Thursday, 17 February 2011

Countdown to MENERGY @ The Vic Bar Pt 9: CASCO Discopia Interview from 2007

Way back in the dark ages of 2007, I was signed to the Belgian label Radius, specialists in Italo re-issues and modern takes on the electronic disco style. Also on the label was Italo legend Casco, aka Salvatore Cusato, probably best known for the smash hit "Cybernetic Love" from 1983. Casco was in the process of re-releasing a clutch of stone cold classics through Radius at the time, and I interviewed him for our Discopia website. After Salvatore's sad passing last month I decided to rummage around in my old drives and dig the interview out in tribute to the man. As was the Discopia style, I didn't editorialise much, leaving the artist to say their piece as directly as possible. So here it is in its entirety:

Who is Casco?

I would say he is the ‘Doctor Jeckyl’, and Salvatore Cusato is ‘Mr Hyde’. Casco ‘Doctor Jeckyl’ was born on the night of a full moon during the spring of 1983, between Rome and Genoa in Italy. He hopes he will still be here when it will be possible for all human beings to fly to space, every day… Just to feel the emotions of sending love messages to the earth by a vocoder. In the meanwhile he stays on this planet describing his electro music emotions, hoping that somebody understands it is possible to fall in love with an E.T with the help of cybernetic facilities.

What does “Casco” mean?

‘Casco’ in Italian means ‘helmet’. I was looking for an easy name to remember connected to the image of a cosmonaut - ‘cosmo helmet’ was not the best name, so… I prefered to choose the Italian translation since all Italians have problems with the spelling of the letter ‘h’ at the start of a word (we don’t say ‘hotel’ but ‘otel’).

Have you recorded under any other names, or with any other acts?

I have produced and released, since 1983, many kind of musical styles, with Salvatore Cusato often staying in the background. Obviously the names were also different for each artist, on the Italo scene, often one name was used only for one project. 
From 1983 till now my works have been released on several historic Italo labels ( CGD, Memory Records, DiscoMagic, Discotto, Best Records, New Music, Expanded Music, Do it Yourself, Dieffe Publishings etc) and licensed worldwide. Just to mention some of them, on Alphamusic and Avex Japan, Dureco Benelux, Blanco y Negro and Vale Music Spain, Stockholm Records, ZYX, Epic Records, CBS (not connection with the internet radio he he, I mean CBS Sony), and so on… I also founded my own label SCO which released 10 titles at beginning of 90s’. Between the tracks I produced in 23 years of my production activity I like to remember just one name for each decade: Flo Astaire ‘Monkey Monkey' for 80s, Robin Cook ‘Comanchero’ (a gold record in Scandinavia) for 90’s, and EU4YA ‘Sarà perchè ti amo’ for 2000’s. Casco… is another story. 
I also used my true name Cusato as an artist during the early 90s for 3 downbeat releases, Soul to Soul style, the most succesful one was ‘Captain of Her Heart 90’ (ZYX/Discomagic).

When did you realize you wanted to become a professional musician?

Sorry my friend to disappoint you! I’m not not at all a musician and I don’t know how to read a music sheet… I compose with the help of my feelings, if this is being a musician then ok I am, but I don’t like to offend the category, better to say that I'm not! I used to work with professional musicians, tasked and directed by me in order to realize my ideas and compositions. Without their help I could not do anything.

Who were your big musical influences?

Already in 72 I felt an attraction to the Teutonic sound of NEU! ‘Hallo Gallo’ is classic hypnotic electro, very stimulating. In the club I was working in, in my hometown Genoa, the crowd was crazy about this track. When the dancefloor was empty, Neu! was the real floorfiller.

But I was still an amateur dj… Neu was not for everybody, and when I changed club, even in the same town, I would fired Neu! was not for everybody really. Pity, it was my favourite track… But then I started to be a professional dj and had the luck to meet the charismatic Lord of the Music, the Maestro Giorgio Moroder in his native Ortisei in Val Gardena (Italy). Giorgio had the habit of going every night when he was on holiday to the club where I was resident, and he was bringing me, literally, his first international hits. He explained to me the art of how to make a hit for all the people and not just for the happy few. He also explained to me the importance of technology in the music, and how to keep people happy at the same time. Giorgio was underground and at same time popular… a reference for me with his versatility. I was already spinning in '71 the track ‘Action Man’ by Spinach (the first succesfull group of Moroder's), then I enjoyed ‘Looky Looky’ and ‘Moody Trudy’. 

But when I was listening to Radio Luxembourg every night and hearing the song ‘Son of My Father’, I did not imagine that behind this No.1 UK hit, full of Minimoog effects, it was an Italian, and that I would receive from the hands of its creator my favourite song. 
I was really influenced by the first impact of his synths. Already I was loving King Crimson and Brian Eno, Van Der Graf Generator, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Brian Auger & Trinity or the Italian Premiata Forneria Marconi, but people were not dancing to their synths, even when it was the best music to hear. In this Giorgio style not much music was produced (though I have to mention ‘Spirit in the Sky‘ by Norman Greenbaum). Giorgio had… the commercial touch (he was a band ballroom player). He is unique and cloned all the time…

Conclusions: After I met him I decided to be a producer of dance music one day… In the meantime when I was not working in my free time and could listen, also non-dance. I started to love all the Teutonic sound: Can, Kraftwerk, Popol Vuh, Vangelis, J. M. Jarre. 
But for work I was using all my favourite tracks, full of sequencers and synths. Once, I became the tour manager of French pioneer vocoder space band ‘The Rockets’, and had an Italian tour with them. They also influenced me very much, but my days as a producer had still to come, starting with finding my own style.

