Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A conversation with Omar Rodriguez Lopez (25-10-12)

Omar RodriguezLopez is one of the ‘greatest guitarist of all time’ according to Rolling Stone Magazine. He has produced more than 40 albums in a decade and a half and he is behind some iconic bands such as ‘At the Drive-in’ and ‘The Mars Volta’. He also runs his own record company ‘Rodriguez Lopez Productions’.

Juan J. Cruz, Editor, had the opportunity to interview him and talk about his music a few days ago. Have a read to find out more (just click on 'read more' below).

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez

Omar Rodriguez Lopez at the East Brunswick Club, Melbourne (2011).

JC.- Hello. Yeah, so… my name is Juan…just calling for the interview. I run a blog documenting the Melbourne music scene. I originally prepared an email interview so I hope it is okay if I start reading the questions.

ORL.- Yeah, okay.

JC.- Could you tell us more about your solo project, as opposed to your work with the other bands At the Drive-in and the Mars Volta?

ORL.- Uhm…Shit, it’s all the same thing to me, you know… I mean, At the Drive-in is a collective group; it’s a democracy, so that was a whole different thing. With Mars Volta, I have been doing all the composing and the producing, so basically I had hundreds and hundreds of track and I put together a record of them. The solo work is just more of those tracks… it´s all part of the same thing, it´s all one big body of work.

JC.- When I did a Google search on your latest release, three albums came up for 2012. Could you tell us more about these lots of albums that you seem to be creating at the same time?

ORL.- Yeah.. [Laughing] I don’t know what I can say about them. It´s just more material… I am in a very fortunate situation where I get to play music for a living, so that´s what I do. I like to make records, so I make them. As a result of that, well… there are albums. I make way more albums that I release. Some get release, some others don´t… it´s all kind of random.

JC.- Is there any reason why this year you produced three albums? I am surprised cos it is quite a lot of creative material for a single year… that gives you three and a half or four months per album.

ORL.- Well, I don’t know… It’s not a lot… on average… in 2010 I put together 8 albums in one year; in 2011, 5 or 6 records. Three is the least I´ve put out in one year. I guess what I am trying to say is… it is not a lot at all, if you think about it… I don’t have to work for a living anymore. When I was a kid, when I was growing up and becoming an adult, I loved playing music all the time and I recorded stuff but I had to go to work to the Pizza Shop from 9.30 until 7 at night. So from 9.30 to 7 at night I made pizza and hamburgers and hot dogs, and I went deliver pizzas… and all I could think of was getting home to play music. So at 7.30 I get home and I bring home the pizza and I start recording in my house. And I was lucky enough that playing music became what allowed me to pay rent, so I didn´t have to work at the Pizza Shop anymore. You know, it sounds crazy to me that someone would only put out a record in a whole year, unless they have some other job to do. But if are lucky and you are in a band and that´s your work, and you quite literally get paid to just make records, how could you make one record every 3 years? That sounds crazy to me… Not three records in one year.

JC.-  [Laughing] Yeah, fair enough, it makes sense if you put it that way… Last year I went to see you at the East Brunswick Hotel and I nearly bumped into you when you were filming your way around the pub. Could you tell us more about your film projects?

ORL.- Oh yeah! We get into a lot of things. You know: same idea… We like to have fun and we get to do it for a living, so we make movies, we have the projects on the film festivals all around the world, you get to film on your own on your own tour. I don´t know: stuff that is fun. And when you are allowed to do it, you feel lucky and you do it. It´s not that complicated. I think it´s pictured more complicated that what it is. If you put yourself, again, in my situation, I mean… I don´t have to do anything except to do what I like to do. So that´s pretty cool.

JC.- [Laughing] Yeah, that´s pretty cool

ORL.- So I don´t have to clock in to some work or college, or go to some office… Basically I am allowed to just have fun. I am allowed to be creative all the time. When I was a kid, that´s what I did when I had to work and now I don´t have to anymore. So... life is good.

JC.- [Laughing] I´m pretty happy to hear that. So, let me get back to the questions… for that people who is not familiar with your music, could you cite a few bands to listen before getting straight into your sound?
ORL.- No, not really. I would say that if you are a fan of music… it´s simple: you will like it or you won´t. But if you are fan of some type of music, then, forget it. I don´t know what to say. If you stop in one colour or one group… and you say "oh, I am a metal-head” or “oh I just listen to punk rock” or “oh I just listen to funk”, then… shit… I don´t know what to tell you, but if you like music the way I do and the way most of the people I know do, and you have a big record collection… and by big I mean lots of different styles of music, then you might like what we are doing, because you are a fan of music and you approach music on a very individual basis. But if you are fan of just a genre, you may not like it, I don´t know.

