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Interview to Franco Bixio, Fabio Frizzi, Vince Tempera - CD release of the OST Tutti possono arricchire tranne i poveri

18/09/2019

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Interview to Franco Bixio, Fabio Frizzi, Vince Tempera - CD release of the OST Tutti possono arricchire tranne i poveri
Interview to Franco Bixio, Fabio Frizzi, Vince Tempera - CD release of the OST Tutti possono arricchire tranne i poveri

Enrico Montesano and Barbara Bouchet are the main characters of “Tutti possono Arricchire Tranne I Poveri” (1976), a movie directed by Mauro Severino. Their life suddenly changes thanks to a 'thirteen' at the Italian football pool. The payout is eight hundred and fifty million lire. After pocketing the huge sum, they leave the gray Turin to move to Monte Carlo, believing they will join the jet set, but some investments will prove not so fortunate. The soundtrack by Franco Bixio, Fabio Frizzi and Vince Tempera comments on the couple's mixed fortunes.

FB: The plot of the movie is based on a realistic story that has often been repeated many times: almost all new millionaires have soon spent their fortune, ending up 'without money for their bills' even more than before. The euphoria of the moment, relatives, friends and everything that comes with it, plus a certain lack of knowledge in managing a real heritage, have often made poor again the winners of large prizes. And it is the moral of the movie that, not surprisingly, is linked to the title.

The tragicomic ending is common to contemporary works extending beyond the mid-seventies. Two key words distinguish the score of “Tutti Possono Arricchire Tranne I Poveri,” namely “850 Million” and “Euforia,” the names of the tracks that, apart from some variations, constitute the score’s 'backbone.’ The homonymous 7'' (1976) which contained both was later published by Cinevox.

FB: That didn't really happen. The majority of the Bixio-Frizzi-Tempera productions are part of the Bixio catalog and, consequently, were finalized by the Cinevox label, but on the occasion of “Tutti Possono Arricchire Tranne I Poveri” we were under contract with another publisher so it was as if we were playing 'away.’ The album was released by Cinevox, then managed by my brother Carlo Bixio, after having reached a gentlemen's agreement with Edizioni National Music, an agreement that allowed the release of another 7'', that of “Amore Vuol Dir Gelosia” (1975), containing two of our songs for the previous movie directed by Mauro Severino, which included the same Enrico Montesano and Barbara Bouchet as main characters.

FF: Often there were synergies, ties and complicity between productions and artists. A beautiful custom that has always made this sector grow and evolve.

The images of “Amore Vuol Dir Gelosia”, a movie shot between Naples and the islands of its gulf, however, were accompanied by some band music, melancholy tangos and Latin melodies.

FB: Yes, a title like “Amor Vuol Dir Gelosia” was inevitably referred to tango, the artistic project had to get those characteristics and, moreover, the score had even been entrusted to the Argentine director named Adolfo Waitzman. In reality, his contribution was minimal, since the composer perhaps only made one track: it was the trio that concluded the work. Our involvement in “Tutti Possono Arricchire Tranne I Poveri” was a direct consequence of the success of the music for “Amore Vuol Dire Gelosia,” which convinced both the director and the publisher, the historical Merkel. A curious character, which allowed many musicians to make a career, good at 'counting' but ready to 'get nervous' every time he observed an orchestra musican not engaged with his instrument, simply because he had paused at that moment. His only fear was to waste money. A daily gag.

FF: What's the saying? A winning team does not change. With Mauro Severino there was a relationship of great sympathy. Like other colleagues of his, he was also a demanding director of musical comments.

Enrico Montesano, then, was among the most popular actors at the end of the seventies.

VT: He was very young, but he had a face with a certain mobility, that he knew how to make the most, like all the old comedians, between expressions and grimaces in the wake of the tradition of the great Totò.

FF: Enrico Montesano was, from the beginning of his career, a great friend of the Bixio family. I found a beautiful photo in a restaurant in Trastevere with him, Vince Tempera and Franco Bixio, one of the very few images that remained from that period. He was a very nice guy, ready to become a very good actor. It was a long time before I saw the move again; it had quite an effect on me. A funny comedy and, of course, a terrific musical comment!

