Enigmatic, clandestine, El Indio Solari met in New York with a journalist from Orsai to give his last interview in print. “I don’t need the media anymore,” he says. This is the backstage of that historic chat, and a complete transcript of the interview with the legend of Argentine rock.
“I am a dead man walking,” says El Indio, barefoot and smiling, barely opening the door to his room. He went to bed late last night and his hangover is apparent in his diluted energy. That’s why he preferred the interview, the last he will give to a print publication, be carried out in his hotel room. He’s spent the last week beating the streets of New York, his favorite city. ‘Beating the streets’ means: eating well, drinking, seeing shows, and drinking more. He’s been practicing his hedonistic lifestyle in a city designed for pleasure.
“I came here for the first time in ’89. I remember standing on a corner, looking to the side and seeing a 70-year-old woman on roller skates. I looked forward and saw some body builder coming at me. I got to the hotel and the tennis player Guga Kuerten got out of one elevator, the actress Sonia Braga out of another. That’s when I said: ‘Enough, this is my place’. It was even stronger when I started to discover the bars and their drinks. This is Babylon.”
El Indio walks slowly, moving his body carefully. The image of the colossal artist is relegated to pictures, those pictures where he looks like an Olympic god standing in front of thousands of adoring souls. Here, in the earthly silence of his hotel room, he appears to be “much less than his reputation”, as one of his songs says.
Even though it’s a five-star hotel, his room doesn’t stand out for its comforts. There’s not much more luxury here than a spongy bed. Since it will be a long chat, Solari, wearing an austere sweater and loose cotton pants, lets himself fall onto the bed.
It is clear that his four decades on stage have taken a toll on his body, but it is also clear that his face has no wrinkles, a healthy color, and is governed by two eyes that sustain a tenacious gaze, like lightning. His voice, while speaking, is very different from the stretched, metallic sound he emanates when he sings. On the contrary, his speaking voice is low and convincing, an instrument capable of converting everything he says into a maxim.
Lying on his back on the bed, El Indio’s voice seems to rise up from the bottom of time.
In this position — tired but friendly and disposed to chatting — he will affirm that the party of the ’90s started with confetti and ended in mourning and black crepe paper. He will confess that the man who started the fernet ritual was “Il Commendatore” Benito Durand, a member of the troupe Titanes en el Ring. He will tell me his son Bruno changed his life, and finally that he will no longer speak to the press because he doesn’t have anything else to say. Most definitely, he will say in passing, he is a songwriter and he only promised to write songs.
But all that is still a ways off.
Part of the remarkable mystery surrounding El Indio Solari has to do with the scarcity of the interviews he has granted over his career. Solari has a slogan: “I cluck when I lay an egg.” This means: he puts out an album every three years and then he speaks. Not before. He still doesn’t speak with all media outlets, just a few. He speaks with two newspapers and one radio station, or with one newspaper, one magazine and one radio station. He has never, ever given a television interview. That is the way it was been for the past 25 years. He has never played a set on television, or allowed his concerts to be broadcast on the idiot box. The shows circulating on the Internet are videos, some of them taken clandestinely, that have filtered through the pores of our new technologies.
I’ve wanted to interview El Indio for many years, but I knew if it wasn’t through one of the few media outlets he worked with it would be difficult. How to go about it? How could I interview the most mysterious, fascinating and popular musician in Argentina? How could I get to this J.D. Salinger of rock who wouldn’t let people take pictures of him, who provoked something similar to addiction in his fans?
Four years ago, I tried to interview him for a men’s magazine I worked at. I knew he had read the magazine because, among the very little reliable information circulating about his life, we knew he was well traveled, drank good wine, and had cosmopolitan and sophisticated tastes. The interview didn’t happen. Later, I tried through the Sunday supplement of a newspaper. He turned that down as well.
Until Orsai appeared.
His intuition told him something in the spirit of Orsai might interest him. Not just the articles, that too, but something in its DNA: it’s economic independence, it’s romantic refusal to run advertising, it’s cultural ambition– three values that make up the hard nucleus of Solari’s thought. Patricio Rey y sus redonditos de ricota, the band he formed in the ’70s and that would later become the most popular band in Argentina in the ’90s, raised those flags. I wasn’t wrong. Orsai opened the door. I gave him several editions of the magazine and he and his manager both liked it.
