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Right after Corde Oblique's charming performance, a couple of weeks ago, I've had the pleasure to have a little chat with the project's mastermind, Riccardo Prencipe. We talked, we laughed and he made me understand what the band, his band really is and does; but without further spoilers, here is what we talked about!
Hello Riccardo and, wow, what a great show you guys played tonight! Well, I'd say we'd start with an easy but quite necessary question, in order to give our readers a solid base to better understand our conversation: what is this Corde Oblique project? Born as Lupercalia and renamed back in 2005, what are its roots and how did it change from 1999 to nowadays? But most important, who is this Riccardo Prencipe who founded, guides and leads the evolution of the band?
Riccardo: Well, well: we started in '99 with a demo tape — called "Le Nuit De Samhain" — which had this kind of a neo-gothic/neo-medieval flavour. Back then, I was fond of both medieval and ancient art and the desire to play this kind of ancient music (or pseudo-ancient) started growing within me. Actually, the first tries, the first experiments towards this direction were mostly improvised, sometimes not as precise as they're made today; but the desire to play it was huge, lots of feeling strong this ancient in a dense although imprecise way. And I've followed this very idea with the project Lupercalia, named after those ancient Roman cults of fertility, together with an eccentric violinist currently named Pier Macchiè, I'm not sure if you know who he is… [chuckles].
No, I actually don't…
[laughing] Oh well, you really need to check who he is. Although nowadays he plays ironic Neapolitan music in the streets, he started as a serious violinist and as our violinist. After that, I mean, he did change… [both laughing] But, yeah, it was 1999: it was eighteen years ago, I mean, quite a big section of one's life. To complete the circle, then, we had an operatic singer, Claudia (that today is a dear friend of mine), and this was the band: operatic voice, violin (he had this handmade violin, very peculiar), guitar and synthesizers — very much neo-gothic. We played a couple of times in the Netherlands with various band of the gothic scene of there and, well, it was quite a nice time… There came a moment, after a while, when I decided to rearrange a little bit the situation — you know, I do always like rearranging things, but still coherently — and so I gave birth to this new, solo project. I mean, just formerly «solo», because the team, as you can see, is really harmonious. And so I started writing music and lyrics for many musicians and many singers: I'd always wanted to have more than just one singer. I remember that lots of records bored me, and they did it just because they just had only one singer [we both laughed as he said that]; this because, at that time, I planned only to «record music with different singers, but homogenous», and with this state of mind I started working to a project that I'm still working on right now. Our latest album features a Bulgarian singer, the previous instead a Greek one, so, I mean, I did quite succeed: there's a lot of stuff, within, but it has its own uniqueness.
Your job besides being a musician inevitably influences the latter. Do you try or have you ever tried to keep those two passions (art and music) somehow divided?
I do actually try but it's impossible. It's a whole and, more important, those two elements work together; I mean, when your totally overstressed because of one work here it comes the other to help you, and vice versa: when the other makes you feel burdened, you have a way out… You know, I always give this example: it's almost as if you'd have to climb out of a well and you'd have these two, parallel walls to grab on to — grab here, grab there and here you climb out of it, right towards the light. Being often unsettled and agitated, this king of zigzag is something I really need…
How much art and music are independent within the band's sound, in your opinion? What can you tell us about Corde Oblique's creative process: how do you come up with your songs?
We actually write our songs out of improvisation. First of all, there's a phase made of pure instinct, when you write and throw everything out of you, taking note in the most absurd ways — with your phone, with your pc, writing notes on the music staff, I really do it in each and every possible way; then it comes a hand-crafting phase, when you have to sew and patch up, like a tailor, those elements. Then you have to make the final product out of them, in the end, so it's almost like an industrial process — whose core is completely sensorial, though. Inside the core you have to be alone — and possibly desperate [laughing] because, you know, even those moments are important. You have to trace yourself back to some deep emotions, feelings from which you can write certain things, and right after you have to come back to clarity of mind, in order to rationalise and work those elements out.
As it appears even to an inexperienced eye, your sound — related with ethereal neo-folk and progressive — has many influences. Where does your inspiration come from?
As I previously said, art (especially Southern Italian) inspires me a lot. Well, when I speak about «art» people generally thinks about Masaccio, Michelangelo and Raphael: no. It's not quite the one I meant, because that is the art of the winners; I prefer the art of the losers, the art of the encrusted walls of Naples' Basilica di San Lorenzo Maggiore, of the painters followers of Solimena's style, painters unfairly forgotten but indeed talented. I like to think about how Proust was initially an underrated writer who's been revaluated post-mortem. I do really prefer this kind of things. I don't like to talk of obvious things (as Raphael and Michelangelo etc.), I leave them to their already great success. I want to talk of Casertavecchia to the Germans and lead them there into walking guided tours, because those are the places that really deserve such big success and revaluation.
