It was around the end of the last decade that a little-known Italian band came to the attention of staff around the I-94 Bar, when a battered carboard package containing a vinyl album with the title, "Kiss Your Ass Goodbye", arrived, air mail. It was the debut long-player for Loose, a potent outfit with obvious debts to Radio Birdman, the MC5 and the Stooges (as if the band logo wasn't a giveaway). It was rawly-recorded but what set these guys apart was a determinedness not to stick to only the path defined by their precursors. There was liberal use of keyboards that gave the songs a Visitors feel in places, and a level of energy that was undeniable.
Fast forward to an appearance on Vicious Kitten's "Rock and Roll War Volume II" and the subsequent release of Loose's 7" EP, "Untamed" (Rockin House Records), and things looked to be developing a treat. The self-released album that followed in 2002, "Rock the Fuck On", was a stunner. You can read our review here but why just take our word for it? Our mate Steve Gardner wrote in The Big Takeover that "Here Comes My Fire" had "a ripping, jazzy sort of feel that would've done the MC5 proud" and "Emotional Farts" reminded him "of France's great City Kids". He went on: "...the blend of keyboards with guitar works great and gives them their own feel...barring the New Christs' "We Got This", it's the best CD of its type I've heard this year".
Moving right along to today and Loose is in a flux. "Rock the Fuck On" has failed to attract record label attention and remains hard to find outside Italy. Politics effectively kept them off the bill on Radio Birdman's two Italian dates in 2003. A possible runof shows as support to Sonny Vincent also fell through, to much the same factors. With live shows thin on the ground in their home country, Loose are currently dormant. It would be tragic if their enthusiasm for playing and recording Real Rock Action didn't return....
We thought it was high time the I-94 Bar gave Loose the spotlight, so Max Contigiani graciously stepped up to field THE BARMAN'S questions, with the occasional contribution from co-vocalist/guitarist Paolo Petrini. Here's the result:
Q Max (pictured left) - what's the current status of Loose and the latest line-up?
A: We're still self-promoting and self-distributing our new self-produced CD "Rock The Fuck On!" We're actually facin' a bit of a hardship on that matter, but, well, we're not businessmen....
Loose's latest line-up consists of:
Me (Max Contigiani) - Lead guitar & (some) Lead vocals
Paolo Petrini- Guitar & (the rest of the) Lead vocals
Gianvincenzo Lombi - Keyboards
Luca Giustolisi - Bass
Andrea Taddei - Drums
Q Maybe you could take us through a brief history of the band and who's played in it.
A: Back in 1873 my father's grandfather uesd to hang out in bars drinkin' absinthe and talkin' about revolutionary music when, one day...........
All right, I'll make it short:
In Feb. 1996 Paolo, Vincenzo, Maurizio (Porcarelli) and the Gradozzi brothers (Cristiano and Giacomo) join forces and form "Paperoga (Donald Duck's hippie cousin) & the Fuzz Ducks, a band based on 60s and mid 80s garage punk covers.
In June 1996, the Deniz Tek Group comes and play for the second time in my little hometown (let me say, here, that I proudly organized both events!), Paolo comes at the show, we meet and by the next August I'm in the band.
In 1997, we record a bunch of songs on a four-track tape recorder and start looking for a label; we decide to change the name of the band and Maurizio comes out with the name Loose and we all go : Yeah! (Only later we'll find out that he didn't know that it was a Stooges song!..)
In 1998, "Be Loose", a three-track 7" Ep is released. So the first line-up is:
Me (Max Contigiani) - Lead guitar or Lead vocals
Paolo Petrini - Lead vocals or Guitar
Maurizio Porcarelli - Rythm and Lead Guitar
Gianvincenzo Lombi - Keyboards
Cristiano Gradozzi - Drums
Giacomo Gradozzi - Bass
Ruffino Gobbi is the great mouth harp player featured in the 7" b-side "Sunday Blues"
That's Vincenzo on keyboards (above) and Andrea on drums.
