We caught up with Whodamanny, one half of The Normalmen to discuss the duo’s history, influences and future plans.
The Normalmen aka Raffaele Arcella and Enrico Fierro (Milord) are part of a new generation of Italian artists that are worth keeping an eye out for. The duo from Naples are fully submerged in their hometown’s incredibly rich musical heritage. Tullio de Piscopo, Oro, Napoli Centrale, Tony Esposito are few of the names that echo back into their sound. These echoes find a new breath in their musical aesthetic mixed with cheap 80’s Casio digital synthesisers, the seductive downtempo boogie of erotic film soundtracks and lo-fi graphics.
Raffaele and Enrico first ran into each other on a chaotic Friday night in Piazza Bellini in Naples in November 2011. Back then Raffaele, son of Andrea Arcella, synth virtuoso from “Il Giardino dei Semplici”, was already experimenting with electronic music but was still searching for a direction. When the two met they instantly discovered their common passion: digging for dusty records in flea markets and buying old cheap synthesisers. They soon realised they were both going to the same places but never crossing paths. The following Monday the two met at Enrico’s house in a dark room lit only by a fireplace, opened a bottle of wine and started spinning some records.
They clicked straight away and started playing together with their electronic machines. After two weeks of jamming, Raffaele and Enrico realised that maybe under the apparent guise of the normal men they thought they were, “there was something crazy going on”. Subsequently after a few recording sessions Enrico introduced Raffaele to Dario Di Pace and played him their demos, Dario instantly saw some great potential in their still primitive but very expressive and original music.
These first tapes became “Dorko’s Anturum”, released in 2014 on Early Sounds Recordings. The EP consists of a set of very punchy and raw house tracks and gained an instant success. Relentless kicks and high hats, acid basslines and the floaty pads borrowed from Joey Kay’s “Talking Machine Verde” are the absolute protagonists of this work, tightly knitted together to create a demented atmosphere that will dazzle you on the dancefloor.
Raffaele and Enrico were both hanging out in Dario’s studio when he was working on the MFO project with Massimo Di Lena. This is where they started exchanging ideas on what was about to became the Mystic Jungle Tribe. The group has now released three albums “Solaria”, “Qvisisana” and “Live in Napoli”.
“Images are always our primary source of inspiration” Raffaele told me during our conversation. “Dorko’s Anturum” has Blanka from Street Fighter on the cover, perhaps a reflection of the lo-fi 8bit sound that ties videogame music to The Normalmen.
A picture of two japanese men smoking opium is what inspired the duo to use oriental scales on their second work “Antruum Odyssey” released on White Jail Recordings and is probably what influenced the more mellow vibe of the record.
It was Luca Affatato that introduced Raffaele to the universe of the Casio keyboards and phase distortion synthesis, Raffaele spotted a Casio Cz-101 lying around in a corner of Luca’s studio and was instantly fascinated by it, so Luca offered to lend it to him. Manny spent an entire year studying this machine inside out, exploring its most hidden structures and recorded all of his sessions on a tape deck. Some time after he started digitising these tapes that were then picked up by Dario.
After listening to the tapes Dario saw similarities with “The Micro Chip Revolution” a record by the british composer Sam Sklair and jazz trumpeter Gus Galbraith. Raffaele was instantly struck by the record, a mix of weird electronic sounds, groovy basslines and jazzy keyboards. This gave him confidence and vision that his experiments had a much greater musical validity and the music became “Cosmic Morphology”, the first 12” on Periodica Records. the “freakier” side of Early Sounds as they like to put it.
Raffaele’s passion for Casio keyboards doesn’t stop with the CZ-101, he also released two albums using the SK-8 sampler keyboard and included the CZ1000 and the MT750 in the Mystic Jungle Tribe live show.
The Normalmen prepared a special mixtape for us that was aired on Intro-spettiva days before their show in Florence. The mix is packed full of content from the duo’s past, present and future; from Raffaele’s dad’s jams to the Mystic Jungle Tribe and future releases on Periodica.