Fabio Perletta is a sound designer, engineer, electronic composer and live performer. Under the moniker N0 (Fabio Perletta and Matteo Meloni), he released the albums Vuoto (Farmacia901) and M-Type Alpha (Ripples Recordings), in collaboration with Andrea Ics Ferraris. In 2010 he launched the project Øe, releasing the ambient works Im (Nephogram) and Like a Comet That Drifts in With the Tide (Isolationism Records). Perletta is also the founder and artistic director of Farmacia 901, a media-network based in Italy and founded around principles of beauty as minimalism, music as design and sound as malleable material, fusing elements ranging from experimental electronics to ambient and microsounds. The label mostly focuses on releasing conceptual sound works via limited CDs, art-objects or digital, combining a deeply emotional aim with a clear theoric purpose and aesthetic vision.
Hi Fabio, as a way of introduction, could you tell me something about your background?
My father has always been passionate both about music and technology. My mother, on the other hand, is a seamstress, so I have always been fascinated by the idea of shaping something into life. In my teens I studied music and piano for a while, but I quit once I got exposed to American art of the 60s and people like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. I took up painting, but I have only one canvas hanging in my bedroom from that period. I was also into bands such as Television and Suicide. Brian Eno with his compilation No New York was indeed instrumental in this. My love of technology pushed me towards electronic music as the best means for me to express what I was hoping to convey. I have been questioning the role of technology ever since and I have been investigating the process behind the transmission of data and the way errors develop.
How did the label came about?
I started Farmacia901 in 2008 whilst still living in Rome, where I was studying electronic sound between cinema and contemporary forms of audiovisual, and the work of people such as Bill Viola, Ryoji Ikeda, Chris Cunningham and David Lynch. Anyhow, I decided to set up my own label for a very simple and practical reason. I was struggling to break through and find a label interested in releasing my material. At the same time I was aware of the multitude of interesting names and projects within the Italian electro acoustic scene and I wanted to give a voice to a number of these.
Where does the name Famarcia901 come from and how is the label structured?
The label didn’t have a clear direction to begin with. In principle, I was mainly interested in microsounds, and in the kind of music released by Taylor Dupree on 12k. I don’t want to limit the remit of my label to any specific type of music, though. I want to keep an open mind. Having said that it is important to have a clear style and identity but I want to be able to release anything from drone music to electro-acoustic, from Maurizio Bianchi to Tiziano Milani.
The name of the label comes from my love of minimalist design. I have always been fascinated by packaging of pills and medicines. I also find chemists similar to record shops, in the way everything is ordered and catalogued. Plus I find chemistry in general really inspiring in the way one can combine simple elements to produce something with a life of its own. The world of electro acoustic music works in a similar way, by combining sounds and frequencies one is able to give life to sonic life forms.
Were you inspired in any way by Damien Hirst’s restaurant Pharmacy and his many works dedicated to the same subject?
No, I wasn’t really aware he ever had a restaurant.
You’ve released under different monikers, namely N0 and Øe. How and why did you pick them?
I have a graphic approach to monikers. Øe comes from my love of Norway as the letter “Ø” is found in the Norwegian alphabet. What I particular love about that country is the silence you experience over there, which is the basic ingredient I need to produce sounds. When I was in Rome, for instance, I found it very difficult to produce anything amongst all that noise and chaos. I need a clean slate, so to speak.
The N0 moniker, I picked for other reasons as well, not just for graphic considerations. It is one of the oldest forms of theatre, but also one of the most avant-guardist. I like the fact that it deals with universal themes, such as love, war, friendship. Vuoto, the first N0 album I released on my label, was a work inspired by cosmic vacuum.
I have always been fascinated by astronomy and, as a matter of fact, I will soon start a new series on Farmacia901, which is called “Quark: How does the invisible sound?”. The aim is to release four track compilations by different artists with a view of giving life to the invisible through sounds, or rather to micro particles and that which cannot be perceived by the human eye. I would like to have one release a month.
Sounds like an ambitious plan…
They will be digital only tracks. I would like to create an archive of sounds conceptually linked to the invisible. Ennio Mazzon, or Ripples Recordings, is building a software that will enable musicians to uncover microsounds and such like. I will then send to software to each artist who will be free to interpret this concept in the way it best suits him / her.
The invisible can refer also to the spiritual sphere? Is that something you have considered?
Not really. The main reference point is strictly limited to science.
Also, together with Davide Luciani, aka Orgon, I am also working on another series, called Diaspore, which aims to document soundscapes created especially for performances and art installations. Davide will help my out coordinating the project as he works within that field. The first releases will be Icaro by Orgon and Trapped Light, an installation by Giustino Di Gregorio and myself with a soundscape composed using sinewave tones, glitches and simple drones. Giustino is a very original artist from Teramo. Back in 1999, Giustino released an incredible album, Sprut, on John Zorn’s label Tzadik.
