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The Greatest #3 Interviews: Paul Banks // Dente // Corrado Fortuna

The Water Issue

PAUL BANKS

Everyone knows the shape of a circle. Everyone should try to close his own circle in life. We are all here to recognize and try to express our own potential in order to gain real success; the unknown wave that spreads in our soul and needs to be taken out. Paul Banks started his career with a bad group, the Interpol. He expressed this wave as just following what was inside him. A great success as a front man followed by a new expression of talent: him as a solo artist. A mix and match of influences that came from our surroundings: the world, the city, the people and the sea. A kind of deep study on humanity and the relationships that spread both between humans and between human and nature. Nature acting as a mirror reflecting what men do, a mirror where men can see themselves changing through time. A passion for sounds, lyrics and tricks done with words. Methaphors are the means to explain thoughts, questions and feelings. A self made man, who travelled a lot from one place to another absorbing all influnces offered by the world and then translated into music. A piece of work made in circles within time by trying to find a solution to follow it, but in the end, time is probably an illusion made up in our mind, a dream or better yet, just nothing. 

Paul Banks

You did travel a lot in your life. Do you feel a part of somewhere in specific or a mix of different countries?

I think I feel more, a mix of different places where I have lived more than where I grew up. I grew up in different places and I feel a part of all of them, but I don’t feel that any of them are my home. So now, in my adult life, I try to find a place that makes me happy and, probably, I can say that the one that I feel the most at home is at the beach.

You are a self-taught guitarist. I’ve always believed that the best things that a person can make in his life are the ones that come spontaneously, without pressure, nearly instinctively. Regarding this, do you believe in destiny? 

I think that, as people, we have, rather than destiny, a kind of a true identity and our gain is not to lose that. A part of your true identity is doing things that you love without being influenced towards them. So I don’t think that we are part of a superior plan and we are expected of doing or succeeding in something. I think that we all have a lot of potential and if you manage to find and assure yourself to achieve something, you will succeed in your own path for sure. 

Paul Banks

Is it an impression or are the names chosen in your career like, Interpol, “Julian Plenty” and “The Base” are a sort of a return to the origin of your life, as well as a pure reference to your name as a civil registry?

About “The Base”, in my mind, it is more like the military headquarters, where soldiers return to. Regarding “Julian Plenty”, Julian is my middle name. However, I mean, I think that in my whole life I have always tried to close circles that I have started. So, by doing my first solo album, I was closing what I have started in college and I felt that I must come back and finish that idea, so I did “Julian Plenty”. Moreover, with “Young Again” from my new album, I have tried to reflect back to who I was when I was seventeen and the ideas that I used to have at that age. Many things to me are like a coming back.

The theme of the third issue of THE GREATEST is water. Water as a metaphor of pureness but also an open interpretation linked to the different forms of water. Which is the first emotion that the word water brings to you? 

Of course joy. I am at my happiest when I am in the water. 

One of the forms of water is the sea. Regarding this, I really like a verse in “Over my shoulder” (From your solo album The Base), where you say: “Over my shoulder there’s a man that doesn’t speak No expectations, they will only make you weak So you only know me like the shoreline knows the sea
Over my shoulder there are phantoms, indiscreet”

I see it as a great metaphor for a changeable touch and attitude that a person can have towards you. Am I right? 

That verse has a number of meanings to me. First of all it has a sense of losing arrogance to those lyrics, both in that part and also in the part where I say: “You only hold me like the canyon holds the stream”. I really like the kind of dynamic whereby a shoreline looks like a structure controlled by the force of the Ocean. All the meanings and the various interpretations are a kind of trick in words that could have many senses. Its something that I took from hip hop music and it’s lyrics. There is a little bit of psychological meaning, like the influence that I can have on you. It obviously means that the Ocean defines the shoreline’s shape, but, at the same time, it represents a sort of dynamic relationship too. In addition to that, I have to say that, although I like the idea that the shoreline is shaped by the effect of the ocean, it only ever comes in contact with a tiny point of the ocean. I really like metaphors linked to human dynamics and their relationships. 

