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Specials > Interviews > Savage
by Zeljko Vujkovic

Zeljko : Dear Mr. Zanetti. My name is Zeljko, I'm from Croatia and I am a writer for the music magazine Final Impact. It is my most greatest pleasure and honor to make an interview with the music genie you are !!! I have a lot of questions for you. First of all I would like to thank you for this opportunity. It means a lot to me because I've been your fan since 1985 (since I started to listen Italo disco) and from then I am watching your work. This interview is something like a dream come true for me. Really ! I would like to start with next. Could you tell me who is Roberto Zanetti ? Tell me about your childhood, how old were you when you decided to play music ? Something about you in general before you started with the music ?

Savage : I was born in Massa, Italy. music was just a hobby for me until I began studying the piano at the age of fourteen. Shortly afterwards I got together with small musical groups, such as L'Inchiesta, Fathima E I Pronipoti, I Sangriň, playing the keyboards. My first professional experience arrived with the group Santarosa and, together with them, I recorded a single, Souvenir, that sold 200.000 copies in Italy. the record was produced by Zucchero "Sugar" Fornaciari who was my great friend at the time. After this experience, I continued playing keyboards with other groups, among which I Vicini Di Casa and Taxi. It was with Taxi that collaboration with Zucchero grew stronger and we played together for a couple of years. In 1983 I produced a dance single entitled Don't Cry Tonight suitable for my voice, and I chose the stage name of Savage. Note that, throughout my career, I have used two different professional names : Robyx as a producer, and Savage as an artist.


I suppose you didn't start your musical career playing Italo disco?
No, as I said above, I started with Italian music.


Were you inspired by some artists to make Italo disco? For example, High-energy music existed before Italo-disco, one could say that Italo is the child of High-energy in some way (a logical continuation of disco music). You know who Bobby Orlando and Patrick Cowley are. Did they have some influence on you ?
Of course they influenced me. as you state Italo disco is an evolution of High-energy. I think our style is a medley between the High-energy's sound and the Italian melodies.


The year 1983 is far away from us now. Your first single was Don't Cry Tonight. How did you compose this song ?
I was in a blue, sad moment of my life. the melody went out from the deep of my soul. It was written in five minutes.


By the way, you have chosen the name of Savage for yourself. Why Savage ?
I took inspiration from a very famous comic : Doc Savage.


Italo disco is a very nice and strong music. Your song Don't Cry Tonight in an example of a beautiful, soft song, a very good song for our heart and soul, for our thoughts. Italo disco in general is the most beautiful music in the world, don't you think so?
Yes, I agree. Many thanks for you compliments.


Please Roberto, could you tell me if you had any special feeling when you made your Italo songs? I could bet you did since all your songs sound incredibly beautiful, strong, and harmonical. When I listen to your songs released in the 80's such as Radio, Only You, Love Is Death, A Love Again etc. I could cry of happines ! Your songs makes me incredibly happy and I know they have positive influence on all my friends who listen Italo disco as well.
My songs are made to make people have fun and to enjoy themselves, however there's always an autobiographical side to the song with a message I like to transmit.


Italo disco doesn't exist anymore, unfortunately, in the way of 80's. Before I ask you about your work in the 90's, I would like to stay a little bit longer in the 80's. As a producer or a songwriter, you did make songs for many other artists, etc. Tell me something about this side of your work. I remember a song entitled Magic Carillon by Rose, in the 1983. Am I right ? This song was simply great. There was also Kamillo and Buenas Noches etc.
In 1983 I made the first single for my group Taxi, entitled To Miami. The record became a local success (it was released only in central Italy) and it paved the way for another piece : Angelica by Joey Moon. After these first experiences, I was contacted by two DJs and, together with them, I produced Incantation by Gang. This record, a cover of a Mike Oldfield song, worked out well in Italy and it was the beginning of a collaboration with Discomagic, which distributed it and was to become my partner in the future. In October-November 1983, I produced four other records : Buenas Noches by Kamillo, Starman by Claudio Mingardi, Magic Carillon by Rose and, finally, my turning point: the song Don't Cry Tonight by Savage. Since 1990, after Savage, I have been dedicating most of my time to my career as a producer and, under the name Robyx, I have signed the successes by Ice MC, Pianonegro, Double You, Corona and actually Alexia.


Did you have some contact with other Italo composers and producers ? For example Mauro Farina or Giancarlo Pasquini (alias Aleph), or Fred Ventura ? Please, tell me something more ?
I know Mauro Farina very well. He is a great professional person. Also Fred Ventura is a friend. We did several tours together in Poland and USSR.


You used to work together with the great Ivana Spagna. What do you think of her as a disco star in the 80's ? By the way, I saw her perfomance at the San Remo 2000 Festival. Her song was great, but don't you think her position on the final results was unfairly bad ? I think she sung the best song of this festival !
Ivana Spagna is a great singer and also a good songwriter. She co-wrote some text of the Corona's songs that I co-produced. The first time I met her, she was the singer of a local dance band (around 1980/81) and I was the keybord player of a group called Taxi. I was on stage in a club here in Italy and she was there to listen to me and my band.


