On the occasion of her second solo album on Boring Machines, Italian singer and guitarist Marcella Riccardi (Blake/e/e/e, Franklin Delano, Massimo Volume) under the guise of BeMyDelay, her solo project, put aside loopers and delays in favor of a simpler texture of light bluesy arpeggios to give space to her beautiful freely floating voice. The subtle instrumental support of Maurizio Abate (bass, electric guitars, lapsteel, harmonica, tampura) complements BeMyDelay‘s minimal guitar plucking with a gentle and somehow daydreaming flow, which sounds pleasantly human and rural. We had a chat with Marcella around the time of her new release and her interesting musical background. “Hazy Lights” comes out on Boring Machines.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Marcella. How are you?
Marcella Riccardi: Ciao Vito, pretty well thanks. Just came back from a small tour with guitar player Chuck Johnson, it has been a really nice encounter. He comes from North Carolina and taught me some rural parlor guitar tunes, great!
Chain D.L.K.: Compliments on your artistic path and your last album… let’s introduce our readers to all of that… first off, could you introduce yourself and your background?
Marcella Riccardi: I’m a self-taught musician, singer and composer living in Bologna, Italy. I started my “professional” career in 1999 with Italian cult band Massimo Volume. I took my first steps as a guitar player and then expanded my interests to vocals, keyboards, electronics and every instrument I could put my hands on.
Chain D.L.K.: You did a bunch of collaborations along that path… would you define them just as an intersection of artistic visions or a mutual interchange?
Marcella Riccardi: Every musician, project and person I met during my life has taught me something. I tend to be very open in relationships, I like the feeling of being challenged by other’s ideas. Music has always been the best way for me to work through everything in my life I guess.
Chain D.L.K.: A certain interest for Blake’s visionary and highly symbolic poetry comes through quite clearly: you named the band “Blake/e/e/e” and you started “Hazy Lights” by singing a poem, “I Feared The Fury Of My Wind”, from Lyrics From The Notebook… how did you discovered William Blake? What are the main connections with your artistic vision or mission?
Marcella Riccardi: I’ve been reading William Blake since I was 17. I discovered him thanks to Andrea Pazienza, who illustrated some proverbs of hell in one of his books. Those proverbs really impressed me. His poetry is visionary, prophetic and spiritual without being religious. He enhanced the idea that god shines in us, without any redundancy. He is very close to some buddhist teachings in my opinion. And his poems are just so incredible, they talk to you.
Chain D.L.K.: Why did you call your personal project “BeMyDelay”?
Marcella Riccardi: For no particular reason. Back in 2011, when I was starting my solo project, a dear friend and promoter from Bologna, Giovanni Gandolfi, asked me out of the blue to play live. Of course he wanted to know the name of my new project. He called me while I was with my friends drinking heavy alcoholic drinks. I had to make up a name very fast and that was the result.
Chain D.L.K.: You already played “Hazy Lights” live on stage… what was people’s reaction? Any impressions from listeners that made you happy or sad for some particular reason?
Marcella Riccardi: Yes, I already did an Eastern Europe tour and many gigs in Italy and France. I played also in different circuits, but I’m more accustomed to experimental or noise music. Sometimes people tell me that I made them cry, sometimes they just lay down on the floor and listen, eyes closed. Every reaction is a good reaction to me, it means that I channel something, I convey some sort of energy. I like the idea of myself as a medium through whom some kind of spirit communicates.
Chain D.L.K.: On “Hazy Lights”, Maurizio Abate seems to emphasize your voice with his instrumental paltry but relevant contribution… how would you describe this collaboration? One might be lead to believe that many singers can be a bit fussy, have you experienced any crossed wires while recording tracks?
Marcella Riccardi: The collaboration with Maurizio Abate has been crucial to the record. At first I composed and recorded the songs by myself but I knew I needed somebody to collaborate with. Something was missing, maybe the third mind, the mind that is there when two minds collaborate, as William Burroughs and Brion Gyosin say in their namesake book. Maurizio is an incredible musician and really skilled sound engineer. We recorded with his reel-to-reel tape recorder at my house. He really captured the essence of the songs and added some amazing psychedelia to them.
Chain D.L.K.: Let’s take a closer look to some of the songs of “Hazy Lights”, if possible… is there any a song which echoes in your mind for whatever circumstances?
