Interview: Gianni "Jana" Rojatti

Guglielmo Malusardi: Let's start with the Dolcetti - "Metallo Beat" project - what is the story behind it?

Gianni Rojatti: My first record, under the project name Deep Forest, (recorded with drummer Gregg Bissonette) was an instrumental shred album. I wanted to record some new stuff in which I could try to mix up my guitar soloing with my other musical passions: pop, prog, alternative and reggae.

The moment I started thinking about this was when I was on tour in Germany with the punk rock band I used to play with, The Casual's, in which the drummer was Erik Tulissio. Erik and I are long time friends and I thought it would have been nice to work on this project together. We've been playing together in hundreds of bands or ensembles as session men, playing everything from funk to jazz, going through punk and metal. We thought it would be funny to work on our own record where we could play exactly what we wanted in a very free and crazy way.

Guglielmo Malusardi: What did you have in mind musically for the project?

Gianni Rojatti: I wanted to make a shred album, but at the same time I wanted to think of it, and produce it. as a pop/rock album. Meaning, the same attention to the arrangements, the sound, and the same way to compose it - and I also wanted the songs to be structured and to have the same running time as pop songs. It was exciting for me to play shred solos on platforms in which I could mix up influences and sounds which could range from Zappa and King's X to the Foo Fighters! I wanted it all to be based on rhythmic phrasings in which guitar and drums had to be very tight together. In this, we took a lot of inspiration from King's X!

Guglielmo Malusardi: Tell us about the composing and writing process.

Gianni Rojatti: For many of the songs we started from the riffs. We improvised and composed hundreds of riffs and grooves for guitar and drums only. At that time we tried to be as angry and heavy as we could. If you listen to these demos you could tell we sound like Pantera. We selected the best riffs and we'd structured them in songs. At this point we started the lengthy process of arranging in which we contaminated these riffs with pop and progressive choruses and we inserted solos and themes. And the songs came out!

Guglielmo Malusardi: Give us a technical description track by track.

Gianni Rojatti: "Tribale" is one of the fastest songs of the record. Rhythmically it has been quite a challenge to play altogether in an accurate, nervous and tight way. The guitar solo is definitely shred fusion, and I enjoyed brushing up on some old stuff I studied in lessons with Frank Gambale and Brett Garsed. I love the chorus made up of synths, clean guitars and a nice mandolin section. Technically I'd put a highlight on the tapping theme I play in the verses. It's built up on a nice, rhythmic groove.

The guitar riff and the theme on "Transient" match up perfectly with the drum part. If you listen to them they do exactly the same line! Then we have some very complex rhythmic unisons. Live, it's one of the most difficult to play. I very much like the final part where in unison with the drums I play an ostinato with tapping and string skipping on very particular and floating arpeggios. In the end, this is the song in which you can hear a crazy blend of prog metal with the style of The Police!

"Transport" is also one of the most representative songs of the album. There's a lot of King Crimson here with psychedelic choruses, delirious lyrics and a burning solo from Alex Masi!

"Tremors" Is one of my favorite songs. The drum solo is built on some nice and bizarre kicks. In the second verse there are pentatonic scale licks which are very characteristic of my style: alternate picking, string skipping and hybrid picking. The guitar solo was totally improvised. Then because there's this irregular, almost Zappa's style rhythical breathing, I decided to harmonize it to make it sound crazier. And that was really difficult!

"Trytrebor" is the most "shred style" song on the record. You'll hear is the best of my style: alternate picking, string skipping, crazy harmonizings, melancholic melodies.

"Away From Home" is a cover of Klark Kent, the solo project of The Police drummer Stewart Copeland. If you listen to it, you'd notice a silly playing that works as countermelody for all the verses. It appears stupid, but it draws some precise rhytimical phrases. I played it with a bass line that was going through a bass synth. Not easy at all. I love the solo on this song - on a ska, reggae and punk song I recorded a neoclassical solo with three guitars harmonizing it! It's crazy but it sounds really cool! Erik is singing this with a very funny British accent.

Even though "Tresex" is a ballad, it features one of the most difficult solos I played on the album. A sequence of string skipping built on three notes per string pentatonic scales with rests in between them - very difficult. I'm very proud of the clean sounds and the grooving arpeggios in a King Crimson style in this song.

