[Interview] Exclusive interview with Alex Carpani

We have the pleasure of interviewing in this article a great artist of the Prog scene of recent years, Alex Carpani. With a new album out on April 29, 2022 entitled “Microcosm.”

Hi Alex, how are you?

I’m fine, thanks and I’m very excited for the very recent release of the album!

You are a composer and keyboardist of Prog music, where does your passion for keyboards and for this musical genre come from?

The passion for music and keyboards was born very early, as a child, when I was 7 years old. What we commonly call ‘progressive rock’ nowadays was simply called ‘pop’ at that time. Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, Queen, Led Zeppelin, etc. were catalogued under the same label. My older brother was 17 y.o. when I was 7, and used to put this music every day on the turntable in his room, while I was playing with my toys on the floor, so I grew up with it and therefore I think I absorbed it unconsciously.
Another reason is a more extraordinary one: my parents ran a boarding school in Switzerland, where I was born, and the school was attended by several children of personalities of the jet set of the time, including Keith Emerson’s son Aaron Emerson and Chris Squire’s daughters. It was almost impossible to avoid being surrounded by ELP and Yes music…

In your career you have released 6 albums, how has your sound evolved over the years?

My sound has evolved like my style. The first three albums were full of virtuosity and ‘tricks’, because that was my main goal at that time: exploring the meanders of a hard and pure prog rock, uncompromising. I wanted to move forward my technical limits and every album was a new step ahead. Then I realized that I no longer wanted to express myself in that direction and f rom that point I decided to focus my efforts and my attention on two aspects: the sound and the communication. I started working hardly on the production and on the sound design, looking for modern and contemporary sounds and abandoning also some some clichés that part of the ‘conservative’ audience expects from a classic prog work: odd times, mellotron and hammond everywhere, moog solos above all (as well as long length tracks…). I think my style has evolved in a neo-prog/alt-rock one and I’m comfortable with it.
The other aspect I focused on is to try to communicate more direclty, especially with the lyrics, which are the ‘script’ in a concept album (I always make concept albums, b.t.w.) and through a song-form, more regular and square.

The album “Microcosm” is out, how would you describe this new chapter?

Musically speaking Microcosm is the meeting point between various genres and influences: progressive rock, jazz-rock, symphonic rock, alternative rock.
Carlo Gnocchi, an Italian educator and writer, said that ‘Every human being is an unmistakable and autonomous microcosm’. This is the real concept of the album: it concerns our life, our ‘personal universe’ regarded as encapsulating in miniature the characteristics of something much larger.
So musically speaking I wanted to give this idea of a ‘human universe’ with its variety and contradictions. Microcosm is very different from the 5 albums I previously released and has a richness and variety of instruments and artists on it: 9 musicians involved and as many parts including lead and backing vocals, various saxes, flute, lead synths, Mellotron, Hammond organ, piano, drums, bass, guitars, drum loops and electronics.

The themes of your albums are always highly sought after, what about the lyrics of this new work?

The album concept is represented through the 12 songs with a series of ‘slices of life’, some possible real-life experiences:
‘Starless’, my personal arrangement of King Crimson’s masterpiece, opens the playlist because I wanted to start the narration from the ‘macrocosm’ (the immensely large) and then explore the ‘microcosm’ of the human beings.
‘Kiss And Fly’ describes one last kiss before leaving for a trip, before the spell is broken. A love lived by chance in an instant.
‘God Bless Amrika’ describes the disillusionment in discovering that the promised land does not exist and the only thing we can do is to try to grasp the best of this imperfect world.
‘The Mountain Of Salt’ describes the swimming on a mountain of salt, as in a dream, feeling the grains of salt instead of water, supporting your body like an ocean of small crystals.
‘We Can’t Go Home Tonight’ describes an evening that seems to never end, where time stopped for two people living their love in that night, pulling down a blanket of stars to cover themselves.
‘Footprints In The Heart’ describes how everything we do leaves footprints, traces of our existence on earth: footprints on the snow, in the mud and… in the heart, left by the people we have made enter.
Prime Numbers
‘Prime numbers’ can only be divided by themselves and by 1. All prime numbers are odd except for 2, which is also the smallest in the series. They are not distributed without criteria, but seem to respond to unexpected rules, like our lives…
‘What Once Was’ describes a presence that no longer exists, that is recognized through its absence, the emptiness he lef and the indirect signs of his passage.
‘When The Tears Fall Down’: tears sometimes fall like rain drops that wash away the pain from our path, bringing us back to the light, to the sun and to the warmth.
‘The Outer World’ describes the outside world, the ‘whole’ where we exist together with billions of people, whre we fight every day to affirm and defend our freedom and right to live.
‘Redemption’ describes a path of redemption after hitting the bottom, thanks to which to acquire a state of physical and moral freedom through the liberation from guilts and causes of unhappiness.
‘Microcosm’ describes life, reason, the meaning of things, the sounds that run through the spaces where we live, the wind and rain that also reach the most remote places of our inner world, of our microcosm.

