Ciao, MD readers! Let me just savor this moment…. Wow! I could never imagine, not even in my wildest dreams of glory as a teenage drummer, that one day I’d have been given the chance to write a blog for Modern Drummer!
Okay, what can I tell you? My name’s Enrico Calvano, I’m twenty-nine, and I play in a band called At The Soundawn. I just came back to my job after the last concert of our European tour. We played at the Wave Gothic Treffen (the biggest gothic festival in the world) in Leipzig, Germany, and now, here in my office of a multinational company, I feel like Doctor Jekyll. That’s a bit weird, but cool.
I was born and grew up in Modena, a town in Northern Italy. Here my parents allowed me to be educated in music, starting at the age of four. Let’s say that I’d have preferred playing in the park with my little friends rather than transcribing notes and studying scales on the piano. But my parents thought that it might have been important for me, and today, I can say they were right and that I’m thankful for their efforts and sacrifices.
Anyway, until the age of twelve, music to me was an obligation more than a pleasant thing, a stressful duty that I couldn’t or didn’t want to enjoy. At some point, I can’t remember exactly how, I rebelled against my parents and I quit the piano lessons. In some way I began to search for my true voice. I tried to play trombone for a while, but one day during the summer, I saw a drummer playing a concert in the small village of my grandparents in the south, and I was struck. From that moment everything changed.
It took me more than six months to convince my parents to let me try to play drums, and almost another six to let them send me to attend lessons. I can understand; it must not have been easy for them to exchange their dream of raising a classical pianist for a noisy rascal who was playing along to Iron Maiden songs on pans and buckets with a pair of chopsticks from a Chinese restaurant.
I studied for five years with Andrea Burani and Emilio Veneziano, two very good drummers and teachers from Modena. I learned to explore music through the drums, learning and understanding lots of things and enlarging my horizons. In the meantime I was playing with different bands, always searching for an occasion to try new styles, new music genres…new languages.
Maybe it’s by chance that I ended up studying languages and linguistics at the university, but this surely influenced a lot my way of conceiving the music and my instrument. Music is a mysterious and ancestral form of communication. Some think that the language is innate in the human being. The need for communication surely is. But in order to communicate, it’s first necessary to understand the language that we want to use. We have to learn the words that we need to express what we want to say, and then we have to learn to use them with incisiveness and coherence. Music requires the same things. Learning to understand, speak, be understood, express your own feelings in a language, is not that different from doing it in music, with your own instrument.
I’ve always been fascinated by good speakers, by those who are able to master their language, to carefully choose words, to inspire the imagination of those who listen by crafting subtle double meanings or hidden cultural references. I feel the same things about the drummers that I like. Recently I attended a drum clinic by Dave Weckl here in Modena, and it was a perfect example of what I mean. His solos were splendidly built, with musicality and stylistic coherence. The “words” were grouping in “sentences,” the sentences were composing a long and consistent monologue, which was communicating the musical and cultural path of the artist better than words could do.
The drums and the percussion are my voice. With them I can tell who I am, what I like. I can “shout,” I can “whisper,” I can joke…I’m free to use them as I like. And last but not least, I can always learn new words! In fact, I believe that my way of playing mirrors my personality: I like to listen and I don’t speak a lot, because usually I try to focus on the main point instead of losing time on the details. So often I find myself listening to a recorded song over and over, trimming it down to the essential, trying to eliminate everything that might divert from the real intention of the song, and from the role that drums have to play in it.
I’m not a pro, and I don’t think I want to become one. I don’t want the music to pay my bills; to me it has to stay free. I don’t want it to be something I have to do to survive, and, well, I’m lucky enough to have a day job that I like. I had and I have other passions that are important to me—skateboarding, boxing, sailing—but only playing drums and making music allow me to express my feelings, and there’s nothing better than playing with my best friends in At The Soundawn. We’ve known one another for twenty years, and even though the band was officially born about five years ago, we’ve been playing together for ten years now. We’re very close and we know each other very well, so everyone of us can express himself freely in the band and bring in his own ideas and influences, which we democratically try to melt in a consistent “speech.” It always pleasantly surprises me to read the comments of the fans or the reviews that interpret our music and find messages and feelings identical to the ones that we threw into it. Also, it convinced me that music is really the language of our collective soul.
Before saying goodbye, I would like to thank my parents, my family, my love Alice, and all the friends that shared their passion for music with me. Our second album, Shifting, is now out in the U.S., so I invite you to give us a try and visit us at the links below.
Thanks once again to MD and to you modern drummers! Cheers from Italy.