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A more intimate interview with OmarTalking about past, present and future
Posted 12 August 2008 - 04:09 PM
This is the original article.
The beginning part is too sappy imo (my translation might make it even worse ) , but I love the intimacy and the feeling of the interview later in the article.
And here's the translation:
VOLTA IN THE WORLD
The last March, the guitarist of this great American band was 'united' with the new star of Mexican music. Omar Rodríguez-López from The Mars Volta and Ximena Sariñana, successful actress have finally reunited in Buenos Aires. And "NO" has interviewed them exclusively.
Behind the mythic bar on the Rodney street, a romance is happening. It's one of those touching encounters that breaks frontiers and builds hopes. Considering the latin origin of its actors, the plot could be close to turning into a soap opera of Corín Tellado. But in reality it symbolises a modern romance that prevails itineraries and distance to materialize the image of the permanent encounter. The heart of Cacharita, between Otero street and Jorge Newbery avenue, shelters the privacy of two pop stars (ehm... ) The last March, hazard put the guitar player of one of the most sensational American rock bands together with the new star of Mexican music. Omar Rodríguez-López, head of the The Mars Volta group, and Ximena Sariñana, actress converted into a glaring musical success in her country, could finally be reunited in Buenos Aires to cultivate their idyll, after a failed plan of synchronizing in Australia when the group, also led by singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala, was touring the country.
"The story is like a movie", admits Omar exclusively to "NO". "I met Ximena during a flight, I had no idea she was an actress or a singer. She asked me for the meaning of a word in an English book she was reading, I told her I didn't know what it meant and continued reading mine. Later we met again at the immigration office in the Los Angeles airport. It was a flight that was coming from Guadalajara, and there we noticed a Coca-Cola Zero Fest poster. She told me she was going to play there, and she invited me too. Although I don't get out or have a social life, I don't know why but I felt like having a break that day and went to see her show. Although the show was sold out, I stayed outside waiting because I felt something might happen. Shortly after, her manager came out and got me in. Her concert was much more intimate than usual because she hadn't brought all of her band, and her voice was incredible. Despite my shyness with women and people in general, after her show we talked all night. And that's where the story began.
Barely started in July, the Winter has sentenced it to a cold and dark period. Shrouded in a silence occasionally interrupted by the industrial echo of the nearby factories and by the ghostly horn of some train heading West, the place showed a desolate portrait of parked sad cars, naked trees, the grayest concrete in the world and in the back, the tall white wall of the Cacharita cemetery. On the hill at 300, a noisy electric engine placed on the right, tightens some cables that lead into a somber house with yellow windows. Not even if they tried, Omar and Ximena wouldn't have been able to work out a more perfect place for the unknown than this one. However, they did not choose it. They were brought to this place by an MTV team, where she would shoot some promos: the reason for her stay of four days in the Argentinian capital. The scenography varies from the warmth of a home to a street snowing with styrofoam. While she is working, the guitar player of The Mars Volta, Tweety González - producer of Sariñana's debut album - and the production team watch her acting quietly.
After hearing the "cut" snap, Ximena takes the opportunity to spoil her guy for a minute. This moment lasts an eternity for them, as if they were portraying their own version of the Matrix time freeze, while the make-up artists, cameramen and assistants quickly change the set. When the girlfriend enters the set again, Omar stands up to greet the people. Tweety introduces him. His look has more in common with the one imortalized by the salsa figure, Héctor Lavoe, at the peak of the '70s - a jacket with a wide lapel and burgundy pants, black shirt and, in addition to that, shoes that are not too different from an Argentinian espadrille - than with the one of a modern music warrior. In fact, if there's one thing in common between the salsa man and the 32 years old rocker, that is their origin: they are both Puerto Ricans.
They ask for silence, and drop their Puerto Rican intonation, alhtough its generosity and patience starts shining. He suggests going to the upper floor and on the way he remembers the concert his band held in 2004 in Buenos Aires at the Personal Fest. "The show was awesome. That time Jon Frusciante had come with us, and he joined us for the last song. I thought we'd return the following year, but we didn't. That experience felt like a vacation, especially because we had come there to mix Frances the Mute".
Rodríguez-López took a break from the tour that keeps him busy nowadays to meet with Ximena. During this tour the band is presenting The Mars Volta's most recent album, the emotional The Bedlam in Goliath (2008), a conceptual work, just like their albums De-Loused in the Comatorium (2003) and Frances the Mute (2005), which revolves around an ouija board. "The result was a weird story about three people and about the way religion treats women. For Cedric, the ouija was an important influence, he used expressions indicated by it for titles and content of the songs. Although I had composed the music for the songs when we were recording Amputechture (2006), our previous album - which he lists as their most special one -, for him, this was the main inspiration."
