The storied Argentine rocker spoke exclusively to Billboard Argentina for the cover story of the magazine's debut issue. Translated by Judy Cantor-Navas
There's a lot more instrumentation in "Tango en Segunda" than in what Sui Generis had been doing before.
I tell you, I was really blown away when the Fender piano, the mini-Moog and the mellotron arrived. Do you know how I wrote "Tango en Segunda"? I remember perfectly: I was in a cab at three in the morning…the guy was going in second gear and between the rhythm going over the potholes makes, and there was little bit of fog, I got into the groove and right there I started humming the melody.
How did "Cuando ya me empiece a quedar solo" come about?
I did it in a small hotel where I lived with [the singer] María Rosa Yorio, and I think it was without instruments. The first phrase came to me, "My eyes will be very far away…", and I imagined the character, a cigarette in his mouth…
And "Desarma y sangra"?
In that one, I am playing the piano and at one point I play a note and I think it's wrong, but then I realize that it's the beginning of a modulation and that's where the song begins…
Everything classical that you have inside came out on that one.
I don't think that's ever gone away. Though I'm really not a guy who writes down a score and starts playing, I've done it a lot. I was born that way, you could say. As a little boy, until I was 12, I gave a concert a year and I prepared three or four pieces. Chopin's "Polonaise" is really complicated for a kid! My "rock savior," to put it one way, was Elton John. When I heard "Madman Across the Water" I said to myself, "this guy sings like me," for the way he accompanied himself. It really opened my head up and I saw how I could apply what came naturally to me.
Is songwriting done better coming from sadness and suffering than from happiness?
No. Well, from both. My piano teacher instilled the idea in me that the great composers suffered a lot and when you suffer a lot you rise up. Bullshit! Jesus Christ died for the sins of others, not for mine. Both. You need motivation. It is very hard to write songs if you don't do anything. I wrote all my songs between the ages of 15 and 20, or pieces of them, and then I remembered them. I wrote these little songs and then I used pieces of them. Experience begets creation, but I created songs at 17 and talked about things that I didn't know about. I had never been with a woman, for example, when I wrote "Quizás Porque". I wrote "Cuando ya me empiece a quedar solo" and that had never happened to me. You shouuldn't underestimate the imagination either. Protest songs, for example, said things that were good, but they didn't hold together artistically, because they didn't have scenic beauty. The message was vulgar…On the other hand, Dylan, without ever saying Death to the United States," said "the answer is blowin' in the wind".
The first album by Sui Generis came out almost five years after you started playing.
Yes, but we needed that, like The Beatles needed Hamburg. Look at the statue [of us] that's in Mar del Plata: it's Nito Mestre and I passing out flyers. The statue is fantastic!
In April you released an album on vinyl, a format you always liked. Did you regard the CD with suspicion when it came out?
I hated it. I listen to music on CD and it does nothing for me. At first it was the novelty, there's no noise and all that, but it doesn't hit you. The music isn't there, something's missing. When I listened to "Adiós Sui Generis" on CD, it sounded like instead of Luna Park we were playing in a pub like La Bola Loca. Because yes, it erases the noise, but it erases everything: the sounds of the public and everything are very low. I remember the last album on vinyl [of mine] that was made in Argentina was "Radio Pinti" (1991), and the first CD, Parte De La Religión (1987). The dynamic range that vinyl has can't be compared to a CD…Like Jimi Hendrix, Stravinsky, and I have also said, music isn't the notes it's the space between the notes. The CD wipes out that space.
Is releasing music on vinyl a revolt, a whim or what?
No, it's not a whim. It‘s a necessity as a musician, because it's disappointing and frustrating to record an album and it doesn't make you feel anything when you listen to it at home. Vinyl makes you want to record a thousand more records. I'm not going to make more CDs, I'm going to do vinyl. I think people are going to tire of listening to everything so small. And then there's that philosophy of having 200 thousand songs on a device. And nobody listens to 200 hundred thousand songs!