Marcella Riccardi: The songs have sprung out from my subconscious, my approach to music is totally non-conceptual. So, yes, they often resound in my mind, but at the same time putting certain feelings in music or emotions is a sort of mental hygiene, helps you take some distance from them.
Chain D.L.K.: Why did you write “Farewell Love”? Any specific addressee?
Marcella Riccardi: “Farewell Love” is about a depart that could be forever or not. However this is not so important because the meeting has already made deep changes, the kind of changes from which you can not go back. The song is about an epiphany, satori, enlightenment, as you like to call it.
Chain D.L.K.: Does “Roses and Snow” come from a dream or a real experience?
Marcella Riccardi: As I said before my method of composition is really visceral, non-logic. Every time I write a song I am in a dreamlike state of mind. The song is about a happy surrender, a strong desire to sacrifice your own identity in favour of a total fusion with somebody else. This decision brings you to a never-felt-before peace of mind.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s silence in your own words? What’s your intimate relation with silence?
Marcella Riccardi: To me silence is a conquest, a daily victory against restlessness and anxiety and their counterparts: depression and apathy. The outside world is screaming in your brain, with thousands of voices, all the time. It’s hard to understand who you really are if you pay attention to them. You need some silence in your head. It’s hard.
Chain D.L.K.: You made love with the darkness… how come?
Marcella Riccardi: When your desires and needs are outside yourself you are condemned to darkness. Whatever happens happens, what is lost is lost, you cannot do anything about that. The real strength comes from within, if you do not accept what happens to you, you will never get out of the dark.
Chain D.L.K.: Why have you decided to end “Hazy Lights” on “Mottetto della sera d’aprile”?
Marcella Riccardi: I really loved that poem, I encountered it one night, just picking up a random book from my table. A mottetto is a musical form originally created for Gregorian music but then used also for secular music. This poem by Alfonso Gatto is made up of four stanzas, perfect for singing, it already contained the music I needed, it was easy. I particularly love the end of the poem when it says “sei come i grandi cieli che fuggono la terra” [“you’re like great skies which escape earth”], it’s a really beautiful metaphor for an intense but yet fleeting entity. It was a perfect ending for the album to me.
Chain D.L.K.: You played three coast-to-coast tours in the US, four European tours and many gigs in Italy… is there any gig which you like to remember?
Marcella Riccardi: I usually remember the weirdest situations, not the best ones. For example the “cuddle room” where we had to sleep after a show in a small city in South Carolina: in the heart of the night a naked guy appeared asking for some cuddles… Or sleeping on the same stage where we just played: if I knew that I wouldn’t have smoked so much or spilled beer during the show! Or the first gig I played with Massimo Volume: they asked me to go on stage before them and start playing, it scared the shit out of me! Recently I’ve been in Eastern Europe and I really enjoyed it, it was one of my favourite tours ever. People are so creative, they make the best out of what they have without complaining. There some magic over there, or at least it’s what I’ve felt.
Chain D.L.K.: What about the cover artwork of “Hazy Lights”?
Marcella Riccardi: At first I wanted to take care of the artwork by myself but after some attempts I realized that I couldn’t do it. So I contacted Eva G., a great artist and performer living in Bologna. She is a dear friend as well. I asked her to do the artwork two days before the deadline and she just did such a great job! Moreover looking at the artwork while I am on tour makes me feel that she is with me all the time.
Chain D.L.K.: Any forthcoming gigs or projects?
Marcella Riccardi: I am planning the autumn tours right now. I really want to go back to Sicily as it has been the first place to welcome me when I started this solo project. If somebody from Sicily is reading this please give me a call! I am also collaborating with other projects where I am not the main composer, hopefully some records will be out soon. I am also collaborating with an art space called “Spazio Elastico” and other small spaces in Bologna for live shows. For some kind of music it’s pretty hard to play in Bologna, so I try to do my best to find a space for it. In the past two years Charalambides and Tom Carter came here, and Ensemble Economique, High Wolf, Julie Doiron, Jooklo Duo w/Arryngton De Dyoniso and Bill Nace, Kuupuu, Eternal Zio, HMWWAWCIAWCCW?, Marisa Anderson and many many others.
visit BeMyDelay’s Soundcloud on the web at: soundcloud.com/bemydelay