Expect to find the unexpected in Mexico City (DF) with Marcela Viejo, keyboardist/vocalist of Mexico’s praised electropop ensemble, Quiero Club. Mexico’s capital is a lively, rich, and diverse place where one is bound to find oddities, novelties, and underground movements of sorts. In this weekly column, Marcela takes you along on her musical quest to find these rare gems and obscure scenes via reviews, interviews, and profiles. The idea is to search.
A few months ago, a new theater opened in Mexico City’s Roma Sur district, which besides being a hub for independent cinema, also hosts concerts and theatrical plays. The theater has only 90 seats making each event a unique and intimate affair.
BLACKFO, the solo project of Gustavo Mauricio Hernandez Dávila, performed there on Saturday, July 14th. I have the honor of knowing Dávila, multi-instrumentalist, guitarist, keyboardist and one of Quiero Club’s producers (known as Catsup) and one of Mexico’s most talented artists of the past decades, since we were children. As fate would have it, we shared many stages, road trips, flights, and even lived under the same roof on separate occasions.
The word on the street says that BLACKFO played many improvised and experimental rhythms. As I was unable to assist Dávila with his project, I decided to interview him about his new project in order to put these rumors to rest and about his show at Tonalá.
Thumbnail photo credit by María José Sesma
Hi Gustavo, I realize that we’re next door to each other but I wanted to conduct our interview electronically so that you can tell me about your recent concert as BLACKFO. First off, everyone wants to know, in your own words, what style of music is BLACKFO?
From the many options available on Myspace Music, I chose the following: roots, experimental and pop.
Do you plan on having guest musicians onstage with you as you did at Cine Tonalá? Who were they?
Dr. Raymundo Leal on drums, Carlos Icaza also on drums, Gustavo Guerrero on guitar, Luis Fara on bass, Neto García in charge of the mixing board and wardrobe, Priscilla González on coconuts, Pepillo Antillon on hotcakes and synthesizers, and a few stray phantoms from another dimension who we’ve been communicating with.
What do you look for in a musician? Who do you want to invite to perform? What requirements must they meet?
They must first show interest and empathy for BLACKFO. On the stage, they must be open to surprises and appreciate the unexpected and, finally, that we gel together as musicians. Perhaps that last requirement won’t soon be necessary.
I heard that on this occasion, there were dialogues and scenes performed onstage as a theatrical play of sorts about BLACKFO. Tell me about it.
Yes. On this occasion we split the show into nine parts in which Priscilla and Pepillo had a dialogue in one of the parts. It was a bit like an act in a play/musical passage with the sounds they made (Priscilla hammering away on coconuts and Pepillo eating hotcakes) were produced live with delays and effects. I took the dialogue from a short play I wrote at the beginning of this year. This was the most important part of the show for me because it showcased my intent to experiment with the modern Rock show format. It used to be that we’d show up on stage, count one-two-three and off we went until the end. This time, I wanted to separate everything into acts. Each act was unique. The format at Cine Tonalá was perfect with the orchestra seating, a screen with visuals for every act, room for set design, and a dressing room nearby where we could run off to between acts. Plus, the employees there are very nice and friendly.
I APPRECIATE WATCHING TRAFFIC MOVE ALONG AS
A BEAUTIFUL AVALANCHE IN WHICH NO ON HAS CONTROL OF.
THAT’S HOW I VIEW THINGS ARTISTICALLY.
People you say you sing in dead tongues. What are you trying to express with that?
Hahahaha…I sing in living tongues! They’re livelier than I am! First and foremost, I enjoy trying to express myself the same way as a river or as other natural phenomenons expresses themselves. On the other hand, I also try to be aware of my actions and try to express myself as a mundane poet who utilizes more concrete words and phrases. Sometimes I’ll compose more traditional songs and that’s how we keep the flow going. I think it’s great to try out many different modes of expression within one show. It makes a show more interesting and dynamic.
What artists have inspired you in this project?
The faith of Lee “Scratch” Perry, Thurston Moore when he says, “Please do not confuse this with music,” Leonora Carrington when she communicates with other-dimensional beings, and of course, the musicians I share the stage with.
Besides artists, who/what else inspires you?
I love the beauty found in nature. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about accidents and our reactions to them. We become filled with rage if we’re in a traffic accident caused by a taxi driver who fell unconscious. However, we are humble and thankful for surviving an accident such as a streetlight falling on top of us during an thunderstorm. For example, I appreciate watching traffic move along as a beautiful avalanche in which no one has control of. That’s how I view things artistically. It’s much easier to accomplish that on the stage than on Avenida Insurgentes.
If you could perform BLACKFO on any stage in the world, which stage would it be?
In the Black Forest at midnight.
And if you could have any instrument at your disposal for your show, which would they be?
I want to use more electronic sounds than I’ve used so far. I would also use more drums, an all-male choir, an all-female choir, everyday objects, electric guitars, acoustic guitars, flute, saxophone, samplers, synthesizers, steel drums, organs, electric pianos, all types of percussion, balls, racquets, harps, many effects to process everything with, bassoons, horns, seashells and whatever I find laying on the road.
If you could travel through time and perform with BLACKFO, what time era would you go? Would you travel to the past or future?
I would travel to the past because the future does not exist. I wouldn’t travel too far, maybe some time around 1910.
Who would you revive from the dead to sing or perform with BLACKFO?
Captain Caveman! He does everything by pure instinct. He’s a witch doctor (I’m sure of it!), he’s ready for any situation and has an enviable sense of humor.
Is it true you want to create an all-dog chorus?
Yes! You remember my secret plan! It will be my masterpiece.
Were you born an artist or did you become one?
As I understand it, I became one. I believe people create themselves along the way. I believe it’s a matter of learning to wire yourself a certain way.
Tell me about your upcoming projects.
In January of 2013, we’ll be filming a movie called La noche en que se murió Chicago (The Night Chicago Died). It’s a story about a gang of mystic nomads who arrived to hangout in downtown Monterrey and experience a bunch of adventures. The gang members will be portrayed by friends of mine, specifically artists from our label Happy-Fi. The characters live in a very different reality. They host parties in abandoned buildings, have picnics in cemeteries, invoke sacred horses, read lots of poetry, motifs, hieroglyphics, have psychedelic visions, argue on rooftops, and make ceremonial chants all the while Chicago decides to leave to another plane of existence.
Will you play another show at Cine Tonalá with BLACKFO?
Yes, I plan on having a residency there where I’ll play a show every five weeks.
Will each show be different than the last?
Yes, the idea is to continue to experiment with new acts and scenes each time and to end with a show featuring the most popular acts.
Finally, let’s share some links about BLACKFO.
Translated by Afroxander