Dateline: 27th December, 2005
An Interview With The Syndestructible Steve Nardelli
Interview by Igor Italiani
Syn - Syndestructible
In a period when reunions are so common, could left out be one of the forefathers of the prog movement?
Of course not! So here we are with the pleasant Steve Nardelli to talk a little bit about The Syn, where you can
spot a very familiar figure in the line-up. Just check the interview if you have any doubts.
Igor Italiani: Hello Steve, it's nice talking to you. OK, let's waste no time and start the interview.
The Syn started in the 60's then disbanded for more than 30 years. In the meantime we know where Chris Squire
ended up, but we lost touch with you. Where have you been in all these years?
Steve Nardelli: Hello Igor, it's a pleasure for me, too. Well, I know that Chris went ahead and founded Yes,
while I left the music business for more than 30 years. But in the meantime I never stopped writing songs, and in
fact the majority of the tunes that you listen to inside Syndestructible are pieces of music shaped in my mind for
a long time. However, when I left the "official" music scene I went straight to the fashion and sports business
world. First of all I was involved in the shoes market and I relocated myself to Venice and Montebelluna.
After that, I returned to England and I was part of the fashion business for a while, especially in the
Kensington area. Finally I moved on to the sports business, when the company at which I was [working for] at
the time acquired the Longoni Sport group, a well-known Italian firm.
II: Yes, I know the firm. They have a big shop in my city, too. So you've been to Italy quite a few times...
SN: Yes, for sure. But you have to consider that my surname is Nardelli, and my parents are Italian, so that shouldn't come as a surprise at all. However, I also met Stefano Longoni, a very pleasant person. In 1999 the afore-mentioned company sold the Longoni Sport group to Giacomelli Sport, another strong brand. Unfortunately, I know that later on the Giacomelli Sport group went bankrupt and so Longoni had its share of problems, but I'm not too informed on that. It's better to return to my Italian roots. I've been many times to Florence, because it's where my father grew up. You know, he tends to say that Florence looks like "The Queens" in London, [laughs] ... however I've been to other Italian places as well. Recently I've been to Umbria, another great region of the "belpaese." What more can I say ... I love Italy!
II: Well, thank you very much for the kind words, Steve. But after all these years who came up with the idea of reforming The Syn? Was it you or Chris ... or the both of you, for that matter?
SN: It was originally my idea, but it came up in an awkward way. You should know that Andrew Jackman, our first keyboard player, hastily passed away in 2003, so I thought about doing a memorial comprising the original The Syn formation just to pay the right tribute to a great musician like him. So there was a reunion with Pete Banks, Martyn Adelman and Chris, who was willing to join again even if only for a short sum of time. But while we were together we saw that the old chemistry was slowly but incessantly returning, so we considered a new album right away.
II: Well, I think you display a lot of courage in releasing a new album under your independent label Umbrello Records. So it's clear that you firmly believe in the quality of the music inside Syndestructible, right?
SN: Yes, we do. The main argument to support the creation of our own label, Umbrello Records, is that we thought it would have been difficult to fall under the wings of a label and still be able to have the control room that we wanted in terms of promotion and distribution. So we decided to do everything by ourselves. A very important thing to do was striking good distribution deals and so we did that with Nova Pinnacle in the U.K., ADA Warners in the U.S.A. and Universal in Japan, while Europe is covered by SPV. Then we focused on a great media feedback, so that's why we are very happy to talk to a lot of prog lovers like you to explore the new dimension of the band. We created a new web site too, which is giving us stunning results in the process. In fact The Syn web site is generating 50,000 hits a day now! It's incredible and the beauty is that we still don't know from where these marvellous numbers come. However our next step is to concentrate on the mainstream medias, like MTV, which are the most difficult to shift in our direction. But we already obtained great results with a brief series of radio shows back in the U.S., so I'm quite confident that we can still grow in terms of popularity.
II: Can you tell me how you carved out the time to finalize the songs? Because I believe that both you and Chris have a full agenda of things to do.
SN: Yes, I know it looks strange, but once Chris joined us for the afore-mentioned memorial, things clicked very soon. In fact, he stayed in London for the entire month of November 2004, polishing the new songs with me. We worked full time for 3 demanding, yet very fruitful weeks, which produced even more than the 7 songs you find inside Syndestructible. 3 of these other songs are very strong in my opinion and will certainly find their place in the next album. We left them out for the moment only because the music already written was a complete piece all by itself, so it was unnecessary to force them in. The strange fact is that we spent maybe a month to compose and then almost a year to end the recording and production stages [laughs] … it's a lot of time, but I think that the overall results are worth the wait. So now we are able to market the record and then go on tour in the U.S. Another thing you have to consider is that Yes will probably take a sabbatical year in 2006, so that leaves Chris with a lot of "spare" time to concentrate on The Syn as well.
II: Talking about the songs, Steve, I really love "Some Time, Some Way." It brings a real upbeat message, sort of a Yes tune, with a great wall of melody. Can you tell me something about it?
