The Nuts interview
How and when were Nuts born?
Stefano: My passion for music started early…let’s say when I was a child.
I had an old record player at home, “Lesa” three-speeds and two pins (33 – 45 – 78)… enough to turn it upside down and the game was done!
My father had a small collection of 78’s including interesting recordings by Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, but my favorite was “Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets, with “Thirteen Women” and “Only One Man in Town” on side B. My elder brother had several 45 rpm of the ’60s and ’70s Italian music. The most popular were those of Rokes and Adriano Celentano (an Italian myth).
I started very early to spend money on records, I remember my first LPs, bought after reading the reviews on italian music magazines of the times (CIAO 2001, Gong, Muzak …): “Machine Head” by Deep Purple, “Led Zeppelin III”, “Abraxas” by Santana, John Mayall’s “A Hard Road”, the one with Peter Green …
As soon as I finished high school in 1980, during one of my usual visits to the best record store in town (“Bloom & Rossmann”) I asked the owner if he needed a salesman, and he replied: “OK, come tomorrow afternoon, there is a container full of records imported from USA, so give me a hand … ” I was in heaven.
I remember tons of wonderful vinyl at bargain prices, obscure american bands like Bloodrock, Good Rats, Dust, Madura, a lot of New Wave, Blues and everything else I could imagine.
Since then my collection began to significantly grow, as well as my reputation as an expert on the subject, since I sold records for more than 30 years…also buying a lot … but let’s go Nuts.
I was very fascinated by the harp sound, listening to records by Paul Butterfield, Canned Heat, and J. Geils Band, and of course I would have liked to playing in a band. Mario Bucceri was a music lover like me, and he also had a good records collection. Once he told me he joined a band, The Blues Engine, and invited me to practice sessions.
I was intrigued, because Mario previously played with an interesting country rock group, The Tulsa Band, and he was one of the few people in town having an above average music culture and clear ideas in his mind.
The Blues Engine line up was Mario Bucceri and Vittorio Bardi on guitars and vocals, Carlo Cantile on bass and Francesco Carpena on drums. As soon as I listened to them playing I realized that, unlike other local bands (mostly cover bands), they had a personal and very definite style.
The Blues Engine played a solid blues rock in which the twin lead guitars alternated deep and visceral solos, sometimes also in original songs spiced with Mario and Vittorio passion for British bands like Kinks, Jam, Who.
I was offered the opportunity to participate playing harp in some songs and I quickly caught up with the band. Soon I decided to buy a mike and an amp (VOX AC30 which I still have); the Blues Engine did several gigs in La Spezia and nearby.
At some point, however, because of a number of events, the drummer left the band and so the bass player, in other words the Engines stopped running. It was then that me and Mario decided we wanted to go on and we launched recruiting.
We met Agostino Morvillo (bass player). He was then a truck driver and he had a good musical background (on top of a wonderful Fender precision). He liked the heavy blues rock sound: Cream, Zeppelin, Rory Gallagher.
Let’s go for the drummer: Paolo worked in our favourite pub, we knew about his passion for music and for drums. A chat was enough to understand that he was the guy for the job: same musical tastes, same enthusiasm, heavy hand and an “interesting” background: we had the rhythm section.
We decided to start rehearsing, equipping the garage of my country house (sticking paperboard egg trays to the walls…you know…high tech acoustic insulation!), it was time to take off and test our skills.
We soon became aware that the spirit was there and with some work (let’s say a lot…) we could leave something good, it was time to find a name…and this was “Nuts”, not in its common meaning, but in English slang for “hotheads”, “bolts”, “wags”, we liked it immediately (short and effective)…
and so Nuts were born:
Mario Bucceri – guitar, vocals
Stefano Bardò – harp
Agostino Morvillo – bass
Paolo Falchi – drums (1983-1987)
Guido Carli – drums (1987-1988)
Mario: Yes, that was in 1983 in La Spezia, a mid-sized sea town in Liguria. We, as members, were very different under many aspects (social, cultural and in some way also for musical tastes) but we were eager for a musical experience and we really wanted to do something different from what was happening in those days in the area of “Indies” label. This does not necessarily mean we wanted to do something shockingly new…probably the contrary in my view. Young bands coming out in those days seemed to force “something new”, resulting a bit false or anyway lacking freshness. We wanted simply to play good music, to do it “with guts” and to sincerely do “whatever we liked to”, without pre-emptive schemes or the target to build a specific image. In other words, music is good if you like it, it’s something unruled (thanks God!).
