What an honor for me to ask you questions about your music life ! Thank
you very much for that !!!
I would like to start from the very beginning of
your life, but first: "Used to say I Like Chopin, Love me again
and again, Rainy days, Never say goodbye to desire, When we are together,
Rainy days, Growing in your eyes, Tell me where's my way..." These
are words of historical and one of the everlasting songs on this planet
:-) I don't know any man or woman who doesn't know that song, no matter
if they were listened or still listen Italian disco music or any other
kind of music. Please Gazebo tell me how you wrote that song ?
How did get the idea to compose such a fantastic melody
on the piano we can hear in the song ? This piano melody is so universal, easily
catches the ear. Did you maybe use piano melody from any original Chopin masterpiece
or does it has nothing to do with Chopin ?
No, it has nothing from Chopin actually. The name of the song came from an idea I had about this weird and suffered relationship Chopin had with George Sand, a very strong woman but a weak writer (his exact opposite!)
Did you have any thoughts about I Like Chopin becoming such
a huge hit, selling more than 10 million copies?
As I said… At the time my only worry was to find a good follow up to Masterpiece. A good hit in the dance scene. The success of this song is unbelievable.The other day I was in Kazakhstan and the audience sang it accappella from the first word to the last!!
After introduction with I Like Chopin, i would like to start
talking about your beginning. Your biography is very interesting, so please
tell me about your childehood, where you were born and some other data, to know
you better ?
I was born in Beyrouth (Lebanon) as my father was working at the Italian Embassy at the time (he was a diplomat). That was in 1960. Then we moved to Jordany and then after the 6 days war we went to Copenhagen in Denmark (a much safer place !) That's where I spent my best time in an American school, learning my first Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel things on guitar. After that, we moved to France (and my studies got more academic) and then, finally, in 1975, back to Rome.
In Rome I started my first experiments with bands and songwriting while going to highschool. After school I went to London (on and off), working as a guitarist in Italian restaurants, and trying to find my way in the music scene. I met a lot of interesting musicians amongst which Denis Haines (at the time with Gary Numan's Tubeway Army) with whom I worked later on. In the meantime as I said when I was in Rome I'd meet Pierluigi either at his place or mine (we both had 4 track recording machines) to write songs. The idea was to put up a band but it was hard to find someone willing to invest So we gave up at a certain point and he went to the army while I started knocking at record companies' doors trying to get signed.
Paolo Micioni had produced a couple of projects of ours (China Express and Range) and wanted to do something with me. We decided to start with Masterpiece, called Pierluigi in and did it. It was first released as a "white label" but the feedback was great and we released it with a wholesaler in Milan called DiscOtto. One day Freddy was on the highway and heard the song on the radio. He called his secretary and said " I want this artist !! at any cost !" The rest is .. Well you probably know it :-)) !!
Did you choose your name Gazebo, or someone else did, and
At the time DJs in Italy (we never dreamt of selling outside of Italy) were quite provincial and would have snobbed the record if we released it with my real name (hopefully that has changed now !) so I chose gazebo from the lyrics of Masterpiece ("Talking of cinema in the gazebo...") and that I kept :-))
I think 1981 was crucial for your music career, when you
met Paolo Micioni. He produced your first hit Masterpiece. How did you meet
him, and tell me about your first steps with him ? Did you work with him only
till year 1983 ?
I must admit he was the first (and only at the time) producer who believed in me. He liked my music (even the one I did alone) and so I gave him credit. But then he did a couple of mistakes (so called) and that deteriorated our relationship. After Masterpiece we did some demoing together with another couple of musicians from his entourage but the material was not strong in my opinion so I asked Freddy if I could call in Pierluigi and that's how it all went.
In the same year, 1983., you signed for Baby Records. Would
you tell me about your work with them ?
I am also interested in the way how you, or they, contacted you, I mean how all began ?
As I said Freddy wanted to sign me, and at the time Baby Records was the most dynamic record company in Italy, and I knew that I couldn't sign with a wholesaler. I needed a good record company who would invest on promotion and on a video. Baby was my first choice. I went to Milan, Freddy asked me "Can you dance ?" I said "No". He frowned.Then said "What will you do in front of the TV camera ?". I said : " I won't" move a muscle. I want the camera to look in my eyes" He started sweating. Then he said:"You're crazy..." I left the building with my first record deal an hour later !! Hehehe....
