(After a summer break) The Crab is coming back into one of the most celestial zones of the mediterranean area. Let’s speak with italian duo My Cat Is An Alien and follow them on a trip inside their discography.
Maurizio and Roberto Opalio are from Turin and have been making music together for almost 20 years. On the margin of the local art scene, they are used to spend some time perched in the moutains to explore space and time through the prism of experimental music. The way they conceive music as My Cat Is An Alien drives to an astronomic discography : about 150 releases until today.
Looking at their art as a spiritual declaration in the period we live in, the two brothers are seeing further than records and express themselves on various mediums and art forms. My Cat Is An Alien’s music sets us into something organic and introspective and their live performances have a shamanic appearance. Last Spring the Crab was at the a/v performance they performed with Jean-Marc Monterra at Montevideo in Marseilles. The three musicians were moving around their mysterious self-made instruments as if they were manipulating energy, creating deep ambient sceneries with cords, airy voices, synthetic coats, subaquatic and cosmic sounds.
For the mix they offer us, Roberto and Maurizio dipped into their works of the latest years to build something that could represent MCIAA’s variety and complexity of sounds.
« We put some gems very important in MCIAA’s development, and which represent all elements that converge into our music (from more electronics to acoustic, from more noise to ambient, from
more lyrical to total blasts); then it ends with the soundtrack we created for one of Roberto’s films. It’s a 1-hour long piece where you can get a focused and large vision of MCIAA’s music ».
The starting track is a premiere of their forthcoming album ”The Dance of Oneirism”.
You can let yourself floating upon this while reading the perspectives of the two poets on their music, the Alps and the Mediterranean amongst various topics.
Enjoy and thanks to the aliens!
Could you introduce your current projects in your own worlds?
Roberto – Our project is the ontological, existentialist mission called My Cat Is An Alien (MCIAA). It’s the meaning of our lives, a musical project that my brother Maurizio and I started in 1998. But MCIAA is not only a musical matter. MCIAA is primarily a concept. Like a spiral of cosmic energy, it engages us in every kind of visual form of artistic expression too. Maybe even “project” is not the most appropriate definition, ‘cause actually MCIAA is our “choice” with no way out. What we do is a radical intellectual, philosophical and strongly poetical statement against the empty & dark times we’re all living in – the new Dark Ages indeed. It’s a revolutionary “act of beauty” offered to human race ‘cause all people need it, even if – and especially when – they don’t know they need it.
Inside the experimental musical and artistic scene we are called outsiders – and this is true!
We’re also considered sort of “shamans” of the new millennium, because MCIAA’s live performances are proper rituals that deal with the concepts of space and time, life and death, building a bridge between the primordial archaic howl of the first human being on Earth and the eternal peace of the dimension of the Spheres.
MCIAA’s aim is to call into question the concepts of contemporary music and art themselves, subverting their rules and principles. It’s a superhuman responsibility as well as a creative, poetic and aesthetic/phylosophic effort without equals in our historic period: this is why MCIAA are extremely respected worldwide – even if sometimes mostly for awe rather than for real understanding of our art. MCIAA is prevalently a musical project, but so strictly interconnected with the most diverse artistic disciplines – painting and drawing, photography, “cinematic poetry” films and videos, installation, writing and poetry – as to result a single intermedia entity. MCIAA is a non-finished universe in neverending expansion which includes the most advanced and radical forms of still-totally-unknown artistic expression – a totally “alien” form of art indeed!
Anyway, it does not matter if all people is ready to understand our music / art or not – we’ll go straight ahead to death. MCIAA will be completely understood maybe in 40-50 years, and rediscovered after our terrestrial departure – but wasn’t this Sun Ra and Harry Partch’s fate too?
Do you remember the first time you played music together?