SN: Cool, as "Some Time, Some Way" is my favourite track of the album. You know, Chris had this killer bass riff and so we developed the song around that. The middle section of the track is really strong and we are very happy that the music came out on the record in the same way we imagined it in our minds. It's hard to have that kind of feeling when you finish the CD, but this time we were able to do it. Maybe we were just lucky, but it's OK for us [laughs]...
II: Another centrepiece of the album, as you proudly claim in the press release, is "Cathedral Of Love," which is the first single. How important is it to bring a message of love in these dark times?
SN: Yes, I think it's very important. Well, maybe we are able to bring these positive messages because we are part of a different type of generation. Who knows? Maybe if we were younger and started doing music in these days our mood would be much darker. However one strange thing is that in the U.S. we had several pastors writing to us and telling that "Cathedral Of Love" is a frequently requested song. This is something that really surprises me, as it's kind of strange that the Church goes out and strongly supports a message in one peculiar rock song. But that's fine, as I am a Catholic, too, so it's still good news to hear.
II: Steve, an old adage says that "history repeats itself" … considering that The Syn were one of the prototypes of prog rock back in the 60s, do you envision a return of the 60s/70s atmosphere in the next few years?
SN: I hope it will happen some time in the near future but I don't know to be honest. The real problem is that the mainstream media continue to launch young and pre-constructed pop idols whom, in my opinion, devalue the stature of music. However this process has gone too far and I sense that not only the old generation, but also a growing part of the young people are yearning for an increase of musicianship amongst the artists. That's what we are trying to do as well, as we label ourselves "prog modernists" in a certain way.
II: Checking back to the first few days of The Syn, we all know that you opened for Jimi Hendrix's first-ever performance in the U.K. As I am a rabid Jimi fan, can you tell me what's your lasting impression about him?
SN: Yes, certainly. When we met Jimi Hendrix in 1964, right before his first-ever European performance, we didn't know him. Nobody knew who he was. However he was friendly, a relaxed guy, very nice and spontaneous. You know, that day was so special. We were at the Marquee and the audience included The Beatles, Jimmy Page, The Rolling Stones. I mean, it was freaky, wasn't it? There was the whole world of pop music out there and no one could imagine what would happen that night. We played two gigs before Jimi, then we left the stage and watched his half an hour show. Well, I can tell you that right there, in those 30 minutes, the whole world of music completely changed. Jimi blew everyone away, it was astonishing.
II: However Hendrix died when he was only 28. I tend to believe that, while his contribution to modern music is immense, it would have been far more impressive had he lived on. Your opinion on that?
SN: Yes, of course; it's right what you say. I think that the death of Jimi Hendrix is one of the greatest tragedies of music. He was one of a kind, really. The thing that really leaves me surprised is that I checked some time ago and Jimi is the posthumous rock star that makes more money with the memorabilia and all the other stuff. What more can you say. His passing was a very sad day but we are fortunate to have his music that lives on. The songs are still there and they are always up to date. They don't grow old.
The Syn - Original Syn 1964-2004II: OK, let's return to The Syn. What's the feedback already generated by Syndestructible and by Original Syn 1964-2004, your archival record?
SN: Original Syn 1964-2004 has been released only in the U.K. for the moment, and has received tremendous feedback. I think that we will distribute the double album in Europe next year via SPV. On the other hand Syndestructible is surpassing every possible expectation in terms of positive reviews. I tell you that a newspaper like the 20th Century Guitar Magazine deliberately labelled the album "the best record of the century," so we're very happy with that. In fact the sales are so good in the U.S. that maybe we will enter the charts at the end of this year. That's pretty significant, considering that next January we will tour extensively the States, too.
II: I've seen that you have a DVD and live CD waiting in the wings, too. It seems that you can't wait to return to the world after such a long hiatus.
SN: Yes, our first comeback show at the Marquee, back in the same place that saw us hit the stage some 40 years ago, was filmed and recorded with a 48 tracks mobile machine. I think that the songs will be mixed as soon as possible, even if the priority is given to the DVD, which should be out in January 2006. On the other hand, the live CD will be mixed by our guitarist Paul Stacey and should see the light of day in the spring of next year. So, as you can see, there will be plenty of The Syn to catch in the coming months [laughs]!
II: This is great news, Steve. OK, I think that's all. I hope that The Syn will be able to tour in Europe, too. While I wait for the concert dates good luck for the record and have a nice day.
SN: Thank you very much Igor for the interview. Don't worry, we are setting up the dates for a European tour as well. I think that it will happen around March 2006 and almost certainly Italy will be included. Don't forget that I have Italian roots and I still love the country, so it's just a matter of months. I hope that we will meet at the concert. In the meantime a big hello to all of you. Ciao.
Recent news from the Syn camp is that, due obligations with Sheryl Crow, filling for Jeremy Stacey behind the drums for the band's US tour beginning January 2006 will be Yes' drummer Alan White.
* Original Syn (2004) (YesServices Edition)
* Original Syn 1965-2004 (2005)
* Syndestructible (2005)