Stars in their Eyes [2007-06-16]My Cat is an Alien have been weaving their own distinctive mix of improvised ambient/ noise space music for a few years now, releasing their prolific discography on a mirad of labels including there own label Opax which releasers more ltd and art bound items . The project consists of tw0 Italian brothers Maurizio and Roberto Opalio whom both kindly agreed to give me an email interview.
m[m] What are some of your earliest musical memories?
[Roberto] Nobody in our family was a real music listener; but when I was nine my mother bought me a couple of Deutsche Grammophon LPs, and I immediately fell in love with classical music: I would spend all the time listening to those Lps!.. and they're still among my favourite ones.
m[m] how did My Cat Is An Alien come about as a project? And had either of you played in projects before MCIAA?
[Maurizio] I recorded the first MCIAAs work by myself at home, while my brother Roberto at the time was involved in paintings, glass-art, and audio visual installations. I had been playing for some months in an indie rock band years before (with no material ever recorded), but I soon felt I needed to explore sounds in a more complex and personal way, and I started with experimenting alone the sound possibilities of the guitar instrument. So, in late 1997 I began recording long pieces made of sound stratifications on a 4-track analog cassette, playing both acoustic and electric guitar in a non-academic manner: the result were a bunch of tracks with a psych-folk-free-noise matrix. With the help of Roberto, we decided to make a CD-R release in 30 handpainted copies. We sent a copy of this CD-R wrapped in electric wire to Sonic Youth in NYC, and they immediately replied asking MCIAA to play as support band to their forthcoming 1998 Italian tour. So, one day Roberto picked up an electric guitar for his very first time, bought a handful of space toys, and started to play with me in order to set up the opening live show for SY: that was a moment of pure magic, in which we both immediately became aware of the total empathy and flow of energy which sprang up from playing together. A couple of months later, MCIAA made the first live debut at a big festival in Torino, in front of thousands people.
m[m] Where did the name come from? I take it you have cats and other pets?
[Roberto] Well, as you have guessed, nothing we do comes without a reason: a Polaroid picture showing our cat suggested the name: when my brother and me we saw it, we suddenly exclaimed "my cat is an alien!" in chorus (well, in Italian of course.., which sounds like "il mio gatto è un alieno"), and since in that period we were thinking about how to name the project, we just translated into English, and we found it sounded so cool! Actually, one of our LP releases on Eclipse Records, entitled "When The Windmill's Whirl Dies", is dedicated to him...he left planet Earth three years ago towards outer spaces--
m[m] Where did the interest on space and other planets come from?
[Roberto] Maybe it all started when I was about six and my grandfather gave me a very old book on the Cosmos. This book showed many galaxies with black and white illustrations that fascinated me so much that I started reading and studying it as if it were a magical book of alchemy. Since then I started to create my own theories on the existence of aliens, and to make drawings of such imaginary crew in the outer space. Already as a child I felt like an 'alien', especially at school when I would feel completely isolated, trying to communicate my ideas with no results. Everybody would look at me like a sort of 'genius', lost in his own parallel world.
m[m] How do your live shows turn out- do you use any visuals at all, is there any plan to tour this year?
[Maurizio] When we think of a live show, we like to think of an event having to do much more with a 'performance' than a proper music concert. What we're interested in is to put diverse kind of art-forms into the show, so that the audience can get involved more deeply and connect with our esthetics as they were really travelling in another dimension, as if they were discovering new things, where also sounds have new meanings. This is one of the reasons why me and especially my brother Roberto we are so involved with many forms of art other than music itself: it's another world we're trying to re-create in its whole. We often have some of Roberto's films screening during our shows, and when possible even dual-screenings of those. Last year MCIAA have performed live more than we usually do, starting from the Kraak festival in Belgium, to Victoriaville in Canada, the State-X Newform in Holland and a European tour last December which included a performance at UK ATP Nightmare Before Christmas festival curated by Thurston Moore. As for this year, we are not planning to tour extensively because we have some project releases we're focusing on. Anyway forthcoming shows planned so far are support acts for Sonic Youth in Italy this summer, and the Stimulus festival in Prague this Autumn. But more festivals should be scheduled for next Fall/Winter, so keep an eye on our website.
m[m] All your recordings are done in Piemomte The Western Alps - is this a home recording studio? Gives Us an out line of what the set up in the studio & its location is it rural or town based?
[Roberto] We call it the 'Alien Zone': it's a space we use for doing recordings as well as for spending time; it is a very inspiring place for us indeed. Of course we cannot reveal the real location, 'cause it must be kept secret. We can only add it is a rural base about 1600 metres high up in the mountains.
m[m] If you could visit one planet in your lifetime - which would it be and why?
