ENTREVUE / INTERVIEW
The Rome Pro(g)ject
With: Vincenzo Ricca
ALBUM REVIEW HERE
Serge Marcoux - November 2020
ProfilProg (PP): Ciao VINCENZO and thank you so much for giving us time to answer our questions.
VINCENZO RICCA (VR): Ciao Serge, and all at ProfilProg.com, you’re welcome, thanks to you.
PP: The progressive community discovered VINCENZO RICCA in 2012 with the first chapter of THE ROME PRO(G)JECT. When I read your biography, I was really impressed when I discovered the previous 26 years. Can you give our readers a resume, if such a thing is possible, of some of your realisations during that period?
VR: The answer is quite simple. I play by ear since I was 3. My attempts to form a band back in the days always failed because I liked progressive music whereas my friends were attracted by other music forms. So I decided to degree first, in Law, and then to start a music adventure based on myself. In 1986 my first soundtrack to a documentary for Italian State TV. After hundreds of sountracks, in 2005, Prog came back in my life and little by little this side of my musical attitude took place in my mind. In 2009 I have had the idea of an instrumental concept about Rome, in 2010 works on it began…and the rest is history.
PP: We know that music categories are not often desirables but how would you describe the music you created and play during that span of time?
VR: I like to play all kind of music, except for Jazz, Punk and Trance Disco, I believe. Music I compose is mine. It is based on my inspiration, my self-conscious and the music I listen to. Most of the times my music does not exit my studio even if the door is open. Lots of beautiful music lies in my head. I am aware there is not enough time to make every wish come true. My great musical culture comes by all the music I’ve heard thanks t my father, since I was a child, from JAMES LAST to BEETHOVEN, from pop music to cha cha cha…That was my hugely important musical education.
PP: When did you began to love progressive rock and when did you begin to play?
VR: My love for progressive music dates back to 1976. I’ve heard a track called “A Trick of The Tail” and I was mesmerised…I searched for that records when I realized I have to buy the whole album because it wasn’t released as a 7”. That is where it all began.
PP: What was the spark that ignited your desire to create music in the progressive field?
VR: I think RICK WAKEMAN was the real spark. Seeing all those pictures of him going live surrounded by all that sort of keyboards. In fact, I did it in my solo shows back in the years, though those were not prog based.
PP: There is something very progressive and kind of magical about trilogies in the cultural field. Did you have a musical trilogy in mind right from the start? If so, please tell us why?
VR: No, I had not a trilogy in mind…In fact I came to a fourth chapter of it…
PP: What determined the subject of the PRO(G)JECT and why?
VR: My love for ancient roman culture, thanks to my mother, and the fact when I was at school, I did not understand the importance of that heritage. Living in Rome made the rest.
PP: The list of collaborators is particularly impressive, especially if we have in mind all the records. Would you say that was the idea right from the beginning?
VR: My original idea was to produce a concept album for STEVE HACKETT about the fountains of Rome. When STEVE said he had a similar idea but didn't have enough time to develop it, my idea veered towards something different and, little by little, by knowing in person my musical heroes, being cheek at times, far beyond my never sleepy shyness, I proposed to other musicians if they would be part of it. Most of them kindly replied “yes” although I was literally no-one in the Prog circuit!
PP: Who where the first musicians you contacted?
VR: The first was STEVE HACKETT, in the backstage of a roman gig in 2009. He was exhausted after the concert, so I did not have enough nerve to approach him. But I had a little chat with his wife JO. She’s fairy as she makes everything come true. And so, it was! She talked to STEVE for him to contribute to a couple of tracks on the first album. Doors were suddenly open thanks to the woman I consider THE ROME PRO(G)JECT’S godmother.
PP: What king of reactions do you get when contacting them, generally speaking?
VR: I must confess I have always been impressed of their availability. Of course, they value my music and, with some exceptions, even if busy they always find the time to contribute.
PP: It must be a tremendous feeling to be able to collaborate with musical greats like STEVE HACKETT, DAVID JACKSON, RICHARD SINCLAIR, DAVID CROSS, FRANCESCO DI GIACOMO, and BILLY SHERWOOD, among others. Please, tell us about your feelings?
