A cheap, weird-prog, caustic sound with the Tonto’s release Functional Stupidity
di Giovanni Panetta
Interview with Tonto about his last release Functional Stupidity (Grandine Records, 2022), Discomfort Dispatch, next tour in South Europe, and his duo Criminal Criticologist.
Functional Stupidity cover

Functional Stupidity (2022).

On April 10, 2022, Tonto aka Fra Zedde, released his third record Functional Stupidity for the Bolognese label Grandine Records . Many are the guest stars, like Napo xyz (Uochi, Toki), Lili RefrainPaola Paganhate (The Procrastinators), So BeastAlessandro MarinelliDiego Castioni, and Claudio Adamo who collaborates on mastering and Sdolz at the artwork. Nextly the related EP Cerbiatto, Tonto produces a caustic record, urban and tentacular at the same time like a modern chtulu, who overturns the concept of musical genius with his several collaborations, in the name of the creative and unified idea of Italian, but European too, DIY scene. The Tonto music is organic and original, there are math, prog elements, dirty electronic or punk intuitions, obscure sarcasm, noise anti-grace, and sometimes an unexpected ethereal and spectral flowing in the middle.

We analyzed in dept the Fra Zedde career and production in our previous monographic interview with him in 02/16/2022. He expressed the following words about the then-forthcoming record Functional Stupidity:

It’s about being proudly stupid, avoiding verbal meanings and articulated thoughts, leaving space to what happens naturally, and just witnessing something powerful coming from my brain, my hands, my throat. That’s pretty much what Tonto is all about. I believe that performing music can be (and should more often be) getting rid of social and cultural constrains. We should be able to just pull energy out there, no matter the tradition, the market, the lyricism, or the technique. By the way, functional stupidity is a particular concept that I found really interesting. Actually, when I read about that, I just thought that I had finally found the real name of something that I already knew quite well. In my everyday life I find it often useful to act dumb, and I guess everyone does it without even realising it, most of the times.

Check here the complete interview.

Now we interviewed Tonto/Francesco about Functional Stupidity and other topics, like news about the festival Discomfort Dispatch, which is organized by him, new European tour with Dreymandi HundurLanzallamas (in France, Spain and one date in Northern Italy) and Flaaryr (in Central and Southern Italy), from 16/10/2022 to 30/10/2022 (here the dates), and his most recent duo, Criminal Criticologist. Following the interview.

How was the idea of Functional Stupidity born and did it develop? How this work was splitted on the creative plan between the author, you Francesco, and Diego Castioni, who occupied also of production, recording and mixing of the record (including especially the part of rearrangment)? What was deterministic on this change of policy in fact of sound with Cerbiatto and this work, from solo works to collaboritive ones?

“Functional Stupidity is the first Tonto’s studio record that is not improvised… or less improvised than the past ones. I entered the studio with some raw ideas and recorded all the drum parts in a day, afterward Diego and me overdubbed a bunch of other instruments and I made my vocals in Utrecht. Cerbiatto (the song) was made at the end of the same session but it is totally improvised, for this reason, it made sense for us to release it separately in an EP. Diego Castioni is the owner and engineer of Cabot Cove studio, he is part of Grandine Records and a dope bass player, he was around through the whole realization, so it was obvious for me to invite him to take care of the bass overdubs. All in all, he made a great job.”

Functional Stupidity begins with an outlier respect with all the rest, that is the first track Batman Kebab, with Lili Refrain; its Middle-Eastern melodicity meets Western and more regular elements in vocal and instrumental lines, we could say at the same time in an up-beat and beat-up sense. Indeed there is an encountering of traditional and exotic elements, in a noise-punk way, refering to to the general chaoticity and exemporaneity of your music. So Fra, why the choice for a contribution so much different than the rest of your work?

