At the same time there is an unmistakable influence of traditional acoustic folk which gives his work a beautifully organic texture. There is a warm complexity in the way layers of intricate instrumentation blend with more primitive rhythms.
The first album I heard of his – Sounding The Sun (Stunned Records) – remains my personal favourite. This can be downloaded from the ever indispensable Microphones in the Trees blogspot. You can also sample Donato’s work on Soundcloud.
Donato runs the label Sturmundrugs Records although his releases appear on an often bewildering range of small presses, either on cassette or as limited edition cdrs.
I wanted to find out a little about the man behind this music and Donato kindly agreed to answer a few questions. (I have translated his replies from Italian).
Who is Donato Epiro?
I am essentially a curious kind of guy who just happens to have a strong creative inclination. I have found that music helps me to realisemy ideas, although I don’t feel in any way bound to the notion of being a “musician” as such. If for any reason I couldn’t produce music I’d simply seek out some other creative outlet.
What instruments do you play?
The instrumentation I use depends on the ideas at the heart of whatever album I am working on. Generally, I favour acoustic instruments: guitar, balalaika, banjo, flute, percussion or an old Farfisa organ. Then I add electronica, samples, processed sound, field recordings as the need arises. The laptop is without doubt my most essential instrument.
What drives you to make music?
I started to study music when I was a child, mainly playing the flute. I played classical music for many years, but I gave up the formal academic path in search of music that allowed for greater personal expression. I think it was crucial that, at that point in my life, I discovered albums of psychedelia, progressive rock, krautrock and free jazz that I ended up being completely enthralled by. Now, thanks to a combination of various influences, my projects are a kind of hybrid of psychedelic, freak folk and drone music with no specific end result in mind. What I produce evolves constantly depending on where I am, how I feel and what fresh discoveries I make.
Valerio Cosi & Fabio Orsi have origins in Taranto and , if I’m not mistaken, you also have connection with this town. Is there something in the water there?
All three of us come from Taranto, a town in southern Italy which , to tell the truth, doesn’t offer any particular inspiration . On the contrary, the people there are mostly indifferent to the music we make.
I love the organic, spontaneous feel of your music on disc – is this difficult to recreate live? (Is improvisation crucial to the creative process? )
It is practically impossible to recreate the music I have released in a live setting, unless I relied heavily on pre-recorded material. I mostly try to bring to a live set the same sense of variety and intensity by utilising a significantly reduced range of instrumentation and then adding various effects. Usually, I start with a single musical refrain and build upon this to create a kind of circular and obsessive mantra. So, in this sense improvisation does play a central role.
On your My Space page you say that your music “is best understood by children and animals”. Which adults might also appreciate your sound?
This is a quote from Stravinsky. What he’s saying is that there needs to be more openness towards music, or any art form for that matter; you need to approach it in as pure and instinctive a way as possible, free of preconceptions.
On your Sturmundrugs label , the cdrs seem to be carefully packaged in limited editions. Does it piss you off when people download your music instead of buying it?
Absolutely not. I have no problem with this. On the contrary, I am delighted to see my albums, or those of other artists on my label, posted on blogs. At the same time I am always pleased when anyone who acquires any of my albums offers a little something back in return. This allows me to invest in new projects and products .
Is there anything uniquely Italian about your sound?
I think so. The influence of the Italian music I love is undeniable. Composers like Luciano Cilio, Lino ‘Capra’ Vaccina, Giusto Pio, Walter Marchetti as well as those more song orientated artists who have fearlessly tried to re-invent our traditional music: I’m thinking of the early experimental work of Franco Battiato, Juri Camisasca, Alan Sorrenti, Claudio Rocchi, Andrea Tich, the albums of Lucio Battisti (whose ‘Anima Latina’ is one of my all time favourites) and the discs released by Cramps Records. I have always tried to work towards producing a sound which is as personal as possible, which naturally means I have been inspired by sights, tastes and smells of the places around me.
Do you feel part of a psychedelic international scene?
Yes, definitely. I am constantly in contact with other musicians and labels who share the same approach to music. By this, I don’t just mean in the aesthetic sense but also in terms of the approach to production, distribution and promotion. Each have their own unique characteristics but the diverse experiences, from different geographic locations, prepares you to be continually challenged and produces an atmosphere that is really stimulating.
How would you complete this sentence: If you like Donato Epiro you’ll probably like ……………
What can we expect from you in the near future?
At the moment I have no shows planned but in Autumn I will definitely be doing some live dates. As for my next releases, there is a double tape split out soon (on Existential Cloth Records) with some Americans called Pike Smoke Lodge, a new cassette on Stunned Records and a split LP with Black Eagle Child on Blackest Rainbow. I am also working, albeit in a slightly disjointed manner, on an album which will be completely acoustic and will in all probability be a kind of summation of my work up to now and will be the stimulus towards a new and diverse direction.