From The Artist Magazine no. 3
On the Road
Translated from Italian
Interview with The Straniero
The celebrated one man band of the piazza
I was walking along the streets of Vieste (Italy) with many
thoughts for my upcoming interview with Miss Nice Girl,
one of the many personalities of the summer.
that evening I was supposed to interview a certain The
Straniero, one of the best one man bands Ive ever seen
man bands, for those who dont know, are artist capable of substituting
an entire orchestra by themselves
a question I often ask
how did you get started
in your activity as a one man band?
difficult to say exactly
I started slowly, I was already playing
on the street in Chicago as a kind of after work hobby
12 years now that I do it full-time
one day I said,@#$%^!,
I can live just by doing this!
and in no time, I was a professional
ART: The weapons (instruments)
that you carry around are your own inventions?
No, if you mean to say that I invented this type
but I did design and build this one
at home I
have six different one man bands
the one that I have
with me tonight is my newest and most lightweight instrument, but its
not exactly finished yet
Im perfecting it to my needs and my
ideal of the perfect one man band as I believe that everybody
who is into this kind of work does
its not like you can go
to the store and pick one of these up, it wouldnt make sense
has to be built for your body...
ART: Do you know another
celebrated one man band, Edoardo Bennato?
but, you know theres a lot of one man
bands in Italy
in fact, I just came from a festival of only one man
there were at least ten of them
ART:Do you only do covers,
or do you have some of your own pieces too?
STRANIERO: With this instrument I only do covers
I used to
be with a group that did only their own material, but after the breakup
I havent written anything
sometimes I translate songs from
English into Italian
ART: In your opinion
whats the advantage of playing on the street instead of more traditional
its got its positive sides
and its negative sides
the street has always been my preferred
place to do shows
when I play on the street, its all mine:
if it goes bad, I just close shop but, if it goes well I know that I took
a street corner where nothing was happening and gave people something
that theyll remember for a long time to come
as for other venues,
bars dont pay, and theres always problems with the copyright
on top of it all though, if you want to play clubs youve
got to play really crappy music
ART:In your opinion
whats the street artists role in society?
what I mean is
having fun or, seeing as you play mostly in piazza, to be also a little
politically involved sometimes?
STRANIERO: Yah, sometimes, but not always
play in a lot of manifestations
Ive played in hospitals, for
animals, for street musicians rights. Im even supposed to play at
the prison in Rome some time soon
one thing that I always try to show the public is that with a little
creativity you can do an awful lot!
I like to show kids that they
dont have to get a 9 to 5 job to get along in life
anyway, to respond to your question, apart from politics, I have
a sense of being part of an antique tradition: street musician is an ancient
and when things go bad, thinking about this makes me feel
have been an influence on you in particular?
the first one man band I ever saw was when my
grandmother took me to a county fair in Michigan, one of those places
where they give out a prize for the nicest chickens or the prettiest cow
there was this guy who played the slide guitar with his feet, another
in his hands, a concertina between his knees, kazoo, cymbals
but my greatest source of inspiration was a bandleader from the
40s and 50s named Spike
in his shows there were dwarves and giants, real guns, pianists
standing on their heads
there was even this bit where the three sax
players would keep blowing their sax while switching their hands to both
of the other two saxes
ART: Have you ever had
any problems with the authorities in your years and years of experience
on the street?
STRANIERO: Problems? Ive had my share
normally in tourist towns like this nobody bothers me, but in big
cities its much more difficult to get by without problems
Naples has ever been a perfect place for me
difficult to coordinate all these instruments together at the same time?
if you build it right, all
you have do is learn to dance
the first time I put the instrument
on I said, Damn, this thing plays all by itself!