Quick question for you, which group has two Grammy’s and also hold the record for most Latin Grammy wins by a group with nineteen? I’ll give you a hint, they’ve worked with Omar Rodríguez-López, Café Tacuba, Nelly Furtado, Shakira, Mala Rodríguez, Tom Morello, and even the late and great Mercedes Sosa. Ok last chance, they’re two brothers who grew up on 13th street in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico. The answer of course is Calle 13. The band will be headlining Neon Desert on Saturday night and I was lucky enough to have an interview with Residente, the vocalist of the group.
Me: Hola, como esta? Soy Tim, no hablo muy bien el español, prefiere que hable ingles?
Residente: Whichever you prefer (he laughs)
Me: Have you had a show in El Paso before?
Residente: 3 years ago, there was a great energy, it was
Me: Where do you still want to tour?
Residente: Lots of places like Japan, China, or Africa. We were going to Japan and Europe but those places are further and smaller crowds so we have to make the tough choice of choosing stadiums in… Argentina or somewhere, or smaller crowds in Japan.
Me: What is the biggest issue facing Latin America or Puerto Rico?
Residente: In Puerto Rico, is that we are a colony. Some people want a state and others way to stay like we are now (a colony) and like 5 or 7% want to be independent. In a colony you’re not going to grow and independently we can grow from the United States and have more freedom.
It’s like in music, its better to be independent because we have freedom and with the country it’s the same. The people get used to… the dependence psychologically and it destroys your soul and culture. Like now our self-esteem is low. It’s going to be torn with two flag ruling you. But I think it is good because even the kids are starting to fight for their rights with education (in the US and Latin America). It seems like a lot of officials… They’re not working for the people.
(In Latin America) The power struggle and how media portrays South America. Its a problem.
Me: How are things with El Abismo?
Residente:Great! We had freedom when we used to be with Sony so it wasn’t bad but its better because now we own everything. Its easier for us to make things happen. There are also… little things you don’t realize you have to do so it is more work. You don’t think about or realize things like YouTube rights but I love the freedom.
Me: Why the name El Abismo?
Residente: It became the nickname for our house on 13th street. Every time someone left stuff in our house, it was gone or broken when they went back to look for it. Then it became a word that we used in our family because it was so large that anytime we went somewhere something was broken… I don’t know how to describe it?
Me: Like a hurricane?
Residente: Kind of yeah, it does not translate so well.
Me: Are you looking to sign new artists or is it going to be solely for Calle13?
Residente: If we hear something we like, I have a few people in mind… like my sister; we’ve been talking about her making an album for the last 3 year… if she signs with us (he laughs)
Me: How did you hear about the Savannah College of Art and Design?
Residente: I studied visual arts, film, they gave me fellowship to take lots of classes and so I did. I got my degree in media arts.
Me: Have you thought about or are you planning to make more films?
Residente: Yes, I want to make more and making art in general is my passion. One of the reasons I do this, like writing… it flows with my art, its why I do it. I love music but I do not like the industry. Planes, airport, traveling and fame… I don’t like it… I’d like to go back to art school and just make art. I was collaborating with Cacho Lopez on Adentro. I wrote the concept of the video and I’d like to do more like that.
Me: How did you and your brothers manage to stay close?
Residente: Our family is very united and proud. Our last album was the best collaboration because we listened to each other more than on other albums. I think my brother was…more open to my ideas and I was… wiser in the way I asked him to change some things. We never fought, but I remember the 2nd album was a bit difficult but we had lots of fun on this one.
Me: Is there someone you still want to record with that you have not?
Residente: In Spanish I have recording with lots of people, I have to make a song and then I decide if I want to collaborate.
Me: Red or Green chile?
Residente: Haha I don’t know maybe red?
Me: Thank you for your time
Residente: Of course, take care man
Thank you to Karen Loglar and Loren Medina for making the interview possible. Lastly, a huge thank you again to Calle 13 for taking the time to talk with us.