Bloody-Disgusting has scored an exclusive interview with Javier Reyes (TRAM, Animals As Leaders) regarding his Mestis project and the Basal Ganglia EP, which was released Nov. 27th via Sumerian Records (order here or on iTunes). Check out this exclusive interview below.
The EP features Reyes on guitar, bass, production and mixing duties, Matt Garstka (Animals As Leaders) handling drum programming, Hector Barez (Calle 13, Bio Ritmo) on percussion and David Stout (Marvin Gaye, Juan Gabriel, Smokey Robinson) on the trombone.
Bloody-Disgusting: What inspired you to pursue this release? Was there something about the timing or was it just a calling?
Javier Reyes: This release was something that occurred naturally for me. I had written these songs without a specific or deliberate direction, and without any idea of what was going to come out of it. I mainly was trying to get some ideas that I had in my head out and into the computer. I eventually had a small collection of songs I felt really could stand out on their own, so I decided to release them.
BD: There really is a big mix of genres going on in the tracks and yet they work so flawlessly. In recording Basal Ganglia, where there any limits you imposed upon yourself or was anything fair game?
JR: Anything was fair game. I wanted to pull ideas from all the styles of music I liked. I used to produce hip-hop and enjoy coming up with little melodies that are catchy and memorable. I wanted to use that concept in a prog band setting. I also wanted to include the latin influence. Ultimately I was trying to create a unique musical voice for myself so mainly wrote parts that compelled me to feel something.
BD: Tell me a bit about the title of the EP and what it means to you?
JR: Well, the Basal Ganglia is a part of the brain that plays a role in voluntary movement and movement coordination, meaning physical sequences such as playing the sections of a song on the guitar. The Basal Ganglia also plays a role in learning emotional function and cognition, basically our feelings and emotions. Personally, I listen to music because it evokes emotions in me. With that said, I think my Basal Ganglia is more than likely playing a role in both writing and listening to my music.
BD: “Luz y Cielo” is a beautiful track but bears a sense of melancholy and sadness. Is there a story behind that track?
JR: Although the song does have a slight melancholy or sad vibe, there is no real story behind it. It’s basically a song I wrote after being inspired by the first movement of a classical guitar piece titled “La Catedral” by Agustin Barrios Mangore. It too has a pretty yet melancholy vibe to it. Then when naming the song, I named it after two of my nieces, Daniella Luz and Ariana Cielo.
BD: More and more these days, instrumental releases are generating a lot of buzz, reception, and appreciation. What do you think has brought about this appreciation amongst everyday listeners rather than what many considered to be “elitists” even a few years ago?
JR: Not quite sure why, maybe they think it’s a new thing?
BD: One of the things you mention in discussing this album is that you wanted to create music that expressed your upbringing. What about your musical upbringing do you feel this music embodies and expresses?
JR: Basically the latin music influence throughout the songs. Growing up I used to hear latin music at my parents restaurant. They’d play music styles ranging from Mariachi, Salsa, Boleros, Bachata, Merengue, and everything else in between. I never really paid much attention to it growing up and definitely not while I was trying to go to Pantera and Sepultura concerts. But as I grew older, whenever I’d hear latin music it would remind me of my childhood and the several family events where everyone would be dancing.
There was also a particular guitar teacher who I started with at young age, and continued into adulthood with. He taught me a lot of latin-american folkloric songs that really influenced the way I play the guitar. These two things coupled is basically what I meant by my upbringing; bringing these influences to an eight-string guitar setting, make it beautiful, and memorable.
BD: While I loved the EP, I find that I would love to hear a full-length album. Is there one in the works?
JR: I would love to work on a full length! I feel the full length can be approached with a direction and style that I didn’t have with Basal Ganglia. I look forward to writing new material and seeing what else is ready to be discovered.
BD: What else do you have in your future?
JR: I would like to continue to create more music and working with other artists. Maybe add some sort of a visual story line to go alone with the music.