We had a chat with Cristiano Luciani, aka Cris X, an Italian noise/sound and visual artist who gained praise for his astonishing exhibitions that have been featured all over the world, and his collaborations with big names in the electronic/noise scene such as Merzbow, Maurizio Bianchi, Eugene Chadbourne, Gene Coleman, Ken Ueno, Sonic Pleasure, IOIOI and many more. His recent collaborative releases with Kazuyuki Kishino, aka KK Null (“Genshi Wakusei”, Japanese title meaning “Proto Planet”, on Cristiano’s own label CX), and Japanese pianist and vocal performer Keiko Higuchi for Sachiko’s imprint Musik Atlach, which I warmly recommend, are further evidence of his talent.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Cristiano. How are you?
Cris X: Hi, I’m fine, thanks.
Chain D.L.K.: I have to thank you for letting me know about some of your stunning collaborative releases… but before speaking about them, could you briefly describe your artistic background and early musical interests?
Cris X: I studied painting and art history at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. I’m a painter and engraver, and I also play music and make videos.
When I was a child my father gave me the opportunity to listen to lots of music (he collected vinyls), especially classic rock and blues.
As a teenager I loved to listen to rock’n’roll, punk rock and noise rock.
When I was around 20-25 years old I discovered free jazz, improvisation, music concrète and electronic.
Chain D.L.K.: You manage your own label, CX Records… I’m guessing you named it after your moniker, but it also seems to play on the ambivalence if someone refers to it as the notorious noise-reduction technology for vinyls…
Cris X: Yeah, I did release my first two splits LP’s with MB and Merzbow just on a vinyl, limited edition on 300 copies.
Chain D.L.K.: I read an interview with Merzbow a long time ago, in which this authentic legend from the so-called “Japanoise” scene made an association between noise and pornography by stating that pornography is the unconsciousness of sex, and noise is the unconsciousness of music. Do you agree with Merzbow’s perspective?
Cris X: Yes I agree with Masami Akita’s perspective.
Chain D.L.K.: When did you fall in love with noise?
Cris X: I’ve always found noises really interesting. When I was very young I recorded a lot of sounds from everyday life on my cheap tape recorder.
I probably started to be fascinated by noise and improvisation music when I saw AMM playing a gig at Angelica Festival in Bologna many years ago.
After that concert I decided to make noise music with various types of equipment. At first I fell in love with the contact microphones, but also different home-made electronics and objects (kitchen tools, plastic, paper, marbles, metals…).
Chain D.L.K.: A propos of noise, I would guess you talked about the scene with a number of people over the years… what’s the funniest definition of noise you heard? What’s yours?
Cris X: The funniest that I heard was: “That’s ***” (but as a compliment). Personally I don’t have funny definitions about noise music… maybe I’m too serious, ahah…
Chain D.L.K.: How do you balance improvisation and composition in your own music?
Cris X: Usually I really love to make improvisations when I do live collaborations. As a solo musician I prefer to make compositions. But the process of my compositions is coming from improvisations. I like to combine and edit the sounds to create soundtracks for imaginary movies.
Chain D.L.K.: Your collaboration with KK Null could be considered an excellent way to turn noise into something almost ecstatic. Can you tell us something about the birth of this collaboration and that great recording?
Cris X: I decided to collaborate with Kazuyuki because I love his solo electronic works. I found his noise approach musical and visionary. I’ve met him in Rome and I saw his solo performance.
I gave him my releases and then we stayed in contact by email.
Of course I was really happy to release this work and also to play live with him.
Chain D.L.K.: Some moments of that record sound like the curdling of many different sonic entities. What did you have in mind while recording it?
Cris X: While we were making the music I thought about the world’s apocalypse: a sonic journey into an ambient-expressionist disaster. When KK Null decided on the title I was so surprised. He said to me: “(…) “Proto Planet” because our music brings to my mind images of the prehistoric world when organisms and life started to exist through a chaotic process and enormous vital energy”.
Chain D.L.K.: In what direction do you think the whole electronic noise scene is heading? Would you say it follows the same dynamics of fashion or not?
Cris X: I think that now there are so many musicians and they have different approaches to noise, improvisation and electronic music and that is a good thing. I don’t think that there is a particular scene now. There are a bunch of friends and collaborators throughout the experimental scene.