In your lyrics, both for Interpol and in your solo works, you mention TIME as a recurring theme. Kind of cheerful in “Young Again”, a kind of revenge in “Paid for that” and than in “Take you on a cruise” (from “ANTICS” Interpol) you said “I’M AS TIMELESS AS A BROKEN WATCH” . What is your attitude towards time today? 

Well, maybe time to me is like nothing. For example in dreams, time might seem so real, but then you know it is just an artifice that comes into our minds. I always think that we are here in this moment and just for a portion of time, I can think that everything is real as well as a kind of fiction. The thing is that, in the end, all these thoughts are insignificant, because everything is going to vanish, so in the end, yes I do think a lot about time. 

Another recurrent theme in your works is the relation with CITY and the elements of a big metropolis. For example with the Interpol both in “NYC” and in “NEXT EXIT”. About this relation, why in “NYC”, why did you say “Subway, she is a porno” ? (“NYC” from “Turn the bright lights”) 

Well, sometimes I think that when you observe people you can catch or imagine the spirit of them, like someone being really intellectual, poetic. But sometimes you can just disassociate yourself from what surrounds you and what you see is just a group of animals. Then you know, our really basic motivation of being on this planet is sex, on a really primitive level of analysis. I think the subway is the representation of a wave of insignificant chaos. 

Critics often said that your work with Interpol was influenced by new-wave bands. One of my favorite bands is The Chameleons. If I had to refer this analysis to a specific song from The Chameleons, I would chose “Perfume Garden” because of sounds of course, but mostly because of the theme of the lyrics linked to time, what spreads around the city, the perfume and sensation. Do you agree ? 

It’s complicated because I think that people see the singer of the Interpol as the creator of the force behind the Interpol. It’s not like that, I am one of the creating forces within the Interpol. We all have different influences from music, that was probably the real force. For example I think that Carlos has a lot of influences from post punk, but me, I have heard a little bit of Joy Division before I have started with Interpol and I have never heard of The Chameleons, until we did the first record and then I heard some of them and I say “Oh yeah, I heard the similarities”. Honestly, I have to say that I really dislike a lot of new wave music when I was growing up. With that kind of style, the only thing that I really liked was The Cure. So, coming back to our influences, when I joined the Interpol, Daniel used to refer a lot to Stone Roses. Carlos and I didn’t like exactly the same things, but we both really liked The Cure, Sam and I, again, we didn’t really like the same things, but we both enjoyed the Pixies and Sugar for example. So, I can say that, we all have some overlapping influences. One band that I would say that has that kind of big influence on me, when I was younger and then when I went back and relistened to, was The Boo Radleys. I could feel how important that band’s influence was on me and on the Interpol. The Boo Radleys had a record called Giant Steps which has a sort of atmosphere and guitars, a sort of Stone Rose’s base lines and sometimes a kind of reggae feel, a bit like Television’s typical sounds. That is an example of a band that I hear and I can recognize the unconscious wave of influence within the Interpol. 

What was the first album that you bought in your life? 

It was “Living Colour” by Vivid. 


DENTE

Sometimes life has a strange course, where you are the center of what happens around you, or better, you are the performer of this strange opera. You have the possibility to recount your point of view, your experience, in the way you prefer. This path is yours and comes from your soul, your mind, and your personal interpretation of circumstances. A man above the lines, his lines who tells a story in each song, in each melody and in each word. A story that can be adapted in everyone’s life, because of its multi racial explanations. When the source of your work is you, it is easy to spread around emotions in order to be heard by people who recognize themselves in your story of conduct. A singer-songwriter of the contemporaneous loneliness through the innocence of inner inspiration that comes out in a peculiar chat with his point of view. Dente. 

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I have always thought that external influences are fundamental in every artistic field. Perhaps, we need a sort of filter in order to interpret, in the best ways, which things are necessary and which are not. Imagine apart from other’s music, which things inspire you the most? 

