LUDOVICO EINAUDI’s name may be unfamiliar to many. His music, however, is a different matter. The unassuming Italian provided the score for Shane Meadows’ This Is England film and the TV sequel This Is England ‘86, for which he earned a BAFTA nomination. He also scored Darren Aronovsky’s Black Swan and this year’s French international hit Intouchables. As an aside, he sold out The Royal Albert Hall in 2010 and has, to date, racked up album sales in excess of 1.5 million. This month he comes to Liverpool Philharmonic Hall in support of his twelfth studio album In A Time Lapse, released earlier this year on Decca. Bido Lito! thought it would be an interesting idea to ask BILL RYDER-JONES to interview Ludovico. We hoped they might get along splendidly. After all, Bill’s debut solo work If (released on Domino in 2011) mines similar cinematic, orchestral seams that have informed Ludovico throughout his career. Bill’s eagerly awaited second LP A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart is released this month.
We were thrilled when both Bill and Ludovico thought it a good idea. Below is the interview that Bill posted to us after they met. We’ve printed it in its entirety. We thought they’d both like it that way…
It was a bit of an honour to be asked by Bido Lito! to interview Ludovico Einaudi, a man who’s music I’ve admired for years and a writer whom I believe to have had more influence on modern contemporary classical music than any of his counterparts. The man I was introduced to had an obvious calm to him, one that very quickly seeped in and flushed out my own anxiety. I think the first thing you notice about Ludovico is this very presence. He gives off a very relaxed and endearing aura, the image of an artist at ease with his own mind, which in itself is a rare thing and something well worth mentioning.
I told Ludovico how I wanted to focus the interview on him as a human creating art and how his life affects music rather than looking at his new (utterly brilliant) album In A Time Lapse or any specific period of his creative life. He seemed relieved to not have to go through the usual ‘crap’ (his words) questions… by now we were best friends.
Bill Ryder-Jones: So, thanks very much for meeting.
Ludovico Einaudi: You are from Liverpool?
BR-J: I am, a northern boy like yourself. I was asked by a magazine to come and ask you a few questions and I’ve never done this before in my life…
LE: Good… so it’s going to be more interesting than the usual…Yesterday I was all day answering questions and I felt like I wanted to be somewhere else, and it’s part of the job but, yes, it makes me feel a bit like crap.
(We talk for a few minutes on the pains of answering questions on your music before I dive straight in with a question about answering questions about his music.)
BR-J: I often find it hard to sum up verbally what I’m trying to achieve in my music (it was sweet of Ludovico to pretend he didn’t know who I was), do you have the same problem?
LE: Yeah, because I also feel that the music itself can talk much better than myself with words; when you use words they never give the frame better than the music will.
BR-J: I guess maybe we do what we do because we struggle to sum things up with words but in music…
LE: Yeah yeah, in music you have the nuances that are in-between words and for sure if you’re a poet you can probably sum up in words. But I think anyway it is difficult to describe the music, maybe it’s better to talk about the inspiration, I don’t know.
(It’s worth mentioning at this point that English isn’t Ludovico’s first language and that he almost certainly had never heard a Wirral accent before today.)
BR-J: So can you remember your significant first musical experience at all?
LE: I think the first is coming from my mother. She was playing the piano at home; she had quite a small repertoire, played some Bach and a book of Chopin. Then she was playing for me and my sisters a book of French children’s songs, folk songs… so this… I think day after day listening to this music established an aura in the house of sound and harmonies that I think stayed with me forever.
BR-J: It just filtered through?
LE: Yeah, I still feel and remember the sound of my mother playing the piano.
BR-J: And after that?
LE: After that I was growing up in the 60s, so grew up listening quite early to the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix.
BR-J: Bugger me.
BR-J: Never mind, carry on.
LE: So I bought a guitar and I played as it was part of my life; and I felt between 10 and 20 the guitar was my main instrument. I still have the guitar now and I also play a few notes on my albums.
BR-J: And what about reading? I know your father published Italo Calvino, someone who I’m a big fan of, are you that way inclined? To read I mean? [Editor – Bill’s debut solo LP, If, is a musical adaptation of Calvino’s novel, If On A Winter’s Night a Traveler.]
LE: Well, our house was full of books but as a child I was reading very little. Maybe, I don’t know, but if your father makes cakes…you don’t eat so many.
(We laugh like only best friends can.)
