Some artists you hardly remember after playing their last hit; others put a smile on your face while you think "wow! I've got to get this one"; and then there are those that reach your soul. September 29th belongs to that last kind. An extraordinary artist ready to carry us through heavy times.
FJS: Let's start with some common questions: When did you start writing music?
September 29th: When I was about 12.
FJS: Do you remember the first song you wrote?
September 29th: When I was 12, definitely. The first song I wrote was "Sometimes, at night", even if last Summer I obviously rewrote the lyrics and rearranged the piece. The title was different, too, at the time but I can't recollect it, now!
FJS: Who do you first play your songs to?
September 29th: My family. And my cat. She turns up every time I pick up my guitar :)
FJS: That's one lucky cat :). Any songs you are not happy with?
September 29th: It depends on my mood, I guess. Sometimes I hate everything I write. Most of the time, fortunately, I just content myself with the thought that I like doing things and can't help doing them, and doing them my way.
FJS: How many instruments do you play?
September 29th: Well, I don't know exactly. I play guitars (classical, acoustic, lead, electric.... even 12 strings but it's not good for my tendons). Synthesizers, a bit of piano, harmonicas, flute... I really love playing the bass. And I wish I could try a sax. Playing my sax in the middle of the night, in August, that would be my dream!
FJS: That's impressive. Which one is your favourite?
September 29th: The acoustic guitar. It's always there when I need a shoulder to cry on :)
FJS: You are indeed a one person band. I can imagine the freedom and endless possibilities you have when writing songs or taking decisions. What is the downside? Would you like to have your own band one day?
September 29th: As a kid I wasn't very popular in high school, and music neither.
I've looked for fellow travelers for years and in the end I just gave it up and decided to be my own band. I had no choice, I guess.
As you say, on one hand it's easier when you're the only person taking decisions. I can wake up in the middle of the night and record a song, arrange it the way I want.... On the other hand, it can be awfully difficult, because you can never share the burden with anyone. You're alone.
I'd like to find musicians with whom playing live, definitely. So far I've just collaborated with people from a distance, via email, which is terribly nice but not so real, if you know what I mean. Music means making mistakes, adjusting the pace, slipping and falling, exchanging glances... It's rewarding when you have to build something together with someone else.
FJS: I read on your soundclick page (link below) that your music would be for fans of "Bob Dylan... I don't know" Would you say your music is heavily influenced by his sound? Who else has influenced your work?
September 29th: I really like Bob Dylan, especially his experimenting, going through different periods, loving different things. He changes all the time but you always know he's Bob Dylan, he is a gambler, not a fake ;)
I don't know if he really was an inspiration to me, though, probably yes, at an unconscious level. You just hear things and let them become part of your life, without knowing where the source ends and your creativity begins. It just happens. I guess that every good song I've heard in my life has in a way influenced my musical direction.
I like to think that songs knock upon my door and all I do is let them in.
FJS: History seems to be an important part of your music and life. I find "The Story of History" a fascinating album and concept. You cover different historical characters and events. How was this project born? Why did you choose some of those events?
September 29th: I've always been fascinated by History, yes. History is everything but it still quite hard to describe what this "everything" really is. I would say: "History is ordinary life to the nth degree".
Sometimes I am tormented by History, by the fact that often we still don't know where Truth lies, who killed whom and why. Or, even if we do know that, we still can't prove it and what's lost is lost, forever. History is a gallery of lost chances and casual victories but I'm still convinced that we can use it as a mirror to remember and go on, learn our Rights and see what's wrong. Above all, I believe History should teach us to sympathize with our ancestors, those strangers, foreigners who dwelled on this Earth so long ago, or just yesterday.
