Breznev Fun Club interview with Rocco Lomonaco
Rocco Lomonaco is a composer and mastermind behind Breznev Fun Club, which is kind of a mystery to most listeners of avant-prog/RIO. It is hard to describe and to classify your music into just one genre. Rocco, when did you first get involved with music and where did you grow up?
I started, like many, I believe, at a very young age to make music with friends. From the very beginning music was not only a great hobby, then as a teenager I started to think seriously about the music and I began to study it. I have lived, studied and later worked in Montescaglioso, Bari, Milan and Frankfurt am Main. The first music I experimented with friends was in Montescaglioso, which is a small town in the region of Basilicata in southern Italy.
Did you study composition?
Yes. In the second half of the ’80s I began to study composition, first as a self-taught. Then I followed a course in composition with Franco Donatoni and for the Computer Music I followed courses with Alvise Vidolin first and then with Graziano Tisato at the Computing Centre of the University of Padova in 1994. But basically I’ve never been part of the academic world of music, and I practised the music along with other artistic and expressive options. Later I received a few performances by some well-known musicians in contemporary music festival.
I had trouble finding more about your band, but I believe you first started with this name already back in the ‘80s. What’s the story behind that and did you record or release anything? Played any live shows?
I used the name Breznev Fun Club for the first time in the mid-80s in Montescaglioso, and the name began as a joke. Like many groups, at the beginning we performed many songs by bands that we liked. Then, from the late ’80s on, we focused on our own compositions. At the time, we played a lot live and we had a great following among the local audience, but out of our province we were complete strangers. In our country there were no record labels and we had no outside contact. In the ’90s, with a new line-up, we recorded two songs, but more into rock genre. The two songs were published in the CD attached to the book by Augusto Croce “Italian Prog” (2008 – AMS/BTF). Towards the end of 1996, the group broke up, but I continued to compose material, and in 1998 some compositions were performed in concert in Milan at a festival. On that occasion we performed with the name of Rocco Lomonaco Band, although it was kind of a enlarged meeting of the Breznev Fun Club. Later I continued to accumulate compositions, some were of contemporary classical music, others were designed for a possible meeting of the Breznev Fun Club.
How did the line-up changed? The one that recorded “L’onda Vertebrata” was consisting also of guest musicians?
At first, the band began as a trio in the mid-80s, I was playing the electric guitar, Francesco Gallipoli played keyboards and Mario Ventrelli played drums, then a little later came Mimmo Nobile on electric bass and then we added other musicians. In a concert in ’91 we were 12, in addition to the basic trio, we were joined by 9 other musicians. Here, in 1991, ending the first period of Breznev Fun Club. In the mid -90s just me and the drummer were remained of the original group. Meanwhile they arrived new musicians (Michele Motola on soprano and alto sax, Gianfranco Menzella on tenor and baritone sax, Gianni Nicastro on electric bass, Rocco Agatiello on the second electric guitar and Franco Sciscio on vocals). With this lineup we played many live concerts and recorded two songs. Then, as already mentioned, the group broke up. Only in 2006 I met again with Franco Sciscio and we decided to try recording musical material that I had accumulated over the years combined with his lyrics. In 2008, we recorded a demo of 16 minutes that we did listen with Matthias Scheller, producer of the record company AMS/BTF from Milan, who appreciates us a lot. Matthias then proposed to publish an entire CD. In 2009, with the two historic saxophonists, M. Motola and G. Menzella and a large group of new, young musicians, we recorded the first album, with material from the late ’90s. The CD was released in late 2010. In 2011 we won the Darwin-Stratos Award as the best progressive record release in 2010. All the musicians of this new version of the Breznev Fun Club are professional musicians and for me they are not guests but now part of the family of the new Breznev Fun Club.
Were you active in any other projects back then?
Yes, I worked on several projects in different fields of expression.
What can you tell us about the material, that appears on “L’onda Vertebrata”, that was released four years ago by BTF / AMS label from Milan. Was this brand new material or a bit older composition from your first formation of the band?
As I have already mentioned, it’s all material from the ’90s. Some things have been performed live at the time, others were left in the drawer for a possible reunion, which at the time did not happen. The pieces have only a few different orchestration, based on the instruments I had available in 2008.
Is there a special concept behind this magnificent album? Each composition seems to have its own theme and atmosphere…
They are pieces from different periods, and then each group of compositions has its own personal idea behind it. But the CD does not have a unitary concept. Usually a band released a Greatest Hits or a collection after several CDs released. I thought of making some sort of Greatest Hits CD as the first, with pieces that ironically no one knew.
What does the name of your band and album refer to? How about the cover artwork?
As I said, the name was born as a joke, and then it was used for the group. At the time there was still the Cold War and the Berlin Wall had not yet fallen, so call a band Breznev Fun Club created some confusion in the public interpretation, that we liked. The name of the album refers to the longest piece on the CD, full of surreal lyrics. The cover recalls the atmosphere of my small town, but the photo does not represent Montescaglioso.
Can we expect a vinyl issue?
I hope so. I also love vinyl. Maybe in the future we will publish a vinyl version. It would be nice.
Would you mind telling us about writing process? Maybe a few words behind the compositions and so on?
It’s a bit complex to explain the various processes of composition, but I will try to do it with a few simple words. It all starts with a concept or an idea that I try to translate and organize into audible sound. I like to start from a very limited material, such as a harmonic sequence or a melodic series or an aggregate of notes organized in various ways. This basic material then I will elaborate using various techniques and applying a continuous but not subsequent variation. However, I have a plan and I decide where is the start and where I’m going, but I’ll leave that in the middle of the path there is a good dose of unexpected.
You’re also involved with art?
It ‘s true. I have studied and I teach art and I’m an artist who works primarily in the field of contemporary art. The music is the other side of my creativity. I do not see the two arts opposing but complementary. At certain times, I work more with visual art, at other times it is the music that absorbs me more, as at this time.
Is the band still active? What are some future plans?
The band, which is now almost an orchestra, is alive and well and we are now working on the second CD. I started in 2011 to record half of the CD, then a number of drawbacks have slowed down the completion. This summer I will be back in the studio to finally record the other half. The CD will be released by Marcello Marinone of Altrock Production from Milan.
Did you do any touring? If so what line-up and where?
The last concert dates back to 1998, with a line-up of two electric and classical guitars, electric bass, trumpet, two saxophones, drums and percussion. Some of the songs are on “L’onda vertebrata.” After the second CD, I will organize a live touring band to propose a selection of the two CDs.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on the second CD of the Breznev Fun Club. I’m also completing several projects in the visual arts and then I hope to work with some unfinished orchestral works.
What would you say inspired you the most or maybe what are some artists, that influenced you back when you were younger and what are you currently listening to?
I love so many different artists, from The Beach Boys to classical composers of the twentieth century, and I think that each of them may have left a trace on me. Anyway, I hope to develop my own voice and draw a small sign on the beach of life.
Thank you for taking your time. Would you like to share anything else with us?
First of all I want to thank you for this great interview, and then I hope to give you some other “good vibrations” in the near future.
Ciao from Breznev Fun Club.
– Klemen Breznikar