JC.- Yeah, actually… Last time you played I took my girlfriend to your gig thinking that it was a risky one cos I was kind of  “Okay, I´m gonna take you to listen to this guy who used to play pretty hard-core stuff back in the nineties and let´s see what you think about it”. And she actually liked it, so I guess it´s the same thing: if you like music, every case is a unique experience.

ORL.- Yeah, I hope so, you know.

JC.- Yeah, good… so I read you grew up in el Paso, moved to Amsterdam, spent some time in California, then… I don´t even know where you are at the moment. Does this nomadic lifestyle translate somehow into your music?

ORL.- Yeah, of course, my music is only a by-product of everything that happen to me as a person, my family, where I lived, my environment, my culture, my mother, my father, my brothers. Music is a by-product of that. It is formed by everything that has happened to me, sort of a drawing or a photograph: life that is happening. Every single aspect of my life conforms the music and my type of music is affected by it.

JC.- So what does a one of your regular working days actually involve?

ORL.- You know, just normal things…it involves eating my food, it involves nice conversations, maybe watch a movie.

JC.- I mean, do you wake up, do you shut yourself up in the studio, or you organise yourself like in a regular job? I am trying to figure out how do you do what you do.

ORL.- You know, that´s what I’m saying: I just do what I do. I get up, I eat, I go for a walk, maybe go for a movie, then all of a sudden I feel like recording something so I go and I record that… if this is happening, this may happen for seven hours, three… then I go eat again, then I call a friend, then maybe like to go to see a movie, then maybe it´s two in the morning and go back to the studio and work some more. It´s just whatever it´s happening at the moment.
Sometimes you get into routines… sometimes… when you have deadlines. And maybe you get up at nine and you are recording by 10AM and stop by seven… and then you go to the movies. But most of the time it is whatever feels right.

JC.- Then, is there any difference between work and fun or it is all the same thing?
Yeah, It´s all the same, it´s all the same… I don´t consider what I do my job. I don´t consider it work. I defined it as work because I don´t have to work at the pizza place anymore. So then, this is my work, you know what I mean? I just say that to clarify my personal situation but I don´t see it as work: I just get to record stuff. I am living the same life I was living when I was thirteen, but now I don´t live with my parents anymore.

JC.- Yeah, it makes sense. I have a couple of more questions. My site is about documenting an important part of Melbourne lifestyle. Is there anything in particular that you are looking forward to doing in Melbourne?

ORL.-  In Melbourne? Oh, there are some good Vietnamese food places. My life revolves mostly about food again, so maybe check some Thai food places and Vietnamese food places. Like I said maybe we’ll watch a movie. I will be meeting my friends who live in the city and maybe go to the park or something, but definitely the biggest part of it it´s eating.

JC. Ha, right, that sounds very Melbourne. That´s cool. And what would be the most critical situation you have ever had while on a solo tour.

ORL.- Critical? Uhm… shit… I don´t know.

JC. Have you ever have any big disasters?

ORL.- Well, you know, we have disasters all the time... But if you put it in perspective, at the end of the day, we are just playing music. So a disaster only means “oh, we just missed the plane” or “it was crazy weather so we get stuck in some place”, you know: nothing like a real disaster. It´s all just First World problems: we miss the flight, or things go wrong or gear gets broken, nothing serious.

JC.- Yeah, pretty easy going. So, if you could choose of any band, who would you pick to go on a road tour with?

ORL.- Uhm, right now, we are on tour with Crypts from Seattle, but yeah, I don´t know I haven´t really thought about it.

JC.-Is there any Australian band that you are into or that you would be able to recommend to someone back at home?

ORL.- A band? Geezz [Laughing] No, I cannot think of anything right now.

JC.- Oh, that´s okay [Laughing]. No worries, maybe I shouldn´t put that one in the interview.


JC.- I think that was pretty much it, so… Yeah… thanks a lot for your time; that was great. And I hope to see you when you are playing at the Corner.

ORL.- Ah, okay, cool… Sounds good. Thank you very much.

JC.- Okay, man, keep doing what you are doing: it’s great. Have a good day.

ORL.- Yeah, you have a good day too. Ciao.


Omar Rodriguez Lopez will be playing in Melbourne on the following dates:

Sunday 25th November @  Cherry Rock Festival
Sunday 2nd December @ the Corner Hotel

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