This is the first email El Indio wrote me, on September 26, 2011:
“Pablo, I’ve been reading the magazines you sent me and find the publication very attractive. I would accept an interview if you have patience with my phobias. Let’s let the idea of this talk rest until next year. Besides the show in Tandil, I have several trips abroad planned, and these stimulate my peculiar discomforts. Thank you for having me in mind. Indio.”
Then came several months of confessional emails that served to remind him he had a made a precious promise to me. Finally, an unexpected email arrived from his manager: Would I be open to doing the interview abroad? Without consulting [Orsai’s editor Hernan] Casciari, I crunched some numbers in my head. Spurred mostly by my desire, I said yes. I said of course. I said wherever. Before I even responded, I knew it would be New York. Neither his manager nor El Indio had ever said it, but I knew it was his city, the place where he feels good, the place where he walks and drinks, where he enjoys shows and eats like a Roman.
In February, another email arrived.
“Hello Pablo, We could possibly do the interview at the end of April. I can’t confirm yet, but I can tell you it will be outside the country. I will let you know how it’s going toward the end of this month. Julio Saez. Indio Solari.”
They still didn’t specify a place, and I was still thinking New York. I had already worked out costs and fees with Casciari. May 7 the best email arrived:
“Pablo, the interview will be in New York between May 7-10. You should be in the city and we will coordinate the day, time and place by email. This is the strictest of secrets. Best, Julio Saez, Indio Solari.”
I had just arrived in New York when they gave me the coordinates. It would be the following day — my birthday, wink wink — and I would meet Matias, Solari’s friend, at the door of the Park Central on Seventh Avenue. Early that gray Wednesday morning, I walked the streets of Manhattan to the hotel. From a block away I could make out the figure of Matias, over six feet tall and with the undeniable look of an Argentine. Matias said abruptly: “We have to take a taxi.” We headed for Soho. “We are going to a bar. El Indio is there.” We exchanged banalities until we arrived. “Wait a second,” Matias said. To my surprise, he came back moments later saying: “We have to go back to the hotel.” “Why?” ” He’s there, waiting for us.”
At this point I’m thinking I’m slipping through the pages of The Trial by Kafka. I had been courting El Indio for eight months. I had traveled 10,000 kilometers. I had arrived to the agreed upon place at the right time and yet El Indio, the legendary singer who had constructed the most powerful myth in Latin American rock, was still unapproachable.
And now – I thought to myself – what will happen? A new order, like East Berlin in 1989? What else did I have to do to interview this guy? But at the door of the hotel was his manager, Julio: “Hi Julio. I got another tour of Manhattan. Thanks.” “El Indio is upstairs. Let’s go.”
We went up to the sixth floor. The legend — the austere barefoot man with the lethargic gait — opened the door and greeted me nicely.
I had finally found Godot.
Only My Songs Will Speak For Me Now
-That void or abyss, have you always avoided it?
-The void appeared before me early on, but it was my psychedelic phase that allowed me to let go of my fear and calmly accept the fact that we don’t know what the next step in our lives will be, that it’s not necessary to seek out uncertainty. It will always come on its own. Luckily I don’t have that fear, a fear that would have surely turned me into a follower of some religion.
-The fact that you feel free is what allows you to not be scared?
-Since the brain is predisposed to not lie, I feel like it frees me from having my memory occupied by lies. I owe that to psychedelia. Mostly, in the beginning, when rock was trying to change the species and not society, the cultural of rock protected itself from those things. Then it turned into the official music of the system. It turned into music that was in fashion and stopped being that.
-Stopped being new.
-Stopped being new, exactly. It showed its negative facets. People appeared in the rock experience without buttering all the bread they should have to to get there. When they are strong, experiences are lived in a serious way at the right moment. Twenty years later, when a different problematic crops up with different technology, it turns into something else. When I say that I’m not going to speak anymore because I don’t have anything else to say, it’s also because I believe facts are interpreted in a way to impact society, and those facts are now passing through an editorial machine that I don’t have control over. This also makes me think of the spirit of our youth. There is much more information about the future than I can talk about. Anyway, I only promised to make songs. Sometimes the world rolls out some sort of idiocy that matches up with what you’re saying, and you become something more than a songwriter. Without realizing it, the monster looks more and more like you. That demented design that thousands of people invent… one day you start to realize that your behavior is in accordance with that.
-In expectation more than in essence.
