Friday, 7 September 2012

Porcelain Raft interview

Everything makes sense with Mauro Remiddi. His music is restrained and calm, yet equally layered and full of intrigue, and the man behind it is the same: sitting with the well travelled 40 year old backstage at London's 1234 Shoreditch festival it is apparent that despite his obvious advantage in experience over his contemporaries, he is modest, thoughtful and, most pleasingly, excited and interested by his newly found fame. In January of this year Remiddi released Strange Weekend under the alias Porcelain Raft (his début under this name), to great acclaim. Since then, it seems, he has been unhealthily busy.

"I've been touring the whole time. I've been supporting M83 and Youth Lagoon, and then I had some solo shows, so it's been 7 months of touring and I had probably been home a week," explains Remiddi. "Now it's been a month where I've been back in New York and getting back into normal life, and I'm already thinking about recording a second album". He is, too, a family man, but rather than complicate his musical career, this commitment coincides with it nicely: "Well I'm married to Grace, and she works in music, so we both understand what's going on. It was an agreement between us." Naturally, the subjects of family and travel are brought up often: he is almost twice the age as some of his peers, and one only needs to quickly Google search 'Mauro Remiddi' to read about his time in circus groups, travelling Europe and performing on Broadway. "I was born in Rome" he continues, "and then I lived in London for twelve years." Of course, Porcelain Raft isn't his first project. "I had a band here in London called Sunny Day Sets Fire and we were together for just two years. It was fun but I just felt it was hard to be one of five in a band. We were all well behaved and everything but I felt that to really achieve your vision you just need to be by yourself... it's quicker, you don't need to explain everything."

Yet despite his preference to record alone, Remiddi doesn't believe the step from Sunny Day Sets Fire to Porcelain Raft was drastic. "It's not, because I had always been doing solo stuff at home, but I never showed it to anybody. So since I was like fifteen or sixteen I had been recording at home: I had piles of cassettes, but I never showed them. So after the band ended, it was a natural process, it wasn't drastic to me, because this was always what I had been doing. I was just like "now I'm going to open the door of my room, so everybody can see what is going on"." For his second album, however, Remiddi plans on 'breaking out of the bedroom'. He's opened the door, and now he'll exit it. "For the second album I'm thinking to be a trio. Me plus a drummer and somebody who can play guitar, bass or synth. I need people who can commit for, say, a year," he explains. "It's a natural development. I don't want to be stuck there in my room, that's a little world I created - how about I create a world that's a little bigger!? I don't find myself attached to the idea of recording in a bedroom, if someone said "here's the biggest studio in the world, record your album here", I would be like "yes, I'll do it". But I can't do it because I don't have the means, the money... If you give me the opportunity, I'll do it." And the process has already begun. For his set today, he was joined by friend and drummer Jonny Rogoff of 90s-revivalists Yuck. "I've known Yuck for quite a long time now," says Remiddi  "since I was living here in London, and I've supported them on tour three or four times. Daniel is a dear friend of mine." When asked about Jonny joining him on stage, he simply says: "I was looking for a drummer, and Jonny lives in New Jersey which is one hour away from New York, so I just thought 'you know what right now they (Yuck) are not playing any gigs' so I just said to Jonny, "would you be interested?". So we rehearsed four or five times, and we have these gigs in the UK and yeah, so far so good! He's a great drummer, it honestly took us four or five rehearsals and he had got it."

Where Remiddi differentiates even further from many of his contemporaries is in his perception and concept of influence. He doesn't "believe influences to be concious." As he claims, "Influence is sub-concious. It may be an important thing to you, but that doesn't mean it influences you. Some people make the mistake of saying they're influenced by 'what they like' - you probably aren't influenced by what you like, that's the funny thing. You might enter into a supermarket, and there is some Vietnamese music playing, and later you find yourself sitting at home writing rhythms, and just thinking about those gongs that you heard in that song in a sub-concious way. These things are the more rooted influences." I argue that his music is like a melting pot, to which he agrees, yet in my mentioning of 60s and 80s influences, he disagrees. His song 'Dragonfly', from the Gone Blind EP alludes to the pop production of the 60s, and tracks like 'Picture' or 'The Way In' from his début LP recall the 80s. "I was a teenager in the 80s, so the 80s for me isn't a discovery, I am the 80s. I'm made of the 80s! So obviously there's not much thinking there, I don't think "I need to sound a more like this, more like that"."