Technically "Tremendous" is maybe the most extreme song of the record. My previous album "Deep Forest", recorded with drummer Gregg Bissonette, was a very shred metal neo-classical work and I wanted to have a song in that style even on this record, because I knew the fans would have expected it. I'm a big fan of alternate picking and I wanted to put the crazyest alternate picking part ever made. So inside this song there's a break in which I alone play a very long scale, very close to grotesque! Then there are all the classic themes of the choruses that were really challenging.

Guglielmo Malusardi: And now, a non-technical description of each track.

Gianni Rojatti: "Tribale" was the last song we recorded. I remember it was August and it was extremely hot. I was spending the days recording guitars and feeding the chickens in the garden. Then at night Erik was coming down to listen to the guitars I recorded, doing some editings and drinking some wine. The perfect life!

There's an incredible story connected to "Transient". I was in the recording studio in Milan where I was working with the great producer and guitar player Marco Barusso. Suddenly our recordings were interrupted because Jared Leto from 30 Seconds To Mars came into the studio and Marco, who was the sound engineer at the studio, had to quickly mix the recordings of one of their TV performances. We spent the night in the studio with Leto and we went to bed at the early hours of the following morning. We then had just the next day to finish our recordings with only a few hours sleep. The neighbor's dog wouldn't stop barking and crying all the time and we didn't sleep at all.This song is a musical frame of that terrible night!

In 2007 I played my first gigs as an Ibanez artist. I was in the hotel in a room next to Andy Timmons and I had the chance to hang out with him a lot. Hearing him playing and seeing him in his performances from that close distance has been very inspiring to me. When I got back home I recorded the melodies of "Transport" which I felt were inspired from his sweet melodic approach. Then there's a central part in the song that is very ironic and inspired by certain psychedelic improvisations typical of The Police - which I like a lot!

Maybe the most known and appreciated song by Dolcetti is "Tremors". I like the chorus with synths, mandolin and clean arpeggios all crossing over together. When I was small I used to watch a cartoon called "Giuseppina The Whale" that had a wonderful title theme, very touching that I barely remember. I wrote this chorus thinking it would have been perfect for that cartoon.

The title of "Trytrebor" is a clear homage to Ty Tabor of King's X and it's not a secret that this band has been one of our greatest inspirations for this album. Then in the central part of the song there is a Genesis style psychedelic part. We also threw in the shaker some alternative rock of the '90s, extreme shred, and progressive rock elements.

We had the chance to give the recording of "Away From Home" to Stewart Copeland of The Police, who wrote it. And he wrote to us complimenting for our version - one of the greatest joys I've had in my life! On this song there's a good friend of mine and one of my favorite bass players, Fabio Trentini. Fabio is an extraordinary producer and he has worked with some great bands: Guano Apes, H-Bolckx, Le Orme, Marco Minnemann, Milan Polak, just to name a few. He mixed the album and was able to join together in a very harmonious way the varied and different musical styles.

On "Tresex", along with me and Erik there's Bobo Comand on bass. It's basically The Casual's, the band I've been playing in for many years, and have shared some wonderful experiences. This is the sound of this band that I wanted to dedicate this song to.

Originally, instead of "Tremendous", there was supposed to be a hip hop track. Unfortunately at that time we were in a band with management and label that gave us permission to record this album but they forced us to exclude this hip hop track because they thought it would have been in conflict with the other project. So we had to compose and record a new song in a very short time which I also mixed. Every time I listen to it I think of how wonderful it is to be now free to play whatever we want to!

Guglielmo Malusardi: Soloing is the most important area within every tune to appease the guitar fans. Tell us about your general soloing approach on this CD.

Gianni Rojatti: I have no rules. The only thing I intend is that every solo I decide to put on the record has to have something new and emotional to me. If I just play a solo by putting together all the licks I know, I get bored with it quickly. I basically improvise and record everything. Sometimes it comes out as a perfect solo and I only adjust a couple of things. Other times good ideas come out, but I can't play them as I want to, so I start studying and practicing them until I can record them properly.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Let's list all the stuff you used for recording.

