Friday, November 7, 2014

INTERVIEW: Carlo Mazzoli (Dead Bouquet)

(Photo by Matteo Mangili)

Sometimes inspiration and reward come from the strangest places. Imagine being in a band and having the opportunity to work with a producer and artist who'se work you have long admired - well, Carlo Mazzoli of Italian rock band, Dead Bouquet, knows EXACTLY how that feels!  Faced with the prospect of recording his debut set of Grant Lee Buffalo-indebted tunes, he reached out to that band's bassist and producer Paul Kimble to produce and rock dreams were fulfilled.  From his home base in Rome, Mazzoli chatted via email about the inspiration behind his band, the contributions that Kimble brought to the process, and why he's not particularly inspired by Italian rock n' roll.

Your band, Dead Bouquet, takes its name from the Grant Lee Buffalo song, “Fuzzy”.  First, great taste in music!  How did the group come together?

Grant Lee Buffalo is one of the greatest bands ever. I started the band some years ago, but it needed Daniele Toti on bass to fuel up. He’s a fantastic bass player and really knows how to “touch” a song. I proposed him to work with Paul Kimble and he immediately agreed. New drummer Alberto Croce joined the band just after the release of As Far As I Know. Very good musician, nice guy. We are so happy and proud of our band, we just want to play a lot of shows now.

Your debut record, “As Far As I Know”, is both indebted to the work of GLB and its own beautiful thing: you play an overdriven 12-string, have a keening baritone similar to Grant-Lee Phillips and even employed Paul Kimble (GLB’s bassist) as producer.  He has a very unique production style that fits your music well.  How did you come to work with Paul and what did he bring to the process?  More generally, what inspired the songs on the album? 

Most of the songs are intimate to me… My Baby and I, As Far As I Know, Red Sofa, Sur La Garonne, Stories. It’s life. Some of them seem to look at these perverse and difficult times we live in. The Dam and Barking at my Gate are probably the most “social” songs on the album. The rest of the songs are a collage of visions dear to me and perfectly expressed by the sound of the band.
I love the Grant Lee Buffalo records and I always dreamed to make an album with Paul. So, I decided to contact him via web, asking him if he was interested to work with an Italian rock band in Italy. He accepted and so he came to Rome to produce our debut album and stayed for 16 days, then went back to the U.S. where he made the mixing. He’s also the recording engineer of As Far As I Know… working with him was intense, magical and very funny. Lots of laughs! He’s the funniest guy on earth and has become an important friend to us. And he’s a good chef, too! He brought a lot of experience and his fantastic visions to the record, he even sung and played slide bass and piano on it. We just did our best, both Paul and the band. Later, he told us that he really didn’t pay attention to the demo we sent to him, but he accepted because he found potential in the band.

In certain ways, we cannot help but be impacted by the work of others. What are some of your musical touchstones, those things that you heard and loved and go back to?  Other than Grant Lee Buffalo, what influences your writing?

Well, Fuzzy did have a great impact on me since I was a kid. It is probably my favorite album ever.
Other touchstones are Then Play On by Fleetwood Mac and huge artists as the great Gordon Lightfoot (who also influences my writing), Neil Young, The Beach Boys (especially the Pet Sounds - Smile era), The Byrds, Thin White Rope and most of the Paisley Underground scene, The Waterboys, Ry Cooder and a lot of other stuff.

I have always been intrigued by musical acts and movements outside the United States…what is the scene like where you are from?  Is there a part of being Italian that informs your work?

Well, you know… Rock & Roll is American born. Besides that, there’s surely something good, but I’ve hardly found interesting bands coming out from Italy nowadays, that’s my taste. “Sacri Cuori”, in my opinion, are the best Italian band right now. Phenomenal musicians who also played and recorded with greats as Howe Gelb, Dan Stuart, Marc Ribot, Dave Hidalgo, Jim Keltner, etc.

To answer to the second question… I don’t think so. I respect my roots, but the music I write and play with Dead Bouquet is not influenced by my country. Except for cooking and drinking, of course.

I imagine your songs are like children – it’s tough to choose one above the others. But let’s say you are asked to make a “Sophie’s Choice”; is there one that you are particular proud to have written or one that is particularly special to you?

I would say “Stories”. Very special. There’s Paul playing piano on it... and that means a lot to me.  I’m sure Daniele’s choice is “Sur La Garonne”. He even read some lines of Dino Buzzati (a great Italian writer) during the song grand finale.

What’s planned for you next as a band?

We’d love to tour all over Italy and Europe. It is not so easy if you have just released your debut album, but we are trying to sort things out. We’ll come out with news in December. Then, there’ll be the second album (it has been already written). And we want to make it with Paul, no doubt.

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