Rocco Tanica and Depeche Mode boots

Rocco Tanica and Depeche Mode boots

Before – at the beginning of the Nineties – it was abruptly reawakened by the political-judicial earthquake of Mani Pulite, the Lombard capital was experiencing a period of international popularity never experienced before: the economic boom that characterized the Eighties and the allure brought as a gift from the world of fashion and luxury, associated with the closure of the dramatic terrorist page that opened in 1969 with the Piazza Fontana massacre, it transformed what in the post-war period had become a laborious – but gray – industrial-commercial ganglion into the Milan of drinking that it would have made itself known, despite all its contradictions, as one of the most glamorous metropolises on the global scene.

In this context, two enterprising artists and producers, the brothers Carmelo and Michelangelo La Bionda, who in the Seventies with the DD Sound project had contributed significantly to the boom of Italo disco, as well as having collaborated as authors with voices of the first magnitude such as Mia Martini, Ornella Vanoni and Ricchi e Poveri, decide to take a very important step in their career by founding a recording studio like the peninsula had never seen at the time.

The Logic Studios were born in via Quintiliano, in the south-eastern quadrant of the city, between the eastern ring road and the main road of via Mecenate.

Not simple recording rooms, but a real headquarters with a recording room capable of hosting an orchestra, a studio for post-production and mastering, and equipment for preparing vinyl and CD pressings. In short, a real factory, which – at the time – in addition to the undoubted qualities imprinted on the project by its founders, had the advantage of being located in one of the coolest cities of the moment, just three kilometers from the historic Plastic headquarters, where back then, personalities of the caliber of Madonna, Elton John, Freddie Mercury and Keith Haring didn’t fail to drop by when they were in town.

In this phenomenal hotbed which over the years would host the sessions of big names such as Ray Charles and Paul Young, the La Bionda brothers called the keyboard player of a promising group that was establishing itself locally, Elio e le Storie Tese, as session musician and arranger. . Sergio Conforti himself, aka Rocco Tanica, told it in his memoir “The Whitening of the Soul”: “Michelangelo and Carmelo La Bionda were my first employers. Gentlemen, competent in music and honesty, cornerstones of European pop who have nothing in common with the inferior exploits of their contemporaries. The futuristic Logic Studio, a spaceship set in the building that belonged to the Compagnia Generale del Disco (CGD) in 1983, is a flash of science fiction in southern Milan, between the three bridges of via Mecenate and the ring road. In via Marco Fabio Quintiliano I work as a shop boy, I play the keyboards for anyone who wants them and I learn the rudiments of the trade”.

Tanica – who turns 60 today – puts his hands on the keys for a discreet selection of Logic’s productions, from the soundtrack of the film with Bud Spencer and Terence Hill “Miami Supercops” – “a sin on my conscience (…), the only film where Spencer and Hill are unpleasant and beat like villains” – and “The Summer is Ending”, one of Righeira’s greatest successes: “I contribute to the arrangement with a variety of proposals and I’m still proud of the my b-bababà solo in the part called ‘special’, more or less halfway through the song”.

In ’85 the song took part in the Festivalbar and won it. For Rocco Tanica the Logic Studios become a sort of second home, as well as the indispensable gym where he can train as a professional musician.

A few years later, in 1989, the La Bionda brothers received one of the most prestigious offers ever sent to the staff of Via Quintiliano: Depeche Mode wanted the Logic Studio rooms for the recording sessions of what would become their seventh album in study, “Violator”. Much of the album has already been recorded on tape between London, New York and Denmark, but the band led by Dave Gahan feels that something is still missing.

So the group leaves for Milan, taking the producer Flood with them. Martin Gore has a song that is quite different from the “typical” ones published by Depeche Mode up until then: there is this guitar riff with a blues feel that is grafted onto a pounding twelve-eighth rhythm that has great potential. The piece is about “being a sort of Jesus to someone else, someone who gives you hope and care (.), how often that happens in love relationships; how everyone’s heart is somehow like a god.” Yes, “Personal Jesus”, which in the years to come would become one of the most representative songs of Depeche Mode’s entire career.

Interviewed by Rockol in 2017, regarding the passage of the Basildon group from the rooms in via Quintiliano, the La Bionda brothers recalled: “We were there while Depeche Mode worked on their songs: they went about their own business, lived secluded and didn’t give much confidence. There were always many people outside waiting for them. They were vegetarians and organized vegetarian lunches within the studio. ‘Violator’ was a record where they used sampling a lot: the beginning of ‘Personal Jesus’, for example, they made by sampling heavy bass within a scale.”

The fact that Gahan, Gore and the others had decided to broaden their range of action also to spaces outside the canonical shooting and control rooms significantly limited the freedom of movement of Rocco Tanica, who – in fact – had chosen Logic according to home, as well as a creative/professional space.

As Conforti himself says: “Depeche Mode’s boots to record boom booms in the stairwell (there was an echo) and put it in ‘Personal Jesus’. Martin, Dave, Vince (Clarke, however, left the band in 1981, to be replaced by Alan Wilder – he was actually present at Logic Studios for the “Violator” sessions – until 1995) and Andy are dear friends and I can only say good, but in those days they limited my freedom of movement and that of my colleagues Didde (Marco Guarnerio) and Ricky Pannuto, collaborator of La Bionda and excellent songwriter. The three of us used to hide out in Logic Studio B, a small room with a grand name in the attic of the fifth floor of the CGD. When Logic Studio B was occupied by external clients we locked ourselves inside to do nothing under the pretext of ‘recording auditions’. Elio had also come for a cover version of ‘Sixteen’ (‘Nineteen’) by Paul Hardcastle, an anti-militarist song reconverted into ‘Carciofi’. Anyway, nothing, some days we couldn’t hide because Depeche Mode recorded the boots on the stairs and that was it.”