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Maurizio Boco

Interview with Maurizio Boco
From "Percussioni"

A lecturer at the prestigious Music University of Rome, active in the rock, progressive and fusion music world, a valued side-man for TV productions, Maurizio Boco is known to our most loyal readers for the successful series of lessons published on Percussioni magazine. He is also known to many other fans who have learnt the double drum technique with his videos. With a second video about to be launched and other great projects looming, Maurizio is keen to shell the label stuck to him following the publication of the video 'Rivolgersi alle casse', of an incredible drummer, but who only specialises in one genre. This is also why he has come to have a chat with us at the newspaper and here's what we talked about:

Percussioni: Maurizio, I think our readers know you mostly through the well acclaimed teaching lessons published on Percussioni and more indirectly through publicity from your didactic videos. Can you give us a more detailed picture of your artistic personality?
Maurizio Boco: Of course! I'd say that my music career started with tours and working with pop and light music artists. I could mention a few such as Mimmo Locasciulli, Amii Stewart, Patty Pravo and others who are part of the first half of my career as a musician. At the same time, I went off on a tangent which deviated from commercial music. These days seeing famous musicians such as Christian Meyer, Alfredo Golino and a lot of other colleagues doing their own thing is not a big deal. When I started fifteen years ago, I also wanted to experiment with new and more innovative styles. We're talking of pieces which you can't find on the market; I could mention a CD by Dino Kappa Project, of fusion music, or the first album by Fabio Mariani with Digital Connection. Their music is much more diverse than what Italian music offers. Not that I'm criticising Italian music, actually it has recently changed a lot, at least on a technical level, perhaps because it has followed various international tendencies. Going back to my story, I've continued to work in the world of light music; I could mention the work I've done in Fabio Frizzi's orchestra where we are busy producing the sound tracks for television programmes, films, TV films etc. At the same time I'm involved in other projects which are totally different. Recently I produced a CD for Tony Carnevale, a very ambitious project where rock is mixed with ethnic and classical music. If we want to label it we could call it progressive, but perhaps it goes beyond that. There is a real symphonic orchestra, ethnic instruments and brilliant musicians such as Massimo Carrano and Piero Fortezza. The CD is ready, I just hope we don't have problems with the distribution...

P: Is this because these products are hard to label into a specific category and the distributor might not know under which category to promote them?

Maurizio Boco: That's right. This last project is really interesting even if I shouldn't say so myself, specially from a rhythmical point of view: polyrhythmic, odd tempos, in one word - research. Often those who research, even at high levels like Terry Bozzio, face the problem of inserting the work they do at home into a musical context. Bozzio as well as Simon Philips are two of the greatest sources of inspiration, but while the latter's style can be easily classified, Bozzio's is more complex. So much so that in the last few years he has put most of his efforts into producing video cassettes. He might record two albums a year, whereas some drummers produce two hundred. Modesty apart, compared to others, I can say that my work is also difficult to classify. Tony's production could be one of those labelled 'ad hoc', because he gave me the go ahead and the music allowed this kind of approach. I've used the most important piece of the record in my video, using the original mix of the CD, taking out the drums and replaying it live. And to round up my musical career I'd like to mention the pedagogical side which includes the didactic videos, but the most important aspect is teaching at the Music University of Rome which began when the University was opened approximately 10 years ago.

P: Let's step back a little, before starting your career as a musician, what musical training did have? I've asked you this question because I wouldn't say you're a born pop music drummer, but also to discussed further the subject of research which you mentioned earlier, how did you get into researching?

Maurizio Boco: It's true that I don't consider myself a pop music drummer, but like many others who live off this work, I do it and therefore I try to enjoy it. As far as my qualifications are concerned they are fairly diversified and I don't think they are even very original; I come from the rock of the 70s, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Genesis etc., moving on to the jazz and jazz-fusion of the 80s.

