Accordo dei Contrari

Dan: Hello Giovanni, would you mind introducing yourself and the rest of the band?

Giovanni: Hi Dan & ProgSphere, I’m Giovanni Parmeggiani, keyboard player and composer of most of the music of AdC. Cristian Franchi is the drummer, Daniele Piccinini is the bass player and serves as the manager of the band for he deals with website and merchandising, and Marco Marzo is the guitar player and also composer of some of our music. We are an electric-acoustic quartet who plays mostly instrumental music, sometimes filled with vocals too.

So far we have released two albums, Kinesis (AltrOck productions, 2007) and Kublai (self-production, 2011). Since 2009, we have been playing in several festivals in Italy and Europe, most recently together with Richard Sinclair, the vocalist and bass player of seminal groups of the Canterbury scene like Caravan and Hatfield and the North. In addition to performing our music, we have also performed some historical tracks of these two magnificent bands (e.g. “Winter Wine”, “Waterloo Lily”, “Share It”, “Fitter Stoke Has a Bath” and others). Richard has also singed on “L’Ombra di un Sogno”, a track that I composed for AdC and we recorded in Kublai. We had also been invited to perform at the NEARfest but unfortunately, as you may know, the 2011 edition of this prestigious festival was cancelled.

Dan: Would you mind telling us something about the band’s origin and history? I understand you’ve gone through a lot of lineup changes.

Giovanni: AdC lineup has changed so many times! Probably too many, but that’s life, you see: it is never easy to find the right people to play with. Anyway, the band was born in Bologna, Italy, in 2001. I had many musical ideas and I was lucky enough to meet Cristian, the drummer, who was crazy enough to play with me. We worked initially as a trio—I used to play the organ, the electric and acoustic piano, and also the bass parts by synth because of my propension to bass lines, together with Cristian at the drums and Alessandro Pedrini at the guitar. After that, in 2004, AdC became a quintet: Daniele joined in on the bass, Marco on the guitar and Vladimiro Cantaluppi played the violin. One month before the recording of Kinesis, our first album (June 2006), Vladimiro left the band—he was very busy with other projects, but principally he didn’t feel confortable with the kind of music we were playing. AdC thus became a quartet. Since then, we have been a quartet. We’re very happy with our current setup.

Dan: I really like the band name, how did you guys come up with it? “Agreement of Opposites” is the English translation, for those readers who don’t understand any Italian.

Giovanni: It was by some chance. At the beginning we were three different people (now four), each with a distinctive view on things. It was not simple to work together, and after an initial discussion Cristian said: “Here it is the band’s name: Accordo dei Contrari!”. It’s a fun circumstance, as you see. Interestingly, our music is, indeed, an harmonic agreement among very different—sometimes opposing—moods and musical styles. “Accordo dei Contrari” happens to be the right name not only for the band, but also for the music we play.

Dan: Let’s discuss your first album, Kinesis, for a bit now. You told that just before recording began your violinist left the band. Apparently having violin on the album was a big deal to you (not that I can blame you) because you got some onto it in a few months. This must have been a rather annoying process; do you have anything to say about it?

Giovanni: You are right. We were very discouraged when the violinist left. I was particularly disappointed, because most of the music I had composed was perfect for violin (you see, I love music for string quartets, especially Beethoven, Bartok and Shostakovic, and I still compose music that involves strings). We had no time to find another permanent violinist. However, a friend of ours, who incidentally plays the violin, helped us by playing some of the violin lines that I had composed. Fortunately, the music in Kinesis works even without violin (what a great surprise!), but I have to admit it, if all the violin parts had appeared, the whole music would have had a rather different—perhaps even better—impact.

Dan: Kinesis’ style is rather dark and heavy, with almost a metal vibe (especially from the guitars), but I certainly get the feel of lighthearted jazz fusion even if it perhaps isn’t the “traditional” Return to Forever/Weather Report kind. What do you have to say about Accordo Dei Contrari’s playing style?

Giovanni: My compositions often have a dark feeling. The “heavier” vibe in Kinesis depends on the guitars for sure, but also on the distortions that I apply to the organ. The organ produces a sound that I love, as it is also evident from our latest album, Kublai. All of us play always rather powerfully, and this explains why the distinctive feature of Kinesis, alongside with dynamics (i.e. fluid changes in time-signature), is strength.