How did you get into DJing?

I was playing records on the old ‘grammofono’ of my father, like opera, staying for hours and hours to play and replay Verdi’s operas or Caruso tenors with Neapolitan classical bel canto songs, or Strauss. Already at home they were dancing when I was playing waltzes!One day a few years later I noticed that a turntable can replace one orcherstra and make people dance. I decided that this was my life. To make people dance forever.

How did you start making Italo Disco?

I'm Italian, it was obvious to start producing music in Italy. In my town Genoa it was lots of recording studios filled with talented musicians, all my friends were musicians and we talked about music and girls all day long, instead of talking about soccer.
I was always meeting them in studio and observing how they were recording rock and jam session. None of them were recording real music for just djs. During one of my dj contracts in Rome I met some as-passionate-as-me fans of electronic Moroder sounds and we exchanged our ideas. They started to do business and were asking my advice about what to produce or not and whatever… I did the final touches to some recordings where my name didn’t appear, and then I decided to appear also. And with their financial help I went back to Genoa‘s best recording studio. I came out with my real first finished production, created with help of great musicians. I was finally a ‘producer’, an Italo producer: ‘Cybernetic love’ was born! Hip hip hurray!

Why do you think Italians took so strongly to making electronic disco?

Thanks for compliment... 
But it was down to Bernard Mikulski, the owner of ZYX Records Germany, to discover this particular sound with sad beautiful melodies on electronic beds, real songs with a structure; verses, bridges, choruses, and some experimental touches that were never out of place. Mikulsky called this kind of dance music ‘Italo’ and he was travelling every week to Italy to listen to what's new and buying licenses. Often he was coming back with big hits in his pocket. Thanks to Bernie Mikulski from Germany Italo disco conquered the world, and it's thanks to him that Italians took so strongly to making electronic disco.

And why do you think that music is so popular again?

It's a normal historical phenomenon known as ‘corsi e ricorsi’ (I don’t know the translation sorry).

What modern music do you enjoy?

Modern or not, I enjoy music where the chords of my soul are touched.

Some old Casco material is getting re-released. Can you fill us in on that?

I was in touch already with some Clone DJs by email some years ago due to the fact they were tracking me on the net. They were appreciating ‘Cybernetic Love’ and asked me if I had an original copy, in fact they were asking me to do a remix already at that time (2002). 
Honestly I was thinking everybody had forgot about the Casco project and also about other collaborations I had with the people behind the House of Music label. But I first realized there was a revamped interest when some journalistsfrom Spain that were working on the history of electronic music called me. I was asking myself if they had dialled a wrong number... but they were really asking for me! So when I saw the book (a bestseller) and saw my name in it with a paragraph dedicated to me I had to believe it and say ‘Mamma mia, I’m in the electronic history books!" 
After that the label Blanco Y Negro Spain asked me for the license for a cult compilation, and then NEWS Belgium contacted me for a work-in-progress project by DJ Spacid (‘Theme from Radius’, An Italo/Space compilation). Today Spacid is my best electro friend, he really relaunched this project: thank you Yves!

What is your favourite production you have worked on?

Without a doubt ‘Cybernetic Love’ by Casco.

What did you work on in the 90’s, after Italo?

I continued to be what I was always: an Italo dj specializing in 80's/90's Italo and Eurodance. 
My second activity is producer, third activity is Artist Manager and booking agent (of guess whom? Italo 80s’ artists and international 80’s-90’s dance artists!) and I have my own music agency while I also run my publishing company Francesco Publishing.

Have you been making any new music recently?

Well, I never stopped producing Eurodance, licensed worldwide since 1983… currently I’m working on the new release of an Italian project ‘Eu4ya’, co-produced with the label Dieffe Publishing featuring as special guest the Italo-Canadian Eurodance star Elissa. The song is called ‘Tanti Auguri’ (‘Best wishes’) …but this is another story (The Mr Hyde side of Mr Cusato )… check it out on 
Regarding Casco I just finished the track list for the album, called ‘The Cybernetic Album’. It contains all the old gems and some new material encompassing a very cosmic trip on the ’Apollo VIII’, plus pure Moroder-style on ‘Jokin to My Mind’, ’Cybernetic Part Two’ and ‘Part III’, thanks to the co-operation of German dj Geespot from Dresden. Another new Italo/electro oriented song is called ‘Electro’, composed by the beautiful Casco fan Lia Organa, who I met on myspace. The album will be only released by digital distribution!

And how is your DJing going now?

I’ve stopped djing at the moment as I needed full immersion for the album. I am scheduled to be on stage again from next October with the musician Eddy Milani, for an explosive electro live set where the music will be not only by Casco but the best vocoder music of the whole Italo electro era!

What are your top 5 Italo records?

1. From here to Eternity – Giorgio Moroder

2. Take a chance - Mr Flagio 

3. Spacer woman – Charlie 

4. Problemes D’amour – Alexander Robotnick

5. Cybernetic Love - Casco

And your top 5 all time records?

1. From here to Eternity – Giorgio Moroder 

2. Star Wars Theme – Meco Monardo 

3. Hallo Gallo – Neu! 

4. The model - Kraftwerk

5. Chariots of fire - Vangelis 

6. Oxygen part IV - J. M. Jarre

Britney’s breasts or Kylie’s bum?

Both, may I?

What does the future hold for Casco/Salvatore Cusato?

For Casco to keep on playing with the electro toys, for Salvatore Cusato to keep on playing with the other toys. Smile, life is beautiful!

RIP Salvatore Cusato

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