Monday, 16 April 2012

Interview with The Wimshurst’s Machine (Augusto Chiarle)

The Wimshurst’s Machine is an award-winning 8-member Italian chillout orchestra that plays warm, infectious, environmental music. They are: Augusto Chiarle - sax and synths, Antonio Rapacciuolo - trumpet and cornet, Massimiliano Baudissard – acoustic drums, Roberto Canone  - sax, clarinet and keyboards, Daniele Scerra – electric guitar and visual arts, Fabio Rodi – keyboards and synths, Elvis Bergero – keyboards, and Duilio Chiarle – novels, acoustic and classical guitars. Seamlessly crossing between rock, jazz, world beat and progressive electronica TWM produce themes ideal for big-screen productions. According to co-founder and manager, Augusto Chiarle, The Wimshurst’s Machine is a steampunk project developed between friends and colleagues with little time to play together in person. Thanks to modern computer technology and software packages such as Propellerhead Reason, Apple Garage Band, Symphonic Orchestra, Sound Studio Pro and Apple Soundtrack, members of the band play together and record material even when living apart. 

  1. How and why did you decide on the name The Wimshurst’s Machine?
Back in 2003, my friend Fabio and I just started to think about a music project and while talking in a pub a friend mentioned this old generator from the 18th century. I was really charmed by it, what a shame it’s such a hard name to remember. But now we are TWM and the name will stay as it is.

Fabio & Augusto

  1. What is your definition of ‘Steampunk’ and how does it relate to The Wimshurst’s Machine?
Fantasy and Science Fiction are always an essential part of our albums. If you have something serious to tell, you may also do it while entertaining - just as H.G. Wells and other great writers did. Our 'steampunk' gets inspiration from the early 20th century, mixed with some more modern science fiction. Some call the subgenre “dieselpunk” or “raygun”; we do not mind if it is steam, diesel or ray, we like steampunk in itself, all included. The main idea came from two sources: 1st, the band name. Back in 2003 we chose to name the band after a very steampunk item, one of the very 1st electric generators created by mankind. And 2nd: we always loved the fantastic mix of modernity and retro-styled fashion of certain types of science fiction. That was already the perfect combination, even if the stage costumes only came in late 2010 due to our low budget.


  1. Why did you choose to create electro-acoustic music, and what do you hope to give to your listeners?
The music genre came by itself. We played what we enjoyed to listen to. It’s easier to believe in your music if you like what you play. To the people who buy our CDs, we try to give more than just a collection of good tracks or good songs; we try to build soundtracks for written stories. Every studio album is a concept-album, with a story available as a short novel - Time Traveller (2007), or Thunder & Lightning (2010), or as a podcast - The Alchemist (2005), and A Traveller Who Didn’t Ask For Glory (2004). Often they are available as free downloads from the band’s website. Next to be released is an album, which includes an entire book as a booklet - we’re already working on it. So far, band member Duilio Chiarle, a professional writer with several important awards in his career, has written all the stories. Our Cover art changes, but in Time Traveller (2007) we had a full booklet with great illustrations by our other guitarist, Daniele Scerra - great and talented artist; his illustrations were featured in hundreds of books around the world, particularly Italy, France and Germany.


  1. Tell us about your latest album, Breathe.
Breathe is a live album, our first live album. We like to do something new for every CD project - a new road to explore. The CD is not of a single concert, but a compilation of previously unreleased tracks, played in live jams, recorded between 2010 and 2011. We created a lot of electronic music in the past, so “Breathe” is also a way to say: “You see, we do play live; and we do like to jam. Our music is not just computer-generated.” We also went for the jam sessions because we wanted to give our listeners all new tracks. In Breathe, you’ll find new age, ambient and soft electronica. I believe it is a very good album, which also features the great cover art and photography of the talented Italian photographer, Natalia Ghiani.

  1. Is there an underlying theme or message in your work? 
Always. Music is the only thing that has no race, no country, no boundaries and no social differences. We can all be brothers and sisters in music, no matter what. So our motto is: “Music for a better world.” We also give charity donations of 50% of our earnings from music. Unfortunately, it is never enough.

