Interview with Gigi Masin

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Gigi Masin is an artist, musician and composer from Venice. He was undeservedly unknown and ignored for nearly decades. Only for last years he finally has got attention from the world musical community. On Discogs you can find his rare early albums for crazy amount of money. Magicians from Amsterdam-based Red Light Records contacted with him earlier this year and as a result we’ll have the opportunity to hear Gigi’s work in full effect: his upcoming double-vinyl compilation Talk To The Sea on Music From Memory. Here’s our conversation with Gigi, the first interview he ever made on the Internet!

Are you in Venice at the moment?

No, I live now in the part of the town that is not in the lagoon, the old city. Venice’s municipality is big, not only the wonderful town everybody knows but also the towns all around the lagoon. I was born in the old city on the water 58 years ago. It’s a warm evening here today…

The opposite is here))) How are you, Gigi?

I’m fine, thank you.

Tell us about Venice, your hometown. How it is not read about it in Hemingway, not to see in the movies or Google maps but live there? Is it the best place in the world for you?

I was born in Venice, and sure it’s the most natural thing to have water and boats around, since you grow up and understand the difference between your place and the ‘dryland’. Tourism is a key for the life of this town, but millions people are too many. My ‘Venice’ was a place where kids swim into the water channels, and it was so many years ago.

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Wasn’t Venice a tourist spot even before your birth? You mean the quantity of tourists dramatically grew during your living there.

No, when I was a boy I’ve never notice tourists… I suppose it’s almost from twenty years that things are going bad, big ships for example..

Had Venice changed visually / in architectural sense during your lifetime?

Oh, just a little… Now you notice the large number of closed apartments, abandoned palaces. Shops that changed name or close…

Venice is too important to build sky-scrapers there) It’s good. What is special in all Venecians? You are living in unusual city so you should have something unusual in your behaviors, spelling, bearing etc.

I had always felt that living in Venice is more ‘happy time’ than in other places. It’s a silent place, kids playing in the open squares, millions of coloured clothes dancing into the wind from the windows… No special, maybe fortunate ones…

Are there music, man with guitars on the streets? How you met with music (in global sense)?

No, years ago there were no music in the water, no gondolas with American tourists and songs from Naples. When I was 5 my aunt got a nice and small phonographer, with some lovely singles (45) I loved so much..

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Were it Italian singles?

Italian singers and American orchestras to dance…

What did you like the most on that records: singing or playing on instruments? Did you want to do the same? I mean when and how did you start to want to get involved into music?

That’s a nice question. I started to listen to the radio when i was very young, at 12 every night i loved to stay hours with radio Luxembourg, it was great. I grow up with the desire to be a radio speaker, a DJ… Music is my life, in the sense that is ‘into’ my life from so many years, and maybe I started to play music when I realized that I will never be at radio Luxembourg in my life…

It was a sort of blue dream of a small kid from Venice))) What did they play on that wave?

Pop and rock music in the evening, but some nice jazz or folk tunes in the night…

And what do you mean “…and maybe i started to play music when i realized…”? Playing records or playing live instruments?

I started to write songs actually.

Have you got musical education?

No, I love music without the chains of the paper… When I was a boy I’d like to study violin, but it was a dream.

And you started to play on guitar / piano? Did you want to start a band?

Guitar, I played alone for hours when I was young… My first teacher was Pete Townshend from the Who. I stayed days to learn to play his tracks.

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Impressive story, Gigi! And when was the moment of getting to some level when you decided to move forward?

I was a radio speaker in some radio in Venice for years, but I understand that could not be my job, almost in my country… I played guitar in a rock band called ‘Zero’ and acoustic in some parties, and I always thought one day I will have my own album, my 33rpm with a cover to remember. This happened many years ago, when I try to play for fun a keyboard, a synth… It totally changed my points of view, my feels…

You are talking about the making of the Wind. Tell us more about that record, the whole story. How it all came together? Can’t believe it happened incidentally, just for fun, because the album is so complicated and musically rich (I can speak only about tracks we have on Youtube, the record itself is super rare and expensive)

I loved to record an album, the studio, the mixing, the smell of the vinyls. It was so difficult to release an independent record in Italy, years ago, a challenge… And it was so. For years I dreamt to have a guitar album but the sound of a synth changed everything. So it was a cheap synth but I loved it and it opened my views. the music was different from the past, no more rock or folk songs, but sounds textures, what it’s now called ‘ambient music’… it was the 1986.

The debut album, the first your song ever released … and straight a bomb Call Me. Is it your voice on that song?

Yes, i wrote ‘Call Me’ one morning in a handful of minutes.

!!! There should be a huge inspiration behind that music. What inspired you at the time?

A girl. It’s a love song. And it was my goodbye gift…

Oh my God! But why you sang to her on English?! )

I don’t love to sing in Italian, it sounds strange to me, really.