Nevertheless, if the music of Kinesis had been played as it was originally conceived, i.e. by acoustic piano, one would have had the perception of contemporary chamber music. The fact is that at the time of the recording of the album, we were not mature enough to properly interpret the music, respecting its original inspiration. It is also true that electric jazz is part of Kinesis, but in a particular way, as you rightly point out. I think this is because of my approach to jazz music, which was self-taught and heavily influenced by rock music on the one hand—progressive rock in particular—and contemporary music on the other hand (Messiaen and Shostakovic, for example). The result is a “magma” where one feels the presence of many artists at the same time, like Soft Machine, National Health, King Crimson, Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Zappa, Steve Coleman, Tim Berne. . . These are indeed among my favourite artists.

Dan: What about Kublai? Tell us about the similarities and differences to Kinesis.

Giovanni: Kublai is, in my opinion, a more mature undertaking than Kinesis, in performance as well as in composition. The original ideas of Kublai have not been “betrayed” by the actual performance. As for Kinesis, we recorded Kublai live in a few days, but instead of sounding consistently powerfully as it happened in Kinesis, with Kublai we succeded in finding a subtler and deeper balance among us. This is the welcome effect of several years of rehearsals and gigs together: we have definitely grown up as a live group.

On the one hand, Kublai moves in the same direction of Kinesis: we always look for natural, fluid changes of time-signature without altering the whole homogeneity of every track (this is indeed a feature of AdC’s aesthetic in music). On the other hand, Kublai surely represents a strong step forward, because of its variety of musical forms, better arrangement and improved instrumentation and recording. We have also expanded our musical language—see the use of oud in “Arbesque”—looking for new, exotic atmospheres. And what was new for us at the time of Kinesis, namely improvisation, became a standard at the time of Kublai.

Dan: Could you tell us about the band’s gear? I’m particularly interested in the keyboards, but I’m sure our readers would be interested in the instruments the other members of the band play.

Giovanni: When I first arrived at Mauro Pagani’s Officine Meccaniche (Milan, Italy), the studio where we recorded Kublai, I was impressed by the many instruments I had at my disposal (an Hammond C3 in perfect conditions, Leslies, every kind of vintage synths, amps and electric pianos, two Stainway pianos, one of which played by Duke Ellington [!!!]). I asked: “I need a gong”. The staff answered: “No problem, here it is”. There we could find every kind of instrument for orchestra: it was incredible!

While recording Kublai, I used my own Minimoog and Arp Odyssey (mark III, i.e. black-orange face), and also played a Rhodes mark I with Fender Twin Reverb amp, an Hammond C3 with Leslie 122, a Stainway mezzacoda (you hear it in “Battery Park”), and a Stainway coda (you hear it in “Dark Magus”, “L’Ombra di un sogno” and “Più Limpida e Chiara di Ogni Impressione Vissuta part I”). Cristian played his original Gretch drums; the other guys used their own instruments (Marco and Daniele played a Gibson SG and an Alembic bass, respectively) with amps from the studio (Hiwatt 50 for guitar, Hiwatt 200 for bass). A dream, for sure, but real!

Dan: I’ve watched some of the videos on the band’s YouTube channel, and I must say they’re very good quality for YouTube. The quality really helps to show how awesome you guys are live, so my question is: What’s your secret? How do you bring that energy from the studio to the stage?

Giovanni: Thank you, Dan. Actually, several people, who have seen us in concert, argue that we are better live than in studio (!). I don’t really know the source of our energy: probably it’s friendship, but also the fact that we always interact and see ourselves as a living rock group.

Dan: I think I’m out of questions, is there anything else you’d like to add?

Giovanni: We are currently working on a third album. I hope we will record it in June 2012. We still have several pieces that we have not included in Kublai, and we are still composing as of today (Marco and I have just composed a new track together). But abundance of ideas is never a problem . . .

DanGoodbye Giovanni, and thank you for taking the time to do this interview with ProgSphere.

Giovanni: Goodbye Dan, many thanks to you and ProgSphere for your excellent observations and questions.

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