Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mario Boncaldo Interview

In addition to the previous post about the album "De-Ja-Vu" I conducted a short interview with Klein & M.B.O. founder Mario Boncaldo. Many thanks to Mario for his help, you can check out his current projects via his own website here.

How did you meet Tony Carrasco?

Tony was sent me as writer of the lyrics.

After releasing numerous singles (including the US dance hit "Dirty Talk") you recorded the album "De-Ja-Vu" in 1982, why was this re-released under the title of "First" the following year?

Because Atlantic wanted to continue but the singer had asked for too much money!

Did the album consist of completely new recordings or where different mixes of the singles you had previously released used as well?

Only new recordings.

Was the song "Big Apple" an attempt to capitalize on the success of the "Dirty Talk" single in the United States?

It was only a gift to the city.

Did did you decide to work with singers such as Rossana Casale and Naimy Hacket to give the album a more commercial appeal?

No, only because they were American, also Rossana was born in New York, and I wanted some non Italian singers.

There have been many different mixes of "Dirty Talk", what do you think of the album version?

I liked to do it so, but also the others, done by others, I liked.

Although Klein & M.B.O. are classed as Italo Disco you were more experimental and original in your approach than much of the music typical of the genre, do you think contributed to the modern sound of the album?

I don't like that it is classified as Italo Disco, it is not Italo Disco '80, it’s different, no?

Who is playing guitar on tracks such as "The M.B.O. Theme", "Wonderful" and "De-Ja-Vu"?

Davide Piatto

Do you remember what sort of synthesizers/drum machines etc which were used on the album?

Roland synthesizers and roland 808 drum only

There are several different styles on the album, for instance, the eight minute long "De-Ja-Vu" has quite a dark sound, was it your intention at the time to avoid bring pigeon-holed into any specific genre?

Yes, sure

How do you feel about influencing so many musicians from the Chicago house music scene to bands such as New Order as well as countless modern day electronic acts such as Miss Kitten despite Klein & M.B.O being a relatively underground group?

I am very gratified. I don’t like the Miss Kitten cover a lot… but this is the job.

Why were there no more albums from Klein & M.B.O. after this? Did you feel you had taken this sound as far as you could?

It is a long history about it!!!

What have you been up to since your Klein & M.B.O. days? Tell us about your current project?

The Klein & M.B.O. project is ended. The new one will be ready in 2011 and it will be very different, we will soon speak of it.

Klein & M.B.O. - De-Ja-Vu

Forefathers of the Chicago house and New York garage scenes in the 1980s, staple of the Italo disco genre and creators of the song that inspired "Blue Monday", it's surprising that the group Klein & M.B.O. are not more widely known.

Formed in 1981 by producers Mario Boncaldo and Tony Carrasco, Klein & M.B.O.'s first single, "Dirty Talk" became a major undergound hit, particularly in the United States club scene. According to Bernard Summer, the arrangement for New Order's best known song "Blue Monday" was borrowed from "Dirty Talk" whilst the song was also covered by Miss Kittin and The Hacker in 2002. The success of the single led to the release of "De-Ja-Vu", the only full length album from the group.

The album beings with a nod to their growing notoriety in New York with "The Big Apple" and sets the tone for the distinctive Klein & M.B.O. sound of slick arpeggiated synthesizer riffs, punchy Roland TR-808 drum patterns and over the top vocals from Rossana Casale and Naimy Hacket. The influential "The MBO Theme" (released as a single in 1983) continues in a similar but more fully realized vein featuring funk flavoured guitar and a quasi-rap vocal from Carrasco. The album's third track, the lengthy "Wonderful" features vocals from Casale and a vaguely contemporary sounding bassline. Both were released as singles in 1983 and expanded on the group's underground fame in the United States.

Side B opens with the aforementioned and best known Klein & M.B.O. track "Dirty Talk" which combines an infectious bassline with various synthesized melodies which gradually build towards the songs main vocal from Rossana Casale culminating in her hysteric laughter at the end of the song. The title track "De-Ja-Vu" shifts the mood of the LP drastically in what is a largely guitar driven, vocal heavy song. Much darker than the rest of the LP, "De-Ja-Vu" is more akin to the gloomy alternative rock of the new wave than the Italo disco sound with which the group are most commonly associated. The mood is lifted with the albums final track, the upbeat "I Love You" which sees a return to the sound of Side A and ends the album on a positive note.

Klein & M.B.O. were quite influential considering their obscurity and compared with many of the artists associated with the Italo Disco genre, their music has stood the test of time and dated relatively well whilst Marco Boncaldo's pioneering use of synthesizers and drum machines would be echoed in countless electro/dance tracks for decades to come.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Guy Klucevsek Interview

In addition to the previous post about the late Lars Hollmer's album "XII Sibiriska Cyklar" I conducted a quick e-mail Q & A with his collaborator (as part of Accordion Tribe) and friend Guy Klucevsek about Lars' music and their work together. Klucevsek has released over twenty recordings as soloist/leader and has worked with many diverse musicians including Laurie Anderson, John Zorn, Natalie Merchant, Bill Frisell and Fred Firth amongst others.
Many thanks to Guy who was extremely obliging and helpful in his e-mails. More information about Guy Klucevsek can be found here http://www.guyklucevsek.com/

Guy Klucevsek Q&A

According to the Accordion Tribe website, you were first introduced to the music of Lars Hollmer by David Garland in the early 90s, what were your first impressions?

