When Music is a Business of Beauty. Interview with Francesco Berta.

Francesco Berta is a music composer and visual artist from Italy and currently living in London.

His works features an intuitive, organic and visual approach to the composition and recording, involving acoustic and electric instruments, soundscapes anda minimal use of electronics. Francesco’s music, defined by listeners and reviewers “vivid, extremely detailed and cinematic” have been featured in different commercials and TV-shows.

Baldo, Cultartes: Do you think music can change something in this world? We know that in other ages, this type of artistic expression could change individual perceptions and the way of looking at life in general.

Francesco Berta: John Cage once said that the artist map reality. He conceptualized we’re living a cat and mouse game wherein both the artist and the world play a part, in this case with our perceptual life. Are we really seeing life without judgment, are we really seeing ourselves or just what we want to see? That’s interesting as we consider the concept of paradigm, as being basically the way we see the world. Music is a huge part of our perceptions, it’s also a vehicle, a said paradigm, and a translator.

Is Beauty the face of Ugliness in the mirror?

I think that even at the heart of darkness there is always an indestructible beauty.

If your music would be a person, what age will it have? Would it be a child, an adult?

Definitely a crossover between an angry teenager and a pensive, yet innocent child.

If you could watch your past in the eyes, what would you tell it?

Believe in integrity as your biggest core value. It took me a while to realize that integrity and willpower directly influenced my overall happiness. And well, I’d also say what I’ve been saying to every 18 year old I meet; don’t start smoking and buy a pair of running shoes.

Is there an artist from Romania that you’d like to collaborate with?

A friend of mine introduced me to Robin and the Backstabbers. We had lunch together last year in Bucharest after seeing them play an early morning gig, and even though I didn’t understand the lyrics their energy was incredible.

How would the perfect journey look like for you? Where would it be and how would you like to get there, with your mind or your soul, as a conveyance?

It takes time and solitude to appreciate who and where we are, at what point of our life. The perfect journey for me would be to spend several months in a cottage somewhere in the woods in winter time. Nestled by the fireplace with just a piano, some cheap vintage recording gear and an old mac from the 2000’s running an early version of Logic, I would spend my days writing music, breaking only to visit the small town nearby to drink with the same small group of people wearing warm jackets and huge beards. Well yeah, I know, I’m talking about Canada (laughs).

Francesco has so far released two full-length albums, Modern Dinosaurs and Journey, the last released in 2013 through the Berlin record label Oxide Tones.

Speaking of places and journeys, where would you not go back? And why?

Peckham, or Croydon. I’m just kidding. Now I’m going to sound like the most politically correct guy ever, but I was lucky enough to find something interesting in every place I went to.

Tell us more about the feeling of making music as a one-man band. Is it a burden or a incommensurable pleasure?

It’s a burden. I’m happy to carry as I have to manage my time in a military way. I wake up at five every day, for example, even if I’m not in the NAVY. But I like to meditate, work out, read and write music. To help avoid distractions and procrastination I only connect the internet just after 6PM which helps maintain my focus. I found it really hard not to, so I decided to build my studio in a place without the internet. Doing everything yourself is really funny and painful at the same time but grants you some satisfactions you’ll never be able to achieve with a team. You know, in America they say “the bigger the dream, the bigger the team”. Fuck them.

I soon realized that it’s all personal, it will always be: music was the key to express my inner feelings in a way no other medium could compete, to translate my insecurities, my happiness and my anger in notes. I spent so much time worrying about what was happening to other people that I almost forgot to enjoy my life. I believe that only the people that are absolutely fed up with their lives are the ones that will make a change. Otherwise you’ll never flip a thing, because your brain is making sure that change will be the most difficult thing you’ll ever do.

And another thing that blew my mind is that I don’t actually need to be in a good mood to write music. If I’m nervous, and have a high drive, that’s when I’m going to push everything so hard towards what I really want that there’s no space for failure. And later on, my mood will be drastically changed by all the great and positive effort I’ve put in write something valuable. So, yeah, get angry and get shit done.

Let’s make a top 5 (or more) with your favorite one-man band?

Hard to say who’s really behind someone. I would probably stick to Film Music and pick up composers that used to write with just one/two orchestrators like John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith, because nowadays it’s barely impossible to recognize who really did the work; my idea of one-man band is someone that writes his own music from the first to the last note, relying on external support only in case of extreme necessity. So having just your name on the cover isn’t enough for me.

The problem is that artists nowadays are battling with a sense of insecurity and entitlement as they’re ready to do whatever they can to buy their path to success, leaving hard work behind, thinking that they deserve the best without challenging their work to be something personal, beautiful, liberating. Success will come, or maybe not. But you’ll have enjoyed the process, ending up as a different person.

Do you search for inspiration in other musical areas? Let’s say, for instance, Opera… What do you think about black metal?

Film music, mainly. Opera is great and well, I’m Italian, so it’s in my blood but unfortunately I didn’t give Opera the time it deserves. Black Metal is not my thing, I’m more of a post-rock guy.

His last work is an EP entitled The Last Days of Winter, recorded and produced in December 2014. All the music is written by Francesco, who also plays every instrument as well.

What was the biggest challenge in your musical career?

To preserve my integrity and maintain music as my primary source of income. My biggest challenge was to quit my 9-5 job and start to work as a full time music composer. Everyone will tell you that the first months are the biggest challenge, and it was no different for me. I ended up draining all my savings for a whole year, and then something magical happens if you do your work like there’s no plan B, moneywise: things start to happen.

There is no business model for how to make money from recorded music anymore. Different people are trying different things, but right now, unless you are a touring musician or a big star, nobody seems to have a handle on how to market music and get the artist paid fairly.

When I grew up, we couldn’t afford piano lessons for years, and I started only when I was 16. That made me focus already on what I really wanted, even then I hated wasting time. So I learned quickly everything I needed to play what I really wanted, and without thinking I was writing my first tracks, to express my feelings as a teenager. Those feelings found place in some of the best tracks I’m proud of writing: it wasn’t about technique, because I didn’t have that yet. Just shaping feelings, and piano came as the best and most immediate way. I’ve been through some hard times, but music has always been there for me. It’s amazing how circumstance can shape lives. Even when everything is taken from me and all around me there’s lack and void, I realized that my heart is ultimately committed to create music. The fabric of my being is bound to my art, it is who I am.

If the Devil asks you to make a song for Hell’s music background, what will you tell him?

That I already have a sound palette in mind and I can sketch for him some rough ideas if he’s ok with sending me his e-mail. I’m going to finally have a reason to use some of my most extreme scary drone Kontakt libraries.

Can you make us a list of the best moments of your musician’ life?

Looking back I think… signing for my first label, as I wasn’t thinking too much, it was all fun and I clearly had no idea that being a music composer is way closer to being a businessman than to be a player or sound engineer. It’s mostly public relations, connections, and then writing music.

How do you think the end of the world will look like if it takes place in your soul?

I’m lucky enough to say that I have already lived the end of my inner world as I knew it. Because of music, business, relationships and ugly events I got so far from my soul that I felt like a totally different person. Of course there’s a funny way of your brain to tell you that you’re doing something wrong, and that way is to make you the unhappiest person on Earth. After what I considered rock bottom for me, I decided to step forward and climb the ladder, or take the stairs as they say, starting from scratch and discovering how to have fun again. That was an interesting and ultimately rewarding process that everyone should start, and it’s still in progress.

I worked hard and kept learning the hard way. It’s frustrating for most of the time, but it has nice rewards, the kind of rewards that I’m looking to achieve the most.

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