Do you use a lot of guests in the project, how does the creative process go and how do these artists contribute?

I’m a composer, so I write all the parts: drums, bass, guitars, saxophones, keyboards and vocal lines of course. I make the whole arrangement of each track, so after the pre-production is done in my home studio, almost 70-75% of the path is already traced.
This said, all the musicians involved in the project have made an irreplaceable contribution: with their personal interpretation of the parts of their respective instrument, along with their incredible skills, feeling and musical sensitivity, they all added that boost that makes the difference. No doubt about it.

Many Prog fans will ask themselves if there will be the possibility to listen to your music live or is the project only in the studio?

This album deserves to be performed live, in my opinion, because of its groove and the interaction between different instruments in all compositions, which cannot be fully appreciated through listening alone, but must be seen on stage. I’m working on booking gigs in Italy and outisde Italy and hope I’ll be able to announce the first dates shortly.

These were difficult times because of the pandemic, how did it affect your work?

To be honest, apart from live concerts, things went ahead as planned: I released my previous album ‘Lorizzonte Degli Eventi’ (the event horizon) in 2020, which has been the first album I sang entirely in Italian. This album is also the first one I released through my personal record label (Independent Artist Records). Then I also worked on the pre-production (and I’m still doing it) of Aerostation’s 2nd album, which hopefully will be released in 2023. Aerostation is a band project that I created together with Gigi Cavalli Cocchi, the founder and drummer of Italian neo-prog band Mangala Vallis.
Of course in 2021 I spent the whole year in writing, arranging, recording and making everything needed for the album release, distribution, promotion, etc.

You are a prolific artist with many ideas, are there any new studio projects in the pipeline?

You have touched a sensitive key… Yes, I have a lot of ideas but I don’t have enough time to realize all of them, so I must make choices and dose my time and efforts well. I’m not only a musician, I’m an artistic director as well and I program and organize many cultural events during the year.

What advice would you give to young artists who decide to propose more sophisticated sounds like Prog?

I don’t know if I’m worthy of making suggestions to other artists.
What I can say is that prog will hardly give them money, media visibility, fame and success, so they should insist only if this is what they strongly want to do, but they should look ASAP for other sources of income…
I know it’s not very encouraging, but the reality is this and it’s useless to lie.

How do you see this genre in the future, which seems niche but has many followers?

Well, even here my answer will not be very encouraging… I’m sorry for that. The question is, in my opinion, that prog doesn’t attract interest in the music business and in the main media, so the result is that in this ‘niche’ the booking agencies, the festival organizers and the venue owners usually don’t like to risk to loose money (they are often volunteers), so they always want a big name, better if from the past, as headliner and the new artists can only hope in an opening act slot. But these slots are not infinite and the demand is too abundant. Just to make an example, a festival director told me a few weeks ago that he will not be able to insert my band in this year’s line-up because there’s a ‘waiting list’ of three years…
As I told you, I’m an artistic director and I myself have to make choices when building the line-up of a festival, but I usually follow a simple rule: if you want to give more opportunities to new artists, you must gradually change the tastes of the audience and to do that you must have courage and you must contribute to this change, even if this were to result in a loss of audience. When you want to change something or create something new, you need to sow first, then wait for the crop to grow and finally harvest. This can take 2-3 years, if you know what you’re doing and you’re a professional. The later you start, the later you collect.
Since the average age of the prog audience is around 55-70 years old and is mostly made up of males (around 70-80%), time does not play in our favor and I don’t see many other alternatives…

The last question, as usual, I leave it free as usual in order to give you the opportunity to address any topic at will.

Releasing a record is a bit like telling a child: “Now go, face life and try to make yourself respected, I did everything I could do”. So I hope Microcosm will be appreciated from an audience as transversal as possible. The second hope is to have the chance to perform it live because I’m more than sure that it will rock!

I thank Alex for the interesting interview, wishing him the best for his artistic career.

Thank you Jacopo for this interview and for the challenging questions.

Purchase the new album here: https://alexcarpani.bandcamp.com/album/microcosm

Alex Carpani |Bandcamp|Facebook Page|Twitter|Instagram|Spotify|YouTube Channel|

Author: Jacopo Vigezzi

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