Home Art & Style “Rock & Talk” : Massimo Cotto

“Rock & Talk” : Massimo Cotto

by AdminAg

Written by Monica Camozzi
Photos by Luca De Nardo

It’s my life (and I do what I want)

“I was talking to Mick Jagger one day and he told me that many of the Stones’ rebellious songs were created in slippers at home. Only when they saw the reaction of the people did they realise that rock was a vehicle for something different’.

He was talking to Mick, Massimo Cotto. And he was talking to Bruce. So, as another one talks to his neighbour, he entered the life, the history of those who made history, poetically, aesthetically and musically. Joe Coker and Eric Clapton went down with him on the Odyssey of alcohol and drugs, the week at Leonard Cohen’s house was unforgettable.
And Bruce’s agents were apprehensive, asking ‘but do you really know him’? Unaware of the fact that under Cotto’s skin, in his soul, passed all the music in the world. From that day when, as an agonist 17-year-old basketball player, while he was driving with his father to a game, the radio played a Springsteen lyric.

“The speaker was saying things I didn’t understand, telling the story of love no longer young, of a hope on the horizon. Then Thunder Road started. And I realised that’s what I wanted to do in life, tell stories and talk radio.”

How would you define rock?
Rock was the most immediate vehicle to communicate rebellion. To translate what was different into music, the sense of freedom. The real meaning of rock was to respect everyone’s opinion but do what you want, like in the Animals song. Before it was like salt, it was everywhere. Today it’s not like that anymore. Now you can handle rock, there are very good bands that have very little that is rebellious”.

“During David Bowie’s first American tour there were only a few hundred people, then it made history. The political force of rock is fundamental’.

In order to tell, you listen. What are the most beautiful sentences you have heard?
The real beauty was seeing these immortal characters let go. To realise that they trust you and it happens not at the first question but at the fourth, at the fifth, when you ask a question about childhood and you get the answer.

Are you talking about the cage of success? Appearing and not being?
The great deception is ego, as Gianni Minà said: when you go on stage you wear the jacket of ego while when you live you wear normal clothes. The belief that success will solve every problem quickly falls away. In reality when you are famous you remain more alone than before and it is not a cliché. I remember Elvis’ line in Luhrmann’s wonderful film when he made him say “I’m tired of being Elvis”.

“An artist, like everyone else, needs to be loved and accepted. Success actually amplifies problems and often triggers a short circuit’.

Can you close a life in a book? You have written dozens…
Luciano Ligabue said the most beautiful sentence in this sense. We had just finished writing his book, we were at the table in Reggio Emilia and I heard him telling anecdotes that he had not mentioned to me! I asked him why he had left them out and he replied ‘no book is so powerful to contain your whole life’.

Are artists as good as their songs? Or are they disappointing?
Here again, I have to quote Ruggeri (Enrico), when he said ‘my songs are much better than me’! Young people think that everything depends on inspiration, on waiting for a revolutionary idea, in reality it is like going to the gym, training to keep the door of the unconscious open. Sure, songs like Dalla’s Caruso, like Battiato’s La Cura are unrepeatable. He himself said that La Cura was given to him under dictation by a superior being!

“Leonard Cohen had such accuracy in his choice of words that he turned them into poetry even when he was speaking”.

So we must resign ourselves, is there no gift without damnation?
Bruce used to say ‘give me three minutes of your life to listen to music and in just three minutes, I will change your life’. The real problem is that art feeds you on the one hand and starves you on the other, it wears you down. The higher you climb the more you know the depths of loneliness.

And what do we say to the guys who go to the talent shows?
It depends. In the US there are talents but it doesn’t end there, after three months on TV the record proposal follows. Here you try to throw out records and who goes, goes. The others are forgotten. In this regard, a description of the phenomenon was given by Patti Pravo during a Sanremo.

‘The problem with Italian talent shows is that you often make a young person believe they have had success because they are in the spotlight every day and after a year you find them singing in bars’.

What did she say, Patti Pravo (of her, too, of course, there is a bio signed by Cotto)?
We were at Sanremo, it was ’91, she was bringing E dimmi che non vuoi morire. Next to us were the young Sanremo guys, galvanised, with people outside calling them. She turned around, looked at them and said: “Massimo look, they are acting as if they exist”.

“Some disappointments, interviewing a famous person, have been fierce but I remain confident. You cannot rewrite history on the basis of human frailty”

Speaking of greatness and fragility, you had a rather dense encounter with Alda Merini. What do you remember?
I was working for one of the first web TVs I created called Macy. I came to Alda through Giovanni Nuti who wrote many songs based on her poems. He told me ‘I can take you to her but know that I don’t know if she will let you in, it depends’. To a journalist from the Times she had said ‘come back tomorrow’ for a week… It was better for me, I remember that she had bought me two photos of the Navigli of the past, she had autographed them for me, then she had sat down and was brilliantly nice. She had given me a tour of the house and told me ‘people never understood that I was only writing for him. For my husband’. The interview is still unpublished.

“I told Alda Merini that one of her poems had saved my life. And she replied ‘what a shitty life you had’. Then she wrote me one, Tutta la terra del nostro silenzio’.

Among your publications, the story of ‘No woman no cry’ stands out. What do you mean?
I was not lucky enough to interview Bob Marley but I was at the San Siro that day. No woman no cry is one of those songs that I define as being able to stop time, to overcome geographical barriers. Like Imagine by Lennon, or People have the power by Patti Smith. Among those present at Marley’s concert maybe 10% were reggae fans but they were there for something else. I heard that song in Cambodia, in the most unthinkable places, and it did not lose its power. So I went to discover its genesis.

What is the first song you made your child listen to?
In the belly we were electrocuted by Einaudi. Then, of course, Springsteen’s Thunder Road. At eight he knew De André’s Testament. After all, he walks like me, he also stumbles the same way I do.

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