Interview: Gianni Rojatti

Guglielmo Malusardi: Well, I think we could start talking about "Deep Forest", the CD released with Marco Cardona, available on this web site. Describe for us how this project took form.

Gianni Rojatti: Marco and I have always been friends, and we live in the same city too. We share lots of musical interests, and we come from the same guitar generation that took form in the '90s, greatly influenced by shred. We've always followed each other's musical projects, and it's been a natural thing that we ended up doing something together. We are ordinary guitarist friends that can spend long hours on the phone or having a beer talking about amps and guitars.

Between 2002 and 2003, by a funny coincidence, we found ourselves involved in a jazz-funk band; this band really crap, but it was a well paying situation, so we were having lots of fun soloing like Racer X on Miles Davis songs, getting on everybody else's nerves! We really were off our heads! Anyhow at this time, we recorded a couple of demos for fun. At the same time, coming back from Disma (the biggest music fair in Italy, where we were playing at some clinic), we in a car driving with Gregg Bissonette, because Marco was playing with him on his italian tour. We played the demo on the car stereo, and Gregg gave us lots of compliments, and said that Marco and I should do something together, and offered himself as guest artist for one song. The wonderful thing was that, initially, he was supposed to play as a guest for one song only, but when we sent him the material he got so enthusiastic that he offered to play on whole album!

It's been so emotional primarily because Gregg is a drummer that I adore. He's played on "Eat'em And Smile", one of the greatest albums of history, with one of the greatest rock bands, and now he was about to play a record with me! I was in seventh heaven! Also when he got his hands on our demo,he enriched it so much with extraordinary rhythmic breaks, that it really made the difference in our work!

Guglielmo Malusardi: Let's analyze the CD from a technical point of view. Give us a comment track by track.

Gianni Rojatti: "Tera's Sweat" is, in my opinion, one of the most significant songs of the album. I love the unison break that we play in the middle - built on blues pentatonics with three notes per string. It also contains the solo that I love most on the record. It the most "fusiony" solo of the album, with lots of legato phrases and pick and fingers technique, and it has a great sound. My Manne guitar through a small Fender 15 watt amp at maximum volume! On this song, Bissonette plays divinely!

"Blue" is the most melodic song of the CD. The first solo is played with a Telecaster and it also has lots of pick, fingers and tapping licks. The second solo is a lot more rock-like by contrast, with a very funny break using string skipping and alternate picking!

"Without Fenobarbital" was one of the hardest songs! The solo is one of the most difficult I play. There's a small section in the middle that starts with alternate picking on B and E strings and then it develops into string skipping that move from the first to the last string. I love this part!

"Legio Nova" features a middle section in which Marco and I trade tapping arpeggios and string skipping, which was very funny! Also, the short solo I play starting at 1:05 was one of the most difficult of the album because it showcases complicated rhythmic phrases and fingerings. But the thing that I most love about this song is the wonderful bass solo by Bobo Comand!

"BBM" has a solo by Cardona that is worth the price of the album. Here, Marco kicks ass! The only thing I could do after this solo was to play my solo with the Black & Decker - so that's what i did! A great Matt Bissonette on this track as well!

"Too Cold To Play" was a real technical suicide. It's very fast, difficult and hard to play. But it's the most suggestive, and the one I love the most. I think that in the middle section solos, and in the many harmonizations, Marco and I did our best playing. If one day I have to be remembered for something, I'd like to be remembered for the playing on this song!

"One For Jason" is a touching remembrance to the greatest and undisputed shred master of all time: Jason Becker. I wanted to leave my solo totally improvised. When I recorded it I just closed my eyes and thought of Jason's music, his talent, his incredible career and his terrible destiny. I think I documented all the emotions, rage and pain that I felt for his tragic fate.

In "Lunotta Jones", the middle solo section is a concentration of pure fun!

"Showtime" is a song from Marco that was like pure hell. Most of the lines had originally been written to be played using sweep picking that he's really good at. I had to sweat a lot to play all the parts, changing many things to string skipping and tapping! The beginning of the solo in which we harmonize is, in my opinion, one of the most emotional parts on the album!

The story behind "July": it was a really hot July afternoon, and Marco and I were playing with acoustic guitars and my mandolin. Some beers, a lot of fun, a bit of '70s psychedelic attitude, and some strange cigarettes - when the temperature started chilling out in the evening there was another song on Marco's hard disk - perfect to close out the album.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Turn the spotlight on the Italian musicians on the CD now.

