story set in 1960s Milan to Japan. Many praised the idea, but as often happens with ambitious projects, it didn’t succeed.

 

LO: Which soundtracks would you recommend to our readers? 

The Sunshine Makers by The Heliocentrics. This is the soundtrack to Netflix’s documentary about LSD masterminds in ‘60s US.

Last Ex by Last Ex. It’s an imaginary horror film soundtrack by a Timber Timbre side project.

 

 

Follow Lorenzo Ottone on Instagram, Wordpress

Follow Andrea Venturini on. Instagram, Tumblr. See his portfolio here

Follow Calibro 35 on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

 

 

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