Elevator Man: An Interview with Lorenzo Feliciati
Like much of his music, Italian bassist and composer Lorenzo Feliciati’s new album, Elevator Man, blends his loves of jazz and rock together in an amazing and eclectic way. However, the new release has a decidedly prog-rock flavor that evokes the likes of King Crimson and Allan Holdsworth while remaining entirely fresh. That’s not an accident.
“While a varied stylistic approach is something I always try to achieve, this one has a more clear Prog Rock flavor that was a planned decision,” he explains in the press release. “After [2015’s] KOI, I felt the need to move from the soundtrack-ambient soundscapes attitude that is a crucial ingredient of both KOI and Twinscapes, my duo project with bassist Colin Edwin of Porcupine Tree, to a more songs-oriented project.”
The incredible album features a slew of musicians thanks to Feliciati’s “one song-one lineup” approach. Every track has a different set of musicians tied together by the bassist’s compositions and vision. Artists include King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto, former Holdsworth drummer Chad Wackerman, guitarist Mattias IA Eklundh, guitarist Marco Sfogli, trumpeter Cuong Vu, Feliciati’s Naked Truth bandmate Roy Powell, and more.
We caught up with Feliciati to get the scoop on the new album, working with a diverse cast of musicians, and his advice for up and coming bassists.
What was your writing process like for this album? Do you write on the bass first?
Usually, I start with a sound on keys or a riff on the guitar, not very often I start with bass. Drums are the most inspiring sound for me. When I listen to a drum track I immediately start to compose in my head or with the instrument I have with me at that moment. Elevator Man was composed in three months. I pre-produced all the tracks and then sent the songs to the various guests so to let them be able to cut their contributions.
In the press release, you stated you “felt the need to move from the soundtrack-ambient soundscapes attitude.” What caused you to feel that way?
If you take a look on my solo discography (not to mention all my projects as producer/leader/bass player) you can see that I try to create a different album, with a different idea every time. For me, as an artist, to be surprised from what I am composing is an essential key element. To discover that also if not planned I am moving in a different direction from the previous time is a good sign I am doing well. Usually when I am surprised the people that follow my career will also have the same feeling. It’s always a pleasure to discover from the listeners’ feedback that the fact that I am not doing the same album, again and again, is something highly appreciated! Koi is a very cinematographic/soundtrack album so Elevator Man has been a multi lineup project from day one.
What appeals to you about the one song-one line-up style?
For Elevator Man, during the three months composing period I worked from the first days having in mind the line up of each song and composing having in mind them. Being able to add the magic touch on my music from such a wonderful group of top-class artists is something I am still surprised and amazed by. Why deny this pleasure?
What are the disadvantages of one song-one line up?
The disadvantages are that you must be always 200% focused on every song and always deeply concentrated to have the best results from the different contributors. Considering that I frequently worked a lot on three songs at the same moment, dealing with a heavy fusion solo by Mattias IA Eklundh in the morning switching to the lyrical poetic trumpet solo of Cuong Vu in the afternoon! I am used to that and it’s part of my attitude and style as a producer, but it can be a little bit confusing if you are not very concentrated and focused.
What is the story behind the title “Elevator Man”?
I started to do selfies of myself in the elevator of the house I was living in with family in Rome, [I’d take them] in the most strange situations and post them on Facebook as part of the “Elevator Man” series. All of a sudden I was receiving a lot of messages of people asking when the comics were supposed to be in the newsstand, if it was an idea for a movie about this man that was transforming itself into some kind of superhero while in the elevator…. so I thought, “Hey wait a moment, I think we have a title for the next album!” Funnily enough in our new flat in Paris, there is no elevator… life can be strange! [laughs]
When you play the Moog bass, are you still thinking like a bassist or are you thinking like a keyboardist?
For “Thief Like Me” what you hear is a Moog doubling my bassline. I am not able to have a keyboard player mindset when playing or composing a bassline, no matter if played with a keyboard I am a bass player. Of course, a Moog sound changes and opens your mind when working on a riff. I love the sound of a good old analog keyboard.
Do you change your mindset between playing fretless and fretted? If yes, how so?
There are several sounds you can create from a fretless that are impossible with a fretted one, but when I compose bass lines with the fretless that riff etc will be possible only on the fretless. I use a lot of sliding harmonics, legato and hammer-ons on the fretless… I love Mick Karn and Percy Jones! So more than changing my mindset for me it is enough to change the instrument to have a completely different approach and to be pushed into new creative directions.
How did you record the bass for “Black Book, Red Letters”? It has so much warmth.
It’s my upright recorded with a Gage realist and a good Neumann mic if I remember well. I think 75% you hear the mic, the Gage realist gives you the string definition and helps to have the pitch always easily understandable.
What is the last album you bought?
I recently bought some records in a used vinyl shop in Paris: an album by Material, one by Tony Allen, and Joe Jackson’s Night and Day. And Avalon by Roxy Music! I’m still trying to understand how they created all those wonderful sounds with keys and especially guitars… Phil Manzanera is a genius.
What advice do you have for up and coming bassists?
Never stop living the dream, no matter if you are a professional musician or someone playing only for the fun and love of it: music is the best. And if you want to let playing be your way of earning money be prepared cause there’s a jungle out there. If you prepare yourself and force yourself to work hard every day to make your skills better [you’ll have] good chances to be successful in the business. But the main force must always be your love for music.