MUSIC: A CONVERSATION WITH GIUSEPPE MALINCONICO

Giuseppe Malinconico is a modern pianist based in Vicenza, Italy.

When he composes he sets no limits and lets himself be contaminated by all his plays ranging from 80s rock, progressive metal and electronic music. The glue between these musical genres is jazz and moments of improvisation are never lacking.

Giuseppe loves the aggressiveness of metal music, the sweeter melodies of ballads and the most refined rhythmic elements of prog music. He is inspired by bands like Supertramp, Queen, Dream Theater and pianists like Michel Petrucciani, Hiromi Uehara and Tigran Hamasyan.

He graduated from the Vicenza Conservatory with honors in jazz piano. He founded in 2017 the Italian website of online piano courses “Piano Segreto” which has more than 5000 students enrolled in his courses.

In addition to piano activities, he sings in the Queen tribute band “Break Free Queen Tribute Show” in major theaters and festivals across Europe.

He loves pizza, Coca-Cola, has a mustache and is fond on Far Eastern culture.

“Up for Play!” is the first album of original music, a first attempt to represent his musical identity.

A CONVERSATION WITH GIUSEPPE MALINCONICO

How did you find music? Did you grow up in a musical household, or are you first generation?

I discovered music thanks to my father. He told me that he put big headphones on my mother’s baby bump hoping that I would hear the music he loved. I don’t know how crucial this was but it’s impossible to remain indifferent when your dad sings and plays the piano every day.

How did you start playing piano and how old were you?

Piano wasn’t my first love, as a child I wanted to be a drummer, I felt the beat more than anything else but at 10 my dad taught me my first piano chord and I’ve never stopped since. Now that I’m 30 and I’m practically married to piano. But every now and then I betray it by playing it thinking about the drums. It’s a complicated love story.

Which decades of music influenced you as a child and why? 

I grew up with the rock of the 70s and 80s, but at home we listened to everything. The best teaching I could receive from my father is to learn to appreciate all kinds of music. What influenced me most was undoubtedly progressive rock, I was fascinated by the unpredictability of the songs and the virtuosity of the musicians. The music of the 80s, on the other hand, has always bewitched me. I find the costumes, the pompous sets and exaggerated lighting exciting and fun. I wish I had lived through those years!

Name your favorite artists who inspires you constantly. 

There are many artists who inspire me every day, and each of them for something different.

Queen and Freddie Mercury for their theatricality, lyricism and ability to reinvent themselves on each album.

Dream Theater’ for spreading progressive metal worldwide. And my favorite jazz pianists like Hiromi Uehara, Michel Petrucciani and Tigran Hamasyan. But I can’t hide how much I let myself be influenced by electronic music such as Dubstep and Drum & Bass.

What makes your last album release ‘Up for Play’ so unique? What do you expect from your listeners with this release and what is message behind that you want us to understand? 

“Up for Play!” it’s unique because it’s an unfiltered album.

I wrote each song without questioning myself, without expectations. I let myself be led only by the desire to compose and publish my music, a secret wish I had for a while. My musical background is very varied, I don’t like to label myself and say “I’m a jazz pianist, I have to write jazz songs”, “I play pop”, “I write rock music for piano”.

I just let the songs be influenced by what was thrilling me at the time and these hybrid songs tell my story over a 3 year period.

This album is a photograph of myself and I would like it to be an invitation to be authentic. I would like my songs to be able to ignite a specific feeling in the listener, that they have a cathartic function. Determination, daydreaming, melancholy, nostalgia, determination are just some of the sensations I felt when I wrote these songs.

Tell us a little bit about your ‘Secret Piano’ online courses. Why did you start this project and how important is education in music nowadays?

Learning to play the piano was not easy for me, I often struggled to find the right way to overcome my limits. I had good teachers but I often had the feeling that they didn’t tell me everything, that they kept some secret. Growing up I discovered many of these “secrets”, I studied and tried to apply different methods and did a lot of research on how to improve faster.

Once I finished the conservatory I continued to have this “scientific research” approach to music and I thought that many piano lovers might have the same difficulties as me. So I started recording video piano lessons and I opened the “Piano Segreto” website, a portal with many video courses on the piano.

“Piano Segreto” – https://www.pianosegreto.com – is a pun in Italian, the translation is similar to “Secret Plan” or “Secret Piano”.

Now the site has over 5000 students and the reviews are really exciting, my goal is to help “myself of 10 years ago”.

I think music education is fundamental, and the possibility of using the internet as a vehicle for information is a considerable advantage. In Italy, primary school does not convey love and curiosity towards music and art in the right way. This is why I believe that the most enterprising musicians are required to share what they know as much as possible and teach what it means to love and live music.