Gianni Rojatti: On bass there's Bobo Comand, my faithful bass player and special friend. He's done a great job and not just by supporting us, but also bringing in some precious ideas himself.

I mostly want to thank Enrico Sesselego, who mixed the album: Enrico is a real talent and has worked for long time as sound engineer and studio assistant for Steve Vai and Paul Gilbert. Now he teaches recording technique at M.I. in Hollywood. We met in the year 2000 in Los Angeles where I lived for a few months. At that time he was attending G.I.T. and I was taking guitar lessons with Brett Garsed, Frank Gambale and Dan Gilbert - and I was playing in a band. We became friends and it's been so good having the chance to work together. I recommended him to anyone who wants to give a special touch to his work!

Guglielmo Malusardi: "Deep Forest" is not your first release, let's talk about your real first release.

Gianni Rojatti: The first album I released was in 1998. It was a three track EP called "Matita". It brought me good luck, and I had some good reviews in various magazines. Because of this EP I started doing demos and clinics and I began to work at music schools. It was an album recorded and released with a very low budget, and worst of all, it had a drum machine on it - what a shame! It was a very, very shred oriented work. At some point I could think about re-recording it, replacing the drum machine with a real drummer.

Guglielmo Malusardi: How old were you when you decided that you wanted to be a professional musician?

Gianni Rojatti: I started in music when I was 14, as a singer in a punk band with a terrible name. For two years I'd been playing chords on rhythm guitar, without even knowing how to play barre chords. Then during high school I played a lot in a crazy band with my friends. We were Pescherecci Azzurri (blue fisherboats). We were playing a sort of punk-metal, with ugly lyrics! During those years I played hundreds of gigs with this band; we were constantly in trouble, and there were always loads of people at our concerts!

In the meantime, I started learning how to play solos. I discovered the pentatonic scale, Hendrix, Clapton - but when I discovered Van Halen I went completely crazy!...Tapping, harmonics, distortion, I wasn't doing anything else but solos! I was the band's nightmare - as the song was starting, I was already playing the solo! I think I spent two years without even taking my left hand off the neck of the guitar, where I was experimenting with all the tapping tricks! I wasn't playing a chord even after being threatened - just solos! So when I turned 19 I realized that I was in love with guitar and I wasn't doing anything else but practicing all day. Only then I understood that nothing could make me any happier than music!

Guglielmo Malusardi: Using a Steve Morse album title, what about your "major impacts"? At the Guitar Fest in Turin, at the end of your performance you announced a very soulful tribute to the musician that inspired you the most, Pat Metheny, but very soon the audience, bulldozed by an extra heavy and fast riff and machine gunned by an avalanche of notes, realized that you pronounced the name of Metheny, but you were probably thinking about somebody else.

Gianni Rojatti: Yes, it's a joke that I've done many times with the audience: I announce a song inspired by jazz music and then I play something totally different and furious, in a pure neoclassical style. Actually it's a way to take a piss at myself: often when I was a teenager and I was studying jazz (with a clean sound guitar and fake book under my nose) after 20 minutes I would find myself playing Paul Gilbert's licks with maximum volume and distortion. I was such an ass!

But let's make it clear. I love jazz, I unconditionally respect it, and for long periods of my life I've been listening to it, trying to pick up as much as I could by studying it. But it's not my kind of music, really.

I grew up with rock music, and that's the music that makes my heart beat and my strings vibrate. I think that you need to have the courage to look inside yourself and understand what you want to be and what you want to play. Many guitar players that grew up with Iron Maiden, Metallica and Malmsteen at some point turn to jazz, and maybe they do it because they think it's an easier way to be accepted by the musician community and to get more respect. I think it's fundamental to understand the difference between studying and playing some sort of music. You don't know how many very good rock shred guitar players I've seen wasting away their talent trying to emulate jazz and fusion musicians. You can tell when you hear them play and they come across forced, limited and frustrated.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Which elements inspire and help you the most to compose your music?

Gianni Rojatti: The trees that seem to explode in their emerald green during this season. Sting's voice when he sings with The Police. The suntan of the girls that I see walking down the street. Travelling on tour with my friends, my band, stopping along the motorway, watching the sunset at the end of some field in a place that you don't even know the name of, and thinking that if you are there it's just because of music. Watching the people dancing while you're playing. Falling asleep with your guitar on the side of your bed. Looking at your girlfriend eating a pizza and wanting to kiss her. Falling in love with Uma Thurman every time you watch "Kill Bill".

