PERVERT EGO, PINK COLOR, COCK AND KRAUTROCK MIXTAPE: Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu Interviews Fabrizio Palumbo of Larsen

 

Fabrizio Palumbo is — there is no other way to say it but — a true and pure artist in the most constructive and devoted means of understanding what that word can mean. When you meet him, just with conversation, he transports you to a place of a more fervent and a deeper creativity than you imagined that you had in you. When you play with him, using the simplest of musical gestures, he takes away the inhibition to try something new while not being afraid to be yourself.

There are a handful of people who changed my life, totally, the way i think, the way i see the world and how i hear music. His prodigious music career is incredibly worth opening yourself to, going from a dark grinding to free hearted and touching. He has also booked some of the most incredible art music of all time: Current 93, Six Organs of Admittance, Swans, Genesis P-orridge and Baby D, filing the world with art that few others would dare to stand behind.

From Torino Italy, pull back the curtain and open your mouth!

 

Larsen with Nurse With Wound – Call Me Tell Me

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You grew up in the mountains around Torino, what were you like as a teenager?

Actually when I was a teenager I moved back in town; I was born in Torino and then moved  to Torre Pellice and spent there 8 years of my life with my grandparents ’till I was 13. Torre Pellice is a weird place, people there are pretending to not be Italian, and somehow they are not, they are more connected  with Swiss history and culture. They are the biggest community in Italy of Protestant Waldensian people.
My family is not really religious,  so throughout my childhood there I had the local catholic priest and the Waldensian pastor fighting to save my soul.
Waldensians sing all of time and make good pies but the catholic priest had muscles so I was actually more interested in him after I saw him climb the bell tower shirtless.
I have to say I was actually very happy to live when I was 14. Back then the only option in Torre Pellice would have been becoming a junky which was not really an attractive one. Now I see how relevant it was for me to grow up in the mountains ; the power of nature, the woods, the snow, the fog… I was a very solitary kid, spending lot of time alone, reading sci-fi book (one of  my grandfather’s passions, I really owe him a lot). Torre Pellice hosted  the first meeting of gay associations in Italy, my schoolmates were kidding me for being gay, useless to say that at that age I was not really aware of being so, neither did I have any expectation about sexuality ; but for them I had to be gay just ’cause I was not like them at all, not interested  in soccer and other boys’ stuff, but much more in my books, stars, art and music. Useless to say at the end they were right and they probably sniffed my nature as  animals do with possible predators or quarries. When I moved back to Torino things changed, first impact has been shocking and I actually had a nervous breakdown, but then I figured out to manage  the situation, I had my own post-punk epiphany and started to really enjoy the town.
 

Tell me about your tattoos;

I actually don’t have much to say about them. I’m not really aware of being a tattoed man. I’m not really a tattoo freak, I mean, I do not consider any of  them a piece of  art or such. Sometime “Bue” of Larsen  shows me  some artworks that are really interesting and  beautiful, but all of the stuff I have on my skin are just rough sketches. I’ve always been also very bad at taking good care  of  my tatts  during the healing process and  most  of  ‘em got  infected. I did all of my tatts at specific moments of  my life, usually the really bad ones and only few in the good ones. The last one I did was a pink dot on my wrist when my cat died. I look at them as reminder of my past and  as some of them actually bother me, but they were necessary. Does  this make any sense ?

Famously you have led a debauched existence. Could you tell me about some of you more scandalous adventures?

Not so famously even if  actually once I found online a picture of  myself involved in some (pretty boring) sexual activities (don ‘t  waste your  time looking for  that pic it has been taken down). For a while I experimented  with sex, but my goal was not really sex in itself, which I’ve never been a big fan of , but more a social experiment on myself  , I’m not really proud of  this but i think for a long while  I’ve been like a predator  sucking emotions  out of his victims  in order  to figure out myself and  my needs, and as a young gay man sex  was actually a very easy, affordable and accesible tool to play with in order to explore your  own dark-side.
It actually worked and  helped  me learn  how  to  keep  my dark perverted ego under control and  just let it go when needed to create or perform on stage, but as a teen I was  bit like Laura Palmer and I had fire walking with me.

That’s a good  thing about being an artist: the opportunity to use even the most destructing feelings and  emotions in a positive way instead of let em take  control and  consume you.