Roberto – When Maurizio recorded the mysterious, homonymous debut CD-R under the moniker of My Cat Is An Alien, I only contributed to the selection of the tracks and – most important – the band name and the “alien cat” logo. At that time I would make lots of paintings and photos, and I was a huge music lover, but I had never considered making music myself. One day we were together in the basement, and my brother pushed me to try to add new sounds to the music he was making… so for the very first time I picked up an electric guitar, a couple of pedal effects and especially a space toy gun from my childhood (now I have a collection of hundreds of space toys), and MCIAA’s destiny came true: I’m speaking of the magic ritual that gave birth to a musical entity with a vocabulary of its own, unique and “alien”, ‘cause it sounded like nothing else on the planet. Our first output was also the “philosopher’s stone”: that block of cement and steel entitled “Landscapes Of An Electric City” (1999) which deleted the concepts of time and space forever, and that we consider MCIAA’s first official debut album, forged in Torino and dedicated to Torino – our hometown.
You’ve got a massive discography and your craft is based on improvisation; you often talk about a non-finished and ontological approach. I wonder how and when you decide to record a jam session to release it?
Roberto – Thanks for the question, it might be useful to shed some light on MCIAA’s discography matter: indeed, people often feel petrified by the large number of our releases, but now we’ll show how much wrong is this approach to our music. We don’t deny we have spread throughout the world a certain amount of works (about 150 releases as MCIAA, not considering soloist and side projects). We did it in the name of an idea of music as proper ontological self-regeneration of the creative aim and purpose. In other words, our music represents the antithesis of the “documentary” approach which is typical of a certain kind of improvised music scene and which deprive art of its own sense of “semantic existence”. This is why we call our creative process “instantaneous composition”: so it’s clear that we’re talking about proper compositions, with a beginning / development / end; their peculiarity comes from being instantaneously generated in the same moment of their creation, instead of being previously fixed scores or predetermined in any possible way. This process of composition is intended to follow the shamanic path of the archaic ritual, going beyond the time and space barriers that surround it in order to create its own “tables of knowledge”.
“Each one of our release is necessary to humanity as much as the air we all breathe”
As MCIAA we record all of our creations, then we decide whether it is necessary or not for them to be published, we mean if they can add an essential new piece to the puzzle of what we already released, but nonetheless to push forward the whole contemporary music. Thus every release is essential in the perspective of pushing all music ahead, towards new and still unexplored territories. Furthermore, every release is necessary to humanity as much as the air we all breathe because it is made of pure and vital matter. Therefore people must not feel frightened or lost in front of MCIAA’s discography: all they must do is to start entering this new universe without prejudice, randomly choosing a record, being aware of the fact that whichever MCIAA’s album they might choose will anyway change their life forever. All we do is a pure tear of infinity.
You’re living in the Alps most of the time if I’m right. You’re often travelling to play all around the world. You’re fascinated by space. What kind of experiences most affected your mind and your art would you say?
Maurizio – Yes you’re right, we spend most of our time in a very peculiar place up on the Western Alps, where we create almost all our music. Some of our ancestors lived there… for us it’s the place of the “myth”, we feel as one with the flux of Eternity. For all these reasons and more, we decided to keep it totally “secret” from all the rest of the world.
Yes, we’re often travelling to play all around the world, because we think that sometimes people need to connect directly with MCIAA through our live audiovisual performances. Every time we play live we give birth to a proper shamanic, magic ritual that permeates and affects the mind and body of the audience. We’re speaking of arcane, primordial forces and energies, and people attending MCIAA’s live shows become part of it.
Yes again, we’re fascinated by space, but consider that within our entire body of work the “space” element equals in importance the “time” element, the two always strictly interconnected. The experiences that most affected our mind and art are instants of such pure and ecstatic poetry that cannot be expressed in any way with words. We’re sure you’ll understand.
You seem to be attached to the musical heritage of western Alps, could you tell us a bit about “the rural tradition of your region”?