The beauty of everything that surrounds us that we see, live and face every day is what feeds your music. Life is wonderful, and living is beautiful. My music is really a tribute, a celebration to all of this, and I have the enormous good fortune to be able to take advantage of this. Just as having good technique can help us express and drive our ideas into organized, clean and useful phrases, at the same time I think that whoever plays an instrument needs to be keen in observing, collecting and enjoying the beauty that surrounds us. You need to live with enthusiasm, euphoria and grim countenance. And you don't need to be wasting your time - stay away from drugs and every other kind of excess.

Guglielmo Malusardi: What's your personal goal when creating music?

Gianni Rojatti: I think that music needs to flow out of you. Plato used to say that poetry is a sacred creature with wings and the poet is the vehicle that God uses to manifest himself. The artist isn't worth the genesis of his creation. His only target is to sharpen (as much as he can) his technique in order to codify and express the best that he can the flowing of art through him. So, I haven't got any specific goal when I compose, I let the music be the pilot, and I only try to organize it in the best way. Every song I've written so far are written this way, spontaneously. I never sat down and said, "Here we go, now I'm going to write such a sad and romantic song that all the girls will fall in love with me when they hear it." Every time I tried to do that it came out awful. But the opposite thing also happens: you sit down, pick up the guitar and start playing something new and original that you have now idea where it came from. And that is the point where the musician needs to work hard to play and arrange (as best he can) what's coming out.

Guglielmo Malusardi: What kind of sensation would you like to induce in people that listen to your music?

Gianni Rojatti: Honestly, I never thought about that. First, when I compose, I play and record my music in order to be completely satisfied with what I do, and my main responsibility to the people who listen to my music, is to make sure that I'm giving 100% of myself every time.

I'd like to ask this question to the people who bought "Deep Forest" to see what feelings they got from my playing!

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Guglielmo Malusardi: Could you find an adjective to define every musical mode?

Gianni Rojatti: Ionico: Mediterranean, sunny, passionate and romantic.

Dorico:powerful and nervous.

Frigio: melodramatic- in-between sad and angry.

Lidio: Steve Vaian!

Misolidio: to be played loudly.

Eolio: lunar, sensual, delicate, light and to be played fast!

Locrio: catchy and complicated.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Instrumental, guitar-oriented music seems to be a genre with very enthusiastic fans, and you wouldn't think it would be a negative situation, but the same fans don't seem to support the movement, especially in the live scene. What do you think?

Gianni Rojatti: Guitar players are an interesting case. They always have this kind of simultaneous arrogant and envious attitude. When they go to see some other guitarist, instead of being happy with the music he's playing, they only worry about the other guy making a mistake, or seeing if he's better or worse than them. Very often we miss the chance to confront and collaborate - and this way we're not gonna go anywhere.

But fortunately now in Italy we have a guitar scene that is a lot younger and stronger, where we all know each other, and we appreciate and support ourselves: Benvenuti, Cardona, Xotta, Gottardo, Ermolli, De Gruttola - I think that if we decide to unite our energies, Mr. Varney could be in trouble! Only joking of course, but I'm really proud of the Italian guitar shred scene, and I'm glad to be part of it!

Guglielmo Malusardi: Are you following the current guitar scene, or do you prefer not to listen to other guitarist's music?

Gianni Rojatti: My job at Chitarre magazine gives me a chance to listen every day to new guitar music. I constantly receive, and I acquire myself, guitar CDs to review and to transcribe. So I keep following new music and I'm always into this scene. Years ago also I used to listen to a lot of guitar players! I used to go to the beach with my girlfriend and listen to Joey Tafolla, Gregg Howe and Todd Duane.

I sincerely don't understand guitar players who say that they don't listen to other guitar players. I honestly think that they say this because of that arrogant attitude. Well if you play instrumental music and you love to play this kind of music, then how is it possible not to feel good by listening to some masterpieces like "Perpetual Burn", "Passion And Warfare" and "Five"? I go crazy every time I listen to something like that! Obviously I don't listen exclusively to this kind of music, and maybe this is what I probably listen the least. My favorite bands have always been The Police, Sex Pistols, The Clash, Foo Fighters and U2 - something really far away from shred!

Guglielmo Malusardi: Are you an endorsed artist? Let's talk about your gear.

Gianni Rojatti: Yes, I'm an endorser of Manne guitars since 1999. I love these guitars because they blend comfort and an amazing sound - two aspects that are not easy to join. They are the best guitars I've ever played for shred and instrumental music in general. Additionally, I have a Fender Telecaster and a Gibson Explorer. As for the amps, I'm been using two heads for years, VHT Pittbull Hundred/CL for the angry rhythmic sound and the Laney Vh100r for its superb lead sound, untouchable in presence and gain! Together with these two heads, I use three Marshall 4X12s and VHT monitors. When I'm recording, I often use a Marshall 2X12 that is very good for leads. For the clean sound I use a Roland Jazz Chorus 120 amp. I don't use digital multieffects, but tons of pedals - and I play at very high volumes!

