La Torre Dell’Alchimista

Dan: Hello La Torre Dell’Alchemista, would you mind introducing yourselves?

Michelle M.: LTDA is an italian rock band (sometimes addressed as an italian progressive rock band) formed in late 1996 by three friends (Michele Mutti, keyboards, Davide Donadoni, bass guitar, Michele Giardino, voice). There have been several changes of the line up and, nowaday, the bad is formed by the three original members and Michelangelo Donadini, drums. In studio recordings and in live acts guest musicians are frequently hosted (with violin, flute, guitar, saxophone etc). The band recorded three albums (the first eponimous, “USA, you know?” a live album from Nearfest and “Neo”) so far.

Dan: So you guys formed in the late 90’s, just when it seems Italian Prog was undergoing a bit of a revival spearheaded by a few of the old giants like PFM, as well as a lot of newer bands. How do you guys see this phenomenon?

Michelle M.: When we began ( Michele Giardino, Davide and I) we had no contact with the progressive scene of that period except for some LP records owned by our parents. the starting idea was to build a musical situation where everyone could freely express his own creativity in order to depart from the stereotyped rock music idea tha was fashionable in Italy during that particular moment. Obviously the young age and the admiration for the historical progressive bands from Italy and from
abroad brought LTDA to write and play following the canons of this music genre and opting for longer compositions and more difficult musical structures which could show also a certain instrumental ability.

Dan: Where did you get the name “La Torre Dell’Alchemista”? I have a sneaking suspicion it was taken from the first track of Area’s 1980 album “Tick & Tac”. Am I right, or am I a silly conspiracy theorist?

Michelle M.: I remember that we often “argued”/discussed with davide about the band name choice; as I was reading an interview with Franz di Cioccio (PFM) I convinced myself that a long name could be certainly difficult to remeber but after having memorized it, it would be indelebly impressed in listener’s mind (actually on more than one occasion someone mangled the name changing it into “la teoria dell’alchimista”,i.e. the theory of the alchemist,or “la torre dell’alpinista”,i.e. the tower of the mountaineer ;) ) then we wanted to express through the name our estrangement from the bunch of italian productions (but also foreign) which were famous in that period: all this brought to the Torre idea (tower). Besides fascinating by hieronymus bosch’s pictures I imagined the composing process as not dissimilar to the experiments which were carried out by doctors and alchemists living in that period… after various attempts (la torre d’avorio,la bottega dell’alchimista) in the end we chose the actual band name. At the first band concert there was the typical “killjoy” who told us that an Italian band wrote in the ’70s a track called LTDA and thanked us for the tribute to one of his favourite bands.

Dan: By the way, I love how you did that thing where you have the title track, the album, and your band’s name all match. “La Torre Dell’Alchemista”, third track on La Torre Dell’Alchemista by La Torre Dell’Alchemista. I believe I once saw a large list of bands that did this… Anyway, how does it feel to have put yourselves on this semi-exclusive list?

Michelle M.: We feel like coherent persons… Maybe a little bit monothematic… Joking aside, guess how the picture that I painted for the album cover is called? ;)

Dan: Naturally the beautiful Italian language is one of the best things about this subgenre you play in (besides the keyboards, of course!), but could you tell us about some of your lyrics anyway? What are some of the things you write about?

Michelle M.: In the first album the ispiration derived often from books or paintings. Neo’s Lyrics are linked to the general idea of the album according to which this imaginary character called Neo, who is the result of genetic experiments, has to face problems related to the modern civilization, the alterity and the contact with the other. Through mythological characters (so according to the typical patterns of the historical progressive rock) we managed to represent current issues such as the mass media strumentalization like television in Medusa, the political situation in Cerbero, marginalization and racism in Dissimmetrie.

Dan: It’s a real shame that you guys take such a long break between your albums, but as I said before, I believe the great quality of them makes up for it. I feel exactly this way about Neo, your second album. Where the former is excellent, the second is ahead of it in leaps and bounds. At least I feel this way. How do you guys compare the two albums?