I’m influenced by what comes from the inside and not from the outside. Sometimes I ask myself if the place where I wrote a song has influenced my mood, but the truth is that it doesn’t matter at all, because in the end I am influenced just by what happened to me and not to the environment that surrounds me. 

You have made an homage of Bob Dylan within the performance of “Cuore di Pietra” (Heart of Stone), during the concert in the first of May 2012 in Rome. Was it a personal necessity or a kind of will to explain to the audience your own references? 

First of all I have to say that, concerning that performance, I did that homage to let the people capture the meaning of the song. I really wanted to do that song in that concert, but, you know, I had to find a way to make a point of attention on that particular song, because of the situation of feast of that particular gig. It is a one minute song, so I decided to make some papers to intrigue people the most. The homage to Bob Dylan is real; the difference is that I did not write any quote of the text, but drawings. I can say that it was a didactical attitude towards the audience. 

DENTE

I’ve been writing for a long time. These days, I can say that I don’t a have a clear method in my work: sometimes I need the pressure of a deadline, others I need the right mood and, moreover, I have to say that also the weather influenced me. The only thing that is constant in my way of writing is that I don’t use schemes or scales to proceed. In the end, it is a kind of organized confusion. Which is your approach towards writing? 

I don’t start with a clear structure, but I create it while I am working on it. At the end of the process of writing there must be a scheme recognizable for me. Everything must work well together and match perfectly. It is a sort of puzzle or a crossword, sometimes I write everything and then I notice a word that doesn’t not fit with the rest and so I work on it until I make it square with the rest. It is like a perfect circle to me, that’s the reason why I also write in a proper way to literally see a structure to follow. 

You have directed one of your video clips, “Baby Bulding” from “Non c’è due sense tre” 2007 (“Good things come in threes, bad things come in threes”). In that clip the act of writing is filmed like a continuous flow that never stops, words are linked together and the pen never detaches itself from the paper. Words become like the notes of a melody. About music, do you like breaking schemes, adding lib with words or do you just prefer to find a strict structure where you slot in words?

Words come out together with melody. When I think about my lyrics, I sing them in my mind, so that I have a plot to follow even when I don’t have something to write. So the process is simultaneous because I sing the words that come in my mind. About that video, I never gave a clear interpretation to it. I simply wanted to make a clip where the pen never detaches from the paper, but I have never found a reason or a meaning to it, I just like the visual idea of it. 

In your limited edition case box “Cuore di Pietra” (“Heart of Stone”), out last January, you offer eight different versions of your song “Cuore di Pietra” (“Heart of stone”). Where did the idea come from? 

I really don’t know. It is really interesting to ask where does an idea come from, but you know, sometimes, they it just comes up in your mind. Sometimes they it goes away as they it comes, while others, you stop them it and make them real. “Cuore di Pietra” has always been a song on which I have played a lot, even during the recording session, so I have made a lot of different versions of it. However I have always known which was the one for the disco, let’s say, the official version. From these versions, I decided to make a special case box to collect them, giving them not the original title, but the name of eight different stones, one for each variation. It can be seen as another way to try to explain a song that I really like. I hate when people don’t catch the meaning of a song, however, at the same time, I have to say that I don’t like to explain the meaning of a text, because I like to leave it open to any interpretation. 

Often Your songs often have a brief length. It is a specific choice or is it something that comes with the length of the music or lyrics?

I think of songs as dignity even if they last for thirty seconds. That’s the reason why I don’t work on them to make them longer by force. When the puzzle is done in my mind, that’s it, I don’t care about the length of it. 

In the past you recorded your songs at home. For sure, in studio, you have a better sound quality . However, from a personal point of view, ignoring the technical improvements, how was the passage to the recording studio? 

