In the pneumatic vacuum of pop, Pino D’Angiò is a breath of air

In the pneumatic vacuum of pop, Pino D’Angiò is a breath of air
In the pneumatic vacuum of pop, Pino D’Angiò is a breath of air

Pino D’Angiò is a river: “I have never had a press office. My press office has always been the people. I argued with record companies because I didn’t accept the fact that there was someone to suggest how I should dress, what I should say: they were all people who had a quarter of my culture and 4% of my intelligence. It was the people who made me a cult artist. If it had been for CBS and EMI, I would never have become Pino D’Angiò: they only financed fucking international stars. Yet I won 9 Gold Records. And I am the only Italian artist featured in the ‘World Tribute to Funk’ DVD, the complete encyclopedia of funk selected by Sony Music. And no one ever noticed. Someone defined me as ‘the dark innovator of Italian music’. I am neither an innovator nor an obscure one. You, fucking journalists, who can’t see beyond your nose, will be blacked out: those of the time only wrote about international artists from multinationals, like the employees they were.” The voice on the other end of the phone is the same as that of “Ma Quale Idea” (the 1981 hit that launched the Campanian artist), only that it is proven by the six operations to which Giuseppe Chierchia – this is the real name of Pino D’ Anjou – had to undergo it over the years due to throat cancer: “Today I sing almost without vocal chords”, explains he, who tonight, at 71 years old, will perform live in Verona on the stage of “Arena Suzuki dai 60 ai 2000 ”, the three-day revival hosted by Amadeus, on TV on Saturday 23rd, Wednesday 27th September and Wednesday 4th October. In the pneumatic vacuum of today’s pop, a character like this is a breath of fresh air.

“But what idea” has 40 million plays on Spotify: when did it become a cult?
“Look, I don’t know.

I only know that thirteen years ago I completely retired, after throat cancer. I had lost my voice. I stopped for eleven years and I was completely disinterested in everything that happened in the music world. I started writing stories and poems. But in the meantime something must have happened that I still can’t explain. And that I couldn’t control: thanks to word of mouth, many of the things I did were discovered by the kids, who hadn’t even been born when I sang ‘But what idea’. I didn’t know anything about all this.”

And how did you find out?
“It happened that a guy started stalking me, even tracking down my son, tracing him back because of his surname. I even found this at home. It was like this for four or five months. He wanted to hear from me. I didn’t let myself be found, I sent my son to talk to him. Then one day my son got fed up: ‘Dad, enough. You talk to us: I can’t take it anymore.’ I spoke to him: ‘Pino, you have to go back to doing shows. But is it possible that you have literally disappeared?’”.

And who was he?
“Tommaso Zucchini, a DJ from Milan. Today he is my manager. I let myself be guided. Three years ago he organized an evening in Milan, at the Apollo: sold out. ‘Let’s do another one,’ he told me. Sold out too. ‘Let’s make a third one’. Guess? The third one is also sold out. So we started having evenings elsewhere too, at the Alcazar in Rome, in Naples. Now I no longer know where I sleep, where I eat. They carry me around like a spinning top (laughs). And this evening I’m in Verona at Amadeus, who asked me to sing ‘Ma Quale Idea’”.

How did the Pino D’Angiò phenomenon arise?
“By chance. Because I never wanted to be a singer. I was 23 years old. I was a medical student. I left Pompeii, where I was born, to go and attend classes in Siena. To earn a little extra money, in addition to the money they sent me from home, I did cabaret shows saying unlistenable nonsense on the guitar. But people had fun. Strange, people. One day someone approached me and gave me a note: ‘Come and visit me in Milan’. His name was Ezio Leoni. He was Mina’s producer, but I discovered him years later.”

“Nothing, goodbye and thank you. A few years later I moved from Siena to Milan. I still had that note. I called him. ‘It took him a long time to come and see me,’ he told me. We met in his office. ‘D’Angiò, can he make me listen to those things he did in Siena?’. I played them back to him, even a little embarrassed. He asked me: ‘Does he want to make a record?’”.

And you?
“Put yourself in the shoes of an away student who is asked to make a record. At the time, moreover, there was a lot of money in the record industry. I accepted. And in a hurry too. And so in 1979 the 45 rpm single ‘Es libero, excuse me? / Mephistopheles’ workshop. He won a competition organized by free radio, but it was a resounding flop. Yes, some radios passed it. But he ended up there. And I thought my recording career was over too.”

