This statement might make me sound old, but I have been through many different phases as a musician during my fifteen year career. I began as the talented kid in the school of music, where I started playing guitar in the 1990’s. Next, I was the super-unprofessional teenager, with no clue as to what I was doing with my crossover band. There followed the wannabe rockstar period. Currently I am the Italian guy playing and producing music in Ireland. I am still discovering who I am as a musician.
After many years of gigging and recording albums, I now find it most rewarding to integrate my research into my practice. This has influenced my sound – and also probably made my career more complex. Sometimes I think I overcomplicate things, at other times I fear I will be considered banal. The conclusion I have come to is that I just want to be authentic, and honest with myself. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about what I do.
Next year I will release my new album in Italy. Around ten years ago I founded a band called rumori dal fondo in my hometown of Milan. This will be our third studio album. During this period I moved to Ireland, in 2013, and there I developed, along with my musical brother Stefano Schiavocampo, another band called SignA. We played at most of the major Irish music festivals for a couple of years, an experience which helped me grow as a musician. I still learn a lot from Irish colleagues, and have met incredible talents like Villagers, Damien Rice, Bantum, Meltybrains, Donal Dineen, Fehdah and Loah, to name a few.
Rumori dal fondo, Le Mie Facoltà
Every musician has a different story to tell and tries to convey this to an audience. All of us want our music to be listened to, but the perception of success has changed so much over the last twenty years.
I am increasingly uncomfortable with the way this industry works. We are living in a time when social media followers, views, likes, and tiny pixelated hearts are the main barometer establishing who is doing well, and who isn’t. Perhaps the difference between success and failure has always been based on superficial measurements, and this is simply the transition between analog and digital technology. It just seems part of the collective madness in our evolving relationship with technology.
Social media seems to be the only show in town. Everyone must have a ‘presence’, even when, paradoxically, you are singing a song in opposition to the platform you are using to promote yourself (as we did, and will continue to do).
Memory Shithole by SignA
MySpace, then Facebook, now Instagram. Where has the damn music gone? An algorithm based system operates in the background, so people post anything just to gain exposure. We end up knowing more about a musician’s smile, workouts, or pet poodle than their songs.
I start feeling a bit deranged when I think about these things. Perhaps it is because I grew up in the 90’s when the concept of fame was completely different. After a decade of glitter and glam in the 80’s, to be an outsider was suddenly cool. ‘Success’ itself was deeply uncool.
Nirvana were the most popular band in the world, but the celebrity culture ate them alive, contributing to Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Perhaps this explains my resistance to the idea of ‘listener interaction’, or ‘followers’.
My theory is that Kurt understood the game, but ended up playing it against his better judgment. Undoubtedly it was easier to tour in a comfortable bus, and sleep in decent hotels, but after a while he became an alternative Madonna in the mainsteam. It was a twist of fate that has cost us all. Now every time I spot a Nirvana t-shirt in a H&M shop I think how disappointed he would be to see his face in there, especially next to a Guns & Roses t-shirt, a band he despised.
Kurt Cobain interview
What kind of game are we all playing were anyone is able to produce their own album in the comfort of their own living room with a computer, before releasing it as a product on every digital platform in the space of twenty-four hours?
What happens if no one likes what you produce? A world where success is measured in clicks could be tricky to handle, especially for an sensitive young person, struggling to find their place in the world.
On my new album there is a song called Abilità (Ability), which is about not falling apart if you struggle to reach the goals you have set. There is a sort of autoanalysis: a pathway towards overcoming the disappointments you feel at failing to achieve life, work, or relationship aspirations.
I realise, at the end of the day, that remaining true to oneself is the only way forward. Sometimes this can be difficult, because not everyone will appreciate what you do.
Everyone is unique and reacts differently to challenging situations, but I thought my experience might be useful to others making their way. I once saved myself from myself by making music. I am sure it will continue to save me, no matter who, or how many people, are listening.
I love to do it and I always will.
Massimiliano Galli is the musician of the month for December, 2018.
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