A Fool’s Memory: An Interview With Fortunato Durutti Marinetti

Photo by Julina Yi-Zhong Hou

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Fortunato Durutti Marinetti (née Daniel Colussi, formerly of The Pinc Lincolns) has long had a way with words, so it makes sense that he’s put them front and center on his second album, Memory’s Fool, released in March on Soft Abuse. “When I was writing the songs that became Memory’s Fool, I gave myself license to stretch out and not be afraid of a fairly high word count and just have fun with language,” he explains. “How the words were arranged on the screen seemed important and something to pay attention to.” 

Indeed, Marinetti’s placid, spoken-word delivery has a transfixing effect. Set atop the lush and jazzy, mostly six-minute-plus backing tracks, his voice and phrasing at times evokes Bill Callahan, Robert Forster, and especially Lou Reed, while remaining uniquely his own. It’s the kind of album you’ll find yourself living inside for days at a time, contemplating its many riddles and enchanting blend of sounds, from the roll of thunder and soft acoustic guitar with which it opens to the wordless vocals and silky ribbons of flute that float in at its close. “Knowledge comes slowly and often at great personal expense,” Marinetti muses at one point in “Everything Is Right Here,” but in this case, I’ll just give it to you straight: Memory’s Fool is one of the year’s richest, most rewarding records.

In this interview, we talk about how Marinetti’s music has benefitted from inviting other people in, repetition as a framing device and the lists of words that he keeps, among other things. It was a treat.

There are a couple different theories floating around out there on why you chose the pseudonym Fortunato Durutti Marinetti for this project. So, first, I’m wondering if you wouldn’t mind clearing the air and explaining the significance of the name? And also talk a little bit about how the project got started? 

For a half-dozen years, I did a lot of work under the nom de guerre The Pinc Lincolns — albums, touring, etc. The Pinc Lincolns began in Vancouver as an album of four-track recordings, then turned into a loose house party band with friends sympathetic to my cause, and by the end it was just me with a guitar and a bunch of pedals. Originally I liked playing under a name that presented itself as a band because it gave me some sense of protection, but at some point it felt important to present as an individual because the music was coming from one person, and I was generally playing solo anyway.  

The name Fortunato Durutti Marinetti in and of itself doesn’t mean anything. It’s purposely absurd and excessive and a bit obtuse and people have difficulty pronouncing it and retaining it, and those are all good qualities in my mind. I’ve never wanted to perform under my own name, even if it is just me up there alone on the stage. To me, it seems like you should give what you do a name.   

You were born in Turin. How old were you when you moved to Canada? I’m curious what your relationship with Italy is like these days and whether you’ve been back recently?

I was last in Italy very recently, April/May 2022, with my girlfriend. She is a curator, so I joined her for the opening of the Venice Art Biennale. We went to all the pavilions, walked end to end, got lost a million times. Then we visited family in Rome and Naples. I was 6 years old when we moved to Canada. Italy is wonderful and I love being there for all the reasons that people love Italy — the food, the Italian sociability, the energy of the street, the general beauty of the country, the gorgeousness of the coast, the way people live their lives there, the style and fashion, the affordability of good wine. Canada is in so many ways a hideous, grotesque place but also it is home. 

What do you find most grotesque about Canada?

Anytime you drive throughout Canada or the US and you’re traveling on those brutal inter-provincial, interstate highways, it’s always a grotesque experience. The sprawl, the gas stations, the dead space, the ugly cars, the brutal monoculture. Part of me loves it and part of me is horrified by it. Anyone who’s driven across large swathes of the North American continent knows what I’m saying. It’s awesome but it’s awful. 

Tell me about your earliest musical experiences. Did your parents play music?

My earliest musical memory is being about 6 or 7 years old and listening to my Roy Orbison cassettes while staring at Roy Orbison posters on my wall and being completely overwhelmed by the intensity of his songs, the narratives, basically with tears in my eyes as he sang about the lonely Windsurfer or Leah or whatever. We had a stereo in the house and the family played music. My father was an ex-English Professor who liked Dylan’s wordplay but otherwise shunned pop music for jazz. My mother was into Elvis and Percy Sledge and oldies radio. My parents didn’t perform music but they appreciated it deeply and they enrolled us in music lessons. My sister learned flute, my other sister learned clarinet and my brother and I both learned trumpet.    

My introduction to your music was the song “Memory’s Fool,” which was used as a teaser for the album but ultimately didn’t make the cut. It’s one of my favorite songs from the sessions so I’m curious why you decided to leave it off the album and if there are any plans to release it in a physical format?

That and two other songs that we recorded had to be left off the album because including them would have exceeded the maximum run time for vinyl. I was purposely allowing myself to write longer, rangier songs when I wrote this album, so a lot of songs became these six- or eight-minute-long beasts with high word counts and not a lot in the way of discernible choruses or hooks. To include everything we recorded would have made it a double album and an unreasonably arduous listen for most people, so I had to adjust the track list and drop certain songs. It was hard for me to let go of those three songs, but in the end, it made the album better as a whole. It was Gonzalo from Bobo Integral (who released the album in Europe) who suggested releasing “Memory’s Fool” digitally as an advance single, so that people would still hear it. I thought it was funny and interesting to leave the title track of the album off the album.

For readers in Europe, the album is also available from Bobo Integral HERE.

You wrote the lyrics for Memory’s Fool before the music. What can you tell me about the music-writing process? How much of it was improvised?

Years ago I would home record entire songs and the lyrics would basically be the last element, slotted into the track. Over time I’ve come to focus on the lyrics to a greater and greater degree, to the point that I now just write words for their own sake. I basically can’t sing and I’m a rudimentary guitar player, so I really lean on the lyrics and foreground that aspect of a song. 