"The Story of History"
As for "The Story of History", I started thinking about that project last November, after watching Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette" (I must confess that I didn't like her previous movies, but that one was really interesting). That film was like the spark I needed to find a shape to an idea born long before. It suggested me that Music could have been the best way to depict History. Besides, I've always been fascinated by concept albums, such as Pink Floyd's "The Wall" or "The Final Cut" (which is my favourite), The Who's "Tommy"... so I said to myself that I had come up with a good topic, finally ;)
Writing a concept album is like being on a mission, you know where everything starts and ends, it is definitely reassuring.
Choosing events and characters in "The Story of History"
Basically, I wanted to dedicate my songs to those characters who made History despite themselves, those monarchs who died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time such as the last tzar of Russia and his family, or Lady Jane Grey who was just a pawn in a dynastic game, Mary Queen of Scots...
Then, being a pacifist and against any kind of violence, I also chose to tell the story of characters who died in a bad way, who were abruptly killed for no reason or just because they believed in something else but Violence and Power. I wanted to honour the memory of those who weren't silent when Hitler ruled Germany, of the politicians who were reformers, of Lillian Hellman who had the guts to choose her conscience over her career, of Rosa Luxemburg who was rifle-butted, shot in the head and whose body was thrown in Berlin's Landwehr Canal to be found about five months later...
FJS: In "Herald of the Morn" you use English but also sing in another language, I think it's Russian. Did that affect your approach to the song? Why sing in English and not Italian?
September 29th: Yes, it's Russian ;)
I guess it was very stubborn of me to sing in Russian but, as they say, what's done is done. Well, actually, it was a way to bid goodbye to a certain period of my life, and I do prefer musical goodbyes.
I had scribbled down a couple of short poems in Russian back in 2005 (I was really interested in Russian versification when I studied it in college) and as I realised they perfectly fitted in the songs I was writing for Herald I just decided to give it a try.
Besides, I must confess that I truly like Russian Rock music, groups such as Kino and Akvarium are absolutely brilliant. Kino became a real phenomenon in the late 1980's and despite the fact that, helas, the group's leader, Viktor Tsoi, was killed in a car crash in 1990, in Russia their music is still in the charts.
When I went to Moscow in 2005, an old lady gave me one of their cassettes, and I fell for their songs. Russian is a very musical language.
Am I Italian? Just kidding. The thing is I don't feel Italian at all when I sing. I've always felt that I belong to the River that flows from the land of Music & Freedom to the land of Music & Freedom, wherever they are... My musical soul speaks, has always spoken and will always speak English.
FJS: What has the internet meant for you as far as music is concerned? "Herald of the Morn" was your first album and also self-produced; but for "The Story of History" you have used the internet. What has your experience been with both formats?
September 29th: The internet has meant so much to me, it gave me the chance of having my songs heard, of connecting with open souls and minds, finding people who understand the way I am and are so generous to support me. Music without listeners is just nothing and what I appreciate of the internet is that even if it is, yes it is, virtual, it causes real effects.
This is a starting point, if you use the internet it doesn't mean you don't want to live out there, in the so called real world. Maybe you just have a bad sense of direction and often get lost ;)
Self-producing an album can be very hard, believe me! But, of course, it's also funny and exciting. The self-promotion part maybe is a bit more complicated than the rest, of course, but you have to deal with it.
I remember that last Summer I did everything in a hurry, one day I woke up and decided that those songs had to be officially recorded, I wanted to make them real. It was quite a stressing month... I was suffering from shingles, recording and mixing, looking after my cat who had just undergone a mastectomy.... I'm happy I did it all in a hurry, though, because if I hadn't released that album then, I would have missed that train. September arrived and sadness, too, indeed. My cat died, my inspiration changed, I wrote "But"... I've learnt a lot from that but I've also changed a lot since then.
As for the idea of making "The Story of History" available in the internet, I just felt that this project was ready to be shared. And I'm too broke to self-produce another album, honestly, so I chose the easy way. Yet I'd like to see it as an album one day, with the artwork, the printed lyrics and so on.
