Chain D.L.K.: When you started, back in 1980 electronic music in Italy was represented mainly by Franco Battiato who from his first experimental albums evolved his music to the electronic proto-pop of “L’era del cinghiale bianco”. The only influence you could have had that I might think of is Gary Numan’s Tubeway Army. What was Lisfrank’s genesis?
Lisfrank: My musical formative years began at the beginning of the 70s with the Progressive and Experimental scenes of that era. In 1971 Battiato with “Foetus” and “Pollution” gave me a different vision of music. In that period I played with many bands as drummer and our influences were King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator and Soft Machine passing through the acid psychedelia of Can, etc. I saw a lot of seminal musicians during those period. I’ll always remember the first concert I saw in 1970 with Peter Hammill’s Van Der Graaf Generator. I didn’t know them but I went anyway. It was a great experience, I felt connected with them: poetry, despair, love, joy, life and death, they were expressing everything at the same time. They had the same elements of my paintings! In those years music was an incredible adventure. I liked the German scene with Ash Ra Tempel, the aforementioned Can, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Amon Dull, Faust, Popol Vuh, Cluster, etc. The so-called Cosmic scene. In those years I was devouring sounds and images at a hyper velocity. I was a painter, ceramist, drummer, photographer and comics writer… I was doing everything that was allowing me to express myself. Then, after that, punk music was a blast! That was a great period. In 1979 I went to London and got acquainted with the new alternative scene apart from Gary Numan whom I was already into. I loved all the post-punk scene: Siouxsie And The Banshees, The Cure, Throbbling Gristle, This Heat, Thomas Leer, Wire but especially Cabaret Voltaire, Human League and the Ultravox of the John Foxx period. In London I knew Bauhaus. I listened to “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” played live and it was even more hypnotic than on record. These were my origins!
Chain D.L.K.: How did people, who were still influenced by progressive rock and who got to know punk music, react to Lisfrank?
Lisfrank: I had good reviews on magazines and fanzines, but everything was slow and frustrating as we didn’t have the internet… the places were you could play were really few. It was as though music business in Italy wasn’t aware of anything that was happening outside the country and electronic music was ignored…
Chain D.L.K.: What were your intentions and what were your first joys and disappointments?
Lisfrank: In 1981 I was invited to do a gig in Flocence at the Casablanca with Neon and Rockluka (early Pankow) and it was a great night that I still remember with pleasure. The place was full. Years after I’ve been invited to what later became the Independent Music Meeting, the international fair of the independent labels, in Florence and I partecipated with my Mask Production. These are the joys. As for the disappointments I should write too much but in the end the cause was the parochialism of our scene. Music is music and the composer’s country shouldn’t be relevant: the main thing should be if it is good. Back then some magazines and part of the audience were ignoring Italian new wave or they were confining it to some lame column on the last pages. Now it seems that things are better. About my intentions… I didn’t have any and still don’t have any apart from expressing my feelings and my thoughts. I love music and I love writing it, without boundaries or strategies. My music reflects totally my way of observing life.
Chain D.L.K.: Why did you decide to run your own label, Mask Productions? Didn’t you find any other label interested into your music or you had a wider project in your mind?
Lisfrank: Before starting Mask Productions I went to Milan and proposed myself to some major labels but without succeeding. It was like they were looking at an alien and since I wanted to spread the music I loved, I started my own label. Besides that, I wanted to be free from any kind of interferences as well.
Chain D.L.K.: The graphics of your MLP and of the included poster seem influenced by film noir. Besides music, did Lisfrank have a visual counterpart which was important as well as the sound?
Lisfrank: Yes, I always loved film noir and its atmosphere. Since I was kid I’ve been involved in visual art. At that time I was defining myself a “sound image researcher”. Even after all these years I find it is a definition that fits me. The painting of “Man mask” cover is mine and it’s called “On the surface” and later it turned musically into “In the surface” (see “Mask rewind”). I use synthesizer’s sounds like colors that I have to spread on a canvas and I organize them so as to have at the end a sound picture.
Chain D.L.K.: “Dirty air” is an environmental track, “Man without limits” seems to talk about a superman created by a mad scientist while “Violence in my mind” about an unstoppable wave of violence. All of them seem to incarnate the insanity of the human race. What was your vision of the world back then and what is it now?
Lisfrank: Unfortunately it hasn’t changed much. The problem of people’s incommunicability is even more evident and solitude is its direct consequence. People hide themselves behind a public image, wearing a mask (Man mask). It’s rare to find people that talk to you looking straight into your eyes telling you what they really mean. There’s too much structure and few substance. Man is horrible and marvelous. It has always been. Without honesty relationships are based on diffidence, envy, lies and decay.
Chain D.L.K.: On “Mask rewind” there are missing two tracks we can find on “Man mask”. Why? Wasn’t the reissue a great way to release all available stuff? Do you think they’ll be reissued in the future?
Lisfrank: On “Mask rewind” there are different unreleased tracks recorded during the “Man mask” (“Beat Obscure” and “Dirty Air”) and on the “First relation” sessions (“In The Surface”), tracks that should have been on the unreleased album and others that were only demos (“Out of Control”, “Identity” and “Distant Eyes”). Basically I preferred to give more space to unreleased songs but this doesn’t mean that I won’t reissue the remaining tracks.
Chain D.L.K.: Why did you decide to stop Mask Productions after the third release?
Lisfrank: I had huge distribution problems. Then Italo-disco was ruling and for the big distributors that was the business. The feeling was that they didn’t care that much about music. I tried alternative solutions but exporting our music was difficult. I sold records with my mail-order almost as much as the official distribution. Now with the internet, world is the market. Back then you had to face a small Italian market but this wasn’t true only for myself… a lot of bands were deserving more attention.
Chain D.L.K.: Have you ever thought of reissuing your music before Fulvio Delprato got in contact with you?
Lisfrank: Even though during these years I’ve always composed, before getting to know Marc I never thought about releasing something new. Sincerely I feel grateful to Fulvio and to Marc and his team at Anna Logue’s because of their enthusiasm. They led me to reconsider my position.
Chain D.L.K.: I read that Lisfrank is on the road again. What are your future projects and what does your music sound like in 2010?
Lisfrank: I’m recording stuff I have composed during these years. My way of living music is always the same and the same goes for the instruments I use. For sure I’ve grown up and this will influence my music. I’m working thinking only of how to be satisfied with the final result.
Visit Lisfrank on the web at:
[interviewed by Maurizio Pustianaz] [proofreading by Marco Pustianaz]