-Yes, what happens is that your essence, compared with the expectations, starts to look impoverished. Then you want to put on that hat and force the situation, but you don’t realize all the things you’re leaving behind– and that’s with me having a life that isn’t very exposed to the public.
-You chose to write songs. You didn’t choose the mythology that surrounds you.
-I say in a song: “You swear that you were raised in a bucket of worms.” Well, when are up to your neck in shit, all you have left is singing, and so I sang.
-It was therapeutic.
-I don’t know how to do anything else. One of the few other jobs I did was work in a home for children. Since, all I’ve ever done is draw and sing and compose songs. They recently scolded me because I said I didn’t believe in artists as political activists. In some way, an artist’s political motor is his style, and style is never neutral. One can decide about his lifestyle and how that influences his work, to put it that way. I don’t know how I came to be on this side, being absolutely independent for so many years. Because the normal thing is to belong to a company that determines what is convenient for your career.
-You didn’t choose independence?
-That also had to do with the moment. At that time, the people I was working with had me sign with Oscar Lopes, and I didn’t refuse. I saw what happened with cooperations and artists in the Anglo-Saxon world. As (Argentine rock star) Charly (Garcia) once said: Managers upholster their seats with the artists’ skin. And it’s true. A guy who answers the telephone cannot take the lion’s share. Now, not in all cases does the lion’s share belong to the artist, because if the producer dyed your hair blond and took you to places of unthinkable reputation, then, well, it’s okay that he take the lion’s share. But when you are a guy who started with the privilege of having people listen to his music, you are the lion and you get used to defending your money. My shows are on an international level. That’s something these guys who crunch numbers to calculate your fortune don’t understand. I have to sell more than 30,000 tickets to pay for just lights and sound. If I get 32,000 people in, I’m screwed.
-Let’s talk about the beginning. Did you always have that kind of antenna while looking at the world?
-It always interested me. I was always the alpha male in the pack. That has to do with personality, histrionics, that kind of thing. You definitely don’t find anything more than ideas that come out of the dark night of time, recreated by intelligent people. At some point it will be time for me to write.
-What happens when you see that your heroes — Cohen, Dylan or Harrison – at some point needed a deeper spiritual search to compose?
-What’s irritating about mystic knowledge is the mountain of bullshit. Yoga ends up being the same as a cigar. It’s in fashion and everyone wants to do it, beyond the intrinsic virtues of the thing. I don’t smoke cigars. I smoke cigarettes with no additives, which have their virtue, their pleasure. But when they come into fashion I get this kind of adolescent rebellion. During a time, I read Gurdjieff, when his books weren’t self-help books, but interesting books. But they never provoked in me the necessity to get religion, or meet up with other people. I haven’t had any revelations either. Besides, when one knows the material reasons that guide those dogmas, the mysticism loses much of its prestige. I think if God exists, he isn’t very interested in this world.
-What were your inspirations?
-We listened to classical music at my house, not because we were music lovers, but because some albums came with the best of Wagner, or fragments of Verdi, just that. My brother listened to Luis Aguil… and Elvis Presley. The Beatles woke me up in ’72, when ‘Love Me Do’ and the rest of it started getting played on the radio. And after that, it’s a chain reaction. You start to look at who’s next to the musicians you like. The British Invasion. American rock and blues. The people you trust start to guide you. I don’t think music changes the world, but I do think it changed my brain, and I support the notion that when your brain changes the world changes for you. It was important for me. I lived intensely in 1977 and 1978.
-I was a hippie. I spent that phase in La Plata. When you are a hippie, you are a hippie. I went through that experience.
-Did you live in a commune?
-No, I’m kind of a sniper. Meaning: if there was a commune, I always slept next to it, in a separate tent with my friends. We took part in the bonfire and all that, took the same products — wink, wink, nudge – but the commune… That’s where the difficulties we had as young urban kids living under those circumstances were laid bare. Make bread, milk a cow, these are entertaining things while you’re learning them, but after a while, not so much. Then some reading comes in, of course. Just the same, I clarify that, except Borges, I’ve read very little of the big Latin American writers. I nourished myself more than anything on Truman Capote, Burroughs, Kerouac, the Beat generation.
-Speaking of reading, what do you think of people who think their education is over? That it’s not necessary to keep reading?