In 1999 we take over our friend Leo's recording studio for about six months and slowly record "Kiss Your Ass Goodbye!" Our future new drummer Andrea Taddei is featured in the song "Shroud" on that LP.
Meanwhile, we make friends with the Ballbusters from Worcester, USA, and will be soon touring Italy together.
In 2000, we record a song for a James Bond tribute LP (on 442eme recs, Paris) and the four songs for the "Untamed!" 7"Ep (wich will see the light only two years later!!...) These will be the last recordings with the six-member line-up. Maurizio is, in fact, withdrawing from the music scene.
In early 2001, Cristiano quits and Andrea fills in. Soon after Giacomo quits too and we get Luca Giustolisi on the bass. We record "Sheena...." for an Italian "Tribute to the Ramones" CD comp and go touring in the States with the Ballbusters.
For yet unknown reasons, just about a week after we played NYC, the city undergoes the 9/11 strike. I've, ever since, been hoping that it had had nothing to do with our performance.
In 2002, after the Nth Italian tour with the Ballbusters, we go into a studio and live record "Rock The Fuck On!" wich will be self-released only a year later after several unsuccessful attempts in finding a label. A tour with our new friends NY City's "She-Wolves" (great fuckin' people!) occours late in the year
In 2003 we release the above mentioned CD and do another (little) tour with She-Wolves. Later in the year a chance of doin' an extensive European tour opening for Sonny Vincent gets eventually called off....
Q Rock The Fuck On! seems the most fully-realised recording put out by Loose. Is that something the band feels too? How much time went into the recording and were the songs ones that you'd all played for a while?
A: It sure is, not as much for the songwriting as for the crafting of the recordings. Being it our second experience in a studio made us more aware of what we could achieve. Plus, yes, we'd been playin' the songs a lot on the road before goin' in the studio and that's all a rock'n'roll band needs to turn from "so-so" into "good" (and occasionally, into "great"), to my opinion.
Beside that, working in the studio with experienced people did help. Of course you gotta have the songs.......
The recordings were done live in one day (except for keys and vocals) and the whole work was done in six days, mastering included.
Q The influences for the band are pretty obvious. How did you personally cotton onto the so-called Detroit style of music? Who are some of the other bands various members get into?
Max: I used to be reading all the rock magazines I could find, starting from the early '80s and eventually I ended up spinning Funhouse on my record player (the very same one that I used to spin U2 and Van Halen on!!!) and it was like BANG!!!, my Mr. Hyde came out and my life's never been the same again! In the same way I got into the Australian rock, but, if I remember well , it was thru Celibate Rifles before the Radio Birdman.
Paolo: I love many different music styles, but the Detroit Rock is synonymous of great energy, passion and emotion: life!
Despite my listenings go from rural blues to Captain Beefheart, Pere Ubu, from The Germs to Michael Nyman, Nick Cave, Wire, Thin White Rope, Lounge Lizards, Tom Waits, The Who, The Contortions..... the foundations remain The Stooges, The MC5 and Radio Birdman.
Above all, thou, if I'd have to mention just and only one: The New Christs
Paolo on guitar and vocals (left) and Luca on bass.
Q In the case of Loose there seems to be a distinctive keyboard feel about most the songs, in places not unlike the sort of music done by the Visitors/ Is that a fair comment?
A: You're right! See, those bands have been spinning so much on our record/tape/CD players that when it comes to play there's no way you can play something else. And if somebody is goin' to argue that we sound too much like the Visitors (or Radio Birdman, or New Christs), I'll say: 'Well, thank you, man! I do think there's not enough bands sounding like them around! Actually, you should try and get your band to sound like that!'
But, I gotta say that Vincenzo is as much a Birdman/Visitors fan as well as he is of '60s garage sound. Of course being him a great keyboards player, he can play the right thing to play in both styles.
