Marco Machera is an Italian musician/songwriter. He likes to say, “I don’t play music – I make it happen.”
He’s played bass for Marillion, Paul Gilbert, Tony Levin, Markus Reuter, and many others. He’s rather prolific.
His new album is due out September 1, 2017. It’s called Small Music from Broken Windows. Check his website for more information.
Interview Audio (Podcast)
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AG: Marco Machera is a bassist in Italy. He’s known best for his work with EchoTest with Julie Slick. We are very lucky to have him here today to talk about his new album. Marco, thank you so much for joining us.
MM: Thank you for your interest. It’s a pleasure.
AG: So, you’ve got a new album and I thought it’d be cool if we talked about it here. Why don’t you tell us about it, what it’s called, and some of the story behind it?
MM: The title is very long. It’s maybe not good for promotion, but it’s called Small Music from Broken Windows. It’s my first solo record since 2014. Since then, I started the EchoTest project with Julie and I’ve been very busy with that. It’s obviously a priority for us, but I’ve always been working on my own stuff, which is usually quite different from what I do with Julie.
It’s more singer-songwriter-oriented music. I thought it was a good time now to put it out because we just published the new record with EchoTest called From Two Balconies .
AG: I have it right here. [Points to EchoTest CD.]
MM: That’s awesome. And I hope you listen to it, too.
AG: Oh yeah, it’s great. I love it.
MM: It’s doing very well. Then Julie got busy with Adrian Belew . She tours with him a lot, so I used that time to work on my record and put the final touches to it. It’s going to be out very soon. I don’t know what will happen next, but for sure there will be more touring with EchoTest, so I don’t know if I’ll ever have a real chance to promote my own record, but that’s not something I’m doing because I want to get something out of it. You know what I mean? It’s more like a need I have to put my music out and then whatever happens happens.
AG: Can you tell us about the style of the record? I think you said it’s mostly singer-songwriter-oriented.
MM: Yeah, it starts with that. Usually my interest is in pop music and that’s also, I think, what makes EchoTest work very well because both me and Julie have strong pop sensibilities. When I work on my own music, it’s even more evident. I really like to write songs. At the same time, I want to make them interesting somehow.
I think Adrian Belew is a master of that craft. He’s an inspiration and that’s what I try to do with my own music. I start with a pop song formula and then I try to expand that and have different influences in it. I try to make it a little more adventurous than it should be for the music business world.
AG: What are some of the things that you do to your songs to make them “weird” or interesting?
MM: I don’t have to really think about it that much. It’s more of an inner thing, I think, because I have a melody and maybe I have a chorus and then I have a verse, but sometimes they just don’t follow a strict rule. even structure-wise. I’m driven most of the time by the mood of a song and I try to follow that and get inspired by the mood and the song itself. I don’t really think about, “Oh I wrote a verse and a chorus and now I should make something weird and not be too standard with it.”
So, usually, it’s just a matter of being inspired and using the imagination and something will be out there and I can just grab it and use it for my record. Most of the time, it’s just a bunch of ideas and then I’m very interested in working with editing the songs and using weird sounds and sometimes a sound will just inspire me with a whole song. It could be a loop or some really weird, strange sound and I’ll make a song out of it.
AG: Tell us about some of your favorite moments from the record and why.
MM: I think there’s one particular song called The Things that features another vocalist. It’s the first time, at least on my own solo records, that I have another singer. She’s a girl, a female singer. It’s a very personal song. I think it was the first one I wrote for this record. It was a kind of departure musically from what I had done before, in a way, because it started very minimal, just on an acoustic guitar and a drum loop and no bass, which is strange for a bass player.
That was the start of the whole record. That’s the start of the whole record and it kind of suggested to me the whole concept of the record. It’s inspired by a Lovecraft story to tell my own story. So, yeah, I will choose that song as the most representative, maybe, from the album.
AG: In what other ways is this album a departure from what people might expect of you?
MM: First thing is a concept album. So, I’m telling a story throughout the songs. As I said before, it’s inspired by a Lovecraft short story called The Outsider, which I think is relevant these days because people like me and Julie feel like outsiders sometimes. I thought it was a very cool concept to put music on. It is also connected to the ups and downs in life and how you deal with depression, stuff like that.