I know you like all your songs in the beautiful career you had in the 80's, but is there any special one for you and why ?
I'm a romantic person. I always feel a little bit nostalgic thinking back on everything that happened. I love all of them in the same way. Of course, if I have to choose one, it's Don't Cry Tonight.


So, now we could talk about the 90's and your fantastic work in the last decade. I clearly remember 1994. when I first heard your song Don't You Want Me. (You know Roberto, in 1994 the war was in my city and all over Croatia. But your songs, previously and during that period, represented a big help for me. While I was listening to your songs, I thought less about the war. When rockets were falling on the city, I put my walkman's headphones on my ears with Italo disco and I was listening and listening... This was a terrible experience but I survived with the big help of you and the other Italo-disco songs. Thank you for that, really). This song was huge success in many European countries, wasn't it ? At that time, many "old" Italo artists had released their own new songs, for example Miko Mission with I Can Fly, Tom Hooker with Runaway, Ken Laszlo with Tonight Remix, or Den Harrow with You And The Sunshine...)
You are right : war is a very bad experience and I'm very sad that it happened here in europe, in your country. I'm very proud to know that I gave you a little help with my music and your words make me feel more important as human been.


In your opinion, what are the differences between Italo-disco music in the 80's and the one released in the 90's ?
Italo disco was done with the heart, the music of 90's was done for business.


Your musical carrer in the 90's is characterized by production for the other artists. The most popular of them is Alexia. Please tell me more about your work in the 90's ?
In 1990 I met Double You by chance, and a fruitful collaboration began. It led to the single Please Don't Go. Also on this occasion, my intuition proved right when I launched a style : "Covermania", later followed by many others in europe. Following its release, Please Don't Go became an instant hit, being one of those songs that climbs charts without the help of any particular promotion. In 1993 I inaugurated an unending series of successes, such as those by Ice MC and Corona. The first hit was The Rhythm Of The Night by Corona. In this piece I confined myself to giving some suggestions to the producer Francesco Bontempi, and it was only from the second single (Baby Baby) onwards that I became a very important part of the project, making mixes and cooperating actively in the creation of all the songs. With other new records by Ice MC, Think About The Way and It's A Rainy Day, I worked on finding new sounds. The famous sounds of the kick drum and the movement of bass, that were to characterize Eurodance, were used for the first time in these songs. In a few years, I saw myself catapulted among the most important producers, selling more than six million singles and two million albums all over the world, with Ice MC and Corona.


What are the plans for the future as far as your artists are concerned ?
I already terminated to work with Ice MC, Corona, Double You. The artists are always the same : everytime they have success they start to create problems and at that stage I prefer to stop and start to work with a new name. No plans for Alexia ... Just wait and see !


Why did you decide to produce for other artists exclusively, with no more production just for yourself, for Savage ?
So many songs in my head... Too much ideas for one artist only !


Roberto, in your opinion, and according to your experience, what does a song need to be good and successful ?
A catchy melody, easy to remember.


What kind of commitment and dedication does a producer need to make a record which his has the feeling it will become a big hit?
Lots ! For example, the recording of the new album by Alexia began in September 1998 and went on until july 1999: that's nearly a year ! After that, there are: photo shoots, videos dance steps for the shows, interviews, promotion with radios, televisions and so on ...


Now, could you tell me something about the studio equipment you use for creating your great songs ? I know, many readers of my magazine would like to know.
The mixer is a Soundcraft 3200 (36 x 32). I record vocals and guitars on Protools and I sequence the keyboards with Logic Platinum. My computer is a Mac 9600. All samples comes through various Akai but I also use Roland JV, modules by EMU and KORG. I like to use vintage analogic keyboards, like Roland Juno 106 or Super Jupiter and also drum machines like Roland 909 and 808.


Something about your studios ?
My studio is located in the ground floor of the house where also my offices are located. I have a big room for the main studio plus a medium one for the vocals. The studio is located in Massa, near the centre, four kilometers from the sea.


Could you describe a typical working day for you ?
Jogging in the morning (I did New York Marathon last year), then a couple of hours in the office. Studio time in the afternoon and sometimes during the night. I never work on Saturday and Sunday.


Do you have enough spare time?
Yes, especially right now. I'll be travelling a lot in the next period.


Roberto, two years ago many European artists came back, realeasing their old songs again in new versions : the Germans Modern Talking and Bad Boys Blue for example, or as well the great Italian Radiorama with Aliens 2000 or Miko Mission with How Old Are You 2000. But nothing from Savage ! Please, tell me why ?
To be honest I should like to do a new record, instead of remixing old things. we'll see in the future.


By the way, what do you think about German disco scene, back in the 80's and today ?
I think the Germans have a lot of things in common with the Italian producers. They did a similar music during the 80's and 90's. I remember a group called Maxx that copied me and my Ice MC.


The same question about the Italian disco scene. Are you interested in Mauro Farina's work for the SAIFAM Publishing Group ? What do you think about his work ?
It's a good and professional producer. I don't remember to have never copied him in any way.


OK Roberto, it was a great pleasure for me to write these questions for you. Can we expect something from Savage in the near future?
I really don't know, but I would like. Just wait and see!


© June 2000 Zeljko Vujkovic - All rights reserved
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