by Fabi Feyt
Oh Pablo, I would´ve taken you to my favorite restaurant. Introduced you to all my girlfriends, and invited you to some party at a random dive bar, the ones that have passwords and sell cheap, lukewarm beer.
Pablo is Pablo Díaz-Reixa, whose project with El Guincho merits the recognition as one of the most interesting new musicians to come from the Spanish scene in years. Born in the Canary Islands in 1983, he played around with the idea of being a tennis star and, during his younger days, he nourished himself with the sounds of his generation: the eighties and nineties. He spent three years of his adolescence in Paris, a cultural exchange that opened the doors to a new world of music, taking inspiration from French hip hop groups like Mc Solaar and La Funk Mob, organized on an extensive list that us journalists like to call influences. Upon his return to Spain he moved to Barcelona and began his career, which consists of a lot of investigation and experimentation, long romances with musical contraptions, mixes of Afrolatino sounds, Caribbean rhythms and a million other things. The result is a long list of songs, every one fresher and richer than the last.
He was also the guitarist for Coconot, a Spanish group with a 100% tropical sound. Simultaneously he worked on his second album, Alegranza (2007, his first album Folías was released the year before). That album established him as one of the pioneers of the new Spanish sound, incorporating loops, samples and hidden voices, with everything based around the structures of dance music. Lots of critics compared him with Panda Bear and Animal Collective, I´d also put him in the same realm as Caribou. He returned with his third album three years later. After a lot of research, innumerable exchanges between amazing sound engineers and 18 months worth of production Pop Negro was birthed, a little 34 minute jewel with nine songs recorded in Berlin, Barcelona and Madrid, mixed by Jon Gass (Babyface) and mastered by the right hand man of Daft Punk, Nilesh Patel. Working with a new production schedule, at times cryptic lyrics that contrast with the dance rhythms and truly complex musical arrangements (there are more than 80 tracks per song, and not a single sample), this album gives a lot of nods to some of pops most prolific moments and the visionaries that shaped it over the last thirty years. After an extended tour around the globe, he has recently returned from Chile and will be hosting a concert tonight in Niceto Club.
All of this gave us an overwhelming amount of questions: his work as producer, collaborations with other artists, the crisis in Spain and his new collection of EPs Piratas de Sudamérica (reinterpretations of lost songs from Hispano-Americans from the twentieth century with the participation of Julieta Venegas), Pablo/El Guincho sat down and chatted with us vía mail. What a shame, I even would've taken you rollerblading Pablo...
How do you feel overall about your last few shows in Latin America ?
I feel awesome about the whole thing. Colombia, Brazil, Chile, they are all new countries for us. The guys and I are really happy about how everything has gone. It was a tour that has been a real pleasure for all of us. It has exceeded all of our expectations.
Where do you think that your music is best received or understood ? I read that in Australia and the United States people are really into El Guincho, does it ever surprise you that your sound, with such Latin elements, would have such an impact in Anglo countries ?
It used to surprise me but now I’m just used to it. There aren’t that many differences between the two publics, everyone gets hooked on the rhythm and the language issue goes to the side. There is a little bit more of a connection in Latin America because we share a language, people also recognize where the rhythms come from, they remember them from their childhood or from the radio.
Tell me about the EP collection “Piratas de Sudamérica”.
I have recorded material for 9 more EPs. I wouldn’t want to release them the way we did the first volume. The idea behind the new format is that people who want the collection have to do a little bit of work to find them. They would only be available in a few stores in various countries, not at all following an industrial logic. I would want to release them unannounced with zero press campaign. If I can figure out how to do that, I’ll be working with Piratas for a while.
Do you have any collaborations planned ? How did it go with Bjork ?
I don’t have any planned for now. I’m pretty busy with productions for other musicians and I don’t have time for much else. Working with Bjork was a really positive experience. I learned a lot from her, mostly from her work ethic and her enthusiasm for music and all that surrounds her.
Here in Buenos Aires some musician friends told me that they used Pop Negro as a reference, do you see the album as a sort of pioneer, directing people to a new way of making music in Spanish ?
I don’t think those kinds of albums exists. One constructs their own world of references based on the music that they listen to, but also from a lot of other events that have nothing to do with music. Pop Negro was an album that was defined through months worth of correspondence from several sound engineers. What we spoke about the least was music. Sometimes you might use an album as inspiration for the cover, or take a line that strikes you even if it doesn’t come from your favorite song, etc.
I keep thinking about an idea you threw our during an interview with Mondosonoro right after releasing Pop Negro. You talked about bringing back the prestige of the radio and changing the way it sounds by incorporating new production values and modern sounds like the synth or bass drum. After two years were you able to complete that objective ?
No I wasn´t able to complete it at all. The Spanish radio is completely caught up in their ways , which they think are “functioning”, although they are totally obsolete and based on business clichés. In Spain there are so many people making really interesting music, making productions that could be used to refresh the radio but it´s impossible to even get on.
You were working on the album for Los Punsetes, right ? How was that collaboration ?
I’m still working on it. I’ve known Los Punsetes for a long time now and we’ve always talked about working together. The disc is turning out great, it’s going to surprise everyone.
El Guincho the musician and Pablo the producer, is that something that exists simultaneously ? Do you still plan to release another album or two as El Guincho before dedicating yourself completely to producing ?
I imagine the future dedicated more to production. That’s what I’m thinking now, but that could have to do with reacting to too much time on tour. We’ll know for sure in a few years.
How has the European crisis affected things, especially in Spain and the musical scene that you belong to ?
It’s misleading to say that I belong to a musical scene that’s in crisis. I’m extremely lucky to be able to live off of my music, travel the world, not have economic problems, however, all around me I have friends that can’t play as much because the places they always played have closed (the places I always played at too when I began). A lot don’t have other work which makes it difficult to pay for a good place to practice. The festival scene is growing but the trade is to book big international acts for lots of money and mistreat the local bands by giving them terrible stages and paying them crap. Also there is less freedom to play in different places, so it takes bands longer to perfect their sound and get used to playing live.
Have you been listening to any music from Argentina ? Are there any sounds that grab your attention ?
I’ve been following Zizek for a few years now, I like them a lot, and I had the opportunity to play with them at one of their parties and see how they play.