I personally love the mix of raw guitars and tickling piano notes, so I try to put pressure on Gianvincenzo for more piano, but it usually never works and he decides what to play on the songs.
Q How do you and Paolo split up the lead vocals and guitar duties?
A: It is mostly that we like to sing our own lyrics, so he'll be singing his compositions and I'll do mine. Exceptions occour in case one has a special feeling for a song, or when one's guitar part is not rhythmically compatible with the singing, or just for the sake of sharing the vocal duties 50/50. I mostly take care of all the lead guitars.
Q What sort of budget do you spend on recording and is everything self-financed by band members? Is there much of a choice of studios? I suppose what I'm getting at is that the latest album sounds a hell of a lot better than the first album, "Kiss Your Ass Goodbye".
A: Before "RTFO!" we went for the lowest budget possible. In fact I wanna take the chance here to thank our friend Leonardo Ramadori of the Free Noise Studio, wich helped us with all the previous recordings for an extremely low rate.
He had just started his little studio on the attic of his house at the times of our first recordings, so I can only say that he did a great job with the means he had.
For "RTFO!" we wanted to try a big studio so we put together our economic resources and went in what is probably the best studio around here. Recording "RTFO!" cost us about 2500 euros.
Recording studios abound around here, but the choice narrows down drastically when it comes to r'n'roll. Most of the studios here do commercials or shitty italian pop music.
Q Were the "Untamed" EP on Rockin' House and the "Rock the Fuck On" album recorded close together? What's the chronology?
A: "Untamed" was recorded in May 2000 and the fact that it came out only in July 2002 was out of our hands. Rockin House Recs (Reading, PA, USA) took care of it.
Q How's the underground rock and roll scene in Italy? Is it easy to get gigs and what sort of venues and how often do Loose play?
A: There's no r 'n 'r scene here ( same as anywhere else, huh?)! There are plenty of r 'n 'r bands (or at least that's what they like to be referred to as......) and a bunch of them are really good. What is missing is cooperation, but that's something that is easier to preach than to achieve. There are plenty of clubs here, but then again when it comes to original music, especially r 'n 'r, the "we'll let you know" refrain goes on.
But, I don't what to put all the blame on the clubs, because is also true that most of the people would rather go and see a shitty Guns & Roses tribute band than a so-so r' n 'r band like Loose.
Q So-so? I think you're being modest.
It doesn't get much better for bigger names: I went to see Hellacopters and Hives and there was not more than 400 people. Henry Rollins even less. Steve Wynn, maybe 200.
I was goin to say that is a local cultural thing, but seems like they have the same problems in USA as well as in Ozland, so I'll blame it on the globalization (wich usually makes everyone happy!).
But one thing seems to quite be working here: bring over for a tour a band from USA and stick to it as opening act, and you'll see some doors opening! At least it worked for us...
Beside that, to get a gig here is hard and mostly uneconomical (with gas at 1,20 euros/litre or 4,50 euros/gallon; highway at 0,06 euros/Km or 0,1 euros/mile). It also works thru friends, but this is called mutual help, and if you can't provide gigs for other bands because there's no club for r 'n' r bands were you live, you're obviously back to start again.
This said, in eight years I'm pretty much sure we played something like a 100 gigs (Wow! That's about a gig a month! Maybe I'm wrong then. It doesn't feel as we've played that often).
Q What are some of the supports you've done?
Not much to say about this, since we've only opened once for Sonny Vincent in 1999, once for the Makers in 2000 and once for Tek & Morgan with the Assassins in Foligno and Rome in 2001.
Some people expected us to open for the Birdmen in Perugia last year, but the promoter was a guy who already screwed us a couple of times, so we did not really expect him to act different this time.
Q My Italian's non-existent but I think I read, on a website in your language somewhere, that there was a prospect of the band touring the USA. Is that still possible?
