• Art, ecstasy & extravagance

    In conversation with Saló, the mystifying fusion of noise, prog rock and psychedelic tunes attempting to imagine a “dreamy and decadent” Roman renaissance.

Saló is the brainchild of multi-disciplinary artist Emiliano Maggi who decided to link his vision with the creative skills of Toni Cutrone, Giacomo Mancini, Cosimo Damiano and Stefano Di Trapani. Together they created an imaginary universe full of mystical beings, ironic nuances, and layered symbolism. Theater, costume design ritualistic tunes, and bizarre entities are some of the creative aspects they cover through their performances. Saló community is unique, raw, well informed and naughty.

How are you?

Pretty good thank you! It’s a beautiful morning today in Roma.

Could you identify Saló for us? What is the composition of the band?

We are Saló and with Saló we made something that cannot be characterized as a band. Imagine Saló as a collective project made by three friends, an imaginary concept made by witches and outcasts, fighting against the norms of the church and the system. Mainly we are trying to express ourselves through art music and performances. We are doing theater as well, music is blending of course but Saló is much more complicated than a band, is an idea. 

Everything you guys doing is extremely interesting but also dark. How do you pick this direction? How this ecstatic world of mystery influenced by witches and folk art come out as a final result?

On the one hand is a long story but on the other hand is pretty simple because we didn’t have a specific plan for it, we just followed a path of strange ideas and feelings and this is how the imaginary world of Saló came out. The costumes and the masks, all the visual aspects of us are immerging by Emiliano who’s a singer and a talented artist in the end he is the one that represents what we are as a whole. We are living characters of his visual world and this is how Saló as an idea was born. The first exposition came out while we were trying to do something as a performance, a theatrical concert with characters jumping out directly from the imagination of Emi. After the realization we tried to keep this idea alive because we felt well in the first place with the final result, the interaction with the audience and the little mystical experience we created almost felt like a ritual and kept our creativity active, that was the time we decided to keep going. This little world constructed by music, particular characters and theatrical elements began to take a form, gradually detached from the “Mother”, and now is growing up. This was the actual beginning. 

As people, you can say we are dark, but we are mainly ironic and this is something you can find in our music and our art. We are commenting on serious topics like sociopolitical and religious aspects of society in a sharp ironic way. An example is the typical Roman folk song, Stornelli that we used in a twisted way. The system is always there trying to be over you and control you in a deep problematic way.

Especially in Italy, a country full of religious dogmatism and conservative points of view ironic commentary makes full sense. 

Our shows contain a mix of darkness and irony and our purpose is to make people that are taking place in our performances release and expose their feelings through us. Our performances include people in general. 

Your shows are quite direct, I can see a particularly close relationship between you as artists and your audience. Do you think that the set design around you is playing a significant role, as far as I saw from past performances your concepts are changing all the time, how do you manage to identify and include the environment around your performances?

In the beginning, I identified Saló as a collective and not a band, so even on our performative side we are trying to avoid performing in normal venues, and normal stages. We are always finding places and environments that can express what we do! We collaborate with the environment around us, the places, the buildings, and everything we are into. The atmosphere around us is changing and this is something that brings us to different locations, at different times. Every time is different, whether you perform at night, during the evening, or in the middle of the day, and that’s fun because it can be easily boring to expose constantly the same theme in the same environment. I believe our audience is feeling the same. We are trying to be free and at the same time interactive. For example, if someone is inviting us to play in a church at night, on a beach, or in a pool, every time we are trying to be inspired by the environment around us and interact within it. That is important for us, to keep our audience and ourselves surprised every time. 

How art and ecstasy are related to you? When was the last time you felt ecstatic? 

Art and ecstasy are closely related! There is a big connection and can be represented in what we do. Our performances are a form of ritual, it is something really deep and esoteric. When we are wearing our masks…in the first seconds of your meeting you witness my real face and you felt surprised cause you confirmed I am a real person, but when we wear the mask, we are not even ourselves anymore, it’s something else, it’s like a medium. We are the first ones putting ourselves in another dimension and then what we are trying to accomplish is to bring the people with us and make them follow us into another world, another dimension. This is ecstasy and this is art! 

What we are trying to do is a little shock our audience and bring them somewhere else, on the other side of the river, to see the world from a different perception. When we dress up and put up the mask is not the same anymore, it’s Saló!