Anyway considering you wanted a gossip about my depraved moments here is one for you: I went to an orgy, and  i ended  up  doing  nothing at all if not just  some coke and leave in less  than half an hour to join some friends of mine and  spend rest of  the night  with them. several hours later I then realised I forgot my bag at the orgy so I came  back to pick it  up  and at that point  someone gave me a very casual blow  job; I really didn’t spend more  than 40 mins there,  but as I  was leaving with my bag  the host of  the  night  told me  that  they were all very impressed  by me and  I really made the difference…  He  was  not being ironic at all, I guess he thought i was someone else or while I wasn’t there they got into much more  interesting drugs than that coke…
Anyway I think you have already heard most of my stories and you are a much more depraved man that I’ve ever been so feel free to make any other moment of  my  wild years public, as you know  I’m now a very monogamous relaxed man and at the age of  43 I can look back at my past and enjoy it, just as horror movies can be really enjoyable and  funny.

Your list of collaborators is long and note worthy (not unlike, so i have heard, your cock). who are some people you have worked with and who are you working with now?

Well you have seen my cock so you can judge yourself… anyway I’m actually gonna  work with you again soon, and  that’s  something that always makes me happy, düde.
I’m also super happy to have crossed my path with Little Annie’s, she is  now Larsen’s  singer and such a fantastic person and  friend. I will always be  grateful to Michael Gira, who I consider to be my mentor… I enjoyed touring with Ben Chasny this year, Gordon Sharp of  Cindytalk is on the new Blind Cave Salamander album and I have ongoing projects with Jochen Arbeit and  Steven Stapleton.
I’ve been really lucky ’cause I ended  up working with most of  my favourite  musicians and  now they are all good  friends, what else could I ever ask  for ?!? There have been just a couple of exceptions but  ’cause i’m a gentleman I will not mention them.
I think a special mention should then go to my bandmates  in Larsen, Blind Cave Salamander and Almagest!  and to  my long time friend  Daniele Pagliero who is now  such a relevant part of  my ( r ) project and  probably best band/tour mate I could have ever asked for, and then ’cause of  music  I’ve got  to meet my partner Paul Beauchamp…ah, now  I’m getting  sentimental… as Madonna  said “Music makes the people come together”… What if  I’d just answer your questions quoting Madonna’s  songs… too conceptual maybe?!?

 

Is the silver stratocaster that you play the only guitar you have owned?
What are some musical devices that are close to your heart?

I had a cheap Squire before, it lasted  few  months and  then its  neck exploded  ’cause of the  humidity  in our old rehearsal space; since then my silver fender has been my only guitar, I’m not a guitar maniac, I’m happy with my fender, it sounds great , it’s a good  gtr and does its  job pretty well and anyway  I really don’t like Gibson’s. But I’d be nothing without all of my efx! The e-bow changed  my life, same did  the loop station.
These days i’m more and more into the Freeze you gave me.  It’ s a fantastic pedal, it has a great  quality of  sound and it’s fun, I also find my electric  viola really  fascinating, I just love the way it looks. But then I love all of  my toys and my guitar.
I never considered  myself  a guitar player, to me the guitar is just a tool to produce sounds, but in the last years I’ve realised how connected I’m with it , how it actually became part of me of “my language”, so I guess  that mean I actually am a guitar player.

 

You have in the last couple of years begun to sing more. several years ago you said that you hated your voice (which is crazy because it is amazing and special). Have you come to terms with it? What is it like to sing much more now?

If i said  that, I lied. I do like the sound of my voice , but  I  didn’t  have words, I didn’t feel confident in using words.
But now  I have things to say or at least I had for my latest album as  ( r ), “Drama Queen”.
I actually love to sing live, to be a “crooner”; a guy told me I sound like Leonard Cohen in doom, I loved that !

 

What is your relationship to the camel?

A long time ago I was looking from the window when I saw my mom, to whom I’m very close,  cross the street and suddenly I realized she was looking like a camel, and she was even probably a camel. And if she is,  I’m too, and in a  very jungian way things started to make sense and lot of informations about  camels started to pop up in my life and  they were all very coherent with my own attitude.
I love all camels even the unhumped ones (like lamas and alpacas) but my fav is the asian one, the bactrian camel, long hair and 2 humps, it’s such a beautiful creature. From an esoteric point of view it’s a symbol of chaos, he is at risk of extinction ’cause he is not really interested in sex and reproduction.  He likes the company of other camels but camels are not stupid pack animals and they are not into hierarchy. They are ok with working with humans but they are not submissive animals. They are very strong and tough and resoluted but not aggressive at all… I could  go on for hours talking about camels… Camels rule!

 

What is your relationship to color? You have gone from Blackest Black to Pinkest Pink.

I’m still very black as well, black and  pink are complementary, and  those colors  together really match my personality. In any case  full black times are over ! I’ve been there and done my best into that “territory”  but once you experienced it in its fullness and majesty you have to stop. Black is too self indulgent and not really communicative.
As an artist my role and goal is to bring beauty to the world, even when I explore the darkest side of my own nature and life. Not just for the sake of it, but to acquire knowledge.
I don’ t wanna sound like a retarded hippy but I really do believe that’s what creativity is about, beauty and love are what I’m interested in, beauty and  love are forever, pink is as bright and powerful and political as beauty and love are.
And on the top of everything it is fucking glamorous too!
 

