Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Interview to Daniele De Gemini of The Beat Records Company

In this interview I shall talk about a historical Roman record label still producing after half century.  Its main activity has been  that of releasing movie themes produced in Italy of the highest quality.
To better know the historical background of this independent record label  I met Daniele De Gemini,  son of the legend Franco De Gemini,  who is now the Arts Director of the Company. The meeting was a constructive one.  Daniele gave us plenty of his time, disclosing many passages of the Beat Records and which  are the rules that govern recording policies.


MPFR: The first question that  comes to  mind  is  when and how was the Beat Records Company established?

 De Gemini:  The Beat Records was established in 1966 upon the initiative of three Roman businessmen who  were publishers, chartered accountants, partly  connected  with the movie and music industries; they created this label as companies mainly do today: their aim was to have a label ready and then hit the mark as time went on.  However, after two years had gone by, the company did not move by an inch because each of the above-mentioned businessmen had to take care of their own personal binding activities. One of them, however, involved in the music industry in particular, proposed my father Franco De Gemini,  to launch the label and  sold him some shares of the company. As from that moment my father became the administrator  and then , with time, the majority stake holder and put up a very substantial catalogue of soundtracks.
MPFR:  In this respect I wanted to ask you... it seems that the Company, during the first years also introduced pop music  in their catalogue and was not totally bound to movie scores.

De Gemini:  Yes, this is true. The first years were allotted  to groups, singers, the so called crooners; in fact there is a collection of 45 r.p.m.  particularly dedicated to  these productions, the main part of them are pop songs that were actively promoted on radio and song contests. Let us say that this practice was stopped at the beginning of  the ‘70s.

MPFR:  I understand. So from that moment on, the Beat mainly dedicated itself to movie scores, even if from what I can see from the catalogue, there are instrumental titles  not explicitly composed for movies.  And I also remember the jazz experience.
De Gemini: That’s correct... My father, together with my mother who was his right-hand, managed various musical editions connected to movie productions, namely those of  Edmondo Amati or Italo Zingarelli, so here we talk about very important  productions.  This allowed them to create a sort of virtuosity ... on one side he performed on scores,  then he also helped producers organize the music, save on productions and on the other side helped them create an editorial catalogue  headed by the same producers who later involved him at different levels, especially at  editorial policy level.
The  demand for movies, tv and radio programmes scores  made him achieve a great number of musical libraries on a large scale effort, with real orchestras.  The result was music with an international character which was promoted and sold  in America and England, and other Anglophone countries. Then,  towards mid-80s he dedicated himself a lot to jazz ; he organized many Italian Jazz Festivals, together with my mother he put up since then a fantastic catalogue of jazz music  which counts about 70 albums , pressed  with the best Italian artists, still in full activity,  famous all over the world such as Dino and Franco Piana, Enrico Pieranunzi, Flavio Boltro, people of this calibre.

