Chain D.L.K.: At the end of the ’80s your first releases were coming out on Minus Habens, and thus you took part in the first wave of electronic and industrial music. What do you think of it in retrospect?
Mauro Teho Teardo: I was a teenager when I was first involved. My approach was so naive, I had the chance to grow up in public releasing several works. Probably that wasn’t always good for me because some records were mainly personal experiments that should have been developed differently, but in general I am still happy with my first LP, Caught From Behind. On that one I asked Steven Stapleton from Nurse With Wound and Gary Mundy from Ramleh to collaborate with me. Basically I had no idea of how to get an album together and their records were so inspiring, so I thought that their help could have been good for me. Lately I sampled sections of that album for a soundtrack. Those years were so interesting for the amount of good releases — labels like United Dairies, Laylah, Touch put out a lot of great music. It’s so strange that nowadays there’s so much music defined by several critics as experimental but it’s still back there, 20 years ago, so I wonder where have you been until now?
Chain D.L.K.: …Great, it makes me wonder:a) Is it the next trend? I mean, first came the new punk explosion, later post-punk, funk-punk or the new wave revival. What if the next step (now) would be an industrial revival?
Mauro Teho Teardo: I don’t know, I have the feeling that this left-wing experimental world seems to be still pretty small to have enough visibility to become bigger, but you never know. I hate any kind of revival, just a waste of time.
Chain D.L.K.: b) …It looks like you more go much further in comparison to my conclusion, do you think the eighties were a prolific period for experimental music (or music in general)?
Mauro Teho Teardo: The eighties were a decade in which experimentation happened in various kinds of music, also pop music. But every time has its good and bad sides. Nowadays there’s a lot of interesting experimental music and I like when people try to forget about cultural boundaries to take a quick look at further possibilities that are already part of music.
Chain D.L.K.: What do you mean by this “left-wing experimental world”? It’s a strange statement for somebody whose record (I’m talking about Here’s “Brooklyn Bank”) came out on a left-winged label such as Consorzio Produttori Indipendenti?
Mauro Teho Teardo: I think of music like Nurse With Wound, Asmus Tietchens, Organum. Not a statement, just a kind of music, not necessarily connected to some political party. Nothing to do with C.P.I. who released the Here album.
Chain D.L.K.: Meathead had been become quite popular considering they were an alternative band. Why have you split?
Mauro Teho Teardo: 1991-1996 was such a long time for a band that actually didn’t really exist. The first Meathead album is basically a solo record with worldwide collaborations, the people on the cover were just friends I needed to be on the cover because I wanted it to look like a real band. I thought it could have been good for an album, then Meathead went on for several albums and we did many tours and played so many shows with many, many bands and collaborated with many musicians. Meathead finished in 1996 because I thought we said all we had to say and keeping the band going sounded useless. It was more interesting working on other projects.
Chain D.L.K.: J. F. Coleman, Scott McCloud, Lydia Lunch, Mick Harris, Erik Friedlander. I remember you’d met Phyler Coleman in a parking lot, right? But how did you meet the others?
Mauro Teho Teardo: Jim and I met at a festival where his band Cop Shoot Cop and Meathead were both on the same bill. Later we started talking about a possible collaboration, then I went to Brooklyn and we began writing the Here album. The others? I met them through the music, shows, writing letters, sending out my music. In the most normal way, you write and someone answers, in cases where they like the music we start doing something together. Music is connected to friendship and for example I have some of my best friends in the music scene. Jim Coleman was my witness at my wedding. I also think some people sooner or later have the chance to meet, nothing already planned by destiny; I’d rather say that some people should definitely meet. It’s such a long list, what counts is trying hard to be on the list. I met Scott in New York, Girls vs. Boys were very popular then, like the next big thing. He came into the studio while we were recording the Here album and from then on we kept in touch ’til when he asked me to get together a project with him, so we started working on Operator. I has such a great time working with him. We’re now working on the second album, same thing for Here, we’re actually mixing the second album.
Chain D.L.K.: I’ve noticed you used one of the Here songs (with a different singer) for the soundtrack of Gabriele Salvaores’ “Denti”.
