by Fabi Feyt
Photos by Paz Olivares-Droguett
From where might Siro Bercetche be coming? I walked a block from my house to my favorite San Telmo bodegón and began to think to myself that maybe I was wrong to invite him to this extreme of the city. Today all of the streets on this side of Capital are closed and the big annual drag race on the 9 de Julio, the TC2000, is starting to make the streets vibrate. I explain to the owner of El Refuerzo that Bercetche is a vegetarian, and I would appreciate it if he didn´t bring out his famous platter of salame, coldcuts and escabeches that look like they were prepared in an alien world. I sit down to write all this and to outline the questions that I don’t end up asking when Siro arrives in sunglasses, slightly burnt out after playing the night before with Félix y Los Clavos at El Especial.
Segundo “Siro” Bercetche (you can check out the story behind the name on the blog Los Caractares) has been a face in the porteño music scene for the last ten years. In 2002 he was part of the band Jack Valenti and that same year he released his first solo album, “Jet-Lag”. With “Música simple para gente complicada” (Simple Music for Complicated People) in 2004 and Doido (2006), both released under Estamos Felices, he raised his profile as a supreme indie singer. Under the name Siro II Bercetche y su Fundación, last year he threw all of that under the bus and released “El Destructor” (Crang Records), produced by Iván Díaz Mathé from Nairobi, recorded in ION studies and in Barcelona, where he recently returned from playing.
Similar to what happened when I listened to Las Kellies last album, there is a mix of very distinct styles that turn into an explosive collection of songs, united by a single common thread. As is the case of El Destructor, the string that ties it all together is it’s tone rather than it’s genre: irony and delirium, cleverly disguised critiques, dirty humor and love are all constructed amongst 16 gems that play with dub, rap and strong rock n roll rhythms.
In addition to his solo work, he also plays in Félix y Los Clavos, and together with Tomi Lebrero he forms the half of the duo Los Mongos. I’ve wanted to interview him for a while now to hear about his shows in Spain alongside Jonathan Richman, his affection for lost dog posters, his desires to be a troubadour, a video artist, a rapper, blues boy, rocker, and communications student, jesus there’s a lot to ask.
You labeled your new album with a new genre: hit hot. What’s it about?
Everything always get pigeon holed in a genre and inventing new ones is something that I have a lot of fun doing. With my first two albums I was an “introverted folk singer” (laughs). As a listener I was always really into hip hop, and out of nowhere I made some songs using that style, I’m making a documentary about rap and ended up getting into the local scene. “Hit hot” was just something that the drummer in my band said that stuck. We’ve put together a few other genres, the last disc we called “agro-pop”. I liked the idea of the “hit”, and we thought about the album with that in mind, songs that aren’t necessarily commercial but ones that people would like.
Has the rap documentary influenced your work at all?
I don’t think so, the rap song (PDM) was something I had written before I even began to work on the documentary. I can honestly say, that after listening to nearly everything from the local rap scene, rapping in castellano is fucking difficult. I’m working on the project with DJ Baladi, from Chile, Violeta Kovenski who is a local hip hop artist, and Diane Ghogomu, who worked on the hip hop archives at Harvard. The idea is to show all the different types of rap that exist.
El Destructor is a lot different from your earlier albums, how do you look at these albums now and in comparison to what you are producing now?
Honestly I am playing a lot better, I’m surprised by how I used to play, I don’t know how I did that. I recorded the last two albums because I had to make them, but I can’t listen to them and I don’t like to share them. I can enjoy this album. When I listen to the first album it really makes me laugh because now I can see what my frame of mind was back then: a little depressed and emo, post-Radiohead, awful. Now I feel like “it’s all good”, a lot less wound up.
But all of your stuff is available…
Yeah, I love them but I’m not proud of them. I share them but I don’t think that people will like them, or maybe they will, there are all kinds of people. I like the first album because it’s really fresh, made by me in my parents garage. They are really depressing songs, there is one that I really like that I did with a guitar and really crappy piano and the song says “outside it’s daytime and I’m in the shadows” or something like that. I don’t really have those songs down very well, I don’t know how to play them. Lately I have started videotaping myself play so that I can go back and look at my fingers and not lose the song.
