I remember seeing Carlo Siliotto’s name on several successful Italian pop records starting in the late ’70s and early ’80s.  He was listed as a session player and later as a composer for movies. Born in Rome, these days Carlo spends a lot of his time in Marina del Rey, California, where I met him a few days ago for a pleasant conversation.

Carlo, tell us about the start of your music career.

My first notable experience was with a band called “Il Canzoniere del Lazio” in the ’70s. Somewhat inspired by Alan Lomax’s research on folk music in the US, we started following similar trends in Italy, with people like Gianni Bosio, Diego Carpitella and, more specifically, Sandro Cortelli who was active in the Lazio region.


Carlo Siliotto with the group Canzoniere del Lazio


We made original music, based on the structures of ancient folk songs and we started touring Italy, especially in the center-South, and then abroad.

Our most notable experience is a tour we did in Africa: we became part of an exchange program through which we met a local “twin band,” rehearsed with them, and eventually performed live for political figures in all kinds of unpredictable situations!

It sounds amazing, but what happened to that project?

The group disbanded in 1980. After recording a couple more albums, the pressures from the commercial music world became less and less compatible with our research, so we parted ways.

All of a sudden there was this disco explosion, so everybody was looking for the “4-on-the-floor” kick sound, which simply wasn’t us!

And  afterwards?

I collaborated with a bunch of artists, mostly pop singers such as Antonello Venditti, Francesco de Gregori, Teresa de Sio, Mia Martini, Maria Carta…

In my heart, though, I really wanted to write music for films: I studied that at the Conservatory, and it’s always been my dream. So, when my son was born in 1981, I decided to take the leap: I started refusing  job offers, focusing exclusively on making my career happen and finally things started falling into place when I was hired to write the music for a TV movie called “Il Passo Falso” by Paolo Poeti with Michele Placido. I was the right composer because the director was looking for a different sound, with middle-eastern influences, which really matched my style at the time.


Carlo Siliotto | Image by Katsumi Ishikuma


What did you study, exactly? 

I studied guitar and violin, which are my main instruments, but at the Conservatory I studied composition. I went to Frosinone, because I wanted to study with Daniele Paris, who was ahead of his time, and he allowed me to study even if I was older than the age limit.

What have been your most remarkable collaborations in the Italian pop world?

 Well, I’ve worked with Antonello Venditti the longest amount of time. We worked on the arrangements of his album “Buona Domenica” for two months straight, rehearsing all the time, and then we went on tour, playing 118 shows in 120 days!

In those years I remember working on Francesco de Gregori’s “Titanic” and Gianni Togni’s music, too.

Maybe the projects I recall as being most representative of my work back then are “Salita Trinità Degli Spagnoli” by Enzo Gragnaniello, and “Meglio Soul” by Enzo Avitabile, with Richie Havens.


How did you end up in California?

I worked with the visionary movie director Carlo Carlei on a film called “La Corsa Dell’Innocente” produced by Franco Cristaldi and Domenico Procacci. The movie was presented at the Venice festival a few weeks after Franco passed away and it didn’t have commercial recognition in Italy, but things went differently in the US … so he came here first, then I followed him, and the recognition I got from that job opened many new opportunities.

Afterwards, I went back and forth from LA to Italy, but I kept my US connections alive, and at some point I scored a movie called “The Punisher”, with John Travolta, which allowed me to start working with bigger management companies.


So now your job keeps you in California most of the time?

For sure, after all these years I’ve started to fall in love with certain aspects of the California lifestyle, and I am not referring to just to the weather: I love living in a place that is so open minded, where diversity is an everyday reality, and people are not easily judged by others on the basis of their race or other details…

Moreover, working in Los Angeles has exposed me to other international markets, such as the Latin American one, and even the Kazakh one, as of late!


Carlo Siliotto | Image by CIAK


What are your current and future projects?

I recently worked on a movie coming out soon called “El Cartel De Los Sapos”: it’s a beautiful story, a Colombian/Mexican/American coproduction that talks about the end of certain Colombian drug cartels in the ’80s.

I am also going to Italy to score a TV miniseries with Ricky Tognazzi, with whom I have worked several times in the past.

And, last but not least, after I scored the Kazakh movie “Nomad” in 2007, I got interested in their local music, so I decided to produce a documentary on it, and now I’m completing the project: it has been a very interesting and fascinating experience, and I can’t wait to get it out!