Fito Páez: Either I would start writing or I would end up in jail

NEW YORK (AP) – Fito Páez understood that he had two options during confinement due to the pandemic: start writing, or “end up in jail or an asylum.”

The Argentine rocker focused on the first and ended up with three albums, a memoir and the script for a feature film entitled “Passion According to Women”, which he plans to shoot soon.

In addition, this Saturday he will give a concert at the Fillmore in Miami, and in August he will perform in the Dominican Republic (on the 6th at the Eduardo Brito National Theater in Santo Domingo) and Puerto Rico (on the 7th at the Centro de Bellas Artes de Santurce, in San Juan) with the show “A man with a piano”.

“It was a crazy year, I would tell you, or on the verge of certain pathologies that we did not know about, because nobody is used to being locked up for so long,” said Páez in a recent interview with The Associated Press via Zoom from a recording studio in The Angels. “I enjoyed the honeys of my trade.”

The 58-year-old musician has had a successful year in which he added to his list of awards two Latin Grammys (for a total of eight) and his first Anglo Grammy for the album “La conquista del Espacio”. In November, the singer-songwriter of “El amor post del amor”, “Giros” and “Yo vengo a dedicago mi corazón” will be honored with an Award of Excellence from the Latin Recording Academy along with Martinho da Vila, Emmanuel, Sheila E. and his father, Pete Escovedo, Millie Quezada, Joaquín Sabina, and Gilberto Santa Rosa.

“I don’t deserve it … I don’t deserve it. Something is going wrong in the academy and all that, because I don’t deserve it, “he said with a mixture of humor, emotion and humility, letting out a laugh.

Páez offered details of his upcoming projects and also answered what he discovered about himself by putting the first 30 years of his life on paper. “People are nothing without love,” concluded the artist, who was raised by his father, grandmother and other relatives after his mother died when he was a months old baby.

Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

AP: I know you’ve had a very busy year. What can you tell us about the music you created in quarantine?

Páez: While (I was writing my autobiography) … I was composing three albums: a symphonic one inspired by the work of Roberto Arlt (1900-1942), a great Argentine writer, modernist and very wild, with a very strong imprint and who was always a source of inspiration. For the first time I wrote for a lot of musicians and later my friend Ezequiel Silverstein, the director of the Colón Philharmonic in Buenos Aires, transcribed everything to score. That album is called “Futurology Arlt”, a one hour piece. Then I wrote “Los años savages”, the album that I also recorded here in Los Angeles with a band, live, in three days. Today Elvis (Costello) sings, Charly (García) and Fabi Cantilo are missing and we have it finished. And in the meantime I was also making an album for piano and voice that I am going to do in Miami now.

AP: When are you going to release all of this?

Páez: There are many ways to implement it. I would love to do an old-fashioned triptych, because apart from the truth that they are three albums made by three different people, which marks my clear state of social schizophrenia (laughs). Yes, they are three different people! Of course, the style always sneaks through the most delicate and smallest interstices, but nothing, I am happy being able to take action because all this task is in solitude too.

AP: Which of those three Phytos do you identify with the most at this moment?

Páez: Oh, I don’t know, around with the one from “Los años savages”, as more playful, making trouble in the studio with a lot of people, playing and playing keyboards and guitars and singing and going from here to there. Still that part of me is the one that amuses me the most. For example, the album (symphonic) we recorded with the Prague Orchestra in sessions of four hours every day at a distance, all of that tension, of an intensity, that I ended up exhausted, much more than the others that were double long and we were doing a thousand things. And the piano solo is a nice instance also because it’s going to catch me at a time when I’m going to be forced to be silent … It’s going to lower me a bit from the character so excited, and it’s going to reconcentrate me again.

AP: You are about to meet the audience again at three great concerts. How do you prepare?

Páez: Look, you know what happened to me in March. There, in Argentina, everything began (the pandemic) in March previous, and exactly a year I did four concerts at the Coliseo Theater in Buenos Aires. And you don’t know how I had to prepare for those concerts, because the machine had stopped working. Applied to composition, to writing, to sitting down, to a certain sedentary lifestyle as well, when I had to sing again and well, the body began to function again. The singing machine and the one that plays the piano is a highly complex machine … it is almost like an athlete. You have to train. Then the singing classes, speech therapy, exercises, a change of diet began. I prepared like never before for any other concert! Of that period that will have lasted a long week, 10 days, I have already activated the mechanism to be able … in fact first to record the records and then to do these three concerts that I think are going to be precious.

AP: How did you write your biography? Sometimes those processes can be super painful …

Páez: They are. They are roller coaster, I would tell you, because life is in many ways and even in the same hour one can go through a lot of feelings. But it was literally an act of bravery to go meet that. I spoke with childhood friends … I spoke with my aunt Charito, I took journalistic data from the newspapers in some cases, I had to go to the records of people in many cities in Argentina and Spain, Italy. And everything happened to me physically: I cried, laughed, vomited, got sick, felt absolute fullness at times, at times an infinite anguish. It was clearly a protean experience where things happen and I, by my Piscean nature let’s say, tend to tell the truth in a sense of what I understand to be true. Well, let’s see, this boy had a lot of excesses. They are there? Yes, they are there. This boy had a love life with ups and downs. Is that there? Yes, it is there. In this boy’s life, bloody things happened in his family (his grandmother and great-aunt, whom he said he considered to be mothers, were murdered in 1986). Is that there? Yes, it is also there. In other words, I tried not to give it too much gravity or too much sentimentality. Sometimes telling the facts is just that, and the reader can do an (interpretive) process.

AP: What did you learn from yourself in your own process?

Páez: It seems to me that the most real thing I could get out – because everything is always a fiction, right? One writes about the last thing that was remembered of how he told it – is that, although my mother died when I was very young, at 8 months, my grandmother and my great-aunt and my father and my uncles raised me. Without that love I would not have been able to face life, for thousands of situations. So there are many times where this is very evident because people are nothing without love. I take that as a gift from life and I am very grateful for that affection and that unconditional love that they gave me and that finally made me a strong man in many aspects.


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