|nterview with Angelo Pitone of OSAL (Of Shadows And Lights)
By Lisa Tenzin-Dolma February 7th, 2022
Angelo Pitone is an Italian songwriter, musician, composer and producer whose music, a combination of synths, instruments and soaring vocals, has been favourably compared with Muse, Train, and As Tall As Lions, among other luminaries.
In 2018 he graduated with Distinction at UWS, University of the West of Scotland, with a Bachelor’s degree in Commercial Music. Angelo’s debut album, Almost Prophetic Visions And Thoughts, launched on 21st January 2021, and has received wide acclaim. He was nominated for The Best Indie Rock Act category of Radio WIGWAM in 2021. His latest single, Bleeding Wounds, was the third to be released by Aldora Britain Records on 27th January 2022.
Lisa: Angelo, it’s such a pleasure to have this opportunity to talk with you about your music. Were you classically trained? At what age did you start playing music, and which instruments do you play?
Angelo: Hi Lisa, it's my pleasure! Yes, everything started when I was 5 with a toy piano given to me by my parents. Thanks to Disney's movie 'Fantasia', my classical training began at that age. Despite my current age, 38, I still love that movie because it reminds me of my beautiful childhood. I learned Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor on a little keyboard by ear. Then I started with piano lessons when I was only in middle school, then at the Conservatory for five years, but I never completed that path for several reasons.
My greatest satisfaction from that time was to have studied Chopin's Impromptu-Fantasia in C# minor, a work of art that I've always loved for its beauty in terms of composition. I have also learned some Debussy, Mozart, Kramer, Haydn, etc. I wanted to study drums or guitar, but in the end, I chose the piano because there was not enough space in my home for a drum kit.
I can play drums, percussions, and piano. I started learning bass and guitar recently, but I can't say that I'm a guitar player! I try to do my best for my purposes. I started with them just because I needed to change my songwriting process. You know, a different perspective sometimes can help you.
Lisa: Who influenced you the most?
Angelo: This is a tricky question! As the multitude of artists out there, my father has literally catapulted me into the rock music world. There is an anecdote I told Tom Hilton, too, and it is about my mother and me: she said to me that when I was a child, I used to tap my thumbs into the high chair to the rhythm of the music. In a certain way, I was a mini drummer without knowing it. Today, I laugh when I think about it because it still happens. Everywhere. Every time. On the table, on the desk, on my legs, with my teeth, while driving or walking. I'm drum addicted! It may seem off-topic, but all of this links us back to my father, who listened to Led Zeppelin's music and Deep Purple.
Growing up, I learned to listen to other artists' music and appreciate their artistic qualities. I've always heard British and American rock music, so I decided to sing my songs in English. It is tough to choose, but if I had to choose, I would say: Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Queen, Freddie Mercury (who is my singer-hero), Iron Maiden, Bruce Dickinson (another of my fav singers of all time). In addition, artists need to be mentioned: Oasis, Train, Pat Monahan, Depeche Mode, Dave Gahan, Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl, Karnivool, The Intersphere, The New Regime, As Tall As Lions, The Dear Hunter and so on.
Put it like that: there is a particular shade for every music genre. Inside each of them, I found my music hero. Keep in mind that I may have excluded other great artists.
Lisa: Your lyrics are deep and profound. When did you write your first song, and what was it about?
Angelo: Thank you so much! I wrote my first song when I was 13, but it remained an instrumental song. A piano ballad, to be exact. My first attempts at writing were awkward. I used to talk about death, superstition, Egyptian gods, non-sense and things like that. Nothing worth taking into consideration. Most of those lyrics hadn't rhymed, so they were practically unusable.
Despite this, I personally believe it was a gym for the mind. I wrote my first lyric, or at least worth to be named so, at 17 in high school. It is a song I never published, but it helped me understand what I wanted to be when I grew up. In that song, I talked about hope and how it can help a man find his inner light. Hope is one of the core aspects behind my moniker Of Shadows And Lights. It's all about lights and shadows. In photography, in real life. It is everywhere.
Lisa: In what ways do you think the Estill Voice Crafting Method developed your unique, extraordinarily emotive voice?
Angelo: The Estill Voice Crafting Method and Elisa Turlà (the teacher who trained me) were godsends from heaven. It was a strange period of my life, maybe because of the music I listened to (heavy metal and derivates). I seriously risked ruining my vocal cords forever because of excessive use of screaming and growl singing techniques.
I wasn't born for that style, and fortunately, I understood it on time. On the advice of the same Elisa, I started to correct my breathing and clean my voice using the same techniques used by speech therapists to prevent vocal chord issues and improve my speaking quality.
Lisa: With songwriting, what inspires you most? How do you feel when a new song comes together? Do you find that songs come quickly, or does it take a long time to complete a new song?
Angelo: It depends on the situation and my sensitivity to that particular moment. It is one of those kinds of things that happens differently every time, as well as one day is not equal to another one. For example, I wrote a complete song (music, lyrics, and the entire arrangements) in just a couple of hours. Sometimes I wrote it in a couple of days or weeks. Sometimes I wrote a good idea that I let die in a drawer that I brought to life after several years, as happened to Bleeding Wounds.
