Exploring creative depths with Stefano Panunzi: delving into “Pages From The Sea”

Stefano Panunzi, the creative force behind Fjieri and known for collaborations with musical luminaries, has recently unveiled his latest sonic masterpiece, “Pages From The Sea”. With a lineup including esteemed artists like Jakko Jakszyk, Mick Karn, Gavin Harrison, and more, Panunzi’s musical evolution has reached new heights. Extramusic caught up with Panunzi to delve into the depths of his creative process, focusing on the inspiration and intricacies behind his captivating new album.

Your compositions are intricate and rich. What are your main sources of inspiration when you create your music?

There is almost never a precise source of inspiration for my compositions, often it is more the necessity to create atmospheres, sonic fluids, where I can find the state of mind of the moment and begin an as yet undefined journey. It was only in this last album, “Pages From The Sea”, that I had the desire to talk about the sea, about its great capacity to always surprise me, to be able to evoke memories, visions, sensations… So I decided that it would be the main theme through which to tell stories, dreams, loves, disappointments…

You’ve collaborated with several high-caliber musicians on this album. How did you select the artists involved, and how did they influence your creative process?

I have always had very respectable and prestigious musicians at my side, both in my solo albums and in the two albums of the Fjieri project, by the way ‘Words Are All We Have Reloaded’ will be out in January. Undoubtedly, their personalities contribute to making the songs more meaningful, more impeccable, full of pathos. When one approaches the song in tune and after an exchange of opinions on how to work, the result is always satisfying, if not optimal. How can one not be fascinated by the voice and lyrics of Jakko M Jakszyk of King Crimson or Tim Bowness (No Man) or Robby Aceto (David Sylvian)? Or by the timing of drummers like Gavin Harrison, Pat Mastelotto, both King Crimson, without taking anything away from my Italian friends?

Your music is often described as ‘lush’ and ‘progressive’. How do you develop your soundscapes, and how do you balance the instruments to achieve that distinctive sound?

Undoubtedly it all depends on your musical taste, your background and style, what is closest to your heart. I always look for a great balance of sounds, where there is no confusion but a pleasant soundscape, where there is always something to discover on the next listen, I like the listener is never satisfied on the first approach. Several factors led me to this choice of sound, the prevalent use of electronic keyboards, pads and virtual instruments, an education in classical music, then new wave and ambient, and finally being in the wake of Richard Barbieri, whom I adore in his elegance and refinement in researching sounds.

Do you have a favorite track on this album? What’s the story behind the creation of that specific piece?

I will try to dwell on just one track even if each of them has a special meaning. “Those Words (Words Are All We Have)” touched me inside. When the song was born, there was a long exchange of ideas with Jakko M Jakszyk, the singer and author of lyrics. We were both aware that words sometimes are lacking or they are unable to completely describe certain events, certain strong and disruptive emotions, even if they are the only things we have: “… Those words are scant recompense for the things he feels and where his future went… but… Words are all we have…”.

Influences from artists like David Sylvian, Mark Isham, and David Torn can be noted in your music. Who have been your major musical influences throughout your career?

Certainly all of them have been points of reference, examples, like so many groups from the 70s and 80s that I have eaten up… Music full of emotions, content and artistic values, research into sound, and while all of this used to be the norm, nowadays the norm is something else entirely… Today I see a flattening of musical personality, and everything that is lacking in the depths of the artist is replaced by aesthetic or provocative eccentricity, bordering on the freak show. Then you hear their voices, so standardised, they sound as if they were mass-produced from a mould. And then we want to talk about the arrangements – when they are there?

What was it like working with Jakko Jakszyk, and how did you decide to involve him in the vocal aspect of this project?

Having had other excellent collaborations in the past from British musicians such as Mick Karn, Tim Bowness, Richard Barbieri, Gavin Harrison, Theo Travis, it was easier to contact and involve Jakszyk in my projects, being a mutual friend of all of them. He had also not yet joined King Crimson, when he participated in ‘Words Are All We Have’ (2015), Fjieri’s second album, from which I took ‘Not Waving, But Drowning’ and ‘Those Words’ which I reworked for my ‘Pages From The Sea’. For the record, Jakko also used two tracks from Fjieri and included them on his 2020 ‘Secrets & Lies’.

Could you share a bit about your production process? How do you structure your recording sessions, and how do you approach post-production?

The ideas are born at home and are later assembled at Fabio Fraschini’s Play Rec Studio, where I mainly record drums and trumpet; Fabio is also the bass player on some tracks. While the mastering is done at Luca Fareri’s LFS studio.

Do you have any particular reflections on the ‘Pages from the Sea’ album? Is there a central message or theme you wanted to convey through your music?

I live near the sea, I practically visit it almost every day. I even hear it from home when it is big. The contact and presence is strong and you learn to listen to him. What does he say? I don’t know if we mean the use of a known language, with its syntax and phonetics, but he gives you no respite, he enters you little by little, he fills you with sounds, visions and sunsets and in the end you have a lot of ideas, you want to translate what you feel, you feel that you cannot remain silent, you almost have the desire to repay him… and so you create your own sounds, your own visions and your own sunsets to give him… and ‘Pages From The Sea’ is born!

Do you already have future projects or collaborations in mind? What are your musical aspirations for the future?

At the beginning of next year, the reissue of ‘Words Are All We Have’, which I told you about earlier, will be released. The line-up, under the name Fjieri, features myself on keyboards as well as producer, Nicola Lori on guitars and bass, and Jakko M. Jakszyk on guitar and vocals. Also next year should see the release of an album that I am making together with Tim Bowness.

How have you perceived the audience response to ‘Pages from the Sea’? Were there any comments or reactions that particularly stood out to you?

I have to say that I’ve had nothing but positive, even enthusiastic reviews, objectively I can say it’s a beautiful album, it’s not presumptuous, I’m of an age and musical culture that allows me to be objective; just this afternoon a French webzine included ‘Pages From The Sea’ in the best 16 albums of the year and recommended it as a gift to put under the Christmas tree, it must mean something…

If you were to represent Rome through a musical album, what do you think would be its sonic equivalent?

I’ll tell you more! I shot a video of my instrumental track ‘The Sea Woman’ on the dunes and beach where Aeneas landed… anyone who knows history or ancient legends knows who he is because he founded Rome, better than that!

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SERMON – Of Golden Verse

YOU WIN AGAIN GRAVITY – Into the Dancing Blue