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An interview with Mauro Malavasi

By Clay Montana

Malavasi style from dancemusic to author song

Mauro MalavasiMore than 10 years ago, in 1978 to be precise, in the U.S. and in the rest of the world, the "Italian style" dance music was born. The pioneer in that period of international success was a musician who graduated in composition, orchestra- and choir direction at the conservatory: Mauro Malavasi, today very famous for his collaborations with Lucio Dalla and Gianni Morandi. In those days Malavasi's identification label was Goody Music by means of which he launched successful groups as Change (receiving 7 Grammy Awards for their debut album), Peter Jacques Band, Macho, BB & Q Band and High Fashion. A success page in the history of Italian dancemusic which comes to the fore again 12 years later, now in the appearance of Italohouse. We met Mauro Malavasi briefly, since the producer was very busy together with Lucio Dalla for the realisation of a new Pavarotti album and restyling the Cube hits Two heads are better than one and Prince of the moment to the taste of the moment.

I think that together with Jacques Fred Petrus and your mythical label Goody Music you were the first to successfully introduce dancemusic 'made in Italy' in such a difficult market as the American. What are the differences between those times and the recent explosion of Italohouse?

The music is more or less the same despite the fact that there are less means available. There's also more confusion today and record companies are becoming more suspicious toward new artists and new talents. Italohouse was born from a lack of means and the triumph of the dance hits of the past with addition of the loop and some original melodic ideas: working this way reduces the costs more. If one has the possibility to try out oneself, then this can lead to interesting and intelligent products. For the rest combining all elements to a musical creation surely isn't easy: if one succeeds in realising a project that lasts 10 minutes, it means that it really is something valuable. It is true that after a first listen Italohouse can appear as an amorf kind of music, commercial, without depth as youth would wish. But all things considered, I believe this music contains more truth and valuable ideas than those big projects realised with astronomical amounts of money. This music is a witness of our time and one can also find a historic meaning in it. There are also artists who succeed in making a respectable product of it, like the project Black Box, who were my companions at the conservatory. I always knew they had talent; they're well prepared musicians, an intelligent team that works. I've always supported them by saying that they should not weaken because sooner or later their time would come. Today they finally found a successful formula.

It has been told that the success of Goody Music was the result of the Italian melody combined with American musicality, a formula suited as well for listening as for dancing. Italohouse brought the Italian melody again to the fore in combination with an ascetic sonority, sometimes hard to listen to.

The elements of the asked question are still the same: if the music is good, the public reacts positively; if the artists work with sense and enthusiasm, the public is prepared to ignore the flaws and deficient sounds: what interests people is the creativity. According to me however, it's possible to get more out of the success of Italo house: it should be a stepping stone in sight of new challenges which could be reached by Italian artists if they believed more in themselves. Now however we go to an over saturation in the genre of house to the success of products which are even vulgar and rude. But it is an understandable phenomenon: for dancemusic it was a moment of less success, a bit like in the period 1982-1983. At that time I was in the U.S. and I experienced the phenomenon from first hand. It was the record companies who decided that the hour of dancemusic was over and that it was time for a revival of rock, heavy metal and pop. Today we are in a moment that is favourable for dancemusic, the cycles can start again.

What were the motives that led to the end of Goody Music in 1981 in the U.S.? One talked about a financial fiasco.

I left the states in 1983. Honestly, I had enough of it, and I didn't feel an American, I couldn't focus my life on making money. I also missed Italy too much (I'm an ardent nationalist you know). I came in conflict with Goody Music. At that time, I was a bit more than 20 years old and I knew very little about the record business. There was actually a financial fiasco and when I was aware of this, I decided to stop.

With Paolo Gianolio and Davide Romani you formed a very strong and successful team. Why didn't you continue together? Is it true that there were rivalries among you?

This isn't true. Davide, Paolo and I, we see each other often and we are in very good contact. Paolo often works with Celso Valli, Mina and so many others. Davide often works for his own account. What concerns me, besides collaborations with Lucio Dalla, I work with Rudy Trevisi.

You are a real musician. Do you think that technology harmed musical creativity?

Instruments like samplers are not necessarily ascetic and cold, on the contrary they can be of great value for the creation process. They are a part of the technological baggage which is available and it would

In the time of Change you discovered and launched Luther Vandross who is now a superstar in black music. Do you hear from each other sometimes?

We are in optimal contact; so much even that Luther included two of my songs in his latest 'Best Of' album. Luther would have loved to work with me but I don't like to be a long time away far from home: I'm lazy and I'm scared to travel by plane. In the near future, we will work together again, at least from the moment I find a song suited for Luther, then I'll propose it to him.


Download the original Italian version (PDF file 1.15 Mb)

Thanks to Yves Le Page for the article and Dominique Lannoo (Italian to French) and Francis Depuydt (French to English).