It could sound weird that the cover artwork for his recent release “La finestra dentata” (Italian for “The toothed window”) was not designed, but the Swiss-Italian musician, composer and graphic designer Marco Papiro (also teacher at the Schule fr Gestaltung in Basel), who gained a certain notoriety for the graphics (posters and album covers) for pretty known artists like Panda Bear, Oren Ambarchi, Sun Araw and Sonic Boom, only cared the aural content of this release. By the way the nicely swirling sounds of “La finestra dentata” (out on Marionette M16 on May 21st), often seems to draw fractal patterns by its hooks to generative electronic music, and its fascinating and almost hypnotical melting pot of styles fully mirrors the multifaceted musical approach to the composition by its author. Let’s know him better.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Marco! How are you doing?
Papiro: Very good, thanks. Likewise I hope.
Chain D.L.K.: I was pretty delighted by your recent output ‘La finestra dentata’. Besides focusing on that, let’s make a sort of introduction to our readers… how did you start playing with sounds? Any artist, software tool, instrument, family member, and/or experience that acted as a sparkle or source for inspiration?
Papiro: Thanks for the compliment. I started with the violin when I was six years old, and spent almost ten years in an amateur orchestra and the church choir. As a kid I didn’t really know anything else besides European classical music. Except for soundtracks, especially Italian comedies and Science-Fiction movies, I suppose you can still hear those influences. We had a reel-to-reel tape machine at home, and I remember making prank calls with that, with altered voices and such. Around 17 I discovered everything at once, I had some new friends who were 20 years older, with thousands of LPs at home – I had no idea that such music could even exist! Edgy, strange, but beautiful at the same time. I couldn’t point out any particular album, there was stuff from the sixties, avant-garde, industrial, music from all over the world … to me they were all connected, and I couldn’t get enough. It was an epiphany. One of those friends had this unknown instrument with lots of knobs collecting dust on top of a cupboard, it looked like it was coming from the future. That was my first synthesizer, and basically with that I started again from scratch.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the fil rouge joining all your albums (besides the author of course)?
Papiro: I hope there is one, but I’m not sure. Sometimes I wish I had thought of a complete concept for the years to come back when I started, but I didn’t. I guess it’s a summary of my limitations, my memory, and my curiosity – and trying to be as honest as possible about it. But these parameters might also have shifted over the years.
Chain D.L.K.: I really enjoyed the ‘kaleidophonic’ suites you inserted in “La finestra dentata”. I read that you recorded (both in-studio and live) its tracks in a time span of almost five years. Why did you decide to collect them in this album, if we can call it so?
Papiro: I love to play them live, I thought it would be nice to have a version for domestic use too. “La finestra dentata” itself has evolved a lot over the years, though the first version was quite different, very electronic, basically just dueling LFOs creating pulses – that was my idea of disco, a very jittery, unsynced but powerful dance track. Ok, a lot of people were turned off by it, but I remember some intense nights too, ecstatic, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. But that version needs volume, so depending on the occasion it drifted into something that would work also in smaller venues – or on record. Anelli was interesting because I used to work with a digital version of the classic tape loop technique, so when I was on tour I would still have the recording of the previous night as a starting point, and as soon as I started playing that recording would have been slowly overwritten by a new one and so on. Sometimes it was scary to be in a new place and hearing the vibes of the last concert. I should do this again sometime.
Chain D.L.K.: ‘La finestra dentata’, ‘Il grande anatroccolo’, ‘Il triciclo nascosto’, ‘Romeo on the Beach’, ‘Barbadura’ and so on… titles that could perfectly fit fairytales and fables or maybe to distorted titles of known fables (‘Barbanera’, ‘Il brutto anatroccolo’…) as well. Is there any connection between fairy tales and your art?
Papiro: My nine-year-old son helped me with the titles, he’s much better than me. I particularly like “Il triciclo nascosto”, I could never come up with a title like that. It’s like a complete story in three words.
Chain D.L.K.: Some moments reminded some hypnagogic ambient of the 90ies. For example, the lovely ‘Anelli’ reminded me of some stuff by Adam Douglas’ Deeper Than Space project or some outputs by Kim Cascone, or we want to go even earlier in time to some minimalistic daydreaming suites by Terry Riley… Do you have any miliar stones that you like to take as a milestone in your listening?
Papiro: I like some of Terry Riley’s music a lot, yes. I don’t know the other names though, sorry, I will check them out. There have always been a lot of influences, though maybe not a particular artist or piece, in most cases, it was maybe a very particular sound or a certain approach, an atmosphere … maybe just two seconds of a song that would otherwise be something totally unrelated.
Chain D.L.K.: You defined your live sets as therapeutic. Can you explain why?
Papiro: Well, that was a bold statement. Maybe more like a massage?
Chain D.L.K.: Why did you choose that cover artwork for “La finestra dentata”?
Papiro: I didn’t. I allowed Benjamin total freedom for the artwork, and I don’t regret it. Thinking of it, I never asked him why he came up with a skeleton.
Chain D.L.K.: Could say you did some aural cameo of character coming out of your fantasy. What about ‘Bodulator’?
Papiro: I don’t know, I just liked the word. It sounds like some sort of cyborg, no?
Chain D.L.K.: Do you have any ‘fantasy’ approach to the choice of audio tool, synths, effects or keyboards? Did you give any special name to any of them?
Papiro: I think every musician has some sort of connection with his instrument. And of course, I like these synths a lot, they’ve been with me for a long time, but I’m generally not very attached to stuff. And you have to remember, I started using synthesizers by chance, and partly because they were so available and cheap – a lot of people were literally throwing them away, so they were like abandoned animals. I’m aware that this has changed over the years, and now I could never afford them. I’m not religious about the vintage analog gear being better or anything, I think you should be able to make music with whatever you get. But back in the day to me, these synths were exactly that: found objects. I suppose I like electronic instruments because they allow me to work alone, but I don’t see myself exclusively as an electronic musician.
Chain D.L.K.: Any word about your artistic collaborations? Is there any collaborative work that enriched your art or technique more than others?
Papiro: I’m not very good with collaborations, I’m afraid. Daniel Buess has been very important to me, his energy was incredible and I owe him a lot. Markus Sthli of Roy & the Devil’s Motorcycle has influenced me on many levels – not just musically. But there is no distinction between music and life.
Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?
Papiro: Currently, I’m in the middle of the rehearsals for my first ensemble composition, a commission by Ensemble Phoenix Basel. There will be several live performances this week, so I’m getting excited. But besides that there is always something cooking, I don’t need a particular goal to work.