With La Ciudad Liberada [The Liberated City], Fito Paez — the artist behind hundreds of iconic Argentine rock songs — speaks for the first time in years to the media. “We’ve got to start living with less political correctness and more truth,” he says.
No matter how much you try, it is near impossible to find a rational explanation to Paez’s artistic curiosity. To the legendary popular-song performer, music is simply that. This vision, somewhat nihilistic, kills interpretations and may end up disappointing those who see in him the Argentine rocker archetype. But it is also an advantage, since Fito, in his desire to live every second of his life to the fullest, makes sure that the conversation has plenty of food for thought, with his prolific oeuvre in the middle of it.
His comments are accompanied by spastic movements of the head, the left arm is arched, and his hand caresses the air as if there were an imaginary pet below. It is not a pose, its Paez’s leitmotiv, body language that invites prejudice. But as soon as the musician answers, all preconceived notions evaporate.
His 23rd studio album — if we count the three LPs he did in collaboration with Luis Alberto Spinetta, Joaquín Sabina and Paulinho Moska — is not an accident. Paez worked in its 18 songs for the past year and a half, and the end result is a new link in the chain of albums that proved to be turning points in his career, such as “Del 63,” “Giros,” “El Amor Después del Amor” and “Naturaleza Sangre.”
Paez talks to Billboard Argentina:
Some of the songs have radio potential, while others have a more narrative style, going from the dark and pessimistic [“Navidad Negra,” “Nuevo Mundo”], to the light and hopeful [“Soltá,” “Otra Vez el Sol”]. Did you think about making two albums in one?
Generally, when I start treading the path of an artistic work, I never know if they’ll be microsongs or tunes that go over 10 minutes, like “La Casa Desaparecida” [from his 1999 album, “Abre”]. These are pieces that go through lots of stages. In this case, there were lists of nine songs, 13 or eight. If they pay attention, listeners will find connections between the songs. Everything has a reason. Why it is there and what for? Thus the album is whimsically long.
Are they all new songs? Did you write them thinking of the record?
The oldest has a year and a half at the most. I don’t do stuff for an album. I don’t know where I’m going; I do it, and it gives me pleasure. It’s like a spider web: I start building, and at some point, I’m comfortable enough, as I am transmitting what I wanted.
There are many religious references. Why?
They are words, some with powerful meanings to different cultures. I am a Pisces: I put the camera on, and I don’t feel the need of defining myself. It’s an aquatic moment for me, to be able to see the world from different spots and put the camera where I want. What happens if I do it from here?
Hey, we’re in this world, once again the sun going ’round with the Google camera on it, watching the world burn. And suddenly, the Google camera moves inward and you go to the triple frontier of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, where two guys are in the middle of a fight. There are plenty of temporal and poetic spaces that collide into each other, and they made the album fun for me.
Are you interested in explaining your songs, or in what people make of them?
I am an artist that provides you with an open stage. From there, you can do whatever you like. However, the material does have suggestions of its own. That’s what we do. It’s as if any artist told you, “Look, it’s this way.” The Guernica is the Guernica: bodies crushed in black and white over a flat surface. We could say it is an aerial camera, or whatever. Where does the Guernica lead you? That’s something for the spectator to decide. The artist has no place outside of his art. Those who try end up in a really poor position.