23 March 2023
(Photo by Turn Up the Volume)
Italian singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist GIOELE VALENTI is a busy musical bee. He’s the mastermind of spellbinding psych acts JUJU and HERSELF and he regularly works with fellow Italian artist Nicola Sanguin of Lay Llamas. He also toured and recorded with the wonderful duo Jonathan Donahue/Grasshopper of the supreme band Mercury Rev recently.
A couple of weeks ago JUJU played my hometown of Ghent (Belgium) again and we had
a chat focused on his newest album made with Lay Llamas and named Flag Of Breeze.
But first, as usual, we start an interview with a slice of music. Here’s one of my
favorite Juju songs, it’s from the excellent 2nd LP Our Mother Was A Plant.
great to meet you again
You operate under two different monikers: JUJU and HERSELF.
Why, Gioele? Different music and/or different musicians?
“I think that at the basis of my training there are such heterogeneous listenings,
from folk to post-punk, that I immediately found it necessary to split into several
Different sound perspectives for the same artistic identity. Call it, if you will, sonic schizophrenia or company of artistic sub-personalities. I’ve always made my records myself. Of course, live, both Herself and JUJU become a real band.”
Which track would you pick from your work – overall – to introduce
yourself to people who never heard of you ?
“I think a good synthesis of JUJU’s sound, we find it in the song We Spit On Yer Grave, from the debut album… you can find everything in it. From new wave to post-punk; from indie pop to shoegaze. It still sounds very good to my hyper-critical ears!”
New mini-album FLAG OF BREEZE is a collaborative one with Lay Llamas (Nicola Giunta) You worked with LL before. What connects you both?
“It’s a long story… rooted in twenty years, I think. Nicola and I met at the time of Herself‘s first records. Nicola came to one of my concerts, if I remember correct-ly, in my city. And we immediately became friends. Lay Llamas is a Nicola‘s idea, and when he started taking his first steps, he immediately involved me, more or less.
Our most nourished collaboration takes shape in the Ostro (Rocket Re-cordings) album. From time to time, we like to make a record together, like the latest Goud, or the Flag Of Breeze collaboration. Between me and Nicola, in addition to a long-standing friendship, there is an extraordinary artistic affinity. In the work of the Lay Llamas, a perfect chemistry is unleashed, which neither he nor I can explain on rational grounds. I think it’s “simply”
a kind of alchemy.”
Lay Llamas’ Nicola Sanguin
Are all songs created together, lyrically and sonically?
“Normally the work with LL takes happens in the following way. Nicola sends me a sonorous canvas, or a definite structure. I write the lyrics and record my vo-cals, some arrangements, guitars, and synthesizers and then he polishes everything to a strong, typically LL aesthetic. It often works like this… but it’s not a rule. Sometimes everything
is already clear enough. Other times, we have no idea where the songs will lead us.”
Are all tracks connected or does each one stands on its own?
“As for my writing part on Flag Of Breeze, in agreement with Nicola, there is a universalist inspiration, which I am not afraid to define as pacifist. the whole record is lavished by this utopia of brotherhood, which is not mannerism, but a yearning pure, sincere. Fully aware that our world is falling apart under the yoke of truly negative powers.”
I like the artistic image on the album’s cover, although I have
no idea what it means? Is there a story behind, Gioele?
“The aesthetic part of the cover is totally Nicola‘s prerogative.
I can only tell that, yes, I like it!”
Which movie would be perfect to have your music as its soundtrack?
“A film whose story is written by Tom Robbins and whose photography is han-dled by
John Alcott! Naturally, I would see Lucifer directing, the most misunder-stood angel of all!”
Painting by Alexandre Cabanel named ‘Ange Dechu’ (The Fallen Angel) in 1847
If you could collaborate on a new record with
a big name artist, who would it be and why?
“You know, I feel like a craftsman. I even have a hard time thinking of myself with a “big” name. There are so many artists that I love… I think with Mike Scott of the Waterboys. I loved them so much that I sanded my heart. Simply, because they are a part of me.”
I know you like to play live, so the lockdown years must have been
a pain in the ass. How did you cope with that Covid-19 period?
“Yes, that was a very painful time. As for everyone, by the way.
I think JUJU is a machine that express itself at his best in live dimension.
Yes, I really missed the live dimension. But I’m a fatalist, and I think everything
happens for a reason. And here we are again.”
A couple of weeks you played in my hometown of Ghent in Belgium again.
It looked/sounded as if you and the band were happy to be back on stage
despite car problems the day before.
“Sure, man. We were coming off a date in Bordeaux and were on our way to Beaumont.
We had this bad, but not serious, accident. We missed a date. But we caught up with Ghent. A city that we love and have played many times.
We were happy to play this concert organized by Sven Van Daele. Sven is a fan and a great person. We are always very happy to play in Belgium. A place where we feel at home.
March 9 – Ghent, Belgium – photo by TUTV
Any plans to work or tour with Mercury Rev again?
“Oh man. Yes I’d really like. We catch up with Jonathan: (note: Jonathan Donahue
is Mercury’s Rev charismatic singer/frontman) from time to time, like old friends.
They are extraordinary artists and very special human be-ings. Maybe…”
Gioele’s Herself project feat. Jonathan Donahue
What’s the next step for Gioele Valenti
and his different projects/collaborations?
“There’s something brewing… but I’m not the type to open
my mouth before things are done. Fingers crossed.”
Buy/stream FLAG OF BREEZE
here via Bandcamp.
Thank you Gioele for this interview.
May the road rise with Juju/Herself.
Gieole Valenti/JUJU: Facebook – Instagram