Antonio Forcione’s been described as the Hendrix of the acoustic guitar - but how will he deal with the 10 questions we ask everyone?
1. What was your first guitar and when did you get it?
“My very first guitar was a Suzuki and I got it aged 10. I got some drums first, so I engaged in playing drums quite loudly for hours and hours every day and the shoemaker that lived downstairs must have been contemplating suicide!
“He must have spoken to my dad, because my dad arrived home with a secondhand Suzuki guitar and said, ‘Try this, my son.’ I didn’t know what was going on with the shoemaker then, but later he told me.”
2. Suppose the building was burning down - what guitar from your collection would you save if you could only save one?
“Ooh, only one? That’s a hard one. I think I would probably get a bit burned, because I would try to save at least three. The fretless: I would take that because I really love the sound of that guitar. Also I’ve got a Gibson 345 that I love, and my nylon-string guitar, a Yamaha GCX31C. It plays so well - I keep trying other guitars, but have never exceeded that one…”
3. What’s the oldest guitar that you own?
“It’s that Suzuki guitar we just talked about. I’ve still got it - it’s in my sister’s garage, safe in Italy. I asked her to keep it because she’s better than me at keeping things. There’s less chance for her house to burn than mine!”
4. When was the last time you changed your own strings?
“I think it was about three weeks ago. I use Savarez or Galli from Italy on the bottom three. It’s kind of complicated. I use extra hard tension on the bottom E, because I tune it down to A sometimes and it still has to hold. The A and D are normal then the G, B and the E are Thomastik-Infeld because sometimes I like a bluesy feel and I like to pull the string and I need a better response.”
5. If you could change one thing about a recording you’ve been on, what would it be and why?
“An album I did with Neil Stacey called Talking Hands. We recorded it at Town House Studios in Shepherds Bush, but because we ran out of budget we ended up mixing it on a small desk somewhere in Soho and it sounded kind of teeny and not warm any more. I’ve spoken to Naim about it to see if they can do something about it, but it’s always down to budgeting.”
6. What are you doing five minutes before you go on stage and five minutes after?
“Interesting question! Five minutes before I’m basically warming up - I need at least half an hour. I don’t talk to anybody unless I am with, say, Adriano [Adewale] on percussion, so we’ll be mucking about and still playing, trying to play riffs together and warming up. Five minutes after the show I’m probably signing CDs.”
7. What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you on stage?
“I was opening for Phil Collins at The Royal Festival Hall. The hall was packed and I was a bit nervous and I didn’t have much time to do a soundcheck because Phil Collins was doing the show with a big band. I had left my jacket about three metres away and I’d forgotten to turn off my phone. So, the lights go down and I started off my first song and the phone rings. I didn’t know what to do. I just pretended I wasn’t hearing it. It was my friend Antonio from Italy who wanted to get in; he was a bit late and was trying to call me and he kept ringing. A bit embarrassing!”
8. What’s the closest you’ve come to quitting music?
“I think it was 2006. It was a bad year for me: I went through a bad time with my ex, my dad was diagnosed with cancer and the Inland Revenue, for some random reason, decided to investigate me. That was a tough year. I thought I just had to pack my bags and go back to Italy.”
9. What aspect of playing guitar would you like to be better at?
“There are many aspects I would like to be better at, but I think, for me, it’s not about technique, it’s about connecting. It’s basically the capacity to connect when you are playing, being totally absorbed. It doesn’t come very often, but when it does you know you’ve lost time and place and I like that. When that happens, it’s so magical and it fuels your wish to play again.”
10. What advice would you give to your younger self?
“When I was 21 I wrote a letter to myself to read when I was 50, asking whether I was still playing music and if I was still feeling what I felt when I was 20. I even wrote a number called Diary about it. It’s basically the honesty of doing the things you love doing and giving everything you have to carry on doing what you love doing. That’s what I probably would say.”
Antonio’s latest album is Compared To What with Sarah Jane Morris.