Fabrizio Palumbo - Interviews - Soundblab

Fabrizio Palumbo

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

Fabrizio Palumbo already created one of my albums of the year: the bleak but beautiful Drama Queen, released under the guise of ( r ). Then he went and topped it off by playing one of my gigs of the year: a stunning set of visceral noise and experimentation at The Brudenell Social in Leeds last month. Obviously, I was very keen to speak to him. Particularly, I wanted to know what his thinking was in subtitling Drama Queen 'A Gay Album', why he chose to reinterpret songs by Tammy Wynette, Marianne Faithful and Nico in his own unique style, what his views were on the themes he seemed to be playing with. Palumbo is a charismatic, enigmatic presence, to be sure, and the intellect and passion behind his music is palpable.

So I was a little disappointed to get the answers back to our internet discussion and find that he seemed pretty set on wriggling out from tackling anything too 'gay'. Apparently, the key word in the album's title is 'drama' not 'queen' and he even trotted out the old cliché of not knowing what gay music is. (Everyone knows what gay music is - it's disco and pop and dancing to overcome your oppressors. It's just that some don't like admitting that. Why? Well, it they are are straight, they're worried they'll look homophobic; if they're gay, they're worried they'll look shallow. Anyway, that's another article for another time, dear reader.)

Hmmm. Fair enough if you don't want to be labelled and want to control how your music is labelled, Fabrizio, but in my opinion, ducking questions about what gay music might be, what makes a gay icon etc, kind of makes you look at best a little disingenuous and at worst, well, like you're just chunking around labels yourself. However, listening again to the aching majesty of Drama Queen, it's hard to believe either assessment is correct. Still, it would have been interesting to know what was behind an album I've grown to love...

I've read the concept behind Drama Queen is 'the diva'. Can you elaborate on that for us?

Actually, the album is not about the diva at all. Drama Queen is just a title and the key word is 'drama' and not really 'queen'. I like to play with words so entitling the album Drama Queen I mainly wanted to de-contextualize a cliché.

Is declaring Drama Queen a 'gay album' on the cover a tongue-in-cheek statement or something deeper?

There's really not much gayness in the album, still its nature is 100 per cent gay. Some reviewers have pointed it out as being an ironic statement, but it is not. It can be sarcastic, but not really ironic at all. I'm pretty damn serious about it.

Can you recommend five essential 'gay albums' to Soundblab readers?

Not really, I have no clue of what a gay album is. The whole idea of doing a gay album myself is actually to deny gay as a possible gender and/or genre. If a gay person listens or plays metal is that gay metal or is it just metal? Or is the gay side of it just in the 'gay' listener's ear?

The album's music conjures an air of decadence but also decay and fear. Does that relate to 21st century gay life or were you thinking more of past scene - Weimar Berlin for example?

No, it relates to everybody's life, us being mortal creatures, my dear. I'm a universal messenger...

How did you go about choosing the album's cover versions and reworking them? What significance do they have?

They are iconic choices and great songs.

You've collaborated with Xiu Xiu and Larsen. Do you see ( r ) as a solo project or more of a collaboration. Which do you prefer?

Well, I'm much more than a collaborator of Larsen. I'm a founding member of the band and we have been around with the same line up for 15 years now! (Oops! - Ed) It also happened that one of the projects we have is a band called XXL which features all of Larsen and Xiu Xiu members. As XXL we have already released two albums and we are gonna record our third in December.

( r ) is the output for my own obsessions and creative mind-storms. Still, it is not necessarily just me. There have been two of us since one year ago, Daniele Pagliero (of Lo Dev Alm) being my partner in crime. I also play in Blind Cave Salamander (with Paul Beauchamp and Julia Kent) and Almagest! (with Paul Beauchamp, Ernesto Tomasini and Evor Ameisie), and I collaborate with several other musicians.

All of these projects have the same relevance to me. I just really love all the music I play and love the people I play it with; every project gives me the chance to channel different sides of my work and different feelings.

What are your musical inspirations?

The usual: Everyday life, movies, art, nature, food...

Who are your diva icons? What do you think are the essential characteristics of a diva?

Every diva is an icon, the two things are together bound in glamour and failure.

What are your thoughts on the kind of music which usually get labelled 'gay music': dance, disco, pop etc?

I really like most of it, those genres can be much more experimental than most of the so-called avant-garde experimental music. Still, I don't consider them to be gay in themselves. Everybody can dance, not only gay people, and for sure every gay person does much more in life than just dancing (some do at least). Luckily (or maybe unluckily) human beings are not so mono-dimensional.

Are we living in a good time for gay role models?

We are not really living in good times in general. As an artist I think my role is to project some beauty in the world. I'm not interested in gay models. Again I don't know what a gay role model is or could be. I'm interested in unique persons with their own vision. I'm interested in diversity, if you really wanna use a word somehow linked to the 'gay world' i think we need more queerness , and to be queer is not really exclusive to homosexuals. Maybe for us it is just easier to be having the opportunity to look at society as 'outsiders'. Sexuality is only an aspect of a person's life and honestly not really the most interesting in itself, but still very relevant from a political point of view.