For someone who was actually alive in the 80s, this current revival must be fascinating. In fact, Remiddi supports it, despite his general dislike for the pop music of the 80s. "I am so interested in musicians who are 20 years old and reproduce the 80s," he says. "They make me see it differently! I didn't like the 80s, I thought "this is shit!", there was nothing I really liked. But hearing these bands reach to the 80s, and doing a new take of it - it feels fresh and it feels good and I honestly find it interesting. I wouldn't listen to it at home but I find that take on it interesting." When I mention Ariel Pink, the overwhelmingly talented Californian eccentric, he becomes even more animated. "This is on another level. This guy works with it in a way which is so natural - I guess at the end of it, what I'm attracted to, and what others are attracted to, is the effortlessness of something. If something comes out of you in an effortless way, people can actually connect with it very easily. Let's say, I made a cake, they (the public) won't think "oh, this is the 80s", they'll think, "this is just a good cake"." And he's got a point: Pink makes good cake. Remiddi is different however. As he has argued himself, his music doesn't directly allude to certain influences, but for maybe a couple of exceptions. He uses these sub-concious influences to create something totally different, something new, fresh and all the while vaguely familiar. As the interview draws to an end, I impose the suggestion of a game relating to what we had just been talking about: influences. He may have exhausted this subject, but there is still room to learn about his interests, tastes, and less-so-sub-concious inspirations. "From this, then," I say, "should we play a little game!? If I go through some decades, could you name your favourite artists from each?" He ponders on this, agrees, then says the following: "I'll do it, but saying before, maybe tomorrow I'll say other things! What I'm saying here is just me, right here, right now, after a gig, after travelling from New York to London, so tomorrow I'll probably think other things, but yeah, let's do it!"

Should we start in the 50s!?
50s... 50s... Bo Diddley!

I like Phil Spector a lot. (That's what I got from 'Dragonfly'). 

David Bowie. Early early Bowie, I really like! And I mean, Pink Floyd as well. Big names I'm not ashamed to say! I love Syd Barrett a lot, I have got all of his solo albums!

Ok, back to the 80s?
Uh, I mean honestly there was some cool stuff in the 80s, like Talking Heads and stuff, but I wouldn't actually listen to it. I didn't like anything in the 80s!

What did you listen to in the 80s?
I would probably have been listening to stuff from the 70s! But the 80s... I was there, so I would have listened to everything from Duran Duran... But let me think, I liked Sigue Sigue Sputnik - a band from the UK - I really loved Sigue Sigue Sputnik... and Talk Talk!

Alright, 90s?
90s I would say... Nirvana - there's so much stuff - but right now Nirvana comes to my head. Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, ha ha. There's one album by Marilyn Manson I really like called Mechanical Animal or something like that. And then there's Aphex Twin, too!

Let's do the last decade - and your contemporaries.
Ah so much stuff. My contemporaries? Let's say, I really like Yuck, of course, I love them. Then I like Dirty Beaches, who are playing tonight. There are so many! Ariel Pink, I love Ariel Pink, even though I don't listen to his albums, I just love the idea that he's there. And then... I'm lost. I just want to say: I've never had so many favourite bands which are contemporaries, and bands that I really want to go and see, which didn't happen in the 80s or 90s.

Here we finish the game. We've travelled from the 50s, through Remiddi's childhood, teenage years and finally to now. Yet through this all, I learn that he is passionate about the music of now, the music of his contemporaries and his surroundings: a refreshing prospect given today's obsession with the past.

Buy Porcelain Raft's début album, Strange Weekend, here


If materials published on this website belong to you and for some reason you would like it to be removed from here, please let us know and it will be done immediately. Thanks.