Stefano: After a testing period, we had built a repertoire including both reinterpretations of classic British blues and original songs; often we entered into real jam sessions in which everyone was improvising long solos and the atmosphere got a psychedelic flavor. We were chasing a sound, in some way personal but summing up all possible influences coming out from the music we loved.
We decided to record a demo tape, and this was an important step allowing us to understand the dynamics of a recording session and the possibilities offered by an equipped studio. This obviously also represented a chance to let people know what we were doing and to start being invited to play in clubs, which were often and unfortunately not adequate to our “high volume” acts and many times we had lively discussions with club owners saying “you’re crazy, forget about playing like this here!”
I remember a couple of great gigs at a beerfest in Forchheim Germany. We were invited by some of our German friends, I remember a crowd of people who warmly welcomed us, calling us back on stage several times… and then the quality of the audience, with bikers and hippies, was something making us proud and satisfied.
Mario: It’s worth mentioning we bought an half-destroyed pick up to go there with an incredibly long journey to reach Gerrmany and…well…great! Pure fun…as it should be.
It’s a shame you were not more known, because you released two great albums in 1986 and 1987. I would like if you could tell us the story behind this two great releases?
Mario: First of all thanks a lot for your appreciation! I think we could not be more known, mainly for two reasons: 1) We played in Italy, which is not UK or USA (and maybe not even Germany). In Italy live gigs are concentrated in the summer season and usually we talk about big concerts (stadiums, palasports, large theatres…). There was not the culture of “every night a gig in a club”, music was the extraordinary event, not something usual. 2) we sang in english and, unfortunately, “global” thinking was still far to come. Knowing this was a curb for us, we tried to explain that the language was for us a choise like when you chose an instrument, like to say “in this track I want to play a Strat…” but…that was a decisive element in the possibility to have a wider audience. I tell you what: to firmly deliver the message that our music was something coming out of the provincial italian humus I used to wear a T-shirt in live acts (designed by a girl often attending our gigs/practice sessions) showing a fist holding a fork with spaghetti and stating “Spaghetti Power!”.
Stefano: In 1986 we decided it was time to record an album, there was in fact a good number of Italian underground bands like us, tied to traditional Rock, regardless of fashion trends. They were all just trying to have a chance to let people listen to their music, and after an indigestion of punk and new wave, the various music magazines dedicated space to the “new Rock roots.”
So it was that in a week we recorded our first album “The Ups & Downs Of A Nice Little Bugger” (produced by Cobra Records) at TBM Studios in Castelfranco Emilia , an album made of original songs written by Mario and arranged together, and a version of the Bo Diddley classic “Who Do You Love?”, eight minutes of acid rock in which all the instruments went wild creating moments of tension and collective improvisation. Mario changed the words and called it “Who Should You Love? “. This became one of our flagship products, in every concert we palyed a different version, and it always worked great!
Mario: “The Ups & Downs of a nice little bugger” was recorded in six hot days. We worked very hard on refining 9 original songs and the revised version of the Bo Didley classic Stefano was referring to. 10 Tracks arranged in a concept album, interpreted like a sort of Rock Opera and which we used to call a “Shock Opera”. The main character, the nice little bugger, is continuously looking for new emotions but, coming from another world (and this is a key point, we were never in line with the musical arena in those days..let’s say we were not in line, full stop), does not get used to what’s around him and…he feels bitterly disappointed-
This is probably the less refined/mature album but, in my view, it still represents the best creative period of our Band. The “Ups & Downs” includes “Mist”: an hypnotic minor blues very much appreciated also in live acts. A lot of energy and a whole wild bunch of different influences. Take into account that in the days preceding the recording we had decided to break up, energy had some way dried up after three years and then…the call from the producer. This was a huge energy injection and, actually, that album came out naturally day by day, very quickly and in a genuine way, ideas came while playing and they were implemented.