The score for “Tutti Possono Arricchire Tranne I Poveri” (2019), a Beat Records Company release, looks perfect for that kind of comedy, thanks to sounds as elegant as they are evasive. Music a little joyful, often dreamy, with the horn section in great shape.

FB: Certainly, in the wake of the sound tradition for the Italian comedy. Films like “Tutti Possono Arricchire Tranne I Poveri” earned high box office receipts, even if today they are wrongly considered as b-movies. The public at that time did not snub them at all; critics, however, were never generous in their judgments. For sure, they were films to watch on the big screen, carefree, that filled the rooms, and we musicians were happy to contribute to their success. Enrico Montesano was really strong during that time, and Barbara Bouchet was amazing; their presence 'enriched' the movie. And that's why, along with the various directors and screenwriters, the trio Bixio-Frizzi-Tempera continued to 'have fun' in writing the music even for comedies, and perhaps this is also found in the compositional figure and in the proper arrangement of each work .

What suggestions did Mauro Severino give during the making of the soundtrack?

FB: The director gave indications about the tone to be used in some scenes and expressed himself in favor of 'brilliant' music, but not invasive. That is why today it is possible to listen to it at full volume, or in the background, completely disconnected from the images. The orchestra did a great job. I remember with pleasure the use of keyboards and harpsichords, details cleverly taken care of by our Vince Tempera.

FF: Listening to the soundtrack, I realized that we were a 'war machine.’ Our comment is the demonstration that nothing was left to chance. I have a wonderful memory of Luigi Borghese, the producer of the film: a dear friend, and an elegant man in both appearance and manner.

Inside the DVD attached to the double CD “Fantozzi / Il Secondo Tragico Fantozzi” (2013), another Beat Records Company release, Fabio Frizzi issues a simple but clear statement: “We invented a thought for each movie.” Is this one of the trio's secrets?

FB: Yes, it's true, we were constantly looking for a note of 'distinction' for each soundtrack, whether the movie was really beautiful one, with high expectations, or a minor one, and whether it made us laugh or cry. In any case, we tried to do our best and leave an artistic 'figure.’ Years later, I discovered that the works of the trio were elevated to cult status by fans. This means that we were not only well assembled, but cohesive, as artists and friends.

VT: Forty years ago we often went to the cinema, paid for a ticket and in some cases remained glued to the screen. We were not easily to get distracted and, in addition to the actors and the plot, the music had its centrality. There was almost an obligation to do things right. If the movies that we composers took part were fine, the movie industry would have continued to involve us, with economic returns for everyone. Today it is different: the sector is in crisis, the box offices are no longer taken by assault, the role of the producer has disappeared and the loans have now become external, with multiple interests in television, and the music has lost its quality. Our peculiarity was to invent something 'new' to make a different contribution to the movie's artistry, no matter what kind. Franco Bixio was usually in agreement with my proposals, while Fabio Frizzi tended to revive his own, closer to his background.

Your friendship has marked the career of the trio. The alchemy of the 'trinity' composed of Father (Vince Tempera), Son (Fabio Frizzi) and Spirito Santo (Franco Bixio) was incredible.

FB: I was the last of three children in a family with an important founder, Cesare Andrea Bixio. A bit like being the smallest, it was 'natural' to act as a 'balance' between the two strongest characters of Vince Tempera and Fabio Frizzi. This, however, did not mean that this type of 'activity' limited my desire to compose; it was the same for all three. Each of us gave a contribution to each project. At times, moreover, we parted to score individual scenes of a movie, while on other occasions we borrowed a more 'collegial' attitude, reasoning together about what to do, about the themes to be developed, about any artistic choice. There has never been the prevarication of one over the other. And even such a circumstance has had a certain impact during our trio’s career.

