Interview: Alberto Arcangeli & Massimo Ottoni

Though a native Italian, Alberto Arcangeli (top) creates music that bears a palpable Britpop influence, heavy on acoustic guitar, sprightly piano, gauzy vocals, and a sprinkling of Syd Barrett psychedelia. It’s also catchy as hell. For “Wheels and Love,” Arcangeli teams with Urbino artist Massimo Ottoni (below), whose delicate paint-on-glass technique perfectly captures the numinous longing of “Wheels.” Here, we cross the Atlantic for an e-mail exchange with Arcan- geli and Ottoni to talk about “Wheels”‘s pastoral inspiration, yet very 21st-century DIY genesis.

Interrobang?! Magazine: How did you two find each other for “Wheels and Love?”

Alberto: I was looking for someone to do the video of this song, but I didn’t want a standard pop video, I wanted it to be a “piece of art.” Something that could have a life of his own. I knew Massimo because he studied art in Urbino, where I was born and raised. I loved what he did there, but didn’t see him for 15 years, so I looked on the internet and I realized that he was still doing beautiful things. I sent him an email with the song and a few words about the project, and he liked it. Then he came out with the idea of a paint-on-glass animated video. That was just what the song needed.

!?: What was the inspiration/genesis of the piece?

Alberto: I wrote “Wheels and Love” in my garden, on a sunny September morning, with birds singing in the trees. Kind of a dreamy picture. I recorded the first half of the song singing and playing di- rectly in my mobile phone, in the garden, and then added the rest of the arrangement in my home studio. Actually, I don’t know why I wrote a melancholy song in such a beautiful morning.

!?: Musical influences?

Alberto: I usually listen to a wide range of musical styles and genres. What I care for is, by and large, “good music” vs “bad music.” I have an idea of what “good music” is, and I feel like good music must come out from spontaneity. You can improve your ideas, work hard on your songs, but you can’t fake spontaneity. That said, to me good music is: the Beatles, Thelonious Monk, The Beach Boys, Manuel de Falla, The Rolling Stones and many others … But I can’t deny that most of my inspiration comes from pop and rock music.

!?: How long did the piece take to develop, from start to finish?

Alberto: Not so long. I usually start with an acoustic guitar part, structure and arrangement in mind, and then I add all the other instruments: bass, voice, drums… Sometimes everything fits well from the beginning, other times I have to rethink all of the structure, because I feel that something’s missing… This time everything sounded right from the beginning and in a couple of days the song was completed. I can’t say that for the animation, though, it took Massimo a bit longer to do it!

!?: Massimo, you use a lot of heavy blues, whites, and greys (with even a direct nod to Picasso’s Blue period in your rendition of The Guitarist). What was your approach to animating “Wheels and Love”?

Massimo: I think that what characterizes my approach to animation is not the choice of shapes or colors, but the movement. After listening for the first time to “Wheels and Love” I immediately saw that the “movements” could be split in two parts: the first part of the song, more static, with minimal movements, and the instrumental part, where the music “melts” in a fluid flow. The timing of the movement of the objects is always my first concern, and is what defines the connotation of a clip within my animations. Secondly comes the color. I started to flip through books of art and felt that the first part should be dominated by whites, blues and greys, while the second part should have heavy warm colors, like reds and yellows. Picasso’s Blue period fit particularly well, that’s the reason why there’s a rendition of The Guitarist. Then comes the storyboard, which was pretty easy, because I just followed the lyrics of the song.

Concerning the paint-on-glass technique, I must say that I’ve always been looking for a faster and less expensive way of doing animations. The paint-on-glass technique has great advantages in terms of speed, and just a few drawbacks (i.e. the fact that once you’ve done a clip, you can’t go back or modify it. If the clip’s right, you keep it, otherwise you have to start from the beginning).

To listen to Alberto Arcangeli’s “Wheels and Love” and view Massimo Ottoni’s accompanying animation, visit http://interrobangzine.com/music-video

For more from Alberto Arcangeli, check out his second full-length album, Pop Down the Rabbit Hole, available on his website: http://albertoarcangeli.com

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