Mario Vella: ‘Shyness is a most horrible affliction that should be dealt with immediately’

Irreverent, funny and definitely not shy, Brikkuni's frontman Mario Vella takes on the MaltaToday Q&A

Mario Vella. Photo (C) Nicole Parnis
Mario Vella. Photo (C) Nicole Parnis

Mario Vella is often credited with the revival of Maltese-sung pop music with his band Brikkuni. Having been around since their seminal 2008 debut Kuntrabanda, an album which took the local music scene by surprise and transformed the band into a cult phenomenon, Brikkuni have since released a further two albums, Trabokk (2012) and their latest Rub Al Khali (2017) which marks a distinct departure from the band’s politically-charged songs of irreverence.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

Turn off my alarm clock.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Kul u tpaxxa għax minn hawn għal ġol-kaxxa” (Eat and feast, because the grave comes next).

What do you never leave the house without?

My clothes.

Pick three words that describe yourself

Brash, entertaining, romantic.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Holding an office job for 20 years without slashing my wrists.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Popping blackheads.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Failure is good. Failure is great.

What’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

My apartment.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

That shyness is a most horrible affliction that should be dealt with immediately.

Who’s your inspiration?

The women who shaped up both my private life and my fantasies. They bring out the best and worst in me. My gratitude is infinite.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Trying to avoid being mediocre in artistic terms. Quite a difficult task for somebody who’s the very epitome of mediocre in anything he does.

If you weren’t in Brikkuni, what would you be doing?

Probably the same thing minus the band.

Do you believe in God?

No. But I believe in creating your own.

If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would it be?

Carmen Tedesco and I would do my darndest to serve her the greasiest, deadliest culinary concoctions.

What’s your worst habit?

Too impulsive.

What are you like when you’re drunk?

Fun(nier).

Who would you have play you in a film?

Oh for fuck’s sake!

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

It’s a close call between greed and lying. Lying out of an obligation toward some warped notion of politeness probably takes the biscuit.

What music would you have played at your funeral?

‘Ceiling Gazing’ by Mark Kozelek/Jimmy Lavalle. Not a dry eye in the house.

What is your most treasured material possession?

My ex-girlfriend’s letters and notes.

What is your earliest memory?

I have vague memories of myself peaking over a cot scanning my parents’ kitchen/living room.

When did you last cry?

When Gustav, my cat and beloved companion of 10 years was diagnosed with a (still) life-threatening illness.

Who would you most like to meet?

I was once saved from drowning by a total stranger whom I hardly had the chance to thank. Would love to meet and thank him in a proper manner.

What’s your favourite food?

Ramen.

Who’s your favourite person on social media right now?

It’s not a person as such. There’s an Italian satirical page that goes by the name of ‘Fotografie Segnanti’. Never fails to brighten my day.

If you could travel in time, where would you go?

Somewhere in the future – though I’m pretty sure I won’t like it.

What book are you reading right now?

I can no longer muster the strength to finish a book. Last one I tried was Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Halt the ageing process beyond 40. Dying is alright. Ageing is not.

What’s one thing you want to do before you die?

Raise a kid with a woman I’m truly in love with. But I’m sort of giving up on the idea. Not getting any younger... or healthier for the matter.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

‘Still Bill’ by Bill Withers

In the shower or when you’re working out, what do you sing/listen to?

Mario Vella: A slight penchant for verbal hooliganism
Mario Vella: A slight penchant for verbal hooliganism

Working out? Me? Nah. I don’t shower. I prefer long(ish) baths and it’s usually 80s icons Duran Duran.

Tell us...

What and who has influenced Brikkuni’s sound and music the most, and what’s your personal favourite Brikkuni track?

Most of the music I’ve listened from 18 onwards somewhat shaped it. But I’d have to say its mainly influenced by
Italian singer-songwriters. The likes of De Andre, Battiato and CCCP/CSI. My favourite Brikkuni track is ‘Tiddi x-xemx fuq din l-għodwa moħlija’.

You’re somewhat well-known for your controversial opinions voiced both on-stage and online. What fuels such comments?

The impossibly sanitized pantomime that is local media and entertainment. That’s what fuels it. That and a slight penchant for verbal hooliganism.

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