The first time that I recorded in a studio was really nice, because I did the production, so it was a bit like staying at home. However, sometimes the ambient of the studio causes me some anguish, because of the structure of some of them. That’s the reason why I have always chosen livable studios, with big windows and natural light possible during spring or summer season. One of my plans for the future is to record at home with a mobile studio. It is the better solution because it is the mix of both and it will be the best solution for me, because you have the professionalism of a studio and the intimacy and relaxing environment of a home. 

The theme of our third issue is water in the broadest meaning. If I have to identify water as a way of purification I would compare it with tears, they can be seen as a way of purification, because of the surge of where they come from and the state of tiredness that you have when they are totally consumed. What would you say about tears? 

Well, I don’t think that crying would purify me. It’s been a while since the last time that I have cried. I’m easy to tears, I am touched very easily. However, about water, the first thought that came in my mind was the drinkable one... it is purifying too, isn’t it? 

Going through your lyrics, I really like what you have done on the final of “Due Gocce” (Two Drops) from your EP “Le cose che contano”, 2008 (Things that matter) :

sai che se ci conosciamo poi finisce che non ci piacciamo eh già
come due bolle di sapone che si incontrano e diventano due gocce
finite sul pavimento
(you know that if we know ourselves we won’t like each other Indeed
Like two soap bubbles
that meet up and turn to be
two drops
ended on the floor)

From my point of view, the whole text is like a perfect circle from the birth of two soap bubbles, to the return of their origin, two drops of water and soap. These drops are the representation of the comeback to the origin or do they just represent destruction? 

They are the representation of the beauty of soap bubbles and their fragility. Bubbles are so beautiful, but so unsubstantiated at the same time. It is a beauty that you can’t touch, because as soon as you try to touch it, it vanishes in a drop of water. So the meaning was like, ok we are so beautiful, we are floating in the air, but as we catch each other we split, because being two soap bubbles is not right. We should be something different, in order to avoid ending up in that way. 

In your song “Rette Parallele”, from “Io tra di noi” 2011, you describe the relationship between two people as two straight and parallel lines, that never meet up, but they proceed one close to the other. From my point of view, in addition to the diversity of these two subjects, is there a matter of time too. It is like as they are not synchronized in their feelings, but they are running after the other. Am I right ? 

Of course, that is like Ladyhawke’s story and it is what happens so often, unfortunately. The impossibility of meet up is one of the meanings of two parallel lines, if we are talking about an Euclidean world. People say that we live in a non- Euclidean world, so these lines should meet one day, because space is not leveled and it curves. By the way I have an Euclidean mind, so I think that two parallel lines will never meet up. Moreover the Euclidean geometry is more romantic in its simplicity. 

Which is the thing that you are most proud of? 

I’m proud of myself, as I have tried to change my life, because it is something that I would have never expected from me. I have moved from a provincial reality that was like a Truman show to Milan, not to chase a dream, but to do something, because I was sick of that reality. It was an unusual thing to me, because I am not used to taking decisions, I avoid it. It is strange because, for me, when I think about that moment, I ask myself “Did I really make that?”. It is like a memory of something that someone has told you, a kind of story, and I am proud that it turns into my story. 


CORRADO FORTUNA

Being an actor might be something so spontaneous and natural. It might be a matter of emotions and good vibes that come from an experience that you will never forget. A gamble into someone’s life, where you expose yourself as the only vehicle to succeed. Your personality goes into a character and your choice is to wear a mask or to just adapt yourself to this brand new you, in order to show always a side of what is inside you. A flow that comes from your roots and develops in a personal way, in order to let you achieve, you need to be something else, always different, always similar to your soul. A versatile personality constantly true to himself. A cheerful person full of dreams, projects and expectations. A humble person who goes into his studies and evolutions of his personality towards the development of his potential with different roles in the same field, but, it is in the end, just a different side of the same man: Corrado Fortuna. 

Corrado Fortuna

The theme of our third issue is water. Water is seen as a moment of purification, intimacy and liberation. I’ve always linked water to a moment of time where you can think about something and find some solutions too, for example, having a shower, swimming or just staring at the rain. What does water mean to you?