P.: Did you study in the 'traditional' way, with the help of a teacher, or are you more the self--taught kind of person?
MB: Actually, since I was a teenager I've always wanted to be a musician. The problem is that I began my studies quite late, partly because I didn't want to start a family feud.After finishing high school at 18, and doing my military service, I could very well have said 'god it's too late now', but I decided to give it a go. I suppose that I was conscious of the fact that it's never too late, but at the same time I knew that I was no spring chicken...

P.: Let's talk about this aspect which might be of interest to our readers? A boy of 14 or 15 might be put off by reading in the biographies of the 'top drummers' that they have been practising ever since they were four, five, or six years old. They might think that they are too old...

Maurizio Boco: That's true. However, far too often the age component is used as an excuse. The fact is that an alternative does exist, but it's a tough one. If you can start when you're very young, you're lucky because that means that you have a supporting family and that your musical growth will be gradual and enjoyable. As regards my personal experience, for more than two years I lived in a cellar, not even a comfortable one, where I would spend something like six, eight or even ten hours a day, summer months included'I'd spare only a couple of weeks to avoid going mad'..Those who have a late start, will almost certainly have to go through all of this, so I suppose it's much easier to say: 'God, It's too late..

P.: Let's get back to your studies.

Maurizio Boco: For two years I took private lessons with Fabio Marconcini, to whom I'll always be grateful... He has been a true Master, with capital M, for lots of drummers and colleagues. Take Ettore Fioravanti for example, I think it was him who recommended Fabio to me. I had contacted Ettore for private lessons because everybody considered him to be an extraordinary musician . Yet, he told me: 'Maurizio, at this stage you don't need me, you need somebody who can give you a complete technical background'. I'll be forever grateful to both of them. Being a classical drummer, Fabio was able to teach me the basics and now I can do my own thing: drum, technique, hands, reading. As for listening, I've always listened to many different genres, so that after this initial stage, I began to experiment. I wanted to find out where I could go from Fabio's teachings. Obviously, nobody is ever going to tell you in which direction you should go, otherwise it wouldn't be a true experiment would it? You're given the basics, the rudiments, the military marches, the jazz for the independence of the limbs, Latin rhythms. I don't think that the path to follow is that new/original. In theory, you could always stray from it and break new ground, but in practice this doesn't happen very often, partly because it's very difficult for new trends to emerge within the Italian musical context...It's what we were saying before...

P.: Could you tell us in which of your recordings or pieces of music you have succeeded to experiment within a 'traditional' or commercial context? Which experiments are of your own making?
Maurizio Boco: I prefer to tell you an anecdote instead, also because I've not produced much Italian pop music. Last year Fabio Frizzi called me to record the opening sound track of Miss Italia, I think it was for RAI 1 television. It was an extremely classical orchestra piece, with funky-rock rhythms and a shuffle beat already set by computer. Fabio said I could do whatever I wanted and during the recording I chose to put in a particular flourish on the hi-hat. Take for example Dennis Chamber's tight executions on the hi-hat, or more recently that of the drummer Carter Beauford of Dave Matthews's band. Things you wouldn't normally hear within this context. One week later, with the post-production stage over, Fabio Frizzi called me to congratulate me on that flourish, saying it was brilliant, fantastic...the very flourish he hadn't noticed during the recording. When I listened to it as it was coming out from the TV set, I thought that it was a truly original thing. Honestly. Then again, it happens quite often that Frizzi who knows that I use the double drums and, for practical reasons, the double pedal, invites me to do some creative stuff in the fill, something that is 'of my own making', as you would say. Over here we practice very often a sort of self-censorship, whereas in the US if they choose a musician, they do it precisely for his characteristics.