Guglielmo Malusardi: Back to your music. I heard that you're actually working on a new solo instrumental album. Give us some more information.

Gianni Rojatti: Yes, I've been working for a few months on a solo album that I'd like to release and finish by the end of this summer. I am doing it together with Erik Tulissio, a very good friend of mine and drummer who has been playing with me. Erik also plays in my band The Casuals and also played during the pre-production of "Deep Forest". We're preparing something that will be very heavy. Ideally I'd tell you that I'd like it to come out like a crazy melting pot of Pantera, Racer X and Police! At the moment I haven't been thinking about the direction my solos will take. I'm still writing the lines of the tracks and I've written some very complex progressions. For sure, some fusion style forms will be used here and there!

Guglielmo Malusardi: Instrumental music is not your whole musical universe; you' re a member of the Casuals, a band defined on your web site as super rock post punk glam.

Gianni Rojatti: Yes, The Casuals are my band and my main artistic project. It's a power trio consisting of guitar, bass and drums plus the wonderful voice of Sonia. Bobo and Erik (bass player and drummer) and myself have always played together. We are very close friends. With this band we play a kind of rock influenced by bands such as The Police, Foo Fighters, Sex Pistols and King's X, but also Simple Minds, Tears for Fears and the Smiths. We play our music, and I deeply love what we're doing because it allows me to play that kind of rock that I love more than anything else and that I grew up with. We're fighting with all our strength to earn a place in the sun. We started a few years ago with another drummer, working in the studio with extraordinary bass player and producer Fabio Trentini, who worked with artists like Guano Apes, H-Blocks, Donuts and Marco Minneman.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Do you maintain a good live performance schedule with the Casuals?

Gianni Rojatti: We play a lot. Beginning last summer we play often in Germany. We booked a tour that we called "Lost in Germany" like an old song from King's X, a band that all of us love! In a year we've played about 40 gigs! Now we're working to release our first album. We began collaborating with producer/guitar player Marco Barusso, who has just finished the recordings of the latest Lacuna Coil album.

Guglielmo Malusardi: You also left your guitar fingerprint on the just released album fromTystnaden.

Gianni Rojatti: Both guitar players in this band used to be my pupils years ago. When they got a contract with Limb a year and a half ago, and started working on the record, they asked me to participate with a solo. I was really happy about it because I find this band fantastic, I love their music and I obviously feel very close to Cesare and Federico, the two guitar players, who are also very good. The solo I play on their record on the song called "Rewards" is sincerely one of the best I've ever played I think. I'm really proud of it! There are some alternate picking parts which are really difficult that have been really fun to play on that odd time song! I'm also even more proud of that solo because it was the first thing that I recorded in my home studio!

Guglielmo Malusardi: What's going on in "Jana's music kitchen"?

Gianni Rojatti: Apart from my duties with The Casuals and the solo project with my drummer Erik, I'm very busy with my job as a teacher at Lizard Academy in Monfalcone. Lizard is the biggest guitar academy in Italy. It's a great honor to be part of it, and this has given me a chance to get in touch with Alex Stornello who is the headmaster. Alex is an extraordinary guitar player who plays with the same harmonic and melodic complexity that you might find with Allan Holdsworth, but with the furious attitude that you can hear in Yngwie Malmsteen records! Because of him I'm working towards the release of an educational video that he is producing.

And of course, there is always the important collaboration I have with Chitarre magazine, that recently featured some of my instructional columns!

Guglielmo Malusardi: That's all. Thank you very much indeed for the interview. Time for your final message to the readers.

Gianni Rojatti: First of all thank you for this wonderful chat. People like you are a precious good for the guitar community! So to all the readers I feel like saying, "Guys, each day play up to your maximum potential, your enthusiasm and your amplifier volume... rock!"

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From the very beautiful northeast Italian region called Friuli (dominated by the mighty Carso mountains), through thousands of devoted hours practicing on guitar, Gianni Rojatti, one of the most brilliant exponents of the Italian guitar legion, is well known by guitar fans thanks to his amazing musical joint venture together with Marco Cardona, entitled "Deep Forest".

Guglielmo Malusardi recently sat down with "Jana" Rojatti to talk extensively about himself - and his musical universe.