LE: …and also it’s always difficult, my father was very… err… maybe there was always conflict with the father and I think maybe I felt more freedom and more comfortable in the world of music as it gave me the sense that it was less strict, especially in the time I grew up with, the time of rock and roll.
BR-J: You paint quite an interesting picture of the stoic literary father and the affection musical mother; it makes a lot of sense that you moved into music…
LE: And for example Calvino, I love his work, he was an incredible person and I was able to know him quite well.
BR-J: Shit, really?
LE: Yes he was living in the same building where we were, so even when my father was not there he was coming for lunch; my mother was like a sister to him…
(At this point I think Ludovico has picked up on my interest in Calvino and like most Italians is more than happy to talk the man up.)
….and he was a very shy person but you could see from his eyes that he was very careful about everything around him.
BR-J: Very meticulous?
LE: Like the detail in his writing.
BR-J: And music? Was he a listener? (People familiar with my music will appreciate me trying to steer the conversation in a certain direction.)
LE: Err no, not so much.
(Even though I was shot down I tell Ludovico about my record and how it’s based on a Calvino novel; he tells me that Calvino’s father was the first person to import avocados to Europe.)
BR-J: So enough about him, I’d like to know about Turin. I’ve been there a few times and wondered if you feel the city itself has had a lasting and direct affect on your music?
LE: Yeah, I have to say I never felt completely comfortable in Turin; there was a pressure maybe from people. I felt observed; maybe there was a strictness of the mind.
BR-J: is that quite typical of northern Italy?
LE: Well, Milan is completely different, it’s more open…
BR-J: And that’s where you live now?
LE: Yes since 18… also, my family comes from a region even closer to France, between Turin and the mountains. My grandfather had a kind of country house there.
BR-J: And your grandfather was quite an important man, wasn’t he?
LE: Yes, he was a politician.
BR-J: President of Italy?
LE: Yes, the first president after the war. He was an economist, always studying, and nothing like the politicians of today.
(Ludovico is clearly proud of his lineage. He speaks enthusiastically of his grandfather, telling how he “was obsessed with the economy of his own life” and how all light bulbs had to be of a certain wattage so he could balance the books of his house. I asked about him being given the Order of Merit – a kind of Italian knighthood – to which he said it meant nothing. He was really surprised to learn that not every Britain was in love with the monarchy. At this point I’m given the universal ‘you’ve got 5 minutes left…gobshite’ hand gesture from his publicist, so I get back into questionville.)
BR-J: Would it be possible to sum up what it is you try and achieve in music? Maybe give a very simple example of what is the main point you’re trying to make?
LE: Well… err… it’s a mix of emotions in different ways; when you write music, it’s difficult to have all emotions in one place…
BR-J: And is that not what’s at the heart of In A Time Lapse?
LE: Yes… err… what I feel is that the more I grow up it’s like I have a stronger connection with my emotions. At one point I had fear of my emotions but there’s a moment when you really want to share those things more and more.
BR-J: And would this be a celebration of that step in life?
LE: Yes, but always I felt that without the emotion, I don’t get the point of doing the music.
BR-J: And is there maybe one life event or one memory that drives your creativity most?
LE: Yes, well there are of course some people you have met, and I have three children and the moment they are born is of pure joy to me. You play with your child; those moments are really unique and full of mystery, and also a mixture of very complex emotions for me. At the same time, yeah, I think everything is connected with the human situations where you’re sharing something with someone else.
BR-J: And is that connection something you think about when writing? Are you ever thinking of the people who will eventually enjoy your music?
LE: Not so much. When I’m composing I search inside myself, if I think of the expectations then it’s not so good; it’s best to think of where you are and be born every time.
BR-J: Well the listener benefits from getting more of your own soul if you’re not concerned with what they’re thinking I guess.
(He doesn’t say it but he looks like he agrees.)
BR-J: My last question is probably one you won’t want to answer… are you aware of your influence in other musicians’ work? I can hear you very much in Clint Mansell’s music for example.
LE: Well I know of Clint Mansell and I quite like his work…
BR-J: Oh me too! Though I think he sounds a lot like you, have you heard the Moon soundtrack?
LE: I don’t know that but I think maybe there is a certain mood in the world that people become aware of together.
(I ended our interview there; it seemed fitting.)
Ludovico Einaudi plays Liverpool Philharmonic Hall on 15th April. His album In A Time Lapse is out now on Decca. Bill Ryder-Jones’ new album A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart is out now on Domino.