Stefano: We sent some promotional copies of the album to the major music magazines of the time (The Wild Bunch, Rockerilla, Ultimo Buscadero) receiving excellent reviews by Beppe Riva, Riccardo Bertoncelli, Daniele Ghisoni, Aldo Pedron, Marino Grandi, Vittore Baroni, big names of music magazines. Soon, after the album release we had phone calls and we volunteered to take part in several concerts throughout Italy.
In 1987, we recorded the second album “Looking For Cockaigne” of which we were proud once again, since it included only one cover (“Hey Gyp” by Donovan) and the rest was made of original compositions. It moved also a step away from our classic Rock and Blues roots, we were evolved into a more original and varied sound, perhaps “psycho-soul”? (the Nuts were never intended, to be a group of blues revival, we could not see much sense in singing “Sweet Home in Chicago” while living in a seatown in Italy. The lyrics written by Mario were about us and about our lives, the music was felt as entirely ours, be it good or bad).
Mario: “Looking for Cockaigne” was really the second chapter of the Story: another “concept” (the guy looks for his Cockaigne, but it’s so difficult to be found while it’s so easy to imagine it through the dangerous path of drugs and alcohol), again 9 originals + a cover
I think the band reached a new and more refined sound that the band defined, as Stefano has just said, “Psycho-Soul”. The album included the only instrumental track of the Nuts (Absynth Boulevard and, talking about influences, even if it results so far from that, I started working on this track in the wake of a Zappa instrumental: “sexual harrassment in the work place”).
The fact that our recording sessions were extremely creative and intense is reflected in the difference between the records and the live acts. the “live” Nuts were heavily influenced by hard blues and pub rock tones, very direct. The albums left room to experiments on sound, irrespective of the impossibility to replicate certain things on stage. We simply didn’t care…on stage we should have found our way to do it, anyway.
Stefano: At some point, however, we found ourselves in a critical situation, since the drummer, had to move out of town for job problems and he could no longer be fully available in case of a call for a concert. We took a pause while looking for a substitute. We were told by a drum teacher about Guido Carli, a young guy who was said to be promising.
Guido was the youngest out of three brothers, all musicians, at the time he played with the Italian Extravaganza (Mario recorded a couple of tracks in their debut album and so he already played with Guido) and he was endowed with taste and an extraordinary technical skill. We did not really expect that such a kid (16 years old) could play like that. He got immediately in tune with the Nuts and within a few hours he was already in a position to play our whole repertoire.
We started again to play concerts and we were very proud of the new member, we had a solid rhythm section giving us confidence. During gigs we were eagerly waiting for his inevitable drum solo to check the audience reaction: Guido started like a rocket leaving people astonished, a real talent!
In 1987 we recorded four songs with a mini-LP “The Haunt”, where we proposed a twisted version of “Johnny B. Goode” and a sour “Crosstown Traffic” in which Mario shows his big talent with the guitar.
Mario: Actually something I’m fond of and I was a bit nervous for the fact that what in my view is my best moment is…when fading starts! Let me spend a word on the cover of “The Haunt”,where our concept materialized: a huge metal heart pumped by four different veins.
I think this mini LP, always in my view, includes the Top musical achievement of the Nuts: our cover of “Crosstown Traffic”. And the new drummer, Guido Carli, a great drummer (and 16Y old at the times!!!). Paolo was pure energy and instinct (on top of being a wonderful guy and a pillar in the Nuts project development), while Guido had a quality which is rare in drummers: he privileged the song with respect to his great technique, he privileged the overall result…playing simple and stressing accents.
One thing I find really fantastic is the cover artwork of »Looking for Cockaigne«.
