top of page

Porta D'Oro: "I Always Had a Problem Sticking with Genres, Even When Playing With Other People, I Always Ended Up Pushing the Boundaries of Whatever Kind of Music We Were Making for Better or Worse!"

Porta D'Oro, the hypnotic, boundary-pushing solo project of Giacomo Stefanini (Kobra, ONDAKEIKI) finds its first LP release in Così Dentro Come Fuori, out now on Maple Death Records. The album, which was recorded and mixed entirely on a cassette 4-track, embodies a genre-less mixture of chant and noise, and the singular subconscious of an artist via his experiments. Talking over email, Stefanini was kind enough to let us into his creative process, the thrilling danger of live performance, and his ongoing work with the Sentiero Futuro Autoproduzioni collective. 

Paperface Zine: Hey Giacomo, what have you been up to lately? What are you listening to, reading, or spending a lot of time doing?


Giacomo Stefanini: I spend most of my time watching stand-up comedy clips on YouTube, playing music and trying to make my friends laugh. I used to be always up to date on the state of the DIY/underground music world (I even wrote reviews!) and now I can't seem to be able to focus when listening to new stuff. Some records still managed to grab my attention, though: Ryan Davis and the Roadhouse Band's Dancing On The Edge; Lewsberg's Out And About; Second Attempt by Giulio Erasmus; and there's more, but I can't write your eyes off on the first question. Reading-wise, I've been slowly exploring the wonderful universe of Ursula K. Le Guin's Always Coming Home, a book that makes you want to move in and live in it. Also, my friend Max Easton's second novel Paradise Estate made me really happy. And I had forgotten how beautiful of a language Italian was before I read Dino Buzzati's 1933 debut Barnabo Of The Mountains


PZ: Congrats on releasing Così Dentro Come Fuori!  You're no stranger to the music world, but this is your first solo LP. What was it like to make a full individual statement under this project, especially since you undertook the entirety of recording and mixing for this release as well?


GS: Thank you. Così Dentro Come Fuori means a lot to me. I've struggled with my identity my whole life  my mind was a little scrambled growing up and I’ve developed some issues with my perception of myself. But the first two Porta d'Oro EPs, born as – you guessed it – just a pandemic pastime (they came out as two sides of the same cassette in 2021), really felt like an expression of a deep part of me that I could not control, and that felt good. So I kept using this method of recording, which is very akin to child's play: I'm on the floor of my living room, making up stuff on the fly, surrounded by all kinds of instruments including toy percussions, a gift shop Irish whistle and a toy keyboard I've had since kindergarten to dig deep inside myself and let out as much of my true personality as I could. To do everything myself was a direct consequence of this method. My friend Dived was instrumental in helping me mix the album (even though we still did it directly from a 4-track tape machine with no added fx) before taking over for the mastering part. Apart from recording and mixing, which I had at least a little experience with, making the artwork and the lyric booklet was the most challenging part. I was never a very visual person and, again, to make all that work (a collage for each song, plus one for the cover and two more for the credits page and the booklet's front page) I had to let a lot of self consciousness go and just let my... soul or subconscious or inner child or whatever it is do what it wanted to do. 


PZ: I've seen you describe the composition process as akin to "summoning?" Can you expand on that?


GS: In my past life as a music journalist I had the chance to interview Penny Rimbaud of Crass. I asked him something about the decision process that went into their records, and he said something to the effect of: "There was no decision. The only decision I ever made was in the mid 70s and it was to take the locks out of the doors of my house. The rest just happened." That sounds a bit pretentious, but it does strike a chord in me. Like I said, my relationship with my desires, feelings and sense of identity is complicated and fragmented. Così Dentro Come Fuori was sort of made by a pure part of me, a ghost of myself using my "solid" self as a conduit. Chance also played a big role in how things developed: the song "Così Dentro Come Fuori," that ended up being one of the most significative songs on the album for me, came about while I was trying to record the vocals for "Là" and I mistakenly inserted the tape wrong-side up in my 4 track, with the motor speed turned down. It was a Eureka moment! Then, when the song was basically done, I almost erased it while "jamming" with a radio signal. You can still hear the radio come in at the end. That's not an intentional edit. It's a little trickster spirit fucking with the song.