Some musicians are following the dynamics of fashion and they change approach or genre.
Chain D.L.K.: Let’s talk about your new album. I noticed you included “In obscurity”, a track which was previously released on your split record with Merzbow. It sounded to me like it was recorded at a different time than the other tracks – is that true?
Cris X: The 4 tracks of “Melt” were recorded during the same session of “In Obscurity”. My idea for that split project was to make three different compositions: one instrumental track and two with vocals (of Keiko and Sachiko). We were both happy with the whole thing and decided to put that song on the album too.
Chain D.L.K.: Keiko Higuchi features a really astonishing vocal interpretation and I have to say that it sometimes reminded me of something in between Diamanda Galas and some jazz female voices. How did you meet her and when did you think about the possibility of collaborating?
Cris X: I met her 5 years ago in Tokyo at Bar Gari-Gari before my gig with a noise Italian band called Sprinter vs Stalin. We talked about our music experiences and then traded our releases. A year later she wrote me an email and asked me to organize her solo gig in Rome. I did it and we also played an improvisation as a duo at Fanfulla 101 (we made the live sonorization of “La Jetèe” by Chris Marker). She came to Rome for a week so I suggested we record something together. I was very interested in the possibility of creating a cinematic and dark atmosphere in her songs.
Chain D.L.K.: What and who does she “silence” at the beginning of “Sister/You Left Me So Insane”?
Cris X: She made it. It is very theatrical; I like that.
Chain D.L.K.: Does “Melt” follow a somehow narrative plot?
Cris X: It was a miraculous recording session. We didn’t rehearse at all and we played and recorded the entire songs just once.
We took a few hours to do the live recordings, but I put some other sounds in later and I’ve spent more than a year on the mixing.
I feel that there is a narrative atmosphere, but it was a spontaneous recording session.
Chain D.L.K.: You recorded “Melt” in Rome… did Rome influence the recording in one way or another?
Cris X: I think that we were influenced by our personal obsessions… perhaps, we were also unconsciousnessely influenced by the city.
Chain D.L.K.: Have you brought “Melt” on live stage yet? If so, what was the audience’s feedback?
Cris X: We presented the work in Tokyo a few months ago and it was an intimate performance. The audience was made up of some experimental Japanese musicians and friends. After that performance, Hiroshi Hasegawa told me that my performance was very sensitive; I found his words really nice and encouraging. I would love to have more gigs in the future.
Chain D.L.K.: I read that you recently had a tour in Japan… any anecdote you’d like to share about it?
Cris X: I have lots of nice memories from my tour. I loved to play with KK Null and Astro (Hiroshi Hasegawa and his wife, Hiroko Hasegawa); these performances were very strong and pretty impressive. We also became good friends, which is great.
I was also very happy to play with Keiko and Sachiko (she released my collaboration with Keiko on her label “Musik Atlach”).
I loved to see Merzobow’s solo gig and I met him and his wife after the concert.
It was nice to meet Mayuko Hino (the ex member of the noise project C.C.C.C.); she is one of the the most sensitive and intelligent women I’ve ever met. I hope to play music with her one day.
I always love visiting Japan. I like the people, the music scene and the landscapes, and I’m also studying Japanese Buddhism.
Chain D.L.K.: You know the Japanese scene very well… is there any performer or noise artist that is still unknown on this side of the planet that you’d like to introduce to us?
Cris X: I met this young girl, Yuko Ikema, the girlfriend of Ueno Takashi from the band Tenniscoats, and she gave me her first cd, “Excuse me”. She doesn’t play noise, but she plays beautiful Japanese folk songs. I enjoyed the noise performance of “Black Thelephone666” (Kuro Denwa). I also received the latest LP of Rinji Fukuoka (who is a great musician and a very sweet guy) with Junko and Michel Henritzi. It is a great work and, even if they are not unknown, I want to recommend it.
Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?
Cris X: I’m working on my new solo album and on a dvd release with some artistic videos (I’ll probably add a short documentary about my sound installation at the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome). In the italian music scene I’m doing a collaboration with Deison and Luminance Ratio band. I’m also in contact with Pietro Riparbelli (K-11). I will collaborate with KK Null, Astro, Yoko Higashi, and I have other projects in the future…
visit Cris X on the web at: