Mauro Remiddi, who records as Porcelain Raft, writes and produces his music, directs his music videos, and often reaches to surrealist artist Marcel Duchamp for inspiration — but the Italian singer doesn’t identify with the term ‘artist.’ “[My music] is my taste and what I want to develop but I don’t think that what I do is art,” Remiddi told Hive before his Chicago show at the Metro. “I’m just entertaining myself in a way.”
Remiddi plays the role of an entertainer too, taking cues from the late, great crooners Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, both from their style and their winking sense of humor. Buttoned up in a tailored grey shirt, a slim-fit black blazer with a red pocket square peaking out of his breast pocket, a pair of dark wash jeans, and a cozy pair of combat boots that have traveled with Remiddi throughout Europe and the States over the past five years, Remiddi’s sartorial look is a nod to the golden era of lounge singers. It’s fitting for the dream pop of his debut album Strange Weekend (Secretly Canadian), since he’s a one-man act with help only from a drummer. His surrealist sensibility came out as well: When we sifted through Remiddi’s suitcase before the show, Remiddi slyly pulled out a fire extinguisher as one of the items he always travels with. It belonged to the Metro. Hive spoke with the musician about fashion as entertainment, the contemporary art world, and the sentimental value of the black blazer he always wears on stage.
The books he always travels with:
One of my essentials is an art magazine called Dot Dot Dot. I bought this one in London and have 10 of them. It’s put together with an image, a graphic, and then a mini-novel, like a collage, and it features any type of artist– from ancient to modern. I think art magazines are the books of the future. Unfortunately [editors Stuart Bailey and Peter Bilak] stopped making the magazine.
Another book I brought is about Marcel Duchamp; he’s one of my favorite artists. I got it in a bookshop in Italy when we were touring– it was very cheap. These days, I rarely read in Italian so I liked this copy because it’s in Italian.
On the reasoning behind his admiration for Duchamp, who he references in “Talk to Me”:
Duchamp is a genius of [the 20th] century. I’m fascinated by his art and the irony he had about him. Everything he did was ironic. I like the idea he did many things and spent all his time basically archiving his art on a timeline, as if he was already doing his retrospective [while he was living]. He wouldn’t let someone do it when he was dead. He was like, ‘I’m alive and I’m doing this for you guys.’ It was very clever. He started the idea of conceptual art, which can be applied in music as well.
On the art world today:
I find the art world very disappointing. They operate in this kind of vacuum and just talk to themselves. They want to be a sector in the world and everything they do is very contrived. I want to be far away from it. It’s the opposite of freedom. I’m free to do whatever I want and I don’t think I’m an artist at all.
On why he believes fashion is entertainment:
Fashion is a great form of entertainment but it has nothing to do with art: It’s a refined kind of entertainment and I find it great because I love people that make an effort to discover their own personality through clothes. I like that some people have really weird taste.
On his obsession with American crooner music:
I was very fascinated by old crooners like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, the king of style. The idea of them doesn’t really exist anymore so I’m trying to portray that world by dressing [like them] and singing the hell out of myself. I like to think that what I do is the crooner music of the future. My music is an orchestra of samplers.
Inside his pockets:
A pair of keys to my house, my wallet that my brother gave me and bought in Morocco, a pocket square, and my passport, [which is] very important.
The jacket he wears in the video for “Drifting In and Out”:
This was my wedding suit so I was looking at it thinking, ‘You know what, I’m going to tour with this.’ I’m wearing it everyday.
Another piece of clothing that holds sentimental value:
This is my wife Grace’s grandma’s sweater. We met in New York when I was playing a show and [Grace] came to see me because she wanted to work with me. She’s in music publicity but we ended up not working together, for the best. She tries to join me on tour when she can but sometimes we go six weeks without seeing each other. It’s tough.
The worst thing he’s lost on tour:
I rarely lose things. I thought I lost my iPod, then found it two weeks later in the van. It has all of my songs and demos on it, [even] ones I’ve never released. I mostly listen to my music when I’m traveling because I want to hear what I’ve done and discover things I’m doing. I’m continually working.
The one thing he always forgets to pack:
My brain rarely comes with me.
The fire extinguisher he always “packs”:
This is something I always carry with me because my drummer sets his drums on fire every night. I have to be prepared. He’s a very expensive drummer. I can’t afford him anymore.
Check out live shots from Porcelain Raft’s Chicago show, below: