Name: Alberto Brutti aka Karu
Further band members: Mario D’Alfonso (Sax), | Cristiano Amici (Drums), Andrea Di Nicolantonio (Guitar). Matteo Castiglioni (Synth)

Nationality: Italian
Occupation: Composer, improviser, basist, multi-instrumentalist, producer
Current Release: Karu's An Imaginary Journey is out 18th Nov via Beat Machine.
Recommendations: See below, at the end of the interview.

If you enjoyed this interview with Karu and would like to stay up to date with his music, visit him on Instagram, and Facebook.

When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I grew up in a family where music was always a very important part of our days. Especially me and my cousins were so curious that we were always looking for new music to listen to. It was back then that I discovered bands such as Pink Floyd and the Beatles or the Italian songwriter Pino Daniele, who had a lot of impact on my musical education as a child.

Later on I started to play the electric bass in local bands, crossing different genres, not too fussed, I just liked to play with friends! However that period was significant and made me realise that both interacting and comparing with other musicians was a kind of art I still had to discover.

My highest achievement as a musician came when I enrolled at the conservatory and picked up the double bass. It requires a lot of discipline, practice and dedication and gave me the opportunity to delve into various branches of music from classical to jazz to electronic and electroacoustic music.

When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?

Music has always been and always will be a way of expressing the self and a means of communicating oneself. Every time I listen to some artist, I try to understand what feelings they want to convey.

Entering into their musical sensibility triggers a constant flow of emotions in me: there are songs that literally give me the shivers, others that bring back forgotten memories, or give me the opportunity to develop surreal scenarios.

It is exactly on this concept that my latest record An Imaginary Journey is based.

How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?

It’s difficult to find your own voice in the crowded music scenario. I think the secret is to stay true to yourself, try to take your influences and turn them into your own musical language that can be interpreted by those who listen.

The double bass is an essential way of communicating in order to let my creativity out and build a relation with the people I play with. It is also vey important in every phase when I write, compose and practice a piece.

This record was born from something I’d had in mind for a long time, with some patience I think I managed to achieve my purpose.

Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.

As a listener, I am influenced by all kinds of music that provokes a sense of curiosity in me, regardless of the genre of music offered. Jazz has certainly been dominant in my musical output, and it was that very language that allowed me to have a greater sensitivity in listening to more and more new music.

Artists like Mingus, Pharoah Sanders, Miles Davis, Medeski Martin and Wood have been as fundamental, as have Portishead, Radiohead, J Dilla, D'Angelo, Flying Lotus and many others. I tried to assimilate as much as I could from them, who made me grow both as a person and as a musician.

[Read our Martin Medeski interview]

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?

I am still searching for the right ‘approach’, meaning that I feel I am a constantly evolving. Many times I think I’m pursuing the right method, even in my daily life. Eventually I find out I was wrong.

The only one thing I m still sure about is the interaction with musicians. My music is very much based on interplay, on having a dialogue with the instrument and trying to create an exchange with the people who play with me.

It's like a therapy session, where everyone communicates the emotions, they are experiencing in that moment.

How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

Referring to the previous answer, music is a language and as such will evolve with the years to follow in all its forms. I think that for every language, it is important to understand the 'traditional' aspect that characterises it because it is the pivotal point from which to start its development.

Basically, evolution is an inescapable process in music; remaining anchored to traditions by closing ourselves off from all forms of innovation does not benefit the growth of art and beyond.

Luciano Berio used to say 'We are amazing machines programmed like computers'.

Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?

The instrument that has allowed me to give voice to my music is the double bass, in all aspects from the interaction with musicians to songwriting.

Other instruments that I consider relevant are Ableton Live and Max Msp. With both of them, I tried to work more on the electro-acoustic side, firstly by sampling our recording sessions and then deepening the experiments with electronic modifications, creating synthesis and 'live electronics' patches.

An Imaginary Journey was born from this process: sampling our sessions, then processing them by creating Max patches and finally editing everything with Ableton.

In live situations we try to reproduce the sounds that come out of these edits in an analogue way, it's a complicated process but it’ s very stimulating.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.

My day starts with a good coffee, two biscuits and a cigarette!

Then I divide my time between music lessons, teaching in school and the study of the double bass. Playing that instrument is like drinking water, I can't stay apart from it for any reason in the world, and I hope to share this passion with my students. It always depends on the day; some have more intense rhythms others are lighter depending on the workload.

In all this, I try to keep some space to compose and write music, the creative process is something that requires a lot of concentration and above all patience. It helps me a lot to play with my musicians, we spark the light and being with each other triggers the interest. This is necessary in the music we make.

Last but surely not least is to find the time for love, family, friends without these elements I can hardly live my work to the full.

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?

The creative process is a particular moment that does not always come spontaneously.

