My collection of Italo Disco interviews would not be good without this interview, an interview with the legend and, probably, the best male vocalist in Italo music, Ken Laszlo.
Do I need to introduce Ken Laszlo before you start to read an interview? I don't think so ;-)
I just would like to say that today is one of my happiest day because I have Ken Laszlo interview in my collection and during my correspodancing with Ken in the last couple of months I have to say that he is very kind and friendly guy.
Ken Laszlo released new album recently (not Italo Disco). Hope you will enjoy the interview, I surely did ;-)
Zeljko: Ken Laszlo is one of the everlasting names in Italo Disco and Eurobeat music. How do you feel about that?
Ken Laszlo: Happy to hear you think my voice will go down in history! ...Ha ha! I can just say one thing: I think I'm lucky because the world's full of talented artists that few people know.
Zeljko: I was always wondering how you came to choose your artistical name Ken Laszlo - particularly as Laszlo is a Hungarian name and you are Italian.
Ken Laszlo: The fact that I'm Italian wasn't a limitation to the choice of the name. I chose that name because it sounded good: we thought it was nice and the production liked it.
There was a point of reference, however: Victor "Laszlo" is the Czechoslovakian husband of Ilsa (Ingrind Bergam), co-protagonist with Humphrey Bogart in well-known Casablanca. In this film, Laszlo is a "clandestine" stalked by the Nazis trying to get away with his wife to the States.
Clandestinity was the principal point for my name. An excellent parallel to the recurrent situation for singers like me, who gave their voce to a great number of songs for the emerging Italo disco productions. Who could have been considered clandestine more than us?
Zeljko: Can you tell us please your real name and where you were born? - if possible, more about your life when you were a child!
Ken Laszlo: My name is Gianni Coraini with one "R" instead of two, as many think. All my fans know my real name. When I was a child, I sang in the church choir of a small village just outside my city, Mantova. People say I sang in tune with an angelic tone. Later when I was in my teens I had my first experience with a band. At 15 I was ready to perform in ballrooms: I used to have four concerts a week at the time. It was way too much and yet an essential training. I had much practice and little theory. I learned how to play the flute, the sax and of course the keyboards. I noticed I could achieve remarkable results even being self-taught. I tried for the bass guitar going out with one of the best bass players still around, Fiorenzo Delegà. He's a great friend and co-producer and co-author of my latest CD "Future is now" that can be found on the internet and in stores. We spent a lifetime together. Anyway, I've always had a great limit trying to play instruments with strings: I can't stand my finger-tips getting sore and so I quit. Then I spent some time, you'll sure surprised, deepening my singing technique with another great friend of mine and great singer, Alan Farrington. He's co-producer and co-author of my latest CD too. And finally I started seeing a kid who was much younger than me and yet a real genius in composition and arrangement: he taught me the secrets of creating melodic lines. He's a great musician and producer of "Future is now", too. That having been said, mostly I grew up performing around stages. The real gym is the crowd. On stage you can develop bodily communication, other than musical communication. But that's another matter...
Zeljko: You are not just an artist who has a marvellous voice, but also one who is very musically educated. Can you tell us how it all started?
Ken Laszlo: Thanks for your compliment! I like you considering me musically well-educated. I didn't attend any music school. People say that but it's just a legend. I'm self-taught and everything started as I said before. I have never denied those rumors because I couldn't. That's right! It might sound nonsense but I've never had the chance of deciding anything about Ken Laszlo because I didn't own the name. Unbelievable! It's one of the most incredible facts that people can't imagine. Ken Laszlo is the most representative name of Italo disco for his songs and for his voice but the person who owns that voice and sang those songs is mysterious and reserved. And it's not his nature!
Zeljko: Your first Italo Disco song is one of the greatest italo songs ever and it is 'Hey Hey Guy' from 1984. Can you tell us how you met Sandro Oliva and then Gino Caria who worked with you on this one and other songs?
Ken Laszlo: Sandro Oliva and Gino Caria were my first fellows, but not the only protagonists of that success. Nobody's ever said this before. The real creator of the team was an exceptional musician as to cleverness, instinct and creativity: Claudio Cattafesta, unforgotten and late lamented guitarist. People need to be friends to do magical things. Claudio and Gino were great co-producers and co-authors too; they passed away too early.
For personal reasons that I'm not allowed to reveal, Claudio Cattafesta didn't appear. I don't mean to understate the work of the other authors, because they were important too, indeed! That's the thing nobody's ever said before.
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Zeljko: I hope you are in a situation to tell us the real truth about the composers who wrote 'Hey Hey Guy' and solve one of the mysteries in Italo Disco. Apparently it is true that Sandro Oliva wrote the song (it's written on the record cover), but I have information from a very reliable source (which I'm not allowed to disclose), that says the names of the real composers are still a mystery. Who are they!?
