Name: Simone Prattico
Occupations: Drummer, composer, improviser
Nationality: Italian
Current Release: Simone Prattico's Oriundo, recorded with Klaus Mueller, Edward Perez and Essiet okon Essiet, is out via Zamora.
Recommendations: Clifford Brown & Max Roach : Delilah (1954); Roberto de Simone - Nuova Compagnia di canto popolare : "la Gatta Cenerentola" (1976)

If you enjoyed this interview with Simone Prattico and would like to stay up to date on his music and creative activities, visit his official website. He is also on Facebook, bandcamp, and Soundcloud.

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?

Rhythm was a very early passion.

At 3 years old I had my first pair of drumsticks and I still remember the excitement of the day I got my first snare drum. My older brother played guitar and we had assembled a kind of drum kit made out of soap cans (cleaning bottles) and old bongos. We played daily "concerts" in his room for his friends and the (irony alert!) "pleasure" of the neighbourhood.

My first musical passions and what got me hooked on rhythm and sound were the LPs from the family record collection. Mainly Napolitan folk music (La Gatta Cenerentola by NCCP - Roberto de Simone), albums by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers as well as many records by Motown artists. I used to play along these records over and over again.

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?

A process that happened very naturally as far as I'm concerned. Nothing was ever really "planned" or in any case directed towards an "institutional" type of learning, also because at the time, in Rome, there were no jazz drums in the conservatories.

My mother signed me up at a small music school. By chance, the drum teacher at that time was Roberto Spizzichino, a great jazz musician of the time and a unique personality in his genre. Roberto left the school after a short while, but he told my mother that I could study privately with him. So, for years, I was lucky enough to have a sort of “drumming babysitting”, almost every afternoon after school.

Roberto was a true artist, he was already interested in his sound experiments by modifying the cymbals of the drums. I remember whole afternoons spent playing his drums while he "cooked" cymbals and hammered them in his kitchen. He was an "alchemist" and today his cymbals are among the most appreciated in the world. Trying and striving for a real interest was one of his teachings.

When he left Rome he introduced me to his friend and excellent drummer, Salvatore Corazza, thanks to whom I was able to discover and deepen fundamental aspects of the instrument that still accompany me today.

There is certainly a phase of emulation. It is the only way to understand and learn from the greats, but the learning process is also something else, and it never ends. To this day I still try to learn from musicians that I consider relevant. I got a diploma in drums and snare drum technique in 1993 in Paris at Ecole superiore de batterie and I was lucky enough to study and to be friends with the great drummer Jean-Paul Ceccarelli at the Nice conservatory. Jean-Paul has shown me the way to find my own voice with drums. Then in NYC I always tried to deepen, when it was possible, even if only occasionally, with Kenny Washington, John Riley, Adam Cruz.

It is fundamental to listen to the great masters' play.  One of my main references is Brazilian drummer Portinho. Listening to him and seeing him play is a lesson in itself that I recommend to every drummer.

I believe that you can find your voice (when you find it) by trying to be authentic, integrating everything you are in your artistic expression, even your "weak sides". Bringing what we are to the stage every night with authenticity is, in my opinion, a way to find one's own voice.

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

It totally influences it. If you're coherent with yourself you can't create something different from who you are.

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

I think my first big challenge was learning to allow myself the right to express myself and "let myself go" and not just be a great "technician" and a good instrumentalist.

It's not always easy to accept that one's creativity is in the sight of others. It's not a fear of others' judgment but the challenge is to remain coherent and at the same time try to make my work exist in the "real world", giving it a chance to be known and experienced. Still working on it.

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 instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made over the years?

I have to say that, as far as technology is concerned, I'm quite "old school": drums or a cymbal can be customized or tuned until we get a sound that corresponds to us and this sound must be clear in our mind before anything else.

Beautiful instruments, can also inspire one to express. Same for technical skills we improve along the years. However, as the years go by I realize that I have to deal a bit with technology, with recording techniques for example.

Derek Bailey defined improvising as the search for material which is endlessly transformable. Regardless of whether or not you agree with his perspective, what kind of materials have turned to be particularly transformable and stimulating for you? Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

If by materials we mean musical instruments I would say yes, some "inspire" for their sound, as we said. Technology less so, as far as I'm concerned. But research in general, whether in the field of music or visual art, certainly changed my way of making music.

I agree, what we manage to "absorb", sounds, experience, makes us continuously be a new thing and improvisation should reflect what we are in that precise instant. Nothing more, nothing less.    
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've been a professional drummer for many years now. Since I first started collaborating with other artists, I felt the need to bring something personal to the projects I was involved in.

My new album Oriundo is a collaboration with pianist and arranger Klaus Mueller who co-wrote with me all of the tracks (except the drum tracks). In New York, we spent time working on the first ideas by playing together, talking about those ideas and finding new ones, sharing files but also going to good restaurants and hanging out and simply having a good time.

A very natural and enjoyable writing process can make the difference.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. 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 haven't had a routine in years. I'd love to have time to further some drumming practices for example. I don't have time and the little I do have I prefer not to plan. Music and life are connected, feeding each other, they are symbiotic.

My family, my wife, my kids, friends, etc. are part of my music. I only "disconnect" when I manage to lock myself in my drum studio. But it's an illusion because I soon realize they're all there with me anyway.

Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?

I have to say that this new album is the one I particularly care about. I started working on it 2 or 3 years ago. It's been an intense journey. The only idea behind it was to make an album that could "represent" me as a musician but also represent my musician and life path.

Oriundo is an Italian term that means «native (of)» and refers to the descendants of immigrants, most often from the South of Italy, who have become strangers to their country of origin. I feel like I'm carrying my «Southern Italian» heritage with me everywhere and, thanks to this work, I was able to understand that (after 25 years of traveling because of music) my home, my family today is the place where I feel good, where I feel I sound better, with the friends and musicians I love to play with. This is what Oriundo represents.

It may sound simplistic, but for me all this is real and I tried to turn it into music.

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?

If there are any strategies I would love to know them! I couldn't tell if there is an ideal state of mind.

Things come out at very different times and from many disparate states of mind. Maybe a good thing would be to just learn to listen to ourselves.

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?

The hurt often comes from a kind of sense of " betraying" a sincere state of mind that one has when playing or creating.

Yes, it has happened to me to realize that I wasn't on the same page with the people I was playing with. Or to find that some artists were not at all what they want us to believe they are through their music. This can hurt, but it's human and we have to deal with it.

The greatest need and potential of music is, in my opinion, to try to be sincere and authentic in the creative process and the transmission of your work. Not easy, but when you manage to do it, music can also assume a therapeutic aspect.

There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?

Unpleasant to say, but today (or maybe since always?) it's the "market" that defines the cultural "sign" or "symbol" which works best.

Many artists, even in an unintentional way, and sometimes not of their own choice, follow this direction, "appropriating" something that doesn't really belong to them. It often works well commercially, but the true result is the devaluation of creativity and the increasing difficulty, also for the listener to identify a cultural symbol or sign that is "real" rather than one that has been "created" by the market.

Yes, the line is increasingly thin.

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?

Tough question. I think it's all about overlapping senses. I would say

sight /hearing - sight/olfaction - taste/olfaction. Sight /tact

These overlaps tell us that we could go a lot deeper and explore the way our senses work.

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?

My approach is to try to distinguish the real from the artifact. In art as in everyday life.

What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?

I think words can express almost anything. Maybe music can get there faster and maybe it can touch some points of our sensibility in a more straight, instinctive way.