Mauro Teho Teardo: No, there are no Here tracks on that soundtrack, the only song with a voice I did is “Word Back” that has been sung by Mara Redeghier of Ustmamo’. What’s fun is that song was sort of written thinking about the next Here album, but then we ended up working on other songs and tracks.I love working on soundtracks, it’s always interesting testing the emotional potential of music.
Chain D.L.K.: Well, what about soundtracks…are you able to earn a living with them or are you a “part-time” musician?
Mauro Teho Teardo: Yes I can make a living with my music. It’s so hard, really hard, but I am glad it works.
Chain D.L.K.: How did it start? For example Ennio Morricone started when it was not so hard for a composer to find a place as a soundtrack writer, and the same goes for Lustmord — when he got his first commissions Hollywood was not that “crowded” with musicians. But how has it happened with you?
Mauro Teho Teardo: The first soundtrack I worked on was for Gabriele Salvatores’ “Denti”, a great movie, dark and moody, my music fits well with those atmospheres. Only then I found out my music could develop a cinematic quality and so I started pursuing that direction even further, and it opened new expressive possibilities. It happened because Gabriele heard Here’s album Brooklyn Bank, which is an album that has a strong visual dimension. Then one movie often leads to another, but it’s so hard because in Italy most of the big directors are quite old and contemporary music is so far from them and they prefer to use classic orchestrations rather than electronic music. Young directors have such a hard time getting some attention, that’s why it’s difficult to get jobs there. This particular moment sees Italian cinema in such bad shape due to lack of financial investments but it also reflects the decadence of a country in which culture seems to be less and less important.
Chain D.L.K.: A touchy subject here: I’ve read you were part of the original El Munira’s line up (a band with the singer of Massimo Volume, quite popular in Italy). In many interviews you answered in a really diplomatic way, but the rumor was you were totally disappointed by your bandmates.
Mauro Teho Teardo: Sometimes rumours are true. It was such a big disappointment, both in musical and human terms. If I think about it now I can only laugh, but back then I wasn’t laughing at all. We didn’t play that much together, I was rather busy trying to fix the material they came up with: most times it was off beat, out of tune. It was ridiculous, totally superficial. I don’t pretend to deal with the best musicians in the world, technique isn’t the main thing to me, but you have to be able to express yourself. It doesn’t matter how, but you should know how to do it without asking other people to do it for you. It has to do with taking responsibility with your own sources. The music was embarrassing and I found it quite useless wasting time adjusting samples, beats, getting songs in shape. They definitely needed someone to fix and organize their mess because they had no idea on how to get it all together, and that’s why their album is full of guests. Such a long way from making music together. Actually I couldn’t see the point making a record under those circumstances. They wanted to go to Tangiers, Morocco, only because making a record down there could have been cool for the press, for the image…. We ended up in such a filthy hotel, dirty, fucked up and scary. They looked so decadent in Morocco, out of place and pathetic because their focus was the place rather than the quality of music. You can’t make an album without ideas, and I don’t see the point using only someone else’s material. After a few days and several useless discussions I decided to quit working with them and spent the rest of my time in Morocco making music on my own. I guess they went out for a walk, for days…. I have been collaborating with so many people all over the world and I am still doing it, but I never had problems like I had with them. Music is a necessity to express yourself, an urgency to say the things you have to say. If you don’t have much to say or if you can’t express yourself as you’d like to do, at that point it’s better to shut up and enjoy life, it’s less frustrating and you don’t look so desperate. The results are out there, available to everyone….
Chain D.L.K.: Ok. Last and most important: I know the new Modern Institute record is already out and you told me you’re working on a new soundtrack, can you tell us a bit more? And what else is in the store?
Mauro Teho Teardo: Yes, Modern Institute’s debut album Excellent Swimmer just came out on Expanding records, a really interesting electronic label in London; the album is receiving a really great response. We’ll play in London to present it at the Spitz on June 29th. I am currently working on the soundtrack of “L’Amico di Famiglia” the new movie by Paolo Sorrentino, it’ll be presented at the Cannes Film Festival. I’ve recorded an album inspired by Pasolini’s poetry with cellist Erik Friedlander, an amazing cellist who plays with John Zorn’s Masada. The album will be released by French label Bip_Hop.
Visit Mauro Teho Teardo on the web at:
[interviewed by Andrea Ferraris] [proofreading by Benjamin Pike]