Interviews & Press

FEDERICO SOLAZZO identikit of a young keyboard player

by Leonardo Chiara, July 28th, 2013

This is a Google translated interview, sorry ;), but still interesting I think! Cheers!

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He is 27 years old and what might be called a “brain drain”. Italian by birth, lives in Holland and carries on business as a musician at the international level. He plays in the band of Jamal Thomas (drummer Maceo
Parker) and has collaborated with many other Italian and foreign artists more or less known. Since 2008 he has collaborated with the brand Clavia Nord and has contributed to the timbre of the new Nord Lead 4.

BB After the identity crisis of the nineties keyboard, you begin to see young personalities keyboard publications, not surprisingly linked to the brand Clavia,
a manufacturer that has given lifeblood on keyboards live. But how did you get there?
Solazzo As a boy I studied organ and composition at the Conservatory because my father liked these instruments, and was still with him, and to his interest in the notation of the computer, which I could browse as a boy in technology. At six years old I got my first keyboard, a Generalmusic CD-1 to five octaves without dynamic that I literally wrung the neck of exploiting all the possibilities. In early 2000 were fashionable the master keyboard with expanders and so I tried to look around in that world. One day I saw in the store a small red object, a Clavia Micro Modular, and I decided to try it and found that it had a nice potential. The clerk could not find the note with the price and I, who had then 16 years old, told him that an object so small it would have cost no more than € 250. He gave it to me at that price as it would cost at least 800 Euros. It was then that I discovered the series of Clavia Nord. I have always appreciated their instruments because I found them very close to my understanding of the sound, more authentic and personal. Clavia tried to register the authenticity of the instruments to give it into the hands of the musician. The North are not machines that play by themselves but require interaction with keyboardist.
BB What music you listened to and played?
Solazzo How many keyboard players of my generation have been “fleshato” by Dream Theater. Jordan Rudess was those solismi a bit ‘to Keith Emerson once, but with a fresh pasta tone and virtuosity without an end in themselves, at least initially. So at fifteen I started playing in a tribute band that did their pieces. After various experiences, today I am happy to have found one of my size in an area more funk and soul, but always in a key emotional and instinctive. Playing abroad a lot, I realized that a musician has to be convinced of what he does in order to transmit always something to the public. To do so should not fall too much to compromise and accept what is. In education too, a teacher should direct the student so that there is a growth in some direction, not necessarily what the teacher expects.
BB When did you start doing synthesis?
Solazzo The Micro Modular already had a tool that required knowledge bases on the synthesis. And from there I started to look for people who could teach me something. I found Roland Kuit, first, a luminary of modular synthesis that has a completely new approach and not an end in itself. Then I had the good fortune to take the course of sonology in The Hague, where I live. They use advanced equipment and analog at the same time and full of Italian students. Having had the chance to discuss with the likes of Trevor Wishart on how to use noise to create emotions and was one of the most interesting things. But what I noticed in the students present them and unfortunately the absence of planning regardless of the choice of instruments. Almost all start from the equipment and are wondering what they can create only after musically.
BB From this point of view I would say that if you have an idea in his head, maybe you can do with any instrument has a minimum of possibilities. If they gave you a different brand of synth would you use your head to find solutions as interesting …
Solazzo My position in Clavia and another type because they are happily engaged to work in the department of Clavia ideas, being able to discuss what will be the future. About cone ingenuity to find solutions even with different instruments, I remember once I was in Naples to play a White Night with piano and voice, and I expected that there was a real piano. Instead it was a synthesizer to five octaves unweighted. Since I have learned to adapt to what I smile, because if there is no alternative risk only to create contrast, I said “that’s fine.” I lowered the eighth to have a little ‘more than low using your hands to control the pressure and gone. One thing I often see abroad and the ability of many musicians to sound check with no stress for too too long, for example. This means they are always ready.
BB From the point of view of expressiveness, there are other instruments in which the strong and less mediation between musician and instrument. In all keyboards and very simplified, less than not relate so pushed with the synthesis …
Solazzo keys for a keyboard player, at least until now, they have a limit. A keyboard has a switch for each key. O and on or off. It is also true that the way you manage the release of a key and very important yet few consider it as an expressive element. One thing that the keyboard should aim more precisely and that there is space between the push of a button and the other. It happens on the clavinet, for example, where it is very important to the moment of detachment, especially when using a wah effect. For example, with the clones need to use alternative ways to get to have acceptable expressiveness. Once the sounds of the real thing and not easy to get back on the digital one, but if I can avoid carrying around 190 pounds of Hammond I am easily able to accept the compromise committing myself to the maximum in order to play the clone at best. Even the synth can give us a feedback if we pay attention to detail. When I program the sounds of the Nord Lead, for example, I always look for an interaction with the instrument. For example, on strings there is always a certain tenacity to emulate something that already exists, and I think we should go in a new direction. For example, on many stamps which are emulations of the filters I have devoted a Minimoog LFO sync button, so that when you press it it triggers the LFO waveform at rest on a random step in, assigned to the pitch with extension of a few cents. So that there is a kind of random detuning minimal. I really like the inaccuracies. For example on strings, when you exceed the pinch the rope does not sound more but it breaks down. Even if by a punch in the piano the same thing happens and the natural decay is reduced because the sound chokes. And therefore interesting to apply this principle of pizzicato in high velocity values, to other types of timbre. In addition to the damping timbre, also moves the pitch, as when the rope is slabbra. Another thing I like to do and use the noise as a rhythmic element, but by introducing a noise in an unexpected point of the sound envelope.
BB What other tools are you working on now?
Solazzo I’m collaborating with the Americans of the Studio Electronics, synth realize that in the seventies after the service at Moog and by dint have to learn first made MidiMoog and then built their synth very interesting, such as the SE-1 and ATC .
BB Apart from the classics, such as synthesizers they hit you in the recent past?
Solazzo The things that attracted me in the past as electronic instruments are those who own a paste. But one thing I can mention particular, the Teenage Engineering OP-1. A small tool that has revolutionized the concept of summary, because an interface with color very instinctive and can offer the possibility to create sounds and those who know of synthesis that those who did not know. If I had to take a little keyboard to take her on a classic desert island, I would take that.
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Keyboard Player Federico Solazzo talks to My Keyboard Lessons

