Name: Glauco Cataldo
Occupation: Vocalist, songwriter, guitarist
Current Release: Cumpà on Mouthwatering Records
Recommendations: Thundercat’s new album – It is what it is; Any painting of Sigmund Wagner
If you enjoyed this interview with Blind Boy de Vita, visit his website or Facebook profile to discover more about his uniquely personal world of sound.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started at the tender age of 17, with my first band – Liquid Bread. I was heavily into RHCP and Woodstock-era bands. For me, initially it was something like a trip to the psychologist. I worked through various weird things that were going on at the time, so music was my therapy.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
My first guitar teacher taught me the old school way. Listening to Nirvana, Eric Clapton, playing along, and learning it note for note. I loved it. I was staring to write some songs, as well, and of course first they sounded like songs that had already been written. But as you continue to write, soaking up new influences and inspirations, gradually that process blurs the line between the things you know and the things coming from somewhere deep within. It’s quite mysterious. I started to hear how I wanted my voice to sound like more and more.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Compositionally: Lyrics. I’ve always had a hard time writing down words. I’m not missing a crazy amount of vocabulary, but rather topics to write about. Growing up helps with that! You know how you want your statement and your story to be, over time.
Production: I record virtually everything on my own and protools is a bitch. I’m allergic to everything computer-related. Time is the remedy with this one, too.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
I co-rented a neat little one room studio below a shopping mall. Now I record at home for demos and at my friends' studio for my next album. I’m in love with my Beyer ribbon mic for acoustic guitar and amps, also really digging my additional magnetic passive Fishman pickups for my acoustic guitars.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
For recording it’s superb. I guess, no matter how far things change and evolve, the human voice will always be king! All the biggest productions around the world have been centred around it since the 50ies. The human wins. But, if it wasn’t for machines, we’d all just be jamming in living rooms with no recordings or Netflix to take the edge off the day.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
My instrument world now is still pretty analog. Guitars, basses, percussion, voice. But I record digitally with protools and my laptop. Best of both worlds, for me. I have no sequencers, samples or loops going ... so more author power to me.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
For my solo project, I’m just getting started with this, before it was all just me pretty much. At the moment I’m travelling to Senegal twice a year for writing and immersing myself in the culture. I met Baaba Maal’s tama talking drum player Massamba Diop. Next step would be to bring my tracks over next winter and have him play over them. Haven’t done much file sharing so far, but def not against it!
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I don’t have a fixed schedule, but I write down weekly, monthly goals and to-do lists. I wake up round 9/10 ish and then it depends what needs to be done. What I do every day is: working out (Yoga, Stretching, Calisthenics), mails and social media. And then writing, producing, playing and managing music. Sometimes music accompanies me all day, sometimes I separate it. It’s never fixed, which is CRUCIAL for creativity.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
It starts with a musical idea. 97% of the time it’s a lucky accident, by just playing and improvising music on some instrument. First, I build this little invisible sand castle without any technology, just the voice and the guitar. Next, I record it into my phone as a kind of a “prototype”. Next, I record a demo on my laptop and play along with different instruments for the arrangement. The final step would be to making a proper recording of it, when the time and money is right.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
As I mentioned before, too much of a routine is a killer. I regularly leave my safe-space in Switzerland and travel to different places near and far with my guitar, and some clothes, that’s it. That keeps me fresh and creative, I never had any writer’s block or anything.
At the moment, I should refrain from travelling and have to stay home a bit longer, but because I have so much potential music to work on, I could literally produce my next 4 albums. For that, I need my home. My only real distraction is the internet, sometimes. Instagram etc.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
They are totally different. Night and day. When I play live I want to interact with an audience and share an emotion. Recording, on the other hand, is something very private and intimate for me. Very calming. Improvisation is more relevant in a live situation. Composition, for me, is a written form.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
I like to use my voice as an example. I frequently change its timbre to navigate towards a particular mood that I hear in my head, for live and recording.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
I like scented candles. I love smelling them. They always bring my sense of touch and hearing to new creative heights.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
If there is one thing that comes to mind it’s that as time goes by, I don’t want to take myself too seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I approach my work like a professional. But feeling that I’m some kind of a wizard or messiah, who knows better than anybody else, just ain’t my thang.
Humour is something that many artists lack, in my opinion, and it shows. As far as likability, relatability and being humble I try to make an effort in that respect without appearing too much of a fool (Hopefully).
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
Technology is constantly changing. My dream would be to jam / rehearse / record with my good friends in Senegal and Brazil at the same time. I feel like we’re not too far away from that ...