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Joe Zawinul
Interviewed by Marco Piretti
Rome, July 18, 2000

The Zawinul Syndicate Live in Rome, July 18, 2000
Photo by: Fabio Di Biagio


A brief introduction (by Marco Piretti)

Dear readers and friends,
as already annonunced on our mailing list, we had the opportunity to interview Joe Zawinul before his concert in Rome, the last July 18.
You can understand that it was an unforgettable experience for all of us.
In this page, you have a nice article written by my friend Luigi Pagliarini, who was with me during the interview, a report of the interview (we hope that our interpretation of the Zawinul words is completely correct), some realaudio clips and some photos.
You can also read another article, written by me, in the italian version of this page.
We hope that this work is enjoyable for you.
I want to thank especially my friend
Roberto Battestini, who helped me in the English/Italian translation of the interview.
All the best !
Marco Piretti.

That drink with Joe (by Luigi Pagliarini)

Tuesday, 18th of July 2000, Rome.

Joe came to the stage one hour before we got to know him.

He had carefully directed the sound check of the Syndacate and while you could feel the grove going higher you could watch the sun discending gifting all of us with one of those famous Rome sunsets that you would hardly forget.

All the people around the scene were smoothly setting up the event moving chairs and tables and preparing drinks and food but, you couldn't distinguish their 'sound' from the music and I suddenly realized how much Joe's music was able to fit into the third millenium.

Then they stopped playing and before I could think that our turn was coming Gea's voice popped out from the stage:"It's your time!".

We followed her behind the stage and there was Joe with his funny -one hundred percent american- hat, waiting for us.

After a short introuduction, Joe looked around the place, as he was missing a thing, and said: "Shall we go inside ?".

His noble ears had caught the very same unbearable background noise I was perceiving. In a shortwhile we were inside the back stage caravan. I will always think that he had something to tell us, regardless of what we would have asked, and that he was in a kind of rush to do so. Indeed, at the very first question he actually drift out of the track and started talking about Mathausen.

He had composed and recorded an album for the 60th aniversary of the camp and he wanted to call our attention on that and on the fact that he, as a an austrian, had to say to the world how much he hated that past, up to the point that he said to considered that compositions heavy and hard to follow but, still worth to be listened. Then he prayed us to do so. What follows doesn't really matter. The interview in my and his opinion, I guess, was over.

At the second question he was much more relaxed. He opened up a bottle of grappa and sniffed it out, while answering. Then opened a new one and decided that this was better. Picked up a few glasses and invited us for a drink. While the chat went on, between the lines, I kept on thinking of the very first words he said. I kept on thinking that, apart from those who were there, in the camps, and besides their families and friends, people like Joe, who have this unsustainable inheritance, are the unspoken victims of the wars and of the nazism, in this case. The nazism indeed is too far from their thought and too close to their blood.

Thanks Joe, thanks for that drink.

Joe Zawinul interview

Marco: In the last years you mostly carried on your activity in live concerts, even with the cutting of a live double album; do you think to follow that path, or do you intend to go back to most frequent studio recordings?

Joe: I don't know; you see, i mean i've been very busy, i also made a studio recording which is a very important record, it's called Mauthausen. Mauthausen is... have you heard it? It's very important to hear and to understand because it is about a time before you were born, but it hasn't changed... that time was the most horrendous time in the world history and people were persecuted and persecuted only for reasons totally inhumane, you know, because they were men of different religion of different type... there are no different people that was what it was made out to be and they were murdered and murdered in hundred thousands and Mauthausen was a camp... that camp in Austria... i was commissioned to write [a song for] the sixties memorial day of the opening of the camp which was in 1938, August 8th, and... i played live in the camp, in Mauthausen, ten thousand people, incredible, it was at night... (.....) And prisoners had to chop down the granite and carry it up a steps they called the death steps... This record was very hard, with my son Ivan, he mixed together for me all the sound effects, hundreds of sound effects, it's a very great record, a very unpleasant record but people should really listen to it. It's very important for young people who say it was happened in the past don't want to hear don't want to talk about it... you MUST talk about it, but everybody is false... you know... And that was up to Germany and it was also Austria... I love Austria, i'm austrian, i love my country, i would call a war for Austria, but that part of Austria i don't like. And we've got to admit, we have to understand, we have to admit that also many austrians were nazis, as many italians were nazis, and many atrocities were made in Italy too (....) We cannot change history, we cannot do that. But we can talk about it, and make people aware about what has happened it that war of sixty years ago...

So that's the work i did last year. (....) Now it's a great "momento" with the band, we went to many places, we went to North America this year, we went to China, we did a South America tour, a second european tour... and we'll go to New Caledonia, in Australia and then to China and then we'll go back to America. It's been very tough... But i'm already preparing an album which comes out next year, with the band. Next winter...

Marco: Have you got new compositions for this album?

Joe: I have made seven hundred compositions in the last two years, so we have many very good things, we are examining forty songs for the next CD. So, it's very nice stuff.

Marco: Well, a question on the new band. How is going on with Amit Chatterjee and the new drummer?

Joe: Chatterjee is not so new; he played with me two times before, the first time six years ago, and... (Chatterjee enters in the caravan and Zawinul asks him: "When were you in the band for the first time? ­ Chatterjee answers: "In 1993, and then in 1995 and then again in 1996, and again now..." Zawinul says: "In 1996 you stayed for what? Thirty days?" (Laughters...).