Generally speaking, I do not like to waste my time on uninspiring ideas. If it works, you know after seconds. My approach to songwriting is different every time because I do not like to make things the same way. Digging deep into my archive, I noticed that there was a period in which I wrote more than twelve songs in less than three months. I was in my creative peak based on quantity over quality.
Now I have changed my mind: I prefer quality over quantity, and I always try to do my best to create something exciting and catchy. I am the father of all my compositions. My songs are like sons, but I learned not to get too attached to them because I would get too involved with perfectionism. I really think that perfectionism is a good thing, it helps you grow and improve, but it needs to get under control.
Lisa: Do you have a method for songwriting? Do the melody, lyrics or rhythm come first, or do songs emerge from a thought, idea or concept? (For instance, I find that I see and hear a story in my mind, and both music and lyrics spring from that – usually both at the same time).
Angelo: Even this time, it depends on several factors. All the elements you have listed can be the origin of creating a song, at least for me. I tend to start with a guitar or bass riff with a drum pattern (Awakening and Crossfire) or directly with a drum pattern to combine with a guitar strumming (Unaware Passenger). Sometimes I started with a synth idea (Universal Thing). There is no rule to creativity! The most important thing to me is that I need to hear each element; all the puzzle pieces must be perfectly set.
I let the song speak to me and give me hints on how "she" wants I have to work. It is just like having a conversation with another real person. In cases like this, your subconscious speaks to you. I built a song, section by section, lyrics, music, and arrangements simultaneously just a couple of times. It was a unique event, and I really enjoyed the moment.
Lately, I have changed my approach to songwriting. I've first created the artwork and chose a title - let me say provisional, ok - then looking at the artwork, I started to think of music elements, a story to tell, a structure, and so on... This time, it worked amazingly, but I don't know if it will work next time. I'm thrilled with the results. Actually, I'm still working on that stuff because it lacks a few details to perfect. I know that they will arrive soon. There's no rush!
Lisa: Your command of English is so eloquent in your lyrics. Do you write your lyrics in English first, or in Italian and then translate them?
Angelo: When everything started, I used to write one sentence at a time in Italian and then translate it. After tons of attempts, mistakes, waste of time, desperation moments, I abandoned that approach. Today, I think in English, and I remain in that domain. It is easier and more effective.
Lisa: I understand you wrote Almost Prophetic Visions And Thoughts during lockdown. It perfectly captures the light and dark aspects of humanity. What was the impetus for you in writing this extraordinary album?
Angelo: I had already written some of the material included in that album. I had a crystal-clear idea of how the tracklist should have been structured. Do you see? Once again, my subconscious spoke again. I started hatching the idea of a record when I wrote Am I Still Alive? in 2018. I've written three albums in my life, but Almost Prophetic Visions And Thoughts is the only one who saw the light. Why? It was the right time. I needed to do something and do it at my best. I don't know to explain to you why, but I can say that I've always written my lyrics thinking of an 'open square' (see the artwork). I think it is only a coincidence that it captures the light and dark aspects of our latest two crazy years caused by the pandemic. I called this coincidence 'prophetic'. My 'visions and thoughts' are the experiences that filled my life for better or worse. I used the word 'almost' because I'm not a clairvoyant, but I've come close!
Lisa: Tom Hilton at Aldora Britain Records introduced me to your music when he shared Bleeding Wounds, your latest single with ABS, and I played it over and over again. There’s a haunting quality from the beginning with the keyboard hook, a strong spiritual element to the lyrics, and I love how the song builds between gentle, raw and powerful, and then segues back to gentle. “I would like to save the memory of my failures as teaching”, “I’ve got to find a way to be invincible” and “My human body’s burning in the sun like a vampire, I’m looking for protection. My weaknesses are a mirror of my soul” says so much about the human condition. How did Bleeding Wounds come about?
Angelo: As I told in a previous question, I wrote Bleeding Wounds in 2006, and at that time, I was living a difficult time due to the loss of my two dear friends one year prior. It took me almost a year and a half to recover from that tragedy. After all these years, it keeps hurting me. That void is impossible to fill. Life goes on, but those wounds are still there in my heart. I wanted to free myself of an unbearable burden using the metaphor of the vampire. I played with words to explain my feeling of inadequacy towards life. It was a difficult time. Having said this, I feel their essence in the song in a certain way. It is like bringing them back to life in a manner of speaking...
Lisa: What are you currently working on, and what are your plans for the future?
Angelo: I'm currently working on new fantastic music. I've scheduled the realizing of three or four new singles for this year. Everything is under control. I'm on fire. I can't wait to make you listen to them. I'm gonna start the recording sessions from tomorrow, then I'll go with editing, mixing, and mastering. Do you want to join me? Enjoy my music. It is available everywhere. Listen to the darkness to find out your light - this is my motto!
Thanks a lot for this interview, and see you next release!
Lisa: Many thanks, Angelo! I’ll look forward to your next release!
You can find out more about Angelo Pitone at https://www.ofshadowsandlights.com/
Interview with Lisa Tenzin-Dolma www.tenzindolma.co.uk