Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current release: Guti has remixed Steve Bug & Cle's Behind the Curtains. Out now on Poker Flat.
Keith Jarret - Köln Concert. It’s been a heavy part of my life this year and I always come back to it.
Gabriel Garcia. Marquez - 100 years of Solitude. The maximum expression of magic realism or how Latinos create our own reality to deal with life. Incredible writing from one of the best writers ever.
If you enjoyed this interview with Guti, visit him on Facebook or Soundcloud for more information.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I really remember the moment I understood the permanence of the written word or sound: That it’s gonna outlast us all. We have to be put thought into every thing we do.
I’ve been playing around with music since I was a child, from self exploring to formal education. I was hungry to understand and to digest Latin culture. My first love was reading: Cortazar Borges, Garcia Marquez. The concept of telling stories through words to time travel to engage emotionally in a fiction. It was a leap of faith.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
I always consider myself a jazz musician. Jazz is a language. I like how jazz lets me understand things and process them. I wanted to be Oscar Peterson, I wanted to be Bill Evans. I dreamed of Piazolla's melodies. With “electronic music” (that for me is music with things that are plugged to a power grid) it’s still a new language, a fascinating one.
This pandemic, this big stop was a much needed curse to open my eyes and reconsider what I’m doing. Your voice is always there, we just do the impossible to not listen to it. I believe my own voice is still forming.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
Everything inspires me: conversations, listening to music, isolation.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
The challenges were that I didn’t have the resources: from the information, the way to achieve the right processing, the money to buy the gear to express my ideas. Technology helped a lot this past 15 years. Now I have more control over what I want to say and why.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years? Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
As I said things changed wildly in the last 15 years. My first piece of equipment was a cheap Casio keyboard with some piano sounds as I was playing in a rock band at the time. I had a completely irrational approach to buying gear. Trial and error, falling in love with instruments and idolising others. Then I discovered Ableton! Those guys gave me a big opportunity. To understand that you are the instrument. Wherever you are you can always write music. From then, I began spewing ideas.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
During this pandemic we host jams every week. Sometimes we play, sometimes we talk, see where the conversation goes, same with music. I prefer to do collaborations under the same roof. There are many dimensions that can you can’t achieve remotely.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
The studio is always on and we do everything around it. Daniela my partner is a sound engineer and a musician. So we try to share as much as we can. She works in the morning cause the kids are in school. I also love the mornings. But when you are part of a family you (adults) don’t dictate the rhythm anymore. Music is always around us, could be salsa and dancing or playing piano or banging a conga. We want the kids to grow with joy.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
I will say my breakthrough is coming now. I had many lives I could talk about: my rock bands and other stories that today I feel as a fiction. I’m not that person anymore it is very hard for me to relate to the past. I’m always present. My new project modal tune with the Armenian jazz genius saris Ricci is the best thing I’ve ever done and I am very proud of it. The album is coming this year.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I go to the studio to listen to incredible music and always wait for the moment when I wanna play.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I was really hurt back in the days and wrote an album that was very painful to write. As a joke I called it Heartbreaker (Rompecorazones), but I really was completely heartbroken. A mix of realisations of lifetime traumas, endless touring and eventual break up almost destroyed me. The fact is I still can’t listen to it. But the fact that loads of people find it beautiful still amazes me.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
Well I see it differently. I will always be a Latin musician. I filter everything through that so when I try to do jazz it sounds a bit like Latin jazz and the same with house. I think it’s great to know about other cultures. But if you don’t merge the new influences with yours, you are not an honest artist.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
Sounds teleport me. I have a very visual connection with sound, plus I always create these fantasy backstories to all the music I write like following a movie script. It’s a fun hobby.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I think society allows a group of people to process information and then digest it to be sent back to the rest. Poets, musicians, painters, photographers, philosophers and so we have to reflect what’s going on and make our voice heard.
I've always been political. I can’t believe that an artist will not talk about injustice and the social issues for fear of offending your fan base and I see it more and more. Every time I make a political comment it’s something I thought about deeply and I am using my platform to be heard. I come from a family destroyed by the dictatorship in my country and I won’t accept censorship of anyone, ever.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Listen to Oscar Peterson - Love Ballade. Expresses everything you need to know.