Interviewing “big names” is a lot less glamorous than you might think. Record labels lock these poor famous artists in a room for a whole day, prior to the release of a new album (like…say…Calle 13’s Entren Los Que Quieran), and make them answer as many phone calls as possible.
I personally hate being on the phone for too long, so I assume most of these people must hate it too, especially when they have to answer to the same damn questions again, and again, and again. You can tell how bored and annoyed artists are while reciting their memorized answers, just by the tone of their voices. You can tell that inside their heads they’re thinking “I signed up to be a musician, not a telemarketer!” And you wonder how long it’ll be before they replace them with computerized menus, “If you want to know about their next album, press 1. If you want to ask about the singer’s romance with Miss Universe, press 2.”
So there I am, on my cell phone, an hour and 10 minutes after the scheduled time, and a female voice tells me, “I’m gonna put you through to Eduardo.” That’s Eduardo Cabra Martínez, better known as Visitante, multi-instrumentalist and producer of Calle 13 and stepbrother of Residente, to whom all my prepared questions were directed. What the hell, let’s do this.
Everybody asks that. My brother and I thought it wasn’t necessary because it would’ve deviated the song’s message. People’s reaction would’ve been “Calle 13 naked!” instead of focusing on what we say.
How was it shot?
It was in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was very complicated because we didn’t get the permits to do it. In Puerto Rico there are still many moralists. The last scene, in the streets with the people running naked, was done right in the open. It was like a kamikaze shot.
It must have been a lot of fun.
Oh yeah! It was chévere. We had a great time.
How did you manage to have the video online, on Web sites like YouTube, without censorship?
There was censorship. They would put it up and bring it down, put it up again, and bring it down again. Right now, you can only watch it on YouTube if you have an account with your age on it. In Vimeo it’s easier, anybody can watch it there.
In the lyrics of that song you accuse an anonymous artist of buying his own records to go up in the rankings. Did anybody feel touched by this and came out to confront you?
No, of course not. Nobody is going to admit such a thing. Those are things you see a lot being in the inside of this industry. When my brother wrote those lyrics, it was like a compilation of everything we’ve been living these past four years within this industry. From outside, you hear a lot about this type of stuff and think this can’t be. But it can. There’s a lot of corruption in this business.
“I’M NOT VERY MOTIVATED BY DOING MUSIC FOR THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING AUDIENCE. I DON’T KNOW IF THEY’D GET IT AND I’M NOT REALLY INTERESTED IN THEM GETTING IT.“
How do you manage the balance between being critics of the industry and being part of it and benefiting from it?
Fortunately our record label has a lot of respect for what we do. We keep very tight control of our work, we control our music, our lyrics, our videos, our Web site. They respect us a lot. But there are other artists…sometimes artists allow for manipulation.
You have reached such a massive level of exposure within the Latin music industry that it’s hard to imagine where else you’d go, how you can keep growing. Have you considered a crossover to the Anglo market?
My brother is interested in writing in English and being able to communicate with more people. I’m not very motivated by doing music for the English-speaking audience. I don’t know if they’d get it and I’m not really interested in them getting it.
And doing a collaboration with English-speaking artists?
For me, it has to be something that I really like, musically. My brother, he just wants to communicate. So the possibility of my brother doing something in English exists. As for myself, I doubt it.
Yes, I did a little bit of production there.
In those lyrics, Residente accuses Shakira of pretty much the same thing every Latino around the world has been accusing her of since she dyed her hair blonde. I’m wondering what was Shakira’s reaction when she heard those lyrics for the first time?
She was cool, chevere. My brother could tell you better. But I agree with what my brother says.
Is there going to be any reggaeton in this new album?
No. In this one there’s absolutely no reggaeton at all.
Do you think the reggaeton fad is over?
Well, it still moves people. It has its thing. But I’m not very interested in using this beat right now. Maybe in the future we’ll do it again. We were never part of the reggaeton scene, we never embraced that lifestyle. We only used the reggaetón drum beats and mixed it with other stuff, just to show that it was possible to do something different. I don’t say better, but different. Because the problem is that they all sound the same. Now the problem is even worse because they all use auto-tune, so all their voices sound the same! It’s like the same song repeated in 50 albums.
So, there’s no auto-tune on Calle 13’s new album.
No, definitely not.
Listen to parts of Calle 13’s upcoming album, Entren Los Que Quieran, and watch the video for “Calma Pueblo” below.