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by Uncle Don, with special thanks to Max Ringmod for helping with the translation!

Panda in 2001

Back in the '70s, Vangelis was quite involved in the Italian music scene, unbeknownst to most people, and due in large part to the influence of his brother Nico, who was a much in-demand record producer working for Phonogram and who called upon his brother's assistance from time-to-time. One of these projects involved the Italian band Panda, led by Osvaldo Pizzoli, who is also the lead singer of the band. Panda released a single in 1977, "Notturno/Dimenticare" with Vangelis arranging, performing and writing on the tracks. Indeed, the title track, "Notturno", is an arrangement of Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Prince and the Sugar-Plum Fairy" from The Nutcracker. I Panda is currently performing in venues all throughout their home country of Italy, and tracked Osvaldo down between gigs and conducted a brief online interview, looking back at that time in 1977 when Panda traveled to London to meet and work with the legendary Vangelis.

Prior to working with Vangelis, Panda released a single, "Voglia Di Morire/Tardi" that was produced by Nico Papathanassiou and a large hit for the band in Italy during 1976.

vangeliscollector: How did you first come into contact with Nico Papathanassiou?

Osvaldo Pizzoli: The first contact with Nico took place when we were still under contract with RCA, and with the help of one of our authors, Luigi Lopez, who was a friend of Nico. Then Nico helped create this new collaboration.

vc: Was there ever a plan to do an entire album with Nico, or was the plan only to do a single with him? There are two songs known: "Notturno" and "Dimenticare". Were there other songs recorded?

OP: In the beginning there was a project for a full album with Nico, which unfortunately wasn't realized. We recorded two singles with Nico, the first was  VOGLIA DI MORIRE which was a big seller in Italy, then came the second one, NOTTURNO and DIMENTICARE.

vc: Whose idea was it to involve Vangelis, and why?

OP: Logically that idea came out from Nico after the success of VOGLIA DI MORIRE, now you can guess why, since Nico is the brother of Vangelis and Panda's producer. Anyways, we felt honored to collaborate with a great musician like Vangelis.

vc: Were you aware of Vangelis' previous work with other Italian artists, like Claudio Baglioni, Riccardo Cocciante and Patty Pravo? Did this influence your decision to work with Vangelis?

OP: Yes, we were aware of Vangelis' collaborations with other well-known Italian artists, but surely that didn't influence our decision, 'cause Vangelis was simply the best.

vc: Why was it decided to record the tracks at Vangelis' studio, Nemo, instead of some studio in Italy?

OP: We decided to record at Nemo simply because we knew it was Vangelis' studio and because we all wanted to go for a breath of London's air. Anyway, it was a beautiful experience.

vc: Was that the first trip to England for the band members of Panda? Did the band bring their own instruments, or simply use what was in Vangelis' studio? Did everybody enjoy the trip to London? Did you stay at Nemo Studios the whole time? How long were you in London?

OP: Yes, it was the very first journey in UK for Panda. When we arrived, we got off the plane and we took two taxis. When we reached our destination, Gianni Durini, our drummer, soon realized that he left his wallet in his taxi! We tried in vain to chase the taxi down but it was useless, he lost all his money! But it doesn't end here. We went then for the first time to Vangelis' home to get to know him. We entered in, and there our drummer again put his foot on a plexiglass lid which covered the hi-fi system. In that moment, we heard "sscrack"!....and all eyes turned to the unlucky drummer!! I remember I was so embarassed that I hid myself in a "giant egg", made of transparent plexiglass as well, which Vangelis placed in the middle of the house and which was used to listen to music in perfect isolation from the rest of the world. We took only our personal instruments with us, because we could find all the  needed equipment at Nemo, drum set included. Apart from that, we found this stay in London as unique, unforgettable and I would add unrepeatable. The stay took 15 to 20 days, and we always worked at Nemo during this time.

vc: How difficult was it to write "Dimenticare" with Vangelis?