“When I started playing around that groove I was thinking about trash Indian music like Bollywood, sometimes you hear some cool grooves that I wanted to deploy somehow. I knew I needed an outstanding vocalist for that track, so I made a little draft of the vocal lines myself and texted Lili. I told her something like “you gotta think about the kind of stuff you hear in a Kebab shop”. That’s why Lili came up with that name. (Note: The association between Bollywood and Kebab is pretty much casual, the owners of my fav kebab shop in my hometown are from Bangladesh and they are into Bollywood, not sure if that is really common but Lili got the vibe, so its fine).”


Tonto live.

Gambling with Diego Castioni has a progressive trend, with more organic, punkish and elegant elements. The bass, structured in synchopathed way, gives a fundamental backbone, and the drums offers powerful and complex patterns. The third and end part is more lyrical in guitar lines and rarefied drums patterns, that recalls a certain progressive sound, and evoking a certain grandeur which is characteristic in the cited genre immersed in a punker context. How was this piece and its organicity in all the aspects born?

“Can’t remember much of how it was born, I know I had the lyrics first, then I casted the groove and the structure on it. We felt there was a lot missing, so Diego and me grabbed a guitar and a bass and played around for a while; at a point we came up with those tapping riffs and we gave it a go. We were very excited about the song ending. I’m not sure we paid any thought to progressive rock in that moment, we were just about cheap FEELINGS. The lyrics are about a confused dadaist sense of guilt, (I believe) they give a sense of dumb depressed anger. Emotional bass tapping, what else could have been better? :)”

With Detest, in collaboration with So Beast from Bologna, we move in more magmatic and constant territories, between the kraut patterns of drums and the almost-hip hop fluidity of the altered voice, where appears an oblique urbanity with dilated and delayed parts. How did this contrasting elements happen in this piece?

“For Detest I totally trusted Kata and Sly. I gave ‘em something very basic and raw, just the groove and a structure, I really wanted them to be creatively present in the record, I totally expected Kata to get on with that shaky sketchy rap and I loved it. To me, they are one of the coolest projects around in Europe, but I imagine that’s an unfair judgment, considering how much I love them on the personal level.”

In Antipa Siempre with Napo xyz from Uochi Toki there is an exploration to the real concept of empathy. A probable interpretation of lyrics by Napo is effectively the dichotomy between day-to-day goodness and evilness, where it is shown a fake and glitter face of empathy with the associated behaviour. Feeling the opposite emotion concerns a large pattern of thinkings and attitudes with the relative complexity. So empathy could mean accepting the variation of different quatifications, or several form of communication or behaviour and satisfing some fragilities or necessity, in the sign of a multidimensional nature. Fra, how was your collaboration born with Napo?

“I met Uochi Toki when I opened for their show in Caserta in 2018. We became friends and kept in touch, I’m happy I decided to collaborate separately with Rico (for Cerbiatto remix) and Napo for Antipa Siempre. Once again, he had complete freedom about the lyrics and title. I had a hard time picking the right track to submit to him, thought that such a slow martial pace could give him space for his vocal contortionism. I’m also very satisfied about the guitar overdub by Andrea Marinelli (which is a crazy genius of experimental music based in Milan). Antipa Siempre is definitely detatched from the usual Tonto style, but I like it so much.”

In I Shit My Pants Off When She’s So Close By the disharmonic structure increases, adding a more glitched and distorted sound with samples of a mariachi band, showing the even more weird side of your poetics, formed in this case with several supports by external contributions, which can be played by real artists or only inanimated samples. How was these elements born in this track?

“Actually is not mariachi, it’s a Balkan marching band, can’t even remember what’s the name of the song. Definitely a very dishonest simplistic appropriation of an amazing folk tradition. I casually tried to stick that sample in and it worked great. I love how the trumpet melody fits the vibe of the song, it is melancholic but somehow ironical, it gives a richer meaning to the whole song.”

Tonto live


Dissolve, with Paola Paganhate from The Procrastinators, oscillates between ethereal sonororities and complex rhythmic patterns with a noise-musical attitude. Indeed the distended melodic sound of Paola band encounters the devilish elasticity of your poetics. Fra, what is the idea behind the combination of these two aspects?

