Visiting Ciccilleju of Apocalypse Design
A Travelling Prophet of Hugi
It was high noon. The hot subtropical sun was shining on me when I was walking down the main street in a small town called Oppido Mamertina, located in the extreme south of Italy, the region of Calabria. Quite a few people were in the street that was bordered with pines, moving rather hectically. The buildings I passed by were made of various materials, mostly stone, solid and plates.
Finally I reached the place where we had agreed to meet: San Stefano's, a typical small pizza ristorante located in the basement of a rather old building apparently made of stone. I sat down on a place near the entrance, took a newspaper and carefully watched the people in the ristorante. I esimated their average age to be around 25. Most of them were not sitting by a table alone but with several other people, possibly friends, loudly chatting and gesticulating.
Suddenly a fairly young man about my age approached me. "You Adok?" he asked in his deep voice. "Yes, and you are..." - "Francesco De Giorgio, also known as Ciccilleju!" - "Exactly, it's you. Nice to meet you. Come on, sit down here."
I ordered two pizza margharitas for us. While
waiting for the waiter, he asked me about my impressions of southern Italy. Before I managed to finish a sentence, he interrupted me: "You know, life is like the same every day... Here you have to make your amusements... You have to be creative!" "So you started tracking, right?" I asked. "Right", he said. "When I was 12 I began with the first Fast Tracker... with my 386 and without a Sound Blaster... I made my music with the speaker... Later my daddy bought a 486 DX4 100 with a Soundblaster 16 for my pleasure... yeah!!!!" "I can imagine this made you very happy", I said. "My first PCs only had a PC speaker, too, but as I mostly learned coding on them at that time I didn't really mind. For a musician being without a soundcard must be difficult... But well, I didn't want to interrupt you - what happened next?"
"My friend, VkM78, gave me Fast Tracker II and so... since that day I tracked 2-3 hours a day... Today I still use Fast Tracker II, and I think it is the best!" The words came out of his mouth like bullets. Then he sighed. "Ah, if Vogue could only make a win95 version with real time effects..."
At this very moment the door flung open. A young, pretty lady entered the ristorante, accompanied by several men. We quickly glanced at each other. It seemed she was smiling at me, so I greeted her with a nod. Ciccilleju softly hit me with his elbow and said in a low voice: "Know who this lady is? It's the daughter of il patrone di Calabria." - "Ah well, I see. But let's continue the interview..."
"Now I'm trying to use some midi shit, but, who cares? I have to learn... but I'm too lazy!" said Ciccilleju, while I started furtively glancing at the lady, until he suddenly demanded: "Hey, next question!" - "Ah yeah... Well... So, what kind of music do you make?" After a short break, he bursted out: "I make various styles of music... mainly dance/commercial music, but I also make disco 70/80, Demostyle, chiptunes... Right now I'm trying to do create an orchestral piece.... I prefer dance music. Some people say that dance sucks, but who cares?! I like artists like DaftPunk, Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, Moby, Casino Royale, Dance-progressive producer Gigi D'Agostino... more than 15 singles... all hits!!!!! But I've heard all styles of music from 70's disco to rock, from classical to gabba..."
"Hello, next question!" Ciccilleju had to remind me once again. "Ah, yes. Don't worry, I've a tape recorder along with me so everything will be logged automatically... Do you play any 'real' music instrument, too?" Quickly he replied, grinning, "This january I bought a keyboard, Yamaha Dj-X... this is my first instument... I'm just learning to play it now... take care!"
"Good luck", I said, "it surely won't be a problem for you. I also know how to play the piano and keyboard although I'm anything but a musician. Let's move to your relationship with the demoscene... how did you enter it?" "I heard about it in an IRC channel...", said Cic. "I was a musician, but I wasn't involved in the demoscene at first... After I discovered #demo-ita and so, I learnt something about it..." He grinned. "I was no scenial musician", he concluded, grinning once again.
"I see... But, isn't there a local demoscene in your area?" I inquired, probably sounding somewhat naive. Ciccilleju was quick to respond: "In the south, there is no demoscene..., like in almost every part of Italy... unfortunately... We are only a couple of guys... Me and VkM78 in Calabria, and in Sicilia RamRod, Crono, Gdj... We are the only sceners here!"
