IOIOI for Disagreement I 2005


Once in a while you come in contact with an artist who re-adjusts your perception of what music is supposed to sound like. IOIOI, a one-woman-band from Italy, not only does everything on her debut album Bright Future all by herself, but manages at the same time to free herself of everything regular people think music should be about.
Curious about the motivations and ideas behind IOIOI, DisAgreement decided that it was time and opportunity for an interview.
What’s the meaning of your artist name? It reminds of the experimental Japanese all-female band OOIOO.
IOIOI means nothing! I have just written in Italian the Japanese name of an experimental theatre company in Nagoya. I think it means nothing either in Japanese. It’s a funny joke on sounds and words, it’s difficult to explain, you should ask someone to write it half in Japanese and half in English. The score is funny. In Italian it looks like “I, me”, written twice, with a mirror on the centre; at the same time IOIOI is a binary string, it suggests a very cold world, but IOIOI is a childish verse, too, it reminds of the very warm and open world of a baby. Finally, yes I was proud to refer my work to OOIOO. I love them!!
IOIOIWhy did you prefer a solo career to a real band?
The problem with bands is that I have my way to feel music and maybe I am a kind of egocentric girl… Even when I played in bands for years, I was never satisfied. I love playing with other musicians, but it is so difficult! Being in a band is like dancing with two or more people. Sometimes it’s you who manipulate and lead the other, sometimes it’s the contrary. The ideal is not to force the other to lose their freedom but at the same time to move and grow together: the sensation of communion and “fluxus”, here it is what I am looking for.
Even if now I play by myself I always think I am not alone. I am still in relation with something. I do not do what I want completely! I mean, each time I try to listen to and to respect what it is playing with me – the external world, the inner world, casual sounds and shapes.
Human energy is very strong and attractive. When you play together with a band, your attention is focused on the other’s presence. In this way you lose all the other different forces and intentions that are running over you just in that moment. You know when you are among people it is strange to be silent and see the sunshine or little ants walking or to listen to the reverb of a train passing. This is because human energy wants all the attention, and more, our society fixed severe rules not to avoid this attraction.
I think I am still in a band, but the musicians are not human!!! Indeed, I try to go together with them.
Are you doing everything by yourself (instruments, song writing, cover artwork,…) or were other people involved?
Of course I do everything by myself.
You have a very avant-garde attitude towards music? Where did you take your inspirations?
I like listening to very different kinds of music, from pop new-wave to radical free jazz. I can’t say I am directly influenced by what I listen to. For example most of the Bright Future pieces have been inspired by traditional Korean music… I mean the electronic pieces!! This is about music. Then I am deeply inspired by movies, the sea, paintings, the wind, insects and dreams. Of course I listen to a lot of very avant-garde music, releases by Improvised music from Japan, or Load records and obviously Tzadik. But what attracts me most is to feel and discover new music, never mind genres and conventions. Avant-garde for me is to feel how music moves and changes, how it transforms itself and everything nearby.
Are there similar artists in Italy or is there a full grown scene for such music?
Well, I can’t say there is a full grown scene for this kind of music in Italy. It’s true there are some other very interesting experimental realities, as Zu, I/O, OvO, Deep End, Tottemo Gozilla Riders; Madame P or Ielasi, t’um, punck and more. Unfortunately, most of these very good bands and artists have to run outside Italy… You know, Zu are more popular in the USA than in Italy!!
IOIOIWhy are only two more melodic tracks (the opener “La fille qui donne le bonheur” and the last track “Kazumi E Viva”) on the album?
The first track and the last one are supposed to express the feeling of being alive and free, but I don’t know why they finally have taken a melodic form. This could be a very interesting correlation to be explored!
When I compose I just try to fix one idea. This idea can be a particular structure, or a sensation, memory, never mind. What I do then is to stay as close as possible to the idea and finally discover which world is more appropriate. I believe a musician doesn’t create anything; he/she just discovers what is not apparently obvious… like an archaeologist.
About melody, I think it is so powerful, that is, melody is possibly dangerous!! It is the strongest way to affect the other’s feeling through music. You know, when a melody hit your mind it’s quite impossible to get rid of it. This is why I have chosen to be at the edges of melody. I hope that this way it’s up to the listener to put her/his personal content there. The listener should enjoy the inner force of melody as an instrument to feel her/himself. The purpose is “opening” the melody.
What did motivate you to not have lyrics but use your voice as an instrument?
I think music should break our common sense about reciprocal understanding and communication. The problem with it is the exclusive focus on messages and information: we are almost obsessed by information. When we understand we feel ok, never mind if we share or not the message, never mind if we are affected or not by the information.