PZ: I've noticed you never stick to one genre and yet your sound is so distinctive. How do you keep things cohesive while still exploring new ideas?


GS: I think the answer to how I still end up sounding "like myself" is simply that I put a lot of limitations to what I can do: I only record on 4-track tape, so there are never more than a handful of elements to a song because bouncing tracks is a pain in the ass; I don't use virtual instruments, just real guitars, real keyboards, a Behringer drum machine that only has one sound, etc... so the sound palette is limited; and also I am not very good at playing, so things can't naturally get too complicated. And I also think the way I use my voice gives it a certain peculiarity. 

PZ: I'm curious to know more about the title track. It has some of the sparsest instrumentation on the album but I think that's what makes its presence impactful.


GS: Here's why I should've read the questions before starting to write the answers, I burned this one two paragraphs ago! I'll say this: I'm really glad you singled out the song because I think it's one of the finest things I've done. The lyrics have several layers to them: I wanted to express this feeling of a deep part of you, that pure part of my personality I was rambling about earlier, calling to the more outward stratum of myself, and vice versa – and these two parts get in touch, and unite to form a peaceful being. As Inside, So Outside. So I conjured up the image of two birds calling each other from different branches of the same tree, and it's impossible to say which one is which and they are one and two birds at the same time. Then people pointed out to me that the whole lyric has a weird sexual undertone that I had absolutely not thought about when I wrote it. I think the deep bass tones provided by the slowed-down tape and the vocals are what makes the song get under your skin as much as it does. Sometimes I feel like the cheesy keyboard part at the end is a bit too much, but some other times it really drives the point of the song home. 


PZ: What's it like to perform this music live? How do you get in the headspace as the entire energy of the show comes from you?


GS: It's hard to describe, because I haven't really figured it out yet. Sometimes I connect a lot with the audience and I feel like we are building a unique moment together, sometimes I get a bit isolated and then get anxious about the idea that I've bored them or shut them out. It's a delicate balance, because I think that the intimate quality of my music implies a certain sense of weirdness and distance even in the live setting, but there's nothing better than looking out at the audience and seeing people that are looking you in the eye, listening, "getting it." In addition to playing some of the songs from the album, I always leave a place in the setlist to go a little nuts with improvisation lately I've been messing with tape loops and a synthesizer I bought recently (but I might switch back to my trusted toy keyboard, the synth is a bit too hi-fi for me). I go up there with my notebook of fresh new lyrics and wing it. That always gives the set a bit of "danger" that I really enjoy.


PZ: I loved reading your 2022 interview with Max from Barely Human (already mentioned above) and wanted to know what's the latest with Sentiero Futuro Autoproduzioni? Your reggae-influenced song "O Sentiero Futuro" is dedicated to them!


GS: That's great that you read that! That interview has meant a lot to me. Max is a genius. Well, Sentiero Futuro is alive and kicking. A couple of months ago we released the debut tape of a band I'm involved with, ONDAKEIKI, which I'm super proud of. We are preparing the release of a new compilation that will be a sort of companion piece to our first release Oltre Lo Sguardo back in 2020, with the proceeds going to help the resistance of Palestinian people against the genocidal terrorist state of Israel, armed and backed by the US and the EU. In the four years since the foundation of the collective, we haven't grown more professional, so we're still late on everything and we're still doing very limited pressings because we're too lazy to properly distribute our releases, but we're also still doing what we want and doing it ourselves, and still supporting the anti-capitalist fight against the city of Milano and the Italian government.


PZ: Is there anything else going on in Milano that we should know about? Future plans for Porta D'Oro?


GS: Well the main thing I've been enjoying about Milano lately is the fresh new punk scene that emerged from the bowels of T28 squat. Lots of young kids playing angry, fast, snotty hardcore punk. Check out Narkan! There was also an amazing band called Attack who I'm not sure if it's still active, but will probably have a tape out on Sentiero Futuro some day and it's gonna blow people's minds. When it comes to Porta d'Oro, I would love to play live as much as possible, and by doing so start to develop new sounds for future recordings. If that sounds more like a wish than a plan, that's because I'm still in the process of figuring out that my little trickster ghost doesn't also book shows. So please email me at portadoro.gs@gmail.com.


Così Dentro Come Fuori is out now on Maple Death Records.



Comentários


Post: Blog2 Post
bottom of page