Piero Pelù for the first time in competition at the Sanremo Festival
Exclusive interview with who, the rock in Italy created it and arrives at the Sanremo Festival to celebrate its 40 years of career
Everything is ready for the 70th Italian Song Festival which, from 4th to 8th February, will keep millions of viewers glued to the screens. A Festival that has also chosen our Piero Pelù, symbol of a very cheeky and cheeky Florentine rock, who this year (even if it doesn't seem so) celebrates 40 years of rock. We republish an exclusive interview of a few years ago...
You’d never have expected it from a rocker like him… Punctual as a Swiss watch for our meeting at La Pergola Theatre in Florence, Piero Pelù turns up by bike and the first impression speaks volumes. It’s rather like a reunion among old friends, with visceral, very real passions in common: for music, the countryside, Tuscany and the most basic of feelings. Pelù is a man, father and grandad (the little one will be called Rocco and is about to be born), in love with the countryside, “but only as a guest”, San Frediano-centric is how he likes to define himself, focused on the here and now, without surrendering to a nostalgia for the past. Our chat takes place ahead of Litfiba’s much awaited live return with their new disc Eutòpia, recorded with fellow band member Ghigo Renzulli.
Eutòpia. Tell us about the essence of this new disc.
Eutòpiais an extremely positive album, 10 tracks inspired by daily life and politics through which I have sought to give a breath of air to situations that are goldmines of positivity and to figures who convey hope, so almost utopic. In Tuscany my mind turns to Don Santoro at Le Piagge and his highly important social work.
The “Cornocuore”, the horned heart, Litfiba’s longstanding symbol: what’s the backstory?
It started out as just a drawing I did while doing the Spiritoalbum. It represents one of the many contradictions that I see every day as I observe, live and write music. Love, but with corns.
What should we expect on 7 April at the Nelson Mandela Forum?
Come in good shape. That’s all I’m saying.
Erri De Luca’s novel “Tu non c’eri” has been made into a film and you acted in it for the first time.
It was a very important experience for me, from the acting perspective, although I regard myself as a ventriloquist of music. “Tu non c’eri” was the first soundtrack that I composed entirely by myself. The plot is about when generations meet, their initial hampered communications, a symbolic dialogue between father and son, intense and moving.
Litfiba established their legendary “lair” in Florence’s via de’ Bardi. How did this magic come about?
We lived in that place, spending 15 hours a day here, writing our music. In Florence it’s never been easy to make rock music in basements like this. Like when I started with my high school band, the Mugnions. We rehearsed in viale Milton in the garage in my parents’ apartment block. After three condominium meetings they threw us out. In via de’ Bardi 4 we had a strange chemistry with the people who lived there. They accepted and enjoyed our strumming. Our cellar will soon become a speakeasy with live music, a really interesting project…
So how did Florence’s 1980s New Wave, as you know it, begin?
When I went to Liceo Dante I had three friends, Pasquinelli, Piovanelli and Moriani, and we’d always go to Contempo, a small record shop on via Verdi. That’s where the magic happened. At Contempo we met Federico Fiumani of Diaframma, the connection for my first live concert: on 8 March 1980 at Circolo Bencini in piazza Puccini, with the Mugnions. Then there was the legendary first concert of Litfiba on 6 December 1980 at Rokkoteca Brighton, and the rest is history…
You’ve recorded 5 solo albums to date. Which is your favourite and why?
Né buoni né cattivi, my first solo album. It was made out of a profound disappointment caused by the end of Litfiba, an album with a cry of despair.
Take us on your tour of Florence, from dusk to dawn.
Wake up and take a look out of the window. Contemplate Florence’s roofs and enjoy breakfast with a lemon and ginger tea. Ride your bike to San Lorenzo and choose the ingredients for your homemade lunch. Keep cycling all afternoon until sunset as far as Renai. Then live music at Flog, Volume in Santo Spirito, Nof in San Frediano and Jazz Club in Santa Croce.
“Identikit di un ribelle” is the title of your autobiography in which a dedication against the mafia and drugs stand out. In a nutshell, a rebel is…?
Someone who is true to himself. Someone who doesn’t try to blend in. Someone up for debate.
P.S. If you happen to see Piero Pelù on a vintage motorbike with other enthusiastics, have no fear. It’s his ingenious Mosquitos Way, an event for period motorbikes and bicycles manufactured prior to 1990.