VT: More than forty years have passed since we started. The trio was founded, first and foremost, on the 'smart' ear of Franco Bixio, who 'managed' myself and dear Fabio Frizzi, collecting our ideas and channeling our creativity towards a project that had to be arranged, played and finalized as best as possible. Fabio Frizzi had both a classical background, thanks of his guitar studies, and had been bewitched by the Beatles, therefore his proposals were sometimes a little rigid and, perhaps, the soundtrack of a movie needed a greater impulse. In my own small way, in this sense, I have tried to support both with my creativity, getting inspired both by Raoul Casadei and the music of science fiction movies, also because, as 'second job,’ I was a producer and arranger for different artists and singers. I was forced to have more imagination.

FF: The professional 'marriage' with Franco Bixio and Vince Tempera lasted about five years. It was a magical time for Italian cinema and its soundtracks. We decided by mutual agreement. For my part, I felt the need, for almost thirty years, to understand what I was made of, to test myself. We are still very close. Franco Bixio is one of my best friends, and I see Vince Tempera sometimes because he lives in Milan, but it's always a party when we meet together.

How many soundtracks are, instead, born in Rocca di Papa with his aunt in the kitchen?

FB: His skill is known, and there was also the piano where my father composed Parlami D'Amore Mariù, and a climate, often fresh. Rocca di Papa was the ideal refuge from the warm city, and staying there was a sort of 'compositional vacation.’ Those places were already soaked by my father's lucky notes, so therefore, what better space to choose and discuss ours? This is, perhaps, an almost 'poetic' thought, a bit nostalgic, but such an environment was particularly suitable, and in parallel, we did not shy away from composing even at night in the busy cafés of Via Veneto.

VT: Rocca di Papa was not the only place where we found ourselves outside of studios; the others were, for example, Fabio Frizzi's house on the lake or mine in Milan. In any case, the notes were, are and always will be seven; they do not need a default location to be transcribed on paper. Sharing dinners and moments of relaxation also allowed us to have fun and not take ourselves too seriously. The profession of composers has sometimes turned some colleagues into 'old trombones'.

FF: None! In Rocca di Papa we spent some fun, relaxing moments. I remember a beautiful swim in the pool, together with our best friends, planning our future musical raids. The work took place between Milan and Rome. On Vince Tempera some legends were born, at that time he was also very busy with his discography and often came to the studio 'at the Cesarini area.’ A joke about all of them? “Who has Tempera, do not wait Tempera.”.

In short, not only food and evasions from Rome, but also many shared laughter, such as those during the repeated slow motion vision of the first legendary “Fantozzi” (1975).

FB: Actually, the laughs started already while reading the script at Piero De Bernardi's home. We were there with Leonardo Benvenuti and Paolo Villaggio. In a short time, we found ourselves under the sofas, because we literally died from laughter. Today we are, perhaps, used to that kind of comedy, to those jokes, and maybe we tend to anticipate them, and yet, at that time, they were really fantastic.

VT: More than in slow motion, I continue to have so much fun watching the complete movie without pauses, with dialogue and music in their places. Fantozzi has become a 'mask' of Italian cinema.

FF: I was at the beginning of my career, and it seemed incredible to be there right now. When the movie had those box-office results and soon became a cult – even La Ballata Di Fantozzi had the same fate – I finally felt, for the first time, a lucky, young, professional composer.

The same soundtrack of “Fantozzi” presents some innovations, such as the use of the voice of the same Paolo Villaggio to characterize La Ballata Di Fantozzi or the use of particular instrumentation for tracks like Ristorante Giapponese or Allucinazioni Mistiche, which today would be classified as 'ambient.’ How exactly were your tasks divided once in the studio?

FB: There was no script for those. Some topics or scenes could have been of greater inspiration for a member of the trio, who dedicated himself to one or more tracks. In other cases, instead, each of us made one or more versions and then we compared ourselves. Then, in absolute democracy, it was established which one was our favorite and we continued with the work needed. Our experience was so beautiful precisely because there was no jealousy; we were three friends struggling with a fantastic job. Despite the short period we spent together, especially when compared to a whole career, we made about seventy soundtracks. And, in this regard, being a trio has allowed us to be seated at multiple tables simultaneously. Of course, sometimes Vince Tempera either wrote the arrangement on the plane or just stayed in Milan, but his contribution never failed. This was also part of the game, a bit like involving some musicians who gravitated around his works such as, for example, Ares Tavolazzi, Ellade Bandini and Massimo Luca, professionals who were not then into the world of cinema, and this too has contributed to our style. We also experienced the magical moment of Cinevox.