Did you met other Baby records artists, like Joe Yellow,
La Bionda...? I am trying to gather as many information as I can about other
italo disco artists so I hope you can understand why I am asking you this ?!
No, sorry. I met La Bionda but much later .. The other artists I met at Baby Records were people like Pupo, Toto Cutugno and Ricchi e Poveri...
When did you leave Baby Records and why ? I guess that's
happend in 1985 when you set up your own company Lunatic?
After the army, I realized that Freddy was not interested in me as an artist with perspective... Basically as soon as I'd flop a record I'd be put in the back. So even if it was the hard way, I chose my independence. Also Freddy didn't want to work with Pierluigi and offered me to cooperate with Chieregatto and Turatti whom I didn't know at the time except from a demo of what was going to be USSR sung by Eddy Huntington. The song was not bad, but it was not in my musical direction.
I wonder, Lunatic is your song released for Baby Records
in 1983 and you set up Lunatic S. r. l. in 1985, two years later. Did Baby Records
allow you to use the name of the song you released under their label ? What
I wanna ask, it's about copyrights, how things going in that filed ? Did you
"own" rights on all your songs (names, lyrics, production etc.) and
later you can use it in a way you want ?
Well... Lunatic was my intellectual property. No one could have stopped me from using the name for the company unless there already was another company with the same name.
You co-wrote song Dolce Vita for Ryan Paris. This song became
huge hit as well as I Like Chopin and still today we can here this song play
on various radio stations around the world ?
Yeah! It was supposed to be in my first album (actually I thought it was a good follow up to Masterpiece because they talked about the movie scenes. Hollywood and Cinecittà) but Freddy didn't like it. Nobody's perfect he he he... It was a good idea and it came to me while I was reading a gossip magazine. I called Pierluigi and he had this cool bass line. And there you go :-)
Could you tell me about you co-operation with Ryan Paris
? Who is Ryan Paris ? I know so little about him, so if you could tell me in
a few words something about him ?
Ryan Paris (Fabio Roscioli) was a friend of ours. When Baby turned the song down we looked around He was tall, good looking, blue eyes (Italian girls love blue eyes) and could sing. His accent wasn't perfect but that didn't prevent Dolce Vita to reach n°1 in UK !! He's a nice chap and as far as I know lives in Germany now.
Could you tell me more about your co-work, if there was,
with some other italo disco artists from the 80's ? Here I particulary mean
on Roberto "Savage" Zanetti (I and other people think that you both
have many things in common, in musical way of course, we could say that you
are good friends, melancolic melodies, similiar in a very nice way). Also I
mean on P. Lion?
P. Lion is a very good friend and I think he's a really nice person. We worked together in 2000 on a Happy Children remix and have always planned on doing something together (a Blues Brothers band with Albert One !) I know Roberto from the 80'. But have never worked with him. He's had a very busy period with his successful productions.
In some of mine previous interviews with Tom Hooker, P.
Lion, Eddy Huntington, they all said how great and very professional producer/artist
you are ! Do you like when you get great critics from your professional colleagues
Who doesn't ! It's very nice to meet these guys and talk about each others adventures. Someone should write a book !! As far as professionality. I can't judge. I know I've made mistakes in my career but I always tried to be sincere and honest towards myself and the others. Maybe that paid off.
As I like to say that italian disco music of the 80's is
part of my soul and style of my living, I would like to know what do you think
about that period ? You don't have to tell me nice things if you don't think
about that period nice !?
The 80' have been quite peculiar. People are nostalgic because the world (at least the occidental world) had fewer major problems, people were making money, were enjoying life. Maybe a bit superficially. Then came the 90' with Saddam and the war in ex Jugloslavia (of which you know much better unfortunately) and the financial situation shaking. And one tries to remember the good times. The 80' were definitely the era of "plastic".
In every interview I ask artist about his favorite italo
disco song and artist. So, could you tell me who were your best ?
I'm embarassed because I very rarely listen to Italo disco and I feel very ignorant compared to specialists like you ! I was more into English new wave at the time. Amongst the Italians I've always liked Another Life by Kano and of course Happy Children by P.Lion.