I think I've kinda answered to this one before, sayin' that we did a tour with the Ballbusters in 2001. It was: 2 gigs in Worcester,Ma - 1 gig in Boston, Ma - 1gig in NYC, NY - 1 gig in Richmond, Va. I'm not going to give you any "great success/the places were packed/the people loved us" bullshit here. It was OK, not many people at the show, but some of them seemed to really appreciate our music. Of course we didn't raise any money, but we sure had great fun!
I gotta say, though, that, for what I've seen during my recent trip back in Boston and NYC, there's basically no band drawing a reasonable amount of people in the clubs over there. I've seen the Real Kids playin' in front of a 10 people crowd! The MC5/DKT gathered (on the second night) at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC not more than 400 people!
Q Tell me about your own recent trip to the States. Where did you go and which other bands did you see?
A: I went to see my friends in Worcester, Ma and in NYC. I've visited as many record stores (mostly for blues records, sorry....) and guitar shops as I could.
I actually was at Subterranean Records in NYC to get my copy of the Back In Spades CD when I heard Mike (the owner) talkin' on the phone to a guy of the NY Times about some guy's death.
The name of the dead guy was Robert Quine (R.I.P.)
Anyway, I got my CD and was just about to leave when Mike told me: 'Actually, I think that Back In Spades are playin' in town this weekend......' That's how I got to see the best r 'n' r band around nowadays!
The guys really have it! The passion, the songs, the act! GREAT!
Other good shows I've seen are: Mighty Sam McClain, Big Jack Johnson (both bluesmen). The Classic Ruins (an historic Worcester rock band from, I guess, the 80s) and the Real Kids on the same bill and, of course, the MC5/DKT. Oh, I should mention that I've seen Jeff Magnum getting on stage to do a few Dead Boys songs with another band and Walter Lure doing a couple of Heartbreakers tunes with Johnny Black's band.
Other bands I've seen aren't really worth a mention, since they either sucked or were not appealing to me.
Last but not least, I've witnessed the recording of Jayne County & She -Wolves' new 7"!
Q What did you guys think about the Birdman gigs in Italy in 2003? Which show(s) did you catch?
Max: I personally went, obviously, to both shows (although I missed half of the show in Bologna because of the shitty organization!) The show in Perugia was half-fucked up by the bad PA system but, despite my feeling that Rob Younger wasn't much at ease in the role of the "reunion-ist" (sorry, I couldn't find another word..), the band really rocked and gave the crowd (not more than 400 people, all crammed in front of the stage!) a couple of hours of real good time.
The show in Bologna was included in a big festival which also featured The Cramps, Nashville Pussy and, as headliners(?!?)......Rancid! It lasted only about 40 minutes, so I've really seen only a few songs and although the band was as good as the night before, I kinda felt that they didn't belong to that big stage, 20 feet away from the crowd (about a thousand, this time), with the volume of the PA turned down, (as it usually is for non-headliners). I felt as they didn't get the respect they deserved!
Of course I left the place as soon as Rancid hit the stage and 20,000 brainwashed snotties gathered around the stage.
Paolo: I was at the show in Perugia, stuck to the front of the stage with the Birdmen within arm's reach. I was handclapping to the rhythm of the songs all of the time! It's been really intense! A loop of positive vibrations!.....
Q So what's the future hold for Loose recording-wise and when can we expect to hear something new?
I actually just got the fuckin' great news that our 7" EP planned to be released next fall by 442eme Rue Recs in Paris has been cancelled due to financial problems of the label.
We also have some new tunes to work on, but we're not talkin' near future here....
Q Thanks for your time, Max. Since we're in a bar, what are you drinking?
A: Can you make me a "Carzolà"? (dialect for Calzolaio, in English: Shoemaker)? The drink is: half Varnelli (local aniseed liquor) and half Borghetti (coffee liquer). If not I'll have aged Rum with one ice cube and lemon, thank you. Up Yours!
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