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Armando Gallo – The Interview | 3 | From U2 To Today

Written by MO on . Posted in Reviews

My VIP pass for the U2 concert in Modena, May 1987.

My VIP pass for the U2 concert in Modena, May 1987.

[Pt. 2 is here.]

It was not just Genesis of course… I remember that back in 1987 one Saturday morning I got a call from you, out of the blue. You were in Bologna and you told me: “if you can grab a VTR and drive down to Bologna, you can meet U2″. I picked the one which was in my parents’ living room and drove down… so you were on tour with them, as a photographer? It was “The Joshua Tree” tour and I still have my VIP badge. How did you get in touch with them?

About that day… I feel so bad that I was very… well, they were very clustered, and they didn’t want anything or anybody from the outside. The first time I showed them my pictures, their manager told me I couldn’t stay in the room, and this was only a month before the episode you mention. When you came I thought that there were too many people in the room, but I wish you’d stayed in the room because… you could have been there to operate the video. That day was so good because two years later Bono used what I told him that day, when I showed them the pictures like the tour programs should have been… their tour program had no pictures from the concert, and I said “people go away from the concert and they want a memory of that concert. OK, you print the tour program before you go on tour, but one month into the tour you should add the live pictures, you should change the pictures and do a new reprint.” And that’s what they did for “Love Comes To Town”. He was wonderful, you know, I went to see them in Australia and then they called me up to go to Japan. I get to Japan and the first thing that Bono says: “Did you see the tour program?” and they had used the pictures I’d taken. So, you know, that day when you came down to Bologna was very good. And you know… when you show something; sometimes you don’t get instant gratification straight away. I had to wait two years to get this incredible surprise from Bono.

They may have been difficult to reach, but I remember… for the two minutes I was in that room Bono walked up to me and shook my hand, and The Edge waved his hand. too. So I was… well, you can imagine. I was 22, remember.

And on that day, after my presentation, I got them to sign this. (Shows a CD booklet of “The Joshua Tree” with the writing: “Armando, sound needs vision…” and the band’s signatures.)

Oh, I remember that! You showed me that on our way back! We were in my car and Stefano Bonagura from Rockstar magazine was with us as well, I think. You just brought up a memory from almost 30 years ago.

Last December Bono signed another thing for me, the “Ordinary Love” single cover from the Mandela movie. ~ Armando how many roads have we walked down together. Let’s walk some more. Bono.  The band was meeting with the Hollywood Foreign press in New York City. Mandela had just died 3 days before, but they kept the commitment to meet us and talk about how they wrote that song for the movie… So I’m trying to show this App to them, you know.

In those days you came back to Italy for a while, but you were very often in the States, you were always on the run… I remember for sure that you were on tour as a photographer with Madonna and INXS. You went to Australia with them, I think. It was a big move from the music of Genesis and Van Der Graaf Generator, and of course the market had changed. The question is: did it all turn to pop music at some point?

I had a publishing company, Fratelli Gallo Editori, which I started with the Genesis book because nobody wanted to do it as good as I wanted it. No publisher in the world thought that they should spend all this money in production. They thought there was no market, and I showed them that there was a market. At that point I said: “OK, let’s publish another book” and I showed the big publishers that we could do a series and, like an independent label, find a distributor. It was the same idea of an independent record label, in a way.

Madonna on stage in 1985. © 1985 Armando Gallo.

Madonna on stage in 1985. © 1985 Armando Gallo.

The idea was that some big publisher like Mondadori, Rizzoli or Rusconi in the end would buy us out. The deal was there. In the meantime, people like Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet and Madonna came out, and the people and the publishers wanted to see these people, too. That’s why I did a Duran Duran book. And a young girl, who was a good writer, wrote a book on Duran Duran, which was beautiful to share with other Duran Duran fans – I thought, “this is perfect” and we published it and sold thirty thousand copies. And the Duran Duran people said: “I want it, too”. It was a matter of getting something together, and there were Boy George and all these people… A publisher in England wanted them too. We were doing Madonna, Boy George, but also Lou Reed and Ultravox for an English publisher. So that’s why I went on tour with Madonna. I did the very first Madonna tour, “The Virgin Tour”, and then another. And I did Boy George on tour in Italy.