You were going on various concerts around Italy and Europe
in those years and you met other italo disco artists. I guess you had great
and funny time or it was just strictly business?
Fun time only ! Except for one that I won't name who turned to be a real idiot. I discovered in the studio that he didn¹t originally even sing his own songs !!
I am pretty sure on which name you mean ! I can ask you
to read my interview with Tom Hooker. Tom Hooker was straightforward and said
the name. Although I think we, fans, always knew what was going on. Yes, very
disappointing for many fans. To cover something like that, studios needed some
sort of "skills", I suppose. Also, maybe in the 80s, it was easier
to cover up from any negative publicity, or hide some secrets, because media
were not so "big". Nowadays it has become practicly impossible, or
maybe it is still possible ? What do you think ?
Well .. I'm sure there are still a lot of "fakes" around. Nowadays digital technology can do miracles, believe me :-)) It's harder to find. But there are still many mediocre singers who sound great on their records.
Italo Disco videos were rare, and lots of artists didn't
made videos. In one way it's understandable, because of the style of italo disco,
here I mean on fact that one "voice" had lots of pseudonyms. Did you
like to make videos ?
Well, I enjoyed it. We went to London and worked like if it was a movie set. It was cool, the video is in my opinion (I Like Chopin by director David Rose) very, very nic,e and still many fans ask me if the love affair was between the two girls or between me and each of them. Very intriguing :-) I think the real reason for which many Italo artists didn¹t make videos is because it was very expensive at the time and the wholesalers (who produced 90% of italo dance) didn't think in terms of promotion and marketing. It was a new thing at the time and you had to go to London if you wanted something decent.
Very intriguing indeed :-) So, what was your answer regarding
fan's question? :-)
I can't answer for two reasons :
1. I don't know! (it's a free interpretation), in real life I can tell you I was with the brunette (Sheryl Stevens - she is on the cover of the first album too) and the blonde on the set was very interesting. And very interested too :-))) Real is more than fantasy sometimes.
2. Even if I did know. I can't spoil my fan's curiosity they must remain with this doubt!
Today, nine albums are
behind you ! Also, a nice number of songs. I believe you are very satisfied!?
Also, could you tell me which songs are your favourites ? :-)
Nine? I thought they were 8 (6 plus the double compilation) ! Hmm maybe someone used my name and my pictures but used someone else's voice ! Well…My favourites are : Masterpiece, Lotus Girl, Alice In Wonderland, Waterland, 14th Of July and Fire.
Ooops. My mistake, Gazebo.
Sorry. But it wouldn't be nothing strange if something like that happend. For
instance Anfradno "Koto" Maiola had that experience with the Dutch
producer Michele van der Kuy. Did you know about that ? :-)
No, sorry as I said. I'm not an Italo specialist. I never heard of either.
It takes a lots of energy
to work on every album and song, so please tell me how you look on your work
in past and today ?
In the past it was different, there was a team, every decision was taken together, there were many arguings (too many in the end) but at least in the beginning we had good results. After Univision I decided to change the team because it wasn't creative and productive anymore. Now I do nearly everything by myself, from writing the song to the final mix. It's very heavy but I need to make sure I'm happy with the result.
Do you accept critics
and do critics have influence on your work ?
I used to be very careful about people's feedback but I soon learned that sometimes I was just losing time as we would normally end up using the first solutions. I like to call in DJs for additional versions but MY version has to remain as such.
Could you tell me someting
about names you are producing ?
I just finished Ardit Gjebrea's new album. He is a very fine artist from Albania and I've worked with him since 1991.
When you are producing
someone, do you allow the singer to be involved in the process of creation of
song or you just want his or her vocal ?
It depends on the song, on the singer and on the situation. Ardit for example writes his own songs and does that very well indeed.
How would you call the
style of music you are producing today and do you miss 80's sound ?
Well... I think I can call what I do now Pop Music. I like the 80's sound and I noticed there's a certain comeback to that sound :-)
Apart from Lunatic,
you built up Cresus Enterprises company. Why ?
Lunatic was a production company and a studio. With Cresus I wanted to build a publishing catalog. Now they're reunited under Softworks.
