Interview curated by Francesca Marchesini
Karim Qqru is a multifaceted musician: rock, alternative, but also jazz and electronic music, he’s done it all. While being the drummer for the Tuscan band The Zen Circus, he’s worked with many other artists as a producer over the years. On Friday, August 25, he will, along with the musicians of Soundtracks – Musica da film, take over the Concorto stage to perform the live soundtrack premiere of The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed) – the oldest animated feature film in the history of cinema.
“As a teen, I used to put tapes in the VHS player, turn the volume down to zero and start playing guitar and keyboard as the images on the screen appeared.”
As a long-time member of The Zen Circus since 2004, with a solo project (La notte dei lunghi coltelli) and multiple collaborations and productions under your belt, not to mention the record label and shop you founded, Dirt Tapes, why did you decide to delve into the world of live soundtracks?
My love for live soundtracks started in my teen years. I’ve always loved cinema, the influence music has on the feelings conveyed by the images on the screen, and how it can take those feelings to an extreme. As a teen, I used to put tapes in the VHS player, turn the volume down to zero and start playing guitar and keyboard as the images on the screen appeared. As time went on, I was lucky enough to be able to work on performing live soundtracks, and therefore diving into electronic, jazz, and contemporary music, which are all genres that I’ve been listening to for a long time. All of that along with my more rock-oriented projects (The Zen Circus, LNDLC, and in-studio artistic productions for third parties).
How did you find out about the Soundtrack – Musica da film project? What intrigued you the most about it?
I’ve heard of the Soundtrack – Musica da film project of Modena Centro Musica because, over the past few years, its tutors and curators were musicians and people that really I look up to. The pick of the ensemble members was definitely very clever, as gathering musicians who have probably never played together may result in unexpected and refreshing outcomes.
How did you find working with this group of musicians?
I was fortunate enough to have Corrado Nuccini as curator. He’s smart (musically but not only) and empathetic like few others. We – along with Alberto from C.M.M. and Adele – meticulously selected the musicians and are very lucky because they’re really highly skilled, both in terms of technique and their wide-ranging musical knowledge. That, in my opinion, is one of the most important things in a musician: knowing and listening to a lot of music. It was an all-around amazing and enriching experience. The musicians involved are: Francesco Iacono (bass guitar, live electronics); Lorenzo Marra (synth); Margherita Parenti (drums); Federico Pipi (guitar, live electronics); Elena Roveda (western concert flute).
“We – along with Alberto from C.M.M. and Adele – meticulously selected the musicians and were very lucky because they’re really highly skilled, both in terms of technique and their wide-ranging musical knowledge.”
Who suggested working on adding a soundtrack to such a gem of animated cinema as The Adventures of Prince Achmed ?
Our curator Corrado Nuccini and Modena Centro Musica made that choice. I was already familiar with the film and loved it, so when they informed me of the final decision I was over the moon. The Adventures of Prince Achmed is one of the most important (and revolutionary) animated feature films in the history of European cinema. The way it was made and the patience needed to produce it (compared to the nonstop pace of today’s world) make it even more fascinating.
Speaking of cinema, what’s your favorite film? And the short film you have at heart?
It’s hard to choose one single film: Tarkovskij, Herzog, Argento, Fulci, Bava, Fellini, Kubrick, Coppola, Scorsese, Lang, Murnau, Wiene, Lynch, Polansky, Tarantino, Bergman, Bunuel… A short film I absolutely love is Entr’acte by René Clair. I was lucky enough to work on performing a live soundtrack to that in 2015.
Before participating as a guest, had you already heard of Concorto Film Festival?
Yes; it’s an awesome festival, and it’s becoming more and more relevant year after year.
If you had the chance to work on this project again, what film would you choose?
Vampyr by Carl Theodor Dreyer.
Is there a movie soundtrack you’d like to change completely if you were to work on it as music supervisor instead? What tracks would you choose?
In my opinion, Dead man by Jim Jarmusch has one of the most fitting and “important” soundtracks of the last decades. It’s the work of the great Neil Young, who created an improvisation-based and goosebumps-worthy framework in an essential and peaceful way; he purposefully held back in terms of harmony and only relied on rests and on creating a single and powerful register by merely using his guitar. It is simply impossible to do better, especially since the film is deeply intertwined with its soundtrack, which, like very few other times in the history of cinema, managed to wonderfully take up so much space that it became the protagonist just as much as Johnny Depp is. That’s why I’m curious to find out what would come out of it. Just out of sheer curiosity; it would for sure be of much lower quality, but it would nonetheless be fun.
Karim Qqru’s photo | credits Simone Cecchetti