Michelle M.: LTDA became famous also because of the long periods that separate one album from another (unfortunately according to some impatient fans, luckily according to us). we like to work quietly on the material and arrangements and a lot of things are often modified or deleted during the album composing. regarding the first album besides the musical aspects there was also the problem with finding a label who was disposed to invest time and energies in a young emerging band. The contact with Kaliphonia shortened the timetable as Raoul Caprio followed us not only from a merely commercial viewpoint but also from an artistic one. just consider that we recorded and mixed the first CD (live recording without overdubbing) in only one week! I like to think about our first work not as an album in which the performance talent emerges (on the contrary just because of the recording times this is maybe the weakest aspect of the album), but as the fruit of the labour and love towards this music of the young boys we used to be. I wrote some tracks of that album (Delirio, I figli della mezzanotte, Lo gnomo) when I was 16 years old, so it’s normal that they have some composing and instrumental ingenuities especially if we compare them to the Neo stuff.

Dan: I have read on The Tangent’s forum that Andy Tillison himself considers Neo to be one of his favorite albums of recent years. He says he plays it repeatedly and never gets tired of it. High praise indeed, right?

Michelle M.: Whenever we get a “praise” from some big name, of course it’s surprising, and it’s an honour. We live this parallel life in music beyond our ordinary life (job, family etc.) so the fuel to carry on spending energies is also the appreciation of the people listening to us.

Dan: I hear you guys played at one of the first NEARFests! What was thatlike? It must have been great to share the same stage as some of your Italian prog idols (though not at the same time, and actually a bit before a lot of them!) Have you played here in the US since then? I am personally from NYC, so I would love to see you play here.

Michelle M.: That show was beautiful (of course) and really emotional for us. The band never played in front of an audience bigger than 50-60 people before, so we have been extremely energized by that experience. Unluckily we never went back to USA later, we are still waiting for somebody to invite us ;-)

Dan: You released a live album of your NEARFest performance. As I do not actually have this album, I can’t speak of the quality. How is it? Are you satisfied with how it came out? Should I get it? I feel like I’m missing out on something great!

Michelle M.: That album is a picture of that peculiar moment of our musical life. We played some of the old songs from the first albume and some embryo of Neo. Also the line up was peculiar of that moment. So, it’s funny to see now how our music moved on from that point.

Dan: What is touring like for LTDA? Do you have any special venues you like? Do you have a tour in the works for the future? You don’t seem to have updated your touring calendar in a year.

Michelle M.: Touring for us is almost zero. We make 4-5 concerts in a year, when we are lucky. The “live” scene in Italy is really poor (not only for progressive rock bands), everywhere you can only listen to the “usual” stuff so the occasions for us to play are very rare (usually prog events, festivals and so on). Anyhow speaking of the venues (besides the Trenton War memorial) we played in a theatre close to our city as an opening act for “Le Orme”. That was one of the best maybe.

Dan: How about an album? You guys are about due for a third studio release!

Michelle M.: We are currently writing the third studio album, planned for 2020 or maybe early if we are quicker than usual.

Dan: Can you tell us about your gear/equipment? I’m interested in the keyboards, personally, because I’m a HUGE fan of Hammond organs. Then again, it’s hard not to be, right? Tell us about the rest though, of course!

Michelle M.: Michele plays a C3 Hammond organ, (I guess 1969) but it is modified in the casing and some mechanics for easier transportation. The first one he owned was an L100. Then we have a minimoog, a Wurlitzer piano, a mellotron, a solina, a Fender Rhodes and several modern stuff.

Dan: Individually, what are some of your favorite RPI bands? I’m quite partial to Latte e Miele, Quella Vecchia Locanda, Il Bacio Della Medusa, the big three, as well as La Torre Dell’Alchemista, of course. What’s some other music you enjoy? I’m a big fan of jazz fusion like Return to Forever, and other Chick Corea-type stuff. While I don’t hear Corea specifically in your music, I do hear some jazz now and then (though there’s more classical by far). What do you say?

Michelle M.: Musical tastes are really various in the band: Michele Giardino is found of Italian melodic singers and of lyric music, Davide is a Jaco fan (of course) and also a Tower of Power fan. Michelangelo comes straight from the 80′s (Toto!) and Michele Mutti is deeply rooted in classical music. As per the RPI, some common point in the band are Yes, Banco del Mutuo soccorso and Area.

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