Certainly an album that influenced me a lot is Charles Mingus' Black Saint and the Sinner Lady.

The album consists of one long composition divided into four tracks and six movements, partially written as a ballet. The interesting thing is that in the liner notes there are pages written by Mingus and his psychotherapist at the time, Edmund Pollock. Mingus played a dazzling role in my life, both instrumentally and compositionally.

Another record that had an impact on me is Donuts by J Dilla. Let's say that Mingus and Dilla are my beacons on dark and stormy nights.

Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?

My last record was born out of a collaboration with other musicians, especially from the jam sessions we used to have in the studio. I think that playing and having a dialogue with musicians is essential for making my music. However I also need to isolate my thoughts and work on the material independently. In fact, the recordings of our jams were edited, processed and transformed by me, alone in my room.

Both processes are functional: the collaboration with others helps the dialogue and the creation of music in a spontaneous way, but you also need the time to sort out ideas and understand how to best direct the work. And the latter has to happen alone, at least for me it is that way!

 How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?

Music is one of the most powerful art forms in existence, if not the most powerful. This power varies depending on who needs it. On the other hand there is still so much misunderstanding of this art.

My life alternates between being a professional musician and that of a teacher, and I notice how Italy is still not ready to make this job respectable for both roles. There is very little funding given to music schools and the conservatories will tend to disappear if no attempt is made to modernise them.

On the other hand, even modern artistic proposals struggle to emerge due to very tight market laws. There is still a lot to be done for music and for those who want to discover it!

Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?

Music has taken me through the saddest and best moments of my life. Most of the time it helped me to grow, to understand and to be a better person.

It helped me during the loss of loved ones and on the other hand it also helped me find love. Music knocked down a wall between me and my loneliness and introduced me to wonderful people.

In general it is difficult to explain how music can help people. You just have to let yourself be carried away and live it to the full.

How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?  

Some time ago I read The Jazz of Physis by Stephon Alexander. The book relates some thoughts from quantum physics to jazz improvisation, particularly focusing on the figure of John Coltrane. Coltrane is said to have been a great admirer of Einstein and used some of his theories to create new harmonic and melodic patterns.

The paper also illustrates Kepler's Music of the Planets, which influenced Coltrane so much that he composed the famous album Interstellar Space.

Music and science are two worlds that act in parallel with each other, as similar as they are unexplored.

Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?

Music is the way I express myself, I communicate with others in a form that I find simple and pure. It happened many times that I was playing with people and understood them at the mere mention of a note.

Some other times what I am trying to communicate is perceived by the listener, even if in instrumental music this is more complex and less obvious.  

Besides, I’m also good at making great coffee with a mocha.

Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?

I think it stems from an unconscious factor, which is that music is able to stimulate different areas of our brain and this causes us to get lost in the meandering ways of the mind. Music can awaken memories, smells, sensations, it can excite us and at the same time make us sad. As I mentioned, you have to experience it in full to understand its benefits.

I hope that in the short term there will be ways to expand it in all its forms: from teaching in schools, to investing in research, to making possible the expression of all the varieties of musical styles, all equally important, and to stimulate the listener to listen to new music.

Please recommend two pieces of art (book, painting, piece of music) to our readers that they should know about.

The Last Angel of History is a 45-minute documentary, directed by John Akomfrah in 1996, written and researched by Edward George of the Black Audio Film Collective. It deals with concepts of Afrofuturism as a metaphor for the displacement of black culture and roots.

The film is a hybrid documentary and fictional narrative. Documentary segments include traditional talking-head clips from musicians, writers, and social critics, as well as archival video footage and photographs. Described as "A truly masterful film essay about Black aesthetics that traces the deployments of science fiction within pan-African culture", it has also been called "one of the most influential video-essays of the 1990s, influencing filmmakers and inspiring conferences, novels and exhibitions".

C'è musica & musica was an Italian television programme of cultural-musical popularisation, conceived and hosted by Luciano Berio, broadcast on the Programma Nazionale in 1972.

Over the course of 12 episodes, various issues about making, thinking and writing music are addressed, with examples from Monteverdi to the Beatles, commented on by many important personalities from the European and non-European music world.

"This evening we begin a series of programmes on music and these programmes do not claim to be a scientific, comprehensive or objective investigation: I think objectivity does not exist. I think objectivity does not exist. On the other hand, if we wanted to be completely objective or objectively complete, we could not have been so, because it is a crazy undertaking, I assure you, to chase dozens and dozens of musicians halfway around the world, that is, all people who live out of a suitcase... [...] The main reason for this work was to bring you closer to those who make music, that is, those who compose it and those who perform it. And you will see that you will meet, among them, brains as well as hearts and ears among the sharpest of our time."

(Luciano Berio)