Where can we find you right now and what are you up to?
You can find me in pretty much all listening platforms (I particularly like to listen to my songs on Tidal, great HIFI). Need to organize my YouTube channel, but one step at a time. I have profiles in Facebook and Instagram and would love to dip my toes in TikTok at some point in the future. Physically I am currently living in Buenos Aires, Argentina with my family. My amazing wife, incredible son and three pets (Labrador, Poodle and cat). Here in Argentina, we just officially started winter, so I am currently on my bed typing this, next to my wife and keeping warm over a coffee. Seriously, I try to split my time taking care of my full-time job, spending quality time with my wife, sipping wine, keeping up with my long time teams Miami Dolphins and Miami Heat, practicing Taekwondo (I am one and a half years shy of earning my First-Degree Black Belt), and of course planning my next EP, right now in my head, but I hope to start the creative process soon. Finally, I am new at this digital/social media stuff, so I am keeping up with my daily FB and Instagram posts and stories.
Tell us a bit about your influences.
I am 56, so I was exposed to that great rock and prog of the 70s, 80s and 90s. I also love disco, pop, blue grass and folk. I was also exposed to the great sounds of Venezuelan “Salsa” and “boleros”, having lived my first 10 years in Venezuela. But it so happened that in 1980 a high school friend of mine introduced me to Rush (Moving Pictures to be precise). I was hooked, probably listened to Rush 80% of the time for the next 10 years. Lifelong fan of the band. Caught on to Dream Theatre later, and always on the side: Police, Floyd, Alan Parsons, Triumph, Toto, U2. I love the expressionism, spontaneity and tone of Alex Lifeson (my guitar hero), the technical wizardry of Petrucci, the tone and creativity of Lukather and the subtleness of Gilmore. But I also enjoy a great Abba song, a Bee Gees ballad or a pop standard from A-Ha. What was eventually curiously interesting was that, when my digital distributor asked me what my music mostly sounded like (he was pitching one of the songs to Spotify editors), I really had no idea. He suggested artists like: Tim Bowness, No-Man, Riverside, Porcupine Tree, Blackfield…other friends suggested U2, Steven Wilson. I barely know most of these artists, but I discovered that as I was working on my latest EP, all the music that I had listened to up to now somehow shaped some of my tones, notes and approaches. All this unconsciously, really.
I never meant to play my dirtier solos like Gilmore, but his approach was undoubtedly an influence. I wanted to pay tribute to Rush and somehow managed to include in a song a short phrase from “Xanadu” and chords used in “La Villa Strangiato”. Otherwise, I just went with the flow.
How did you start?
My first 10 years in Venezuela I received some formal music education, learned to play the “Cuatro” (a 4-string small guitar), some guitar and a little piano. There was always an instrument lying around at home and my sister also played piano and guitar at that time. In high school I played some guitar, took part in several musicals. University in Boston took my mind elsewhere: books, sports and social life. No guitar, whatsoever. Miami, 1989, I start hanging out with a buddy at work who happened to be a self-taught guitar player, very talented. Eventually we formed a band called Nine O’Clock, got serious after another work colleague, a bass and guitar player, joined the band. We recorded a few originals and played gigs at a local joint in South Beach, Florida. I was the singer and rhythm guitarist. It was a fun time. Once the band disbanded, around 1998, there came a long period of time during which the guitar mostly sat gathering dust, except for a short period where I took guitars lessons from a great player and friend while living in Uruguay. He also invited me to write the solo for an album he was releasing with his band. I played the solo in the album’s only ballad. Not much happened to me musically after that, until March 2020.
What do you think is the difference between the artists of the past and today?
Great question. Artists of the past had to really grind the tour scene, play night after night to create a following, write songs on the road, record one album a year. Fortunately, record companies allowed bands to “find themselves” during the first couple of albums. Artists then had to deal with other issues, play with different technology, deal with social issues of the time. Today, an artist can create in his/her home, have a recording studio the size of a desk, publish without having to be signed, promote their music via a cell phone. But this means the musical universe has expanded, the menu has gotten huge, and there is a clear clash of opinion between the Indie Camp and the record industry. Like everything today, technology makes things much easier, but also much more complex. Regardless, it is so amazing that you can now create, record and reach out to so many people without having to rely on a record label.
What is the highest point of your career so far? What unique thing happened to you?
Deciding to finally resolve my conflict with the guitar, make amends and dust off my instruments. I became very conflicted with the whole issue of me “belonging” to the music space. YouTube would show a 10-year-old shredding a guitar twice his size, some kid playing a complex Petrucci solo perfectly. Someone showing off his guitar hero’s signature guitar with such ease, and me feeling intimidated by it all. I would be walking the streets of Buenos Aires and would see people with their gig bags and would ask myself: what business do I have being a guitarist? There are just too many guitar players out there, what difference is another one going to make? Covid comes along, President orders everyone to stay indoors. Looking for a new activity, I decided to re- learn the guitar, take online classes, put together a home studio and see what would happen. I discovered jazz voicings, chord melody, funk, learned more about the guitar as an instrument and eventually realized there was some creative sauce left in the bottle. Messing around in the studio I started putting together guitar parts, all melodically connected. My first song after some 25 years. I realized then that I was going to do a project, hopefully an EP. Shades of Strings was finally done, 7 songs, 42 minutes. Rekindling my love for the guitar at 56 years, being creative again…just awesome.
