Paolo Giuseppe Sergio Morena – Singer/Songwriter – I was born into a musical family. I have five relatives who play and three who compose. My father ran his own business (a garage) and my brothers would spend their weekends and holidays fixing up motors while I indulged in playing the drums and guitar.
My first real exposure to music came when I was twelve. I was in a car accident, breaking my leg in several places. Confined to my bed and wheelchair, my parents having five other children and both working, found it nearly impossible to cope. I was moved to my grandparents house some thirty miles away. It was here that I was introduced to classical music and one of my heroes, Beethoven. My grandparents believed in having music playing constantly. My grandfather’s collection of tapes and later CD’s was impressive as was his passion for finding someone young to share it with.
I formed my first band at school with a guitarist friend Nik Camp. Originally I was a drummer, though I never rehearsed with Nik as a drummer in the band as I had sold my kit before we reached the first rehearsal session but I wasn’t about to tell him or any of the others guys that. I turn up to rehearsal without my kit having walked the five miles to the run down hut at the end of our school field. I sat waiting for Nik to arrive only to tell me that I was no longer the drummer as he had invited a friend to fill the role. Devastated I ask what I could do? He gave me a beaten up microphone and told me to sing.
In the early days we were a covers band, mainly playing sixties, seventies and eighties tunes it was an education for me as I was happy just to still be in the band. We rehearsed every Saturday for twelve hours and played loads of local shows where ever we could get them. In the final months of school we landed the equivalent of our school prom. We put posters around school and sold the show out in a week. After months of preparation the final week was upon us when the head master at our school cancelled our performance. We were called into the staff room and given a dressing down about our poster design. Though we begged and pleaded and some of the staff stood up for us the headmaster refused to budge. As in any school news got around pretty quickly and within days all the tickets had been returned. We defiantly hired the local hall sold tickets outside the school gates and went ahead with the show ourselves. The headmaster even called the police in, but as we had attracted most of the undesirables in the area to our gig anyway they merely policed the venue which just played to our egos that much more.
I left home at the age of seventeen and moved in with a girlfriend, but after a few years of unhappiness, watching my band and friends move away to college I decided to make a break for it and ran away to Amsterdam. Within a few months I had set myself up with a nice little Acoustic show just off the red light district and by the end of the year I was playing four nights a week and turning down shows due to exhaustion. My benefactors were some of Amsterdam’s leading importers, growers and exporters of narcotics both legal and illegal. They ran everything from Central Station down to the Varmastraat producing the highs while I played the theme music and soothed the lows. Amsterdam at this time was an incredible place. A meeting place for all nationalities and art forms. I indulged in everything from painting to poetry, cinematography to sculpture. Although my creativity peaked my songwriting suffered as I only penned three tunes in my two years in Holland.
During my time I had been in three bands the last called Racecar. Our crowning moment was supporting the Australian doors playing to over 5000 people at the Macanti Plaza. The gig had come about from a drunken bet between my friend Stuart and one of the growers, they bet that I couldn’t get a band together two weeks to play the support. Within two days I had the band within three the set and rehearsal studio. We won the bet which after all the drama was only for one dollar. During my time in Holland I had played over 200 hundred shows in the space of 22 months. After two years of the pleasure and the pain I needed to leave for sanity sake and headed straight for home.
The band I formed in Amsterdam consisted of Two Englishmen, one Australian and two Americans. We couldn’t get the Australian into Britain so we split up for a couple of months and reassembled in Chicago Illinois USA, IN FEBRUARY! Ever wondered why they call it the ‘windy city?’ Visit in February! The drummer of our outfit Martin Bany was by trade a Jazz drummer from a well-known Chicago family of Jazz musicians. It was Martins family who convinced their label to stump up the money to get us to the states and organized our interstate tour. The night the guitarist and I arrived at O’Hare airport I went downtown and joined Martin onstage at one of his regular open mics while the guitarist Greg went back to our hotel. Eleven hours later we had been arrested at gunpoint, martin hauled off whilst I was left on lakeshore drive with the tour bus and no driving license. After a few hours of debate with the concierge at the drake hotel I was able to hail a cab back to the Bany house (the only address I had on me). I walked into a barrage of abuse only to have to ask for the cab fair to cover the ride! Thankfully the fires died down quite quickly and gave me an air of notoriety, which became an advantage as the months went on. Safe to say by the time the summer had come around so had our love for late night gigs and relentless touring, my guitarist and I returned to England, he with a wife, me with a server hangover.
