Italian masterminds Donato Dozzy and Retina.it aka Men With Secrets join us for our first Background Noise feature of 2020.
Although Men With Secrets is a new project, the trio first came together under the name of Le Officine Di Efesto in 2018, with a murky left-field techno five-tracker on Dozzy’s ever-credible Spazio Disponsible label. Once it had become apparent that all three men shared a mutual passion for classic post-punk, wave, and synth-pop, Men With Secrets was formed shortly after.
With the recent release of their debut album ‘Psycho Romance And Other Spooky Ballads’ landing via New York-based record label The Bunker, we wanted to find out where these three psychedelic techno wizards draw their inspiration from when approaching the studio.
1. Synthesizer music from the ’70s and ’80s
A common source of inspiration for all of us was the music being made during the end of the 70’s and 80’s. Our similar taste for this sound drove us to this direction for the LP. Synthesizers were being used more aggressively during this period. We are inspired by how Pop music was also being influenced by these new instruments.
Times were changing in many aspects and life becoming more futuristic. The introduction of a small machine capable of producing sequences allowed musicians who weren’t experts to easily make music. It was the spirit of punk, the do it yourself attitude that fueled so many people into making music.
2. Early sci-fi soundtracks
A big inspiration for us is early science fiction soundtracks – particularly sounds produced by EMS London for BBC. Sci-fi movies were the first art medium to really harness the massive effect of synthesizers. Synthesizers inherently sound ‘alien’ in a certain way. These never before heard sounds of modulating electricity gave way to a whole new aesthetic and it completely fascinated us as young kids in that era.
In this case, a big role in the development of the use of modern synthesizer was paved by EMS London; That’s where the soundtracks for BBC studios were recorded and where Delia Derbyshire composed the amazing Dr. Who main theme.
For “Psycho Romance and Other Spooky Ballads” we set out to enrich the songs with references. References and homage were intentionally placed throughout this 13 track ‘opera.’ From the music to the cover art. We have always been fascinated by albums that allowed us access to discover other worlds, such as fine art, literature, and cinema spheres. We are inspired by how certain LPs spread not just sonics but ideas from all areas of the fine arts.
And just like the most famous authors of postmodern novels (Joyce, Calvino, Dick, Pynchon, and Ballard just to mention a few), we played with going back and forth in time for inspiration in making these songs. In looking back and forward for inspiration to use in the studio, we have also succeeded in sharing our influences in this album and paying tribute to the worlds we discovered from them.
4. Rai studio
Another source of inspiration was the work done by great Italian composers such as Berio, Nono, Maderna, Morricone, Piccioni, Umiliani, Cipriani, Battiato and so on. All these composers were involved in what could be considered the first electronic music research. A group of them created a studio in the main national television station called Rai. It is in this studio that they really dove deep into the music research.
The common idea was to produce functional music for broadcasting, music made quickly to be used on radio, TV shows and in advertisements. Men With Secrets all grew up with these sounds made by sine, saw, and white noise. It was a common memory for all of us that forged our shared love of the synthesizer sound.
5. The 20th century
The 20th Century was a great period of cultural change and renovation. With arts and technology influencing our way of life, humankind suddenly found themselves living in a different reality. Mechanical sounds became prominent and surrounded everything in our daily lives, like a subtle kind of reprogramming. Certain people, including John Foxx, showed us how to go against the grain and we embraced their visions.