Interviews

Gran Turismo Veloce say it all on labels and music industry

Francesco Cameli (Sphere Studios Chief Engineer), Massimo Dolce, Gessica, Claudio Filippeschi Photo © 2013 Antonio Lucà http://www.antonioluca.co.uk/ for rebelrebelmusic.com

Gran Turismo Veloce are an Italian progressive rock band who, despite their incredible talent and like many other talented musicians, are struggling to make it in the mud of today’s music industry. There was a time when music and talent were the core of this industry, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to explain how Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” is the second best selling album of all times. Today, though, everything has changed. All you need is a pretty face, a weak falsetto, a couple of dull tunes created with Garage Band in less than 3 hours, thousands of followers on Facebook and possibly come from a talent show so the label doesn’t need to pay for a promotion that already came from TV: that’s what makes you officially a rock star. No matter if you have never seen (forget played…) a real piano, taken singing lessons or known the pleasure of just playing and singing for the love of Music.

So, what happens to all those REAL musicians, men and women who, not only know how to play a real piano or a hammond, but can also create powerful masterpieces and would at least deserve a spot in the music scene that matters? They end up with thousands of enthusiastic internet fans who, on the other hand, have no idea how hard it can be to even produce one good – and I mean GOOD, not just fine – album and get it distributed by a Major label. It looks like having many Facebook followers matters more than being a hell of a musician nowadays. 

Gran Turismo Veloce are the best example of this kind of situation. After their acclaimed debut album, “Di Carne, Di Anima”, they started working on their second album following their fans’ request: people were so enthusiastic about their work that they pledged the band to release a new one. So the guys embarked in a new adventure and landed in London where we I met them during the recording sessions of the new album at the Sphere Studios in Battersea. When I heard a sneak preview of a couple of new songs only one thing crossed my mind: people need to listen to this! Not just 1000 people or 10,000 people… the world needs to hear this, these are the people who deserve a spot on top of the charts. During my visit at the studio, I took the time to have a long chat with Massimo Dolce, who told me everything about the joy and pain of being an independent musician and how he’s planning to wrap up a product “they” can’t resist.

Q: Let’s start with today’s music industry…
M: Do you want a serious answer? What I can say is, we have shared our ideas with other musicians, fans, music professionals and it seems like we all agree that the music industry today is in an absurd state. They publish shit, so the question is: do they publish shit because people ask for it or do people listen to shit because the Majors choose what the public will listen to?
The same goes with cinemas. We have all these huge high tech cinemas, but I think it wouldn’t hurt anyone to have at least a small independent movie in one screening room, so that at least people have a choice. With music it’s the same, one out of 10 should be given a chance.

Q: And how about all those independent musicians who turn to rubbish music once they become mainstream? It looks like they are forced to lower the standards in order to sell.
M: I think the key is the balance. You need to go mainstream so that people know you exist. Once they know that, you can say goodbye to mainstream and do what you want. The hardest thing is to go viral. Technology being so accessible to everyone made it easier for anyone to record your own album with one computer from home. So why are we spending thousands of euros a day to record this album when you can do that from home? For me, more than for the final user, quality is fundamental.

Q: Talking about technology, what do you think of internet’s role in all this?
M: Internet is supposed to be a great thing, but unfortunately it’s also giving a chance to a lot of stupid people. The most played videos on youtube are kitties, so you do the math. Let’s close down youtube! And I’m taking full responsibility of whatever I’ll say in this interview. Whatever the outcome of this album, I will piss on those who deserve it (laughs).

Q: What pushes you towards this pursuit of high quality?
M: I do it for myself first. Because when I listen to it I want to be sure I’ll be completely satisfied with it, I wanna go and say “cool, that’s my album”, you know. It happened with the first album, but this time around I want it to be even cooler. I was listening to the new tracks over and over again and I have to say it, I’m very proud of them. And its’ not so common to be that proud of your own music. I know fellow musicians who often tell me that they don’t feel like playing live their songs after they’ve played a Radiohead’s song. I don’t get it, what the fuck are they talking about? I’m proud of what I do.

