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SMOKEY FINGERS TALK TO MARK
IF YOU LOVE YOUR SOUTHERN ROCK, YOU'LL LOVE THESE GUYS - YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST...
Picture by Pierangela Pagani
MARK ROCKPIT: That’s quite some album you’ve put together! Congratulations!
SMOKEY: Hi Mark! First of all we would like to thank you for your compliments and for this interview; it's a real pleasure for us, also because we can get the chance to make people know SMOKEY FINGERS a little bit better.
MARK ROCKPIT: So where did it all begin for the band? I’ve read a bit about your musical history but tell our readers how you got together?
DANIELE: It all started back in 2006, when, while having a few beers, I asked Diego to meet for some jam sessions; after a few weeks, we totally had the feeling that something really interesting could see the light, so we started looking for somebody to share this experience with.
LUKE: Diego asked me to join this project, and soon after Fabrizio became a part of it too. Giving ourselves a challenge wasn't easy, also because some of us, like me for example, are no longer young kids, but something inside me told me it was worth to give it a try.
FABRIZIO: We took it very easy, with no pressures nor high expectations, we just wanted to play and see what could come out of it. What we wanted was to feel the satisfaction of putting together something we could really feel as ours.
MARK ROCKPIT: Where does the love of Southern US Rock come from?
DIEGO: My love for Southern rock dates back to when I was a kid; it has always been played round my house, as my father is a big fan of bands such as Little Feat, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Allman Brothers and, obviously, Lynyrd Skynyrd. It almost feels like Southern Rock has always been the soundtrack of my childhood.
SMOKEY: Our Love sure as hell goes to good music, and mostly to good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll. Our passion for Southern US comes from our music background as listeners at first and then as musicians. We've always been captivated by such a genuine yet direct rock which can be refined in technique and sound at the same time; an honest rock which can be both rough and sweet, as exciting as melancholic, where stories and instruments (such as the slide guitar, just to quote an example) make you imagine life and freedom scenes which have long been part of the collective thought.
MARK ROCKPIT: Who would you say are your biggest influences individually and as a band?
LUKE: I would personally say Lynyrd Skynyrd, ABB, Black Crowes, Blackberry Smoke just to quote some example, but also singers-songwriters such as Jackson Browne and Neil Yong, besides many influences from Country and Blues.
DIEGO: Lynyrd Skynyrd in particular and Southern Rock in general, but also Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Led Zeppelin and many more... way too many to mention..
FABRIZIO: I would surely say Hendrix, RHCP, Stevie Wonder, Doors.
DANIELE: I listen to almost anything, but I grew up wih the Beatles and then Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Who, then Toto up to the Gov't Mule.
MARK ROCKPIT: You have a very traditional approach to Southern Rock, but what do you think of the new wave of ‘Southern’ bands that are coming through today? Bands like Black Stone Cherry and Shinedown for example?
DIEGO: Those surely are great bands; however, we do prefer new bands such as BLACKBERRY SMOKE and DRIVE BY TRUCKERS, whose sound is much more classic yet original.
LUKE: “Columbus Way” doesn't mean to put forward alternative or experimental music nor to “invent” some new way of playing rock. We strongly believe that being original doesn't mean being different. Those who love rock music want to listen to rock music and that's all. When we talk about music in general, we think there is still a lot to be experimented with, but, as far as rock music is concerned, all changes have been set by the genius of some Masters who are uncomparable so far. The strained search for originality can lead to a music that could sound too artificial, with no naturalness, soul or emotions. We do believe that the term Rock music has been given a wrong meaning over the past few decades.
MARK ROCKPIT: What was it like to be the first band to record an album at the Tanzan studios? What sort of set up and board do they have there?
SMOKEY: That is surely something we are really pround of. That has been a very important experience which taught us a lot and made us more mature as musicians, and that's something we will always be grateful for to our Friend and Producer Mario Percudani. It's not easy to get into the dynamics of the artistic production of an album and of the work in a recording studio; we were quite new to some of these aspects and Mario helped us lot. Getting to the studio with clear ideas and well aware of what we wanted to achieve was a sure winning thought. We are very pround of how we worked in the studio and of the quality of the final result, also from an editorial point of view.
Furthermore, we have included some friends, who were already known in the Italian music scene, as background vocals, namely Josh Zighetti (Hungry Heart) Barbara Boffelli and Elisa Paganelli. Thank you Guys!
MARK ROCKPIT: How long has the band had the songs that made up the album in their repertoire?
FABRIZIO: All the tracks have been put together during a period of time from 2008 to the beginning of 2010. However, the first songs retrieve rhythmics and guitar riffs that later became the soul of tracks like “Old Jack” or “The Lover”.
MARK ROCKPIT: Is the CD a mix of older and newer songs or something that manly came together recently? How many songs were in the running for the CD and do you have any leftovers that are likely to see the light of day?
SMOKEY: There are actually newer and older tracks. In order to complete the album, we added two significant songs. The first one is “Born to run”, written by Mario and expecially conceived for Smokey Fingers.
The second one is a cover from the great James Taylor, “Country Road”.
Those two tracks brought a precious added value to “Coulbus Way”; also, “Born to run” involves Mario as musician too, as he plays the acoustic guitar, and includes the cooperation of Paolo Apollo Negri on Rhodes.
“Country Road” has been chosen together with the production; arrangements have been revised, thus making it much more rock.
