Interview Roy Paci

Roy Paci was born in Augusta near Siracusa.  He is a trumpeter, song writer, arranger and singer.  He started playing in the traditional bands of his region.  During the nineties he undertook extensive trips to Latin America, the Canaries and Senegal which had a profound influence on his music.  He has toured and collaborated with a series of major international artists and created his own well-respected musical projects, notably Roy Paci & Aretuska.  He also continues to work in musical fields related to the cinema, television and food.

Roy Paci in Concert "CorLeone"
Roy Paci in Concert “CorLeone”

Can you tell me a little about your new projects?  I believe you have a new record with CorLeone?

Yes, at the moment I’m on tour with the new record from CorLeone.  The CorLeone project was started in 2004, with the first album in 2005.  Now at the distance of eight years, we have put together the second album with musicians from different backgrounds – the line-up has changed a bit and now we are out on tour.

How would you describe the music of CorLeone?

Describing the music of CorLeone is no easy task!  Also because, in fact, it draws from the worlds of research and experimentation, the vanguard of sound, the world of post or new jazz – a world completely open to improvisation and the ability to liberate yourself among different musical approaches.  It’s a music that goes flat out.  But, at the same time, it makes a nod towards the traditional music of Sicily – the guts of the banda-style music seen on the island.  Both things.

You work with many musicians.  I’m very interested in your collaboration with Manu Chao.  Did you play with Chao on Próxima Estación and La Radiolina?

I played with Manu Chao on the records Próxima Estación and La Radiolina and I went on tour with him in 2000 and 2001 – the whole world tour.  It was also one of the best moments in my life, tutto bello.

Were you at the Glastonbury Festival in the UK with Chao?

Yes, but my recollections are vague.  There were so many festivals that, if I’m honest, I don’t recall them all so well.

In the future, do you have any more plans to play with Manu?

At the moment no because we haven’t seen each other for a long time, however I’m always happy when we have the chance to meet up.  But now, I must say that I’m very involved in my own projects, with CorLeone, and probably at the end of the year also something new with my main project, Aretuska – Roy Paci & Aretuska. 

And the Banda Ionica, I’d like to talk about the Banda Ionica.  In the first place I heard a song from the Banda in the film, Dopo Mezzanotte.  I thought to myself “wow, I must find out more about this”.  The music has something of a funereal, melancholic air.  It has a lot to do with the history of Sicily?

Well, the Banda Ionica is an ensemble of many musicians that I have chosen from different bands along the east coast of Sicily, from Catania to Siracusa.  I have used a repertoire by those who have written for the bande, who have written a certain type of music influenced, above all, by the rituals during Easter Week.  At the same time, within the Banda’s musical web there is something very recognisably Arabic, something Spanish.  The music of the Banda comes principally from these elements.

I read on your internet page that you’re participating in something called “gastrofonia”.  Can you explain what this means?

Gastrofonia is a work, a study that I have been doing for many years, recent years.  It’s best described as the sound horizons of food or, more precisely, the collecting of vibrating food frequencies and turning them into a soundtrack.  The more food we have, the more harmonies are created, more musical accord.  It’s a science that I’ve invented that I’m looking to take forward by laboratory-style workshops and by performance with well-known chefs throughout the world.

Throughout the world, not just Italy?

Not just Italy, because we have been invited to America for a performance in a university.

Therefore, gastronomy must have a big role in your life?

Yes, gastronomy, starting many years ago, is a passion of mine.  I’ve cultivated it as a sort of hobby.  In short, though, it has developed a little more into the recognition that this hobby is a different way of making art – it’s great to fit it together with music and create a synergy.  Gastronomy has always been analysed by taste, touch, from a visual point of view and as something created, but nobody had previously done the very specific analysis relating to the sound of food.  I’m following this route.

You’re an innovator, a musical innovator, a touring musician.  Are you satisfied with this life?  It must be complicated?

Yes, I’ve got a complicated life, it’s true.  It’s so full of many things, so many fascinating things, so much stimulus.  But I wouldn’t be able to imagine leaving this behind, to live without behaving in this way.  My thirst for knowledge and understanding isn’t at an end and I’m still young enough to continue searching out and enquiring into things that inspire passion and that seem important to me, to keep the fire alive, to keep on evolving throughout life.

This is your public life.  At home do you listen to the same music or something different like classical?

I listen to all types of music.  Perhaps, at first, I ought to say those I don’t listen to.  I don’t listen to over-commercialised pop and I’m not fond of fusion.  However, I listen to all types of music, from jazz to ragga and I’ve listened to African music for quite some time.  I also listen to the innovative electronic scene, thanks to musician friends who have collaborated with me.  They drive me on to new discoveries.  I also listen to a series of new talented young musicians promoted by my independent record label, Etna Gigante. One of these projects is called “See You Downtown”, a project in the hands of the young producer John Lui.  It’s a very innovative musical concept for the Italian music scene.  In fact, it’s a different musical experience that could well have an eventual impact on the international panorama.

This is probably an impossible question, but what music has influenced you most during your career?

Well, all the traditional music, folk music, music with Arabic influence, that’s what has allowed me to fly.

For the next question, bear in mind that Roy’s interviewer is English!  I went on to ask him about British/Irish music and couldn’t resist asking him about Shane MacGowan and The Pogues, a personal favourite of mine.  His answer was instantaneous.

Do you know The Pogues’ music?

The Pogues were part of my musical formation and, of course, I’ve listened to them, also as an influence on my projects with Aretuska, they are one of the reference points.  The Pogues, The Clash, Mano Negra are all important regarding the planning of the Aretuska project.

Interviewed by Andrew Edwards

CorLeone Portrait
CorLeone Portrait











More on Roy Paci’s fascinating life and work can be found at

Andrew and Suzanne Edwards
Andrew and Suzanne Edwards
In addition to freelance writing, Andy and Suzanne both work in education. Andy is also a translator who gets most enjoyment from translating literary works and Suzanne is a lecturer and linguistics graduate. They are frequent visitors to Sicily and have spent a great deal of time exploring its back roads in search of the landscapes that inspired the imaginations of many writers, both Sicilian and from overseas. Literature, art, food and society are their focus and their passion. Sicily has it all. They are the authors of the books - Sicily: A Literary Guide for Travellers, Andalucia: A Literary Guide for Travellers, His Master's Reflection: Travels with John Polidori, Lord Byron's Doctor, Ghosts of the Belle Epoque: The History of the Grand Hotel et des Palmes, Palermo and Down to the Sunless Sea: A Troubled Samuel Taylor Coleridge in the Mediterranean. Andy is the translator of Borges in Sicily and Federico De Roberto's Agony.

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