VR: All I can say it was in any a case a little big dream come true. When I got positive reply from any of them, I made the impossible to get the best from each and everyone of them. It is not flattery, after all they are the wonderful musician people know.
PP: Obviously, some collaborations were closer than others and some may have represented a lot to you. What are the collaborations you would tell us about spontaneously?
VR: Each of them represents a lot to me. They all are wonderful persons, fantastic musicians. I owe them a lot. The strange thing is they try to replicate exactly what I did in the demos, especially Steve. I am both surprised and proud of these respectful approaches.
PP: Did you had the chance to meet some of the collaborators?
VR: Yes, I did meet all of them, except for BILLY SHERWOOD, he lives in L.A.!
PP: What motivated your different choices?
VR: Choices were motivated by artists’ feed back and by circumstances as well. Aside VIP musicians actually playing on my records, I’ve asked to join me RICK WAKEMAN (I met him several times to discuss his contribution to TRP II but due to his health conditions doctor’s advice was a period of rest and in fact around that time he cancelled lots of gigs too); STEVEN ROTHERY (MARILLION), RAY WILSON (GENESIS), MARTIN BARRE (J. TULL), all met in person, didn’t even reply; FRANCO MUSSIDA (PFM), TONY PAGLIUCA (LE ORME), ANTHONY PHILLIPS (GENESIS), PETER HAMMILL (VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR) kindly replied they were committed in different musical areas. Also, I approached VITTORIO NOCENZI of BANCO, FRANZ DI CIOCCIO of PFM, GIANNI BELLENO of NEW TROLLS. They all were enthusiastic and available…but it did not happen with them either!
PP: JERRY CUTILLO told me about his collaboration with DAVID JACKSON and the close bond he has with Italy. Was it through him you got his collaboration?
VR: No, I contacted DAVID through his great friend and collaborator DAVID CROSS, via mail (oddly, we met a couple of times in Italy, before and after his concerts, after his contributions were on the album yet). And so on…Thanks to DAVID JACKSON I contacted RICHARD SINCLAIR…
PP: JERRY and many young and talented Italians musicians are also playing on the albums. How important it is for you to get them to play on THE ROME PRO(G)JECT?
VR: I think Jerry was one of the first Italian young talented prog musicians to get on board THE ROME PRO(G)JECT I. He is a brilliant mind and I like his music very much. Other fine musicians such as DANIELE POMO, ROBERTO VITELLI, my son PAOLO, FRANCK CARDUCCI, MAURO MONTOBBIO ARE among the most heard in TRP albums.
PP: Many readers and listeners from ProfilProg are really found of Italian prog? What are the artists and bands, from yesterday and today, that you love or admire?
VR: P.F.M., BANCO, LE ORME, but there are many other remarkable past and new bands. Too many too mention!
PP: THE ROME PRO(G)JECT was supposed to go on the road and a live album was in the planning. Who were the musicians you had in mind to accompany you?
VR: The pandemic stopped the forming of the band. So, everything is postponed to the end of these difficult times.
PP: Your planification was changed by the pandemic and like many musicians and bands you decided to propose something else, « IV-Beaten Paths Different Ways ». What are your motivations with that record?
VR: TRP IV is really something else. Something different. It is a commemorative album, celebrating 10 years since TRP idea. On the other hand, it has many tracks, 13, none of them exceeding 7 minutes, 3 are unreleased, for the first time in TRP history there are vocals in 5 tracks, and the other 5 tracks are re-played, almost philologically, as if they were live. It features all TRP contributors. The cover artwork is by my wife, MARIA GRAZIA SPADAFORA. The inner graphics and artworks are, as usual, by GABRIELE MORELLI and me.
PP: There are three interesting aspect with the new record. Let us start with the three new songs. The opening number is exhilarating, what is prog in less than four minutes. And what to say, except wow, about the presence of another prog great, BERNARDO LANZETTI. Please tell us a little about those.
VR: Well, the first track should have been the title track of the “missing” live album called “Miliarum Aureum”. As things changed, its title turned to a more comprehensible “All Road Lead to Rome”. It has me on keys, STEVE HACKETT on lead guitar, ROBERTO VITELLI on Rickenbacker bass and DANIELE POMO on drums. STEVE recorded his contribution early February this year. He was in a rush because he had a live tour in the States that has to be stopped subsequently to the pandemic. It is what I define “an under 4 minutes prog pyrotechnic by RICCA / HACKETT”.