Gazebo, as I know you worked with one band from Bosnia and Herzegovina ? I know it sounds strange but if we know you worked with one singer, Ardit Gjebrea, from Albania, it shouldn't sounds strange. How come you worked with them?
Well, Plavi Orkestar (that was the band) was doing very well at the time and I met them one day at the Jugoton offices in Zagreb. Jugoton was releasing Univsion and so they asked me if I would help the guys on a song. I did. And I enjoyed the experience I wonder what happened to the members of the band. Now Jugoton is Croatia Records I think. Ardit, as I said before, is a very talented musician from Albania, I met him one day in my studio as he came along an Albanian violinist who came for a session. He asked me if I would arrange a song for him as he wanted to perform at the Tirana Song contest Festival. He had no money. But was so funny I decided to help him out. Now he is by far the best well known singer and performer in his country. For me it is like if I did another I Like Chopin ! I always liked experimenting and I learned so much from these experiences.
I can tell you abut
the guys from Plavi Orkestar, I don't know much, but the singer Sasha moved
to Ljubljana in Slovenia where he continued his musical career (I don't know
how much successful he is). I think that Ante, the blond guy, is in Canada now.
As for the other two guys, the brothers, I think they stayed in Sarajevo. That's
all what I know abot them. And yes, Jugoton is Croatia Records now :-)
I hope they're OK.
I don't know how many
years past but you have been in Croatia. Am I right ? :-)
Well my father worked at the Italian consulate in Zagreb and my mother has Croatian origins. I used to come to Croatia during my summer holidays and I even went to the "radna akcija" during the Tito era and worked and sweated :-)) I think one of my first romantic affairs was with a beautiful croatian girl in a corn field. Back in the seventies...
Wow! It is so interesting
what you said. I am glad your mother has Croatian origins. You know, I have
to say, recently I have read book about Divine, an actor and HiNRG singer, his
mother was named Vukovic, very similiar name as mine (Vujkovic) so I was suprised
and I guessed her origins are from here as well. Interesting! :-) Can you tell
me do you remember the name of that young girl, from corn fild? :-) Maybe she
will read this interiew ?! You never know.
Jeez... I was only 16 at the time. And that was long ago. I really don't remember her name. It was Vesna maybe but I'm not sure. In any case I used to be nicknamed "Yuppy Du" from a Celentano t.shirt I used to wear all the time. Maybe she could remember. I have a photo somewhere (with the Jugoslavian flag) if I find it I will scan it and send it to you :-))
I believe you are very
satisfied with your career because you have achieved huge success. However is
there anything that you would like to change or what is your goal in the coming
Well, of course looking back you can always judge better. Considering my temperament I think I can consider myself quite lucky. I managed not to harm myself as much as I could have!! I have worked with outstanding people without whom I would have never achieved these results. I would like to finally come back with a mature album with songs that don't have to fit in any stereotype and to be able to tour with real musicians...
On which project you
working these days ?
I'm working on some new songs. I feel I could make my fans a nice surprise this year :-))
Do you wish to work with someone you didn't work before with ?
I tried hard to convice Freddy to work with Trevor Horn but the man was booked years ahead ! I'd love to be able to produce a record calling in my favourite musicians (too many to mention) but it would involve a huge budget!
Can you tell me something
about your personal life ? What can you share with me and other fans?
As I said I'm a lucky man, I've had many things in life, a great career and a beautiful family.. I can't ask for more. I am the breakfast boy in our house and I wake everybody up, make sure they are ok and then I go downstairs in my studio where I stay normally all day long (except for the coffee breaks) I still need that "trance" status I get in when I write a song. I close my eyes and let the music flow in my brain cells. It's my drug :-))
Do you have any message
for your fans ?
I would really love to meet them ALL. I did a concert in Finland recently and the fans were so passionate I though they were my family. It's such a strong relationship. I hope this dream comes true sometime !
Gazebo, thank you very
much for this interview. It means a lot to me personally ! I wish you great
success ahead and joyful life !
It's my pleasure Zeljko, all the best to you too. Bok druze!! :-))
Paul Mazzolini MD
© Zeljko Vujkovic - 2004