What’s your earliest memory of holding an instrument?
The first instrument I ever experienced was the piano. My mother played so we had one at home, and I was always attracted to the sound. It was my daily routine to play every single key, from the bottom to the top. I was also fascinated by the different registers, in fact at a point I remember being afraid of the low notes because I associated them with ghosts and horror movie music. As I grew a bit older, I developed an interest in the guitar. I think my cousin had given me his electric guitar to hold. I remember thinking, ‘This is much harder than it looks!’ but I still decided to pursue it. I’m glad! I still love the piano though. It’s great fun and it’s very useful for hearing arrangements and composing.
You hold a degree in English Literature. Do you find that music and literature intertwine in your work?
From an early age, I loved books and at a point I wanted to be a writer. Then again, I also wanted to be a film director and a cartoonist. I still love literature and I treasure the experiences it gives me – experiences which sometimes are just as, if not more, inspiring than real life experiences. In this way, I think there is a connection between literature and my music, but only to the extent that my music is a reflection of my life, of which literature is an important part. In other words, no, I don’t consciously make or try to portray any link between music and literature, although I love both forms of art.
What psyches you up before a performance?
It’s usually just the desire to immerse myself in music, like when you smell the salty sea and just feel it calling you to jump in. Although I spoke about life experiences inspiring my art, I would say nourishing is a more accurate term. It’s the same thing with practising. As Jean-Michel Pilc says, ‘you can water the plant, give it sunlight, but you can’t tell it how to grow.’ So when the time comes to make music, if you really want to make it, you have to erase yourself and make room for music to happen. For this reason, I don’t think much about playing before I actually play, as there is a kind of dividing line between the two modes of being. This may sound mystical, and to a large extent I believe it is. I often say that if I had a religion, it would be music. Just this morning I read that hedonism is the very essence of religion (Osho). So the happiness that music gives me is my greatest incentive. It’s also a never ending journey, so as long as you’re alive, there is always room for improvement!
What has so far been your most bizarre experience on stage?
I was playing in a jazz guitar duo and someone asked us to play Bob Marley. If nothing else, that was bizarre. I do like Bob Marley’s music, but that request was as out of context as me lighting a cigarette and blowing a diminished fifth on my clarinet in a church. I also remember a power cut in the middle of a gig when I was playing at the Upper Barrakka Gardens. It was a rock gig and suddenly, all the sound except the drums disappeared. We just stood staring at each other on stage.
Photo credits to Andre Micallef
Who are your musical greats?
I love and listen to all kinds of music. As long as it resonates with me, I don’t care what label it’s given. But as for my greats, I would mention Mozart, The Beatles, Charlie Parker, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix and Thelonious Monk. I would say these artists have shaped my conception of what I want my music to do.
How would you describe the music you compose?
Having mentioned Zappa, I’d like to quote him: ‘Talking about music is like dancing to architecture.’ I love composition and I honestly hope I will have the time to explore it much further in the future. Then again, as a musician who is primarily working with improvisation, I am daily composing music on the spot, often in the context of a solo, although I like to look at it more like a constantly evolving group interaction. The musicians I play with are very important. So I would encourage anyone reading this to check out the music for themselves and use their own ears. I’ve just finished recording an album with my band, F-Trio, which will be launched this winter.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
I don’t usually think like that as I like to live in the moment. However, I’m happy with the direction in which I’m moving. In five years, I will have graduated from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York. This has been a dream of mine for a long time and I’m very excited to move to the artistic capital of the world. I’m highly grateful for this opportunity to study at a university of such high calibre and to live in the most fertile creative environment on the planet. Then again, while the outer context – teachers, band mates, relationships, friends – will improve, I can say that things won’t be that different in five years. I am making music now, and I will be making music then.
Photo credits to Andre Micallef