Gianni Rojatti: In the studio for the recordings of "Metallo Beat" I basically used four Ibanez guitars: a Telecaster FR 1620 with Di Marzio pick ups, Liquid Fire on the neck and Steve's Special on the bridge. A old RG 550 LTD with two Di Marzio PAF pros. A PGM301 and a AR200 used mostly for the rhythm parts and clean sounds in which I used two Di Marzio: Air Classic on the bridge and Humbucker From Hell on the neck.

For the whole record I used a Laney amp VH100 R with two speakers: a Marshall and a VHT 4x12 for the rhythm guitars and a Marshall 2x12 for the solos. For many rhythm parts I also used an old ADA Mp1 connected with the Laney amp. For the most '80s soundalike clean sounds, I used an old Roland Jazz Chorus. Then a number of pedal effects: flanger, phaser, chorus, and analog ones of every kind.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Did you use any new tools?

Gianni Rojatti: Nothing new. I've been playing with the same gear for years: Ibanez guitars and Laney amps. I actually buy lots of pedal effects, of any brand, that I enjoy testing in the studio when I record.

Guglielmo Malusardi: You've been recently featured on the pages of Guitar Technique Magazine, with the album of the month in the March issue. What's your feeling about that?

Gianni Rojatti: A great satisfaction. Guitar Technique is the magazine that most guitar players refer to for techniques and studies. Also, Govan writes on it and he's one of my favorite guitarists. They wrote some very good things about the album. It's been a real trip!

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Guglielmo Malusardi: Coincidentally, just when they released the March issue, you were touring England. Let's hear your tour memories.

Gianni Rojatti: It's was a very funny coincidence and it pushed us to give the maximum effort in the concerts. The level of the bands is very high. Our show, as a two-piece band with electronic sequences in the background was really appreciated. We absolutely want to go back there soon. Also England is the country that gave birth to my two favorite bands, The Police and the Sex Pistols. I thought it was ironic that I was musically formed by listening to punk-rock and then I ended up by playing in the city where punk was born, receiving very good feedback for playing a sort of electronic shred-prog.

While I was soundchecking with my electric blue Ibanez with Lo-pro edge I imagined Johnny Lydon saying, "So, everything we've done was useless." Joking aside, I think Dolcetti has a lot more of a punk attitude by mixing our favorite different musical generes than many musicians or bands who tend to follow the musical trend of the moment or play just what seems to be played on radio and TV.

Guglielmo Malusardi: A technical comment now.

Gianni Rojatti: With Dolcetti, we're playing so much that I now feel more confident on stage than in my bedroom. The shows went really well. I felt every inspired and I had fun improvising many solos. I used a very simple gear set-up: Ibanez Rg 465 with Di Marzio pickups and a Zoom G3 pedal going straight into the PA system.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Aside from the "British invasion", how much are you performing Dolcetti music live?

Gianni Rojatti: We play lots of gigs with Dolcetti to promote our album. We recently played as support band for Elio e Le Storie Tese, one of the most important bands in Italy . We're often involved in touring clinics organized by Ibanez and Laney.

Guglielmo Malusardi: When you play music from the CD, do you keep the music the same as the original or do you try to reinterpretate some parts through improvisation?

Gianni Rojatti: To reproduce "Metallo Beat" live on stage as a duo with electonic sequences on the background it has been necessary to rearrange the songs. For the solos, I'm very proud of what I played on the record so I try to play as close as I can to them, because I know the audience appreciate hearing those solos played live. Then at a time in which in studio musicians don't play but simply use the computer, playing the crazy things on our record live is a way to demonstrate we're not fake, we're not musicians built on Pro Tools but real ones! And still in many areas there's room for improvisations as well.

Guglielmo Malusardi: And when you're doing cover songs?

Gianni Rojatti: With Dolcetti we play a few covers for fun: The Police, King's X, etc. They're our heroes and we try to reproduce them in the most respectful way even though we rearrange them to play as a duo. Sometimes we take a few tracks and we completely rework them for fun. But we're mainly interested in playing our own music and we don't like playing covers.

Guglielmo Malusardi: More and more customers in clubs seem to prefer tribute/cover bands instead of original music from solo artists or bands. What's your opinion?

Gianni Rojatti:Clubs prefer whatever music fills the room with people, and buy loads of drinks. When musicians decide to attend the gigs of their collegues, and when bands get back to playing really well, then things will change.

