Paolo Angeli, born in 1970, started to play guitar when he was nine. He grew up in Palau, in the Italian Sardinia, an extremely stimulating musical environment. The guitar and the voice of his father, his first mentor, the autobus with the drums, the chicken, the melons, the ‘diroccati’ rock groups in an old carpentry, the experiences with concerts in the squares and carnival evenings, they all directed him towards a sailing without stylistic barriers in the world of music.
After he obtained his Nautical Diploma, in 1989 he moved to Bologna. It was during the 1990 university occupation that the Laboratorio di Musica & Immagine was born: a colourful ensemble of fourteen musicians, Andrea Martignoni, Claudio Lanteri, Daniela Cattivelli, Ferdinando D'Andria, Filomena Forleo, Margareth Kammerer, Mario Martignoni, Olivia Bignardi, Paolo Angeli, Pierangelo Galantino, Pino Urso, Salvatore Panu, Silvia Fanti, Stefano Zorzanello who, by unblocking the barriers among musical genres and by practicing collective composition and improvisation, started becoming famous in the main European festivals of innovation music.
Suspended between the camera post-rock of Mistress, the duo with Stefano Zorzanello, the improvisation with Jon Rose, the realization of the opera Pacifica with Fred Frith, the choir at Tasgia, the Serbian dances Diamant Brin and Trabant, he started playing the tube with the Banda Roncati, the extraordinary experience of social music. In the same period he was among the founding members of the popular music school Ivan Illich and the independent label Erosha.
On 1993, he was fulgurated by the encounter with Giovanni Scanu, the old guitar player from Sardinia, who died at the age of ninety-five and from whom he learnt the forms and the modules of the ‘canto a chitarra gallurese e logudorese.'
From this ‘fighting meeting’ between extra-cultivated avant-garde and popular tradition came his Sardinian prepared-guitar: an orchestra-instrument with eighteen cords, an hybrid between guitar, baritone, violoncello and drums, gifted with hammers, pedals, some propellers at variable speed. With this singular instrument, constructed by the craftsman Francesco Concas, Paolo elaborates, improvises and composes unclassifiable music, suspended between free jazz, folk noise and minimal pop.
In 1995, he released his visionary album Dove dormono gli autobus, (played live on 1997 by the band Fraìli). In 1997, he won the competition Posada Jazz Project and recorded Linee di fuga, the first work with his modified guitar. In 2003, he published Bucato, the synthesis of four years of concerts all over Europe, a live ‘Solo’ CD produced by the English label ReR. Then, he started touring in Canada and the United States, a period of tournées immortalized by the live publications Mede e Drawing Circle.
The same year, on request by Pat Metheny, he started the project of a new model of his Sardinian prepared guitar; in the Liuteria Stanzani it was two guitars that were born, one of which was adopted by the American musician. In 2005, for ReR, he realized Nita, l’angelo sul trapezio, an imaginary sound track as a result of the participation of most of the musicians belonging to the Bologna creative scene. Nita represents a synthesis of the creativity of the collectives and the freshness of the traditional Sardinian music.
In 2005 Paolo moved to Barcelona. 2007 opens with the eclectic Tessuti (ReR) a solo project devoted to the compositions of Fred Frith and Björk, with the live vinyl Andature Portanti (Wallace Records).
It follows a pearl in his production: the dualdisc Tibi (2010 DVD/CD), based on a photographic reportage of the prepared Sardinian guitar, realized by Nanni Angeli and sonorized live in ‘Solo’ with a music suite which includes new compositions and tracks taken from the preceding albums. The work can be defined as the most important synthesis created by Paolo on the prepared Sardinian guitar, with a avant-garde mixing in 5.1 and with a relation to the image taking us back to the works of LM&I. In 2013 Paolo produced his definitive meeting point between Sardinian traditional music and Mediterranean influences, Sale Quanto Basta (ReR), followed by his B side S'Û on 2015.
Among his artistic collaborations, it is to be remembered the multimedia projects with Nanni Angeli (Tibi, Il passo dei Misteri), the duo with Hamid Drake (Uotha Nubop 2005, Deghe ReR 2014), the avant-pop duo with Takumi Fukushima (Itsunomanika ReR 2011), the POG Trio–Piccola Orchestra Gagarin, with Sasha Agranov, cello, and Oriol Roca, drums (Platos Combinados, WAJ/ALU 2011), the trio with Evan Parker and Ned Rottemberg (Free zone Appleby 2007), and also with the incredible czech musician Iva Bittova. Since 2009 the collaboration with Antonello Salis (Ma.Ri Auand 2003), and Drake took on the formula Trio, and in 2010 it was born the quartet that includes Gavino Murgia (Giornale di Bordo, Egea–Sard disc 2011).
