Dust Man - King Of The Ghetto (Back Vocal), Martinelli - Voice (Back Vocal), Doctor's Cat - Watch Out, Raggio Di Luna - Comanchero, Doctor's Cat - Gee Wiz, Topo & Roby - Under The Ice, Dust Man - King Of The Ghetto (Re-Edit) (Back Vocal), Giak - Inside You (Back Vocal), Radiorama - Chance To Desire, Martinelli - Cenerentola (Cinderella), Raggio Di Luna - Viva, Doctor's Cat - Andromeda, Diana Barton - Tango, Barbie - Barabba, Barbie - Cuccaracha Paraiso, Doctor's Cat - Feel The Drive / Watch Out.
Zeljko: Thank you so much for this opportunity Simona. I would like to start with something that happened ten years ago... So, ten years ago Mauro Farina in the interview told me: "Simona is a very nice person, but I think she stopped working on music business since a long time." After all these years since the interview with him would you tell me did Mauro thought well or....? It seems to me he was wrong?! What are you doing today regarding music?
Simona Zaninni: Mauro wasn’t quite right, but that can happen because we unfortunately never kept in touch and I’ve always worked out of the spotlight. I shifted, little by little, from dance to Italian pop productions, working as a background vocalist, lyric writer, producer and owner of a recording studio, together with Marco Tansini (remember the album “The Legend” of Valerie Dore”?) who I was married to. So through the ‘90s I sent a few young artists to the Festival of Sanremo, which, as you might know, is the most important television event for music here in Italy. Later I started managing a music import company were I still work. So as you see, I have been working in the music business in many ways: singing, writing, recording, producing and selling!
Zeljko: Let's go back to 1985. Simona, your work in Radiorama project is not the first one in Italo Disco music, but I think one of the most sucessfull it is? This is my favorite Italo project ever! :-) Would you tell me how you got into that project, first with Aldo Martinelli and then with Mauro Farina?
Simona Zaninni: Though Chance to Desire was a huge hit, the most successful project was Moon Ray’s “Comanchero”. Radiorama came in a second moment. Farina wanted a Martinelli song, and if you listen to the arrangement, which was kept from the demo Aldo gave him, it is an Aldo Martinelli style song, keyboards rifs, captivating melody. I’d say Radiorama evolved to a truly Farina production after that, with Hey Hey, Desire (can’t remember which came first, oops!) and the big hits he did after those, without me.
Zeljko: What does it mean Radiorama and where the idea for that name came from?
Simona Zaninni: I have no idea! But, whoever invented it, it was a good idea for a name! It sounds extremely well, it’s international, yet it gives an Italian touch, don’t you think?
Zeljko: Yes, I do think so ;-) Radiorama is so recognizable around the world, because its music and name both...... I wonder what was the reason that Aldo Martinelli gave up from Radiorama after only one song and gave it to Mauro Farina? From the very start Radiorama was hugely successive......
Simona Zaninni: This is a very delicate issue, Zeljko… Martinelli was under an exclusive agreement with a dance label, but he let Mauro Farina use the song, asking him not to advertise his name though. Instead, if you remember the cover, his name is very evident on the front, as there is the drawing of a stand with a music sheet and above it, in a blue background, the phrase “WRITTEN BY MARTINELLI”. This misunderstanding definitely interrupted Martinelli’s collaboration with Farina.
Zeljko: Hm... isnt' that Aldo's decision strange in a way? He didn't want to show his name, but RR was success, didn't he want more success? And on the other side, Mauro's decision wasn't, let's say, quite fair?
Simona Zaninni: At that time Radiorama just started, they weren’t famous, Martinelli was already a success and didn’t need publicity. He was asked for a song and gave it, the deal though was not to put the name in evidence. One might not think it’s right, but an agreement is an agreement.
Zeljko: First Radiorama's song was "Chance To Desire". Could you tell me more about this song, how you made it, about inspiration and other details please?
Simona Zaninni: The most important thing about this song was that I was very happy to have been called by someone I never met who wanted me in his production because he felt it was a guarantee for success. It made me very proud. The only thing is that the song was a bit high-pitched for me! I was at the beginning of my singing career and not too experienced, so my voice started to break at all those c’mon.. give a chance to desire!
Zeljko: After "Chance To Desire" another massive hit "Desire" came and another song written by you? Can you tell me more about this song too?