What are you next releases planned for Farmacia901?
Next one up is a physical release by Marco Bonini, aka Ubik, a very talented musician hailing from the world of jazz music. Then a digital only Ep by Gallery Six, a Japanese artist from Hiroshima.
Do you select the artists or do artists come to you?
So far, I’ve always contacted all the musicians myself. In the case of Vir-Uz, by MB + ICS (Farmacia901’s latest release), I had worked with Andrea Ferraris, aka ICS in the past having released a collaborative album on Ennio Mazzon’s label. At the time, he’d sent an album with his field recordings and included this one by him and Maurizio Bianchi. Quite some time later, he told he had trouble finding a label willing to release Vir-Uz, so I thought about it and jumped at the occasion.
Do you happen to know Emanuela de Angelis? I am only asking because she is based in Pescara, which is not far from Roseto degli Abruzzi, and because she has also released an album with Maurizio Bianchi.
Yes, MB + EDA, out on Baskaru. I haven’t met Emanuela but I know of her, mainly because I know Andrea Gabriele, with whom she gave life to Mou, Lips! Also, Andrea contributed to Rossano Polidoro and Emiliano Romanelli’s project Tu M’, which I loved. Tu M’ were from Città Sant’Angelo, a small town not too far from Roseto and Pescara.
Well, there seems to be quite a lot happening in the Abruzzo region! And now, onto Transfer, your latest album, out soon on the Japanese label Murmur Records. The field recordings from that album were taken at the Gole del Salinello, which are about a 40 minute drive from Roseto. Was it the first time you rooted one of your works within your own territory?
Now that I came to think about it yes. I produced Transfer between July 2010 and March 2011. All the recording sessions were made in the summer of 2010 at the Salinello Gorges, a natural canyon and nature reserve located between two mountains, also known as the Monti Gemelli (Twin Mountains). It is a magical place with beautiful waterfalls, unusual rock patterns, caves, and wild flowers. I was particularly drawn to the small life forms, which can be found there. I spent a whole day there with my digital recorder and subsequently processed all organic sounds using computers, audio morphing and re-synthesis techniques.
Conceptually, Transfer is a sonic reflection about all affective phenomena, which come out through the use of digital interfaces. The idea being that the numerical representation of life and the sensorial stimulation, achieved by combining data into binary format, replaces human primordial needs; In other words, by interacting with machines, one experiences his/her emotions through numerical combinations of 0 and 1, of which digital images and music are composed. Nowadays, the bits stream invades the whole human experience, influencing all cognitive aspects: perception, learning and communication. The most evolved cultural-technologic manifestation of this new human condition is depicted by the Affective Computing, which is the study and development of devices able to recognize, process and simulate human emotions. The emotions are thus converted twice (reality-digital, digital-reality), creating a transfer between the artist’s original purpose and the recipient. My aim was to put a magnifying glass on the process to identify errors and glitches. I believe, we are now going towards a completely new way of experiencing emotions. By a happy coincide, when I was mastering Paolo Buatti’s clip for the first track of the album to send to the label, I came across some dropped frames which reveal errors within the data transfer, which fits in perfectly with the general discourse of the album. I am now working on an installation based on Transfer, entitled Transfer 2.0.
Why isn’t the album coming out on Farmacia901?
Because I already had other releases planned for the label and also because I like to diversify my output, even if it can be hard work. It took me about a year to produce Transfer and the following seven to eight months to find a label. You have no idea of how many emails I sent… I was just about to give up when I came across Surface Tension, an album by France Jobin, aka i8u, on Yann Novak’s facebook wall. I clicked on it and was immediately mesmerised. i8u’s album is out on Murmur, which was a label I wasn’t familiar with. I took a look at their catalogue and decided to get in touch with them. It was the last email I was going to send. Luckily, in the space of about three hours, I got a positive reply from them!
Finally, how do you see the Italian electro acoustic scene and are there any names you would like to recommend?
There are just too many to mention. Tiziano Milani, whom I met at the Tago Fest in Marina di Massa, Andrea Gabriele, Luminance Ratio, Andrea Ferraris, Ennio Mazzon, Giustino di Gregorio, Ubik, Orgon. Also, Franz Rosati, Alessio Ballerini and xxxy in Rome. Barbara De Dominicis, Enrico Coniglio… I also love the work of Giuseppe Ielasi and Nicola Ratti, whom I saw perform last summer in Avellino at the Flussi Festival. As a matter of fact I was just listening to Nicola Ratti’s 220 Tones on the car stereo on my way here.
Fabio Perletta will be performing as Øe with Fabio Orsi @ L’Officina, Giulianova (TE) on the 12th of April.