The second time I did Madonna I was already out of Fratelli Gallo. In August 1986 I surrendered my 50% of the company to my brother and the following day I went to Fiumicino airport and got on the very first flight out, Rome to Bangkok. On board, looking at the map of Thailand I was attracted by a bunch of islands in the Golf of Siam, off the East coast. From Bangkok I could catch a plane to Surat Thani and then a ferry to Ko Samui. I felt the need to go somewhere where I never been, where nobody knew me, and sleep my sorrow away. It was a sad, biblical break up with my brother.

At the airport in Bangkok these two young Italians kids came up to me and timidly asked: “Are you Armando Gallo?” They were running a Peter Gabriel Fan Club, in Milan. And I was writing… and I show them the pad where I was writing – the introduction to a Peter Gabriel’s book. Talk about signs, you know?

I had the whole text of Peter Gabriel’s book with me. The only work related thing I took with me, in my backpack, when I left Rome. Peter and I had been trying to put together a book for the past 3 years. It was not supposed to be a biography. Peter was going through some growing pain. His marriage, his love story with Jill that he knew since he was 15, was disintegrating and they both were trying to save it. So, no pun intended, we were trying to do something special to follow the release of his new album “So” but Peter couldn’t make up his mind, so all that was left with me, after the split from Fratelli Gallo was the Peter Gabriel book. I was going to publish it with an English publisher, Omnibus Press, and I was holding on to the quality of the book by overseeing the printing, myself, in Italy. I did publish the book in Italian by myself through One Love Productions, my new company. 3000 copies and 2400 were all numbered and signed. If you wanted to have a copy you had to write to One Love Production and you could also get the book in Via Muzio Scevola 5, in Rome, which was my parents’ house. It was my parents selling Peter Gabriel’s book, really! Some kids met my parents, and they still write to me.

I remember getting them both from you, Italian and English, through the mail. There was an announcement in “Ciao 2001″. That’s how we got in touch.

In fact at the time… it was the summer of 1986, I was still working for the magazines “Sorrisi e Canzoni” and “Tutto”. I came back from the Amnesty International Tour, “The Conspiracy Of Hope”, with this incredible article: all these bands who were playing for Amnesty International: Peter Gabriel, U2, Sting, Madonna, Miles Daves, Jackson Brown, Joni Mitchell…  Somehow, the editor in chief of Tutto was not interested in the article. My reaction was: “Best wishes to your life!” – I took it all and went away. I could not wrap it around my brain that someone, running a youth magazine wanted to ignore these artists working for free with Amnesty International. And gave the article to “Ciao 2001”, 10 years after I left that magazine, and they could not believe their luck (smile).

Later on, when I hooked up with U2 on The Joshua Tree tour, and U2 were coming to Italy to play Rome and Modena, in May 1987, I did an article in “Ciao 2001″ because I had stopped writing for “Sorrisi e Canzoni” or “Tutto” since their refusal to publish the Conspiracy of Hope tour. The editor in chief of “Sorrisi e Canzoni” saw the article in “Ciao 2001″. Rosanna Mani, his assistant, called me and left me in her room with the editor of “Tutto”, Gherardo Gentili and said: “Don’t come out until you two sort yourself out and find an agreement”. Gherardo, a lovely gentle soul, agreed right away to publish my material again and he asked: “What do you have?” And I said: “I have U2, The Conspiracy Of Hope…” (Laughs.) He went crazy, but Rosanna came back to the room and said: “Come on, we need Armando…” So I went back to “Tutto” and “Sorrisi e canzoni”. But I had walked out. I’d walked out because they didn’t want to publish the Amnesty International concert tour! I am still very proud!

Let’s get to the App, finally. You did “So”, for the 25th birthday of “So”, Peter Gabriel’s album, and then this one, which is fantastic… I am halfway through it and it’s a joy to read – it’s so much more than the book. What’s the most difficult part in a project like this? Because it must be incredibly complex…

I won’t talk from a technical point of view, because I don’t understand anything about that. From my point of view the most difficult problem is to convince the artists that this is something that helps them. The artists are very strange subjects you, know, because… an artist does a painting and then does another one. He doesn’t want to see the painting he did yesterday: he’s into the painting he’s doing now. It’s understandable. But then… what about the manager? What about the agent? What about the people who distribute his art? In this case, record companies – or it could be the movies industry. We have to put together the entire work of this artist and give it to a public who already knows the art and do this in a way so that people can be interested in the story, in the product, in the art. When I was asked, three years ago, to do another version of my brilliant, if I may say so (smile) Genesis book of 1980, I thought “Great idea, but also, what for?” I thought that, too: why should I go back to something that I did 30 years ago? I was busy doing other things, you know… but little by little I realized that there were little signs out there… like an email from a 17-year-old girl from Ohio, saying that she had discovered “Selling England By The Pound” and played it and thought – “My God, I didn’t know Peter Gabriel was with Genesis.