What do you think will change in the future in terms of how we consume music?
We are much less patient now a days. We are told to write 3-minute tunes because no one will have the patience to hear a long song. Will we continue to appreciate the beautyof the power trio, organic instruments, 20-minute songs that tell a whole story? I am seeing a lot of people of my generation preserve the music of their times, celebrate thelong songs, pro rock, celebrate great bands, see all these great artists tour for a final time. At the same time younger generations are embracing new music, electronic music, urban music. That is all great. But here is what I believe: great music is everlasting and will always be played. Great songs will always be “consumed”. I have a friend who collects records, he appreciates the way a song plays on vinyl. Another college friend, who is very active in the concert scene, only listens to CDs, no streaming. There is still value in the old formats.
Do you remember any strange or funny incident that happened to you?
Oh man, tough question. I am not sure if this incident is either funny or strange, but it was memorable for me and important from a musical perspective. Over 15 years ago, while still living in Miami, Florida, I had a business trip scheduled in Buenos Aires. My wife had coincidentally met the wife of Nito Mestre at a book fair In Miami, and told me to look her and Nito up during my trip to Argentina. I told her I had no idea who Nito Mestre was, so she sends me his Wikipedia Link. I learned that Nito was a founding member of Sui Generis, along with Charly Garcia, back in 1969. He is considered an important pillar of Argentine folk and rock music and to this day continues to write and perform globally. So, I head to Buenos Aires and eventually contacted Pam, Nito’ s wife. They invite me to their home, where we spend part of the afternoon chatting and then they ask me to stay for a dinner party they were having, an Argentine “Asado”. I accompany Nito to the neighborhood butcher to buy the beef and chorizos (sausage) for the grill. Later that evening I find myself sharing a table with one of the better-known founders of Argentine folk and rock, along with a very “artsy” crowd of invitees. The best part was when Nito took me to the room in his house where is does his writing and creating. I still remember a couple of guitars hanging on the wall and a Mac desktop (the one that looks like a colored balloon) where he would record ideas. It was at that moment that I decided to have my own home studio. It took me a long time, but it finally happened.
Do you play video games? What is your favorite?
What a cool question. I grew up with those old “pong” games, a b&w screen with 2 lines for rackets and a bleep bouncing around. Then with my son I was able to watch him play all these awesome games and finish long campaigns, first with his GameCube, then his PS4. I became a big Resident Evil fan, and probably played the full RE4 campaign more than 30 times. Now, the first time I played RE4 it took me 18 hours! I just could not figure out how to save Ashley in the castle. I finally gave up and looked it up in YouTube. My son downloaded for me RE7 and the remake of RE2, just can’t seem to find the time. But, when the RE4 remake comes out next year…I’m game.
Tell us about your latest or upcoming release.
Shades of Strings is a blend of jazz voicings, chord melody, funk, pentatonic and simple scales with a touch of romanticism and a chill and mellow vibe. There is some pop, jazz and rock. Lyrics are blended in as the songs progress without much thought to verse and chorus structure. Except for “Day One” (that song was written over 25 years ago), every song was born from an idea, a chord progression, a phrase, a bass line. From there it was like painting a canvas, a puzzle. Never sure how the song would go, how it would end. The lyrics are personal, “mirror therapy” I call it. The main themes revolve around strength, fear, friendship, communication, worry, family, love and life. I play all the instruments except the drums (those were played by a very awesome drummer, took him one take per song to records those tracks), and I was luck enough to find two great guys to mix and master the songs. A cousin of mine, who owns a digital publishing company, took me on board and got me published everywhere and helps and supports in the promotion of the songs. I never thought about how I would play the songs live. Some songs have 3-4 guitar tracks, two voices, bass, synth, drums. I want to at least have another EP done before I figure out how I am going to perform my music live. I always say Shades of Strings is best heard with a pair of good headphones, over a cup of your favorite wine, tea, coffee or whatever suits your palate. This first 2 songs, “Day One” and “I Am” are about courage, facing the day, facing the world, then “Finding Myself” takes you to the seashore where a man is pondering his role in life, his direction, his connection to his loved ones. “PB & J (Needless Worry) was meant to be a simple, fun, pop and funk piece, initially instrumental, I placed a short lyrical story at the end that ended up carrying a strong message about worry. The next two songs, “Talk to Me” and “Listen” are melodically connected and deal with the bookends of communication. The final song, “Shades of Strings” was the first that I finished in April 2020. It was THE song that encouraged me to write more. I purposedly left most of the imperfections, even at one point I think the guitar was slightly out of tune. But I wanted it to be human, imperfect, and a reminder of the beginning of the journey. I use ambient sounds throughout the album (crow noise, water…), I feel they give the music another layer and feel. I mostly used my Santana PRS SE and Fender Starcaster guitars directly through a very simple Zoom G1on pedal board. My 30-year-old Jasmine acoustic electric was used on “I AM” and the bass was played via a Bass effect using my guitars for several songs until a got myself an electric bass for the rest of the album. My control board is a Novation 25 and everything except drums was recorded on my Ableton 10 DAW. I initially used drum samples to help me in the creative process, and those were eventually substituted by real drum tracks.