Â«The greatest satisfaction of my life was when I saw my father park the car in a real garage, in the box under the house: I felt like Springsteen. I thought: but then I’m cool too». Biagio Antonacci he grew up in Rozzano, a not simple suburb of Milan, a place (also, not only) from crime news, shootings and brawls, baby gangs and drug dealing, which made it rise to the rank of Rozzangeles. He grew up in a popular neighborhood and with success, “the first thing I did was buy my parents a house, a terraced house, outside the neighborhood with the high-rise buildings where I was born.”
The garage as social redemption…
Â«It was a shock to park in popular neighborhoods, there was a whole strategy because the parking lot was an imaginative architectural construction: you had to move the other cars by hand, get the one out in a herringbone pattern, then in winter the cars often didn’t they started and there were the cables in common, the battery for everyone. When I saw my father in the box I was very happy».
What childhood was yours?
â€œLife was in the courtyard, but dreams were bigger than palaces, more powerful than what surrounded us. I didn’t want to be a singer, I dreamed of being a drummer. I bought pirated cassettes at the Sinigaglia fair, our drug dealers were there, while in the neighborhood the drug dealers of completely different things. I knew that music would be my great salvation and my great refuge. The refuge from shyness and misunderstanding, because music is protection from something I couldn’t face alone if I didn’t write songs».
Shy her? Someone who stands on stage in front of thousands of people?
Â«Every musician is the victim of a personality that can only be expressed through music, a songwriter is basically someone who has some shyness, some unresolved sides of life. Vasco told me that he played rock because he was afraid to sing a ballad. I played the drums, turned up the volume and didn’t care about my shyness».
From whom did you inherit this passion?
â€œI am self-taught, never studied music. Until I was 10, I only listened to Julio Iglesias in all languages. He was brilliant, I fell in love with him, he had a voice that brought serenity to the family: when I heard my parents arguing, shouting and arguing, I played his songs and it was all over ».
Were drug dealers of anything but never a temptation?
â€œI had a father who terrified me, he made me anxious just at the idea of getting close to drugs. I was 15 and there were those who smoked weed, the first methamphetamines were around, it was full of heroin addicts, the first cases of AIDS appeared. I lost two friends to AIDS. I dedicated a song to Adriano, Where the sky is clearerÂ».
Did your parents get in your way?
Anus. When I was a kid they were happy because music took me away from the attraction for the widespread delinquency that surrounded me. At 19 I started looking for a job as a surveyor. I told them: I don’t want a lira from you, but don’t hinder my dream. For nine years I did double duty: the surveyor on site and in the meantime the discs. The first two went unnoticed, then in 1992 I was successful with Free me. My boss, he called me Biagioski, told me: he leaves his job and continues as an artist, who earns more. I was sure it would all be over, he replied: you give it a try and in case tomorrow we’ll talk about it».
What do you remember with pleasure and with terror of those years of double work?
Â«With terror I remember the no from the record companies, I went around with these cassettes that I offered to everyone, I remember the fear and the fatigue. As a surveyor I earned a million and two a month and prayed for the same amount but with music. I didn’t think about success, about becoming famous, I just thought about doing what I liked, living with my dream».
â€œI really prayed twice in my life. When my mum was pregnant and she was expecting my brother Graziano; he had had rubella and it was thought he could be born with complications. The second time in front of a Madonnina between Rozzano and Binasco. I looked at her and asked: let me live on music».
Do you believe in God?
â€˜Like many, in my own way. I don’t believe in all the fantasy and disproportions of the Catholic narrative, but I do believe in a creator God».
The first breakthrough was as a “stalker” of Ron.
â€˜I was doing my military service as a carabiniere and was sent to Garlasco where I knew Ron lived. One day I saw him in the car and we stopped him with my colleague who explained to him that I wanted to be a singer. Ron told me to take my songs to his mother and I went to her, at the Cellamare house, with the tape and a bouquet of flowers because my father has always taught me that if you show up anywhere you never have to go empty hands. Ron called me, he told me I was talented and produced my first album.’