You have to listen to signs like that, all the time. You should live every day of your life at 360°, and live the moment you’re in – never worry about either the past or the future, but live the moment you’re in… so you can receive everything, and everything becomes very important: every sign, every little detail of your life. So there were all these signs coming up, these are signs I call “serendipity”.

I got e-mail from a guy called Gabriel Foux, and I thought he was a crazy fan… it sounded like a mix of “Gabriel” and “Foxtrot”… but then I discovered it was his real name. He has a French name but he is Argentinian, and he sent me some children’s books that he did as Apps, and I thought “Wow, children look at Apps now…” So I thought I’d better get into Facebook and find out what’s going on out there with Genesis fans, and maybe I should get into this new technology.

In the meantime my wife kept buying me iPad for Christmas or my birthday… “What am I going to do with this iPad, I have a laptop.” But she kept going until I surrendered: “Ok, show me what this iPad does” … And then I told Mr. Foux if he could do a demo and I sent them some pictures – and they made a demo, with all the pictures going ’round, and moving if you pinched them and one had a 3D effect and I realized that we could tell Genesis’ story and show it very well in an iPad and connect their music on iTunes and the possibilities became unlimited. It was exciting! I was 68 and getting excited at 68 is a gift!

This was two and a half years ago. I took the demo and went to London. I went to see Tony Banks, showed him the thing in the breakfast room adjacent to the kitchen, and he showed me that he liked it. I felt that he was still very proud of Genesis history. It was a rainy day, but when I finished to show him the app the rain stopped and the sun came out. It was late afternoon and the late sunrays exposed his beautiful gardens that I hadn’t seen since 1979 when he first bought the place. It was a good sign. And I asked him to go out and take some photos. He put his wellies, his garden boots, and I could not believe the sunrays illuminating the majesty of his garden. Tony the Gardner was a happy man! I left him my business card with the Golden Globe logo on it. “Aah… if you know George Clooney, get me do the soundtrack to his movies!” he said laughing as we shared some red wine, before he drove me to the station. I came back one year later to show the progress of the App… they’re so English… The room was all identical, all clean and in order, and my business card was still there! He didn’t throw it away, but didn’t call me either. I told him that we had done a successful Kickstarter campaign and 257 fans from all over the world were financing the app with 30,000 US$ so we were moving forward. I paid Zentric, Gabriel Foux’s Company in Argentina, and other programmers and designers in Barcelona and in San Francisco and they were putting together the final work of the app.  And Tony tells me he’s got an iPad, but hasn’t used it yet. It felt like my wife, and me two years earlier (laughs).

The "So" App was discussed with Peter Gabriel at Gail's Bakery, in Portobello Rd.

The “So” App was discussed with Peter Gabriel at Gail’s Bakery, in Portobello Rd.

In the meantime, Steve Hackett had released “Genesis Revisited II”: I listened to it, and it was incredible… At a point everything had stopped: the “So” box set was released, with a 60-page book in it… they used nearly 50 of my photos from ‘86. At that point they paid me for the pictures, and told the Argentinian: “Would you like to put your foot into Real World? Let’s make this book into an app… I send you the pdf of the book, and you can show Real World how you work.” That’s how the “So” App came about. They took a break and made it, without a dime. And when I found Peter, a year ago, I was in London leaving for the Toronto Film Festival and we had breakfast in Portobello Road, in a place called “Gail’s Bakery”… I showed him the app and told him: “They did it for free, out of love,  … let’s publish this, free.” And it came out free, with a nominal .99c for the unlocking of the book.

Steve Hackett. © 2014 Armando Gallo.

Steve Hackett. © 2014 Armando Gallo.

After that we restarted working on the Genesis App because, listening to Steve Hackett’s “Genesis Revisited” as I was coming back from San Diego… it was part of the serendipity of the situation: imagine, I get in the car, put my headphones on, put on the double CD and listen to the whole album as I drive. I get home, put the car in the garage and my iPhone beeps: Steve Hackett sent me a message. I call him Steve, I’m coming to London next week…” “Let’s get together.” I go to London and Steve loved and understood the app idea immediately and did the first video for the Kickstarter campaign, right away. “Hi, I am Steve Hackett and not a look-alike hired by Armando Gallo…” the video starts with good humor and I was very impressed by the grace and generosity of Steve. His wife of 30 years, Kim Poor had an affair with Steve’s manager and they took him to the cleaner. Somewhere down the line Steve was left penniless, forced to leave his own house and his own studio… How in hell could he record this double album of “Genesis Revisited II” and shine this beautiful white light on the music of those early ‘70s albums that we love so much? We pushed each other’s on this App: Steve is the godfather of the Genesis App.