FJS: I'd like to see that too one day. If I had to choose a song to listen in an endless loop it would be "Heavy Times (Part 1)". I find the lyrics are dark and sad but the music gives me hope: What can you tell me about the song and the video? and Where is part 2?
September 29th: Where is part 2? In my computer, I confess. Together with part 3 and 4... Probably I'm not too satisfied with these recordings. No, definitely not. I promise I'll find a way to record them again...
I wrote ""eavy Times (Part 1)" last November. Or was it December? Anyway, I firstly worked the harmonies out. Everything started from an E minor, I daresay, my favourite chord. And then came the lyrics. I scribbled down some words randomly, just listening to them, to their sound, they just fitted in perfectly and this made perfect sense. Then in January I came up with this new arrangement, with this strong bass line. And that's it.
As for the video, it was another quick gesture of mine, so to speak. I had an afternoon free and decided to use my webcam and all the pictures stored in my computer to show what it's like to live in Heavy Times.
FJS: Talking about favourite songs, if you were stranded in an island and could only listen to 3 songs, which ones would you choose to listen under a palm tree?
September 29th: Once upon a time I was a better listener, I daresay. Since I've started writing so many songs I tend to switch the radio off, to enjoy the silence.
Yet I'm sure that under a palm tree I'd listen to Ben E. King's "Stand by me". I never grow tired of that song. Soul music is fantastic.
FJS: You love films and literature; What place do they have in your music and lyrics?
September 29th:My mother is a writer, my father, too, but in a different way. My sister and I grew up watching old films and reading books. We invented long and complicated games and eventually, when we had to stop playing, we turn those games into books, short screenplays and music.
I like to write plain lyrics, basically there's always a story behind a song. Thoughts can be biographical but the plot is never biographical, I write songs as if I were writing a short film, with characters, actions and a location. I guess it might depend on the fact that I've seen too many films, yes.
FJS: You also won a special mention in a short film festival a couple of years ago. What other hidden talents do you have?
September 29th: This is the most difficult question.
I'm a writer and a poet, too, I guess. I wrote a couple of novels, a short story of mine won a prize in a national competition... I was among the winners of the First Peace Poetry Festival organized by Iranian poet Rira Abbasi in Teheran last year; and I have just signed a contract with a literary agent.
I've decided that language is the wall between these fields. My songwriting belongs to English, while the rest belongs to my native language. This way it is easier to go on. Yet one thing is sure, my life without music would be nothing. I decided to call my musical project September 29th because I feel I was born under a musical sign, indeed.
FJS: Maybe it's time to learn some Italian ;) I know you are trying to contact record companies and I've read your thoughts about their unwillingness to work with new emerging / unknown artists. How are things working out? And going back to the internet question, seeing how things are changing and the tools available to promote your own work, do you think you really need a record company?
September 29th: Well, the other day I've spent a couple of hours looking for indie labels and I've found some contacts. Their demo policy is clear: they do accept demos, wow. I guess I'll start from there.
Do I need a record company? Good question. I guess I'd like to have a record company just to be sure that what I'm doing is real, if you know what I mean, that I'm doing this not just because I feel it necessary but because it could really be necessary.
Besides, as I said, self-promotion is hard and can be very boring because you're always there. Sometimes I get tired of myself and I just need a break.
Said that, I know that I will go on anyway, even if I didn't land a deal. I don't care for money or success, I just want to do music and do it my way.
FJS: A final question to wrap things up; what are your next projects?
September 29th: I've written too many songs this past year and I've just decided to take a break from songwriting not to become crazy. My plan is to try and spread what I've done so far, for example I'd like to have my songs featured in films.
In the meantime, I'm also thinking about some literary projects.
Maybe tomorrow my break will be over, who knows?! ;) If a good song knocks upon my door I'll let it in, no doubt.
And if I ask the Moon, all I hear is: Life is the answer.
FJS: Thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview and for your time. Hasta Tempo, my friend!
"Heavy Times (Part 1)" video and "The Story of History" can be found at soundclick