In the pages of this webzine I sometimes struggle to define what music or art is. It is difficult to decide if a new idea to do music – completely different from the others that are already shared into the world – is just a ridiculous way to release something that can make people to talk about and raise interests, or is actually a new consistent way to express one of the dimension in which we live. Still, there is not a right answer, and this is not the same for every one.
I follow the Filippo Paolini‘s Økapi project since 2014, and I admit I was admired about how he mixes sounds to create new concepts and sonority. With the release of his new album, Pardonne-moi, Olivier! I asked him to talk about his idea of music, trying to understand also how he sees his work. Because Filippo is a plagiarist, someone that puts samples together to creates new songs. If someone thinks that too easy to call him “artist” because is simply working as a “recording studio” dj, he has to read which frame of thoughts is behind the project, understanding how much is built behind his collection of sounds.
Hi Filippo, thanks a lot for your time here. One of the thing I liked since the beginning is the name you chose for the project, Økapi, a strange animal that lives in the forest and it looks like a weird zebra. I read from your bio that these animals use to clean their ears with the tongue, giving the clear message about producing and sharing “high quality music”, which is something we don’t see a lot in these years. I found the all story really interesting, but I would like to know how did you come up with this animal….are you a zoophilist?
I am not. The truth is every life being fascinates me – but I do not have any specific scientific study behind. Økapi is an artistic nickname that I have since from almost 20 years, but I do not remember exactly why I chose it nor the right moment in which I started to use it. The reason is probably the similarity with my music, and then the reason the animal was so interesting to me was the fact is a collage-animal: okapi is a mammal, not so good-looking, that belongs to the family of the giraffes, with the face of a mouflon, long tongue and big ears, with half horse-half zebra body. It seems a mythological creature, mainly loved because is getting more rare, and it is going to be extincted soon in the wild world. And I would like to remark this.
Still remaining of “cleaning ears” topic, how do you see the actual music panorama? And how to handle the zillion of projects available in internet, promoted by social media?
I was always an omnivore, musically speaking. I have always the music on, at my place or at work, and I am always searching new sounds that can surprise me and I can use. Still now I do not put so much effort on it. I do not agree with you, I believe we have a lot of “quality music”, especially around new generations that use just internet to share it. How find it then? Simply loosing into the different flows of this “ocean” of genres and sub-genres of sound creation, electronic or not. Internet modified the search and use of contents, creating an exponential and unrestrainable cultural fragmentation. I believe I improved my research method during the time but I recognize I have continuously to develop it.
The Aldo Kapi Orchestra is one of your projects and you are recently released Pardonne-moi, Olivier! How this album was born?
The Aldo Kapi Orchestra released the first double vinyl Love Him (by Illegal Art) and I had the pleasure to lead it as a real orchestra also in the full-length Opera Riparata. Tributo a Bruno Munari in 2012. I could not involve it also for the post-classic project Pardonne-moi, Olivier! 16 oiseaux pour Oliver Messiaen. With this project I manipulated the imaginary and poetic sound of Olivier Messiaen, french composer from the 20th Century, focusing on the ornithological-sound related part, so important for the artist. His “Bird’s catalogues” were the ideas to work on. Messiaen is well known because he wrote down different bird’s songs on music sheet. I often say it was a real challenge mainly because we have many stylistic differences. Messiaen was an hermetic and experimental composer, and personally I feel there is something emotionally imploded in his work, and quite difficult to understand. He composed music sometimes very spiritual, often painful and complex, giving so little to the listener. Using my language, less thoughtful and with a “pop” simplicity, I tried to reflect and understand what makes the composition of this artist (that I have always admired) so valuable, amplifying some thematic and stylistic aspects. I don’t know if I have managed but I believe I gave my tribute to a character that deserves to be highlighted!
In Pardonne-moi, Olivier! the music is strictly connected to visual art, as live performances show. The main theme of the album is the ornithology and accordingly the flight. I would like to ask: did you choose this concept because you already had in mind to develop different art level at the same time, or during the analysis of Messiaen’s ideas you realized you needed a visual support in order to complete the experience?
My projects are born first on a sound level, but always with the urge to find a visual dimension. Once the sound composition is finished I searched in the moving images of Simone Memè the same direction. Something that could amplify and magnify the idea I talked before. The match with images was lucky. Simone was really a “partner in crime” for this part of the project. Who saw the live show can confirm.
Pardonne-moi, Olivier! was recorded with a “virtual” orchestra. Can you explain this concept, what does it mean for you and your music?
In every project I realized I involved the Aldo Kapi Orchestra, a virtual orchestra that is composed by musicians, more or less well known, from who I stole small samples and I shuffled them in new compositions. The Aldo Kapi Orchestra is an elegant way to quote them in the “credits” of an album or a show. I believe it is necessary and compulsory to do it, considering the fact that, when I composed, I actually steal something from them. I like also the idea that some names go out from the normal circuits of genre.
Pardonne-moi, Olivier!, in particular, counts the participation of two extraordinary musicians, involved specifically for the occasion: Mike Cooper and Geoff Leigh, that record their jam sessions on my tracks, as sound living-beings that I could manipulate and integrate in the overall context.
“Plagiarist” is the term that is used to define you when you work under the Økapi project, that makes sense considering the fact that your music is made by putting samples together. How did you start this copy-and-paste idea to make music? Which value added you see respect to the original tracks?
I collect sounds since I started to do music, almost 30 years ago. From my side I did not generate one sound. It is funny for me to think that the artists that I plagiarized made for me easier the way I compose, as there was always someone working with me and for me! I do not think that this attitude is a value added to what I create. For sure I can tell you that this gave to my sound universe a particular color and a shape.
Looking the last releases, you shift from lounge music of Pruffoli to the experimental classic music of Pardonne-moi, Oliver! to the down-tempo of Happily Reversed. Your sound quickly evolves, but do you have a favorite sonority? How the inspiration starts for a new album, how does it influence you to evolve toward a genre?
When I start a project I don’t use a specific idea, even if sometimes happens to use a particular “concept” as starting point. For sure I don’t think at the beginning towards which public an album will be created for. The composition will contextualize itself during its creation; this because I don’t choose samples in advance (except some rare cases, related to particular thematic) and then will be the mood of the period to drive me, with more or less awareness on what I do. In this way I obtain some open projects that shape themselves in very long periods. Every day, if I can, I choose what I want to work on respect to what I have in my head, especially when I don’t write music. The only thing remains always constant is my pleasure to mix styles, timbers and sound temperaments, to research the unheard!