And the new drummer is Nathaniel Townsley III, his grandfather (Luigi made a photo while Zawinul was speaking, so he was scolded by Joe). His grandfather founded a church in Brooklyn, and his father, with the same name, is now the pastor of this church.

What is church in italian? (We answer: "Chiesa"..., then Joe asks Luigi to open for him a bottle of Grappa).

And now Nathaniel III... is grow up in the church... (Gea Marotta enters the caravan and says: "Only to know if you have something to drink, but you have...". Then Joe says to Luigi: "You need another cup for him?". Luigi answers: "No, no problem, we share the drink". So Roberto and Luigi drink together from the same cup… Marco has is own cup).

Marco: Some questions about Weather Report. What are the main differences between your nowadays music and the music you did with Weather Report? Are there similarities?

Joe: I'm wiser, i'm a much better musician now than i was... much better. Much more observer, more knowledge of life, and that's what music is, it has nothing to do with notes... it is something else, there is no comparison.

Marco: Have you listened to the music of musicians like Michiel Borstlap...

Joe: Michiel Borstlap, i like what he's doing, i like. Michiel Borstlap had the good idea, to do something different with that material. You know... usually, when people try to play that music we did, the music i wrote and Wayne wrote - because it's a different writing of one thing of me and Wayne ­ by the way, people don't know how to play it; there is a recording of that guy, Jason Miles, you know... it's horrendous, it's terrible... i never heard a worst record than this. We could have very easily say if he were ask, if he comes out... it's a shame.

The band, when we talk about it, and we did know who was on the record... but then you have all this big musicians that are on the record, you know who is on this record, everybody... let's see how people react to that, because people are pretty gullible, very easy to be influenced, you know... What do you think people think when they hear this? You know, is the record nice or is it really bad or are they just impressed because there is David Samborn, Michael Brecker... the worst thing is that nobody can play what Weather Report played, nobody. It's a different thought, a different personality of music, of life. There is no comparison. And if that would be: "go ahead, do it !", because people can make in years the difference, and then they say: "Hey! What we did is now, what we did is thirty years ago". And it's not even on the same planet, on the same galaxy.

Marco: Something more about Weather Report…

Joe: Weather Report was for me the best band of its kind. For me, Duke Ellington was the greatest orchestral composer for big orchestras, like Sixty pieces band or eighty pieces band, and for me Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker were the best for small group playing, and Weather Report were absolutely the best in.... absolutely.

Marco: Most of people thinks that the best period of Weather Report was the Jaco period…

Joe: It was ! It was a personality band, we had great charisma, great personality, but the next band, the one with Omar Hakim and Victor Bailey, was just as a good band, just as good, and sometimes this band is just as good, sometimes, not consistently, not yet. They are trying to figure out things to do differently, you know we're trying to play new music and it's not easy when you have a band where one lives in Los Angeles, one lives in New York, until now, we had a drummer who lives in Paris... it's really difficult to have... it has all to do with time. Everybody... Victor has his own band... Victor couldn't even do the first part of the american tour, Richard Bona did that with us; you watched Richard Bona?

Marco: You will be with Richard Bona in this new band, the "Zawinul Special Project". Can you tell us something about this ?

Joe: Yes, i don't know what to say, i cannot tell you what this group is because we never played together a note. But this guy, Lelo Nika, is the greatest accordion player who has ever lived. This guy, we will see how this music will interprets, because he's the greatest virtuoso who has ever lived. He is a gipsy, he's from Belgrad, who grew up in Copenhagen... one day, i was playing in Copenhagen and he came in and wanted to play something for me. And we sat in a dressing room, a small dressing room, and he started a sad play, and i never in my life heard anybody playing like this. So we said "OK, we make a little project", with Maria Joao, she just played with us in Paris, it was incredible, with the band as special guest, incredible, this is going to be very interesting, we will play some gipsy songs, this guy plays Paganini, you know... i never heard something similar in my life, it is going to be very interesting with Bona, Manolo, and myself, and we'll see...

Marco: We know that the value of family is very important for you. Do you think that it influenced your music ?

Joe: Yes, because... i have a wife, who is a very wonderful person but she's also very gifted, she's not one who does a lot of talk... sometimes she gives me some hints when i do things... anyway, you know my wife designed the cover of Black Market, and she is into this, she has very quite beautiful ideas about a groove, and i remember she was with Ivan, my son, and when i started to play this song the first time, the way she could drew, it was Black Market. And then she liked this song so much, she cut out a newspaper and put together the cover, then we had it painted on the LP. We are moving again, we are going back to New York, we are moving in August back to Malibu, and it's gonna be nice for my grandchildren... you know what i mean....

Thank you.

RealAudio samples of the interview
(You need RealPlayer G2 or successive version)

1. Mauthausen and the upcoming new album (05.32)
Michiel Borstlap and Jason Miles (02.11)
The Weather Report (01.27)
Amit Chatterjee (00.26)
The Zawinul Special Project (01.53)
The Family (01.10)

The photo album

1. The stage at Villa Celimontana
Roberto and Luigi, my friends
The soundcheck (1)
Joe wanted to test the sound by the point of view of the audience
The soundcheck (3)
The soundcheck (4)
The soundcheck (5)
The band during the concert
Joe Zawinul presents the musicians
Joe ! (Photo by: Fabio Di Biagio)
Joe Zawinul with Marco Piretti during the interview
Joe with Marco after the interview
Gea Marotta and Marco

More photos (by La Cicalona)

Photos of the concert:

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11




Many thanks to:

Gea Marotta of Emmeci Srl
Roberto Battestini
Luigi Pagliarini
La Cicalona




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