An Interview with Bernardo Lanzetti of Acqua Fragile & PFM

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Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with veteran musician and artist, Bernardo Lanzetti. Among other things, we touch on what he’s been up to during the pandemic, his newest music, his opinion of the music scene today, and what he’s looking forward to most post-COVID.

If you would like to learn more about Bernardo Lanzetti, grab a copy of his new album, Horizontal Rain, and dive in. Once you’ve done that, check out this interview with Bernardo. Cheers.

Andrew:
Bernardo, I appreciate you taking the time today. How have you been holding up over the last year or so? What have you been up to?

Bernardo:
Well thank you for wanting to know about me and my messin’ around with art. Last year, at the first lockdown, my wife and I were in Marbella, south of Spain, where we usually spend our wintertime. To get over all the restrictions, I concentrated on doing everything I could right to complete my latest album and I don’t mean music, lyrics, or recordings which was practically all done, but working on the phone or by e-mail to find partners and ways to release Horizontal Rain. Back in Italy, all pieces were to click on together and that happened when we moved to Sicily not wanting to be stranded again in a foreign country, eventually. To check out the mastering and working on the album cover, in the southeast part of the Island I found a perfect environment, right where, funny enough, Tom Cruise and Mick Jagger also were spotted out.

Andrew:
Before we dive into your professional career, let’s go back a bit. What first got you hooked on music?

Bernardo:
In Italy, as a kid, radio was mostly just people talking and TV, broadcasting only from 1954, was not so great with music. I guess my first hook, to use your word, was singing in a foreign language at the sound of a big organ! That would be singing in Latin, in church but, beware, not in a proper, organized and trained choir, just freely singing along, mostly with women, there attending. Even though I was a little skinny boy, I already had a powerful voice, and intonation never has been a problem. We had no musical instruments around the house, but my mother had a nice voice and my grandfather was so funny when trying to sing arias from famous operas.

Andrew:
Who were some of your early influences?

Bernardo:
My older brother would bring home records by Little Richard, Conway Twitty, and – yes – Elvis Presley, so I was more than ready when The Beatles, The Stones, and [Bob] Dylan appeared to stir up the scene. At the same time, I had the chance to hear and appreciate some of the greatest vocalists of all time, learning so much from their singing.

Bernardo Lanzetti – Horizontal Rain (2021)

Andrew:
Let’s talk about recent events first. Tell us about your new album, Horizontal Rain.

Bernardo:
The album was conceived and recorded over a few years with many outstanding musicians and special guests. Horizontal Rain is a collection of musical episodes that range from Progressive Rock to Vanguard, Modern Opera, Art Rock, Soul, and Classix 2 B. The album features Tony Levin, David Cross, David Jackson, Derek Sherinian, Tony Franklin, Jonathan Mover, and others!

Andrew:
What lyrical themes do you tend to explore with your music? Is your music intensely personal, or are you only telling stories, so to speak?

Bernardo:
Every written and spoken sentence has some musical value. Sometimes sounds and rhythm are more powerful than the story told or the statement made. Music can take it all in to blend and then deliver it, with a noble gesture, just to anybody. So, it might happen that words are heading me to explore music or some musical phrase gets me down to work out a concept to fit in stanzas. In a Prog environment, social and universal themes are welcome as well as fantasy about the past and the future. In my opinion, love songs are a bit more of a challenge in Prog, so the writer has to dive deeply into himself, maybe just to catch some hidden but original aspect of a present, previous, or even hypothetical relationship.

Andrew:
How about the production side of things? Do you self-produce, or do you bring in outside voices?

Bernardo:
After 23 official albums, with different bands and solo, when a new track of mine is down as a demo, I would know if I can self-produce it or must have somebody else on board. Both ways are fun.

Andrew:
How are things regarding PFM? Anything new to report there as we move forward into the (hopefully) post-COVID world?

Bernardo:
Officially, I left PFM in 1979 and the drummer, after copyrighting the band’s name all by himself, wanted to be the lead singer. Now he’s the only original member left but, anyway, in twenty years or so, the group has mostly performed songs by a popular Italian singer/songwriter who died in 1999. Just lately, I got to communicate again with Franco Mussida, PFM’s original guitarist. He runs a well-respected school of music in Milan and I was given an honorary diploma in singing! Franco is a genius and invented a new musical system based on matching “a couple of notes” rather than just single notes as universally known. Somebody might know that back in the 90s, in a solitary struggle, I had to take to court the company in charge of paying royalties to each member of PFM for old recordings. Funny enough this company belonged to the drummer’s ex-wife but I won all down the line.

Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Cassettes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? What are a few of your favorite albums, and why?

Bernardo:
Digital is so easy and handy when working with music as it wipes out the geographic distance but I’m surely glad that, after many years, vinyl has been given back its medals. In my opinion, though, real music happens only live. I don’t have favorite albums as I like so many different types of music to suit my different moods or enhance and direct my energy. Silence itself is welcomed, at times. Also, it might happen that I put on an album I know I don’t like that much, secretly hoping to change my mind.

Andrew:
What other passions do you have? How do those passions inform your music, if at all?

Bernardo:
I got into music a bit more seriously only when living and studying in the States, back in the 60s, as a teenager. Before that, my big passion was painting but, mostly, drawing. Music is very demanding so I put ink pen and paintbrush on the side for quite a few albums and tours. Got back to it – let’s say – twenty-five years ago and….well, I was shocked to find out how I had improved without ever practicing! I’ve been told I was blessed by what’s called “meta vision.” The brain keeps on working around the subject even though the body is busy doing something else. I started fooling around with oil and canvas, even large ones, or using different techniques I worked out myself being, as in music, self-taught. When asked about what I find different between music and painting I always say, “Working with music, you always end up having other people around, whether fellow musicians or sound engineers, while, when I draw or paint, I’m left all alone with my ghosts.” I love to quote Leonardo Da Vinci, just as I did when singing in a vanguard track of mine called “E-Clec-Ti-Ca”– “Minor sister to Painting is Music ‘cause, every time, it has to die.”

Andrew:
In your opinion, what is the state of the music business these days? Should artists be hopeful? Scared? Both?

Bernardo:
The music business still brings money in but less and less musicians can grab any of it. In the past century, though hit by two world wars, they have been able to carry on Operas, develop Blues, organize and create that Big Band sound. They gave Jazz a noble dimension, messed around with Atonal, Twelve-Tone, Concrete, and Electronics. Rock ‘N’ Roll grew up huge into Beat, Soul, Hard, Prog, and Heavy Metal. Even Disco, Rap, and Hip-Hop hit the floor. Presently, with top technology and communication, we have no quality and no originality in music whatsoever. Music can still be a hobby or entertainment as well as it will always be a mind trainer, a discipline, and a philosophy but Artists, not only musicians, are called to a greater commitment. They have to help human beings to face the unknown future and, actually, music should carry on healing body and soul and improving the process of thinking, in the end, to give hope and character to our era.

Andrew:
Last one. We seem to be nearing a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of COVID-19 restrictions. That said, what’s next on your docket? What are you looking forward to most in the post-COVID world?

Bernardo:
Voice: My voice grew up in strength and spanned over the octaves as years went by. I should find out why and how.

Live: Put together an All-Star Band to play Horizontal Rain live.

Music: I’ve been called up to join in on a project of bel canto with chill-out arrangements.

Painting: Producing new events, sort of art exhibition with live music.

Interested in learning more about Bernardo Lanzetti? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
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