Ken Laszlo: They are the team I mentioned before. I can't and I don't want to say why it was only Sandro Oliva and later Gino Caria the ones who were credited as the real composers.
Zeljko: The voices on the telephone from the beginning of ‘Hey Hey Guy’ belong to you and to Mark Tower (as Sandro Oliva said in the interview). Some fans consider these words a little bit provocative. Can you tell me how you or someone else decided to put these words in to a song? I would also like to hear your opinion about the whole song from your perspective!
Ken Laszlo: We thought that the dialogue thing was a good idea. It was ambiguous or ambivalent. Actually I think lyrics can be exploited in any way. The most innocent song may hide unintentional allusions. Hey Hey Guy was a great song musically and stilistically.
Zeljko: Hey Hey Guy' was a huge success throughout the world and has probably been the most frequently played song from Memory Records. What is the secret of this incredible success in your opinion?
Ken Laszlo: The secret for every song is in his pleasantness. From the melodic line that you find yourself singing the next day to the right word in the right place.. and also the typical Italo dance sound.
Zeljko: Ken, your next song, which also became a huge hit, is 'Tonight'. Can you tell us more about this song please?
Ken Laszlo: I always say that Hey Hey Guy is the exploit and Tonight is the confirmation. I'm very fond of those two songs.
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Zeljko: Do you think that the non-vocal sounds are more important than the vocals in Italo Disco music?
Ken Laszlo: No, I don't. I think the non-vocal sounds just complete the vocals in the Italo disco, unless we're talking about an instrumental or songs with vocal bits that are just repeated throughout the song: in this particular case vocals are as important as the non-vocals.
Zeljko: Ken Laszlo is the artist who stayed undiscovered for many years. On the opposite side, some artists or projects became well known thanks to strong coverage in the media, especially in magazines, but you were, and still are the NAME in italo/eurobeat music. Why is that you stayed in the shadow?
Ken Laszlo: I did for the reasons I told you before: I wasn't the one who could decide what to say about me. It's complicated: I'll try to be brief, but I'll have to go backward in time! At the beginning, Ken Laszlo was just a name linked to a hit. It was "normal" that the person you saw performing wasn't the one who actually sang the song (in Italo disco productions at the time I became Ken Laszlo, I mean). Other singers with a nice voice went through this. I was a "clandestine" singer; sure, one of the most wanted by the producers, but they paid me just for my voice. I couldn't pretend to be an artist, I couldn't pretend a contract. They would have never let me sing if I did! It was completely natural!
Their main purpose was selling records. There was no need to control the artist: arranging gigs and promotions with a good-looking substitute was much better! You'll agree it was completely nonsense! Then again, it didn't go that way for Hey Hey Guy: it was such a great hit they couldn't risk to defeat it with a substitute. They needed the real Ken Laszlo, the actual singer, to go on but I had to live with specific conditions.
Zeljko: Are you a private person? Almost two years ago in Mantova there was an italo party, and I was there and only heard you were there too, but many people didn't know that you were around.... What is the reason you didn't introduce your self to the fans. Every single fan would be so happy and delighted to meet you.
Ken Laszlo: I couldn't stay due to a previous commitment, so nothing in particular! I'm not a shy person: I really had to go away.
Zeljko: Can you tell who Mark Tower is (his real name) and something about him please? He is also one of those italo disco artists we know little or almost nothing about.
Ken Laszlo: He was asked to collect ideas about Hey Hey Guy's lyric. Then it was tweaked when I got there. I never knew what kind of relationship he had with the production. I met him when I was recording Hey Hey Guy.
Zeljko: Is it true that you haven't done many concerts, and if true, why? - there were other italo artists, who were, if I may say, at concerts all time ;-)
Ken Laszlo: That's not right! When I was very famous I performed everywhere and I was a very appreciated television guest. I used to hit the headlines of the most important magazines. Then this exciting success stopped with the third single "Don't Cry".
"Don't Cry" didn't climb the charts like "Hey Hey Guy" and "Tonight". The name "Ken Laszlo" got victimized by the disagreements between the French and the Italian production. They couldn't sell out the name to the French. The Italian production didn't accept the offer and it was hard to find a new balance to go on. I couldn't personally buy the right to use the name because there was a new offer by Mauro Farina. Anyway, you need to wait for better times: I started singing on payment. Very sad indeed!
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Zeljko: You worked with Mauro Farina and Giuliano Crivellente for many years now and still do. How did you meet them? Do you get on well together and have you been satisfied with your work with them? By the way, Mauro is my favorite producer ;-)
Ken Laszlo: I see your point. Mauro Farina e Giuliano Crivellente are great productors concerning the merchandising but I'm not satisfied, if I have to think about the ten years spent under their "art direction". They were they one who decided about Ken Laszlo, while I wasn't allowed to because the conditions didn't change. I couldn't decide due to the famous deal I told you.