Water is one of those things that has impressed me the most when I arrived in Rome. In Palermo, when I was a child, water was rationed all over the city, because it was available just every other day. Everyone in Palermo had a tank to collect water when it arrived and saved it for when it would be over. Regarding Sicily, my generation has been bombarded with the slogan “Water is precious, don’t waste it”. That’s the reason why the drinking fountains in Rome, that are incessantly open, upset me a bit. With my associate from “ClubSilencio” we have the desire of making a documentary about water. We both come from Sicily and both grew up in front of the sea, in other words: water. 

Everyone has his own roots. I have always thought that the real essence of the origin of a person comes out in time. Someone is more linked to his native land, while someone else tries to hide their origin, by moving somewhere else and trying to emulate something different from what they are. What does Sicily, your Sicily, represent to Corrado today and in the past?  

Even if I could, I would never reject my roots, because of my job, it sounds like something totally mad.
Roots are something characterizing you. They are a sort of genetic code that makes you similar to someother, but never identical to someone. I have never stopped talking with my open vocals and cadence; unless I am working and I am asked to change the way I usually talk, because of the script. I recognize myself in my accent and I feel more confident. Sicily is such a deep root for me and Palermo, maybe, even more. I was fourteen in 1992, the real rupture of my generation from Palermo. I still bring with me the suffering and what that year left in our souls, the year of the murder of magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. 

Through your own path, how did your career as an actor and now as a director came about?

Cinema was something that happened in my life many years ago. However, really from the first scenes that I was taking, I realized that it was going to be my life, so I started to seek cinema everywhere and study, something that I will never give up. About direction, it just came naturally during years. I have always been passionate about documentaries. When I was a child, I used to watch every documentary that television offered. Unfortunately in the eighties there were just a few and only of the naturalistic genre. I started out as a director in 2005 with a short documentary called, “Isola Femmina”. Since then, I have never stopped and recently, with my society ClubSilencio (www.clubsilencio.it), things are moving in a more articulated way. We never take rest from documentaries. Our next project for the publishing house “ADD” called “La linea della Palma”, is coming out in May, together with a book and we are really excited about that. Moreover I think that training yourself through documentaries is something really helpful in order to direct real actors in the future. It is quite complicated to grow into a director, so, shortly afterwards, I will be working again with Paolo Virzì in his new movie, as a directior’s assistant. This is the the most useful training that I can do, as I am preparing for my first movie, or better a full-length film, as a director. Talking of roots, this project is going to be a comedy set in Palermo during the eighties.

I think that writing is similar to acting, to an extent. You have to build up words and you live, for a period of time, a kind of parallel reality that you offer to your audience. Are you jealous of these words?

I am not the kind of actor that tries to transform himself completely into the character he is playing. Some of them do this perfectly, and I am not criticizing it, just to be clear. I always try to bring something about me into the role that I’m doing, probably that’s the reason why I’m not jealous of it. Moreover I think that you have to be generous if you want to be an actor as you are offering something to the audience. If you are jealous, it would be like offering something just in a half. 

 One of the things that I enjoy the most is observing people in their gestures, catch up with the way they do things. I am fascinated by observing strangers and taking inspiration from a walk where you will never know who you are going to meet on your way. I always try to pay attention to what surrounds me. What is your attitude towards strangers that occurs to you at first, even unconsciously? 

I do exactly what you do, and I used to do that even before I became an actor. Observing people is one of the things that I like the most. Maybe that is the reason why I gravitate towards documentaries. You can make a documentary about everything or everyone, also about people that you stare at on subway! 

I am not sensitive to weather. Honestly, I don’t know if I prefer a sunny day or when it rains. I like them both, because I like the different kinds of feelings that they bring to you. I can only say that I don’t like mid ways, like a cloudy day, because it is like an obfuscation of feelings. What is your attitude towards weather?

