Sound Identity interviews Saturnino, the surfing chameleon
Saturnino Celani, better known as Saturnino, is a bassist, composer and producer. But he is not that easily categorised - we are talking about a real star. Not only is he the best bassist on the international panorama, a musician who skilfully explores different genres and instruments, he also skilfully juggles his numerous passions with the adaptability of a surfing chameleon.
Sound Identity: Experimenter, creative and passionate artist as well as entrepreneur able to both seize and create opportunities. What does it take to continually take on new challenges and make them into a success?
Saturnino: I think of myself as an enthusiast more than an experimenter and really all I've ever done is indulge my greatest passion: music. I wanted to transform my passion for the bass into something that I could live on too. I persevered to that end even when everything seemed to be against me.So these challenges weren't really challenges, it was more a case of cultivating and indulging your passions. Of course not everything is a success. But I have always injected a vast amount of enthusiasm into everything I do, instead of focusing on an immediate economic return.
All pics by courtesy of Saturnino Celani and Saturnino Eye Wears
Sound Identity: How important is it for an artist to have their own style?
Saturnino: My style is more of a "non-style". When I started out, I imitated the artists I looked up to and I tried to take the best from each of them. My own style developed from here. The best moment for me was when a parent told me that his 14-year-old son had seen me in concert and decided he wanted to play the bass, it was great to know I still appealed to much younger generations. I think it's because I am still very present and I continue to do something that I started doing when I was very young but keeping it up to date. But I've never really made my style a prerogative, in fact the whole point is not to have a style, to maintain a wide appeal. That is actually where the surfing chameleon came from, people couldn't quite pin me down when they heard me play.
Sound Identity: When you launched your Saturnino Eye Wear line, did you ever expect it to be so successful and popular with the public?
Saturnino: That all started with an optician who was adjusting my glasses. He was very struck by what clear ideas I had about the changes I wanted. That was the initial stimulus, then it took four years to structure and actually launch the project. I don't think of myself as a designer by any means, I merely convey my taste to the people I collaborate with. It's a sort of enlightened monarchy. I did not expect it to be so well received, it was a wonderful surprise and has stimulated me to improve. there are some people who warn me that it will all be over by next year, but I am only interested in what the clients think and the fact that they are so happy they post photos of the glasses online and on social media.
Sound Identity: Your collaborations with important artists are well-known and you have often developed close friendships with them (e.g. Lorenzo Jovanotti and our very own Stefano Fontana aka Stylophonic). Have you ever collaborated with somebody you really couldn't relate to on a personal level?
Saturnino: I'm lucky enough to be able to come into contact with people immediately; I've never believed it when people say "oh, you just need to get to know them". I don't have time to get to know them, the relationship has to be positive and interesting from the very beginning, like it was with the people you mentioned.
Lorenzo and I have an extraordinary relationship, we've known each other for years. What I like to emphasise is that I'm a session musician who gets called back. I don't have a contract with Lorenzo, so the fact that I get called back every time, like in football teams, is a real honour and pleasure for me.
Then, with Stefano... you know when you dance for three hours on a night out and then find out it was Stefano playing? That's the kind of thing that brings you together and I'm so happy to have built a friendship with him. Actually, when Stefano first used this software for producing LPs, it was for a project we did together - Clima - so we also share these special moments that make relationships long-lasting, outside of the music. Music is a language so when you meet people you connect with, you enjoy that language, but life is made of so much more, perhaps getting excited about an album release and listening to it together.
Sound Identity: Your talent and personality are praised by critics and the public alike. How did you manage to get everybody to agree?
Saturnino: The most important thing is to behave coherently. Anyway, in the end there are loads of people who speak well of you when asked a public opinion but speak badly of you a minute later. But that's part of the game. A great entrepreneur once told me "if you can't say anything nice about someone, don't say anything at all".
Sound Identity: Digital communication has been an important promotional tool for your work. What do you think about the possibilities that digital and online technology offer for the world of music?
Saturnino: I have always seen technological innovation in music as an opportunity. Of course the music industry should have realised that it was the beginning of the end as soon as they released CDs, but not the beginning of the end of music, just their way of selling it. If you make a track that works, and Mark Ronson is proof of this, the track will sell. It's true that the independent figure is making a comeback, who produces their own work and then sells it, but I've never seen that as a risk. In fact I think it's wonderful that anybody can make a track and post it.
Sound Identity: When you were first starting out with music, you used to get excited when you could recreate a melody you heard on TV (Take a look at "A theme tune from our childhood hidden in a modern hit") What role does music have in other communication languages such as advertising?
Saturnino: There was a time when music was composed ad hoc for a spot; there were composers who would be called up to write a jingle. Then it became more convenient to take famous tracks and use them in advertising, but there came the problem that people began to associate tracks of a certain importance with products. It's a cultural problem, there is a lack of music history and sometimes a track is swallowed up by advertising.
As for the influence it exerts, I have always been susceptible to any type of melody, from the TV, radio or even just somebody whistling. There is no less noble version of music, I have never drawn the line between serious music and commercial music, if you write something good, it's good and that's it.
Sound Identity: The track "Baciami ancora" (Kiss Me Again) received the David di Donatello award for the best original song for the film of the same name by Gabriele Muccino. What do you think of the world of sound design and cinema soundtracks?
Saturnino: A Lorenzo had been asked to write a song and he got his collaborators involved, so Riccardo (Riccardo Onori) and I found ourselves in this situation and we worked in the same way we always work on songs. But, I must say, hearing the song in the cinema as a frame to the images was a really amazing, powerful sensation.
Sound Identity: What projects have you got lined up for the future?
Saturnino: "The future", as Joe Strummer said, "is unwritten", so I don't make many long-term plans. I've always liked to play it by ear. Things can happen, and sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. I might work on things for months and then I don't like the final result. So I don't have long-term plans.
Sound Identity: What track gets you psyched up?
Saturnino: That's a very hard question, there's no one track but I have to say that there is something that I've been listening to since I was 16 and I still get excited every time when I hear the guitar distortion. It's "You Really Got Me” by the Kinks played by Van Halen.