Q: Why did you choose this studio in London?
M: I heard an album from progressive metal band Tesseract that sounded amazing, so I did some research and found out about this studio and the fact that the owner is Italian also made it easier for me. I thought I could bribe him with some good wine (laughs) but he’s straight-edge, so damn it, I had to promise him some good pecorino cheese.
Some of the best selling pop albums were produced in this studio, and it was kind of awkward to find out that a metal band had recorded here, but as a matter of fact their album sounds perfect. That’s what convinced me he’s our man!

Q: Tell us about your story, starting from your first album, what it took to be here and how hard is to go from here on?
M: It’s like all bands, you know, you start playing together, but we did’t start as a cover band, we said to ourselves, “let’s try!”. That’s exactly what we did and we are relentlessly stubborn, in fact after losing 1 bass player and 4 drummers, we’re still here recording our album. This is the last try, if this doesn’t work, that’s it. The problem is: you produce a great album but the label isn’t willing to put the money into promotion, so they say if you want to promote it you go on tour as an opening act with a popular band. Where do I take the money from? So this means that once the album is ready, there’s gonna be an impasse. It’s extremely difficult. I’m realising now more than ever.

Q: What about your online campaign on Indiegogo?
M: Well, we’re doing it because we thought it would be nice to crowd fund this album since we were asked by our fans to do a new album. But when we started the campaign, the same people who asked for the album turned their backs to us, like “what the hell do you want from us?”. This campaign is meant to show how expensive can be to produce a good album. 25,000 euros are quite a basic budget for an album, normally it would cost ten times more. I wanted to step to the next level and this has a cost, but people didn’t get it. The first album cost us 3,000 euros, we recorded it in Italy. It received critical acclaims all over the world, so we bought a camping van and started touring Europe, for free. Then we had some luck, so from London we went to Paris for a festival and from there someone liked us and wanted us to play in Italy, where one promoter wanted us to play at the biggest festival in Mexico. From there we were confirmed for another big festival in Germany… so you might think with all these we became rich. Well, the truth is, till now I’ve taken a loss of 12,000 euros and Claudio 10,000. After London we’ll use what’s left to record with the Symphonic Orchestra in Budapest and that’s it, no more funds.

Q: So you’re not signed with any label right now? Let’s talk about recording labels…
M: Last year, while we were touring, I used my cheeky face to try and introduce our work to two of the biggest labels of Progressive Rock music, Inside Out in Dortmund and Kscope in London. I said I had an appointment with them but, obviously when I entered the room, they didn’t know who I was (laughs). Strangely enough, they didn’t call the police and listened to us. I simply asked them to explain me how it works. First thing first, they said, you sing in Italian and we’re not interested in Southern Europe music. The second thing they asked was, how many followers do you have on Facebook? So I guess next time before going to a label I’ll buy 40,000 likes…
So they want you to produce the album on your own, they don’t help you out with the production, they want the final product, then they ask you how many live concerts you’ve done and how many copies you’ve sold.
So I’m going back to visit these two labels and tell them, “there you go, you don’t have the money to produce the album? I did it!” I’m willing to propose them not to pay me until they’re paid back for the printing expenses and give them the exclusive for 10 years. There’s no way they can say no, unless it’s because they don’t want to, but they will need a damn good reason. I want these bastards to tell me the truth. The other day we had Frost’s drummer playing for us and he came to us and said, “this thing rocks!”. He’s one hell of a musician, he heard hundreds of bands. I mean, all the professionals we meet love our music, so I don’t get what’s wrong with these people at the labels.