I am really sensitive to weather. My mood feels the effect of the colour of the sky. I need sun, warm temperature, a t-shirt and bare feet. I don’t understand why I still didn’t move to Los Angeles.... It might be a good excuse. 

I have always been attracted by the potential of a multifaceted thing. I really like books, movies or songs that leave a large space to imagination and interpretation, because they can get close enough to everyone’s life. From my point of view, I can put in this category “Perduto Amor” (Directed by Franco Battiato, 2003), in which I think that the language, atmosphere and the perfect match with music, are like a magnet for the audience, or, at least, it was like that for me. From your point of view, as an actor and as a spectator, which movies can be defined as your personal magnet? 

First of all, luckily, I do not coexist with the two sides of me. I would say that there is me as an actor and me as a spectator. I think that when you start to judge things from the top of your position, whatever it is, you have lost, you are not credible and you are not true. I am touched by everything and if it happened, it means that it is the right thing. You have mentioned a movie of which people rarely ask me about, and I am happy, because I really love it. For example, in that movie, I was so young, I didn’t understand much about the plot and I didn’t know anything about yoga or meditation, but the emotion of working with Franco Battiato was so much, that it was enough to be my fuel during the film. What was the result? I loved that movie so much and that is enough for me. Moreover, I had the pleasure to have Franco in my new documentary “La linea della Palma”and it was so funny to have him on my set ten years later. 

The Greatest has been a gamble for us on our forces, our capacities and stubbornness. As time goes by, it takes a shape and grows up, getting closer and closer to our hero, the one to whom you refer to in your moment of dejection. However, in the mean time, it is like a child to take care of in order to face the world in the best way. It is really important to stop to think about the improvements and the mistakes made through time. If I ask you to identify a hero or a child that you are taking care of during your life, who will he be?

It is quite difficult to find just one of them. I continue spreading everyday, maybe because I am afraid that I will not raise anything. However, spreading everyday, in the end, you have so many children to care of. The first of which is probably my first movie as a director. However life is not made just of work, so even in my private life I have things to care of, like my home and my everyday life, which is not just mine. In the end I have so many things that I take care of since a long time, with a lot of love.

I think that is really important to bring ahead many paths in our life. It is not a matter of opening as many doors as possible for me, but it is because of the importance of being influenced and stimulated by different roles in life. To what extent Corrado as a director is different from Corrado as an actor?

That is because you have never heard my songs... I have to say that I don’t like labels. Corrado as a director, Corrado as an actor, they do not exist. There exists just one Corrado who tries to express himself in the best way possible, as in writing, playing, acting and many others. It is stimulating for sure, but I think that we are living in hard times and the job that I chose is a really unstable one: today I work a bit, tomorrow who knows. So I do a lot of things to keep many doors open, why should I have to hide myself? Moreover, if I would do only the actor, I would not arrive at the end of the month, it is already so hard. Dear readers, don’t imagine such things, an Italian actor’s life is no bed of roses. 

I really like reading biographies of people that tickle my fancy. I prefer when they are autobiographical even more, because I love the mixture of the real and unreal that comes out while someone is talking about his life. If you have to choose a character to interpret,  a real person, who would you choose?

I am reading the biography of Limonov by Carrere. If someone would make the movie, I would like to have a part in it, but to interpret Carrere and not Limonov.

I often spend a lot of time watching music video clips. I really find them interesting, the process behind the choice of the images taken to follow the music and at the same time, to be able to tell a story, while paying attention to all the elements without any struggle. Imagine yourself as a father, which music video clip would you show to your son or daughter?

I love music video clips too. The only thing that I made as a director, in addition to documentaries, are music video clips; I would do one per month and I watch so many of them. That’s such a difficult question for me. Probably I would open YouTube and together with this hypothetical son or daughter, I would start from the beginning, but if you ask me one in particular, I would choose “Smack my bitch up” by Prodigy. I think that the questions that would come out would give a start to a really interesting discussion.