Simona Zaninni: Unfortunately I don’t remember much on the making of that song. These productions were so many, and there was so little time, that it was a touch-and-go work…
Zeljko: Simona, when you discovered your tallent for music, not only for written, producing but for singing as well? You have marvellous voice! :-)
Simona Zaninni: We have to go way way back, Zeljko, year 1972.. (so many years… help!)… My music professor in first grade of intermediate school spotted me when the class was rehearsing Christmas carols. He took me by the hand to the center of the classroom, put a microphone in front of me and told me to sing “Silent Night” by myself to the others. I was extremely shy and shaking as a leaf, but I did as he told. I still remember one of my classmates started to cry, she was moved to tears. I was 11 years old, but that made me understand something important was happening. I was always the lead singer in those years at school and later, as most kids do, sang with my friends, for fun. At the age of 18 I participated in a contest, and the La Bionda brothers chose me as a singer for a pop project (Oldaxe – “Charter”) that didn’t go too well, but made me sign a contract with CBS Records (now Sony). And after that I was into the business.
Zeljko: If I am right your Italo Disco career start was in 1983. How you discovered Italo Disco and is there anyone who introduced you to that style of music?
Simona Zaninni: A friend of mine was a friend of Aldo Martinelli and Fabrizio Gatto, they needed a mother tongue English singer for a production (Doctor’s Cat: “Feel the Drive”).. and the rest his history!
Zeljko: I wish to find out about some relations. I will explain. Radiorama project was yours and Martinelli's at the beginning then Mauro came in. Then project Valerie Dore, if I may say for her as a project, you entered into that project and to some others..... What was the reason for all those "owners" changes?
Simona Zaninni: As for Radiorama, I answered above. It has always been a Mauro Farina project, but he asked Martinelli for a song. Then I was into a few other Radiorama songs even after the collaboration between the two broke up, Hey Hey and Desire. Valerie Dore was produced by Roberto Gasparini, Merak Music. After her first hits he made her sign with EMI. It was a big project with a major label. Marco Tansini and I had been working with Merak Music (Monia, Diana Barton, John Ryel) and Gasparini decided to give us the job. It was very delicate, Valerie Dore alias Monica Stucchi was singing for the first time (the vocals of hits like The Night, Get Closer, are not hers..) and I followed her singing and pronunciation, recording background vocals too.
Zeljko: You and Aldo made together many great songs and you sung under many names which became real Italo Disco gems: Doctor's Cat, Valerie Dore, Topo & Roby etc. There are more, of course, but would you tell about other names please?
Simona Zaninni: Most important was Moon Ray, Comanchero was huge in France, Germany and Italy, and the Martinelli duo (Voice in the Night, Cinderella…). Other projects were Tony Carrasco’s Miko Mission production (The World is You, I like the Woman’s Heart). With Marco Tansini I also produced “China” (Moonshine) and wrote lyrics and sang background vocals on a few songs of Ago, who I met recently after 25 years! And many many others…
Zeljko: Wow, Ago.... :-) Do you remember which songs and did he tell you what he is doing today?
Simona Zaninni: Ago is working a great deal live as an artist and a DJ with his brothers on the Get Dancin’ project. They do DJ sets all over Italy in clubs. Electric Cucaracha and Miracles were the ones I wrote lyrics to and did background vocals together with singer Delia Gualtiero, a beautiful, crystalline voice. At the time she was engaged to Red Canzian, bass player for Pooh, one of the most famous Italian bands. He was producing Ago in 1984. I also did vocals on his remake of Fancy’s “Chinese Eyes”.
Zeljko: You worked with Miko Mission too! :-) More details, please ;-)
Simona Zaninni: Long time ago, hard to remember everything. I wrote “the World is you” and “I Like the Woman’s Heart”. Lyrics to Miko Mission were written together with Tony Carrasco, his producer, and the main aim was to make them sound good more than give them a meaning. I went to the studio but I don’t remember what backgrounds I did or didn’t…
Zeljko: Except with Aldo, you worked with Mauro Farina and Giuliano Crivellente. Can you tell me about them please? They are both my favorite Italo Disco producers?
Simona Zaninni: I haven’t worked that much with Farina and Crivellente as much as I have with Aldo Martinelli, so I don’t know them very well, I’m afraid. You see, the projects were so many, so most times I was given a cassette with the music so I could invent the words for it, then I was called in the studio to take the vocal tracks, usually just one afternoon, and that was it!
Zeljko: You must be very romantic person and living your own special dream which provide for you such a great stories you told in beautiful titles of the songs Cenerentola, Comanchero, Lancelot, Orient Express etc.?! Tell me Simona, did you wrote songs only in your office, or at home or anywhere else where inspiration caught you?! ;-)
Simona Zaninni: I always write at home, usually at night because I like it to be quiet to concentrate. But ideas come in any part of the day, so I write phrases down quickly wherever I can. Once it was on pieces of paper, now we can count on our mobile phones if we don’t have a pen!