-What happens is that the hard drive starts to fill up, and to empty it you have to forget a few things. Almost everything I’ve read I’ve forgotten. I don’t feel the need to cite anyone, because I embodied it. I’m not speaking at the service of myself or them. I’m speaking about things. On one hand, you think you can’t learn anything more. But I keep listening and reading, even though in general art has a tendency to repeat itself. It’s true that today the kids are better at their instruments than before. You listen to the studio cuts from Chuck Berry or Keith Richards or Page and they sound very sloppy. But even if the kids play cleaner now, they don’t create a style. Except for rare exceptions — like what happened to me with Arcade Fire, a band that promises a different sound — you always hear the same thing.
-Rock eats its tail.
-It has for a while. I’m old enough to have lived through two or three cultural cycles. And besides, our culture is empty of content now. It’s not good or bad. I see it as an observer. Lyrics definitely generate intellectual realities disguised as emotions. It’s not a philosophical line of thought, but a rhythmic one. As Sam Shephard said to Patti Smith: “If you skip a beat, you create a new one.” There is not a culture in the world that can sustain fashionable music, and the same thing is happening with drugs, which are now consumed for recreation. That’s not what we did.
-Back then it was a transforming experience.
-Yes, or at least that is what we were trying for. Independent of what the drug produces, the will to transformation changes the trip. Now, if you’re not interested, if you only take them recreationally, that’s another story.
-That thing that William Blake talked about is lost: “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite.”
-Yes, but you have to knock on the doors of perception to see what’s on the other side, and artists even more so. You always have to be on the borderline. That’s why I don’t believe in artists as political activists, because you’re permanently changing dogmas. You can’t participate in the collective sense.
-Exactly. You have to look on the borders of common sense.
-You have to put into question the state of society.
-Of course. These are the things I’ve said that a lot of people don’t like.
-That’s where the largest rift between an artist and his fans opens up, right? People cling to ideas, clear concepts. I’m thinking about the people who follow you.
-In general, the first and best opinions are from your first era. As soon as artist gets bored or starts to incorporate more complex elements, that changes. Everyone always wants Eric Clapton to play his early songs.
-It seems the development of an artist is necessarily plagued by small betrayals…
-Yes, of course.
-And that’s where the adventure is.
-I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I have to be faithful to what I believe in. It’s the only way I feel alive, independent of the results. There are great artists that have made changes and the result has been even more powerful, like The Beatles. When they changed, I fell in love even more.
-Of course, when they stopped being kind of simple kids from Liverpool and started being artists. The first phase seemed fresh, but I prefer what came next. The same with Los Redondos: the first songs I think are fresh and I understand why they are attractive, but now, for my tastes, I’m doing better things, things with different possible readings, more complexity.
-Better lyrics as well?
-Yes, the first lyrics were pretty basic.
-I don’t consider myself a poet. I’m a songwriter. Really I just have the ability to think rhythmically.
-That might be liberating for you to not be burdened with that, but your lyrics are laden with signs, with metaphors. Some of them, compared to other things, come close to poetry.
-A friend said to me they are like maxims. She said: “A lot of people who go see you may not understand what they are listening to, but what they paint on the signs are like maxims they can understand.”
-Like life’s motifs.
-There are people who continue reaping the rewards of the monster their fans created, who have played the same song for 25 years. On the other hand, there’s David Bowie, there’s Gabriel. Those people inspire me.
-Or Leonard Cohen, who made a great album at 75 years old.
-I like the bad albums. I love Self Portrait by Dylan. The critics were hard on it and I love it. I don’t know if it’s a kind of rebellion from the time when there was an A side and a B side. I think one has a different kind of connection with things. Something different happens with kids and technology. They connect to it in a totally different way, and that will surely cause changes, because we are products of the connections we have with things. Sometimes my tastes don’t coincide with the masses, and that’s when I know I have to take a risk. I love albums that sell well, because they make a lot of money and I can continue making music, but the fact that they are popular doesn’t put them above other albums.
-In this sense, you sell over a period of time.
-Yes, there’s a trickle. I don’t know if people do it to keep the project alive or what.
-It also happens that albums have to soak in people’s hearts and minds.
-Yes, and mine especially, more so my solo albums and later Redondos. That happens because evidently they are the most complex. There’s a curtain. There are textures. These are the things you get interested in doing, even more so when you suspect that you’ll do even worse than when you played a nice melody with a guitar, bass and drums. You get bored of the basic stuff.
-The ceiling for aesthetic satisfaction rises…
-It’s true. The same thing happens with literature. We change.
-The strange thing about Los Redondos is there are fans that have never seen you play live.
