MUTEK.ES Previews: Getting to Know… Santiago Latorre
Performing at A/Visions 3: Miscelenea // February 10th
Pat Quintero - January 31, 2012
Santiago Latorre uses his voice, a saxophone, and electronics to break the chains of gravity, make you float, and take you on an atmospheric trip through the cosmos. "Something very old and at the same time very new", said France’s ImproJazz, and "a mix of elegant jazz and gentle electronica", declared the UK’s Plan B.
In 2005, Latorre started composing music for dance, theatre, and video art projects. A few years later, he released Órbita, his first album under the Californian indie label Accretions Records. He has toured in the U.S., Mexico, Japan, and China, and has performed in some of Spain’s most relevant festivals, such as Sónar or LEM.
Recorded as he was traveling through Taiwan, Latorre recently released his latest effort, Eclíptica, his first album with Foehn Records.
PQ: After your visit to the Red Bull Music Academy and the success of Eclíptica, we could say that 2011 was a great harvest! Are you excited, shocked, surprised, or scared?
SL: Yes! All that. It's amazing that it happened in one year, or to be precise, this spring. I was in Barcelona with nothing to do with my life, about to turn 30, with an album in my hands that nobody wanted, and had just arrived from Taiwan completely disoriented. In half a year, things have changed a lot! All this has given me lots of energy; in fact, I think I was more scared before. Now, there is no point in turning back. There is nothing to consider; just keep going and see what happens.
PQ: Did you ever imagine Eclíptica would be named “Best Album of the Year” by national media outlets like Go Mag?
SL: Not at all. How would you imagine that! Most of the songs I composed were created for a single concert in a small Romanesque church in Castelltallat. I had the keys for the church, went every day to work there, and tried out sounds for those specific acoustics. I wanted the people there to enjoy it (64 registered inhabitants in 2010) – something they could find nice and not rare, inspired by the culture of Barcelona. In the end, they opened their church to me.
After the concert, I went to live in Taiwan, and did a song. I looked for some money to record and mix, so I returned to Barcelona. Before entering the studio, I gave all the demos to a friend at home. I thought that perhaps the material itself was really powerful. But after mixing many CDs, I sent them to many labels with no response. I was about to self-release it to get it off my mind and move on. Then it fell into the hands of Marc Campillo (Foehn), who took action and since then, it’s been a revolution. I still find it amazing that people get excited about something that’s so personal for me, without knowing me personally.
PQ: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe your album titles have to do with the DNA of the cosmos and the cycles of life that inspire you. In fact, some of us could enjoy the results of your residence at the Astronomical Observatory of Castelltallat with Nikka, who also participates in this 3rd edition of MicroMUTEK.ES. We could say that you’ve had a long lasting relationship with the universe, right?
SL: When I was a kid, my father and I got together for those weekly collections of videocassettes on astronomy. I must say that I saw most of the videos (the voice overs were a mess) but I remember the feeling. I've always been fascinated by the cosmos; the idea that great things are governed by laws and movements that simple, is amazing. I also find it attractive as a poetic device because it is totally universal, intercultural, and although it seems very abstract, it’s intrinsic to our most basic routines.
PQ: The United States, Mexico, Japan, China, and Singapore: anywhere you go, you take computer, saxophone, microphones, MIDI controllers, and your vocal chords along. Have you added more equipment or gadgetry to your luggage of late? And any new projects on the go?
SL: At the Red Bull Music Academy, I learnt a lot, but not about devices; more about approaches and attitudes to adopt when you tackle a subject, a concert, or whatever. Also how to interact with other musicians, which is a very difficult thing, especially for solitary rats like me. Oh, and very good contacts. Now I'm in London (my roommate says that visits are allowed) studying composition with notes and staves all day. After several years devoted to the physics of sound, I am now reconciled with life and I love the process.
As for projects, there is a sketch of something that has to be made that deals with the erotic (I say no more). In late March, I’ll go on a small tour of Spain in collaboration with Julia Kent (cellist with Antony and the Johnsons) and I will soon publish a remix of "Caffeine" with Brandt Brauer Frick (also present at MUTEK BCN). Also, I’ve just released Accretions Eclíptica in the U.S., and in February it will be released in Japan. I want to go there to play. And I have yet to win over London! (This will not be easy). Uffff, with this, I'm overwhelmed.
PQ: In a live interview you did for RBMA Radio, you said that you always had a book by your side. What did you read while you were in the RBMA’s converted slaughterhouse digs? And did the reading affect your work?
SL: (laughs) I did not read about this! I wish I had more time, if only to sleep... Some days, I carried a book of poems by Jaime Gil de Biedma. I was looking for ideas for a theme, in collaboration with Ilya Goryachev (a participant from Russia). Recently, it is as if I had broken the Internet's brain; I cannot read my novel. Shyly, I'm starting to write lyrics. We'll see where that leads.
PQ: MUTEK is the sum of "MU", representing music’s various mutations, and "TEK", for the technology that nourishes it. Any mutations in store for your live act during the festival?
SL: It is very active and very “MUTEK”, but barely noticeable. Technology plays an important role because it is what allows me to record live, and the recording process integrates diverse elements, such as the saxophone, classical music, synth sounds and a “non-singer” voice, into a single thing, which sounds like a near whisper. Sometimes, I do not even control the computer; I just generate the sounds coming from the microphones, and it works and breaks with those sounds. The staging is very theatrical and very sensory; there will be four-channel sound (surround sound), photographs, captions, and light motion. Expect a lot of tension!