Looking for a Rockabilly Bass player

TrackCinque is taking more and more shape. I am quite satisfied but there’s still much that needs to be told. After our interview with Alessio Bondì, I had the pleasure to chat with another young musician, Luca Chiappara, who specialises in the rockabilly genre. I thank Luca for telling me his story and his job/vocation: music.

Before we delve into the interview, I’d like to remind you that rockabilly is a genre born during the early 1950s and it fuses various genre, including blues, country, and boogie. We can state that this genre was the antecedent of rock’n’roll. Enough of that now, off to the interview.

Hi Luca, I know that a few years ago, you changed genre: earlier, you were part of the Tartamella and the Melody Makers band, and now you’re part of the Don Diego Trio, and, despite your young age, you’re very talented. Tell me what brought you to start playing? Why the bass?

I started with the electric bass at age nine. We were eating with a classmate of my sister, five years my senior. He played in a band and I sort of worshipped him. I told him I wanted to learn how to play the guitar and his answer was ”but why? there are too many guitar players around: pick up the bass, as sthere are few bass players.” And that’s how it started. I started with the upright bass for a similar reason. There are very few rockabilly upright bass players. I got into the Tartamella and Melody Makers: “if you learn how to play the upright bass, you’re in.” And the following day I bought a cardboard upright bass, and I locked myself in my house until I was able to produce something decent. Two weeks later I had my first booking, three weeks after that two more, then three, and so on, until I learnt how to play onstage.

With Don Diego Trio, you had that great experience that was quite a hefty summer tour, which took you all around Italy and abroad. I can imagine your excitement.

Yes, the first tour was the one from last summer (2014) and I found myself catapulted from a regional into a nation dimension. From a club to a festival audience. On August 2nd, I found myself in front of 20,000 people on the main stage of the Summer Jamboree, during the headline event. Yes, the excitement was high, but I also felt inadequate. I kept asking myself what was I doing here?

The following year, I also went abroad, in situations that are totally unimaginable to me. It all happened too fast for me to really realize what was really going on.

I devoted a blog post to your travels: I am sure you’d have a lot to say, because you travel a lot for work. Would you like to share an anecdote?

I don’t want to get too specific, but I can say that the great part of a musician’s life is spent on the woad (i remember we did Zurich-Catanzaro or Munich-Turin in a day). Given that I am the baby of the group, I drive little and sleep a lot. I like the philosophy behind it. A month on tour means spending 30 days with your band mates 24/7 withint the space of two squaremeters (that’s the size of a Fiat Multipla, the size of a stage, and the size of a hotel room. Traveling is 50% of the experience. It’s the moment where you speak the most, wher eyou share the most. Travels are fundamental. And so is the soundtrack, that has to mirror what you’re going to do. On tour, you don’t listen to anything but what you’re going to play. On tour, you deepen the knowledge of new sounds, but still pertaining to your genre. It serves as inspiration. The other genres can be listened to at home, not in a car. It serves as inspiration. What can happen is that when we perform at night, we play things we listened to during the day, new pieces, new sounds, new and richer arrangements.

In all, all that road traveled would be worthless without a good soundtrack. Our last album was written and conceptualized just like that, on the road.

The last question I ask you hinges on the mood of TrackCinque: tying music to memories. Could you share one of your memories that strongly ties you to music?

I answer with a track associated with a memoryl I don’t have a great memory, so the memory is not far away. The track I want to mention is “Get used to the blues” by Carl Sonny Leyland, a Californian piano player specialized in rock’n’roll, swing, boogie woogie, dixieland. His range spans from the music from New Orleans from the early 20th Century to the more classic rockabilly, playing everything with immense elegance. We opened for him last April during a festival in France. As it happens in most of these cases, he sent us a tracklist with some references, some by him, some by others. Once we got there, he told us he wanted to divert from the track list. He made us listen to that track during rehearsal. We transcribed the chords, I noted down a couple of things in order to play it with the approximation of a score. We rehearse and I play concentrating on what I had jotted down. In that moment, I didn’t notice what the track was like. On the evening of the concert, I fix my notes on the music stand and we start playing. Finally, I pay more attention to the performance and I realize that it was something incredible. It was so beautiful that at first I got goosebumps, and during the second chorus, I got so overwhelmed with emotions that I lost rhythm for a few seconds. There is a determinate progression that gives me pleasure-induced goosebumps every time I listen to it.

Small, technical details are what give me the most enjoyment in music. It’s always been like this, even when I did not realize that. The first track I really obsessed over was “The kids aren’t alright” by Offspring. I was seven, and I was moved by the fact that guitar solo played a repetitive melody and, meanwhile, the chords changed. It was hypnotic. Here is another memory! Those two seconds are worth the whole record. And those two seconds are worth the study, the strife, and the time that are the foundation of every artistically insatiable musician.

Talking to Luca was a real travel into a world full of adventures, and what emerges from his words is determination and enthusiasm: TrackCinque wishes him to keep pursue these things and thanks him for his time.

Originally published in italian on TrackCinque on October 30, 2015