Big Juju Man (from Dime Novels, 2014): third song on the album – an homage to Belgian cartoonist Hergé and his popular creation, boy reporter Tintin. Big Juju Man was inspired by the controversial comic book Tintin au Congo, which several campaigners and writers characterised as racist “due to its portrayal of the Congolese as infantile and stupid” (Leo Cendrowicz, Time, May 4 2010). A different mix of Big Juju Man appears on The John Porno Funk Extravaganza EP, it was all too much and i just couldn’t stop myself crying (2017). P.S. When I composed the song in 2014, I had no idea that I would move to Belgium, a few years later. Of course, one of the first things I did when I got here, was visiting the renowned Musée de la Bande Dessinée in Brussels.
Out of the Blue (from Dime Novels, 2014): there’s a mispronounced word in the song, still bothering me after all these years! The word is tiny – I pronounced it like teeny, which is okay I guess, as it conveys pretty much the same meaning, at least in that context (teeny-tiny). I dream of an expanded re-edition of the album (maybe in 2024, as a 10th year anniversary reissue?) containing an alternate mix of the track, and I’ll make sure to fix that tiny thing. (Illustration by Marco Lafirenza, from the inlay cd artwork of Dime Novels). Tony Levin plays his NS upright bass on the song, and Pat Mastelotto is on drums. The original demo started with a drum loop that I sampled out of a Los Lobos tune called Hold On, which also inspired the overall mood of the piece.
El Muerto (from One Time, Somewhere, 2012): another comic book (I devoured comic books when I was a kid), another source of inspiration. Tex Willer is one of the most popular Italian comics, and that particular volume, El Muerto, is quite legendary. However, the song does not merely recounts the original story: it’s a day in the life of a crazy man, who thinks to be El Muerto – unfortunately, this leads to no happy ending. When the track finishes, writer and actor Giorgio Comaschi reads an iconic line from the comic book. The musical inspiration came from the Johnny Cash’s theme song to Bonanza (with hints of Morricone, here and there). I had contacted guitarist David Torn to play on the track, but I guess the planets weren’t aligned at the time.
Last Night I Drove a Car (from the Fifteen Strange Seconds side project, 2020): the lyrics of this song were inspired by a poem of the same title, written by Beat author Gregory Corso. It’s a rather moody, mysterious piece of writing, and the eerie music composed by Andrea Gastaldello sounded like the perfect accompaniment for the words. During my university years in Rome, I would often pay a visit to Gregory’s tomb at the Protestant Cemetery, one of my favourite spots in the Eternal City. English poets John Keats and Percy Shelley are buried there, as well. I have a real fascination for the Beat Generation writers – on another track of mine, Stories Left Untold, from One Time, Somewhere (2012), the lyrics are a clear, humble homage to that particular writing style and way of life.