Blesok no. 44, September-October, 2005
The Blues and the Flamenco are “brothers in emotion”
Interview with Javier Vargas
One can recognize the real masters by the simplicity of the communication with them. The famous Spanish, Latino, World… and etc. blues-guitarist Javier Vargas, came to Skopje with many doubts about the public here, and about their musical knowledge and music education. He left charmed and enchanted by our hospitality and by the local blues lovers. We, at the Coloseum saw two faces of the Vargas' band, one of them was the standard one with his usual escort-band, and the other – much more dynamic and explosive – with the most-eruptive Devon Alman. So we came clear why this original guitarist who mixes in one blend both blues and flamenco, is the favorite of Carlos Santana and why he had already shared the stage with Prince, Alvin Lee, Louisiana Red, Jack Bruce…
How do you feel about this warm reception at the Blues & Soul Festival? Aren't you at least a little surprised that the people here in Macedonia already know and love your music, your songs and your beat?
– Exactly that is the power of the music! When I create music, my intention is for it to go further than my body could ever go… I often make albums in which people all over the world can enjoy, even at the places I've never been, or even at the places I shall never go… For me, the magic of music happens when one invests huge energy in creating something, and then, when that something goes further than one could even imagine; you see, more than 30 years I play guitar, so I'm always “on the road”. Here I am now in Skopje, and I can joyfully say that even here – I'm no some imposter, some unknown individual. That's the real thrill of this work, you know. This is yet another wonderful experience for me – again. And I'm going to live Macedonia with that thought, and with hope that this isn't my last coming here.
How did Javier Vargas discover the instrumentalist and the author within himself? How did you reach the blues itself? As a musician grown up upon the flamenco sound, but with both legs into the blues, you surely created some concept for your own performing at the stage and in studio, and in general – what kind of goals you put in front of your musical creating and performing?
– I discovered the blues in Argentina. That happened in 1967, when I was just a kid. At that time, on the radio one could listen to soul, rock & roll, bands like Fleetwood Mack… At the start, I “laid” on Cream, Jimmy Hendrix Experience, and even later I discovered the “roots” of the Blues: the blues-icons like B. B. King, John Lee Hooker, Freddy King… That was the music of that era. In that music I've discovered my heart-waves. The strong explosion of the white blues in Great Britain inspired me and many of my friends to play that music style. And when I listened to Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck… etc., that was like I was discovering myself as an instrumentalist and as an author. And finally, as a person indeed! Those really made my basics as a musician and as a person, and influenced very much on what I would create and play later. I throw myself upon the guitar as some maniac, trying to “catch” all that what I've already heard of those famous musicians. After that, I moved to Venezuela and there I heard the local musicians: extraordinary instrumentalists, magic ones. That, on its behalf, did brought me back to the specific, mighty and deeply rooted sounds of the flamenco-guitar! Than, there was my trip to Nashville, USA, where I discovered many more different bands and guitarists that fascinated me not only with their techniques, but also with the intensity of their powerful emotion within their music… So, that's it: that's my intro into the blues and rock & roll.
– This is a good question, because there are a lot of musicians that play one same thing through all of their careers. Although very good and skilful musicians, many of them incredibly well masters of the instrument, with energy and emotions and all, but they stagnate and persistently play the same kind of music all life. I disagree with that completely! I think that the music should be elevated on higher levels – especially the blues! Everyone should try to bring something new – exciting, different, original – if that's possible today, anyhow… To do something in a way no one has done before you! When I combine the flamenco with the blues, I – most directly – feel the bonds and connections with all the people that made both of this styles, you know… And I'm certain that that kind of fusion goes directly from (and into) the heart! You don't have to know much about the music, one just have to listen to his own feelings. For me, this discovery was very important. I realized that the blues and the flamenco are “brothers in emotion,” and that they interweave greatly one with another. I sometimes like to play some classical riffs that everybody plays, but I persistently paint it with the layer of my own specific emotions.
How did Javier Vargas discover the instrumentalist and the author within himself? How did you reach the blues itself?
As a musician grown up upon the flamenco sound, but with both legs into the blues, you surely created some concept for your own performing at the stage and in studio, and in general – what kind of goals you put in front of your musical creating and performing?
You've been compared with the legendary guitarists as Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jeff Beck… From one side, it's flattering, but from another – it's a responsibility and a burden. How did you manage that?
– I've never copied anyone. I can't even copy myself! When I play my solo, I have difficulties to remain true to my own musical notes that I've written! It doesn't matter when it's a melody in question – that's easy – but when we talk about the solo parts – everything is different. I admit, I've been influenced by great musicians as Hendrix, Jeff Beck…, but, I persistently try to be my own self in music. I let my own feelings to flow upon the melody. That's my passion and my need to constantly follow my heart.
A great role on your career as acknowledged latino-blues musician, was your meeting and your collaboration with the legendary Carlos Santana. How did the collaboration with him took place?
– Our bonding began somewhere in the season 1993/94. Somebody sent to him a tape with latino-music, and he listened to the songs. Only few months later, Jorge Santana called my mother and said to her that Carlos loved my song. He asked for approval to record it for their album. That was it. My mother told me that Santana wants to record my Latino Blues. I couldn't believe. I was so proud. I knew that something amazing happens in my life. For me, Carlos Santana was like Jimmy Hendrix, someone upon I look with the greatest respect. The Master of Masters. The Icon.
What was your thoughts, when, side by side with Santana, you stood in front of the audience at the stage?
– That's something words couldn't even closely express. The Santana Brothers' album appeared somewhere in 1994. I heard it's published and I went to the music store and bought it, although I still couldn't believe – as a little child – that “this is really happening”. I took the album in my hands, I slightly checked the back-cover of the album, and I saw my song there. I was simply stunned. Then, an overflow of enchantment poured all over me! I simply got out of my skin by happiness! But, besides all that, it took two more years before I personally met Carlos. That happened in Paris, in 1996. I went to their concert especially, although immediately before that I had a concert in Montrey with Little Richard and Zuccero. Jorge and Carlos invited me behind the stage in order to meet me. Carlos waited for me at the wardrobe's door and even at the start of the conversation he talked to me as we know each other for a quite long time. As we are some old friends. Then he told me that he would like to play with me that evening. He gave me one of his guitars, and… And even after evening ended, I became aware that I played with the legendary Carlos Santana!
Here in Skopje, with you came Devon Allman, the son of another great musician – Greg Allman, the vocalist and the keyboard player of the famous Allman Brothers Band. What can you say about the collaboration with him?
– For this latest album of ours named Love Union Peace we really gathered some strong team of great musicians. In the band that entered the studio in Memphis, Tennessee, were Jack Bruce from Cream, then Glenn Huges, once in Deep Purple, and Devon Allman, the guitarist with who we played on many club performances. We really enjoyed making this album, and here we continue with that fine collaboration. It's just a pure pleasure to perform with this young fellow, and I'm glad that our collaboration continues although he already has a band of his own, and he's just about to record a new album.
Can you, in brief, reveal your future plans? Translated by: Petar Volnarovski sound excerpts www.vargasblues.com
– I've always had only one, and sole plan from the beginning until now: to play guitar, to improve myself in it, and to make concert all around the Globe. Now, I have to make some new songs. After that, trip to studio to record it. And I wish to make a DVD edition with our live concerts. I think that will be the thing we're going to focus more aggressively now…
Can you, in brief, reveal your future plans?
Translated by: Petar Volnarovski