[Maurizio] Well, consider we come from Jupiter, and we often visit Saturn where our spiritual Father comes from - there's no much of the Solar System we haven't visited so far... so maybe another galaxy?... we're actually fond of the Sleeping Beauty Galaxy... so, who knows?
m[m] Your recent album on important -Leave me in the Black No-Thing is steering into darker, noisy feel than of lot of your other works- how did this come about? And are your new works going to following similar lines?
[Roberto] Our works are pure instantaneous compositions, conceived & shaped in the same moment they take form; as you say, Leave me in the Black No-Thing captured one of our darkest sessions to date, and we can't deny it develops into such an emotional depth as probably few other MCIAA releases so far... It represents a real jump into the darkness of the Void; we wanted to celebrate this kind of feeling: to be lost in the empty area of inner space. And the concept of loss in general. It's a work with a very sad atmosphere going through, reflecting our own intimate "state-of-the-mind", and we consider it one of MCIAA's key-works. It is divided in two sort of movements, the former representing a noise storm, the latter the infinite silence which follows. Maybe some of our future works will follow similar lines, but that's not something we can schedule or pre-define before it happens.
m[m] when you're working on a track or album do you have certain images and space scapes in mind?
[Roberto] When we begin a new musical piece, we create from the absolute nothing. It means that our minds are completely empty, and we start doing what we have to do in a total state of trance: no images, no terrestrial or extra-terrestrial landscape; we give shape to our new instantaneous compositions guided by our alien ghosts that embrace everything around, above, inside.
m[m] is your unique cover art work done before or after the music is completed?
[Maurizio] Most of the times we find out some very natural relations between a visual work by Roberto and a musical piece just finished, so I can say the art works for covers come together, at the same time, as a unique conceptual work.
m[m] Name your top ten favourite records and why?
[Roberto] Well these are among our top hundreds favourite records (too hard to say ten!); we cannot explain you why, we just can tell that each of the following list means pure magic for us!
Dave Burrel - Echo
John Cage - Atlas Eclipticalis with Winter Music
Giacinto Scelsi - Sauh Taiagarù Canti del Capricorno
Elder J.J.Hadley - Prayer of Death
Charles Ives - The complete works for piano
This Heat - s/t
Sonny Sharrock - Black Woman
Nick Drake - Pink Moon
Sun Ra - Atlantis
Albert Ayler sextet - New York Eye and Ear Control
m[m] whats next in the works?
[Maurizio] Starting from our own Opax Record label, we have several limited art-vinyl releases planned this year: some of them are mainly soloist projects released in extremely limited lathe-cut vinyl editions, while the most are the 5 volumes of the "Cosmic Debris" split art-LP series, featuring MCIAA alongside Text of Light, Steve Roden, Keiji Haino, Mats Gustafsson, Loren Connors. We're trying to issue a new volume every 2-3 months, and this is obviously taking much of our time and energies, since every record comes out with a proper acrylic painting on 12" square canvas individually numbered and signed by Roberto. On each piece of art there's a polaroid installed, showing one of MCIAA's space toys used in our recording and live performances. At the same time, we're keeping on doing a good work with the Italian label A Silent Place: we decided to give them the exclusive for the re-issue on CD format of the whole split series.
We have also been working on 2 side-projects this year: as far as Paiting Petals On Planet Ghost is concerned, the CD version of the debut album is going to be released by Time-Lag Records (USA) before summer; then we just finished mixing the second full-lenght album (for which we don't have a releasing date yet), while a 7" split with Mykel Boyd on his Somnimage label (USA) will be out very soon. In the meanwhile we have worked on a completely new project called Black Magic Disco, which is going to be out right now on Important: it features Tom Greenwood of Jackie-O Motherfucker, Ramona Ponzini, my brother and me. This is actually the JOMF line up as Tom Greenwood wanted it to tour Europe in summer 2005... the record documents some of those live performances, which sounded so 'alien' to JOMF as to need to come out like a totally new project.
Next Fall Important will also release a double CD: one of MCIAA, one of Praxinoscope (the duo formed by Roberto and Ramona), representing a concept album and a really key-work for us.
We're also working in collaboration with Paris-based Cook an Egg label for the release of the first official MCIAA's live performance on DVD format, which will be a real bomb!... and of course, before the end of 2007 there will be other surprises on 7"s, cassettes, cd-rs, dvd-rs, etc. - stay tuned!
Thanks to Maurizio and Roberto for taking the time to answer my Questions. You'll find all you need to Know about My Cat is an Alien own universe here. Live photos kindly used by permission and are © Raffaella Pagano.