Among the remaining traces, Paolo continues to play with his travel companions Alberto Masala and Riccardo Pittau, the projects with Fred Frith (duo, trio, quartet, Tessitura).
What do you remember about your first guitar?
It was my father's one. With my brothers, we used it in a not conventional way: one seated on the guitar and the other take the neck, like a small "carrito", a little house car. Probably this funny imprinting explain a lot about my freedom playing guitar.
Which was the first and the last record you bought with your own money?
The first was the 45rpm "Don't Stand So Close To Me" (The Police), the last one it's been seven albums of Tom Waits and Vurnicula of Björk.
What do you expect from music?
Surprise, intensity, honesty.
Which work of your own are you most surprised by, and why?
Each one is connected with a different period of my life. An album is like a son. It always surprises yourself. Probably, Sale Quanto Basta has been a cut with the past and let me feel a Mediterranian man. S'Û follow in that way. But in the moment I recorded them, I loved all my albums.
What's the relevance of technique in music, in your opinion?
It's a necessary medium between the mind, the instinct and the instrument. Technique is important to translate as fast as possible what happens inside of your body (stomach and mind) and translate it on your own instrument.
What quality do you admire most in a musician?
Creativity and originality.
What’s the difference between a good instrument and a bad one?
Doesn't exist. It depends on the relation with the musician. I played live for ten years with a cheap Sardinian guitar I paid 150 Euros. After the 7th fret it was not temperate, but I loved so much that guitar. And my first guitar, I paid sixty Euros when I was eleven, it's still my favorite one to play in front of the sea. She doesn't have a lot of volume sound, but every time it's windy she start on vibrations and the strings plays like in larsen electric guitar: it's incredible! She knows all kinds of winds.
What are the challenges and benefits of today's digital music scene?
It's a great opportunity to arrive in touch without a production of a label and a business work. Now major and independent labels start from the same level. With social and digital distribution, you could arrive in touch with a lot of people. It's great. You could record with low budget and arrive in the digital world. In a way it's a democratic process really changing the world. On the other side is very difficult to say: HEY! I'M HERE! I mean... with so many musicians sharing the digital space, it's difficult to reach resonance.
Define the sound you're still looking for.
I would like to arrive to a fragile sound in communication with small electronic details. But the world is noisy, so I follow in Rock and Roll. :-)
How would you define order?
Order is harmony between different elements. This means you could have one chord, a nice melody, a noise, and you could organize it like a painter, looking for your own order.
What are your motivations for playing music?
You know I love archeology? I arrive from Sardinia, a land where since 4000 years a.c. people have already developed a different kind of culture in Mediterraneum. Since then they have produced wine :-) My motivation is to continue to discover music, to learn different musical languages and then use only what I really love. I think to play is a big privilege and to study is the best option we have to follow surprising ourselves.
What's your best musical experience?
To learn traditional music from the older guitar player in Sardinia Giovanni Scanu (when I met him he was eighty-five). I spent nine years learning the old way to play traditional music. Same singing music for holy week in a choir of four people. It's something really amazing to sing with the best old singers and learn all the small details on melody and complexity in verticality with the other voices. Same than to create my guitar. It's a work in progress that never stops. Every time I go to the twenty-eight luthe maker, this make my day.
What’s your craziest project about?
Piccola Orchestra Gagarin! I love this trio as it's totally open. Sasha Agranov plays Cello and arrives from Baroque music. Oriol Roca plays drums and arrives from jazz and electronic. The trio is a crossover between all kinds of music. We always improvise the shows and we use a crazy post-soviet imagination, a kind of kitsch approach and an exploration of an imaginary adventure in the space dedicate to Gagarin.
Can you describe a sound experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a musician?
When I met Fred Frith in a workshop on 1993... I was playing in an ensemble of about twenty-eight musicians. All people were so happy, but I couldn't find a space inside the orchestra: everything I did, sounds to me poorly. Then Fred, during the concert, let play the orchestra a crescendo at so strong volume and say: PAOLO! SOLO! I played noise for 1 minute and Fred started laughing. It's been the first time I played aggressive music as I felt aggressive inside of me. There was not separation between the emotion and the sound.
What do you recall about your playing learning process?
I just spend time playing vis a vis with my guitar, looking for sounds, melodies, chords, coordination with my body (as I play by foot like a drummer).
Dream about your perfect instrument.
A bridge like a cello, a neck like a guitar, a more practical pedals system to actions my hammers. Just to have more functionality on my guitar is enough.
What is your relationship with other art disciplines?
I like to fish, and I love to cook! It's a great form of art. I love photography, reportage, probably my favorite disciplines besides music.
Where are your roots? What are your secret influences?
The sea, to stay alone in the night between the Islands in the sea of my village from where I came from: Palau. There are twelve Islands in between and it's amazing to spend time there. Also, looking for mushrooms in the forest. I love to do it and then cook what would arrive from sea and forest. It's great to look for food in nature and cook it.