Q: So what are we to expect from the upcoming album? Is the sound going to be similar to the first one?
M: No, we are going harder, guitars are going to be more metal, the songs are in English. It’s going to be huge, the sound is top level. I think this is going to be the most “progressive” album ever, and you have to know that I’m not into progressive rock at all. I like to mix all styles, from funky to metal, so the choirs are going to be done with the mellotron but with a seven-strings guitar. What music misses today is not only the lack of good contents, but also the high sound quality. Britney Spears’ old albums are the last good productions in terms of sound engineering, forget the music, but they are perfectly engineered.
The point is you need to have the product ready or the labels won’t listen to you. You have to put the money into it and that’s it.
Not even talent shows can help sometimes. You know how it works wit htalent shows? A good author gets to be auditioned by a Major. They tell him, “your music is good, here’s what we’ll do: you give us your songs for free, we give you a spot in the talent show and let’s see what happens”. This is how it works. What is still a mystery to me is that while this might even make sense with pop music, why does it have to be like that with a niche like progressive rock. It’s ridiculous, because if you think about it, there might be more money in the niche industry then pop because the niche public are the people who actually buy the records.
The point is, even the people who listen to niche music don’t get it. The other day I received a message from a guy who contributed 10 euros to our campaign and spent 38 euros to see a concert by a tribute band. The problem is that people are putting their money in the wrong projects, because you kill those who are struggling to make a change in the industry.
There is too much difference in the treatments they reserve to stars and to start-ups, you know. I mean, they have the money to potentially produce new talents, but they prefer not to do it. The atmosphere of progressive rock in Italy is like a small village, it’s very few of us, it’s like being in the kindergarden. They attacked us for doing this online campaign, “who the hell do you think you are?” they said. Sorry if we live in a free country. This is regressive not progressive.

Q: On a positive note, you get a lot of acclaim by music professionals, like Tony Levin, Gentle Giants, and so on…
M: Gary Green from the Gentle Giants heard us in Mexico and he congratulated us on sampling one of their songs. We’ve just received the ok by Tony Levin who’s going to play on our album. I mean, these people are willing to put their names on it. So, the labels I’ll present the album to will have to acknowledge the fact that these professionals were happy to collaborate with us.

Q: So why should people go for it and buy your album?
M: Well, they should contribute the online campaign because it’s a way to open the minds, to focus on how the system in the music industry can be changed. I don’t care if we get to 20,000 euros; I’d rather have 3,000 people who give 2 euros each, which makes 6,000, but at least those 3,000 people are the proof that the public has had enough of the system. It’s not because of the money, but it’s because it would mean they understood what it means and how it works.
The album, they should buy it because it’s simply powerful. The booklet is going to be amazing, this girl from Grosseto, she’s working on it, she’s very creative, it’s going to be morbid, quite like a fairy-tale book. It’s going to be cool.

Q: Is it going to be available in mp3 format, CD and vinyl?
M: We’re not sure about the vinyl, everyone wants us to publish it in vinyl, but it’s very expensive.

Q: Anything else to say about GTV?
M: Well, if you think about it, GTV as a project has failed several times, meaning that many former members didn’t believe in the project so much to put everything at risk. They preferred to go on with their every day life and ordinary job. So right now it’s just up to the stubbornness of two of us.
Right now our only goal is to go to the labels with a perfect product they can’t resist, I want them to have no plausible reasons to say no.

For Music sake, we ask our readers to support HERE GTV’s online campaign and maybe we all can start making a change.
Follow them on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GTVband
Follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/granturismoveloce

Gessica Puglielli

Visual/Web Designer, Digital Marketing Strategist born in Lecce (Italy), I currently live in London. Between 1998 and 2005 I collaborated with Michael Jackson’s staff and in 2000 I had a meeting with the man himself. I founded Rebel Rebel in 2013 and so far it has been an exciting journey. Some of my favourite artists include Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Skunk Anansie, Depeche Mode, Pink Floyd, Archive, Kraftwerk, Arcade Fire, Radiohead, Anthony & The Johnsons, Gazpacho, The Maccabees, Led Zeppelin, Brian Eno, Beethoven, Bjork, Steve Wonder and many others. I feel a deep connection to animals and Mother Nature, which led me to choose a vegan lifestyle. I like playing electric guitar, photography, cinema, art, entertainment, travelling, playing tennis and browsing London.

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