Latte e Miele

Here’s a little retrospective interview we did with Latte e Miele recently that discusses some history, past albums, and even some current stuff.

Dan: Thank you guys very much for agreeing to do this interview! Latte e Miele happens to be the first Italian Prog band we’ve interviewed, and it’s a real treat for me because Latte e Miele is also one of my favorite bands from this very beloved subgenre. Would you guys mind introducing yourselves?

Latte e Miele: Oliviero Lacagnina, keyboards and piano, Marcello Giancarlo Dellacasa, guitars and vocals. Massimo Gori, bass and lead vocals, Alfio Vitanza, drums and vocals.

Dan: Could you give us a short description of your musical background?

Massimo: We loved  many different kind of music. From the Beatles to Procol Harum, but also Bach, Jazz, Jimi Hendrix or Stravisnsky, but alsoYes and Genesis.

Dan: Could you all tell me the origins of the name “Latte e Miele”? I believe it means “milk and honey” in English, which has biblical connotations.

Oliviero: Once we saw a comic in which Donald Duck was sleeping and dreaming to eat a lot of honey and drink milk. Then we discovered that in the Bible, the Promised Land was described as the land where rivers of milk and honey flow.

Dan: As I unfortunately do not speak Italian, I am unable to understand the lyrics that accompany your music. Could you guys give me a description of what goes on in Passio Secundum Mattheum? Please also describe the creation process, or as much of it as you all can remember, since it was made almost thirty eight years ago.

Marcello: We were not interested in the religious side, but in the human side of Jesus as a persecutee. It still happens in many parts of the world: those who don’t agree with the power are often put under torture and killed for their ideas. Oliveiro loved Bach’s “passio” and wanted to write one of his own. That’s how it all began…

Dan: Same question in regards to the second album, Papillon. Was this album perhaps written about Henri Charriere? The French prisoner with the nickname “Papillon”?

Alfio: No. It’s inspired by Strawinsky’s “Petruchka”. It’s a popular Russian tale that speaks about a puppet, we named Papillion (butterfly), that becomes a man through the experience of love. If you listen to “live tasting”, our live album, Massimo introduces Papillon explaining that.

Dan: The third album, Aquile e Scoiattoli, is probably my favorite, mostly because of the nearly 25 minute epic Pavana, with its glorious jazzy moments and sweeping symphonic passages. Please describe the creation process for this album, as well as some of the lyrics of the other songs on it.

Massimo: We too loved this album, specially because it has been our first record opened to cooperation with other musician with other bands, such as Vittorio DeScalzi, Leo Lagorio and others. It has been recorded over a long period of time, Marcello and Oliviero wanted to begin a career as classic musicians, so they left the band. Alfio Vitanza founded a 2nd version of LATTE MIELE with 3 new musicians. Luciano Poltini played Hammond in Marcello’s first band, and Mimmo Damiani was a friend of Massimo Gori. They both were working in the same studios we used to record our demos, so we jammed a lot and decided to play together.

Dan: Latte e Miele seems to have disappeared after releasing Aquile e Scoiattoli, but that didn’t stop someone (who was apparently not you guys?) from releasing a live album and a compilation of demos called Vampyrs in the early 90’s. Can you guys tell me about these two albums?

Alfio: We didn’t know that somebody was in possession of those demos. We used to rehearsal a lot, and record everything we play to discuss and create together starting from that point.

Dan: Apparently after this brief reunion there was another split, or perhaps the band simply went on hiatus, I’m not sure. Either way, Latte e Miele eventually reformed again very recently to release yet another pair of albums, again studio and live. I have not listened to the live album, but the studio album Marco Polo: Sogni e Viaggi, is quite excellent. Strangely though, it seems a bit different from the material the band created in the past. Could you guys explain the circumstances behind this particular album’s creation?

