Braving the winds | Dr Zicotron’s 8 Winds

Launching upcoming album 8 Winds on board the Turkish gulet Fernandes, Alex Spiteri Gingell speaks about his detailed characterisation for each distinct wind

Dr. Zicotron : Electronic Music Composer
Dr. Zicotron : Electronic Music Composer

Electronic music composer Alex Spiteri Gingell (aka Dr Zicotron) will be launching his upcoming album 8 Winds on board the Turkish gulet Fernandes, as part of an open-air performance organised under the umbrella of the Malta International Arts Festival. He speaks to TEODOR RELJIC about the music and the show, created in collaboration with guitarist Glen Montanaro, sound designer Aleks Bundalo and dance choreographer Lynne Salomone Reynaud

First off, could you tell us a little bit about your background and musical history? Which aspects of your journey contributed towards you finally braving the ‘8 Winds’?

My musical journey started at the age of eight, when I started learning classical piano and theory. By the age of sixteen, after completing my diplomas, I decided to take a break from classical music to explore pop, blues and jazz.

At around the same time, I bought my first synthesizer which changed my approach to music for ever. I become obsessed with sound synthesis, sequencing and drum programming, experimenting with many electronic styles, from ambient to house and techno.

Between the late 90s and early 2000s I co-founded Spooky Monkey, an electrofunk live act, before moving on to work on music productions for theatre and short movies.

During this period I also started dabbling with DJing, playing eclectic vinyl sets at the now legendary Misfits Club. 2009 saw a change in direction as I set up Electroswing Malta with The Chef and Dockerbone, which gave me the first international exposure with tours all around Europe.

Glen Montanaro: Guitars
Glen Montanaro: Guitars

In 2018, after returning from a three-year stay in Germany, I felt it was time to move back into music production, drawing on the musical influences and experiences I had gathered over the years, both as a musician and as a DJ.     

8 Winds is not just a new album, it is also very much an ‘event’ – launching your new work in spectacular fashion. How does the performance aboard the Fernandes complement the music itself, and how does it feel to form part of this year’s edition of the Malta International Arts Festival?

Actually the concept for 8 Winds was inspired by the location performance: it is not so often that one gets the unique opportunity to perform onboard a wooden sailing vessel.

I wanted to create a piece that pays homage to the invisible yet omnipresent force which has propelled mariners since time immemorial. Being islanders, the winds play a very prominent role in our daily lives and are constantly present in our psyche and language.

This led me to develop a detailed characterisation for each distinct wind, from the heavy Xlokk to the devastating Grigal, the tropical Lbic to the turbulent Majjistral. So I am grateful to the Malta International Arts Festival for having given me the opportunity and inspiration to create  this work.     

How did you set about choosing your collaborators for the project? What can audiences expect from the multi-media mix that the event promises to be?

The choice of collaborators happened in a very organic way. It started off with jamming sessions in September 2018 with guitarist Glen Montanaro, whose willingness to experiment with unorthodox sounds and techniques complemented perfectly my experimental approach to music production.

In October Glen moved to Gdansk to further his jazz career, but we kept on collaborating remotely, bouncing musical ideas to and fro over the internet.

As the concept started developing, I got in touch with sound designer Aleks Bundalo, with whom I have collaborated on various projects for more than 15 years.

The initial idea was to tap into Aleks’ vast library of Maltese wind and nature recordings, but he got so excited about the project that he ended up becoming my second pair of ears and doing post-editing, mixing and sound engineering work.

As for the live performance, from the beginning I had the idea of expressing the concept also visually, and for this reason I involved dancer and choreographer Lynne Salomone Reynaud, for whom I had also written music in the past. Lynne had just set up her own studio, Dance Hub, and was looking for a creative project for her team to work on.

Lynne Salomone Reynaud: Dance Hub Malta
Lynne Salomone Reynaud: Dance Hub Malta

Working with Glen, Aleks and Lynne has given me priceless motivation and inspiration, and I sure that the audience will be rewarded with a unique experience born from the synchronicity with these amazingly talented artists.              

What do you make of the local musical scene? What would you change about it?

I think that the local music scene has really come in leaps and bounds in the last few years.

There is a new generation of bright and talented young artists who are not afraid to assert their own sound, whether it is in jazz or experimental electronic music.

There are also the more seasoned musicians who have been honing their skills over the years, and when the generation gap is bridged between the two groups magic can happen. In terms of what I would change about the scene, I think that there is a lack of live performance venues, especially for less mainstream genres.

This is why I believe that the Malta International Arts Festival should be highly commended for providing a platform to innovative musical expression.      

What’s next for you?

After the premier performance of 8 Winds on July 10 in Marsaxlokk and Marsascala, I will be working on releasing it on digital media and vinyl some time in autumn.

I will also be remixing the whole project to create extended versions of the tracks which are more dancefloor oriented.

Oh, and I might also try to fit in a short holiday some time in August!

8 Winds will be taking place on July 10 at Marsaxlokk Bay (7.30pm-8.30pm) and Pjazza Dun Tarcis, Marsascala from 9.30pm to 10.30pm. Entrance is free.