Q&A with Italian guitarist/songwriter Marco Mattei, debut solo album with mix of prog-rock, dream-pop, folk and world music

"I feel our society is becoming more divided. A lot of the social tension we are experiencing comes from people trying to defend their views, that are rooted in their identity. However, if you think about it, many aspects that we perceive to be defining our identity such as the color of our skin, our gender, the time and place we are born and even the people that we meet during our journey are not under our control."

Marco Mattei: New Music Dimensions

Italian guitarist/songwriter Marco Mattei unveils his first solo album, an original mix of prog-rock, dream-pop, folk and world music entitled “Out of Control” (2021) on 7D Media/Third Star Records 2021. Featuring Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel), Fabio Trentini (Le Orme, Markus Reuter), Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates), Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, XTC), Chad Wackerman (Frank Zappa, Allan Holdsworth), Clive Deamer (Portishead, Radiohead, Robert Plant). “Out of Control” is a multi-facet collection of intense, emotional songs. Marco creates a multi-layered, original sound utilizing a wide range of electric and acoustic guitars together with guitar loops, bouzouki and resonator guitars, supported by lifelong friends and globally acclaimed musicians. The musical texture is further enriched with a variety of acoustic/ethnic instruments such as Irish whistle, flute, fiddle, mandolin, pedal steel guitar, sitar and tambura played by a collection of musicians from all parts of the world. The lyrics of this concept album revolve around things we cannot control such as the place and time we are born, the color of our skin or the people we meet during our life. “Out of Control” will appeal to listeners of Peter Gabriel, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Radiohead and Paul Simon.                                                                                   (Photo: Marco Mattei)

Marco Mattei was born and raised in Civitavecchia, Italy. Very passionate about music from an early age, as a teenager he studied jazz guitar with Max Rosati while developing a deep interest in the creative vision and complexity of prog rock music. He joined DeBlaise, a new prog local band, contributing to the songwriting of their EP “By Common Consent” and to many years of live music. He also co-founded “The Snowdogs” a Rush tribute band. As he earned his master’s degree in Electronics and MBA, he also developed an interest in sound engineering and design and attended advanced audio engineering and music production programs. Marco lived in six different countries in three different continents, exploring cultural differences, picking up musical influences and learning the value of diversity. He currently lives in the USA and continues to explore different musical styles as a composer, musician and producer, collaborating with artists from all around the world.

Interview by Michael Limnios           Special Thanks: Billy James (Glass Onyon PR)

How has the World Music and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Well, in my case it’s a bit the other way around… what I mean is that the many journeys I have taken and living abroad in 6 different countries and 3 different continents has influenced my musical taste and view of the world. I have been in contact with different sounds that I have incorporated in my music, and I have learned the value of diversity and inclusion.

How do you describe your sound and music philosophy? Where does your creative drive come from?

My sound is characterized by multi-layered arrangements and a wide variety of instruments. I like the idea that multiple listenings keep disclosing new dimensions to the music. My creative drive comes from the need to share insights, thoughts and feelings, reflecting on what happens in my life and in the world… a sort of self analysis that becomes public.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I think that meeting Paolo Gianfrate and Gianni Pierannunzio, and later Duilio Galioto, members of DeBlaise, the band I joined when I was 19, is what shaped the most my musical journey. In fact, not only they introduced me to bands that became among my favorites but also spent so many hours talking enthusiastically about the music we loved and the music we wanted to create together. The best advice I received is: “take time to understand what motivates you so you can bring happiness in your life and in those of the people that will cross your path”

"What I miss the most is the adventure. I feel that in the past it was all about doing something new. That is what was expected and what musicians tried to do to make an impact. Now I feel it’s about doing more of the same because what sounds familiar is more likely to become a hit." (Photo: Marco Mattei)

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

I played great gigs and collaborated with incredible musicians. Experiences that made me feel fulfilled and brought me joy. However, my best memories are from the country house, just opposite to the lighthouse in my hometown in Italy, where I used to practice with DeBlaise. I guess it’s because it’s the place where strong friendship bonds where built, on our common love for music and excitement we lived together creating our songs. We used to talk until early hours of the morning outside of the country house. In spring fire flights lightened the fields. It was somehow magic.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future?

What I miss the most is the adventure. I feel that in the past it was all about doing something new. That is what was expected and what musicians tried to do to make an impact. Now I feel it’s about doing more of the same because what sounds familiar is more likely to become a hit.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I would change how much artists are paid by the streaming services companies. Physical formats are not sold much anymore, and you got to have a song streamed a million times before you can see any money as an artist. This limits a lot anything that is not mainstream and creates a hostile environment for creativity and innovation.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?                                              (Photo: Marco Mattei)

Motivation, vision and commitment are critical to achieve objectives, in music like in everything else. Another lesson that I learned recently is that limitations can become opportunities and you have to be ready to catch them. For example, Covid made it complicated to lead our daily lives and to get in a studio to record. However, at the same time, lockdown and tour cancelations became for me an opportunity to get some of the best musicians in the world available to play in my album from their home studios.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

I feel our society is becoming more divided. A lot of the social tension we are experiencing comes from people trying to defend their views, that are rooted in their identity. However, if you think about it, many aspects that we perceive to be defining our identity such as the color of our skin, our gender, the time and place we are born and even the people that we meet during our journey are not under our control. I hope this reflection, that is at the center of the album, can help people change their perspective and, as they put their selves in other people’s shoes, to become more open and empathic.

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