There is an enduring and mysterious shift between places and non-places, empty and full spaces, heaviness and lightness; something you can only sense and which, for a brief moment, makes us feel alive.
With his latest work, ‘Earth Hotel’, Paolo Benvegnù attempts to recount this dance of life, through twelve melancholic and luminous short stories. I met him at Jam Recordings studio, along with Michele Pazzaglia; co-worker, friend, counsellor, and in many instances, dam. They met in 2002, began to work together and built a partnership that goes beyond work and which is based on the exchange between the changeable nature of one and the calm of the other.
by Lorenza Mangioni – ph: Gian Maria Soglia
In the middle, we find Città di Castello , (where Paolo Benvegnù wrote his entire last album), defined as “a sweet place” where you can still find «a mixture of people from rich to poor, and with all the different types of humanity». It’s been three years since his last work ‘Hermann’, in which his researches were solely on humanity, and Paolo Benvegnù’s reflections have turned inward – reflection of a desire to «find out what it is we need and why we don’t understand that this is only a step». From this comes the idea of the hotel, an imaginary place, a functional way of recounting the transit of lives that have the same instincts, the same passions and desires, embodying a single trip, imperfect, perhaps painful, but teaching the art of distance and disillusionment.
[quote]«Love is the guiding principle of all», he says slyly[/quote]
In ‘Sempiterni sguardi e primati’ , he writes “Nevertheless, it’s all true / even if there is nothing,” and told me, «I had to face my fears until I reached the most monstrous, the most real part of myself, the part that makes us truly human – this is found through the floors of the hotel and that drives us towards each other».
I asked him if love is the theme of the album: «Love is the guiding principle of all», he says slyly. And perhaps he is the first to love; loving even pain, every meeting, every contradiction, the peaceful provincial life. He explained, «Love comes from the Latin a mors, or ‘without death’ and isn’t everything we do an escape from death?» Paolo’s songs, his way of condensing life into music, have more layers than you would suspect, and are the daughters of his changing moods and his desire to talk about a stateless, rootless humanity which leaves no visible traces, but which questions reality. Like the beautiful “Orlando” says, «After the wonder, I feel a disgust for living at any cost without understanding the meaning». His care for language and its nuances is almost manic at times and makes the result a bit difficult. He cheerfully reveals «I was actually tricky to myself first of all».
Benvegnù is like a river in flood, he’s cultured, ironic, quotes Heidegger and The Beatles, smiles and becomes serious, and occasionally looks for confirmation, agreement from Michele. The latter tells us, in a rather more concrete manner, about the tour that’s just started. 19 dates in three months throughout the peninsula, travelling from one place to another in a van, and supported by their new label ‘Woodworm’, who «give us a lot of freedom».
You can clearly sense this kind of lightness, a rare ability to not take himself too seriously, when you get to the door, stop talking about futile things, someone lights a cigarette, it’s cold and raining, and thinking of Thursday’s date in Milan, Michele asks, «Paolo, did you remember to take the Tachifludec?»