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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

An interview with Alberto Arcangeli: the musical maestro behind Pop Down The Rabbit Hole

Italian Alberto Arcangeli is a musical wonder: he played every single instrument on his debut album and he's just won a prestigious animation prize for his video for Wheels and Love. But, by day, he is a finance manager. Read on....

Written by Amelia Gregory

Alberto Arcangeli by Gigi Gray
Alberto Arcangeli by Gigi Gray.

He’s gained plaudits as far away as China. He blends genres and styles in a totally inimitable way, all by himself. From the dreamy pop of Wheels and Love to the psychedelic title track Pop Down The Rabbit Hole, this album is a real gem. Meet Alberto Arcangeli.

Your debut album Pop Down the Rabbit Hole is completely composed, played and produced by you – how did you set about making this happen? And why on earth did you chose this surely most difficult method?
I began writing and recording songs by myself as soon as I started playing as it came naturally to me. I had a 4 track recorder and I just thought that it would have been simpler and faster to learn how to play all the instruments, rather than explaining to someone else how I wanted them to be played. In addition, I like working with other musicians, and I often ask for their suggestions, but I also want to have the last word on my music. Music is my passion, so I didn’t want to have to make any compromises.

Alberto Arcangeli Pop Down the Rabbit Hole cover art
You decided to start singing in English just two years ago… what prompted that decision and do you think it was a good one?
I’ve been listening to English music all my life, I wonder instead why I’ve been singing in Italian for 20 years! The thing is, I used to think that Italians should sing in Italian, but I was wrong. Each kind of music has its ‘preferred’ language: rock music needs a lot of words that end with consonants, whereas Italian words always end with a nice ’round’ vowel. The same melody sounds completely different when it is sung in two different languages, that’s why in the past I used to discard most of the songs I wrote: the words didn’t sound right to me. Now everything sounds fine so, yes, it was a really good decision.
 
Alberto Arcangeli by Lucy Wills
Alberto Arcangeli by Lucy Wills.

The Chinese have been particularly receptive to the album – how on earth did they discover it? And why do you think it appeals to them?
How did they discover it? I self promote my music and I won’t give out any secret tips about that! (Amelia, can you make a note that I’m laughing, here?) Seriously, I was pretty sure that I could find someone who would like my music in China. I looked on the internet (though it’s hard to surf the Chinese websites), and when I found the right site (or what I thought could be the right one), I got in touch with them. What surprised me was the reception I got. Over 40,000 contacts and 5,000 downloads in one month are not small numbers. I think that this has something to do with a thing we all know: the Chinese are a lot! But I also noticed a funny thing: my first album in Italian got nearly 1,000 downloads.

Alberto Arcangeli Pop Down the Rabbit Hole rabbit
This album was a family affair, in that the cover drawings are by your father and the design is by your sister – has a creative background been integral to your life? Can you tell us a bit more about growing up an Arcangeli?
What a nice question. Actually, I grew up both in a creative town (Urbino is a beautiful renaissance place, full of art and music) and in a creative family: my father was a part-time painter and engraver (something we have in common), my sister is an illustrator and my grandfather was a cabinet-maker who used to craft some beautiful furniture. But nobody ever forced me or even encouraged me to be an artist. My father used subliminal methods instead, like the following: when I was 8 or 9 I asked him to record on tape my vinyl of The BeatlesRubber Soul, and he gave me this cassette with a piece of Ravel between side A and side B, and Camille Saint-Saëns at the end of the record! He did the same with Revolver. I must say that I never skipped the classical music inserts.
 
Alberto Arcangeli Pop Down the Rabbit Hole alberto
By day you are a finance manager! How do you manage the to make time to play music and what do your colleagues think of your music?
I’m a finance manager by day and a musician by night, so I don’t talk a lot about being a musician at work. Most of my colleagues found out about my music when it was used in a Continental Tyre advert and that was broadcast on TV. Some local magazines reported the story of an ‘unknown songwriter who signed with a multinational company‘. A colleague of mine who is also a friend helped me write the lyrics of two songs for my first EP Dreamsongs. Anyway, technology is of great help in saving time and conciliating my job and my music interests. I can record a music idea singing on my mobile phone (sometimes I even end up using my mobile phone recordings, like the first half of Wheels and Love, or the Paris metro samples), listen to the music in the car, write down a lyric in a email, and so on. And, to refer back to your first question, I can decide to record a song at any moment, without asking anyone: I just go down in my garage (where my studio is) and start playing.
 
Alberto Arcangeli Pop Down the Rabbit Hole painting
Glass painting by Massimo Ottoni.

I hear that you are thinking of putting together a full band to tour next year – what prompted this decision and what will happen to the world of finance?
It would be nice to put together a new band to play my songs – I had one, but we disbanded two years ago. I’m not thinking of touring, just having a band to play 6-8 shows a year so I can say ‘Okay, I am real, and I’m not just a website!‘. So I don’t think this would interfere with my job.
 
Wheels and Love

What inspired the making of the video for Wheels and Love? Can you tell us a bit about the story and the accolades you have received for it?
I wrote Wheels and Love in my garden on a sunny September morning while the birds were singing in the trees. Kind of a dreamy picture. I liked it a lot and 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 its own. I knew Massimo Ottoni because he studied art in Urbino. I loved what he did but hadn’t seen him for 15 years, so I looked him on the internet and I realised 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. Eventually the video won the Professional Prize Award at the prestigious Anima Mundi Web & Cell animation festival of Brazil, and was chosen as an Official Selection of the 2011 Independents’ Film Festival (IFF) in Tampa Bay.

Alberto Arcangeli Pop Down the Rabbit Hole girl falling
Glass painting by Massimo Ottoni.

How long did it take to put the video together and what did the process of working with illustrator Massimo Ottoni involve?
The working process was pretty straightforward, we just met a couple of times and then he started working on the animation. He decided to split the animation in two parts: the first part of the song, more static, with minimal movements, dominated by whites, blues and greys (with a rendition of The Guitarist by Picasso), and the instrumental part, where the music ‘melts’ in a fluid flow, with heavy warm colours, like reds and yellows. A couple of months later the video was completed.


 
You have spoken about doing a short movie with Massimo Ottoni, can you let us know anything about potential ideas yet? Any secret tip offs?
The secret is: I haven’t spoken of this thing with him yet, so I still have to convince him! By and large, the idea is to find a theme to work on, and then start working on it separately. We can then meet every now and then, organise what we’ve done, and decide the next direction. Massimo can work in a lot of different ways: sand art, illustration, paint-on-glass, photography, so the movie could be very variegated. I have an idea for a subject, but I prefer to discuss it with Massimo first.
 
Where can people get hold of the whole album? I hear it’s a bargain…
You’re right, Amelia! People can buy my new album, Pop Down The Rabbit Hole, for only 2$. In fact, you only pay for the shipping costs and get the CD with a brand new beautiful sleeve. You can buy Pop Down The Rabbit Hole here with a Credit Card or here with Paypal.
 

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