Zeljko: Do you remember any strangest place or moment which caught you and inspired you for a song? ;-)
Simona Zaninni: Well, Topy and Roby was strange, having to justify a story with that little white robot! But the most particular production I was into, especially for the lyrics, was “The Legend”, by Valerie Dore. It was a concept album, if you remember it was all about the Knights of the Round Table saga. Lancelot was the first song, Marco Tansini, who wrote the music, had the idea for the title and when we proposed the song to Valerie Dore’s producer we decided to do all those songs of the album with that same theme. I read many many books, by Mary Stewart and other authors of those legends, I found out that even John Steinbeck had written a book about it. I was on vacation in Lugano and I still have a photograph of myself sitting on the hotel bed, all concentrated, writing something. That something were the lyrics for Lancelot.
Zeljko: Please tell me through your eyes about Italo Disco style, how you lived it etc.?
Simona Zaninni: I lived it in the best recording studios ever, working side by side with so many artists. One of the studios was in Carimate, it was the studio I recorded my first song with CBS, and a few years later it was bought by Marco Tansini, Red Canzian (Pooh) and the sound engineer Renato Cantele becoming the “Morning studios”, and I spent half my life there, having a chance to meet international stars that came to Italy to record their albums too.
Zeljko: Is it possible to tell me which of your songs is dearest for you and why?
Simona Zaninni: You know, perhaps Feel the Drive, is one of my favourites, because it was the first disco song and because I recorded at least 9 chorus tracks (it’s all my voice in there) for harmony and it was SO fun! But I owe a lot to the success of Comanchero, so that’s one of tops too.
Zeljko: Could you name your best Italo Disco artists?
Simona Zaninni: No, I can’t! I have many friends that are Italodisco stars and I really can’t say which I prefer!! ;-)
Zeljko: Could you recall any special moment from your Italo Disco career which stayed in your heart for so many years and could you share it with us please?
Simona Zaninni: I think it was the first TV show with a song of mine that I viewed. I still have it on videotape. It was Discoring, the Sunday afternoon music show with hit parade on the first channel. The Martinelli duo (the models, of course) opened the show with “Voice in the Night”. It was very very exciting to see one of my songs had made it there!
Zeljko: Simona, are you in contact with Aldo and what he is doing today?
Simona Zaninni: Aldo and I lost touch for some years, but we met again because we signed Prezioso feat. Marvin “In my Life”, which was taken from “Cinderella”’s melody and we’ve been regularly in contact since then. He has always kept his job as a music professor parallel to his songwriting and producing throughout all the ‘80s. Lately he has mostly been teaching, though he keeps writing and once in a while he records some productions for others. But right now we are working together on a few new songs! Since I went back to singing live lately, I’d like to present them during my shows. You never know what might happen… ;-)
Zeljko: Is it posible to tell me a bit more about these new songs of you two, if it's not too early and secret still? ;-)
Simona Zaninni: Top secret for now, but I promise, you’ll be one of the first to have all the fresh news!
Zeljko: :-) Thank you in advance! I wonder, do you remember how many songs you wrote? I think hundreds of them!?! :-)
Simona Zaninni: Hundreds, definitely.
Zeljko: Are there some songs you wrote or sung and they were never published and you feel sorry for that?
Simona Zaninni: Again, definitely. There are a lot of beautiful songs still waiting to be published. Sometimes I wrote lyrics to songs that were changed, usually because they were given to Italian artists so they were re-written in Italian by the artists themselves or their producers, though I have also written in Italian myself. It was sad sometimes to have to give up the lyrics.
Zeljko: Do you still have some of your Italo songs on vinyls? ;-)
Simona Zaninni: They are all mostly on vinyl! Some I don’t have, because not always I was given a copy from the producers (naught boys). Lately I’ve been to the Vinylmania fair in Milano to buy those I’m missing. It’s so good to see that I’m not alone in buying my records! And it’s also nice to see that even if they are all used, they aren’t for sale cheap :-)
Zeljko: Have you been going on concerts and parties in disco clubs?
Simona Zaninni: Lately yes. And it is SO moving to see how many people are still into our music, and how happily surprised they are to find out I was the lead vocal for so many Italo-disco names. Back then in the ‘80s, the productions were so many, all at the same time, many luckily hitting straight to the charts, that it was necessary to give each project a different name, and therefore a different “face”. Young girls were employed from model agencies to sing playback in TV shows, then they did the same in discos and festivals, and those are the “images” you are used to when you remember my songs.
Zeljko: Can you share your plans for near future please?
Simona Zaninni: Easy: I shall continue to catch up on lost time with live shows, and I am working with Martinelli on a few new songs!
Zeljko: Do you have message for your fans?
Simona Zaninni: Yes. First of all: thank you. Then, I hope, if ever my show will be in their town, that they can come hear me and not be too disappointed to see the real face of the… Voice in the Night! And I also hope that they are looking forward to hear the new productions I have in mind… ;-)
Zeljko: Simona, thank you very much for your time and for this interview. You made my wish come true :-) All the best, your fan Zeljko.
Simona Zaninni: Thank you Zeljko
© Zeljko Vujkovic - June 2010