When you’re not recording and performing, what other hobbies make you tick?

I love watching anime and reading manga, but unfortunately if I start I find it hard to stop.

In general I love oriental culture, especially the Japanese one. As a result, I have always been a lover of martial arts and practiced Wing Chun for years. In this period I approached Boxing and I try to train and attend classes as much as possible.

Unfortunately, my free time is very limited. Another activity I do is singing in my Queen tribute band with which I play in the most important festivals and theaters in Europe and beyond. So when I’m at home I try to spend as much time as possible on the piano.

What particular song you have written resonates with you the most and why?

I am very attached to “The Tramp”, it is the first piece I completed among those on the album.

Inside this song you can listen to all my influences, jazz, progressive rock etc. Its peculiarity is the presence of the accordion, played by my father who was my first real music teacher. It was great to play with him and share our passion for music. The title is also a dedication to the band that marked me the most, “Supertramp”. This piece is made up of many different sections and is very energetic. 

Composing it I tried to tell a story, the musical journey of a vagabond, a tramp. In some way, on a musical level, I feel like this: a tramp that wanders in search of a place to be called home and, at the same time, who feels at home everywhere.

How do you approach the creative process of making music? 

I don’t always compose the same way, I like to experiment. Sometimes I sit at the piano, play a few minutes and my hands create something interesting, maybe a melody, a chord or a rhythm that inspires me. The first thing I do is record it and then pick up on the idea a long time later. I think I have about fifty ideas saved on my cell phone just waiting to be developed. Inspiration always comes at the wrong times! Other times I compose without playing anything, I open a music notation software and start writing something. When I have sketched out the first idea I begin to “feel in my head” what comes next and I try to recreate it on a score with the computer.  By composing in this way I avoid falling back into some automatism of my hands and I discover interesting solutions.

Another way I like to compose is to choose a specific technique, musical concept or feeling and try to write something that makes sense. To finish the songs I often find myself combining all these approaches. I believe that to be a complete composer one must be able to combine mind, heart and hands.

How the pandemic situation affected your career and how did you overcome this challenge? 

I think I’m one of the few who thought “Yes! Free time at home!” . I had just finished a very stressful tour and was looking forward to dedicating myself full time to my website and album.

My philosophy is never to be discouraged, especially when a difficulty is due to an external factor that I cannot control.

I love spending time at home composing, studying, reading and working on videos for my piano classes. When the pandemic arrived I was very sorry that I could not play, go out and lead the usual life but I didn’t have time to complain. I immediately thought it could be an opportunity to do something else, break the routine, look inside and think about what to change and what to keep from my life.

My first decision was to use the time at home to finish the songs and organize myself to produce and release them. In a certain sense the pandemic was fundamental for this record, not all evils come to harm!

What do you think is the biggest challenge for independent musicians nowadays? How would you change the toxic system in order to improve more music industry?

I believe the internet has brought benefits but also disadvantages to the music market.

Today an artist can use tools that were unthinkable 30 years ago.

An artist to emerge could only perform live and hope to be noticed by a label. Today with a lot of hard work a musician can potentially reach fans all over the world.

The biggest problem today in countries like Italy is the lack of suitable places to perform within everyone’s reach and the ever-growing lack of interest in non-mainstream music like mine. Playing live is the most authentic way to connect with the audience and I find it very difficult that it can be completely replaced by online and video performances.

But I must say that many of the bands or artists I love have never seen them live so complaining is useless. An artist must believe in what he does and use all the means he has at his disposal to make himself heard, sooner or later his music will reach the right people.

I don’t think the problem is the “toxic system” or the music industry. The concept of today’s music industry is too different from that of the 80’s!

The world evolves, goes on and changes constantly and the same goes for people. Maybe not all changes are positive or correct, but the best thing to do is to continue to produce top-quality art, adapt to changes and learn how to use the tools we have in the best way.

A letter to your FUTURE self. What would you write? 

What you are doing? You should be practicing!

BAND MEMBERS

Andrea Elisei (Drums) – Matteo Magnaterra (Bass) – Elena Sbalchiero (Vocals) – Claudio Malinconico (Accordion)

Andrea Elisei – Drums
Claudio Malinconico – Accordion
Elena Sbalchiero – Vocals

Matteo Magnatterra – Bass
Giuseppe Malinconico – Piano
Graphics: Marco dal Pra

For more, check Giuseppe Malinconico’s official website: https://www.giuseppemalinconico.it

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