I mused around London for a couple of years roughing it out in Hackney with my brother Sergio and a whole host of strange and colorful flat mates before getting itchy feet again. This time I followed a beautiful woman all the way to the other side of the world fell in love and wrote some of my best material, whilst living in a run down hotel by the beach in Coogee bay Australia. The living room to the hotel opened out onto the beach and it was here that I spent my evenings playing to the guests, writing tunes as I played. One evening a friend who was staying at the hotel left me his loop pedal a beaten up old thing called a jamman. I had watched him struggle to get to grips with the timings and it took me a good three weeks to work it into the simplest of songs but once I had I was producing live harmonies to my vocals that brought anything I wrote to life and began to attract a crowd to our run down hotel. I enjoyed rent-free living for the following two months and returned to London refreshed and renewed with a new angle on my live show.
I had been talked into a organising the lights for a Francis Dunnery (It bites) gig and I all but backed out at the last minute. I didn’t take long to set up the rig and I sat at the front door so the other guys could watch the show, I wasn’t really into his music. It was here that I met Steve (Wilson) and we started taking about hooking up to jam. We got together a week later me on guitar and Steve on drums, in my mum’s shed. They could hear us across the road but we didn’t care and it felt great to be playing again. We rehearsed at a local studio and one night there was a fire alarm. When we congregated in the hall we bumped into bass player Tim Jackson. Steve and I were desperate to find a good bass player and we convinced the guy to come and try out a few numbers, within two songs he had moved his rig into our studio quit one band and joined ours. We stayed in that room over night and well into the next day and when we emerged we knew one thing, we needed showers.
The Morenas for me was a whirlwind of an experience. My girl and I were living by a friend’s charity, she was pregnant and I was broke trying to make ends meet waiting tables and playing for anything I could get. Inexperienced and at an all time low I change my acoustic guitar for an electric one. Little did I know that this would change my material and my life, forever. Within weeks we had a set of music ready to play and had been joined by a lead guitarist Paul Stevens who’s knowledge for the technical was matched only by his skills as a guitarist. It was Paul who taught me how to use my loop pedal but it would be several years before I could use it properly or would get the chance to.
The Morenas first gig was to be played before possible investors. Back then, as I was the only songwriter in the band and the only one who was prepared to quit his day job to run the whole operation we were known as ‘Paolo and the band’. Through our drummer I had been introduced to a group of individuals who had expressed an interest investing their money into something other than the run of the mill stocks and shares. They were looking for some fun they wanted something that was going to bring a different kind of return on their investment and I knew just what to offer them. Our first show was held at the very same studios where we met Tim. I hired the whole thing out and put on a private party. We wined and dined our guests before playing a private one-hour show featuring the new material. By the end of the night I was approached by the investors who asked me to come up with a business plan, their goal was to get the band on Top of the Pops, the band wanted to get signed, my goal was to earn a living out of doing what I loved, music.
The investors me a premises to work from and guided me through setting up my own limited company. My family pitched in anyway they could. My brother took the photographs and together we worked on the design and image. My father kept the vehicles and equipment in check. All of the investors pitched in with their various resources and we built the record label to sustain our efforts as we attempted to get signed, on TV and paid.
Six days a week I worked tirelessly at the studio whilst rehearsing three nights a week with the band, playing gigs, attending interviews writing up reviews and so on. I wrote, recorded and produced everything purely because I was the only one there to do so and the only one writing. During our five years together we featured on Xfm championing Lauren Lavern in the Cannonball run (we drove to gigs and completed the race in our 1967 Chevy Caprice police car, think Hill Street Blues, with working police lights, sirens and pimp spot light). We also featured on BBC 2 with Janice Long on ITV and Channel Four. We independently released two albums and three singles featuring artists from Massive Attack and UB40. Eventually although we had achieved some of our goals the distance between those in and around the band working fully on the project and those dropping in for rehearsals and gigs began to grow. Paul and I began to explore the idea of writing and creating using samples and loops in the music this Steve and Tim found hard to accommodate and as they became more stubborn about which material they were prepared to rehearse tempers ending up forcing him from the band. Once the balance of beat and melody changed I found myself keeping material from them as I didn’t want everything I had written to become lumped into the same complex groove driven style that now all but consumed the subtle melodies and without any harmonies or the refusal to sing them, the human connection was lost. We became a band that musicians came to see. Rarely selling any music, playing gigs that consumed the atmosphere rather than connected with it. Steve and Tim left the band together leaving me with the unenviable task of wrapping up a company, selling off the assets and tearing down what had taken me five years to build. I retired into my little studio at the bottom of my garden to rethink my future and collate my material.
It was during this time that I began to collect instruments and equipment together. Friends and family who had moved on from playing and creating music would drop bits and pieces of equipment into me. As I began to piece together my instruments I found the perfect thing to help me to do the same with my compositions which, not only allowed me to indulge my passion for playing and writing on different instruments but and perhaps more importantly to do this live in front of an audience, the loop pedal.