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

My Keyboard Lessons caught up with Federico recently:

“What first interested you in music?”
Music gives me a chance to express myself better then words.  So, it’s pretty natural to me!
“What attracted you to the keyboard as an instrument?”
My father (even if amateur) is a really good classical organ player and conductor of a choir in the town I was born. He tried to teach me how to play the piano when I was 4 year old, but in the “classical way” with no results at all!  I was crying all the time, but then somebody else introduced me to the piano with another approach, the right one for a little child.  And she gave me the right tools to see the music in a different way, wider!  So I quickly started transposing on the fly different melodies and basic comping stuff, and it was so helpful then! I received my first keyboard when I was 8 years old: a really basic 61 note keyboard without velocity but with MIDI! And I really squeezed it along with a sequencer, and I started understanding all the possibilities you have!
“How have you developed your skills?”
Playing on top of the records, and trying to get the notes that could fit at first, then chords, then voicing: it was just having fun with the keys!
“Any influences on your music?”
Bobby Sparks for sure! It’s the funkiest cat around in my opinion, and you can really feel how much energy and intensity he’s sharing while he’s on stage! Same for Dr Lonnie Smith, an incredible man!  So humble and genuine, and he’s really speaking trough the hammond!!  Another one? Herbie Hancock!  What I really love about him, it’s that he’s always taking risks, and he’s always pushing his playing to new directions: sometimes could be outstanding, sometimes not, but it’s part of the risk itself :)   Another Master I love is Bill Evans: his voicing, his touch, an artist from another planet!
“Do you have any upcoming performances?”
From April 10th to 13th I will be at the Nord Booth in Frankfurt at the MusikMesse to show their outstanding new synth :) Hope to see you there, otherwise take a look here for gigs/tours/TV shows and stuff ;)  http://www.federicosolazzo.com/agenda/
“What are your preferred instruments and why?”
I think it’s the clavinet with a wah pedal! :)   It’s a rhythmic instrument, and it describes well me and my playing: it can be smooth but also very aggressive!  In the same first position I would like to put also the Moog: my ’75 Model D (and on the road my ’81 Source, full list here http://www.federicosolazzo.com/instruments-equipment/)!  They are real instruments, like any other “acoustic” instrument!  You need to practice a lot on them and to know exactly how to play, it’s not only hitting a key.  It’s the way you are doing it, and the way you are ready to “listen” how the instrument is reacting!!  I really think this is something that is missing in the new instruments nowadays: the feedback. But I trust the future :)
On the live side, Nord Keyboards are my choice! They sound amazing, they are light, reliable and the fastest thing ever to program! You can get the sound you want in seconds! And that’s really handy when you want to change something in the middle of a performance!
“What are your future goals?”
Since 2011 I’m working with a small team on some prototypes of new hardware and software solutions for keyboard players and I will be very excited to show you something very soon :)   Also, I’m working in studio on a lot of pop productions right now, but I would really love to focus more on music for video (see here http://www.federicosolazzo.com/services/).