To anybody familiar enough with the Maltese music scene, the slightest mention of the name Franco Tartaglia will always be followed by the words 'guitar player'. Immersed in music and basically attached at the hip to the guitar since early childhood, Tartaglia has earned a reputation for seamless eloquence and masterful handling of the six-stringed instrument through sheer determination, hard work and a God-given natural flair for all things musical. Having been involved in several music projects over the years he is now, under the name of TACT, about to release his first official album Brushworks later this week, ahead of which Michael Bugeja took time to speak with Franco Tartaglia about his life in music and why this album is such an important milestone in his career.
When and what first got you hooked on music?
I started studying music theory and guitar at the age of 6. I remember waking up every morning before school to play guitar for 45 minutes. Day by the day guitar became part of me and since then we've never been apart.
Who would you say are your influences?
Some of my early music influences included Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd and Ozzy Osbourne, but the list has grown immensely over the years to now include the likes of Philip Glass, John Cage, Beethoven, Bach, Al DiMeola, John Mclaughlin, Bireli Lagrene, Ennio Morricone, Hans Zimmer, John Williams and of course, Trent Reznor.
What attracted you to the guitar over any other instrument?
I belong to the guitar. It’s the instrument that through which I feel most comfortable expressing myself; a palette of colours at my disposal that can be blended to produce different styles and techniques inspired by personal emotions.
You've played with various other artists and bands. What have these experiences taught you that has possibly also helped make you the musician you are today..
Yes, I've been part of various bands, among them Sagas, Blindfold, Mental Prison, Niki Gravino and The Vile Bodies as well as TACT, and I've also been a session guitarist for plenty of other local artists. The main thing I have absorbed is an opennesstowards diversity, having played various genres, and this has naturally contributed to my wide-angled vision of music and influences, all the way from Acid Jazz to the Blues, from Classic Rock to Art-Rock and, as a session guitarist, anything from Classical music to the Latin forms. Then in 2006, having started to explore music production and composition, I also ventured into the world of soundtrack music.
You formed TACT a while back. What were your aspirations for the project, and have these changed over the years?
TACT was formed to be my 'act', where I could focus more on the role of composer and guitarist backed by a band of talented musicians who contributed through their performance. My aspirations have not changed, in that TACT is essentially a vehicle to perform my original compositions accompanied by other musicians. The idea of a rotating line-up interests me as it brings more ideas and a notion of diversity and experimentation to the act.
You've been writing original pieces and tracks for years, but it's only now you're releasing your first album proper. Was the wait intentional and were the 12 tracks on Brushworks written specifically for this album?
The style of music I write and work in tends to be built in the form of a journey. There is no specific time limit restricting it, and if I had to describe it, I'd say the tracks are a collection of inspirations reflecting different episodes of my life experiences. Eventually, I felt the time was right to enter the studio to work on the productions. We recorded them with recording & sound engineer Manolito Galea, who was also the producer, at Lito’s Place; a big step that has also been made possible thanks to the support of the Malta Arts Fund.
This album is probably the first local release to pursue a 5D sound. Why was this important to the project and to you as an artist?
The productions are mixed both in CD stereo and in 5D Image. The CD will be available this monthwhile the 5D representation shall be presented live during the concert launch combined with tailor-made visuals produced under the guidance of executive producer David Zammit for each individual track. Further to the concert,I'm planning to continue developing the 5D show into a wider production.
You've put together a reputable team of people for this project...
Yes, the musicians involvedreally need no introduction as they are some of Malta’s top musical talents, but I really feel I need to mention them anyway - Paul Torpiano (piano), Simon Sammut (bass), Carl Matthew Camilleri (drums &percussion), Dominic Galea, (who collaboratedon the arrangements), Walter Vella (saxophone), Akos Kertesz (cello) and Adrian Brincat 'Russu' (trumpet). Each of these brought great knowledge and experience to the band and this was most beneficial to both the overall production and the individual compositions.
Musically speaking, is there a particular direction that Brushworks leans toward or is the content an eclectic selection of music styles?
Brushworks is a collection of compositions with a wide variety of inspirations generated from various music styles as well as from my own evolution as a composer. The instruments used are a combination of strings, brass and percussive elements, while effects were kept to a bare minimum in order to capture and portray the raw element of each instrument. I suppose what we've produced falls more under the soundtrack category and will probably arouse the interest of cinematic music fans more than any other audience.
Last but not least, a word about the actual launch...
The launch will be staged in the intimate ambience of the Robert Samut Hall in Floriana. Due to the restricted seating capacity, the event shall be taking place over 2 nights, namely Friday, 13 and Saturday, 14 November. The representation of the tracks shall be in 5.1 Live Surround so that the listener will be experiencing a cinematic audio and visual experience complimented with purposely built visual productions.
For more information, click here.
An edited version of this article was first published on The Sunday Times of Malta's ESCAPE magazine (08 November 2015)