GK: I adored the music!  It was heart-felt, complex and naively innocent at the same time.  Wonderful counterpoint, beautiful melodies, wacky sense of humor.  I felt an immediate kinship with the music, though we came from very different background--Lars an auto-didact, playing in bands; me with classical accordion training, university studies as a composer, experience in chamber music, orchestras, as a soloist.  Still, somehow, we ended up in a similar place.  

You have expressed your love of "Boeves Psalm" in the past, what are some of your other favorite Lars Hollmer compositions?

GK: Portaletyde, Sud Af, Utflykt mit Damcykel.  Also, I have a soft spot for the tune "L├Ądereld," which he dedicated to "Guy Klucevsek, the accordion rider," on his "Utflykt" cd.  I returned the favor eventually by dedicating "The Return of Lasse" to him; it was very much inspired by his music--the odd meters, the contrasting sections, the counterpoint.  I also wrote a piece in his memory in January of 2009, entitled "Lars Song," which is a solo accordion, but which I also arranged for Accordion Tribe, and we played it on several concerts that year.

His music encompassed and explored many different styles and themes throughout his career, do you think this eclecticism prevented him achieving more commercial success outside of Sweden?

GK: No more than it has prevented any of us in the "alternative music" scene from achieving international success.  Problem is that we get pigeon-holed as "non-commercial," and that limits our possibilities for success in the mainstream.  But I don't think Lars concerned himself at all with that.  He kept creating music non-stop, for the pure joy and wonder of it.

Lars was the first person you invited to be part of the Accordion Tribe project, how did he react to the idea?

GK: He seemed thrilled by the idea.

What specific qualities did Lars bring to the group?

GK: First of all:  his wonderful compositions strongly reflected the heart and soul of the group.  He was very prolific, so he created or arranged many, many group pieces for us, and they were all wonderful.  As a performer, he brought an intensity and focus to everything he did on stage with us, but he also had a wonderful sense of playfulness, zaniness, and a willingness to try anything.  And raw, explosive energy!  

Much of his music is very idiosyncratic or even eccentric, did this reflect his real life personality?

GK: Not really.  Lars was a very social being on tour, extremely funny, loved hanging out with the group over dinner or a drink late at night after the concerts, warm-hearted and generous.  And he had a smile which could melt ice--very useful in Sweden :-)  (See the photo in the cd insert of Utsiker for a great example of that smile, and a fantastic shot of the interior of The Chickenhouse as well.)

What was it like to record at The Chickenhouse Studios in Sweden?

GK: It was intense!  And quite funny at times.  Lars, Bratko and Otto were night owls and loved to begin work about 12 noon and work long into the night, whereas Mia and I are daytime people, who get up early and like to work in the morning and afternoon.  So we had to find those few hours a day when all our energies were at the maximum capacity and get a bunch of work done then.  But it was also very leisurely, lots of breaks for a walk, breath of fresh air, a meal, a drink (or 3 or 10).  All-in-all, it was a blessing for us, because it was the only place we could record in our own working rhythm--it took us 7-10 days normally to rehearse new material and record it all, because of our working method; if we had to pay for studio time by the hour, we could never have afforded to make Sea of Reeds or Lunghorn Twist (the first album, Accordion Tribe, was made up of live tour performances).  Being in Lars's home studio, we had the luxury of time.  We were able to work on everything until it sounded just the way we wanted it to, in our own way, our own time-frame, in a relaxed, congenial, homey atmosphere, without the pressure of an outside producer breathing down our neck as the hours ticked by...

His death must have come as a great shock to you and the other members of Accordion Tribe, did you consider that this could herald the end of the group?

GK: Yes.  My immediate feeling was immense grief and loss, which I still feel.  I was too numb to think about what it meant for Accordion Tribe, whether it even had a future without Lars.  
Bratko, Otto and Maria like members of my family, but the absence of Lars left such a void that it was all I could think about on tour or even on stage at times.

What does the future hold for Accordion Tribe?

GK: Unfortunately, I have decided recently to let the group come to a graceful ending.  It has been a wonderful, glorious, fantastic 14 years since our first tour in 1996, when we had no idea what would happen when we got together.  There have been some of the most amazing concerts I have ever been in, three wonderful recordings, a beautiful film by Stefan Schwietert, long and wonderful friendships--which of course will continue--but there comes a time when you realize it is perhaps time to stop while the music and memories are still strong and vital.   It seemed an organic time to stop, not only because of Lars's passing, but because we had no new tour on the horizon, and we would need a new recording to make that happen.  Without Lars, without the Chickenhouse experience, I couldn't face the prospect of recording again and prolonging the inevitable.  Perhaps if an opportunity comes to play on a big festival in a few years, we might consider a reunion concert, if everyone wants to do it, but Accordion Tribe is no longer an ongoing project.

How would you like Lars Hollmer to be remembered?

GK: As I think he would wish to be remembered:  by his wonderful music and recordings!