SORRENTINO: Describe yourself
in a few words.
TURRA: My name is Franco Turra, I play...I don't know what
else to say. I've been playing for ages. My first serious band
was called Pseud'O Hara, I sang in English then (which will make
Ian happy), it was around 1984-85. Around the same time, as we
were a very eclectic band and used to swap instruments with each
other all the time,we started another band which actually survived
to the first one, called Bohemien Flambé, and sang in French.
We were reading a lot of French literature at the time, we were
very influenced by it and we wanted to be chansonniers, use Prévert's
poems as lyrics, and revisit the French tradition in a rock way
and in a Mediterranean, Ethnic way - they used to take us for
Manu Dibango all the time.
Was Bohemien Flambé successful?
It surely was the band which gave me more chances - I blew them
all, otherwise I wouldn't be here talking to you now! We had contacts
with lots of majors, but as the Italian music business wasn't
thriving as it is now, they generally only proposed us co-productions
and split singles, which we proudly refused (a terrible mistake);
I was even asked to make a record in France, which would have
been the perfect place; in Italy, we were considered just too
strange... But the bosses wanted me to go to France alone, and
I refused because I wanted to take my band with me, and that proved
itself another big mistake later on.
What kind of musical background do you have?
I have no real background, I learned to play guitar because some
friends taught me, then I started playing bass for the usual reason
you do it, i.e. we had no bass player...
What kind of bass guitar do you own? (I ask to satisfy Ian's recent
The bass guitar I have now is an Ibanez Sound Gear (don't remember
the model). It isn't such a great bass guitar because I do not
consider myself such a great bass player. I also used to have
a Rickenbacker and I still have a Fender fretless bass. When I
played with Pseud'O Hara I actually was quite a virtuoso, I was
a kind of Mark King from Level 42, I'd play absurd bass lines
and sing even more absurd lyrics on them. Later, I concentrated
on singing and being a frontman. In the band I'm forming now,
I just sing and play acoustic guitar.
You've just finished recording your first CD single. How was it?
I'm glad I finished it. It was mainly painless, no different from
recording one of my many tapes. Perhaps it involves more responsibility
because the CD will have a wider distribution; when I made tapes,
I didn't even bother sending them out to everybody, I just sent
them to majors (which are the least likely labels to contact you),
to some radios and some 'specialized' music magazines - specialized
my ass, they suck...But I was contacted by Sony at the time of
the Amori in Corso tape (1995), they wanted to take me to the
Sanremo Music Festival (author's note: Italy's biggest pop music
festival, a massive TV marathon which takes place every year;
the music sucks, but the audience is huge, so if people like your
song, you may become Italy's newest pop star overnight).
Yes! Then Sony chose another band instead of me, Neri Per Caso
(another author's note: this band did, in fact, have huge success
overnight). I don't like talking about this because I am a bit
ashamed. I used to tell them, "you know, I don't really think
I belong in Sanremo", but they said "oh no, you are
perfect, this year we are looking for something slightly more
original, we'll even let you release a Christmas single"
- I record a Christmas single every year, too. Then they dumped
me at the very last minute, and I got mad, because I had been
inactive for a year, I refused lots of other smaller but more
concrete proposals because I was keeping myself free for the Sanremo
Festival. There followed lots of verbal abuse and a letter of
insults, so that was pretty much the end of my collaboration with
Playing XTC Covers:
chose to cover Colin Moulding songs, and not Andy Partridge songs,
because I like to go against the flow in every occasion. I hate
it when you make a tribute album, a Jimi Hendrix tribute for example,
and everybody wants to cover "Are You Experienced" or
"Voodoo Child" - what's the use, they are so good already,
you can't make them any better. So when I was asked to cover XTC
I chose a track which not many people know. Later I did Grass,
which is slightly more famous. The only Andy Partridge song I
covered is "No Thugs In Our House"."
Is cassette culture dying?
Yes, it is dying, when labels receive a tape they just throw it
in the dustbin straight away, because they think that anybody
can release a tape. Nowadays, everybody can make CDs as well,
you just have to fork out some money, but it looks different:
when labels receive a CD they think "at least this guy has
invested money, he believes in what he does, at least he has balls".
Tapes are still around, but if you send one to Sony, for example,
they'll never listen to it; I think I've been extremely lucky
in that Sony actually listened to my tape and contacted me, because
they rarely do it.
Singing in Italian obviously limits your chances on an international
level. I assume you don't care...
Well, I care about everything! But 80% of my art is based on the
music. I love writing lyrics, but it's a very instinctive process.