Although I don't know if you're still an addicted metal listener or not: have you noticed something different of Campania's metal scene — like a strengthening, a sort of rebirth?
Well, unfortunately I'm not really into Campania's metal scene, but I noticed that sometimes there are some quite interesting metal festivals. Sadly, I do not have much time to spend in metal live events, but I do keep listen to metal music, always: once you go metal, you cannot go back — once you feel it in your blood, you'll keep it with yourself forever. And this very mood stays with us and, although we play acoustic instruments, this rock (and even a little bit metal) flavour does stay with us, especially within me and Edo.
Let me ask: have you ever thought about creating any sort of relation between Corde Oblique and this kind of genre/environment? I'm not making any specific reference: whether it's a split album, the inclusion of guests from the metal scene or even taking part to live shows sharing the stage with metal bands.
I'd love it, indeed! In our latest album I reintroduced the electric, distorted guitar: there's a ghost track almost resembling a death metal song — it's on YouTube, at the end of "Suono Su Tela" video. So yes, absolutely, it'd be great. You know, we actually started working on a cover of Metallica's "The Call Of Chtulhu" but we never finished it because in order to make such a cover you'd have to completely mess up the original track, but I don't exclude the possibility that we could start on working on it once again, in the future. In the end, yes, absolutely, it'd be great: it's definitely something which thrills me, it'd be indeed fantastic.
By the way, what a great Anathema cover you did play…
Thanks. We actually did collaborate with Duncan Patterson from Anathema, for one of our past album's song, and also with Daniel, which we shared a live with. You know, they were already famous back in the Nineties, thanks to an album called "The Silent Enigma" — a masterpiece. Then they had this kind of commercial turning point that drove them to a greater fame, but I feel closer to their later albums, the heavier ones, although "We Are Here…" is undoubtedly a melodic rock masterpiece in my humble opinion.
Okay, let's get back to ourselves: as we previously said, the project was born in 1999, which means it turns adult this year. Through this eighteen years the band featured many guest artists of both Italian and international underground music scene. Which have been the ones you now remember the dearest?
Uhm, I guess, the ones I remember the dearest are those who put their hearts in their work, who played with passion, giving their creative contribution. When you collaborate with people you obviously discover a new part of theirs, you see what they put inside their music… It's almost like some sort of extemporaneous friendship. In our latest disc, for example, a guest who gave us a lot has been Denitza Seraphimova, Bulgarian singer of the band Irfan — which we discovered as we worked with the same, French label, Prikosnovenie, and I appreciate a lot — a band Dead Can Dance-style. She's extremely talented and, I mean, it's like as if we got that feeling you have when you've known someone for ten years and played with them every day, and yet we've never actually met. This is the alchemy you find when you meet someone artistically similar to you.
Well, it must be something unique… Let's pretend now: if you could choose three artists that will automatically be included in your next band's album, who will they be? And why?
Oh wow, what a cool question: you know, I always think about many artists but I manage to work with just a small number of them, and it's not always my fault. For example, a guest I missed (this was because of me) was Misia, a Portuguese singer I love: unfortunately, though we wrote to each other many times and she liked some musical ideas I sent her, she's not the author of what she performs and she wanted me to write for her. I mean, I'd have loved to do that, but I wanted her to sing in Portuguese, and I do not know Portuguese [chuckling] so the idea wasn't realized… Getting back to our question, well, I'd start from the bigs, those who will be impossible to work with, since we're an independent band; okay, we may have had some satisfactions, we play abroad, but nonetheless we're a small reality. So, I mean, some of these names are really difficult to be featured in our work. For example, I'm a great fan of Franco Battiato from "L'Arca Di Noé" and Fiorella Mannoia. Yes, if I could write music for Fiorella Mannoia I'm pretty sure I'd be able to create some high quality stuff for her voice, because hers is a voice I've grown up with, it's in my DNA; I'd like to write in Italian for her and for Battiato, although only for the one of those days — because after that he changed and some of his latest evolutions, well, I don't quite feel them as close as those early ones. I also love the Carmen Consoli of "Eva Contro Eva", so I'd say these three. Then, speaking about metal artists, I'm a huge fan of "Chaos A.D." Sepultura — oh, that album, it has that sound…
Well, those Sepultura are now quite gone…
Yeah… Unfortunately yes, they're quite fallen apart. The reasons are quite… Well, it's their business. Bands nowadays take these kind of ways too often, unfortunately… So, yes, you asked me about three names and I'll ultimately give you these four: "Chaos A.D." Sepultura, Franco Battiato, Carmen Consoli and Fiorella Mannoia. Although these are not that closely related… [chuckles]
[me chuckling too] What an album would come out of it… Fantastic…
[laughs] I obviously dream about playing with Lisa Gerrard. I clearly remember a live performance of hers as solo at Teatro Ambra Iovinelli in Rome, which literally made me cry. I must also say that I've seen the latest tour of Dead Can Dance: they seemed to me quite like a Frankensteinian patchwork, I didn't feel those feelings I found in "Towards The Within", in the golden years' live; in my humble opinion it's been kind of a reunion organised with a purpose. But this is my point of view as a fan, I don't have any clue of how things really went.