Oliviero: Marco Polo is different because we are different. I mean, we don’t want to play simply to celebrate the past. That means you have no new ideas. We have a lot of music in our minds, the world has changed and we don’t’ want to be a band of the past. Massimo wrote the lyrics and the concept of Marco Polo. It’s a strange story, about a guy who dreams he is Marco Polo, with a lot of philosophical implications, especially from the Zen point of view (Massimo is Buddhist). It is about a mind trip through space and time. So I wrote the music, and Marcello joined the compositions with a lot of good ideas.

Dan: Do you guys have any more material in the works? Or are you planning on splitting up again and releasing another pair of new albums in ten years?

Massimo: We are planning a tour in Italy and maybe we’ll be in Japan and Korea once more, next winter. We don’t want to split, at the moment. There’s a good feeling and we love what we do. Playing new songs gave us a lot of energy and fun.

Dan: There seems to be a surge of older Italian bands like PFM, Delirium, Le Orme, Osanna, and a few more (including you guys) releasing new albums in recent years. Why do you think that is?

Latte e Miele: In Italy the prog scene is not good. Italian younger people are more interested in techno, dance and easy listening. But in the rest of Europe there’s a lot of people asking for that, so many of these bands went back together to satisfy the request.

Dan: Were you guys fans of contemporary RPI bands like Banco, Quella Vecchia Locanda, Metamorfosi, etc?

Latte e Miele: We played with Banco, Le Orme and PFM a lot of time, in the 70. Latte e Miele where formed in 72.

Dan: How about newer RPI bands like Il Bacio Della Medusa, Malibran and others?

Alfio: It’s good that the prog scene has new bands to carry on the tradition. The important thing is to develop your own style. Influences are important at first, but then you have to forget and start to think with your own head.

Dan: How about non-RPI stuff? I would imagine you guys listen to a lot of Western Classical music besides prog, as there’s a lot of Bach and Beethoven on the first three albums.

Massimo: Prog is just a world. It’s more important for those who listen than  for those to play. We don’t think “let’ s write and play a prog song”. We simply do what is in our hearts and minds. We listen to a lot of Classical music, but also Pat Metheny or Miles Davis, Paul McCartney or Frank Zappa. There is good music and bad music. It’s important to be open minded…

Dan: Why do you guys think Van Der Graaf Generator was so popular in Italy? Personally I think that says something excellent about Italians, as VDGG is one of my favorite bands! I have also read that Latte e Miele opened for VDGG on one of their tours. What was that like?

Marcello: We opened VDGG concert in their very first Italian tour. It was great, and in the backstage we had a lot of fun, beside the musical facts. They enjoyed Italian food and girls; you know what I mean…

Dan: Rank your top 5 VDGG albums, in order. Mine are: Pawn Hearts > World Record > Godbluff > Still Life > H to He.

Alfio: We agree with your top five… Personally I loved a song among the others “A house with no doors”. It is so sweet and sad at the same time…

Dan: What is touring like in general for Latte e Miele? Do you still do it?

Massimo: We love to play live and we still do, even if we don’t want to do massive tours just for commercial purposes. We prefer to do less but with the higher quality.

Dan: Is there a chance Latte e Miele might come over to the U.S. for a big festival like NEARFest similarly to have PFM, Le Orme, and Banco have in recent years?

Oliviero: You should ask it to our managers! We’d love to play in the U.S.

Dan: Would you mind describing the circumstances behind the band’s splits? (Feel free to omit this question if you find it to be too personal).

Alfio: We split because the prog scene in Italy was no more good. In the late seventies people wanted to listen to disco music, maybe punk, and we decided it was time to “die young and stay pretty”. But we remained in good touch, sometimes playing together in jam sessions just for the pleasure to do it. Each one of us continued to play in many local bands, or write music and lyrics for other artists.

Dan: I have one more, completely nonserious question. Are you guys fans of dogs?

Massimo: That’s my favourite question!! I simply love dogs and animals. I have two cats, Ludwig and Twiggy, and a dog, Wally, and to me and my wife they are part of the family.

Dan: Thank you all very much for agreeing to do this interview!

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