And instead?
“After seven months that Leoni called me back. He wanted to talk to me: ‘We have to come to an agreement, we need to look for some songs because we’ve decided that you have to make an LP’. I thought, ‘This is crazy.’ But I decided to follow him in his follies. So it was that in 1981 we put together ‘Balla’, the album of ‘Ma Quale Idea’. After three months they called me from Ri-Fi, the label that released the album: ‘We have to go and promote it in France, Brazil, Argentina, Spain’. I didn’t understand. ‘What the fuck is going on?’ I thought. From that moment on I didn’t understand anything anymore. I let things happen. I was told by Siae that my songs generate income in 96 countries.”

The vinyl of “Balla!” it’s a rarity: on Discogs there are those who sell it for 2,000 euros.
“What are you saying? People are crazy”.

That style, between singing and speaking, with a sound halfway between Italo disco, funk and a prototype of rap songwriting, has set a precedent: do you know Franco126?

We met a year and a half ago, I think. He told me that he is a fan of mine. She wanted to ask me for permission to record a cover of one of my songs, ‘Gente intelligent’. And he asked me to record the intro of his piece, ‘Scandalo’. I seized the opportunity: we are making a tribute album in which artists from that circuit sing my songs again. I won’t name names, though. It’s still too early to reveal all the details.”

Whose idea was the bass riff of “Ma Quale Idea”, which contributed so much to the success of the song?
“They said I took it from McFadden & Whitehead’s ‘Ain’t no stoppin’ us now’, which came out two years earlier. Bullshits. If you take the two songs and transcribe the notes of the riff onto a sheet of music, do you know how many of them coincide? Three. Stefano Cerri, a phenomenal bassist, and I invented that riff: he came from jazz and was the son, I’m talking about it in the past tense because, unfortunately, Stefano is no longer with us, of the great Franco Cerri. We invented it by humming it, sitting in front of each other: ‘Pa-pa-pa-rappappa…’. We tried and tried again, until finally that riff came out.”

“You are as ugly as a toad at night, but you are rich, so rich and I will never leave you”. And again: “As fat as you are, you climbed on top of my feet and you hurt me so much”, you sang in “As fat as you are”. Today in the era of political correctness could you rewrite it?

Because, fortunately, I am very politically incorrect. I’m the guy who smoked on TV in the 80s. Nobody did it. But what the fuck does ‘politically correct’ mean? I have never conformed to myself and never will. Who fueled this nonsense? Yes, I wrote that song. And I still sing it. Am I offending fat women? Maybe the fat idiots, the ones who don’t have the slightest bit of brains.”

“Run and cook, there’s nothing to eat”, you said in “Make me a sandwich”. Haven’t feminists noticed this yet?
“But real feminists no longer exist. There are only people who ride certain trends to gain publicity, go on TV and talk bullshit.”

Can you tell the story of Mina’s phone call?
“I met her thanks to that Leoni. She said to me: ‘D’Angiò, come to the office with your guitar: I would like Mina to listen to some of your songs’. For me she was the Madonna. I found her with a magazine in her hand, sitting in an armchair. I started singing. She didn’t even look at me, but in the end she thanked me. She didn’t record the song: I don’t even remember which one it was. After about ten years my home phone rang. He answered my wife, because I was out. When I came back she said to me: ‘a certain Mrs. Mazzini called: she was looking for you’. ‘And who is this? I don’t know any Mrs. Mazzini.’ But then she called back. And this time I replied: ‘Should I talk to Pino? I’m Mina’. I would like a piece of yours, ironic, intelligent. I’m making an LP about love.’ I didn’t let it finish. I sent her ‘But who is that guy’, which she recorded in 1987 for the ‘Rane supreme’ album”.

And when Marvin Gaye came to your house for lunch?
“I didn’t even know it was Marvin Gaye. We were doing a show together in the ’80s. He was one of the international guests. We met in the dressing room and this big guy introduced himself as Winnie. I invited him to my house, this Winnie. He wanted me to make him spaghetti. When he was introduced during the program as Marvin Gaye, he shocked me: ‘I’m an asshole.’ I told him, Winnie: ‘But why didn’t you tell me?’ ‘Not for you, not for you…’, he smiled”.

What happened in Sanremo in 1989?
“It happened that the record company Alfredo Gramitto Ricci decided to send me to Sanremo that year. Only I didn’t want to do it and I told him: ‘I don’t give a shit about Sanremo’. He insisted. ‘Okay, let’s go and do this fucking Sanremo’, I resigned myself. I did it reluctantly. I looked around and thought, ‘Fuck you.’ Since I understood that they would eliminate me before the final, I invented a way not to go unnoticed. I faked fainting. Result: the newspapers only talked about me (laughs)”.

How has the illness changed the way you perform?
“The disease has changed your voice, how you hear it. But not my approach. I go on stage to have fun and not to have fun. I don’t give a shit about everything else.”

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