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Valerio Cosi

Italian wunderkind Valerio Cosi stormed onto the scene this year with a pile of jazz-infused releases that could match anyone. At a mere 22 years-old, Cosi's talent and ability are truly outstanding. When he blows his horn, he channels the ghosts of Coltrane, Ayler, Coleman, and others. In addition to being a great sax player, Cosi is also an excellent composer. His songs are unique blends of ragas, jazz, drones, and more. They are acid-infused mini-masterpieces. And when you consider Cosi's age, it's all even more impressive. Valerio Cosi is certainly one-of-a-kind. This interview was conducted through email in December 2006.

First tell us a little bit about when you started playing the saxophone. Was it your first instrument? How old were you? What was it that initially drew you to the horn?
Well, saxophone has always been a fascinating instrument for me. Its heat and powerful sound blew my very young mind. I started to get on it thanks to my bro, who started playing sax many years before, and I was 6-7 years old in that period. Moreover I was also starting to play drums (I remember my absolute first concert with a straight rock-band that included my bro at keyboards and his 18-year-old companions, and I was a 9 year old drummer!). I always felt like a saxophone player with a great sense of rhythm running through my veins, always divided between two instruments for a lot of time....

Where have you studied and such?
I've studied in an Apulian conservatory of music for many years, graduating myself few years ago. My school approaches were typically classical, even if avant-garde has deeply shocked me also in my studies. The saxophone is a very limited instrument if you will consider it in classical music, even if it becomes largely expressive in some symphonic contests (I think of Ravel and Wagner for example!). The use of this instrument in a band, mainly developed in the USA, has made the beginning of jazz, like many people know....

Who are some of your biggest influences with your saxophone playing?
If I ought to talk about musical influences in my life which come from different wind players , I'll surely say Coleman, Coltrane, Ayler, Zorn, Hubbard, Brotzmann, Sanders, Dolphy, Henderson, Davis and lots of other names.... They're very important persons for the whole jazz dimension, even if some of them are very often radically rooted into free avant-garde. I believe I’ve also been very influenced by some legendary psychedelic guitarists like Hendrix and Santana.... They're, according to me, some indispensable points of reference for a sax player (and I'm very convinced it is so!).... The most attracting thing about playing sax is obtaining SHAPES which are gradually evoked inside a musical structure rather than having a series of well-exposed note sequences.

When did you start to compose your own songs and start working in more free-flowing, psychedelic terms?
I started playing with the electronic music around 17. My approach to the electronic stuff was increasing day by day and I started having lots of attraction in this kind of work.... I made tons of homemades, but the music was not so interesting and I knew that. Practising with electronic stuff made myself better after many years, I mean I had serious self-taught trainings with electronic music. My constant wish was being part of a big crazy musical collective devoted to psych stuff and jazz too, and I knew it was utopian if considering the place where I live and the opportunities here.... So I had the idea of overdubbing me playing lots of instruments for several times. The tracks became powerful to me and they looked like they were played by a real band! This process helped me to forget my hard wishes.

What inspires you?
I'm frequently inspired by other musicians' stuff rather than by life experiences.... But I have to say that I've also had some weak phases in my life and depressive moods which made me realize tons of recordings (honestly very good ones). "Immortal Attitudes" belongs to a real bad period. By the way, the most inspiring things are kraut-psyche-y stuff, weed, free-jazz, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and the nighttime....

You have travelled through Northern Africa and in Turkey before - what were these experiences like? What effect did they have on your music?
The trips you're talking about are great memories for me.... I believe that I've always been in love with those places. Musically I feel very near to the Middle-Eastern sound-world, even if I don't have a real good knowledge of the whole musical dimension.... Those kinds of vibrations are really cathartic and therapeutic, just perfect for my mind and body. I started being influenced from that sound-world suddenly after those trips. The worst thoughts I've got now are about terrorism, wars, and globalized "democratizations" in those countries.... I seriously fear about the loss of many original cultural identities in those large areas.

You've been doing a lot of collaborations recently. What appeal does this kind of work have with you? What are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of doing a long-distance collaboration, versus collaborating live and in person?
I love collaboratin' with people as long as the final operation looks to be stimulating and intriguing, and overall very insane. I believe that beautiful music comes from many conceptual and compositional divergences. I can't find disadvantages in the distance.... It's so beautiful playing live with collaborators or doing things in a long distance.... Actually my collaborations are so various just because I seriously believe in their musical and compositional potentialities and overall they help so much for breeding strong friendships and esteems with many artists.

Recently you went to Paris to play with Family Battle Snake. How was that experience for you?
Playing in Paris has been really GREAT, heh! I really want to be back there in the near future.... It's an enchanting city. I want to thank Bill Kouligas and Harry Astras for having called me to be part of that gig. They're two great friends and musicians with sincere talent and sensibility. I've also spent great times there with Sandra Reignoux, Maxime, the Birds Of Delay, Fuck Buttons and many other nice crews!