We finished the App and last February I showed it to Tony Banks in his London mews place, which is close to the old office of Chamberlain Parking Systems. Tony, you wouldn’t believe me – I had a job there, ’round the corner, in 1966…” (Laughs) He went through it, the app for two hours, page by page, and he liked it very much. Of course, there was no Genesis’ music, but the music that you and others recorded specially for the app. He listened to your piece, by the way, because it is in his chapter! The next day I called Tony Smith because I could see him in the afternoon, and he gave me an appointment immediately… which was strange because I had been chasing him for six months. I go and see him and he says “I don’t need to see the app, but there should be some Genesis’ music here, and we need to get the permission from the publishers because we sold the rights…Send me a list of songs and how many seconds you want to use them for and I will se if I can help you to get you a good deal.”

Obviously Tony Banks must have reported well on what he saw. This was happening in February. At the end of April we got an email from Tony Smith’s assistant that all the publishers were ok with the usage of 30 second of the 20 titles that I submitted, but we had to wait for the contracts and that took until the end of August. In the meantime they were preparing the BBC documentary, and I thought they’d release something extraordinary… like a live recording of “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” or a live track taken from each tour. It’s just a collection instead. “R-Kive”, the triple CD being released these days, is not that interesting. They could have done something incredible… why putting them together, the five of them, take some pictures so everyone thinks a reunion is on the horizon, to make a collection of songs which are already available? It’s a “Greatest Hits”, there’s nothing new. The premiere of the BBC documentary will be on October 2nd. I was ready to give them all the pictures they wanted to make a connection between the documentary and the App… It would make sense, because through the App you can say that Genesis are not dead, they didn’t finish their career at the Hollywood Bowl in October 2007: they’re still pioneers with this new technology. Eagle Rock thought it was a great idea, but someone didn’t like the app to go with the documentary… oops!

But let’s go back to when I was waiting for six months for the rights to arrive. I presented the App on board of  “Cruise To The Edge” in April saying that would be out by May. At least that’s what I hoped. In the end I got in touch directly with Carlin Music and I got their OK. Universal gave me their OK as well: for £1. “Selling England By The Pound”!

So I went to London on my way to the Venice Film Festival that started in August 27 and met up with the English photographer Robert Ellis. Robert Ellis has got every picture from “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”: he had 240 photographs in the BBC documentary. They removed them, because Tony Smith wanted to have them for free in perpetuity. At least this is what Robert told me – “what? I never will,” I think of it as a huge misunderstanding, but there you go. In the meantime, he has planned a book about “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”. He also has had made a video of “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”: he worked on it for six months in 2008, with Serge Morissette the producer of Musical Box, editing together all the existing videos, the Super 8 footage and his photographs. But Tony Smith didn’t want it… So I started worrying that my App would never see the light. I left London to go to Venice one morning, and that same evening I sent Tony an email: “Thank you very much, this wouldn’t have been possible without you – we now have the licenses from Carlin and Universal, we’ll insert the music of the 2o songs and we’ll release the App sometime in September. If there’ s anything we can do for you or the band, please let me know.” He replied the following morning with two magical words: “No problems.” I arrived in Venice Film Festival at the Lido and the people I met would smile at me, because I was so incredibly happy! It was like removing a weight off my shoulder… a very hard work, a very difficult birth and the baby was smiling!

So now it’s out, and I can’t still believe it’s out. When it appeared on my iPad I literally cried. I was two hours on Skype with Gabriel Foux who assisted me in downloading it, launching it and browsing through it. You know, I look at it, I see how it’s been finalized… and when I get to the last page and see myself in the video saying “We’re on the last page…” I listen to myself in that video that I had done in London, on my iPhone, only 3 weeks before, but had forgotten… and I started to cry like a child. That was the best compliment I could give to Gabriel Foux for the great work they all did. I think we touched the tip of the iceberg here: promotion was never done, except for my Facebook page and Steve Hackett’s page, and we reached about 1.500 downloads last night – the first 3 days.

[You may proceed to pt. 4 here.]

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