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Progressive Rock Interviews

Marco Machera

Interviewed by Grant Hill

Interview with Marco Machera from 2012

MSJ:

First of all, tell us who is Marco Machera? How did your interest and growth as a musician take you to where you are today? Tell us about you, your background, training, and what led to your musical passions!

I'm an Italian songwriter, the youngest of three brothers, all musicians; music has always been a constant presence at home. My brothers would invite friends over to jam or to hear records. I started to play bass because they had a band and they were looking for a bass player. Also, it seemed to be a less popular instrument than electric guitar, so it opened up many possibilities. I studied with a private teacher for a while, but I wasn't a good student. Music has always been a very spontaneous process to me; as a matter of fact I play everything by ear. I don't know much about music theory and I can't read music very well, but I can cope. 
MSJ:

Marco, you've played with some great artists and have opened for others. Names like Jerry Marotta, Adrian Belew, and Paul Gilbert aren't exactly unknown. How have you managed to make inroads to perform with some of the better known classic and progressive rock artists in the 21st century?

Well, sometimes it's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. However, you need to let things happen. You need to be very focused and hardworking. It is important to have a clear aim in mind. Back in 2007, when I heard Jerry Marotta was touring Italy, I sent an email to a common friend who was collaborating with him, and asked if it was ok to open the show. They could have said "No, we're not interested," but they actually answered, "Yes, come over." There was no budget for me, but it didn't matter. I saw that as an important step for my career, and it was. I became friends with Jerry and have been ever since. Also, the world renowned painter, Mark Kostabi, was in the audience the day of the show, so I got to meet him, too. He ended up playing piano on my album. This is just an example, but that's pretty much how it works. You never know what can happen; one thing leads to another, and so on. 
MSJ: Your music is truly progressive, and it truly is a fusion style, as well, incorporating all kinds of influences. I hear prog, funk, ambient, trip hop, jazz, techno and classical influences. How did you get to be so eclectic?
I guess the main reason is that I don't categorize too much. That's a very natural side of my approach to music. In my humble opinion, good music is just good music. If I like a song, I like it and that's all. The variety of styles on One Time, Somewhere isn't intentional. At the same time, I feel there's a common thread among the tunes that I can't really identify, but I feel it's there. 
MSJ: You play bass and drums. You sing. You write. How did you construct and incorporate your skills along with the variety of musicians on the CD to get this creative result?
What I like about composing is the challenge of putting a song together, starting from an idea I have in my head. It doesn't have to be a musical idea necessarily; it could be a bizarre story or a certain type of imagery. So, I lay down bed tracks and go on from there until I really know where I'm heading. At that point, I'll start wondering, "How can I make this song work?" Given the best case scenario, you quickly understand what is needed and what is not. I consider myself a bassist in the first place, but there are parts on One Time, Somewhere where I don't play bass at all, mainly because it just didn't feel right. Pat Mastelotto is probably my favorite drummer ever. I wrote “Stories Left Untold with his drumming style in mind, so he was the natural choice for the tune. Pat is not merely a drummer; he has a songwriting approach. His parts are so well orchestrated that they can be songs that stand on their own. Does it make sense? There has to be a common ground between me and the other musicians involved. I see it like as cooperation (or should I say “conspiracy?”) to get exactly where the music wants us to be. 
MSJ: What artists were and are your biggest influences? I hear, for example, lots of Beatles-style and certainly Belew-style ideas. Can you elaborate?
Yes, I love both The Beatles and Adrian Belew. Along with XTC, they taught me how pop songs can develop into true art. This is a fascinating concept to me. I tried to do the same on One Time, Somewhere with simple yet well-crafted songs, each rich in imagery and emotion. I tried to avoid certain abused clichés, so common in the mainstream scene nowadays. I tend to admire artists who pursue that direction. The eighties’ incarnation of King Crimson blows my mind. Discipline is such a groundbreaking record. I'm a big fan of David Sylvian and all the Japan guys. Mick Karn was a huge influence on my bass playing. I'm also addicted to Peter Gabriel. I like Tom Waits a lot. I get goosebumps every time I hear "Spirit Of Eden" by Talk Talk. Well, I could go on for hours, I just love listening to music from time to time. 
MSJ: It's a new era for the music business. The live music scene in the USA has become more difficult as there is little incentive for emerging artists to tour without big label support. The landscape may be a little easier in Europe, but these are tough times economically and certainly artistically for everyone. How has this impacted you in a market such as Italy?  
It has impacted me in a significant way. I can tell you it's the same everywhere. I rarely go out on the road because it's becoming too expensive. Most of the time, you don't make any money from live shows; you just cover the expenses - gas, accommodations, food, toll roads. It's that difficult. On the other hand, live performances are a great way to promote yourself, so you need to find a balance. Hoping for better times! 
MSJ: What was the experience of touring and performing with Paul Gilbert like for you?  
It was an amazing experience, and it’s such a great pleasure to share the stage with Paul. He has so much fun doing what he does. There's joy and enthusiasm pouring out of every note he plays on the guitar. He made me feel at ease, with no pressure at all. He’s an all-around nice guy and is a great drummer as well! 
MSJ: Italy is intriguing to me because there seems to be such an emphasis and appreciation for both traditional classical work as well as a significant embracing of contemporary music, and music is viewed truly as art. Am I correct?  
I'm not sure about it. I wish it was that romantic. We certainly have a great tradition for arts in general, but music is not seen as a noble pursuit anymore. Many people have a hard time realizing you can make a living out of music. They just won't believe your words, unless they see your face on MTV or hear your song on the radio. I get asked many times, "Okay, you're a musician, but what's your real job?" This kind of attitude doesn't help us up-and-coming artists at all; we're not taken seriously. It hurts me. It makes things even harder for us. It's like you don't have a real place (to fit into) society, you know what I mean? And you need to do it all by yourself. 
MSJ:

What have you been listening to for your own pleasure lately? 

I'm enjoying the new album by Steve Hogarth and Richard Barbieri. It’s a wonderful bunch of songs, and highly recommended. I'm also listening to the Penguin Café Orchestra a lot. 
MSJ: How has the new CD been received? I personally think it is quite excellent, and will be trying to get others to listen to your fine, musical work.
Thanks Grant. That's what I need. I need people to hear my music and support me. The album has been received very well so far. I actually collected tons of good reviews, which is encouraging. I know some listeners have been really moved by the songs, I couldn't ask for more. I just hope it will keep growing, because I honestly think it's a good record. I'm usually very hard on myself, so it must be good. Pat Mastelotto told me: "You've made something very special." I'm so proud about it. 
MSJ: What's next for Marco, either performance or recording-wise?
I have just started to write new material, but it's a slow process. In the meantime, I will keep promoting One Time, Somewhere. I will perform a showcase at the DROM club in New York City on August 28th. In January I will also support Marillion for a couple of shows in Milan. I’m very happy about that! I'm planning some other live performances, too. Keep an eye out at www.marcomachera.com .
MSJ: Finally, ask yourself a question and answer it!
Marco, where can we get your album? You can purchase a physical copy by donating any amount you like through Paypal, or visit www.marcomachera.com. Otherwise, you can download the songs from iTunes or Amazon. Enjoy!
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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