Don't worry, it's your fan point of view we're interested into! So: your last album, "I Maestri Del Colore", is a complex work and, in my opinion, a little different from the others, maybe more interdisciplinary, and it's been an album of which the production has been supported by a crowdfunding campaign: how did you felt dealing with such an experience? Would you do that any more times?
I'd never do that again. I'd rather pay those money myself. [here I started laughing, I have to say it, but fortunately also Riccardo did] Okay, well, let's tell the whole story. I started this campaign because I felt it would have been important in order to contribute to the recordings final payment: you know, I tend to spend a lot of money when I record because I do care a lot about the sound; nonetheless, I always face people telling me «Hey, I always listen to your songs on YouTube, with my phone!», and that exasperates me. What could we do about it… Unfortunately people don't know that with 200 euros (quite half of the price of a smartphone) they do get a small and yet high quality stereo system; but this happens because of disinformation, obviously: I did discover this truth thanks to some audiophile friends of mine. Well, okay, let's get back to ourselves, me tending to spend lots of money for my music: I know that these crowdfunded money would have been just a part of the whole lot, but I also knew that I had the support of this great Russian label — which made us the coolest edition, with jewel box and limited edition — so I wanted to do things the best. It turned out to be a very stressful operation; we had lots of followers and fans on the internet, but when it came the time that we asked for their contribution in order to keep on working the best, they kind of disappeared, so you always needed to write posts and reminders… it seemed I was kind of begging them, honestly. But we did have gotten to a good point, so it'd have been a shame not to fulfil that campaign. I almost felt like abandoning it, I have to say, but then, fortunately, came the China tour: those nine concerts, and the Chinese fans were fantastic… They supported us so much that we went beyond the numbers we hoped to raise; they showed us tons of enthusiasm and support, those Chinese fans, and really helped us a lot.
And now, stressful question: what plans has the band got for the near future? Are you already working on some new material, are going to give priority to exporting your art and music to people around the world or what?
Well, we've actually just a few live shows, for now. We've got one in Leipzig which is going to be legendary: it's our third time at Wave Gotik Treffen and it's always a great event so I'm sure it won't let me down this time, too. You know, playing in Leipzig is almost as playing in Naples' Teatro San Carlo, for it's in the centre of Leipzig and it's always fabulous to see how it gets full of Darks, Goths and Punks, due to the occasion. There's something we're actually going to be publishing, hopefully in the nearest future, but let's call it a secret and cross our fingers!
Right, I think that is all for today — I've possibly taken even too much of your time, since you're so kind. Thank you so much for your friendly availability and good luck for the future of the band. Feel free to leave a message to the readers, now!
Well, well, first of all thank you for this interview, it's been obviously done by someone who cares. Through all these years, I've been interviewed by many people, of all kinds, and some of those were quite embarrassing, too — which I nevertheless made, though I answered with a little annoyance to — but this has been frankly pleasurable to have, so thank you too! Moreover I do thank those who have the patience to listen, those who do not listen to minor-league music — which for me is pop; that standard chorus-verse music which is ruining Italy and the whole world and is now a bit too popular. That music is symptomatic of a lack of patience, as if I'd like to read a book but instead I just read a two lines period because I'm bored. Who listens to pop, unfortunately, often has this kind of mindset, this lack of patience; and I believe one must practice their patience. And so, because I do see people's patience disappear little by little (the more we go on, the more we get apathetic, in everything: in watching, in reading; there's always more Facebook and less paper, always more pop and less classical music), I do hope, anachronistically, that such an issue could be solved. That's all.