It's clear that I've never liked this thing but I could either live with it or give up the adventure started with Hey Hey Guy! I had never been able to express my opinion about the songs. I was Ken Laszlo, and yet I wasn't! I think I've made myself clear.
Zeljko: You made some great songs with Jenny. Can you tell us more about her, who she is, and the songs you made with her? 'What A Lonely Night' is the great one, then 'Whatever Love' (recently we heard a eurobeat version, released for Asia Records) etc.
Ken Laszlo: No answer, no comment! Ask the productors...
Zeljko: How did you get into singing Eurobeat songs?
Ken Laszlo: I can't see how I could have refused: it's always a question of good songs or bad songs. The new style augured well as to sales and the production adapted. I wasn't involved into choosing the songs and my proceeds on sales were relative, so...
Zeljko: You and Gino Caria are the two of the best vocalists in eurobeat. What does this mean to you?
Ken Laszlo: Nothing in particular. The strength of the Dance genre has never been the vocal ability of the singers. Gino and I have never had contenders but I don't think it's very significant.
Zeljko: Do you know the exact number of italo disco and eurobeat songs you have sang so far? ;-)
Ken Laszlo: I don't know! Do you?
Zeljko: Which song(s) could you say are your best and could you give us an explanation?
Ken Laszlo: The first three are the most inspired and beautiful.
Zeljko: Do you like italo disco and eurobeat music? I would say you do, because you probably couldn't remain for so long in these music styles.... Or are you perhaps a bit tired and that's the reason you are going in a different direction these days?
Ken Laszlo: I'm not tired of the music that made me famous. I like all music when it's nice. I'm going to the right direction so I'm offering nice music and, if I may say so, intelligent.
To me music is very important. At last, when I got to be master of my artistic destiny buying "my" name, I had this strong desire of offering different songs! My last work transmits this but that doesn't mean I'm not gonna sing anymore Italo disco songs or Eurobeat songs... or rather, I'll finally be singing Italo disco and Eurobeat songs that are mine and not of other people. People may like it or may not like it.
At this point of my career the important thing is to make good music that I like. I hope other people will too.
Zeljko: Lately we can hear something new in your music, with a move from italo to eurobeat. While you’re still producing quality music, I would say you are turning your music in to a style, which italo fans are not used to hearing from you. I would really like to know why you made that decision!
Ken Laszlo: At last I realize things I like, or at least things I decide if I like. Of course I'm also talking about new Italo and Eurobeat songs. Songs with a different artistic depth: not better, just different. I want to get artistic satisfaction from what I do. If my fans love my voice, I can't see how they could possibly dislike my new music. Not only would I like to be Italo disco Ken Laszlo, but also Pop-rock Ken Laszlo. If my fans are fond of Hey hey guy, Tonight or Mary Ann, those songs belong to the past. You can't live in the past: Here and Now, Flower and Butterfly, Free Man, The Line are my present because Music is freedom. Any way I am going to sing new Italo Disco and Eurobeat songs, just not only that music genre. I'm not just an Italo disco singer.
Zeljko: Did you, and do you still have close friends amongst italo disco artists and producers? If so, can you please tell us something about it?! I would also like to know how you are all spending your free time out of the studio, where you have been going, what you do to relax, and have fun, etc. I think every italo fan finds it interesting to know what their beloved artists are doing after work in the studio, and what they do to relax. I could tell you how I am spending time with my friends, ha ha....
Ken Laszlo: I know every Italo disco artist and producers but I'm not close to anybody except my first Team and the present one. I paint (go see my paintings on www.myspace.com/kenlaszloofficial), I compose and read a lot, I meditate. I usually cover 30 km a day by bike, 15 km running and 5 km walking. I sing! I go out with real friends and musicians. I live!
Zeljko: I couldn't possibly discuss everything about you in your musical life, but if I didn't ask you something that is very important, could you please tell me?
Ken Laszlo: Here and now is very important! It's important the concept of love!
Zeljko: In your career since the 80s, you were working on at least a couple of songs with producers, who are among the best in italo disco and eurobeat music, and they marked that period. In your opinion, what is common to all of them?
Ken Laszlo: They have in common a strong opportunism. It's up to you to decide if it's either criticizable or praiseworthy.
Zeljko: Is it possible to share with us the happiest moment in your italo disco career?
Ken Laszlo: I've had many happy moments. The happier was when for the first time I could check my popularity observing the reactions of my fans.
Zeljko: Now, an opposite question ;-) Can you share with us the worst moment in your italo disco career? We would like to hear your explanation of course.
Ken Laszlo: The worst moment was when I couldn't buy my name.
Zeljko: Do you have message for your fans?
Ken Laszlo: Yes I do: open your ears and especially your heart when you listen to my music . . . Ciao!!!
Thank you so much Ken for this interview. I wish you all the best in your music career ahead and to enjoy yourself a lot!
© Zeljko Vujkovic - February 2008