A story that emerges from the gift Omar brought for his band mate. "I was on vacation for ten days in Palestina and Jerusalem. In that trip I bought an ouija board as a present for Cedric. I thought it was an antique that would look good in his collection. You can't find such a thing in the States; it exists, but more like a toy. I never thought he'd want to use it. He brought it during our first Amputechture tour. He wanted to use it and I thought it was great. Some people say that when you use it, everything comes from your subconscious, although others think that what is happening is real."
Imagination or not, after having started to play with the ouija, a series of weird events surrounded the recording of The Bedlam in Goliath. "We had bad luck after we used the ouija. I don't know if I made it up or if it was real. From then on, making the album was karmic in terms of production, the tracks started to disappear. Moreover, my technician, with whom I'd worked for four years and made 23 albums, all of a sudden told me he realized that I was trying to sicken the people with my music. He grabbed the recordings and took them to his house. I had to send people to take it back from him. The whole album turned into a madness. When they brought the recordings back, he had started to erase the songs. He had erased until the mix, and at that moment I thought all of this had something to do with the ouija. But it was sheer bad luck.
After having been labeled by Omar as an obscure and negative production, now he thinks of it as a positive achievement. "During those times I didn't want to speak about it, I didn't want to play it, nor doing interviews. All of a sudden, I had a new perspective. The fact that I had overcome this, that I finished what I started gave me a very positive feeling. Now I love it. I entered in craziness and got out the other way. It's like my special child.
But superstition is a common aspect in latin culture.
Totally. In some interviews for Mexico and Chile, we tried not to talk about the ouija. Nevertheless, the journalists who knew the story were questioning us and asking us whether we were coming from the Caribbean and if we knew the santero culture, because we had to do with it. It was different in Europe. I remember we were telling the story in Germany and they didn't believe us.
You're from Bayamón and you grew up in El Paso, a North American city influenced by Mexico. Wasn't it a torment having to live with three cultures at the same time?
Bayamón and El Paso are my roots. When people talk about Puerto Rico, all they know is salsa and now reggaeton, which doesn't move me nor I understand it much. But I have a confusing identity because I'm a Puerto Rican who has lived in the States for a long time, so I'm americanized. I also have Mexican influences: the jackets, Pedro Infante, the films made by Luis Buñuel when he lived there, or Jodorowsky's work. Sometimes I feel like part of José Vasconcelos' book "The cosmic race", that says that one day everything will be mingled. Just like Blade Runner.
Just like your compatriot Carlos Alomar, you turned into a guitar reference for experimenting. Considering that your primary influences come from salsa, how did you get to rock?
Fanial All-Stars, Héctor Lavoe, Eddie Palmieri and Cheo Feliciano were my gods, while music in English felt funny to me. When I got to the United States with my family I got into skateboarding and that's how I met punk rock. It felt like it had the same fire as salsa. My father, who is a doctor, was playing in an orchestra and I used to go with him to their rehearsals. There I realized that I had to study for many years to be able to equip my band. Once I'd entered the punk world when I was 12, I instantly knew that I could do it myself. I started playing bass, I wrote songs, I created my bands and at 13 I was doing my own thing in El Paso.
In what way is punk linked with the more prog-rock or art rock approach that you have today?
Punk has its rules and a very open way of thinking that brought me to artists such as Fela Kuti. Thanks to punk I cultivated my curiosity and I realized how everything was interconnected. With The Clash I discovered reggae and dub, Bob Marley and Lee "Scratch" Perry. A things leads to another, a question turns into another one. I got to Pil via the Sex Pistols. I knew that Johnny Rotten liked Can and that's how I got into krautrock. Through Neu! I found out there was a band called King Crimson, and that was the connection to Stravinsky.
You confessed that your major musical influence is Larry Harlow, creator of Hommy, the afrocaribbean adaptation of the rock musical The Who's Tommy. You didn't only fulfill your dream of meeting him, you've even invited him to collaborate with you on Frances the Mute. Did he meet your expectations?
Meeting him was one of the best things that happened to me. His son is a fan of The Mars Volta and told me he'd give our music to him. Since talking is easy, I didn't want to get too excited with his offer. All of a sudden, Larry sent an email to our manager where he said he loved the music we made and that he heard the salsa influences in it. I replied and I asked him if he'd like to record something with us. He accepted and we went to Puerto Rico. Once we entered the studio, he asked me if the take was alright. I didn't feel like telling him to repeat it, but he insisted for me to comment on it because I was the director and I had to guide him. Even my father bought a ticket and traveled to meet him. We had such a great time...