-Yeah, the funny thing is that’s when people say to you: “I saw you play at (the bar) Esquina del Sol.” And because of their age, it’s impossible. The numbers don’t add up. There may exist a huge necessity on their parents’ part to make that generational link.
-But, by nature, 15 year old kids don’t want to listen to what their parents listen to. They want to be different.
-What’s amazing is that I’m an old artist. I’m 63 years old, and I see 13, 14 year old kids coming to my shows. There are all ages.
-Did it bother you that Forbes made your fortune public?
-What surprised me were the comment chains and chat rooms on the Internet, places inhabited by these wild packs of Maoists. They said I didn’t deserve it, but no one questioned whether I really had it or not. They justified it, but they didn’t doubt it. It bothered me because I didn’t know where they were getting their information from. But making $13 million is not easy. I mean, not for me. I don’t have sponsors. It’s easy for people with sponsors. I think the Internet is a great tool, but we are using it ineffectively. I read the news about me and (Argentine musician) Andres (Calamaro). I don’t understand why people attack artists. I think an artist’s greatest ambition is that people buy albums and go to shows, nothing more. But then people fire at will. I’m not talking about Forbes. I’m talking about the blogs and comment chains. And I’m among the privileged ones, because if there’s one person bitching me out there are 70 bitching out the next guy. I know of a lot of cases where people have attacked musicians in incomprehensible ways. There’s this pack of people worried about what the hive is thinking, and I don’t like it. I do, however, like technology. I think it’s fascinating. The Internet is our other Big Brother, and it’s getting more powerful all the time.
-How long have you been coming to New York?
-Since ’89– we came to mix an album. I can’t remember which one. That’s another thing that happens with psychedelics: your memory becomes useless. You live in this permanent present, and everything forms part of your being. I don’t need to remember this thing or that thing. Also, I’ve had assistants for years, and assistants slowly turn you into a useless person. They fill out your forms, drive you around, and turn you into a idiot who is just out there floating through life. Anyway, we came to mix and master this album, and since, I’ve come often. I always say: ‘This year I’m going to take a gastronomical tour of Italy’, but I end up here or in London. I have a relationship with Anglo-Saxon culture, with rock, and its essence is here. We do what we can with rock, because for our language it’s very difficult. We play fast boleros. Also, the power of this place… For example, I just got back from Nevada and Arizona, those landscapes I saw for so long in the movies. And then there are the concerts. I saw the Foo Fighters at the Roseland. I went to CBGB, where anything sounded incredible. At the Palomino in Los Angeles, I remember seeing six or seven bands in a night, eating weird things like chorizo. The bands changed but there was never anyone at the sound board. Turns out the guy who sold beer was the same one who moved one knob on the sound board. It’s sounded amazing just the same. There are other wonderful places like the Western Hall or the Continental. Everyone who played in those places blew your mind. Last week I went to see BB King. I came here with my entire gang and now I’m like this, hungover. I’m 20 years older than all of them, and I have to keep up… If you let me be that age again, I’d sign up in a second, to have that liver again, those lungs.
-Yes, but you have already lived…
-Yes, yes. I always say that if I’m going to be reincarnated and I don’t come back as this little thing that is myself, I’d rather not come back. Because up until now it’s been a privilege. I didn’t have problems during my childhood. You know how artists are generally very conflicted? My childhood and adolescence were fucking great. Those were different times, huh? Everything has changed, but I’m still not in conflict. I got along well with my parents. They died in love. My adolescence was free of structure. I went to a number of high schools in La Plata, from fine arts to trade school. They kicked me out of all of them because a friend and I filmed short movies with people from the streets. The school security guards couldn’t cover for me anymore and they ended up throwing me out. I was never interested in formal learning. There were always more attractive things, from movies to poker.
-You got your start making movies?
-My relationship was with the other Beilinson (Guillermo), the brother of (Los Redondos’ guitar player) Skay (Beilinson). We were really making short films based on a book I wrote. We wrote great scripts on the strength of fernet.
-You were already drinking fernet?