Stefano: Our debut album “The Ups & Downs Of A Nice Little Bugger” came with a pretty poor cover, both for the choice of the paper (actually from shoes boxes) and to deliberately express something elementary, fairly typical of underground productions of those years. For “Looking For Cockaigne, “we wanted something that could reflect our state of mind: we were in a phase of intense creativity, we felt like in a swirl of colours and feelings freaking us out; we gave total freedom to the author of the cover artwork, our friend Carla Isetta, and, being ready to play the game, being collectors of rare records, we thought she should have done a gatefold gimmick cover, with insert, then we wanted red vinyl, in short, we imagined it as a “collector’s item”; once again the album was greeted with good reviews on various monthly rock music magazines.
Mario: Yes, it was good. Young artists, unknown and without equipped professional studios, were always in our environment and Carla Isetta did wonderful things. I think this cover had definitely a lot to do with the psychedelic atmosphere of the Album…and with some deeper evolution in our minds…not necessarily easy but, let’s say, creative…and a bit painful. Again, our “Guy” in the first album was out of the blue…now he was deep into the blue…
How about your influences? You all must be a huge psych fans and since I have a magazine about it I would like if you could perhaps tell us TOP 10 less known psych albums, that had influences on you?
Mario: I think there were lots of influences, as I already said, and main ones were British Blues, Pub Rock, Hard Rock. My main Psycho influence is Hendrix and I do not consider myself as a real psychedelic influenced player but, again, everything knocked at the Nuts door…even Punk ( see “What a Hunger” in our first album). Just to tell you some not very known Albums attracting me: “The Damnation of Adam Blessing” and some of the “Bevis Frond” recordings.
Stefano: One thing is certain, I never bought a record just because it was a rare one, I don’t like to spend a lot of money to get the “Japanese special edition” of… and so on, I’m a curious listener of all the imaginable kinds of music. When I was sixteen, American and British Blues (Killing Floor, Chicken Shack…) was my life, then I went into my “Garage period” (hundreds of compilations in my collection like “Pebbles”, “Back From the Grave”, “Psychedelic Crown Jewels” etc…), then many 70’s Psychedelic obscurities, I’m curious about twisted personalities like Kim Fowley, Peter Ivers, Armand Schaubroeck…but I was also fascinated by two books about “Incredible Strange music”. After reading them I went in search of music records and bizarre Exotica of the ’50s (I collect a lot of Harmonica records of fourties and fifties…just give a look at the record covers of Johnny Puleo & His Harmonica Gang!)…another of my personal favourites are NRBQ, one of the most creative and underrated american bands.
These are ten songs that I love for different reasons:
DINO VALENTE – Time
FRACTION – Sanc Divided
CLARK-HUTCHINSON – Free To Be Stoned
KIM FOWLEY – Bubble Gum
ANNETTE PEACOCK – My Mama Never Taught Me How To Cook
MARIANNE FAITHFUL – Sleep
PETER BARDENS with PETER GREEN – Don’t Goof With A Spook
BANGOR FLYING CIRCUS (pre Madura) – Violent Men
THE WHITE NOISE – Your Hidden Dreams
LE STELLE DI MARIO SCHIFANO – Molto Lontano (a colori)
Did Nuts do any touring?
Mario: Not touring in the true sense of the word, but a good number of gigs, especially in 1988. I remeber a very good act in 1986 at the International Blues Festival in Milan, as supporter of the “Al Copley Combo” and our “Crazy” participation to the beer fest “Hannafest” in Forcheim, Germany.
Stefano: For a group like The Nuts a real tour was unthinkable, on the other hand our music was not for large stages, and we had not a particular “look”. Anyway, there was a period in which we played in many different places around Italy.
I remember, as Mario, the Milano Blues Festival ’87, when we opened the evening for “Al Copley Combo”, the piano player of “Roomful of Blues”, I remember a festival in Avellino, southern Italy, together with the Label fellows The Sleeves, Big Fat Mama, Polvere Di Pinguino; I remember the show “Juke-Box, i percorsi della notte” in Torino, an event attended by virtually all emerging Italian bands, we did two dates, one at the “Divina Commedia” and one at ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour”
Mario: …outstanding Guido performance that night….everybody asking me “who’s that kid?!”
