Back for what will be their third performance in Malta, Italian instrumental rock band Sdang!'s latest visit will see their line-up boosted by none other than Colin Edwin. The Australian musician is probably best-known as a member of internationally-acclaimed progressive rock band The Porcupine Tree, but he is also involved in several other music projects that stretch across the musical spectrum in terms of genre, among them Metallic Taste of Blood, Endless Tapes and Ex-Wiseheads. The news of Colin Edwin joining Sdang!'s ranks was released on the band's website a few weeks back, which announcement also mentions that their performance at this year's Rock The South festival will actually kick off their upcoming tour, which includes appearances at various festivals around Italy. Michael Bugeja caught up with Sdang! drummer Alessandro Pedretti ahead of their upcoming performance in Malta to find out more about the band that describes its music as telling stories without talking.
'Raccontiamo storie senza parlare' is an interesting way to describe your music. What ignites the spark that eventually becomes the song and where do the curious song titles come from?
The titles are actually always chosen when the track has been completed. It is the music itself; its dynamics, emotional swings, tempo intenseness and researched harmonies that suggest the titles. For example, a song like Cento metri all'arrivo reminded us of a runner who has to give 100% in the last metres to win the race, so the first part of the song is very frantic and then evolves into a relaxed pace which lets one imagine as the result of the race.
What was it that attracted you to the idea of creating instrumental music and completely avoiding the use of vocals in your songs; was it a deliberate decision or out of convenience?
It came naturally to us, as I'm primarily a drummer and Nicola (Panteghini) is a guitarist. Also, as music has always existed without the words, we decided from the beginning to bring out the best music through our chosen instruments. Since neither of us a singer, what you hear in Sdang! is a poetic summary of our musical coexistence. Being a duo we have the advantage of being able to create an original and energetic musical situation. There aren't really any downsides, except when it comes to explaining to booking agents and concert managers that, although we are only two (or three), and have no vocalist, a Sdang! concert is still a perfectly complete show.
With two albums under your belt, is there any news of a new release anytime soon?
At the moment we are more focused on bringing out our best through our live performances. However, we are already working on musical ideas - they are far from being songs yet - and experimenting with new and different solutions. The next Sdang! album will be different from the first two and will not be realized anytime soon, as we have decided to take more time to work on it.
Are there new inspirations shaping the direction of these new ideas?
Not specifically, we just let inspiration take its natural course. We never discussed what kind of genre or direction to take before, so we won't do it now. We just let ourselves be inspired by the music that we improvise in the rehearsal room and then try to ride the wave of good ideas that make us happy. We also have much material to listen to that dates back to the time of our first album, Il giorno delle altalene. There is much good material there that we have not yet used and we think that it's a good idea to revisit it after three years and many concerts and see what comes out of it.
You're about to start a tour with Colin Edwin on board. How did you meet, what sparked off the idea for him join Sdang! on tour, and will this lead to recorded work together too?
I'm in the Endless Tapes project with Colin, so we've known each other for quite some years now. He is a great spiritual musician with an open mind and a very talented artist. I know him from his days in The Porcupine Tree, and back in 2011 I needed a musician like him to develop some music I had been working on. I sent him an email and he replied, saying he was very interested in working with me. That was the start of Endless Tapes; we've released an EP and an album so far. Last summer Nicola and I thought of asking him to be part of Sdang! for this year's spring/summer tour, and he accepted without hesitation. For the time being, this is the commitment that Colin has agreed to. We'll see what happens afterwards.
How would you describe your previous experiences of performing in Malta - I think there must be a good connection since you are coming back for a third time?
I can describe it in just three words: goosebumps, kindness and Cisk :-)
What are your fans here to expect from your upcoming performance, now with an extended line-up?
We will definitely be performing most of the tracks from the La malinconia delle fate and Il giorno delle altalene albums. With Colin on board, the music will of course take on a new feel. The sound will be more three-dimensional, so the audience will be able to experience a musical journey full of ups and downs, charming landscapes, loves and disappointments... and it will all be very intense.
Sdang! Will be performing on Saturday, April 22 at the 2017 edition of the Rock The South Festival. The festival kicks off the night before and ends on Sunday, April 23. For more information or to buy your ticket, visit rockthesouthmalta.com.
An edited version of this interview was first published on The Sunday Times of Malta (16 April 2017)