Maurizio – Our alpine region has a long history of exchanges between people living on different sides of the mountain ridge and of country borders, often speaking different languages, belonging to several ethnic groups, each with their own cultural identity and religion. Even before Romans, people living in our valleys often experienced the passage of armies, and sometimes even the highest villages did not escape the fury of Saracen ravages, as well as that of pestilences spreading from the biggest towns and cities in the plain – in XIX century some villages got decimated by those plagues.
And of course the modern technologies have been exploiting the natural resources starting from the beginning of XX century, transforming not only the territory but somehow people’s mentality too. Yet, despite all this, each little town still owns and takes care of its
past heritage, holy festivities, its saint protector. A very peculiar summer job existed near here between XIX and XX century: few dozens of very skinny “mountaineers” would leave their humble homes at midnight and climb a mountain peak to reach a glacier at 3100 meters at dawn, then they would literally cut blocks of ice weighting approximately 300 kilograms, tie them to a wooden sled and run down the very steep slope that often reached 60 degrees, in order to put them on a train ready to leave early in the morning for a long trip to Torino and even Milan – in this way all cafés and bars could offer cold drinks and icecreams!
Anyway, we are not attached to the musical heritage of this territory as you mean it. The music we make has way farther origins and roots which cannot be related to any place on Earth. When we moved to the Western Alps we felt even more strong the communion between archaic and future. Anyway, Western Alps had another kind of influence: we saw some old men – not professional musicians – handcrafting traditional string instruments for their own pleasure. This gave me the idea to invent new wooden string instruments totally with my hands; each one is a unique “strange strings” instrument with its own rules, peculiar shapes and weird tuning, and I’m the only one able to play them.
What does the world “Mediterranean” call in the mind of two brothers from another space?
Maurizio – Really a difficult question for us! We cannot deny we feel the word “Mediterranean” a bit like “home”, but at the same time we feel totally strangers, disconnected from the myriad of civilizations that the term implies.
“The Mediterranean basin resembles the courtyard of Hitchcock’s Rear Window”
There’s probably a good reference in cinema that can represent how we feel about it. The Mediterranean basin resembles the courtyard of Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”: an apparently quite, restricted area that faces a busy street (this a sort of “unknown” world that surrounds it); people living in the apartments are of all sorts, but despite the fact that all neighbours share the same common place they barely know (or even care of) each other; and the apparent quietness eventually reveals hidden dramas, cruelty and even crimes. Well as MCIAA sometimes we come back “home” and feel a bit like James Stewart in that movie: we feel the only witnesses to “intellectual injustice” which we fight with our own art, and we hope someone else will believe us before it’s too late.
What’s next for My Cat Is an Alien?
Roberto -During all these past years we had several contacts and collaborations with musicians and visual artists we appreciate the most. Now we just started a collaborative trio project with French guitarist extraordinaire Jean-Marc Montera called MCIAA-JMM, and another with Eerle, female singer of Talweg and La Morte Young, the new and most exciting voice from the belly of the French underground.
Speaking about forthcoming releases, on September 30 MCIAA’s new album entitled “The Dance Of Oneirism” will be out. It will be a double coloured vinyl LP, with Side D silkscreened in four different colours. It is a proper audiovisual work, since it also contains a poetry art-card of mine and especially a 30×30 cm art book (also available separately from the record); it’s a photographic book featuring a sequence of slides which I took from my balcony in Torino in October of 2000, and which we felt as the perfect visual reflection when we finalized the album “The Dance Of Oneirism”. This is going to represent an essential MCIAA’s new and exciting step forward. Some of the most known music critics worldwide, listening to the album in advance have already defined it as a revolutionary work, and David Keenan – in his extended foreword which will be included in the record – has written of it as “MCIAA’s greatest long form work”. Musically speaking, the new element characterizing the whole work is the introduction of trance-like electronic beats and rhythms within a structure that wipes out any concept already explored in the history of experimental music, from Charley Patton and Schoenberg straight to the future.
Special thanks to Chloé for the translation