Time Traveller

  1. Which musicians have influenced you the most, and how?
Personally, when I was a teen, Mike Oldfield and The Alan Parsons Project mostly influenced me; both for the soft electronic style and also for concept-disc projects. When I heard albums such as Crises or I Robot, I was immersed in a story narrated by music - this charmed me the most. Other TWM band members have different influences. For example: with Fabio, it’s Depeche Mode and Jean-Michel Jarre. With Elvis, it’s classical music, and for Roberto and Tony it’s jazz.

  1. Tell us about the Hollywood Music in Media Awards.
This will be the third year in a row we got a nomination in that contest. To be there, interviewed by TV and magazines while you walk on a red carpet, is a great thing. The first year, I went alone and had a lot of fun. Last year, three of us were there and I had even more fun, especially meeting so many talented musicians from around the world, and from every imaginable musical genre. This year, I believe we will be three or even four, and I’m looking forward to it once again. A fun and interesting experience that satisfies the ego and gives some reward for the effort involved in composing music, which is never an easy task. The opportunity to meet new musicians from around the world is magic.

Thunder and Lightning

  1. What do you find most rewarding in the creative process?
When you create something, it’s like having a new baby. What you’ve created is not completely yours anymore and, somehow, it starts a new life by itself. But, it gives you a good feeling. The same feeling you get when you find a good story, or read a good book. It’s somehow an expression of yourself, a slight bit of you that vibrates in the air.

  1. What do you find most challenging in the creative process, and how do you overcome it?
If you want to create something good, you have to be ready to work a lot.  And, regardless of how painful it is, accept that perfection is impossible. So, when the moment comes, you have to be prepared to say, “OK, it’s good enough.” Or you will never complete anything. Saying that something is ‘good enough’ is always a difficult compromise. To compose, we let just let things flow out. So far, during the years, just a couple of us have experienced a pause in the creative flow. But, as there are many of us in the band who compose, they regained it along the way, well before it could become a real problem for the whole band. For one of us, this lasted two years before everything finally returned to normal and was fine. As with everything in life, there are times the ‘real world’ makes you loose your grip on creativity; but creativity is also a cure for the crudeness of the ‘real world’. You have to manage somehow and find a good balance between things; but it isn’t always easy and varies from person to person. At least, I noticed that it is different for each member of TWM, even if seven people don’t count in terms of statistics.

  1. What have you done to promote and market your music, and what advice would you give to other artists?
An independent label distributes us; this is less remunerative, but gives us more freedom. And I like freedom, so I don’t mind earning less money. To promote our music, we mainly use podcasts, websites and Internet radio stations. Our current label, the British label, Astranova, does our promotion; but mainly, we built our own image by ourselves and are trying to gain exposure through the Internet. My advice is: if you want to go for your own artistic expression, be ready to work as bartenders, masons or whatever is necessary while you make your music in your free time. So, if and when success comes, it comes with your own rules. If you like to play cover songs or dancehall or mainstream music, well, this advice may not be for you. But it works for me, as I like to be free to play what I like the most. Oh, and don’t be in a hurry. Success comes when you do not expect it, and seldom without a great bunch of work.


  1. Who, do you imagine, would be your ideal listener?
I believe, anybody who loves steampunk, concept-albums and the fantastic. We have also released a couple of collections: Freedom Lights (2006), and Aquarius (2009) that can be enjoyed by an even wider audience and are also featured in some chillout bars around the world. So, you see, we like to be free but at the same time we do not fill our CDs with intellectual exercises - we decided to put a limit of two ‘experimental tracks’ for every twenty.

  1. What aspirations, or reservations, do you have regarding your music being used in film and television?
Our music was born to be a soundtrack. Actually, we’ve already scored several movies, documentaries and stage plays. Our best placements were: The Quiet Assassin directed by Alex Hardcastle for Channel 4, back in 2006, which used our Freedom Calls as the main title theme, and the Italian movies Avanti, sempre avanti and Polesine, where we scored the entire movies. We love to listen to our music as a soundtrack, be it for a movie, a stage play, a documentary or a novel.

  1. Where can we find you and your work?