Stefano: I remember “Arezzo Wave” (filmed by Video Music), an important event that has launched several Italian groups like Casino Royale, CCCP, Litfiba, then “Pistoia Blues,” among “emerging bluesmen”. I remember the concert at “Leoncavallo” historic social center of Milano in front of an audience of punks (anyway appreciating the act), then the night we opened for Koko Taylor, Queen of the Blues and also many other occasions in which we shared the stage with a lot of different bands.
What happened next and what can you tell me about your background before the formation of the Nuts?
Mario: I think you understood from one of my answers above that in Italy it’s particularly difficult to live with music. We all needed to gain some money to live and, finally (in 1988) we had to part. Probably this is not the only cause. Our 6Y history was very intense and also rather stressing (because felt and deeply involving) and, in some way, the vein had dried.
As for my background: I studied some classical guitar (this is why I play directly with my fingers and without any pick). When I was sixteen I established a Country Band and during that period my world was Bob Dylan (which influence anyway remained huge for me, especially in singing). Soon after the love for Blues came, and I really considered myself a Bluesman. I knew Stefano through playing together with my first (and loved) Blues Band, The Blues Engines (we also recently met and played again!!) and then…The Nuts…which meant substantially being open to everything. In that period I also co-wrote an Italian song and played guitar, as said before, with the Italian Extravaganza (experience in which I met Guido).
Stefano: We still managed to do a few gigs, but then also Guido had to move and we had reached the point in which for job reasons or else we could not play so often, so we decided, and be sure it was a bitter decision, to close the Nuts book. After all we had our good time and satisfatcion, what started as a hobby had paid off, we were able to make three recordings, we played around Italy, we knew many people and we had a lot of friends, something was with us to stay…
An unexpected surprise was when the “Enciclopedia del Rock Italiano” (The Encyclopedia of Italian Rock – Arcana Publishing) by Federico Guglielmi was released in 1993, the first book fully dedicated to the Italian groups from the early ’60s until the late ’80s, where with great satisfaction we found that the Nuts were included, by the way with positive reviews.
Sometime later, in the early ’90s, Mario and I tried to put together a new group, this time we decided to do things with less effort, just for fun, and we invented “The Witches” with a girl on bass, the very good Marta Sausa, from “Italian Extravaganza”, by the way endowed with a wonderful voice, now the chaotic and “rude” Blues Rock was a thing of the past, and the new songs and arrangements by the Witches were more oriented to a hybrid of UK Pop Rock matrix, we did a few live appearances and that was good, but the project did not last long, as the need to work for a life was beginning to be pressing.
I played Harmonica with Bumble Bee, a Roots Rock band from southern Italy, in their sole LP, then in The Sleeves EP, a band from Genova.
What are you doing these days?
Stefano: I stopped selling records, times are changed!, sadly the new generation doesn’t buy music any more, everywhere only iPods and other “fashion things…I still love the smell of old american record covers (maybe it’ss the glue they used…is like a drug!). Now I’m a terminal operator in the port of La Spezia, music is still my great passion, not one single day without my headphones, my records, my CDs, sometimes my Blues Harps, blogspots like this!
I recently meet someone who greeted me asking about the Nuts, if they still play together or not…, someone asks: “Do you remember me?…That time at that gig…I have your records with signatures… ” Little things that make you happy.
Mario: Don’t faint…I’m a banker!! (but be sure I keep my Psycho approach also there!). Let me cite a song we sang with “The Witches”, one of the best ever in my view: “I won’t grow up”…a traditional included in the wonderful album by Rickie Lee Jones “ Pop Pop”.
Thanks for taking your time! Would you like to send a message to It’s Psychedelic Baby readers?
Stefano: Thanks to you Klemen, I really appreciate your work, hope you dig deeper and deeper to find more great obscure bands all around the world!
A message to all readers…
Put your headphones on, choose a good record, turn up the volume and enjoy some healthy “air guitar”…at least once a day nothing else mattaers!
Mario: thanks to you Klemen for discovering the past!! What I want to say to your readers is “Read, listen, experience…do not give up!”…by the way Klemen, could you give me any indication to find “Cockaigne”?
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2012
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