-Yes, I was initiated in fernet by el commendatore Benito Durante, a member of the troupe Titanes en el Ring. The guy had a hotel on the coast, in Valeria del Mar, when there was still nothing there. My family pioneered Valeria del Mar, and at that time the only restaurant that was there belonged to Benito Durante, an extraordinary character. Everyone went: Karadagian, La Momia… I played a lot of volleyball with Ruben Peucelle. Benito asked me to do the numbers to pay his employees. I remember going in the kitchen one day and Benito was frying calamari, flipping them with his hand. I said to him: “You’re doing that on purpose to blow my mind. I can’t believe you’re cooking with your hand in boiling oil.” Apparently it didn’t hurt him. The next day I got the flu and he said: “Look, the best thing is hot fernet with a bay leaf”. You drink that and just sweat like a pig. But little by little I started to like it. Later, I ended up running a little hotel with eight rooms and a crepe place next to it. During the winter, it was a bar where the drunks played cards. There were still hard men there, generally men who had left Buenos Aires under less than ideal circumstances. They weren’t there because they wanted to be there– Croatian colonels and the sort. I started to become a man drinking fernet straight. I remember when Guillermo (Beilinson) came to spend the winter and we decided to write a feature-length film. We wrote it drinking fernet next to a heater. The movie got made. Then I started up a relationship with Skay through Guillermo. They already played covers, but they didn’t have anyone who could write songs. We started a happy learning process, consuming products, anything really. That got our attention very quickly. We played sporadically, and at the same time Skay’s brother — their family had money — went to work at a business his dad had in Venezuela. Things started to go well for Skay and I. The band was formed.
-Are you still connected to film?
-I would love to go to the film festivals, but it’s hard for me. Being popular does that. I don’t get along well with being popular.
-But in your case, it’s not just popularity, but a different kind of fanaticism.
-Yes, it’s an unsettling fanaticism. I get letters that pretty are borderline. I’m a grateful person, because music has let me do what I want, when I want, how I want. Even so, they’ve transformed my life in some way… Especially since I have a kid whom I would like to take certain places. Either his mom takes him, or I have to take him at 11 in the morning, and still there’s always someone watching you.
-Look, on election day when Bruno was five years old (he’s 11 now), I said to my partner: “Virginia, let’s take advantage of the elections when people stay home and eat raviolis and don’t go to the mall. Let’s go out to lunch at McDonald’s.” Said and done: there was no one there, but the mall employees and security guards started to come out, the janitors– everyone wanted to take pictures. For the first time, Bruno looked at me and said: “Dad, why are people always asking you for things?” He had no idea who I was. We hadn’t even told him. I will never forget the first time shit came apart, many years ago now. I was at the door of the music store where I always went. Among the heap of people pushing against was a woman with a piece of paper she wanted me to sign, and she was asking everyone else: “Who is he? Who is he?”
-I suppose you have gone through some tough experiences.
-Once I went to (Buenos Aires’ Children’s) Hospital Garrahan to see a sick kid. I arrived and the kid’s mother was standing in the hallway with a picture of me, and she said to me: “I don’t really believe in you.” Not only does the comment surprise me, but the need to tell someone you don’t believe in them amazes me. You don’t believe in what? What are we talking about here? When I got into his room, the kid had huge picture of me taped over the television screen. l walked out and I asked the doctor: “Dude, is this okay? What if this kid goes into shock or something?” Every once in a while I will call someone on the phone because their mother or wife told me they are dying, or have some kind of problem. But I try not to get involved, because you really don’t know what you are doing.
-When you think about musicians from your generation that are dead or sick — Charly Garcia, Gustavo Cerati, Luis Alberto Spinetta — what does that do to you?
-It just so happens that a nasty drug appeared in the ’90s: cocaine. People took if before, but in party situations. The ideal state to take it in was a state of inebriation, and you took small doses to keep yourself feeling good. But in the ’90s these metallic kids started chopping up long lines, and that’s had an impact. It’s a fucked up drug. It’s like having an accelerator, which you only really need to use when you pass someone. It’s an attractive drug, but very damaging.
-(Argentine musician) David Leblon said that when cocaine takes over, your soul packs up and leaves.
-It started as a party. I remember I danced a lot. There were dance parties where the coke was passed around. That was a party moment that was quickly interrupted. There are also addictive personalities. There are people who take stuff on the weekends and then put on a suit on Monday and go to work. There are workaholics, there are obese people, etc. I’ve seen a lot around me: burned out brains, suicides, etc. I’m in favor or decriminalizing soft drugs, because the mafias are going to have to think about where to get their money from. If everyone had a couple plants at home to smoke a couple joints the market would be finished. But they’ve put other drugs in the same bag and that’s not right. I don’t think it’s true that one drug leads to another.