It seems like only one type of gay man can make in the public eye - the desexualised gay best friend. And there are still very few out gay women in the media.

Most people are fine with gays but at the same time most people are not fine at all with sexuality and the idea of two men (or two women) having sex, but even more with two persons of the same sex loving each other. At the end, it is love that scares people most. Our nature, as human animals, is not really matching our society, it is about the time we should defeat and evolve from our own nature and become better and freer individuals.

What's next for you?

Rock 'n' roll, in the name of Satan!

Comments (3)

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Hi there Mr. Morris, Fabrizio here.

First i wanna tnk u for yr interest in my music.
I actually would have loved to dig more into the topics you came out with; interviews by email are ok but actually don't give the chance to open up a dialogue...

Hi there Mr. Morris, Fabrizio here.

First i wanna tnk u for yr interest in my music.
I actually would have loved to dig more into the topics you came out with; interviews by email are ok but actually don't give the chance to open up a dialogue which for sure would be much interesting and would help to clear possible ambiguities and misunderstanding.
When I say I don't know what gay music is I obviously ment it as a "provocation" ;
of course as you say everyone knows that gay music is usually linked to some specific genres, but my point is that those are really not enough to express all of the personal and social dynamics of a gay person.
When disco music came out had of course a very strong political impact; I could go on all day talking about the social relevance of the Village People! But that was long time ago and things are much more complex now than back then, and in the meantime we have also had Coil and Judas Priest (and Gorgoroth, among the others!) and their music features much more homosexual (I actually like the word homosexual much more than gay , being it - homosexual- much more specific) issues and imaginary than VP's , but plunged in very different musical contexts
I'll never get tired of saying how important Klaus Nomi has been to me (and actually one of the song of the album is dedicated to him) and that not really 'cause he was gay, as I'm and as I probably didn' t know to be yet when I was still a kid and saw him on TV first time, but 'cause he was a very unique artist /individual and a true visionary; I don t wanna compare myself and my work to him/his but that is the direction I'm interested to explore.
Terre Thaemlitz titled one of his albums "Interstices" , a conceptually very strong one in focusing on how the break-up and fragmentation of musical languages (as well as of any other form of communcation) was opening holes/interstices in the social body and how sexual/political identites (his topic of interest and what we are discussing now) always exists "in-between".
I think I've been very clear in stating that my doing a " gay album" has not been an ironic move at all.
I do hope this "come out" from the music, but at the same time is only denying gay as a genre/gender (and not only in music) that we can hopefully open up one of those interstices, of those cracks that (as Leonard Cohen says) let the light get in.
Really tnk u again for the interview and yr time and for having opened up a very interesting topic,
I'm of course open and willing to discuss it further with you or anybody else interested in it

Fabrizio Modonese Palumbo
deathtripper@hotmail.com

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Hi Fabrizio

Thanks so much for responding to my comments in the interview and for expanding further on your answers. As I say, I really love your album and was also really blown away by your gig recently. You're one of the most interesting and...

Hi Fabrizio

Thanks so much for responding to my comments in the interview and for expanding further on your answers. As I say, I really love your album and was also really blown away by your gig recently. You're one of the most interesting and challenging performers I've come across in a long while. I appreciate email interviews are not always the best, it makes it hard to get a real discussion going.

I hope what comes across is my frustration that we didn't get to discuss the subjects I would have liked rather than that you couldn't discuss those topics. As I say, it's rare to come across an artist who communicates intelligence as clearly as you do in your music. I think for me, your answers (probably unintentionally) touched a nerve because one of the things which annoys me in Western pop culture is how gay people are kind of white washed out of it. For example, people are generally quite comfortable talking about how gospel, blues, funk, hip hop etc came from mainly black musicians and had huge importance in black culture, but writers and commentators rarely do the same when it's music or art which primarily comes from gay artists or gay culture. I don't know if this is because they feel it lessens the importance of the music or they're just worried it might make them look a little homophobic (or maybe they are just homophobes, I dunno). But the net affect is that gay people become divorced for the culture they produced, seeing it sold back to them in the guise of singers who camp it up to hit the pink pound.

Obviously, that's not what you were driving at with your answers, hence your preference for the word 'queer' (something I fully appreciate). If anything, that's what made it more frustrating, since it was obvious you had views on this subject and I wanted to ask how they imformed your work etc. But I felt you remained illusive to the point where I felt I need to write a little something at the start.

I didn't expect you to respond and I very pleased and flattered that you have. I think you've clarified your point of view here (and obviously it's your perogative how much you discuss this stuff anyway). However, if there's anything else you'd like to say or elaborate on, let me know.

Rich
editor@soundblab.com

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hi again Rich.
I so agree with you about exploitation of gay culture and low level of political consciousness in most of gay artists. I'm happy our discussion led us to point this out.
Hope next time we will have some time for a chat and a drink...

hi again Rich.
I so agree with you about exploitation of gay culture and low level of political consciousness in most of gay artists. I'm happy our discussion led us to point this out.
Hope next time we will have some time for a chat and a drink together
All the best

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