“I agree, its a very nice match. Actually I just decided to revisit an old track from Excerpts #2 called “oʊ! akænt dɪˈzɑlv”, I changed the groove and asked Paola to sing the same theme the way she liked. I had a very good time overdubbing metal guitar and bass on that one. Maybe you never heard about Paola, she’s a very nice illustrator and I believe she’s a relevant pillar of the punk scene in Bologna, definitely under-hyped. (check her band The Procrastinators).”

The last track is Cadono Teste, a Un Quarto Morto cover (a hardcore group from Fano (Le Marche), who disbanded in 2011). The piece has a wavering trend which is in the sign of a plastic and dilatated overdubbing game which several vocal parts and a recurring complex drumming. Respect with the original track by Un Quarto Mondo your reinterpretation shows an elastic creativity, manipulating everything in a minimal punk-ish way. How was born this idea of elasticity, associated with a re-working the mentioned the Un Quarto Mondo piece?

“Making a little tribute to Un Quarto Morto has been a plan for a long time. Not many people know them but their shows around my hometown have been quite a big thing for me at that time (I think I was 15 years old the last time I saw them playing). I would have never got into HC punk without them, and I would have never put up a project like Tonto without being imbued in that kind of stuff first. Of course, I had to tribute them my own way, with a bit of irony and playfulness. The lyrics go with something like “around me are falling the heads of those who wanted to oppress, your blade is my joy”. Sent the final track to the guys in the band, they said it feels like Mike Patton kinda stuff. I take it as a big compliment.”

Discomfort Dispatch happened this year four times until the 38th edition, in Utrecht in June. The impro music festival include performance of worldwide artist, and don’t lose its inclusive potential, associated with its characteristic obscure light with lo-fi noise sonorities and the most recondite avant jazz sound. What will be the next news in this topic, and will there be travels in other geographic underground context?

“Today there’s a little team of friends in the Netherlands who are helping me with making the series, according to the plan, we will realize several editions all over the country next winter. We are getting a good response from the Dutch audience and institutional financial support, which makes everything easier. With this said, I’d like to make clear that the name and the format are free to use, most probably there will be some independent editions in Italy as well. If any reader is happy to help or organize, hit us up!”

Next October you will be in an European tour, where Dreyandi Hundur will take its place with you in Spain, France and Northern Italy. They are a math duo from Reykyavik formed by Diego Manatrizio (guitar) and Ægir Sindri Bjarnason (drums), (with Diego you already collaborated in the free impro collective release Agalma XII). Dreyandi Hundur districates in an articulated and complex musical language, which appears diversified and fervid in every point; the rhythm and guitar lines communicate in an abstract language, without losing an dreamlike melodicity, maybe a little nearer to the existing sonic instances, as we can listen in their record “Af hverju grætur hundurinn minn meðan hann sefur?” (2021, Post-dreifing, Anomalía ediciones, Gandula, Why not? Plötur). How did the collaboration and the idea of tour happen?

“Diego and me became buddies on my first week in Iceland in 2019, since then, we hanged out and collaborated in several ways. I saw DH live in Reykjavik once and when they told me they wanted to tour Europe, I decided to help out with booking the Italian leg. The tour plan will be communicated soon though our socials, it will be dope!”

One of your extemporaneous project Criminal Criticologist, a guitar & drums  band published on YouTube one track, Call Me Maybe; a very minimal track in composition but with a mefistophelic energy with which the musical line of time appears into broken parts, with a chaotic mathematical spirit. Can you talk about how this duo with Lea Masse was born what are the intentions with this project about future concerts or productions?

“Criminal Criticologist is my new band. It started when my friend Léa asked me to give her drum lessons, she became more than decent in a very short time, never seen anyone learning so fast. We bought a Jackson guitar for kids, octaver and distortion pedals (so I could finally realize my dream of playing guitar in a punk band). We have our first album ready and we’ll start playing around soon. Keep an eye on our pages. ;)”

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