For me, there’s a lot of experimenting, trying ideas out, seeing what I can get away with. And there’s a lot of editing, removing, substituting. I have lists of words I want to use and words to avoid. I have lists of phrases that I like the feel of. When I work on this stuff I try to find the conceptual frame that I can use to hang the ideas onto, that will contain and direct the words and make it a whole. I write more than I’ll actually use just to see where things might go. To me, a lyric sheet is a kind of essay in that it should have a strong opening and it should propose some concept and work through that idea. When I was writing the songs that became Memory’s Fool I gave myself license to stretch out and not be afraid of a fairly high word count and just have fun with language. How the words were arranged on the screen seemed important and something to pay attention to.  

What are some of the words are your “To Avoid” list and why are they on there?

I just don’t want to overuse certain words that I’ve used before unless I’m doing it consciously and with intention. Right now some of the words on the list are: bird, snake, towards, decay.  How many times can you use the word “decay” before it becomes stupid? You have to consult a thesaurus or a dictionary once in a while.  

I love how you play with repetition on Memory’s Fool, especially in regards to the lyrics. On “A Kind of Education,” for example, how the description of your subject keeps expanding and evolving while you return to the phrase “A Lady of… .” You do a similar thing on “I Came Here for A Reason.” To me, it feels like a way of considering the complex nature of a person, and how our relationships with people and places change over time. What inspired you to use repetition the way you did in those songs? Or is there anything you’d like to say about your use of repetition on the album more generally?

In my mind “A Kind of Education” and “I Came Here for A Reason” are connected because they were written in close succession and I think both songs are an attempt to reach out to someone who’s suffering and show them empathy and sympathy but also express some disapproval. I think I was trying to find a way to balance slightly opposing sentiments, or to create a complicated portrait of a complicated person. I think of them as sister songs on the album.   

I think that what I’m doing with the repetition is using it as a framing device. Neither song has a chorus. Maybe none of the songs on this album have choruses? So repeating a phrase takes on the role of the chorus in reminding the listener what the song is about, grounding it. I was thinking about the novel Our Lady of The Flowers [by Jean Genet], which has so much rich language and so many complicated characters. And also all the churches that are named Our Lady Of _____.  “I Came Here for A Reason” was a phrase that had been in my head for a long time and could’ve gone anywhere. 

Two moments that I really love on the album are the violin drone that closes out “All Roads,” and the middle section of “A Kind of Education” with Sydney Hermant’s wordless singing, which reminds me of Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in The Sky.” Do you have any favorite moments?

The whole album is a favorite moment to me because I’m really happy with how it came out.  Frankly, it still seems like a minor miracle that it happened at all. I flew to Vancouver during the second wave of Covid to record it with friends in a small, non-ventilated practice space. There wasn’t a lot of time to practice or to track. There were so many points at which the whole project could’ve completely derailed into the abyss. When it was finished, I had no labels lined up to release it. I’m really grateful that Bobo Integral and Soft Abuse committed to it.

The violin on “All Roads” was performed by my friend Anju Singh and the drone at the end is a sweet gift that she gave to the album. I listen to a lot of minimalist/serialist/new music type stuff and I wanted to represent that on the album in some way despite that drone/minimalism isn’t what F.D. Marinetti is about. Anju knows that world and brought it into the song. It was also a way to give the listener a break from the monotonous, didactic intoning of my vocals. Similar to Anju, all the parts that Sydney laid down on this album are a sweet, generous gift. I wasn’t actually thinking of that classic Floyd song, I was thinking more about Carla Bley and that audacious style of free jazz vocalizing. There are so many words on the album; wordless vocals seemed like a way to free up space. I asked Sydney if she would be up for trying out some wordless vocalizing. I don’t know if Sydney’s ever done that kind of thing before, but she strolled out on the tightrope and did cartwheels. 

What was your biggest takeaway from the experience of making this record? Did you learn anything new about yourself?

What I’ve learned over the last several years of making records is that the recordings benefit from inviting other people in. I’ve recorded several albums basically entirely by myself and I can’t imagine doing that again. Memory’s Fool is the record where I consciously embraced opening up the process and deliberately left space for other peoples’ contributions and presence. It’s the first record where I didn’t feel like I had to predetermine every aspect of the recordings, which is how I operated previously. Now I don’t want to know exactly how it’s going to turn out. The other thing is that inviting contributors allows for a different palette of instruments that I can’t play, like strings and horns. The recordings I’m working on right now for the next record lean even further into this zone and it feels really good.   

Tell me about the last song you wrote. 

The last song I wrote was called “Eight Waves in Search of An Ocean,” and it’s one of nine songs written for the studio but it didn’t actually get recorded. The other eight songs were tracked in March 2022 and are still being finished. It was the most poem-like thing I’ve ever done, very spare word count, but it didn’t get recorded so I hope I can go back to it and turn it into something, if I can figure out how to do that.

Any thoughts on how the next record will differ from Memory’s Fool? What’s coming up next on your schedule?

In March 2022 I went into the studio with a really incredible crew of people and we tracked eight songs that will be the next album. These are all new people I haven’t played with before and they played beautifully. They took the songs into a zone that I’m incredibly excited about. The new set of songs is written for slightly different instrumentation — there are more keys and synths and there are drum machines on some songs that share space with a human drummer. There are some songs with no guitar. A lot of people described Memory’s Fool as gorgeous, which I take as a compliment, but for the next album I wanted to change the palette or the character somewhat. This one will maybe be a bit more dank sounding.   

In October I’m going to tour Spain, through the help and support of Gonzalo at Bobo Integral. I’ve never been to Spain and I’m really looking forward to playing shows and seeing some cities.

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