VT: The “Fantozzi” score was, at least in principle, a sort of experiment for us. I had read and appreciated the first two texts written by Paolo Villaggio, namely “Fantozzi” (1971) and “Il Secondo Tragico Libro Di Fantozzi” (1974), and during the same period I had also worked with him at RAI, in Milan, so I knew a little about both his character and the figure he had already invented. Once in the studio, I suggested to others to take inspiration from the typical atmospheres of the cartoons of that time, such as those starring Sylvester the Cat and Tweety, or perhaps Tom and Jerry, then all short films marked by a 'slapstick' comedy, as elementary as it is based on body language. And here, besides L'Impiegatango or the romantic theme, a headshot of Fantozzi ends up being scored, not by chance, by some violins to emphasize both that particular moment and to make the spectators laugh.

FF: From a cinematographic point of view, “Fantozzi” was a true outsider: it was a gamble for everyone. And the game was won, because the saga has been going on for many years, with many episodes. It was a bet, but with a team of high quality professionals: Paolo Villaggio, back from an extraordinary and super-transgressive television success, Luciano Salce at the helm and the pair of most courted screenwriters of the period, Leonardo Benvenuti and Piero De Bernardi.

“Fantozzi” was both a unicum in Italian comedy and a watershed for your career and for Italian cinema. It was a well thought out score that brought to light some qualities that perhaps were not attributed to the trio: it was a sound less tethered to that historical period.

FF: Starting to live a life as a composer of film music – which was my dream –the early seventies was an opportunity to be in the right place at the right time. An era of artistic growth, in all sectors, of incredible musical influences and contaminations. A magical and unrepeatable period. Italian cinema was going strong, and even b-movies often had the wonderful dignity of craftsmanship. Speaking of influences, when I met Paolo Villaggio to discuss his musical idea, he told me about his love for Cat Stevens and his soundtrack for the film “Harold And Maude” (1971). From there came the idea for La Ballata Di Fantozzi, quite unusual as a musical commentary at that time. As a trio, we had a transversal, eclectic education, including rock, pop and classical music. And at the time, the new technologies used in the world of music grew exponentially. Vince Tempera has always been a great keyboard player, and together we have discovered and used many new devices. We were at the court of the greats composers of the Italian soundtracks of that period: Nino Rota, Carlo Rustichelli, Armando Trovajoli and Ennio Morricone were our points of reference.

Regarding your career as a trio, what role did Carlo Bixio play?

FF: Carlo Bixio has always had great skills as a manager and believed in the idea of the 'nursery,' and in those years, he identified some young artists who could represent his bet for the future of the soundtrack. This is how I met Claudio Simonetti, Walter Martino and Fabio Pignatelli, the nucleus of the future Goblin. Carlo Bixio was a man of great sympathy and we became friends. I was twenty-three and so enthusiastic. Franco Bixio and Vince Tempera were the supervisors of my first works, and after “Fantozzi,” Carlo Bixio proposed that we form a partnership. I said yes, and the trio was born.

There is not only "Fantozzi" among the most famous scores of the trio, but also music for thriller and detective stories, from “Vai Gorilla” (1975) to “Roma L'Altra Faccia Della Violenza” (1976), and those for westerns by Lucio Fulci such as “I Quattro Dell'Apocalisse” (1975) and “Sella D'Argento” (1978).

FB: We always remember with pleasure the soundtrack of “I Quattro Dell'Apocalisse”; we enjoyed creating it very much and still listen to it today. The same goes for “Sette Note In Nero” (1977), another Lucio Fulci movie which has become a cult classic. Just think of the use of the carillon, one of the real ones, going to the studio and recording note by note what we needed for the famous sequence, remounting the recording tape with the adhesive, where the use of the celesta was preferred in other people's soundtracks. A work of true musical craftsmanship, a bit like that of Ennio Morricone, capable of extracting sounds from unconventional instruments, a type of activity that man has now delegated to computers. Lucio Fulci was also like a sort of 'silent cat': he listened carefully to the work of others, sitting in his place and, when everyone thought he knew nothing about music, he got up and asked for precise explanations. In short, he was able to immediately put you on the rope.