On the contrary I really would like to express a sort of dreaming-language by focusing on the ambiguity of communication. When a voice sings, it does a lot of very interesting things. It’s not only sending a message or giving an information. A voice singing is first of all a force. It has an effectiveness on your body. A voice speaks to your body and heart beyond your mind. As for melody, I try to stay at the confine of languages and words. When you listen to my music you have the impression of a reasonable information coming, but at the end you see it’s not as you could preview. You have words-sounds, without any information. We are living in a world full of information. I think we need to focus on the “intensity” of communication to balance the never-ending spreading of information! Below the information there’s the sensation. Words are the official container of our living sensations. I want to re-discover sensations… using no lyrics and voice as an instrument is my little and funny way to stop the world!
How often do you play live shows?
More or less, twice a month. I would play more often but, you know, my music is not for living (eheh)
Did you so far only play in Italy or also in other countries?
Yes, since I have started my solo project, I have played only in Italy. I really hope it would be possible to tour abroad in the very near future.
Are you alone on stage or are you joined at times by other musicians?
Of course I am alone on stage. I have my personal mixer with all the stuff connected in, laptop, a delay effect, mic. Then I play guitar and I dance, too!!
I have decided not to be joined by other musicians because to concentrate I need a kind of extreme tension on stage.
I need to feel that I am really alone with an almost empty stage and people watching. This condition is very exciting and scaring at the same time. It’s similar to the sensation of danger… the body is ready to react, the mind collapses. It’s true that sometimes I can’t make it and being “alone” suddenly gets into being “lonely”. This happens when people don’t like my show. You are there just to be judged, and you are by yourself, you have to go on… so hard!!!!
Finally I don’t want anyone else on stage, because otherwise I could seem a karaoke girl… you know, I use PC and I dance, it’s easy to think I am a kind of Italo-Japanese idol !!!
IOIOIWhat kind of audience comes to your shows?
Casual audience. For each concert the promo flyer is different, sometimes you see IOIOI –electrowow- or IOIOI –noise– so people who come believing I am a kind of DJ set are really disappointed, the same is with people believing I will do kind of extreme japnoizu, I don’t know. Once, someone told me that my concert should fit only intellectuals or fool people. In general I see IOIOI lovers are never a collective, they are always individuals… I mean, you can love “chanson française” and IOIOI or Neurosis and IOIOI or Keiji Haino and IOIOI. This is so good to me.
Don’t you have problems finding bands from the same genre that fit into your programme?
Yes, it is quite difficult! Anyway when I have the chance to share the programme with some kind of experimental bands it is very nice, indeed! I have played in Milan with Pak –yes, Jesse Krakow!!- and that was wonderful. The same has been when I have shared the stage with Glen or Glenda, an experimental free jazz group from Paris.
In November I will do the support for the Japanese Limited Express, and I am a little bit worried about that, even if, of course, they are not a “classical” rock band. We will see!
What support do you get from your label Ebria?
Ebria is great! They have supported me as much as they could. They have believed in IOIOI, they produced the album and finally organised most of my live-shows. Ebria is a very little independent young label, but I must say that it is one of the few Italian labels that is going on supporting new music and avant-garde projects.
The Ebria staff is composed by young musicians devoted to free jazz and experimental rock. This is why they care about their artists so much. More, since two years they have been organising a very big festival, which is called BAAFEST on improvisational music and minimal free core. You should know these kinds of festivals are very unusual in Italy! Unfortunately critics and magazines still don’t care about new things very much.
What expectations have you put into your record “Bright Future”?
When I wrote it I wanted to try an original approach towards music. I wanted to do MY music, never mind the conventions. I wanted to be fearless, I wanted to be honest with myself.
When people listen to Bright Future they have a strong reaction. This reaction can be positive or completely negative. They can strongly refuse my music. This means I got the goal. This album is very strange. It seems it is soft and funny, but at the same time it’s hard to follow it to the end. I suppose this happens because it leads you through very different worlds; you should change your mood and attitude for each song in order to enjoy it. That’s precisely the expectation I have put in it.
I think we can change only if we give up on having prejudices and fixed interpretations. We can really change only if we put more attention on listening before judging. I have put myself in the same condition when I wrote it. I have tried to keep on surprising myself with a kind of “open and smiling heart” attitude. You see IOIOI is a mission!! I have spent most of my life in building prisons and traps for my sensibility. Now it’s time to live… if only one person could feel the same through my music that would be more than enough for Bright Future’s purpose.
Will you continue making music in the same vein or should we expect something different from IOIOI in the future?
I don’t know!! Of course I am going on keeping the same attitude towards music, but I can’t say which root I will take in the future. I even don’t know if I am going to use electronics again or not. During my live shows I really enjoy improvising with only voice and electric guitar, but at the same time I am more and more interested into the possibility of destroying the concept of authoring through electronic noises. Finally I see I like more and more the power of anonymous melodies.
…so, probably, I will continue making music in the same vein!!
Any last words…?
Peace, Love and Punk !!!