So in a way, it’s a very personal album like it has never been before for me. The other two albums I made were more a collection of ideas I had throughout time. Then I collected them on the record and somehow I made them work as an album. But this time I just had a whole plan in my head, like a whole concept, and it’s like I wrote the music for that idea I had in mind.
AG: Tell us more about this feeling of being an outsider. Does that apply as a musician or is it because you’re a bassist and you’re doing more with the bass than a lot of people do or what?
MM: It definitely has to do with being a musician, I think, because first of all, I feel like I’m a musician. Even before being a bass player, I feel like I’m a musician and I’m doing music. And sometimes you feel very–I speak for myself. It doesn’t have to apply to any musician, but sometimes you feel very disillusioned. You go through ups and downs and you feel like an outsider in that it’s like you’re at the periphery. Is that the right word?
MM: The periphery of things. And sometimes you make the mistake and you think that’s a bad thing. You think you’re not part of something bigger. You do your own thing on the periphery, on the side of things. But as you do more of this and as you grow to be more confident in your music and what you have to share with other people, you actually start to perceive it as a positive thing because you have more freedom, first of all. Then, you carve your own space and you have people reacting to that.
You have feedback and it’s your heart, 100%. You’re an outsider because you tried to do something that’s different in a way, but that also speaks to people. But sometimes you can’t help feeling a little bit disillusioned. Last year, for example, I was in a place where–I still am in that place, where you do your music but then you have to do other music to survive. I work often as a sideman for other people and I do corporate gigs, I play at weddings and stuff like that. They are two very different worlds.
When I’m home and I work on my own music, it’s pure heart and I believe in every single note I make and I create. And then you have this whole other world, which is something you do to survive and I’m not saying that I don’t like it, but it’s not like your own music. You would like to be out all year doing your own tour and playing your own music in front of people around the world. Unfortunately, that’s still not the case.
Last year, I was feeling very bad about that situation, so I wanted to do something very different and I went to England to study to become a teacher of the Italian language for foreign students. I didn’t play a single note for a couple of months, but that kind of helped me because when I got back here, I had new energy, fresh energy for music. I’m enjoying doing both now. I enjoy doing music for the sake of doing music and I enjoy being more artistic with my own projects.
AG: Did this album arise from that period or has it been in the works for quite some time?
MM: It has been in the works for quite some time. But before that period, before that time when I decided to go to England and disappear for a while, I was like, “I’m not even going to put this album out. It’s not even worth it.” But then I did that. I got back here and I felt like, “No, I should work on this and get it finished and put it out sometime next year otherwise I won’t do it anymore.”
So, I think you learn by–everything in life is an experience and it will teach you something. It’s not–to go back to your question about the outsider, there’s always a positive side of things. The bright side of life, as Monty Python said. It’s actually good to be an outsider sometimes. It’s good to not be like everyone else and do something else.
AG: Well, that’s what this site’s all about.
AG: I’m very happy to have you talk about that. I think that’s a great note to wrap up on, but I’d like to find out how to get the album, when it’s coming out, all those relevant details so we can help fund you and keep you doing what you do.
MM: Yeah, it will be available very soon on Bandcamp. I have my own Bandcamp page. If you go to my website, marcomachera.com, there is a link to the Bandcamp page. That’s the most direct way to help me and fund me. It will also be available in all the usual digital outlets, like iTunes, Google, Amazon, Google Play.
AG: Is there a physical copy coming out?
MM: Yeah, there’s a physical copy. I’m very happy with it. Also the artwork really represents the concept well and all of the dark imagery behind the record, but also the positive turnout it had on me.
AG: Excellent. When is it coming out?
MM: September 1st.
AG: Just a couple of weeks!
AG: Thank you so much, Marco. That was really insightful and I can’t wait to hear the new record. Hopefully other people chime in and let you know what they think, too.
MM: Yeah, hopefully!
AG: All right, man. Thanks a lot.
MM: Yeah, thank you!