Sunday, November 13, 2011

Off the Record: a phone interview with Gionata Mirai (Il Teatro degli Orrori, Super Elastic Bubble Plastic)

Dear readers/listeners, here's the transcription in English of the interview I had with Gionata Mirai about his debut solo album, last Friday on the UP! show. Italian speakers can listen to the podcast uploaded below. For those who do not know him yet, Gionata is the guitar player for two of the most vital indie Italian bands: he started with Super Elastic Bubble Plastic and then went on to form Il Teatro degli Orrori with members of another influential Italian band, One Dimensional Band. At the moment Gionata is busy promoting his first solo effort, totally based on his 12-string guitar played  finger-picking style, while early next year will see the release of Il Teatro's third full album... Here's what he told me on the phone!

UKN: So, Gionata, tell us about the genesis of this work, totally based on your guitar played fingerpicking-style, something that Teatro and Super Elastic fans wouldn't have probably expected to hear... I wouldn't have either!

GM: Well, I like to explore, since luckily I've been a musician for a while, it is also my job (so they say), I like to do different things without ever repeating myself, and this is to start with... When Teatro degli Orrori's tour ended last December I took a couple of months off to recover from it since I was a little bit worn out, so I had the chance to stop for a while,to relax and to take a look at the world around from my home, from my solitary point of view in a way, in the meantime the Fukushima disaster happened and this event affected me a lot, also because my woman has daily contacts with Japan so we lived this thing very deeply... So I was playing around with my old 12-string guitar that I hadn't touched in years and in 20-days I wrote "Allusioni". My idea was just to make a solo album while my first idea might have been to make a folk record, maybe sung in Italian or English... But this is what came out in 20 days, I guess it had to go like this... Or something else would have happened! So this is something I discovered myself and that I didn't expect either, opening a whole new channel of exploration and technique on the guitar that deserved being on a record.

UKN: This record has very melancholic atmospheres with some minimal variations in these 24 minutes...
GM: ...Which are colors of a single shade, there is a base chord that becomes colored with little nuances that create this basic atmosphere, there are no definite purposes, the 12-string guitar lends itself pretty well to this, the more you listen to it the more you can find melodies that fit together and go on at the same time, like layers of melodies. This is what can happen with a 12-string guitar!

UKN: A little curiosity: did you record this live or with several overdubs?
GM: No, no overdubs. I play the whole 24-minutes piece live at a stretch, the recording is divided in 5 parts which correspond to the 5 different movements, even though they're executed without interruption. I produced two takes of every piece in the studio and then I used the better of the two. It took two hours to record it.

UKN: So we can say that what we hear is all live...
GM: Yes, yes, there wasn't much editing, just the "joint" between one track and the next one... There was a pause at one point and the second part, from this pause onwards, was a better take so I just substituted that... Nothing more. It's just me, naked, in front of 7 microphones with my guitar and nothing else

UKN: Sometimes it feels like there's more than one guitar player there, a very nice feeling, especially when you listen to it with your headphones...
GM: This is the magic of 12-string guitars, the discovery I made was that, you can manage the sound and the harmonies in a way that it seems there are like 4 players but in fact there's only me... This is really cool since you're completely independent. Of course this lends itself to many other applications but it was a discovery to apply that to a different context, I discovered something for myself and it's a real satisfaction.

UKN: You're touring this record at the moment...
GM: Yes, I started the "Allusioni" tour last week, I already played 4 gigs, I played Arezzo, San Benedetto del Tronto, (a place near) Salerno and Naples in Campania; this Sunday I'm in Sermide in the province of Mantua, in a very small but nice ARCI club called Chinaski and next week I'll be in Belgium, since I set up a little tour there with some friends that helped organize 4 tours for Super Elastic in the past, I'll go see them and take a vacation too although I'll play there 6 out of 7 days but I will see friends and then it never hurts to get around abroad! Something different from the usual... Then I'll come back to Italy and continue the tour until February I think, for now I just published the dates up to late December/January, since there's still a few months time... The next dates will be known next year, in a little bit.

UKN: Do you know if there'll be any dates here in our region, or at least in the Triveneto area?
GM: I'll be in Marghera for the "Notte della Tempesta" festival on December 3, that's for sure, then I'd like to do something in January in the Venice area, I know there;s a lot of nice places there, I'll play in Conegliano Veneto, is it in Friuli or Veneto?

UKN: It's in Veneto...
GM: Ah OK, I'll play there January 4...

UKN: So here in Friuli there's nothing ready yet...
GM: No... There might be a date in Triest though, anyway all the dates are available online, I can't remember all of them right now but they're easy to find...

UKN: How has the public's response been so far?
GM: Very particular, I'm playing very small clubs if possible because I want to create some kind of domestic atmosphere so to speak, I appreciate if people just sit down in this context... It sounds weird for me to say that since I always love to see people mosh in front of me! Anyway the gigs went really well, I was happy, people were happy and thanking me for taking them around for about 45 minutes... The concert lasts a little bit more than the record since I play other songs... I play "Allusioni" for 30 minutes and then 2-3 unreleased tracks, always instrumentals with the 12-strings guitar... It becomes a folk music concert. This way people can have fun without getting too bored, I don't mean to bore people with my guitar paranoia.  So yeah, the gigs went really good, everybody was happy, really nice, there are moments when you can almost feel what they're thinking how people are living this thing while they're in front of you, you can feel when intensity is lowering and they're losing concentration so I push a little bit more and they "recover". It's something you can feel without looking in their faces, it's really cool.

UKN: So there haven't been any awkward "Nick Drake" moments, remember when he played those few live concerts and people wouldn't pay attention to him... Pity for them... After all your record is a really demanding listen...
GM: Not at the moment. I think people that come to my concerts know what awaits them, it was streamed on the Rockit website for a week, 6.000 people listened to it, so they were ready and receptive, I don't think they were expecting a punk gig! Plus there's a picture of me with an acoustic guitar in my hand eh eh...

UKN: You can't go wrong! Good, so I imagine that you'll go back and play with Il Teatro degli Orrori at the end of this tour, if I remember correctly you're preparing a new album...
GM: Yes, it's almost finished, it'll be released at the end of January. Shortly after a new tour will begin, so I'll get rid of the acoustic guitar then and go to war! I can't wait for that...

UKN: OK, by that time maybe we can talk again about Teatro's new album... As for now we can finish listening to "Allusioni", there are 5.44 minutes left (the album was in the background the whole time, editor's note)...
GM: ...That is my favorite piece!

UKN: So, Gionata, thanks so much for this chat, have a nice weekend and a nice trip to Belgium...
GM: Thanks a lot, hope to see you around somewhere!

Questa la scaletta della puntata di venerdi' scorso/And this is last show's outline:
Ascoltabile in replica martedi notte dalla mezzanotte in poi (90.00 mhz o in streaming da You can listen to the show again next Tuesday at midnight (90.00 mhz in Friuli or streaming from

THE BEACH BOYS - Wind chimes
GIL SCOTT HERON - Explanations
(Interview to Alessandro Seravalle, from Garden Wall)
GARDEN WALL - Re-Awakening/ Iperbole
R.E.M. - West of the fields
CAN - Moonshake
ROBERT WYATT - The age of self
IL TEATRO DEGLI ORRORI - Lezione di musica (versione demo)
GIONATA MIRAI - Allusioni (prima e ultima parte)
(Interview to Gionata Mirai, from Il Teatro degli Orrori and Super Elastic Bubble Plastic)
DAVID QUALEY - Sunset/ Norwegian's fantasy

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