If a text comes out immediately, it's great, but if I have to
put effort into it, I don't like it. If a song comes out of my
mind with great music and great lyrics to boot, it's fantastic;
but I'd rather write short stories (which I sometimes do) than
"glue" a text on a pre-existing song. I actually love
singing in lots of languages, English, French...I even sang in
Russian once. My friend and I bought one of those "Teach
yourself Russian" books, and invented this character of a
Russian émigré, and his stories. We even played
some songs live during a Pseud'O Hara gig. It was during the Italian
Communist Party Convention, so we thought it was somewhat appropriate.
I remember the gig ended very badly though, with me dropping my
trousers as a sign of protest, and a guy from the band walking
out of the stage in shock because of that. Which wasn't very Russian
of me, and not very Italian either.
What music do you listen to?
Now that I work in a record store, I have to listen to everything.
When I get home, I just don't listen to music...Actually, I'm
listening to The Monkees right now - there's this brand new Monkees
anthology. I remember watching reruns of a Monkees TV show when
I was a child. And I liked the Beatles too. I inherited all of
the Beatles' records from my sister, and I grew up with that kind
of music. I started playing because of the Beatles. When I was
old enough to choose, I was very influenced by ethnic music, mostly
African or Arab.
What's the most incredible CD a customer asked for today?
Nothing in particular, people just come up to the counter with
their selections in hand. To tell the truth, people often ask
for incredible heavy metal bands with uncomprehensible names,
they'd ask me "Do you have %*^$£"%?"And I
have to look it up on the computer and I can't find it, and they
go "No, no, you didn't understand, it's #%y&%§*çÑ".
God knows in what zines they read about these bands.
Name a song which makes you go 'Ooh, why didn't I write this one?'.
I don't know, there are so many..."Yesterday". But if
I had really written "Yesterday," I guess I would love
it less. It's all about memories. All the songs I write are related
to a memory, a woman, a problem, and so on.
Which band would you like to play with?
No, I mean, a modern band.
Well, I haven't really listened to The Beatles for about seven
years now, but I'm grateful to them because they gave me the impetus
to become a songwriter. And Ian knows very well, because it's
how we first got in touch, that my other favorite band is XTC,
the unluckiest band in history - there's an aura of malediction
and bad luck around them, which is only equal to mine. I probably
inherited this bad luck because I love them, it's like a contagious
disease, it's like "You like XTC? You're doomed", and
even more so because I live in Italy. XTC are unlucky but at least
they live in England... You know, XTC make weird songs, housewives
would never like them, they are loved by those in the know, artists
or struggling musicians, so they don't sell records. And they
don't even have a contract right now. I've never had a real contract
in my life, so we are brothers in our bad luck.
Name the best and the worst gigs you've seen lately.
I actually don't go to gigs too often now that I stopped playing,
because it just makes me want to play live myself - a guy on a
strict diet doesn't enter a pastry shop, does he? I rarely go
to foreign artists' gigs anyway, I just see Italian bands, or
friends of mine playing. I'd like to see The Who in Milan, which
will be my first really big gig. The Who are another favorite
of mine, of course. And I wanted to see Paul Weller, who is another
one of my idols, especially when he played with the Style Council.
Projects for the future?
The CD will be out in May. It's called "Ho, Non Ho."
The title track is very easy, it's music for housewives. My friends,
who are used to my stranger things, hate it, but people who usually
just listen to crap all say they love it. I'm forming a new band
and will play live again, after five or six years of inactivity.
Earlier this morning, while I was in the bathroom, I thought I
would love to reissue my collection of old songs on vinyl. The
album could be called TroppoTurra ("Too Turra"): at
work today, I was showing the record to my workmates in the record
store, and a woman asked me, "What does it sound like?"
and I said "I couldn't say, madam, it's too Turra".
Receiving Negative Reviews:
should value negative reviews. I've always had fucking great reviews,
but in the end I never do anything, so I guess I'd rather have
shitty reviews, 'This guy is a moron and doesn't understand a
fuck about music', but have a nice little contract..."
I listen to music, I'm obsessed with analyzing the composition
of the song; if it's good, I like it, but if it's trivial, it
can be the best sounding music on Earth but I still won't like
it. A song must be original. Nothing can be invented any more,
so one must at least reinvent."
the Art of Kissing Ass:
is an Art with a capital A. At some point in your life, musical
or otherwise, you have to do it. Some people master this art,
and you can't say they are total losers, because there is one
thing they can do in their life, and it's that. I'm trying to
learn the basics of this Art, but it's difficult, I guess it must
be mostly innate. When I was younger I, too,believed that one
day a tycoon would come out of the blue and say "Oooh, your
music is excellent, do as you please", but..."
Non Ho (CD single) May 1997
in Corso 1995
via Castiglione 91, 40136 Bologna