PP: You decided to add vocals on some pieces of a mostly instrumental project, which is another interesting side. What motivated to add words on your musical stories? And why those in particular?
VR: I‘ve always been a fan of BERNARDO LANZETTI, who was leader vocalist of PFM between 75 and 78. And I’ve always thought, if one day there will be a TRP album with a singer, that will be BERNARDO. So, I contacted him by Messenger explaining I had this track for him to listen. He was available, he liked the music and encouraged me to be “less direct” with lyrics. Trying to please him, I proposed some different lyrics but he sentenced the first lyrics were the best! So, he suggested some changes here and there at a distance. At that time, end of October last year I think, he was leaving for India! After that he would go to live in Marbella in Spain, where he actually recorded his vocals in January.
PP: The third aspect is the rearranging of the other songs. What listeners should expect? Would you be kind enough to tell us about that aspect and the differences?
VR: Yes, aside first track and BERNARDO’s vocal performance, there is another instrumental, Vertical Illusion, co-written with STEVE HACKETT and my son, PAOLO, that gently closes the “unreleased track” part of the album. An nearly 30 years old track of mine elevated to a prog status with the little help of these two fine guitarists.
The vocal part of the album sees FRANCESCO DI GIACOMO’S contribution on the first album and STEVE’s wife JO LEHMANN guide vocal she did for TRP II. But there are 4 more tracks that now come in their vocal version: 1 originally on TRP I, now titled “Reflections”, co-written with JOHN HACKETT, 1 originally on TRP II, “Of Fate And Glory” co-written with STEVE & JO, and 2 tracks, originally on TRP III, now titled “The Oracle”, co-written with DAVID CROSS, and “Invictvs” co-written with DAVID CROSS. And the singer is yours truly!
PP: It is also notable that all the artists who contributed to the three albums are gathered for the first time on a single album. My guess it that was a conscious choice? Was it? Can we say it is a way of saying thank you to your collaborators and putting the PRO(G)JECT in perspective?
VR: Yes, it was deliberated and at the same time I wanted to give credit where credit is due! So, we find all the artists who contributed to the three previous albums, for the first time gathered. The new album is thus embellished with the unmistakable sounds of STEVE HACKETT'S electric guitars, the narrating voice of his wife, JO LEHMANN, the magical flute of his brother, JOHN HACKETT, the pianistic romanticism of the first keyboardist of the HACKETT band, NICK MAGNUS, the unmistakable narration of the late FRANCESCO DI GIACOMO (BANCO), the more than unique fretless bass by RICHARD SINCLAIR (CARAVAN, CAMEL, HATFIELD AND THE NORTH), the phantasmagoric winds of DAVID JACKSON (VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR), the bass "a la SQUIRE" and more by BILLY SHERWOOD (YES, CIRCA), the fantastic electric violin by DAVID CROSS (KING CRIMSON). Alongside these giants of progressive rock another excellent presence: BERNARDO LANZETTI (PFM, ACQUA FRAGILE).
Alongside these Prog Rock Giants, the best promises, now kept, of new progressive: FRANCK CARDUCCI, JERRY CUTILLO (OAK), DANIELE POMO (RANESTRANE), RICCARDO ROMANO (RANESTRANE), ROBERTO VITELLI (ELLESMERE, TAPROBAN), MAURO MONTOBBIO (NARROW PASS), PAOLO RICCA, GIORGIO CLEMENTELLI, LORENZO FELICIATI, DANILO CHIARELLA and MAURIZIO MIRABELLI.
PP: When the time will come, do you still think about doing a tour and a live record?
VR: There is a huge need of good music around and I hope to be able to perform TRP live in 2022.
PP: Do you have another project in site or another record planned?
VR: Yes, “Beaten Paths Different Ways” pre order campaign on my site “vincenzoricca.it” went very very well as it has reached over expectations results. There will be a follow up to TRP IV for sure. First of all, the vinyl release.
PP: VINCENZO, thanks very much for that beautiful musical journey you guided us through. The last words are for you.
VR: Thank you very much for your consideration Serge and to ProfilProg, a real prog flag!