-You’re saying the experience of the ’90s ended in sadness.
-It started with confetti, and ended in mourning and black crepe paper. For me, it’s very sad.
-But besides the drugs, in the cases of Charly, Spinetta or Cerati, is there not an impulse toward death in rock?
-The life of a rocker is not easy. We are adventurous people and those adventures can suddenly be too much and you can lose your anchors. There are a lot of troublesome experiences as well. At some point in your career — to call it something, I’m not really sure what it is — when you get older, you feel like they’ve stolen your life and a kind of bitterness starts to set in that eats away at you. Bad moods produce bad things. You have an adventuresome life and that starts to push you away from the people who nourish you. All those three guys have something in common: Cerati, for example, sold way less albums than (his band) Soda Stereo. When I talk about sales I’m not talking about money, but about what it generates in the fan base. Garcia, the same thing. Spinetta is a forefather, but everyone realized he was a forefather toward the end. I didn’t even know. I didn’t know he was sick when I played one of his songs at my last concert. I did it out of his respect for his trajectory. What I’m saying is that people abandon artists, and that is being laid bare now more than ever. And these are artists who are more adventuresome than the people who follow them.
-Do you understand some of the people who have killed themselves?
-It’s hard. I wouldn’t trade life for anything. We all have our crises, but if you’re playing with fire above and beyond the crises, if you are consuming some hard products, it’s probable that you’ll end up doing something. I can understand that. It might be a little more understandable for people who are struggling . And that’s coming from someone who is still having success, who still has the support of the masses. My vision is being kept alive by the people.
-Have you ever been uncertain of yourself?
-I don’t fully understand what goes on with me. I know things can’t last forever, but it’s so strange what is happening. I’m a 63-year-old guy who fills stadiums. That is not very common. It happens in other countries, but they have overpowering production. The logical course is an artist has their peak and then falls off. There are some who accept it and others who don’t, because they have put so much into it.
-Is that where ego comes in?
-Yes, and also an understanding of how things are, you know? Look at everyone else. Stop navel gazing. If it happened to other remarkable people, why wouldn’t it happen to you?
-Dylan had a disastrous period at the beginning of the ’90s.
-Of course. You also have to know there will be bad albums, good albums, and average albums. Artists are society’s sensitive skin. The artist’s sensibility is not the same as that of a butcher or a lawyer. He dedicates himself to the resonance of our deepest sorrows. What’s more, he has to be on the lookout for the deepest sorrows, even when he watches it on television. You are laden with the most destructive sorrows.
-You need to even have the capacity to anticipate and capture what will afflict society in two weeks.
-And remake it. You have to eat it and shit it out before anyone else. It’s like eating heavy food and having something nice come out.
-And an artist doesn’t do that to serve himself?
-No. He doesn’t know anything else. One finds that place in his spirit where he feels comfortable, and that’s what he most likes doing. It’s like a net that catches everything: huge joys and also sorrows.
-In that sense, what place does love have in your work?
-Bruno has changed my life. I was smart enough to not have him during my bohemian period, because at that time you are only worried about yourself, and even more so when you are younger. When you are 22, your life is in full bloom. You can’t turn yourself over the anyone. At this age, it’s a different kind of thing. I’m amazed because he is a different vision of life for me. We are very similar. He’s the new model, like a projection. In that sense we are immortal.
-And what is it about fatherhood that turns one into an industry of fear?
-It changes everything. I had gotten rid of all my fears basically because I had lived all of them. Now the fears for him start.
-You start to look at the future with skepticism, the uncertainty…
-Exactly, because looking forward you don’t see pleasant clouds on the horizon. That message has been coming down the pipe for a while.
-There’s a lot of information, besides, that is just as dangerous when you don’t have it.
-Information and misinformation. What Dr. Parker says today in National Geographic is not what Dr. Johnson will say tomorrow. Who do you believe? The 24-hour news programs are terrible because they generate all this content. Ever since I moved to Parque Leloir and backed off the nightlife, I have been getting up early. The news in the morning is totally different than the news at noon. And I won’t even talk about Wikipedia, which, for example, says I was born in Concordia.
-And you’re from Parana. They have woven this entire mythology around you, inventing your hometown.