P.: Talking about the double drums, or the double pedal and considering your first didactic video 'Rivolgersi alle casse', aren't you scared for being labelled a musician who is too much of an expert on a single specific subject that can only play a single genre?
Maurizio Boco: Yes, that risk does exist ...and I have a good one to tell you about that. Last year I was at the Instruments Fair of Rimini representing Casale Bauer, Mapex's distributor. Ellade Bandini, who was also there as endorser for Pearl, came to see me during a break, even though I had never met him before. Anyway, after listening to my demo he started to clap enthusiastically and just as I was about to thank him he said: 'Maurizio, I'm impressed by what you've just done and I'm happy to have listened to you. Now I know that what you do is music...I had quite wrongly imagined that all you could do was hard rock or heavy metal.' And that was also thanks to the bases I was using, which were mine. The fact that some people think that I can only play one genre, though a very enjoyable one, comes from the expression 'hard and heavy' featuring, not just for commercial reasons, on the video cover. Encouraged by the popularity of my courses at the Music University, what I'd like to do is introduce the didactic element where people don?t actually know what's meant by the term didactic. And I'm not talking only of the drum. In rock, there are those who pretend to be teachers, when in fact they haven't got a clue of what teaching means. Considering the type of set used, a very big one with double drums, and the subject, it's normal that many people looked at my first video as a teaching method valid only for specific genres, but that is by no means true. It's time we stopped putting labels on people....Who is somebody like Greg Bissonette? A heavy metal player, a rocker, a latin-fusion drummer? Or Bozzio, or Deen Castronovo?.The same thing happened to Simon Phillips who started his career as a drummer for Judas Priest, a heavy metal group. As for me, I hope that my new video will spell things out/straighten things out.

P.: Let's talk about 'Ciak, si suona'. In what ways does it differ from the first video?

Maurizio Boco: First of all, it's entirely instrumental. In the first one there were some exercises, it was only me playing the drum and the click, apart from a sort of ending sound track with a guitar player. This one is completely instrumental, even though due to various limitations, such as budget and shooting, the musicians don't appear on video. But all the bases I use are 'played', recorded by real musicians and not by computer. There are six pieces in total, starting with the symphonic rock of Tony Carnevale's piece of which we were talking earlier on, to latin-fusion; there is also a piece of metal, very fast, in Steve Vai's style with original rhythmic experiments. There is a new age piece and another one with only drums, but always in style, with a sequence of percussion in the background, which I use when I talk about improvisation. A bit of everything apart from jazz of which I believe there are better players. Besides, I didn't want to write the entire Encyclopaedia of the drum. At the end of each piece I explain the most important passages of what I've just played, what can be explained, because there are a lot of improvised themes, which simply cannot be explained.

P.: Whom is this second video meant for? To whom would you recommend it?

Maurizio Boco: While the first video was completely useless to a drummer who didn't have the double drums or the double pedal, I'd say that it could also be of interest to those who have enjoyed Phillips, Bozzio and Aronoff's works. I'm talking about the type of set used; I'm not trying to draw unrealistic parallels. In any case, it's not meant for beginners. The title, 'Ciak si suona', was chosen precisely to mean: 'Ok with the studies, now let's get down to playing'.

P.: Do you have other projects looming, something which might see you involved as a leader?

Maurizio Boco: The record industry in Italy it's not at its best at the moment. Two years ago I had a band called 'MaMa' and we tried to go down that road. The kind of music we did was a fusion between rock and light music; we even recorded a single produced by 'I Piloti' and distributed by Ricordi, a major music company, but nothing came out of it. The producers introduced us at the last edition of Sanremo, but it's very difficult to go through the selection process with a rock project, especially if in the judging commission there are people like Boncompagni... As critical with yourself as you might be, often you can't help thinking that you were born in the wrong place. However, for the time being, I'm not thinking about a band with me as a leader. In the near future, during the next spring and summer, I'll be doing demos for Mapex in music schools and instruments shops.

P.: Would you like to describe your 'monumental' set?

Maurizio Boco: For the last video I used the last Mapex production, an Orion Maple, made obviously of maple; two 24"drums, tom of 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18 and a 'small', bronze snare of the Black Panther series, placed on the left of the normal maple snare. Normally, I also use a circular rack system to avoid having too many rods, lots of plates Ufip Bionic with some Experiences, four crashes of different size, one ride, two hi-hat, one on the left and the other on the right, and two 22" and 18"china. On the right, I also place some effects, a bell and a splash with an up-turned bell inside. You can bet it's a monumental set and I think it's going to be a nightmare in clubs. However it's not just meant to be spectacular, I always use every single bit of it.

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