There seems to be a lot of great stuff happening in Italy these days. What are your thoughts on the current state of the Italian Underground?
Nowadays the Italian scene is full of contradictions and so hard to understand. I'm living in a country that is doin' hard work for growing.... There are many interesting people here that make hard work for showing their talents and expressing themselves. It can also be a trouble linked to Italian listeners and bad information. The truth is that that empire of mainstream, "italiana" song-style, dated major labels, cheap jazz goods and SIAE (something very similar to the Recording Industry Association of America) are fatally going to show my country as a totally uninteresting, uncreative and caged country, musically speaking.

I'm actually supporting people that are going to encourage artists like me in Italy and I'm totally glad to see courageous musicians like My Cat Is An Alien, Fabio Orsi, Sinistri, Maurizio Bianchi, David Vanzan/Virginia Genta (plus many others).... I also adore the unstoppable and hyper-productive work which comes from labels such as QBICO (Emanuele is a real great friend and supporter, and he's loving his work so much) and A Silent Place (Pierpaolo and Pasquale are Apulians like me and they're probably releasing the most interesting stuff coming from an Italian indie label). They're the only things that make me truly happy in a wasted Italian scenery.

One of your main collaborators as of late seems to be Fabio Orsi. How did you all meet and what is it like making music with him?
Fabio is one of my dearest friends and he's also a part-time neighbour (he lives only 10 kms away from me). Actually he's homing in Naples but he comes back here as soon as he can. We met each other last year and I was little surprised to meet him cos I heard great things of his "Osci" LP. I suddenly found in him a strong musical intelligence,; he's a great electronic talent. Despite he's older than me, we're real good friends and collaborators. I want to criticize him only for one thing: he eats tons of MEAT! (...I'm just kidding, Fabio...)

Do you imagine yourself leaving Italy sometime soon? What has growing up and living in Italy meant to you as far as its influence on your music?
I've grown up in Italy since now, but I differ so much from many Italian people cos I can't be totally rooted like 'em in this society for many reasons. I believe that I'm born to run out from this place where I'm actually living. I'm feeling it inside and I can't try to fight against myself right now, it's just not useful. I hope to leave this place for going to live in Northern Europe or maybe United States. Living and working in Italy as an underground musician for the next 20 years is just like choosing to beg.

Another collaboration of yours I love is Cold Solemn Rites of the Sun with Wilson Lee. How'd you and Wilson meet and decide to do some music together?
Me and Wilson decided to exchange stuff in a very spontaneous way. We both knew that we were also going to release on the same label. Our collaboration developed fastly and in a very natural way. Wilson Lee is one of the most interesting guitarists on the planet right now. He's sowing his talent so well in many of his current and upcoming releases and I seriously hope that people will support his art in the right way nextly.

Tell us a little about your involvement with Family Battle Snake.
I knew Bill from Family Battle Snake via email. He was really interested in my music and I was surprised of their powerful art of making drones. We met in the summer of 2006 for making a gig in Italy. Real great gig. I've always felt so fine with the FBS guys, they're just great people to stay with. They're actually travelling a lot, Bill is hyper-busy doing gigs here and there.... They're touring everywhere and with the right people!

What are you most looking forward to in 2007?
I'm really looking forward to have a brand new car for making travels and meeting Danny from Mouth To Mouth in the Italian summertime.

Best record you heard in 2006?
I've listened to a lot of incredible and very good stuff this year. The best record is surely Ashtray Navigations' "Dirt Mummies And Bloody Amps" ...I also HIGHLY enjoyed Keith Fullerton Whitman's "Lisbon" and Brothers Of The Occult Sisterhood's "Goodbye".

Any closing comments?
Hang loose!
-- Brad Rose (3 January, 2007)

reviews related to Valerio Cosi....
Fabio Orsi / Valerio Cosi "Thoughts Melt in the Air" Awesome outing from two of Italy's best... review :: by Henry Smith (4 June, 2009)
Valerio Cosi/Enzo Franchini "Conference of the Aquarians" This is craziness. Awesome craziness... review :: by Dave Miller (8 April, 2009)
My Cat is an Alien/Valerio Cosi "Stories From the Vacuum" Battle of the Italian heavyweights... review :: by Cory Card (29 April, 2008)
Fabio Orsi & Valerio Cosi "The Frozen Seasons of Lysergia" Great collaboration from this two Italian starlets... review :: by Cory Card (12 February, 2008)
Valerio Cosi "Freedom Meditation Music, Vol. 1" Killer sounds from the Italan wunderkind... review :: by Francois Hubert (15 January, 2008)
Uton & Valerio Cosi "Kaarmeenkaantopiiri" A great new collaborative effort on Fire Museum... review :: by Mike Wood (19 December, 2007)
related links....
Students of Decay

Valerio Cosi can be reached through his official website.
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