-Yes. One journalist said I had been a gym teacher at a military high school during the dictatorship. They’ve also said I was a park ranger. I’m not going to go around correcting things I never said. The other day there was a picture of a bald guy sitting in the sun and everyone said it was me. I can’t sit in the sun anymore. I got too much sun when I was a beach boy. My skin is shot. But going back to love, I think it’s the desire for someone else’s well being, and that’s something I’ve felt more than once in my life. I think everyone should experiment with love. Well, I don’t know about everyone. There are certain personalities that are walled off by culture and everything they do turns into a business. Poor things. Poor fuckers. That’s what is happening. It gets out in the media. The connection with technology is so strong right now that kids adopt this logic of violence from the Internet and television into their own lives. The bullying, for example. I didn’t live through a childhood with the level aggression we see today. We are linked to these technologies, and these technologies are transmitters.
-Of mandates and interests that one is unaware of. We live in a world where the corporations are very powerful, but the executives in the corporations are not as powerful as the corporations themselves. The corporations have started to become these kind of monsters. There’s a sort of strange transformation. In this system, anyone can say to you: “Look, I’m the asshole who’s in this position, but I definitely don’t have any power over the decisions.” Before, you could kill your boss. Now you don’t kill anyone.
-At the most you find a ventriloquist with enormous power.
-I remember when Norman Mailer marched on the Pentagon. When he went in with the protesters, all he found were a bunch of offices. There was no power there, just a bunch of people working.
-Skepticism can definitely also be a motor for change.
-Well, there was already the ‘no future’ of punk, which was an interesting movement that shook us up quite a bit. Later, it turned into fashion. That’s also what happens. Che Guevara turns into a t-shirt.
-The same thing happened with Roger Waters, who shows up with a message that is not only anachronistic, but also a tirade against capitalism. Meanwhile, he has advertisements for Ford next to him.
-It happens with the left. Because of my opposition to established power, I’m always on the left. But what happens is that I can’t explain what the left is. I recognize the importance of Marx over time, but he lived and wrote during the time of the steam engine. Psychology didn’t exist. Psychedelia didn’t exist, the new technologies… What I’m saying is a thinker takes on relative parameters. During his time he may have been good, but he has to be updated.
-What do you think of the political climate right now in Argentina, where the ruling party is using your songs for the soundtrack for their programs?
-I don’t know people in the government. I don’t take pictures with them, and they don’t like that because they are in power. They let me know about it. The same thing happens with the news corporations. You end up blocking punches from all directions. I don’t need the media anymore.
-The media never fully got the bottom of your position. And being a conservative power, your mystery hurts them.
-The media has preconceived notions. Supposedly the media exists to get to the bottom of things. That mystery doesn’t really exist in me. As the phrase goes: “All my life I was been trying to get onto that stage, that stage, that stage… and when I got there, there was nothing.” I always wanted to be there, to be illuminated. And there’s not shit on that stage. There’s the misery you are everyday, your everyday selfishness. It’s a prism.
-What things do you find inspiring now?
-I’m going to continue writing songs, even when I’m retired. I enjoy it. Some people enjoy hunting eels, and I like writing songs, even if just to sing at home. I keep writing all the time, even though the truth is I write melodies first. People think I enjoy writing but what I really like more is making melodies, because the other thing is my profession. Love inspires me. It’s fundamental. Even the most sinister characters have their other side, and besides, no one chooses to be a villain in this life. No one is born good or bad. Your bonds turn you into what you are. Injustice inspires me. There are three or four things artists have to work with. I distrust the notion of finding truth. Not the kind you look for. Artists work with that, the dramas we witness. Artists are permeable to drama. The artist, while he watches the news, tears up. People watch it eating noodles.
-You always resisted talking about your lyrics…
-It’s just that you can’t release the tension from your work. And when you try to explain it, you take out the tension that is part of the work. One has to speak for the work. It’s sounds a little pretentious, but I’m talking about songs here, right? I try not to feed on the media.
-But the media feeds on you. “The Future Has Arrived” must be one of the most used headlines in the last 20 years.
-Yes, they’ve used that a lot with me. It sounds pedantic, but I believe in the prophetic power of poetry. I think it works that way. There’s possibility in that contraction of text. Music shouldn’t help you listen. It has to help you imagine. The only way a certain thing can mean anything to you is if you imagine it, not if someone tells you about it.
-Poetry isn’t defined, but recognized.
-Yes, and people have a hard time understanding that.
-But a lot of people need certainties.
-Aha, but that’s not my fault.
21 Aug 2013