You recently finished what is essentially a Christmas record/Xmas record with Little Annie. as stated, larsen has had a long and fruitful working and personal life with her. How did that come about and what is it like to work together?

I love Annie, I’ve been a big fan of her work most of my life and we clicked straight away the first time we actually met some years ago, thanks to a mutual friend. Then both Larsen and  Annie played a festival in Austria curated by David Tibet and after the Larsen set Annie came to us and told us that she would have really loved  to sing on some of the music we had just performed and it would have been better for us to have her join us on the album we were working on (which then became “La Fever Lit”) or she would have kicked the door of the studio down. Of course she didn’t need to and she has been with us since. You should read her autobiography, it was supposed to be published on Sep. 11th 2011, but now it is still unreleased… Annie is actually working  to a new and  updated  version of  it   to be  published  hopefully in the near future. She is a fantastic storyteller, she is a true survivor and a real diva in the best possible sense of  the word.

Working with Annie is supereasy, usually the first take is the right one. As a singer, besides her pretty unique  voice, she always knows how to get into the song and she has a unique phrasing and  rhythmic style and she was born to be on stage!
Our “blue Xmas ep” came out on the 26th of November. Originally it was supposed to be part of series about colors, and we were  asked to work on “blue”. The original concept was including also a series of  live  shows in Athens  Greece but  the curator of  the series fucked up big time and those shows  never happened. So with Joseph of  Tourette Records we decided to publish the ep anyway in a different context and ’cause both Annie and  I are shopping addicts and love lights and wine, we thought that this could be the right opportunity to follow the footsteps of Phil Spector and do our own Xmas single, which is something I always wanted to do.
None of the 3 songs  in the ep is actually about Xmas or a Xmas classic but we think the general feeling, notably ’cause of our cover of “Blue Moon”, is pretty christmas-ish in a kinda fucked up way; we have approached this ep as we were Nancy & Lee (or Nancy & Nancy or  Lee & Lee) and we had lot of fun doing it. Annie has also painted the artwork we used for the cover and  she also came up with 50 lovely little pieces of canvas we are using for a limited art edition.

 

What are some of your favorite krautrock records?

Oh yeah!  Some of my favourite albums ever are actually  from German artists  from the 70s;
Let me think …ok, let’s  say:
- Sand: “Golem” (which has just been reissued with a new cover designed by Steven Stapleton)
- La Düsseldorf: “La Düsseldorf” and “Viva” (pure  joy!)
- everything by Neu! and Harmonia and also Michael Rother’s “Flammende Hezzen”: I went to see Rother live a year ago, he was performing Neu! and Harmonia stuff  backed up by a (very good) bass player and Steve Shelley; it looked like a potential disaster, but fuck…He blew my mind!!! In 10 minutes he sent me to Mars and far beyond, most of the people in the audience were college kids that were there for Shelley (who actually did a good job in doing the “Klaus Dinger”), one of  them even asked me if I knew  the “old man ” playing  guitar and electronics…that’s how history works I guess…
 - Amon Düül II: “Yeti” (the album that made me understand that LSD back then was much better than the one I used to take which anyway was not bad at all)
- everything by Tangerine Dream up ’till their 1975 live abum “Ricochet” (such a pity whatever they have done after totally sucked), I especially love “Zeit” which I consider to be a total masterpiece, the one and only real “cosmic” album ever.
- Can: “Soundtrack” and of course “Tago Mago”
- everything by Cluster including Moebius and Roedelius (two really nice men !) albums with Brian Eno
- Popol Vuh: “In Den Garten Pharaos”, “Einsjager & Siebenjager” and their soundtrack for Herzog’s “Aguirre”
- Holger Czukay: “Canaxis”
- Kraftwerk: ” Trans Europe Express”, “Radioactivity” and “Autobahn”
- Riechmann: “Wunderbar”
and then two albums I like bit less but still are fantastic:
- Faust “IV” (I know “So Far” is probably a better album but “IV” is the one with “Jennifer” and has a pop touch I really like) and Ash Ra Temple‘s “Schwingungen”.

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Download the Fabrizio Kraut Comp, the best introduction to krautrock you could ever dream of: Fabrizio Krautrock Compilation (Compilation + Tracklist + Cover)

+ Nicole Boitos live painting action with Fabrizio Modonese Palumbo & Marco “Bue”Schiavo at Blah Blah Torino Italy on the 26th of April 2012: