On the eve of his embarking on a solo European tour Valerio Marras, the man solely responsible for drone/ambient/experimental project S A R R A M, answered a number of our questions. The mountains of Sardinia, thoughts on music and a bunch of favorite albums were all covered. After the interview, we’ve included the dates of the tour, which begins tomorrow (February 22th, 2017).
Hello. Please introduce yourself, and tell us a little about yourself and your musical career. What projects, besides S A R R A M, have you been involved with?
I’m Valerio – I’m from Nuoro, Sardinia, a little island in the Mediterranean Sea and I don’t remember the first time I was involved in musical things. My family is very passionate about music, and they believe in the following equation: music = culture. I started playing the violin when I was 10, and I played it for more 10 years. When I was a teenager I started to sing in a metal band, and then I quit everything for a while. Then I started playing with Thank U For Smoking in 2009, building my own guitar before the first rehearsal of the band, analyzing the meaning of the sound from the very beginning. I started to play with Charun in 2012 and both bands are now very active and with a full schedule. I also play with an impro-drone project called Spheres, and something new by this project will be out this year.
How did you come up with the idea for S A R R A M and A Bolu, in C? Did it grow slowly or come to you in a flash of lightning?
The idea to do something as a solo performer has been very constant in my mind for many years, but I’ve always had things to do and no time to run other projects. Regarding A Bolu, we can talk about a real flash of lightning, especially because 85% of the track is pure improvisation.
You live in Sardinia at the moment. Where are you originally from? Could you expand a bit on your personal relationship to Sardinia and its nature, and how it has affected your work with S A R R A M?
I’m from Sardinia, I live in Sardinia and I really feel Sardinia’s air every day, which is priceless.
S A R R A M is filled with Sardinian nature, and it’s really hard to explain how important it really is. I remember the first time that my friend The Star Pillow went up into the mountains of my town and said something like “holy shit, now I know why you’re playing like this” – referring to the music of Thank U For Smoking at the time, but I think it fits S A R R A M as well.
For the album, you commissioned Bobore Frau to take special pictures for inclusion with the very limited CD edition. Tell us about him, and your collaboration.
I’ve never met a nature enthusiast such as Bobore Frau. He’s always walking around in these lands trying to capture magic during the day and night. Sometimes you don’t hear from him for days because of it. He’s a very good photographer and a real friend to me, we grew up together with our personal passions for music and photography respectively, so it has been a simple collaboration to deal with. It is the first time he did photography for these purposes, and still he did a really good job.
Your label, Talk About Records, is mainly involved with blues, rock and punk. How did you come into contact, and why did they want to do this rather different release?
We met each other for the first time 13 years ago or something, we were both involved in the Sardinian music scene back then, just like we are now. We have built our musical roads in different ways, but we’ve never lost the habits to compare and talk explicitly about our lives and worlds, free from prejudices. Talk About Records is a blues/r’n’r label, which is far from S A R R A M – musically speaking, but it is run in a real DIY way, as everything I’ve ever done and how I like things to be. Our mantra has always been “less talk, more work” – and after these years, we can say it works.
Do you listen to much atmospheric, experimental music, such as dark ambient? What are your personal musical influences in general, and what music do you think may have influenced your work on A Bolu, in C?
I’m a music lover and I’m not into categorizing sounds and feelings. A John Coltrane solo can satisfy my mind just as much as a Zu’s song; it depends on the day, mood and sun! In the last year I’ve been listening a lot to Helen Money’s last album, Poppy Ackroyd and Latitudes’ Old Sunlight – in the meantime I can’t stop loving the bigger names such as The Cure, Deftones, Ulver , etc.
How would you categorize your music? I find it very difficult, to be honest, since it doesn’t really fit neatly into any common ambient/electronic subgenre. Help!
Honestly I don’t know either. It is not a plastic product with a tag, and it is not aimed at a specific kind of listener, but I’m still very happy that people usually very far from this stuff enjoyed it. Trying to listen to A Bolu, in C from an external point of view I can recognize elements of Drone, Ambient, Post-rock and Shoegaze, but mixed in a weird way (my way of course)!
I personally think that A Bolu, in C is a great album. What do you think makes an album great? A few examples of such albums, perhaps?
Well, thank you very much! I guess it depends on personal taste and, of course, on personal references. The more music a person listens to, the more music she/he can understand. Sometimes understanding music is like understanding architectonic stuff or modern art, you know, if that strange sound gives you good feelings, maybe it is the right sound for you.
Here’s a list of records that never left me alone in the last 15 years: Dopo L’ennesimo inverno – Alzheimer / A love supreme – John Coltrane / Disintegration – The Cure / Messe – Ulver / I – Meshuggah / White pony – Deftones / Houdini – Melvins / Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven – GY!BE / ( ) – Sigur ros / Zu – Carboniferous
Was this a one-off, or can we expect further releases from this project? To me, it would be a waste if you stopped here.
The meaning of this project is to be totally free. After this upcoming European tour everything will be a little more clear, but sure, I’ve got some melodies in my head which I’ll record one day.
Do you have anything to add? Words of wisdom, perhaps?
Oh wow, words of wisdom you say? No, “let the music do the talking” works great for me – but thank you very much for the kind words and your interest in my project, it is much appreciated!
Tour dates for S A R R AM’s European tour 2017:
22.02 Lugano (CH) @ private event
22.02 Lugano (CH) @ Sonnenstube
23.02 Liegi (BE) @ Le Smile
24.02 Amsterdam (NL) Showcase @ Red Light Radio
24.02 Goor (NL) @ H.A.N.S.
25.02 Utrecht (NL) @ The Village
26.02 Utrecht (NL) @ Strowis / morning show
26.02 Tincques (FR) @ L’aureole
27.02 Caen (FR) (FR) @ Le 39
28.02 Caen (FR) @ Cafè Savage / morning show
28.02 Orléans (FR) @ Secret Concert
01.03 Troyes (FR) @ The Message
02.03 Tubingen (DE) @ Lu 15
03.03 Munchen (DE) @ The Academy of Fine Arts
04.03 Augsburg (DE) @ Die Ganze Backerei
05.03 Massa (IT) @ Pepper 78