Name: Luca Formentini
Occupation: Guitarist, sound artist, composer, improviser
Nationality: Italian
Current release: Luca Formentini's Intra- is available via Subcontinental Records.

If you enjoyed this interview with Luca Formentini and would like to stay up to date on new releases and tour dates, visit his official unguitar homepage. He is also on Facebook, Instagram, and Soundcloud.

To keep reading, do check out our previous interview with Luca, where he talks in detail about his personal perspective on sound.

When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I was 13 or 14 year old.

I began because I thought music could be the setting in which my writings could find a place. Luckily my connection with music was pretty intense and clean, thanks to my mum's passion and the way she would allow herself to be "taken" by the music. But most relevant for me was a unique experience that I had a few years before, when I could visibly perceive the harmonics and elements which compose a sound.

This made me give meaning to the word “music composition” and exerted an intense fascination on me. It was the beginning of my connection with the physical phenomenon of sound and its potential in engaging the depth of the  unconscious world.

I became connected and familiar with the world of abstraction and invisibility.

For most artists, originality is 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?

I started playing music with the intention of composing my own material. I have never been interested in learning by imitation. It was most probably a lie I was telling to myself, an alibi to save myself from studying and doing exercises. At this time I think that this also reflected in my difficult to classify musical direction and genre.

At a certain point I felt that delving into music theory was instrumental for my creative growth. However I preserved the naivete that allows me to play without knowing where I'm going. This means allowing myself to play with a limited connection with my conscious areas so to be able to explore the unexpected. Thanks to my bad memory this is not a difficult task to achieve ...

I've had the privilege to meet, talk and sometimes play with seminal musicians such as Derek Bailey, Hans Reichel, Harold Budd, Holger Czukay, Jon Russell and Jon Hassell, to name those who moved to a different dimension.

They all generously offered me treasures of experience through their rich energy fed by an incredible and fresh curiosity.

This was an intense stimulation and support for me, a strong invitation to further deepen my own explorations.

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?

My inclination to connect with the nonmaterial world has a decisive impact on my music production. For example I realise I've never recorded funny or decorative music.

What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

When I was young my goal was to record my definitive album before I turned 40. I was dreaming of the day that I'd be able to reach the immense level of complete and deep expressivity of the musical world which had been attained with Spirit of Eden, Secrets of the Beehive, In a Silent Way, Power Spot

I never thought that I would actually be able to compare myself to these masterpieces and their gifted creators. I was just thinking that releasing album like these should make you aware of having reached a layer of expression where you become a bridge, a channel through which magic can be delivered. A sort of a medium connecting the separate dimensions of the emotional feeling and the physical sensation.

This is what I've always wanted to do with music: to be able to offer this gift, to see or imagine the eyes of those who've been getting a little closer to the enchanting beauty and truth of their own core, an experience that cannot be forgotten.

As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?

Yes, this is very true.

Meeting an instrument you never used before can help change your perspective and move out of the cages of habits. I have never been entirely  clear about what constitutes my instrument though. I don't feel like I "play" guitar. I would rather say I use guitar. It is just the beginning of my tool, it is the mouthpiece of the trumpet.

Very early, I had a connection with the physical qualities of timbre. This made sound processing  and creating my own sound colours come entirely natural to me. I did this with any tool I had available: analog, digital, hardware, software, microphones, amps, samplers … A chapter of its own should be dedicated to the “Tavole di Flos”, self made sound sources made of recycled objects.

While working on Intra- I started using synths and modular systems. It's interesting to see how they brought me to recording the guitar in a more explicit way. I didn't create different layers created by the same source processed in different ways. Rather, the guitar revealed its natural voice. I actually played acoustic and classic guitar on two tracks: “Outs” and “Have Bridges, Find Rivers”.

Another important strategy on guitar was creating open tunings just out of nowhere. This set me free from the fingering shapes which had become overly familiar after almost 40 years of playing. Completely changing the position of the notes on the fingerboard offered completely new harmonic movements and shifts.

Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

Transitioning from tapes to digital recording and software editors.

I remember the fist time I saw the shape of a sound wave on a DAW. I was like, wow! you can see sounds as objects now! This changed my approach to recording and composing, the architectural ideas that were moving in my mind made a step towards becoming more visible.

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?

I very much like collaborating with other musicians and artists in general. For these to take place, there must be some common ground between us. You should never initiate a collaboration just to add some decorative flourishes to your own music. I need the results to be engaging, challenging, obscure even. Yes, I like starting things without having a precise idea of what the final result can be.

It's about observing the flow, being exposed and taking part in a different creative process. Whenever I collaborate with someone, I always expect this experience to change me. Inevitably, it will become part of my memory, my flesh and thus change the way I see things. I consider this an opportunity to expand my perception.

Getting back to the question, collaborations are free to take any form and  place, this is the way I want this to happen. I'm very interested in and stimulated by working with artists using other forms of expression such as sculpture, dance, visuals, poetry; with those who investigate through the thin layers of life through any strategy, point of view and anywhere they can be found.

Beside the opportunity of collaborating with amazing musicians such as Holger Czukay, Steve Jansen, Markus Stockhausen, Alvin Curran just to name a few, I've had the chance to explore the fascinating world of tape recording with Stefano Castagna in his amazing studio Ritmo & Blu.

[Read our Markus Stockhausen interview]

The making of Intra- was the chance for a unique journey through the meeting of the best of two worlds separated by 50 years of technology: high resolution digital recording and state of the art analog treatments via reel-to-reel machines. Digitally recorded sounds were treated as acoustic instruments, their voices were caught by several microphones and stayed in the tactile dimension since then.

Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?

If music can heal it should also be able to bring pain, you are right. However, thankfully, this has never been the case for me.

Or actually yes, music has led me into deep states of sadness. It has wrapped me in melancholia, left me floating alone on the velvet wings of pensiveness. But this has never happened because of the music itself, it's always happened because the music resonated with sensitivities which already existed inside of me.

And I love this. This is healing, always. This is what I need and why I need music. Music allows me to connect to the deep part of myself, it is able to lend a rope, to channel. And whenever and wherever it takes me, it's always good as it is always true.

When music – I'm talking about what we could try to define as “deep” music – happens, I become powerless and by being powerless I gain access to the highest strength, the power to share my fragility in its fullness. A deconstruction someone would say.  

This is the highest healing I can think about. I think I can add music is my guide, a mentor in life.