When Guthrie Govan came to Italy for the first time in five years ago, people welcomed him in a very shy way, no one knew who he was. But he played so well, and the quality of his performance was so high that he gained a large number of fans and now he fills up every club and plays everywhere! You need to roll up your sleeves. Play well, have a great sound and offer a proper show - not just a demonstration of your skills and abilities! At any rate, clubs are not the only venues in which you can play. We need to organize and promote collaborations and festivals: Investing for playing. Consider also earning money from CDs and other merchandise.

Guglielmo Malusardi: What you bring on stage when you can bring anything you need?

Gianni Rojatti: On stage I use two amplifiers. Laney VH100 R for solo sounds and Ironheart for the rhythm guitar parts. I use a lot of pedals and effects. On the solos, I use an Eventide delay and a MXR P90 phaser. On rhythm and clean sounds I use lots of stuff: on top of the chain of effects there are Ibanez series 9 effects: analog, and very warm Chorus, Delay and Flanger. Then a Line6 M9 to emulate synths and more complex delays.

Guglielmo Malusardi: You've been also busy the last few months since you've been called in to replace Gianluca Ferro from Strings 24.

Gianni Rojatti: I was a fan of Strings 24; their first album was very good and the guitar player, Sebo Xotta, is a good friend of mine. We've been working together for years as we both are Ibanez endorsers. When I heard that Gianluca, who's a guitar player that I respect and like very much, left the band, I told Sebo that I would help them for their live sets. One month later Sebo called me to ask me if I wanted to join the band and finish up the record they were making. A real trip!

Guglielmo Malusardi: How happy are you to be in the band?

Gianni Rojatti: I've been really happy - there have been guests like Andy Timmons, Kiko Loureiro, Rob Balducci, Mathias Enklund - playing next to big names like them is awesome! And then it's an album in which I play with some great musicians, starting with Lorenzo Feliciati and Roberto Gualdi who are one of my favorite rhythmsections; not to mention my collegues Frank Caruso and Sebo Xotta who are two marvellous guitar players.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Lion Music recently released the second Strings 24 album, entitled "Speak". Concerning the composition process, who wrote, arranged, and produced?

Gianni Rojatti: I joined the band when the album was almost done. I just had to add my solos, parts of the themes, harmonizations and some colors. The record was produced, written and arranged by Frank and Sebo.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Did you record some stuff together?

Gianni Rojatti: I recorded my parts in my home studio. We've been working together a lot when we started to rehearse for our live show. There we worked on the details for sound and harmonizations.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Have you already performed live?

Gianni Rojatti: Of course! We had our debut in the best possible way: at Guitar Day, one of the most prestigious events for guitar instrumental music in Europe. At the seventh edition last June, along with us there were some extraordinary names: Marco Sfogli, Dave Martone, Alex Masi, Fabrizio Leo and Marty Friedman as headliner. Then we recorded a studio live EP for Ibanez along with which will be released a set of promotional videos.

Guglielmo Malusardi: As a very passionate and active musician you have even more ongoing musical projects.

Gianni Rojatti: I like to work in the studio as a session man. I enjoy jamming with my musician friends, and I have a band called Ghost Machine together with Fabio Trentini in which we enjoy playing The Police covers. But my priority is writing and playing my music. Next month we'll start the pre-production of the next Dolcetti album.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Last question, what's your feeling about the following music genres - classical, jazz, and blues?

Gianni Rojatti: Wonderful. Every musician who wants to be considered so should listen and study these genres. It's food for your soul and for your mind. But my heart beats to the rhythm of reggae, punk, pop, rock and, of course, shred!

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Almost six years later the first interview (June 2006) here we are again with Gianni "Jana" Rojatti, one of the most brilliant Italian guitar players, whose last project (Dolcetti - "Metallo Beat") was recorded with his old mate and drummer Erik Tulisso, and recently received Guitar Technique Magazine's "Album of the Month". But there's more - he also got a call to replace the great Gianluca Ferro from the Strings 24 line-up, becoming an effective member of the band and contributing to the release of their second album "Speak" full of prestigious special guests.

Guglielmo Malusardi recently tracked down Rojatti, where they met and discussed his career since 2006.