Mario Layne Fabrizio photo courtesy of the artist
BY AKSHAJ TUREBYLU
Open Mario Layne Fabrizio’s website and you’ll be greeted with bursts of color collapsing and traveling across the page. Just below, you’ve got Mario himself—duplicated, decked in neon tones and shapes alongside gold accessories—giving us a big yell and two thumbs up.
The musician-visual artist (hopefully future filmmaker) Fabrizio came to Seattle only a year and a half ago—the result of a cross-country road trip. The journey from his home on the East Coast—the child of a multiethnic musical family based in South Orange, New Jersey—was a long haul. But Fabrizio is no stranger to adventure. Graduating from the New England Conservatory with a BA in jazz studies in 2018, Fabrizio has gone on to apply his mentorship from jazz greats such as Vijay Iyer, Jabali Billy Hart, Cecil McBee, Jason Moran, and Joe Morris in international tours in Europe, Asia, and South America.
Despite his short time in the Pacific Northwest, Fabrizio is preparing to make waves. Indeed, his list of upcoming musical and visual releases is daunting. As a fellow at the Jack Straw Cultural Center, he will soon be recording the debut album for THE STAR GONDOLA—a trio Fabrizio formed with longtime friends, Carlos Snaider (guitar) and Julian Weisman (bass) nearly a year ago. Fabrizio was commissioned by MadArt to produce a triptych mural, installed in December 2023, titled “the way finds the wish.” Fabrizio’s fusion of visual art and music will reach a new intensity with his three art walks for “The Last Magician,” an interactive project hosted by AXIS Gallery. Three events over three months (First Thursday Art Walks, January–March) will see Fabrizio perform music alongside animation, paintings, and immersive VR works. This includes performances by THE STAR GONDOLA and THE KOSTOCHKI—a new chamber group composed of his closest collaborators, Emma Burge (violin, voice) and Phillip Golub (piano). Coding and animation for the VR exhibits has been completed by Carl Moore—most astonishingly an interactive game. “You create the music,” Fabrizio tells me, in a sandbox-style virtual world.
Fabrizio’s signature style in music and artwork are no less dizzying. Surrealism abounds. It’s no surprise that Fabrizio describes visiting North Bend, Washington—the site of the wonderful, weird fictional town of Twin Peaks—as a major draw to Seattle. He recounts: “David Lynch was a big star in the sky. [I was] kind of following the idea of him.”
“Star” and “Dream” are critical concepts for Fabrizio’s artistic orientation. Over the phone, he discusses two ways of defining dreams: One is “synonymous to [a] wish. And then there’s the idea of dreams at night… That’s a major part of my work and how I perceive the world.” A fusion of the two concepts is seen in one trio: “It’s the idea of ‘THE STAR GONDOLA’: We take people to the stars.” Fabrizio’s charm is immediately evident, as others have noted. His vision and voice are captivating, clear, and infused with a love for magical thinking.
Fabrizio’s hypnagogic approach is, no doubt, a family affair. Just as his parents “always [had] music in the house,” discussions of dreams were not taken lightly. “Especially on my mom’s side, [if] my grandmother would tell you not to go out one day: People would not go out,” Fabrizio explains of his family’s deference to omens. Fabrizio’s obsession has manifested in a Melvillean practice: “When I get a book, there’s always… a couple paragraphs that say something out of the blue about dreams… I make sure to keep a record of those things. It’s all over the map, from psychologists and philosophers to mystics.” One wonders what hidden gems the drummer’s notebook holds.
The adherence to a dreamwork methodology is not merely aesthetic to Fabrizio—it is existential and political. As “dreams are where the intuition is at its highest in its weird surrealist way,” they function as both site and engine for destabilization and dissent. When Fabrizio tells me: “I’ve always been rebellious,” I believe him; I feel I can hear his smirk behind the phone. While Fabrizio has always aimed to be honest to himself, he notes that we can never know ourselves fully and consciously. Unfortunately, we live in a moment when “society needs to define you more and more… a lot of young people grew up with the idea of advertising, [Big] Data, and standardized tests.” These external, quantitative measures alienate us from the untotalizable, unpredictable reality of our psychic and spiritual existences by asking us to fit into delineated categories. This includes, for Fabrizio, the increasing drive to make art directly tied to our “identity.” But, he continues, artists “as a byproduct [devalue] ourselves and [marginalize] ourselves” if one must be defined by social origin. Coming from a mixed background, identity has always been key to Fabrizio. He notes, however: “I want to acknowledge those [origins] and honor those cultures but not make [identity] the purpose.” Here, dreams are consequential. “The dream has all the contents of our ego [but] also tells us what is true to ourselves, to show us that we have boundaries,” Fabrizio explains. Dreams blur borders; they place us outside our socially-constructed image.
With the overwhelming liberatory force of dreams at play, however, where does Fabrizio ground himself? Two answers: Drums and friendship. Growing up in New Jersey, the young artist was surrounded by legendary percussionists; Fabrizio attended performances religiously. Percussion “taught me so many lessons about collaboration and empathy and listening… You have to lead and follow at the same time.” Percussion became the root of Fabrizio’s artistic endeavors, the home that he would return to; it would introduce him to many people and allow him to travel the world. “Drums really carried me through the whole journey,” he says. At times, it might frustrate him: Often “you’re kind of serving other people’s music. Which is great! But sometimes I’d rather play my music… I felt I was being used rather than appreciated.” Fabrizio’s friends in THE STAR GONDOLA helped pull him through: “They both encouraged me to play,” fighting against the slippage of performance into “routine rather than love.”
Thankfully, Fabrizio has turned a new page: “In Seattle, I’m really blossoming in that way.” With new compositions, visual and musical, on the way, the drummer is poised to make an explosive entry into the scene. The veteran dreamer has one piece of advice for readers: “I hope if anyone reads this interview, they [start] recording their dreams… Completely pay attention to them and take time for that. Because it could change your life.”