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Interview with Adrian Quesada (english version)

Interview with Adrian Quesada
(Interview by Nicolas Ragonneau - April 2011)

Adrian Quesada, one of the most interesting modern guitarists from funk afro/latino's Austin scene (Grupo Fantasma, Ocote Soul Sounds, Brownout) answers a few questions about his new project The Echocentrics.
We've done a mix about Adrian Quesada that you can download here, we also have a photo shooting session by Jean Saint Jean of this summer's Grupo Fantasma show in Paris to publish, along with a mix from Adrian to be aired soon in our World People series... so stay connected people!

Adrian Quesada by Jean Saint Jean Adrian Quesada - photo by Jean Saint Jean

01. How did you come’ to music?’
I’ve been infatuated with music as long as I can remember. I was an only child so I had a lot of time to myself and used to draw and listen to music all day long. I watched the very first day MTV hit the air and remember the rocket launch and everything...I grew up in a relatively small town so it turned me onto a whole world of music out there, especially hip hop. My father tried to get me to take piano lessons at around age 12 but I settled for guitar at 13 which my uncle offered to pay for.

02. Did you have ‘guitar heroes’ when you were a teen?
I had the obvious ones like Hendrix and Santana but to be honest maybe because I was so into hip hop I had an aversion to flashy fast lead guitarists and preferred soulful rhythm parts (probably like the samples I was hearing in my favorite hip hop).

03. Is Sunshadows an Adrian Quesada album?
It’s the closest thing to a solo album I’ve ever done but not 100% solo. I wrote a good part of it years ago and still have over 40 songs written for the project but it really took Tita Lima and Natalia Clavier to help me finish it off. I had the vision of psyched out laid back soul stuff but wouldn’t have been able to do it alone and they really were able to make it all come together.

04. Where does the name Echocentrics come from?
The original name was Los Electrics but so much of the music I work on gets lumped into "latin" that I wanted to avoid "Los" anything as this is far from it. I wanted something to do with either spring reverb, tape echo or something that hinted at psychedelic and Echocentrics just came into my head. I was surprised in this day and age a name that simple was still around....I didn’t want to have to settle for Lovelorn Tiger Sits a Tree or some crazy shit like that.

The Echocentrics Sunshadows
The Echocentrics - Sunshadows - plus d'infos

05. In the album’s influences, you name Ennio Morricone. Have you got any particular soundtrack and movie in mind?
It’s hard to nail one down as there’s so many and I’m no expert but off the top of my head I’ve always liked «Il gatto a Nove Code», it’s spooky and funky in an understated way.

06. You also name Serge Gainsbourg. What’s your favorite album/period?
Probably Histoire de Melody Nelson....I love the lush arrangements and all the attitude that gave it such a funk. The shit is out there!

07. In Sunshadows, it’s easy to recognize your guitar style, smooth and wet at the same time. How would you describe it?
Rhythmic. I like the guitar to play the role of a rhythmic instrument and love when there’s enough room to lay down 3 or 4 parts that all interlock and stay out of each other’s way, that’s my favorite part of a lot of african music. Guitar players love to overplay, I tend to underplay. In a sense I play guitar like I would play the drums.

08. One describes also your style as ‘psychedelic’. Do you agree and what’s your idea of psychedelic music?
I think it’s rather psychedelic. There’s obviously much more psychedelic and drug-induced music out there and what’s psychedelic to other people is pretty normal to me but I do think this one is on the slightly psyched out tip....loads of spring reverb usually add that touch.

09. The whole album could be a magnificent soundtrack for a Sam Peckinpah’s movie, Orson Welles’ «Touch of Evil» or any ‘border movie’. Do you think there’s a ‘border style’ in music?
It’s hard to call it border style as it’s such a vague term and border to one person can mean something to another. For example, I grew up on the border of Texas and Mexico, spending almost equal time between the two cities and countries and what’s called "border" down there is completely different what might be border somewhere else. As a generalization I think it implies some Texas desert feel and it does have that sparse, desolate feel.

Adrian Quesada The Echocentrics

10. There are only female singers on the records. Was it intentional?
When I started to work on writing these songs years ago I didn’t know exactly who would sing but it was either a high male voice or a female voice I felt would fit the music. Once I started working with Tita and Natalia I figured it’d be best to keep it consistent, all female.

11. I discovered Tita Lima five years ago on Apollo Nove’s album. Then I was happy to find her back on Ocote’s album and on Sunshadows. How did all begin with Tita?
A friend named Mat Whitington told me about her years ago when I first started writing these songs. We met via email and stayed in touch and she came down to Austin years ago and we’ve been working on and off ever since.

12. Tell me about Ocote Soul Sound’s new album. When will it be released and what will be the colour of the album?
The new Ocote record will be out late May/early June of this year. It’s called Taurus and it was produced by Eric Hilton....we recorded it between Austin and Washington, DC and spent a couple of weeks out there last year working on it. I would say the record may be the most consistent sounding record we’ve made so far and features usual suspect collaborators Chico Mann, Will Rast as well as a few others. It has more vocal tunes than ever before and it was our first time working with an outside producer so it was nice to have an extra set of ears.

13. Austin is now a very important place for music with Ocote, Grupo Fantasma, Brownout, Black Joe Lewis, Hard Proof, Iron and Wine, The Black Angels to name a few, and also SXSW festival. How do you explain this?
The talent is there and it has a very "keep it real" aesthetic as musicians and performers are very much part of the community for the most part the only difference between Austin and a bigger market like NYC or LA is that there is a bigger concentration of media and infrastructure in the bigger cities which often leads to more opportunities. I love to travel and VISIT bigger cities around the world but I’m Texas all day, I love living in Austin. Part of why it has such a good reputation is that bullshit bands don’t make it out of there as there’s thousands of bands playing every night and you better be a good live band or people will let you know you’re not and you can’t get by on style points alone there, you gotta be able to play.

14. You’ve played with Prince. I know you should have told the story many times, but can you tell any anecdot about this?
We used to be his Thursday night house band at his now defunct 3121 club in Las Vegas about 4 years ago. From there we went on to play a few parties with him in LA and it blossomed into us backing him a few times, opening for him at the O2 arena in london, backing him at a Super Bowl Party, rehearsing with him for Coachella and The Tonight Show and so on and so forth. I felt like I matured so much as a musician just being in a room with him. Haven’t played with him in a couple of years now but I look back at those years like I had the opportunity to learn from a genius and am so lucky to have been a part of that. He helped us out so much when he really didn’t have to, he really believed in us. One thing I will say that most people probably don’t know is that he is funny as all hell, when he wants to make you laugh there’s not many people funnier.

15. What do you do when you don’t play or practice music?
Spend time at home with my wife and kids..don’t really have much time for anything else. I used to have hobbies like basketball, drawing, bike riding, etc but it’s hard to find time just to practice my instruments nowadays!

Interview by Nicolas Ragonneau originally published on Musiques Impures website, April 2011.

Adrian Quesada Links : | | | | | | | |
Nicolas Ragonneau

Nicolas Ragonneau

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