What was it like recording?
El Destructor was make in Estudios ION, I started recording a few songs and they stayed that way: just songs. We did it in four days. I felt like the studio had some influence, there were all of these photos of guys like Fito Paez and who knows who else and at some point I said to myself “I have to make a album seriously”, something either rock or pop, basic, but my own, which is really hard for me. We practiced and I recorded live and afterwards I went back and sung over again so that the voices would be stronger. That’s what the album needed, something simple.
I look at it as something ironic and sort of in jest, but it’s not a dramatization of anything. There are a lot of songs that are serious, others that are for fun, like Sasha, which came from my manic collection of lost dog posters, the lyrics are right there in the poster. I love when that happens.
Why did you call it El Destructor?
I put things together and take them apart. I remember when I was a kid I would put together all of the Playmobils, and would just leave them, I don’t remember ever playing with them. The fun part was constructing the city and when it was finished, chau. I don’t like when something is defined, knowing what exactly is going to happen. It also is a way of breaking from everything I came from, being a singer, it really bored me. Right now I feel like I like this album a little more now that I’ve played it a few times. I can’t keep going with something that isn’t sustainable, before I was always playing the guitar, and at some point I said to myself, “What I’m doing sounds like shit, I can’t do this anymore.” Now I’m a lot more blunt, and I get a lot more feedback.
I hear a lot of rollinga (term that refers to a Rolling Stones life aesthetic)…
Yeah, when I made Sasha I was really happy, it’s the most rollinga and I love to play it live. I’d like to put something together with Barrios Bajos, which are 100% rollinga. El Destructor has a little rap, a little bluesy, it’s got some dub, a little psychedelia and you can hear Iván’s touches, like in the song Dispararte, that has drums that were recorded in Spain with my cousin. Well not exactly my cousin, a drummer that joined the tour and played with me around Spain.
In Spain you opened for Jonathan Richman during his Spanish tour, what was that experience like?
It was so much fun. I spent a lot of time with him, he’s a really simple guy even though he has this image of being really eccentric. There was one time that he had to go from Barcelona to some other city and he told me to rent a car and take him, he paid me 400 euros but ended up getting a different driver. His idea was to not use GPS, “we’re going to follow the ocean and the sun”, he told me.
I returned from that tour not too long ago, I took advantage of the trip and traveled with Nairobi to Africa. I’ve been filming them for a long time and we try to travel and coordinate tours together. There is a lot of good stuff happening in Spain, people were always really receptive, people started singing “Crisis” with me. I can see a future for me in Spain, people enjoy irony, they have the same sense of humor as me.
Is there any special theme that you use when you are composing lyrics?
I like to talk about universal questions, not about personal experiences. I’m always thinking like that, I generalize, I’m universal, all in good ways. I also really like pornography, the internet always feeds me. The duality between success and failure fascinates me. We love decadence. Everything always grazes loserdom but with pride. We’re a lot more positive, a lot less defeatist.
How did you get started making videos?
I studied film for two years at the CIEVCY. Later I met Alvy Singer, I really liked his song Empezando a terminar and the video naturally arose. Later on I made one with Marcelo Ezquiaga, then with Isol, another with Rosal.
You play with Félix y los Clavos, in Los Mongos with Tomi Lebrero, and you still don´t feel 100% musician?
I like being on the outside. That’s a constant in my life. I began to make videos and had the opportunity to work in publicity, I did a little and am already out of that. I also do this thing that is kind of destructive, or maybe stupid, where I think “No, that´s not me!”. I like exploring different paths. For now being a musician is the most consistent thing in my life, especially being in a band. Before it was unsustainable, it was a disaster. I guess I kind of liked that, sort of masochistic. Now I feel more secure, although there is still a lot missing. But it will all happen, or maybe not.