Is this process working as a catharsis or as a therapeutic form for you?

It is both the idea of being someone else, a character, a witch a demon, and the process of transformation that is working as a form of catharsis for us. Our performances have also a physical aspect, one hour of playing, jumping, dancing, hugging the people, and trying to activate them to follow us physically and mentally needs the collaboration of our bodies. 

How about the concept of the masks, are you feeling safe behind your mask? 

I think is not about being safe, we are not trying to hide our self-identity as superheroes are doing, is more about the ritual. We are wearing masks because we don’t want to be identified as human beings during our performances, is not Tony, not Emiliano, Giacomo that is performing is Saló! A new entity, a new essence and the masks are helping us with this transformative almost magic process. Masks represent the change, not the need to hide ourselves. After our shows, we tend to interact with our audience by drinking together, talking exchanging opinions and not hiding our identity from them.

Three things you cannot live without?

I will talk as a representative of Saló as a whole. I am wearing the mask now. So the first is the weird and strong relationship between us as an entity. Is not always easy to mix different people, with different backgrounds, lifestyles, and personalities together however the result is an interesting and diverse crama named Saló. The second is magic or witchcraft we can say, something extremely important for our personal lives as well and the last one is….the fact that we love pizza hahaha. 

Do you believe in god? 

I am pretty spiritual as a person! I believe in a god that is everywhere in nature and in every human being around us. For me, god is everywhere in something you can see, in something you can feel even if you close your eyes. I believe we are all part of it and we are all interconnected in that way. My god is not a god that you should pray for and keeps you around with miracles and sacrifices. Beings are like little universes in a big universe that they are trying constantly to match together, and when this is happening, that’s Divinity that maybe sometimes I pray on.

I recently visited Kuboraum in Berlin and noticed your vinyls alongside a pair of customized sunglasses. Later on, they informed me that the 4th act of Kuboraum’s Digital Sound Residency features Salò’s ‘La Ballata delle Mosche’. Can you provide more insight into this collaboration?

The residence you mention was the first step of this Journey that Salò and Kuboraum are doing together. It resulted in “La Ballata delle Mosche” ( “Ballad of the Flies”) and the video clip made for this song. The great feeling between us, common aesthetic visions, an imagination to create and share, led us to continue and make our collaboration even stronger: Kuboraum Editions was even born and the first release is the double vinyl which collects our music in this beautiful gatefold artist edition. A really great start. But above all, so much to expect for the future!

Do you have any long-term goals or plans for the future? 

After a few years, we arrived at our first album release. It’s funny cause this album contains work of years. The creative process was beautiful but at the same time complicated because we tried to include a lot of things together and is not easy to enclose everything in a vinyl. The result is just a small taste someone can have from us. On the cover, you can see our masks and is just a part of the work we deliver as the final result. For example, inside the vinyl, there are various drawings all handmade, one by one and by this, we were trying to share a sense of uniqueness that someone can find in our performances and our overall mentality. It looks like the beginning but is not! Our long-term goal is to spread the world of Saló globally. 

Any other additional infos we should know about Saló?

Every Tuesday you can find us in a magical place, Il baronato quattro belle, which used to be the bar of the famous Italian legend Dominot. In 1984, Dominot opened this club in Rome, where he performed (into his eighties) en travestì singing the repertoire of chanson française, from Édith Piaf to Juliette Gréco. Dominot was an Italian actor, avant-garde theatrical representative and female impersonator. For many years he was part of the avant-garde café society in Rome and was portrayed in the film La Dolce Vita by his dearest friend Federico Fellini. Nowadays this bar is considered our studio and you can find us there performing, improvising with different instruments, and interacting with people all night long. 

Saló / Art, ecstasy & extravagance

Credits:

Artist: Salo / @salosongs
Interview: Iro Bournazou / @irwb

You may also like

Tom Hancocks / Furniture From Outer Space

Art&Culture | Spotlight
A spotlight on furniture maker and 3D artist Tom Hancoks.

Candida Stevens Gallery / Place – Displace

Art&Culture | Spotlight
A spotlight on Place - Displace, the new exhibition at the Candida Stevens Gallery, London.

Nowhere Festival

Art&Culture | Spotlight
Elsewhere is always a nice place to be and we were all into a disturbance. Video report from the Nowhere Festival, Rome.