Name: Raffaele Attanasio
Occupation: Producer, composer, improviser, multi-instrumentalist
Current release: Raffaele Attanasio's Nuovo Futuro is available from Axis.
Recommendations: Jago: “ Il figlio velato“ and the track by Francesco Varchetta: “Black Narcissus“
If you enjoyed this interview with Raffaele Attanasio, stay up to date on his work on Soundcloud, Facebook and Instagram.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
In the beginning, I was influenced by progressive rock on the one hand and jazz, funk and the blues on the other hand. But just a couple of years later, I was able to channel all of this in my music.
Music has been present every day of my life and “as everyone knows” I was born in a family of musicians. It was inevitable.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Yes, I totally agree. Originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. I did it! I think is a natural process for a musician until you reach your own sound and this can take years.
On my end, I don’t know if I’ve reached my sound, I’m not sure … I’m working on it. I may never have it.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
The first challenge was with hip hop music. Because this was the only music that I could do. I made a lot of “beats” for my friends with one keyboard, recording only in realtime and without any technical knowledge of DAWs. Then, after 3 years I focused on techno music and my side career as a music arranger.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
Studio? I had a little desk with a computer, Cubase vst24 as DAW, one keyboard, a pair of headphones without a studio monitor. Over the years, it evolved. There is now a lot more focus on synthesizers. The synths are essential for me I can’t do without them. I was building a new studio but due to covid problems, I had to cancel everything.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Human beings excel in creativity. A machine without human creativity can not excel, it would just be a box attached to an electric current. Sometimes the obsession with the machine makes man's inspiration flatten – while, at other times, is is increased by it.
Man is the mind and technology the arm.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
Being a multi-instrumentalist, co-authorship is variable each time and depends on the project that I'm creating. There must be a feeling between you and the machines.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
The term I often use when I work as an arranger is "sewing on it". When I work with singers or other artists you have to compose with a tailor's precision. While working with other musicians, we talk about the idea we want to give the track or we just start with a jam.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I'm not someone who wakes up early in the morning but I try. I invest the first ten minutes in figuring out where I am, then take a coffee and start the day between emails and listening to music or directly in the studio to work on some song.
I have always separated the two. My musician personality comes to life in the studio and when I'm touring around the world to play. And then there's my other self in everyday life.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
The creative process of a track or an album is always different for me. It obviously depends on the result you want to achieve, the sound you want to create, and the message you want to convey to people.
I think the creative process of my new album Nuovo Futuro on Axis Records was one of the simplest and most effective: improvisation. Why yes, it's a studio album - but it's all completely improvised.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I don't think there are strategies for not having any distractions. There are artists who perhaps manage to compose music despite all the possible distractions! But, I don't. I need absolute mental tranquillity and absolute silence to be able to work. My mood is turbulent enough by itself.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
They are both connected because you gain experience from both of them which you then bring back to the studio and live performances. Improvisation is one of the foundations of composition, it makes everything more natural and fluid.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
I think that every sound needs those certain chords, notes and solos to be able to perform at their best. Thus, the sound really does take on a compositional quality.
All sounds can take on compositional qualities, but they need the right chords, with the right passages, with the right pauses.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
Research says that music tuned to 432 Hz and 528 Hz creates resonance in our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies.
I think it's a totally subjective thing because like a melody, it can be sweet to the ear but distressing to the listener. It is a psychophysical condition.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
My approach to art is one of absolute dedication. It feeds my life to the fullest, It doesn't make me feel empty. I feel art is like a strong spiritual form that impresses you with positivity every day and makes you face life to the fullest.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
It really is extraordinary that the basic concept of music has remained intact. But, as the world runs fast, there will surely be an evolution and we will have to accept it. I , however, see and will always see music as a spiritual entity.