“Sorry, we were in the rehearsal room focusing on a few things” – and so began our telephone interview with Manuel Agnelli. The following Sunday he’d be off to Umbria for a panel discussion on the #Piùmusicalive campaign at a conference at the Immaginario Festival in Perugia.
by Cristina Crisci – ph: Luca Carlino
This campaign aims to promote music, in addition to art and culture in general. Manuel Agnelli, musician, writer and producer for over 25 years and frontman of Afterhours, is a nice person and open to discussion. We talked about many things, from the band’s future and an upcoming theatre tour, to the situation in Italy and his daughter. And, naturally, of Giorgio Prette. [The drummer who left the group after 25 years, and who was followed by guitarist Giorgio Ciccarelli a few days after this interview – Ed.]
Among the campaigns you’re involved with, #Piùmusicalive promotes a way of loosening the regulations and providing incentives for creative production. What can institutions do?
Manuel Agnelli: «The career of artist is an incomplete and unregulated one and you have to defer to other professionals when it comes to financial matters. I’m a free trader in the creative art world. Some ties slow the spread of music and I worry particularly about this aspect. We want to create a network of municipalities that, due to oppressive bureaucracy, fail to work, but we want to do this via small concrete things, step by step. I have to say we don’t want to start a revolution; we’re not interested in some utopian discourse here».
Afterhours has gone from performing rock concerts in front of thousands of people to more intimate theatres and now your 2015 tour is about to start
Manuel Agnelli: «Going into theatres will allow us to put on a more nuanced performance with a more intimate atmosphere. It’s hard to focus when you’re playing in front of thousands. It’s not better or worse – just different. After a celebratory tour we felt a need to do this».
[quote]Music is our language for communicating with the outside world and nothing else gives us that kind of strength. No amount of money, fame, or numbers can give us that same gratification.[/quote]
Will Afterhours do a new record?
Manuel Agnelli: «We’ll make one sooner or later! For some years now we’ve released each record as if it were the last – maybe it will be the case. At the moment we want to get away from the routine record-promotion-concert cycle – we’ve fallen into this system that wears you out and that sometimes takes away the sense of what you do. Music is our language for communicating with the outside world and nothing else gives us that kind of strength. No amount of money, fame, or numbers can give us that same gratification. Besides, Afterhours is a multifaceted project and it will be increasingly more so in our partnerships with the outside world».
Carrying on from this, after Marco Parente, Donà, La Crus, Scisma will you produce anything else… and what do you think of Benvegnu’s recent disc which was recorded in Città di Castello?
Manuel Agnelli: «I think Paolo is a very talented person – he always has been – and I don’t think people like him need a producer. I believe that talented bands today have less need for a producer because they’re more aware, and I’m not interested in those who don’t have this strength. I haven’t found very talented people who needed me».
After 25 years, your drummer Giorgio Prette has left the group for other musical projects. What’s your best memory of working together?
Manuel Agnelli: «In 25 years there are so many that I have a lot more than one. Most of all, the fact that Giorgio has great intelligence, basic honesty and is one of the people with whom I’ve found it best to travel around the world with. The first memory that comes to mind is the US tour in 2006, because from big stages in front of thousands of people, we moved onto smaller venues – spartan situations that reminded me of our early days. That tour was magical».
“Hai paura del buio?” is a manifesto, a tour, a festival, a deeply passionate concept – a masterpiece. On a related note, what are you most afraid of?
Manuel Agnelli: «Look at the superficality of this time. I’m very frightened – I see a lot of effort on the part of people which aren’t understood and therefore nothing comes of them . There’s a mad effort to build things to protect us from the prevalent shallowness and many projects are lost, there’s no accommodation and I mean in everything, not just music. We’re sick because of this. The internet, the virtual communication – whilst a wonderful revolution – has certainly emphasized this aspect. The synthesis and the speed of it all have increased the indifference and superficiality that belongs to us as a people in recent years. There’s no longer an awareness of being serious».
You’re now the father of a little girl – are you happy for her to grow up in Italy?
Manuel Agnelli: «There are pros and cons to every place! It’s true there’s a disastrous situation in Italy from a social perspective, but it’s also not easy to find work in other countries. Italian society has become horrible in the last 20 years … I hope that between now and when my daughter becomes a teenager things will improve, though I wouldn’t have a problem if one day she wanted to go abroad. Honestly, I made my choices many years ago and although I still have ties with foreign countries, I belong to this one and here I’ll stay».
Are you familiar with Umbria?
Manuel Agnelli: «Yes, very much. I went back recently with my family and I think it’s a beautiful area where the living and quality of life is remarkable. It has a potential future of broader creativity, research, gastronomy and tourism, and it seems to me that Umbria is moving well in that direction and is well equipped for it».