What would you enjoy most in a music work?
I like if it arrives as fast as possible to my stomach.
If you could, what would you say to yourself 30 years ago, about your musical career?
Jajajaja!! I'm forty-four. This mean at fourteen? I was loving the music exactly with the same intensity of today. I don't care about career. I believe in music and I think we are artisans, we need to have some money to pay the rent like all the people in the world. I started to dream of becoming a musician when I was twelve. But until twenty-three I never supposed I could live only playing concerts.
What quality do you most empathize with in a musician?
Human quality. I detest to play with people if there is not human complicity. Then there is music and the most important is relation with the beat: I need it in the music.
Which living or dead artist would you like to collaborate with?
Björk, Tom Cora and Paco de Lucia.
What instruments and tools do you use?
My prepared. My prepared sardinian guitar, with 18 strings, hammers like piano, 8 propellers, extra bridges, etc, with a crazy system would allow to spatialize each string and use different effects for each string.
What do you like the most about being a musician?
The privilege to do what I really love, to travel and discover how great this planet is and how many different cultures live here. To meet people and know their story and start to have friends in each part of the world sharing and discovering new music.
“… Only the sea that we did not know could protect us, the barbarians of the north feared him (…) The men of the sea caught us (…) after three days and three nights of a tumultuous sea (…) S’u the young woman (…) cut the rope and we looked in the light (…). We tried to learn how to steer the ship (…) The sea jumped on the deck, grabbed S’u and took her away. S’u silently disappeared in the waves …"
Passavamo sulla terra leggeri – Sergio Atzeni
I always thought that man cannot stay still: it is not in his nature. His desire for adventure, powered by the curiosity to know, the hope for a better world, and the desire to escape, has determined the somatic traits of the contemporary man.
S’Û is a hybrid music that tries to describe a self-referential, perched and anachronistic society that raises Walls of Water between the two shores of the Mediterranean.
Everything unfolds in Two Times, as in a 33 rpm vinyl. Inside it, there is the frenzy and the hope of the ship Vlora, the barbed wire and the cicadas that observe Melilla’s jumps and swims. In the memory of Crayons coexist, in an ideal Solid Color, the rock of my adolescence in via Baragge, the Mi and La of the Bosa fishermen, the fog in Bologna and its Free Radios, the Andalusian influences carried by the undertow to the feet of the mine Porto Flavia (dedicated to Paco de Lucia).
S’Û is something that is above, having to do with the layers of paints consumed by the passage of time of an old boat, with Mancina loading and unloading in the thousand ports from where all sea adventures begin.
My reflections do not search for a resolution or a fusion of contrasts, but for their creative coexistence, sometimes in dissonances or harmonious progressions, some other times in homecomings with a handful of chords.
Beyond these words, you choose what you can find inside it …
SALE QUANTO BASTA
(video live “Mascaratu” from “Sale quanto basta”)
Welcome to Paulo's sixth release for ReR, an extraordinary collection of pieces that explore the full range of his highly modified, extended and prepared Sardinian guitar. And although it's just him and electricity, it seldom sounds like fewer than three people playing. There are twelve fine compositions, each as crafted as a short novel, and beautifully recorded. Paulo's is a music that pretty much defies genre or category; accessible, experimental, tuneful, tactile and ambient—with a folk root, a rock inflection, and a contemporary outlook.
‘Tibi’ is the soundtrack to the 10-year photographic documentation of the evolution of the prepared Sardinian guitar. The multimedia performance is based on the interaction between music and animated photography, a creative exchange between Paolo and Nanni Angeli, which finds its maximum emotional value in live performance.
Tibi is the harshness of the brass cut and hammered by Francesco, the memory of layers of acer moulded by Luca and Giancarlo, it is the line in the hands of so many persons who have give life to a choral experience; it is the farewell to a guitar and the birth of its twin sisters.
Paolo Angeli (Italy) prepared Sardinian guitar, vocals
Sasha Agranov (Russia) cello, sampler
Oriol Roca (Spain) drum, objects
A futuristic Don Quixote who lands on the wrong spot—Barcelona gives hospitality to travellers and to their heady mix of Indy pop, dub, minimalism, ‘canti galluresi e logudoresi’ (re-read à la Tom Waits and Umm Kulthum).
Sasha has Russian-Israeli roots and solid bases in baroque music, electronic experimentation, and new circus;
Oriol is among the most important agit-props of the Catalan creative scene and draws a ideal bridge with North European musical research;
Paolo syntheses the link between the avant-garde movements and Sardinian music.
Dressed in fake astronaut outfits, the three musicians re-enact Gagarin’s deeds: a pretext to remind us how essential it is in music to experiment and to dare…