Gianni Togni: “I still make records, but they only ask me about Luna”

Gianni Togni: “I still make records, but they only ask me about Luna”

“I have never written a song on the table, thinking I had to make a hit at all costs. Imagine if I do it now, at 67 years old. I'll never get into the rankings anyway. The radios won't reach me. New songs on TV don't make me sing them. Might as well have fun, then. Especially if I'm lucky enough to have my own record label and not depend on anyone,” says Gianni Togni. The Roman singer-songwriter, author of hits such as “Luna”, “Giulia”, “Per noi amorati”, over 10 million copies sold when records were actually purchased, has just released a new album of unreleased songs, after five years of silence. It is called “Edizione extraordinary” and it is the sixteenth of his career, the fifth since he closed with record companies and impresarios and decided to do everything himself (with his Acquarello Music): “I titled it like this because the lyrics are inspired by curious stories read in the newspapers: I wrote them together with Alessio Bonomo. This album must be listened to without thinking about my past, otherwise the whole game falls apart.”


“Because artists change, they evolve. Take Paul Simon. At a certain point he discovered African rhythms and began to make completely different records compared to what the public expected from him, taking his own path. There's no point in repeating ourselves: we need to move forward.”

Do you get depressed when the authors of TV programs ask you to always play “Luna”, “Per noi inamorati” and “Giulia”?

“Let's be clear: I still like those songs. The problem, and I'm noticing it these days too, is that they invite me to present the new album, but they make me sing the old songs. It's a paradox. What does it mean? Among other things, there is a lot to say about 'Extraordinary Edition'. Do you know that for years now I have only been recording in analogue? One of my records costs much more than average.”

Who makes you do it if you end up talking about hits from the past?

“I also do it for myself. I like the quality. I listen to music with a system with all the necessary trappings, like the obsessive vinyl collector that I am (laughs). I printed this record in 140 grams, instead of 180, because I realized that these forty grams less make the record less noisy. I do this because when I buy a vinyl record, I expect it to sound good. I'm sorry I don't read more criticism about how records are made. Instead we continue to write articles about Pink Floyd's studio experiments…”.

What relationship do you have with discography? When was the last time you spoke to a record company?

“In 1997, when 'I need to speak' was released, the last album recorded for Cgd. They wanted to send me to Sanremo, but I had signed a musical that would debut shortly thereafter, 'Hollywood – Portrait of a Star'. I said I couldn't. They accused me of using the musical as an excuse to not go to Sanremo. And the relationship came to an end.”

What was the truth?

“That I've never liked racing. The musical was an international success: it reached Sweden. Probably if I had gone to race in Sanremo, I would have made a mistake.”

And the last time you spoke to the artistic director of a major radio network?

“Uh, I've lost track of the years. I have friends who work in radio. They tell me: 'Your songs are beautiful'. But now I'm off target for them. And it's not just me: have you ever heard a new piece by Claudio Baglioni, Renato Zero or Umberto Tozzi on the radio? Unfortunately, that's how it works today.”

As a great music listener that you are, what do you think of today's Italian pop songs?

“I don't even listen to the radio: just when I take a taxi. Of the young colleagues I like Diodato and Iosonouncane. Speaking of pop, the backing tracks are of very poor quality: from a creative point of view they all seem similar to me. It's not the artists' fault: it's the labels' fault, who no longer see artists' careers as marathons, but as 100 metres.”

Have you by any chance tried to involve some exponents of the new Italian singer-songwriter scene in writing the lyrics for “Edizione extraordinary”?

“They don't even bother me. And I wouldn't know who to call.”

Thomas Paradise? Calcutta?

“I don't think they would even accept it. Not only out of snobbery, but also because their respective record companies would hardly allow it. These are mechanisms that I know well. In the 80s I was at the height of success when Sergio Endrigo, who had ended up doing advertising, called me. He wanted me to help him write a new album. That proposal moved me. I went to the CGD: they told me I couldn't do it.”

How did Endrigo take it?

“Very bad. I told him: 'Sergio, I would have loved it. If I can, I'll help you in any way.' I would prefer to avoid the same situation he experienced at the time.”

Did you know that “Luna” has become a stadium chant?

“Of course, thanks to the Roma fans. I'm a Roma fan too: 'Come on Roma faces 'n goals' (sings). Instead the people of Lazio have adopted 'Semplice'. I told him: 'Look, I'm a Roma fan'. They replied: 'It doesn't matter, we like it anyway' (laughs)”.

You have been defined as a “forgotten hero” of Italian song. Have you ever felt like a hero? And a forgotten one?

“Hero certainly not. Forgotten I don't know. Perhaps more than forgotten, I was somehow pigeonholed into the '80s love songs' category, from 'Luna' onwards. And for many I never left there, because criticism is always synchronic and never diachronic: to talk about a new album, it must necessarily remember the past. I can make up anything, but in the end we always come back to those songs. I have also written pieces such as 'The toxic cloud', 'Pornography', 'Gardens in a cup of tea'. Maybe we should remember that every now and then.”