But he obviously had so much enthusiasm for the scene that at the age of 15, he did something he now calls "too crazy". "I packed my bags and went to Florence alone with my PC... There was the last Italian Party... TriP 1999... one of my best experiences... It was a so beautiful sensation... I met DiXan, Surfing, Not and all the most important sceners..." Then all of a sudden he exclaimed: "I like the scene!!!", only to pause and continue in a low, sad voice: "But, in my eyes the scene is dead... really... at least the Italian scene!"
"Well, as far as I know some Italian groups like RamJam are still pretty active. And maybe new people will join the scene, just like you", I tried to comfort him. "How did your own story in the scene continue?"
"I joined some compo and achieved very good positions", Ciccilleju was very quick to tell. "At TriP I ranked 5th in the mod and 7th in the multichannel compo. At The Party 9 I ranked 14th of about 150, then I joined the Mekka multichannel compo, became 95th/1500 in the Discotheque compo of Trax in space... 9th place in the Halloween compo of Trax in space... 6th place at Spoletium 2 in Italy etc..."
Then it became really interesting: "Some months ago a dance producer discovered me and asked me to do something for his dance label... I accepted and now, I'm just finishing my works... I hope to complete it for this summer..."
"Wow!" I exclaimed, but he was not finished with his list: "I also made music for Hugi, for Apocalypse Design demos, for Ritaul demos, for Composita's resultro, the Italian fast music compo and I also produced hip hop beats with Turi & Compari, one of the best Italian hip hop groups..." "Simply great", I heard myself saying, while my glance was actually still fixed on something else. "Especially considering you're just a tad older than me! You became 17 in May, to be precise on the 26th of May, right?" I added.
"Yes", he confirmed, when the waiter finally brought us the pizzas. "Mamma mia, an original Italiano pizza from a stove! Molto romantico!" I exclaimed. Ciccilleju bursted out in laughter at my Italian knowledge. "But that's not all", I added. "When I look at this bella ragazza..." Again I smiled into the direction of the young lady.
We began to eat the pizzas. When I had finished a quarter of mine, Ciccilleju asked: "Do you have any other question?
"Hmmm... maybe I should ask you some standard questions on tracking?" - "Sure, start..."
"Okay, so, how long do you spend on a track?" After thinking a little, Ciccilleju said: "Usually, the minimal time I use to track a song is one week... the max is a month... But, in those last days, I don't have a lot of spare time... So, I need too much time to track my songs!"
"When you start making a song, what are your main sources of inspiration?" - "I don't have a source of inspiration, but, when I like a piece of music and feel the flow in it, something pulls into me... and gives me the inspiration." He laughed.
"And the most difficult part in making a track?" His answer was clear: "The most difficult part is the melody... and sometimes the musical arrangement."
"A last one, what do you dislike in tracked modules or the tracking technology itself?" Now I had managed to make Ciccilleju a bit hesistant: "I don't know what making a song with Midi is like, but, mhm... who used tracker and after Midi... Shit, I don't find the words!" He started again: "For example, working with FT2, I have to use Cool Edit in order to clean a sample, Goldwave for cutting off frequencies and so on..." "So MIDI offers more?" I asked. "People say so...", the tracker musician replied. "A tracker is not sufficient, but it can do good music anyway! I see Gigi D'Agostino at work... He works with midi... logic audio... But he also uses a lot of synthesizers, keyboards and lots of fuckin' shit!" Ciccilleju laughed out loud. "I see, he uses many tools. With a tracker, you don't use so many tools. So there is a different relation between the 'input' - the tools - and the 'output' - your tune", the amateur, me, tried to summarize Ciccilleju's thoughts. "Ehehe", he answered. "The more tools you have the better the tune will be. But you must know your tools."
Meanwhile I had finished my pizza. Cic, of course, was almost finished as well. The difference just came from the fact that he had talked more. "Got another question?" Ciccilleju asked. I thought a bit. "Hmmm... no. It seems like everything is covered."
In this moment a tall man with broad shoulders approached us. "Signores", he said, "signorina Bianca would like you to go to her table and chat with you a little bit." It was one of the men who had accompanied the young lady. I understood...
After these exciting days in Calabria I returned to Hugi island with the interview. The time I had spent in Bella Italia will not be easy to forget.
Of course the story is fictional, but the interview is real. Everything in italics has really been said, or rather written, by Ciccilleju. Also real is Ciccilleju's page at Traxinspace.
Adok/Hugi - 03 Aug 2000