The involvement of your father is notable...
My dad lives through my eyes. When he can, he comes to our shows with mom. He's the one collecting magazines, tickets.
Before making music your career, why did you venture around in the United States?
I felt that I didn't know myself. When I was 17 I decided to distance myself from my family, from school and from my Puerto Rican identity. Since I wanted to know who I was, I left. It was difficult for my father, because we were friends. He didn't know anything about me for a year, he even got to think that I was dead. I learned lots of things, I met people, I suffered and partied. I got into the bad kind of drugs, I lived in dirty places with rats. I didn't play music, I didn't care about anything. But one day in Baltimore, I woke up. I knew the journey wasn't over. Then I called Cedric, whom I trusted a lot and with whom I hadn't talked for months, and he sent me money to get back to El Paso. And there we started with At The Drive-In (post-hardcore band preceeding The Mars Volta).
Don't you feel like Cedric is your twin soul?
The one who thinks this thing can only happen with a woman is wrong. We don't even have to speak to understand each other. The first time we met it was like we knew each other from another place, from another life, from another moment. He's always supported me and helped me believe in myself. Our connection was so strong that when At The Drive-In started to gain success, people had started to think we were gay because we didn't only share a band, but also a home, and clothing. We were together all the time. People sometimes don't understand such strong relationships between guys.
Why is friendship a recurring theme in The Mars Volta?
Friends are mirrors, they help us understand which is our place in the world. In my case, they changed my life. Julio Venegas, to whom The Mars Volta's first album is dedicated, and Jeremy Ward, founder of the band, were a significant influence because they showed me movies, books, music and the interconnection between all of these things. Also, they taught me the limits. Their tragic deaths were consequences to drug abuse.
Last year you published Calibration, your new solo album. What are the differences between your solo work and The Mars Volta albums?
The contract we have for The Mars Volta allows us to release an album a year. Since I'm always recording, I later decide if those tunes will be a part of a band album or of they'll go into another project. At the moment I'm releasing my solo works under my label, Rodríguez–López. Now when the Universal contract ends, I'd like to release four albums a year using my label. I don't want to make other solo albums, The Mars Volta is my band. The only difference that can be found sometimes between the two are the musicians I have.
When does the madness end?
Could be in four or ten years. You never know. That's why you have to enjoy it. One of the At The Drive-In guitar players was always thinking about what was happening, and years later he told me he regretted not having had more fun while it lasted. I've always remembered that. I wanted to live the experience and when it will be over I'll accept it and I'll ask my father to lend me his collection of magazine cuts to contemplate it.
Omar about Ximena
While Omar is saying that he has pending music to hear, the albums of Luis Alberto Spinetta, Charly García, Divididos and Astor Piazzolla that Tweety González gave him, he says he plans to go back to Buenos Aires with The Mars Volta at the end of October. When he is asked about the contrast between his music and Ximena's, the Puerto Rican guitarist notes: "I respect her musically. Even though what we do is different, I like honest music. I don't care if it's experimental or pop. While she is taking a break from shooting her MTV promos, the Mexican singer joins the gathering: "Omar understands that it's soothing to find someone who understands you. He rescued his personality, his heart, his soul and his generosity to share it all with me. We try to keep our relationship as normal as possible, as much as we can. He's always traveling and so am I, but we met in a plane. Our story is written. These are the circumstances of life, and if there's the reason to do it, I don't care if he has to come to Argentina, or if I have to go wherever."
PS: I'll proofread later, nnnkay? :p
Posted 12 August 2008 - 04:28 PM
Posted 12 August 2008 - 04:44 PM
Oh when Frusciante would play with them....what special times those were.
Posted 12 August 2008 - 05:15 PM
Also, Omar is so tapping that actress.
Posted 12 August 2008 - 05:31 PM
Posted 12 August 2008 - 05:37 PM
Posted 12 August 2008 - 06:22 PM
It was included in the first post :)
Tenes el link original?
Posted 12 August 2008 - 06:26 PM
Posted 12 August 2008 - 06:43 PM
Thinking about the solo records it makes me wonder if ALL of the TMV members are present on every TMV song. Volta records never list who did what or who was on which song so perhaps TMV also resemble Omar's releases in that they have various people on various tracks. I would love to see (and im sure im not alone here) a breakdown of all the bands material stating exactly who did what on each track. Im sure we would be surprised.
Posted 12 August 2008 - 08:29 PM
Posted 12 August 2008 - 09:55 PM
Posted 13 August 2008 - 12:00 AM
ten year age gap, way to go Omar!
Woah she and I have the same birthday (October 29th.)
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