The first lives he did with Ron.
Â«I played two songs at the opening of his concerts: they threw coins, stones, empty bottles at me because the public wanted him on stage. They have been wonderful years. Beautiful mess tin, now an extinct word. You arrived at things with a path; also for love, for conquests, for girls, it was like this; it was a journey».
The risk of success is the hypertrophy of the ego: did he fall for it?
â€˜When people stop you on the street, when girls cry just to see you, it all becomes absurd. For three or four years I struggled to contain the ego, I was tempted to think I was the best. I had gotten my head, I was an asshole with myself, I felt superior, I felt that someone had to give me back what I hadn’t had during my apprenticeship, but it was bullshit. Then with paternity and family, you go back to walking with your feet on the ground».
It doesn’t help to have people around who always say yes, who please…
â€œYes. There are a lot of people who kiss your ass, but it also applies to relatives. When you become famous, everyone shows up, everyone likes you more».
Who are his real friends in the music world?
«Laura Pausini. Not only because it’s the voice that changed my career as a songwriter, it opened me up abroad thanks to songs like Live me e Between you and the sea. She is the only female friend among the artists, I also go on holiday with her, she is someone who likes to have fun».
â€œMy male friend is Eros Ramazzotti. We are similar. He was born in ’63 like me, he comes from suburban villages like me. Life then has absurd coincidences. I worked as a surveyor and the office was in Corso di Porta Vittoria, Ramazzotti had a lawyer there, in the same building, he was already a star. One day I saw him coming, I watched him from the window, but I didn’t have the courage to tell him that my dream was music. I saw him bold but humble, in Ferrari but available to everyone. Also there, at 54, Alberto Fortis had his uncle who was a dentist. I brought him one of my tapes, he said I was good but that was all. Years later, when we met again, he still remembered the title of my song. Incredible.’
What is music for you?
Â«On stage I feel free and the fans are free too. I have seen women, but also men, eager to meet me, hug and kiss me, I have a very skin-deep relationship with my fans. Even if they can’t dance, they dance; even if they can’t sing, they sing. And I the same. I can’t dance, and I dance. I sing for what I need, I don’t care to be recognized as a good singer, I don’t have that ambition, I sing and write my own songs. It works».
How did you take Cristicchi’s «I would like to sing like Biagio»?
Â«At the time he was a piano bar and came to ask my permission to a concert in Rome. I told him: if you go on stage tonight in front of eight thousand people you will be able to do it. Since then I have never heard a nice gesture from him, for a song that is still his biggest hit. I live on gestures, on human empathy, the recognition that lies in one word: one must always say thank you. Then I exaggerate, I always say thanks to anyone, even inappropriately».
He had a disappointing relationship with the Sanremo Festival…
â€œA part of me says: make a good song and go. Another says: leave it alone, you have to be judged, you enter a classification… Until recently I had no doubts: I would never have competed. Today, with Amadeus’ work, you feel like taking a dip even if the water is cold. It is the media judgment that holds me back. At your concerts you can also be at 75% and you break it down; there you have 4 minutes in which you have to be perfect. Or at least an imperfect cool. If you’re the imperfect boomer, you look like shit.’
What relationship does it have with feelings of guilt?
â€œA drama. Catholic education has ruined the genuineness of human beings, we have abandoned our instincts. Guilt never makes you feel free, you always ask yourself: do I deserve this freedom? We must be free, go back to the forest, walk to find food, love, seek the truth. The sense of guilt takes all of this away from you».
His biggest sense of guilt?
Â«When I decided not to live anymore in the same house with the mother of my first two children (Marianna Morandi, daughter of Gianni, ed). I felt a great sense of guilt for the children. Sometimes those who are hurt don’t row in favour, but then time wins, love wins».