OP: Well you'd better ask this to Vangelis! Because he wrote that song for Panda. (Note: I asked that question because on the single, there is a co-writer listed as C. Vistarini, who I assumed was related to Panda somehow. I was wrong!)

vc: What do you remember about Nemo Studios?

OP: I remember it was designed in a very different way compared to Italian recording studios of those times, therefore, very interesting for us. For example, in Italy you had to record the drums in a soundproof room. Vangelis instead placed the drum set right in the middle of the studio without any soundproofing. One anecdote: sometimes in Italy, when you recorded the voice, you could fix some points you didn't like by making another take of that point, trying to achieve perfection. When recording at Nemo, Vangelis put me before the microphone and made me sing the same song for him five times, telling me that I needed to warm up my voice. But when I told him I was ready to make the recorded take, he answered that I 'd been very good and told me I was finished...he recorded the definitive track without my knowledge!

vc: Do you recall working with Vangelis' sound engineer, Keith Spencer Allen? What was that like?

OP: I have a vague recollection of Keith. I only remember he was a very available person. He was also funny and very skilled on the technical side.

vc: Vangelis is credited as the arranger of both songs, but it sounds like he also plays a little bit on the tracks, with the sounds of his famous keyboard, the Yamaha CS-80, very noticible. Is that correct? If not, who played the CS-80?

OP: Your feeling is correct, I remember also that Notturno was played by four hands. The other player was our keyboardist, Franco Serafini. I have another nice anecdote to tell you: Vangelis' favorite keyboard, the CS80, entered the studio for the first time right when we were there making our recordings. I have to say I remember this detail very well, because I nearly broke my back helping to carry it into the studio, climbing on the narrow and steep staircase which led to the upper floor where, I guess, that CS80 stayed for several years!

vc: Did Vangelis and Nico work together well?

OP: I don't know, but I have to say there was a lot of professionalism among them.

vc: Were you happy with the completed project?

OP: Yes, we liked the arrangement very much, but when we came back to Italy we noticed there were some audio problems that we fixed by coming back again to London, where we did the mastering again.

vc: Was "Notturno" successful in Italy?

OP: Yes, Notturno reached the first places in the Italian charts.

vc: The single was released in a picture sleeve, that has a picture of the band. Where was that picture taken? Who took it? And could you identify each member for us?

OP: The picture was taken in a street of London by Vangelis' girlfriend, I'm afraid I don't remember her name (NOTE: must be Veronique Skawinska!). The former members of the band were (from left to right): GIANNI DURINI, drums; FRANCO SERAFINI, keyboards; OSVALDO PIZZOLI,voice; ALFREDO DE GENNARO, bass; MARIO DALLA STELLA, guitar.

vc: Do you know if there are plans to release the original tracks on CD?

OP: Yes, we are into a new project. We will play again Dimenticare, with new arrangements.

vc: Are all the members of Panda from 1977 still in the band today? If not, who is missing and who is new?

OP: Well ,of all the original members of Panda, I am the only one left. The new members are LIBORIO SCIASCIA, drums; ALEX MESSINA, keyboards; JOSEF MESSINA, guitar;  ANTONELLO CARBONE, bass.

vc: What are the band's current projects?

OP: The band's current activity is to play in clubs and pubs, playing our songs and covers. I want to say that in our shows, there is the strong will to make people have fun and to have fun ourselves with music. On our site you will find all our monthly dates of live shows. Our next project is surely to release a new album. You have to know that an album by Panda called "L'anima e l'amore" was released on January 2000. We played again five of our best tracks of the '70s, including NOTTURNO, compiled with five brand new songs.

vc: Where can people buy your current releases?

OP: Unfortunately you can't find them in America! Anyway, you might look for them at DUCK RECORDS s.r.l., VIA GIOBERTI,3-20090, TREZZANO SUL NAVIGLIO MI, Italy.; tel. 02/4844991; fax  02/48403323;

Many thanks to Osvaldo for this wonderful look back, and best wishes to the band in all their future projects!

If you want to visit their web page, please go to

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