DIEGO: We had 20 tracks, some of them only partially completed, but we eventually chose 12 songs that could enhance our qualities. We don't know yet if the tracks that didn't make it to the album will be released in a new one; at the moment we are working on new ideas and refining the old songs.
MARK ROCKPIT: So what’s the secret? How did a band from Italy manage to capture the spirit of the greats of Southern Rock on your debut ‘Columbus Way’?
LUKE, DIEGO: There is no secret, we simply did what we felt right. We wanted to make something that could get to us as well as to the people. Actually, it was Southern Rock that seized our spirit and not the other way round; music chose us and all became spontaneous and natural.
We surely took great care of guitar riffs and melodies, as well as the arrangements of the rhythm guitars and the dynamics of every single track.
“Columus Way” is a very immediate and simple album, with genuine lyrics which are actually telling stories. Not always are simple things the best ones; however, the best things are always simple.
MARK ROCKPIT: We had to live with the CD for a few weeks before we could write the review just to be sure our ears weren’t deceiving us. What sort of response have you had so far to the album?
DANIELE: The album was released on the 23rd of September; we have just started receiving comments and they all turned out to be positive. Honestly, we would have never expected such a good reaction, also as far as sales are concerned.
MARK ROCKPIT: It was hard for us to pick a favourite amongst the songs but tracks like ‘Chains of Mind’, ‘Born To Run’ and ‘Ride of Love’ really caught our attention. What are your personal picks from the CD?
LUKE: I could't really pick one, I'm really bound to every track of the album for so many reasons and I love each and every one of them. However, I feel more close to songs like “Chains of mind” or “Sweet Tears”, as they deal with much more personal thoughts. Also, I like “Good Country Side” because it passes on a lot of energy.
FABRIZIO: My personal pick would be “Good Country Side”, because it has an outstanding sound impact and some lyrics I feel as really relevant.
DANIELE: I would personally choose “Over The Line” because I like gloomy atmospheres, and also because I have fun playing it.
DIEGO: I'd say “Old Jack” and “Over The Line” because I think they're the most amusing to be played live; also, “Sweet Tears” and “Ride of Love” for their melodies and mostly their beautiful lyrics.
MARK ROCKPIT: How are things going for the band live? What is the reaction like locally?
DANIELE: Well, we are quite well-known round here and more and more people is coming to our gigs; that makes us really glad because the Italian scene for those who play original music is rather complicated and finding clubs where to play live is more and more difficult. Also, finding a booking agency, if you don't play covers, is almost impossible.
Do you have any touring plans on the cards?
SMOKEY: We haven't programmed a real tour, but we have a lot of gigs on schedule. You can check them out on our website www.smokeyfingers.com, which is constantly updated. What we can say is that we have been asked for some concerts abroad and we're evaluating this possibility.
MARK ROCKPIT: Tell us a little about the bands influences and what you set out to capture on the CD?
SMOKEY: As a band, we get our influences from every kind of music and surely from everything we listen to and love. Bands and genres we got our influence from are those we mentioned above.
MARK ROCKPIT: From an outsider’s point of view the Italian rock scene appears to be particularly strong at the moment, are there any bands you think we should be checking out?
DANIELE: It surely seems as something's going on; I'd say HUNGRYHEART, LOS FUOCOS, MANDOLIN BROTHERS, SMALL JACKET, just to quote some examples.
MARK ROCKPIT: What is the best way for fans, or even just the curious, to check you out?
SMOKEY: You can check us out on all biggest social networks, especially on Facebook and on our official website www.smokeyfingers.com. Also, you will find a lot of reviews of our album all over the net.
MARK ROCKPIT: What are your plans for the coming year?
DANIELE: Playing, playing and playing!! We're already working on new songs.
MARK ROCKPIT: OK let’s dream a little. If you could pick any four bands to support on a festival bill who would they be and why?
SMOKEY: If we had to choose one each, we'd say Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Crowes, Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney. These are just the first ones that came to our minds, but we could quote many more.
MARK ROCKPIT: Now for our time-machine question. If you could have been involved in the creation of any album or piece of music in the history of rock what would it have been and why?
LUKE: “Late for the sky” by Jackson Browne sure is one of those records I would have loved to compose. It's rich in poetry and I thinks the songs are extraordinary and incredibly delicate thanks to the Lap steel Guitar by David Lindley.
FABRIZIO: Quadrophenia, The Who
DIEGO: Harvest by Neil Young because it's such a great album I would have loved to compose.
DANIELE: Life before insanity, Gov’t Mule
MARK ROCKPIT: And the question we ask everyone. What is the meaning of life?
DIEGO: I have never worried about finding a meaning of life, whereas I think it's very importatnt to find a sense in little things in your every-day life.
LUKE: I think the risk here is to get a bit too much rhetorical. From a practical point of view, I guess life has a different meaning for each one of us; this meaning changes depending on times and places because needs and conditions of life itself are different.
If I has to choose one single word to describe the very meaning of life, I would pick “Movement”, which is the common denominator of all human beings.
This may sound banal, but whatever doesn't move doesn't have a life. Time itself is a measure which wouldn't make sense if everything was still.
When I say Movement, not only do I mean physical movement, but also breath and emotions, sound and music.
Even the smallest movement causes countless reactions and new movements; movement is the true essence of life.
I was born to move guys….”I was born to run”!!!
So... If you haven't done it yet, start running!
Thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Have a great Christmas! You guys have produced one of the albums of the year! Have a great 2012!
By Mark Diggins
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