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Not a Good Sign

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Paolo Botta of Not a Good Sign from 2015

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – both individually and as a band?

I've been playing classical piano since early childhood. Then when I was a teenager I discoverd rock or better progressive rock. Since then I played in several different bands some of which are still active nowadays, such as Yugen which is releasing a new album this fall. And it was together with Yugen composer Francesco Zago and with label director Marcello Marinone that I founded Not a Good Sign in 2011. We released our debut album Not a Good Sign on Fading Records in 2013, which was very well received from both public and critic. A couple of months ago we released our sophomore effort, called “From a Distance,” and we are currently carrying it live with the other band memebers Alessio Calandriello, Alessandro Cassani, Martino Malacrida and Gian Marco Trevisan.
MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
Besides my musical activity, I also work with video and I like a lot photograpy, as well. If I weren't so much involved in music, I guess I would try to be a director. I really don't find too many differences between video and audio. I think basically it's the same kind of comunication, it's just a different path to reach the same place.
MSJ: How did the name of the group originate?
It comes directly from the name of the song of our first album. It describes perfectly the mood we want to build with our music, a dark omen that originates from the current economical and social crisis. SDesperation, lack of future, incommunicability: these are some of the themes where our music ideas start from. There's also occasional light in our music, even if I admit we've never been a "happy" band. This might seem strange, because basically we are all quite joyful people ourselves, but we are surrounded by these kind of feelings, everyday. We all felt this was something we had to do, given the times we live in. It helps us to stay connected to our reality and to talk to people about real things.
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
Everyone in the band have very different musical backgrounds. We range from metal to jazz, from classical to funk. Personally my biggest influence would be progressive rock of the 70s. If the band should name just one influence, I think that would be King Crimson.
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
We have just started to work with a new guitar player, Gian Marco Trevisan, which only had the opportunity to record one song on the new From a Distance album. We as a band are really looking forward to involving him more in the writing process, to see how his musical ideas and feel will influence and change our way of doing music, old one as well as new one.
MSJ: I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
We play a dark, highly dynamic music that is deeply influenced by prog rock, with the occasional influence by post rock, soundtrack music and jazz rock here and there.
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play in the future?
No specific names pop up in my mind. I am aware of hundreds of amazing musicians, but I guess what we do really look forward to, is getting to play with someone which contributions really helps our music shine. This happened in this last album, we had wonderful cooperations with piano Maestro Maurizio Fasoli, as well as Jacopo Costa on vibes and the excellent Eleonora Grampa on oboe/english horn. Their way of making music really gave a different and broader shape to our music, and that's exactly what we do look for.
MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
Well, I think that illegal downloading is something that will eventually disappear. And if it doesn't, it will be  musical industry's fault. Nowadays streaming is far easier and kind of seems a nice compromise between downloading something and not paying for it, and buying something without even have the possibility to sample it before. I know it hasn't always been like that, but things change, and personally I do enjoy a lot the possibility to sample an album from the official band's source before buying it. It expecially is useful when I'm investigating bands or genres that are new to me. From this point of view, I guess you could say that for an emergent band, even illegal downloading carries some help in spreading new music, while for their record label that might become a hindrance. On the other hand, I'm not fond of legal downloads, I don't do it and I think it basically is a bad deal for musicians and record labels, as well.
MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
As long as the trading doesn’t not have any money involved, I think it's okay. We do have a few fans that record our shows and put it on the web. I think it's a nice way for the audience to be part of the band's life.
If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
I'm not sure I would have a "music nemesis.” After all, if he's into music, he cannot be a bad person. Sometimes what we need is comunicate a bit more, understand each other's needs. And if that doesn't work, well what kind of superhere would I be if I couldn't super-ignore someone?
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
I know this kind of game, but I never quite get it. I think bands do or don't work beyond personal musical abilities. We can think that someone might be, for example, the perfect drummer for a band, not considering that maybe the real glue of the band is their current drummer. The magic of bands is that the result is greater than the sum of its parts, and that's the real beauty of it, otherwise music would turn into something similar to a sport, where the strongest or fastest win.
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
I would choose bands that play radically different musical styles, I would call big names and unknown promising bands and I would make it a free festival. I guess that explains why I do not organize festivals.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
I've been spinning quite a lot the latest Tigran Hamasyan album, named “Mockroot.” It really manages to display an intriguing musical world in a very catchy manner. I particularry dig the jazz meets alternative music with a distinctive armenian feel. And this guy is soo good on piano, he's almost unreal.
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
I'm reading a collection of early sci-fi stories, chosen by I.Asimov, called "Before the Golden Age". It's an inspiring read even if quite naive at times, but I like to investigate the seeds of what would become a very prolific genre in the years to come, to see which intuitions worked and which ones never really make any big impact on the future development of the genre. All fun!
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Chicco Capiozzo playing Area's music. Awesome music, awesome musicians.
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
I've always liked the "canterbury organ sound,” which was widely used by Soft Machine's Ratledge and later by Hatfield/National Health's Dave Stwart. I like to use it whenever I play music for the fun of it, even if I rarely used it on record. The sound of the organ through fuzz and maybe wah is definitely dated, but I still am in love with it, guilty.
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
A couple of years ago we were playing in a nice festival in Germany. It was a very intense month for us all, expecially for our drummer, who had almost every night a show with a different band. Generally we are very scrupolous and do rehearse a lot, expecially the most difficult parts in our music. Which means that on that occasion the easiest parts were almost unrehearsed. We had this very easy 5/4 introduction, but our drummer apparently  forgot which meter it was in, counting out a 3 and then keeping adding measures to match up our playing. A total wreck, those were then longest three minutes of my life. Luckily our audience is used to odd meters!
MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
As much as I do enjoy serious talking, I fear I'm much more into funny talking, expecially while eating. Hence it would be funny to dine with the likes of Roberto Benigni, Steve Carell or Pepito.
MSJ: What would be on the menu?
'Nduja sandwiches and red wine. The spiciness would make them drink more, and the wine would do the rest.
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
We are going to release a videoclip in some days, and it's going to be very good! Remember to check it out on our website or in our facebook page. Ciao!
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 3 at
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