Maybe it sounds too like the pop songs, something like Celentano) And you said anyone was interested in publishing the album, right? It’s like the story I heard yesterday of JD Twitch from Optimo who decided not to publish first demo from Boards Of Canada (they were not known at the moment).

In Italy it’s difficult to be independent. You have to be in a ‘number’, a party, a family, an union… I wanna my own record, I produced it, I released it… Here people are in a sort of xenophilia, so an Italian musician that make an ambient record is something ridiculous for them. It was very hard, I felt very sad about it. Apart one music magazine in Italy (Rockerilla) and one journalist (Mirco Salvadori) I was under a complete indifference or offences to be ‘a synth romantic’…

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And when the bigger audience finally heard that LP? Have you played it live anywhere?

Years after, in the 1990 with a trio called ‘Wind Trio’ (with Alessandro Pizzin and Alessandro Monti) we played live some of that tracks. From that time I didn’t play that music live, no more.

So many mystery around your career)… And at the same time you did another album with these guys.

Not mystery, here is difficult to be a musician. When I decided to be independent and to do what I wanna do, this here was one of the worst decisions I could decide. It’s a long story, but I loved to do my music and I try to do that in the ways I could do.

Your next beauty was The Wind Collector. It was your first collaboration. How it was? Was there something kindred between you and Alessandro Monti?

The trio was an idea of Alessandro Pizzin to give light to my music. We did lovely tracks, some still unreleased tunes and we passed almost one year in the studio to play and talk and play… The trio broke up and the ‘Wind Collector’ is a collection, not complete, of what we recorded at that time. Alessandro Monti produced the album.

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These both albums were sort of DIY thing… Who did the artwork? 1991-2001 – was the moment of silence, were you still involved in music at that period?

I did the artwork, the covers… Yes, when the trio broke up in 1991 I was so sad about music, too many delusions. Many years passed without music, it’s true..

So happy that things got better for you!!! Tell us about your upcoming release and Music From Memory guys. Tell us the whole big story ;)

Guys from MFM were fantastic… They made me feel special, and this is great. In the years 2000s I started again to do music, to play live as a DJ or playing piano for some friend’s reading. And I continued to write songs. The nice thing happened when a German trio (To Rococo Rot) sampled one of my tracks (“Die Dinge Des Lebens” by To Rococo Rot sampled Gigi Masin’s “Clouds”). A nine minute loop. Bjork notice that track and then she wrote a song using my music. From this point a dozen of DJs or hip-hoppers sampled, looped, did everything with my music. Then came Nujabes from Japan who sampled a whole track and did other tunes that sounded like mine. And so on, and on, other musicians and DJs still sampling and mixing… This is wonderful and nice and it changed my life. But the guys from Amsterdam were looking for the man who did ‘Wind’ and this is why I am here)

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Wow, should check that samplers and especially Bjork. I counted 5 tracks from 17 were released earlier, am I right? And when this unreleased stuff was recorded? When did MFM guys come to you? Why you didn’t decide to simply re-release the Wind?

The unreleased tracks are some music from the videos (or films I must say) that a great artist like Luis Filipe Cunha made with me/for me. And some other tracks are from the reading I did with Mirco Salvadori. The talking with MFM is started some months ago, and it was a nice ride. Yes, many people asked and asking me to re-release ‘Wind’. I believe it had/has its own life, there’s a little magic on it… I don’t know, it seems still young to me in terms of ‘feeling’.

We think you’ll have more work after the release ;) How do you play live? According to reading it must be piano only setup…

I hope so, it will be a nice period! I hope to play with nice guys and have some happy time. Yes, now I play piano and laptop, with a little keyboard. Sometimes guitar, if possible.

I think you might like philosophical / esoteric books because of your tracks names.

Nice) Sure the names of the tracks are a sort of dream with open eyes. I read many book about history, I love that so much..

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What do you think about English language in comparison to Italian?

English is good to talk with people in the world. But every language has its own charm, and every language is a key to a country, a literature. Italian is nice, a long story, but a difficult one to learn.

))) Are you happy right now, Gigi? And what makes you the happy person?

A family. My wife and two beautiful boys (twins). Then music, in the way I did it, in the way I decide to do or not. I’m free, and I am independent!

You’re fantastic man! Hope to meet you in Venice one day and drink a beer with you) Or do you prefer a glass of wine?

Great! Wine with food, beer with friends ;)

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Super! It was a pleasure! Thank you!

Ok, thanks for your patience and kindness. All the best! Grazie!

And good night!

Buona notte!

Check also podcast by Gigi for us.

Buy Talk To The Sea here

Check Gigi website
Find Gigi on Bandcamp and Soundcloud

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Words: Sasha Tessio
Cover picture: Sasha Tessio
Cover of Talk To The Sea: David McFarline
Other photos: Gigi Masin