MPFR:  You are talking of the Pentaflower Series...
De Gemini: Yes, the Pentaflower Series, but many albums are present also on the Beat Label...
MPFR:  With respect to the various collections and labels that are part of the Beat Records Company, which do you consider being the most famous? 
De Gemini:  Those that I consider institutional are two: the so called “serie F” mainly dedicated to movie scores, even if at times we published some experimental albums or peculiar productions such as poetry in music performed by Peppino De Filippo  (we refer to “Peppino, poesie e musica” – e’s.n.). This collection stopped on vinyl  at n. 70 and continued on CD.  Then there is the CR Collection which is mostly dedicated to movie scores’ collectors which on vinyl stopped at n.15 while on CD we got to 120. The collections, in total, should be about 20 but the most known are these two, surely.
MPFR:  In this respect, is there a soundtrack kind that is usually more successful than another?
De Gemini: I must say that the  horror and the Italian “poliziottesco” movies have encountered great favour among the public.  In fact the events that we have organized in the past with respect to music concerts always favoured these two : poliziesco and horror...
 MPFR:  Hence,  specific genres...
De  Gemini:  Yes, then we have the “Spaghetti Western” genre which has smashed international and cultural boundaries, all categories and ages.  The  Italian western genre  has always a great number of followers with respect to scores.
MPFR:  With respect to authors, instead, are there any who sell more than another?
De Gemini:  I must say that the so called “Big” such as Maestro Composers Morricone, Trovaioli, Piccioni, De Masi and Cipriani, including Ortolani, are those who keep on having the most followers, due to their never ending celebrity. 
Nonetheless all composers of that period, in the long run, were able to cut for themselves a slice of public, of appreciation and interest which was really surprising.  Even for those who have composed not very many or an intermediate quantity of scores such as Pregadio, more than Walter Rizzati or Gianni Marchetti, I must reiterate for all of them, that when they are granted the limelight they always receive great acceptance and that is because they all have a common denominator which is a fantastic production behind them  that people recognize and appreciate.
MPFR: I would like to ask you  which are the characteristics that a record should have to become part of your catalogue?
De Gemini: The first shortlist or “guiding star” consists if the product is unreleased or obscure; the second shortlist consists in making sure that it contains unreleased tracks in respect to other publications that  should be preferably sold out, as we avoid market-overstocking.  The composer plays another very important aspect combined with the historical period, let us say that when we enter too deep into the 80s  the music becomes too electronic and our public does not appreciate it very much.  Furthermore, we consider if the movie was sensational, if it became a cult or not, if there were a director or actors involved in the cast that aroused interest. The reason motivating this is due to the fact that a product is not always bought for the music, but it is the movie that stimulates the purchase.  On the other hand we find that  some second rate movies , unfortunately, and I am talking about some movies we better forget,   are re-discovered for their large scale effort and depth of  scores.
Last but not least,  the choice can also happen for sentimental reasons. For example, we have reprinted last December “Le Ruffian” by Ennio Morricone only because my father played the harmonica on it.  There was not a single note more respect to the previous album which was sold out. We wanted to pay our homage to Franco with this repressing.
I can also give you the example of Fantozzi.  We made a box set with the 1st and 2nd Fantozzi music scores, for which I sweat blood for three years. When I was a child I used to watch Fantozzi  and I loved the idea to be part, even if marginally, of a thing that would contribute  to interpret those little social phenomena which were Fantozzi’s movies. All  was a honour for me. Although it was not commercial production, strictly speaking,  I think that we should also be striving not only to feed our stomach but also our soul.
MPFR:  A technical question: behind the publication of a work,  editing included, do you  have authors’ contributions as well , whenever possible?
De Gemini: There are some composers that are bound to a sort of approval  of the project, but these are only  few. Others, instead, trust us blindfolded  and they are truly the great majority. However, in both cases it is very difficult that an author puts a veto . Perhaps he may suggest a different track list  or a removal of a track  because according to his judgement it is too repetitive or not suitable. But it happens rarely. Lately however  it happened in “Lo Chiamavano Trinità”. Maestro Micalizzi  approved the reprinting  but requested that we remove three or four tracks  were present in former press, but for a very logic reason as they belonged to another score which he had recorded soon after “Lo Chiamavano Trinità”.  The problem arose because the tape was never removed from the moviola (the editing motion-picture and sound synchronizing device) and  all music ended up on the recordings labelled “Lo Chiamavano Trinità”. Those who reprinted the music on CD after 30 years never grasped the difference and put everything on same CD. Maestro Micalizzi was very  keen to correct the blunder.
MPFR:  Fair enough. Before you talked about the foreign market. Which is the difference between the Italian market and the foreign one?  Is it just a matter of numbers or is there a different way to relate to music?
De Gemini: I would say both things. In the music and movie industries we are very much appreciated in the Far East, in America and in the rest of Europe. In Italy we mostly find a restricted market that has the will and determination to follow the complete recordings of a particular movie genre or artist, giving satisfaction when these groups of people  become competent  and passionate over the issue.
Abroad, instead, we find curiosity: people happen to buy a record or are interested in an artist: this may be because the record sleeve has an ancestral appeal that almost creates an emblem, or because have they heard something about that particular composer and having each one of these composers an original style with respect to others, they are intrigued in discovering a new tile of his releases.
But surely it is also a question of numbers. America remains always a very important market. They are 300 million inhabitants  while in Italy we are only 50 million and if statistics is not an opinion it gives an estimate that is more or less inevitable.  In any case, the Americans, have such  a cultural musical back-ground that gives very important satisfaction and does go deeper than just these so-called specialized groups or restricted market phenomena.
MPFR: In these latter years, we have assisted to the rediscovery of the old vinyl support, the unforgotten 33 r.p.m. Lp; I have noticed that in the new proposals available on your catalogue, it is not present. Do you eventually have the intention to release some titles on vinyl?
De Gemini: Perhaps I shall say something that will ruin my reputation, if I have one:  I adore vinyl records,  because at the present state of the art, I find it to be the most capturing way of making a record that was ever created. It must be clear, however,  that I refer to the vinyl made on analog technology against today’s vinyl,   which is at first digitally recorded and then reversed on vinyl thus receiving a compression  during  process.  The vinyl of the past instead had a warmth, a dynamic sound which  I just can’t feel on today’s  perfect digital recordings.
After saying this, the vinyl is actually going through a last effort after it was sent ko by these new technologies. There is a sort of new discovery , but unfortunately I believe it could be more noise than substance. However, I must affirm that there are some markets that appreciate vinyl very much, especially those in Great Britain, where there are distributors chains that are specialized in vinyl distribution in shops and lately also in the American Continent where we are issuing interesting licences with respect to movie scores that are pressed on vinyl, this to say that the Beat Records could be interested in pressing vinyl again for many reasons: the first reason is merely sentimental, seen that that it  was the format on which the company was created on, furthermore the graphic result of vinyl sleeves is surely wholesome  compared to the inferior impact a CD graphic design might have, even if done very well.
The problem with vinyl is that it requires  important investments’ know-how and vast distribution connections that are not common.  This does not mean that because we have a certain back-ground and decide to release on vinyl, we’ll be absolutely certain that we are going to recoup on part of our investments. The record must be promoted and followed in a certain way and attention.
To quote a metaphor: “When it is obvious that some goals cannot be reached immediately do not adjust the goals, adjust the action steps”.
Therefore I do not exclude the fact that in the next few years the Beat will start reproducing on vinyl.
MPFR: With respect to the future, according to your opinion, which is the forthcoming future for the sector, considering new digital technologies on internet and seen the general downfall of  CDs?
De Gemini:  We are sure that we will continue to produce CDs for few years to come. The physical support is something that followers just can’t give up on. In the sense that  the CD produced with precise body of rules is a lounge object, an object that fills both physical and interior spaces. A thing that we love having around.
Thus, knowing that people love to surround themselves with such physical objects,  perhaps supplied with additional well-finished booklets which contain additional information material by a director or composer, knowing well that this is very much appreciated by collectors, I believe that CDs still have a lot to give.
Ultimately, when CDs will run short of breath, we will pass onto other means of support and digital music storage , we will try and give people  the possibility to have these artworks , because they should be considered masterpieces, with related gadgets, that will make the product a unique one, even if downloaded from internet or bought on other means of communication. We will always try to give a 360 degree dynamicity to the product and from this point of view, I think that CDs will have another 5 years to go, if not longer.
MPFR: Let us hope longer...

To know the Beat Records catalog: See here


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