VT: The soundtrack of “Vai Gorilla” draws its inspiration from the vision of numerous contemporary ‘stars and stripes’ movies, from “Shaft” (1971) onwards, characterized by wah-wah guitars and a certain use of drums, instruments and styles that the Italian composers did not yet know. I stole certain ideas, and as in the case of the movie directed by Tonino Valerii, I introduced them little by little. The main theme is also based on the melodies created with the ARP Odyssey, an analogue keyboard that was not yet widespread in Italy. Such choices have helped to distinguish the sound of the trio, the same who appreciated Lucio Fulci. Working with him has left us a great and perhaps basic teaching. His requests were not directed towards sounds that were too refined or sought after; the director demanded from us real 'musical slaps,’ easily remembered by the public, which is the judge of the entire work, has the power to decree its success or failure. That's why you had to 'hit him on the scruff,’ otherwise he would lose interest in the movie.

Was Lucio Fulci the only director to make such unique and precise requests?

VT: In the course of our career, we have been confronted with often demanding directors, because music was an integral part of the movie, like acting, and very curious, too. Their interest was not limited only to melodies; they were eager to listen in advance to the various themes we composed. Nowadays, the use of superfluous music, based on 'sound bands,’ allows them to save money on those musical details that, even associated with noises, have thus been engraved in the past.

The trio also signed its name to one of the scores on the ‘most wanted’ lists of collectors and fans, that of “Febbre Da Cavallo” (1976), a movie by Stefano Vanzina.

VT: At the time, we were confronted with high-caliber composers such as Carlo Rustichelli, Ennio Morricone and Piero Piccioni, and at this point, our goal was to diversify the sound offered, pushing us beyond the 'traditional’ but without giving up the melodies that distinguished the Italian style. Sometimes, however, the spark of creativity could be triggered in an unconventional way. We were constantly looking for sounds not necessarily 'new' but with something more, different from the usual, thanks also to the use of electronic instruments. The theme of “Febbre Da Cavallo” (1976) was 'invented' directly in the recording studio. During a break, a chorister amused his colleagues by humming a melody and beating his fists on his chest and, as soon as we noticed him, we forced him to stop and record this gimmick. In English, this is definable as a 'crossover.’

About seventy soundtracks were signed by the trio. How was it possible to have a unique idea for each film, beyond its genre, which differed from the musical tapestry of the time?

FF: The added value of that experience is clear: it is a question of imagining a composer with three thinking heads, each with a different sensibility and experience, three heads who also live in great harmony. Each of us wrote music and then we compared ideas, sometimes we mixed them, we developed them. The birth of a soundtrack is always composed of different phases, and being a trio facilitated both the work and the timing. Producers and directors could thus have constant contact with our productive reality, and this is not a small thing.

How was the choice of the orchestras made?

VT: Compared to the contemporary world, there was a greater organization, with the Unione Musicisti di Roma that gathered about a hundred professionals, including violinists, percussionists, flutists, guitarists, bass players, etc., and offered these workers to those who requested their presence in the recording studio. In the case of multiple registrations, especially if took place after several days, it was the head of the orchestra who established the 'group' for the work. It was a well thought-out mechanism, which allowed respect for the various deliveries. We really worked for the cinema, full time, otherwise even we, despite having lived together for five years, would not have been able to complete a dozen scores a year.

Today the experiment of a trio of composers is unthinkable.

FF: No, everything is possible, always. Certainly, we should identify three enthusiastic guys, with the innate sense of teamwork, with the pleasure of sharing their ideas, but also of catching interesting insights from others, with strong skills of self-mockery, that do not fear long nights of mixing during which they do not feel physical fatigue, feeding on the pleasure of doing the most beautiful work in the world. Here, perhaps, we shall find Franco Bixio, Fabio Frizzi and Vince Tempera!

Marco Ferretti

English edit by Josh Mitchell

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