Article 31, J-Ax: “Our Sanremo?  A pain in the ass”

Article 31, J-Ax: “Our Sanremo? A pain in the ass”

31 years after their first album, “Strade di città”, released in 1993, and 11 years after “Italiano medio”, their latest recording effort, the reborn Articolo 31, with a union re-consecrated also by the spotlight of the Sanremo Festival 2023, they return with “Protomoranza”, a new album out on May 10th. Sixteen unreleased tracks, with many guests (Bugo, Fabri Fibra, Guè, Jake La Furia, La Sad, Neffa, Nina Zilli, Rocco Hunt, Pinguini Tattici Nucleari, Tedua), in which J-Ax and Dj Jad, consistently with their path, with an incendiary irony and the disenchantment of libertarian surfers, but in some songs also with depth and reflection, they photograph the crazy society in which we move.

Ax, today is it easier to make a song like Article 31 or not?
For me, Articolo's songs are divided into two broad categories: badass and busy. But committed not in the classic sense, but in the sense that I committed to writing them (laughs, ed.). The truth is that, in the end, however, it is more complicated to do the first category ones, the dick ones. In fact, today we create a genre without being able to use the clichés of the genre itself. Rap catchphrases have left our lives: we abandoned street life decades ago, I have been in a stable relationship for some time and I no longer take drugs. So what the fuck do I write about?

There is no shortage of themes on the album. Furthermore, the years pass, but the irreverence has remained intact…
'Fuck you dad', for example, is a disguised piece, it seems for children, but it's not. It's a song in which I say that pointing fingers at singers or music is madness, parents should be the ones to explain the reason for certain songs or simply what poetic license is. But parents are lazy, criticizing music is easier….

What is your relationship with today's filters?
It is clear that there are filters to make successful music today. But we have the freedom we have because in the end we don't give a shit. It's obvious that we want things to go well, but since we're not at the beginning we don't have a whole series of pressures. An up-and-comer, on the other hand, must be liked by cool people and must not piss off the algorithm, here are the filters. There have always been censorships, even De André was told to remove some words from the songs, but with a song like 'Peyote' we say some heavy things, but with a language that is also suitable for the occasional listener. When you make a single and you want everyone to listen to it, you have to take it into account and use a certain way of expressing yourself, then maybe in another song you don't care and are more explicit, like 'Libertario surf'. But this balance is important. Is it self-censorship or knowledge of the facts? I do not know.

Have Article 31s changed today?
This album is consistent with our path. It took us a long time to get back into the bubble and make music together. 'The cringe fair' with La Sad may recall 'Tomorrow I'll stop', 'I don't want to (disco party)' with Nina Zilli brings us back to 'Tranqi Funky', 'Intro (expectants)' may be linked to 'One for my brothers ': copying yourself is sad and in fact we didn't do it, but when speaking to the public about Articolo 31 we wanted to rightly evoke a certain sound.

“Contadino” is a very different track from the others, it is narrative and more personal.

For me, boomers are too modern (laughs, ed.). I listen to conscious country, I love artists like Willie Nelson. 'Contadino' was born inspired by that world, by his songs. My great-grandfather was a farmer, he did not own the field in which he worked all day. I start from him, from his story, and rewind the tape through several generations, that of my father and then mine. There is a quote, which I don't feel like saying is cultured, taken from Émile Zola, in which I believe: 'The soul belongs to God, but the earth belongs to those who work it'. Which is a way of saying to power: what is the fruit of my sweat is mine, whether it is the land that my grandfather hoed or the music that I create today.

So in the end there is also some feeling in this album, not just anger and fun…
Yes, I hate movies without a well-constructed ending. Behind everything there must be a meaning, a moral if you will. In 'Excuse me teacher' with Tedua there are the wounds, but also the pride of having made it. It was Tedua who wanted to start from the quote from 'A fist fight with the world', one of our songs that he says he has always loved. Tedua is the outsider of trap, the Penguins of indie, La Sad are just outsiders and that's it: many of our guests are how we felt at the beginning or how they made us feel.

In “Come godo” with Jake La Furia, in fact, you say that Milano “spit on you” at the beginning.
Well, Milan does this to everyone who makes money. In the piece we say that Milan is not theirs, it does not belong to the stylists who copy the clothing of the tsars or those who believe they can command, Milan belongs to those who have experienced it in a certain way, it belongs to the Articolo 31 and the Club Dogo, for example. This is a city where everyone wants to be Steve Jobs, but it can't be that way.

Was “A beautiful journey” really the right song to participate in the 2023 Sanremo Festival?
I didn't want to go, but Jad and the record company wanted to participate with this song. At that point I said to myself: if we start again with the vetoes, that is, with me saying 'no' and that's how it is, imposing myself, it makes no sense to start again as Article 31. And then I convinced myself: be a professional and go. The Sanremo, which I swore I would never attend, was very different. Amadeus changed the musical level, this must be recognized, and so in the end we went. But it was a huge pain in the ass for several dynamics related to the event itself. I, for example, would abolish all juries, I would only keep televoting.

You become the artistic director of Sanremo: who do you bring?
Lady Gaga, of whom I love both the tamer and deeper parts, is the greatest performer I've ever seen, and the Foo Fighters.

Let's face it: is the title “Protomaranza” a big joke?
Yes, it has nothing to do with the record. It's a troll to make people believe that the album deals with themes that aren't actually there. Maranza is a word that was used many years ago, then replaced by zanza, zarro and tamarro, and today it is back in vogue. They told us 'what a scoundrel you are' and so…