February 09 – February 16
You’ve got to admit that music is a lot like a diet. You need rock, you need a bit of soul, salsa, jazz and maybe more rock just to balance things out. Smashed Chair wants you to have a healthy diet. We want to save you from the fast food music that seems to plague our radio waves. Artists of the week hopefully can make you a better person with a healthy diet of good music. And don’t you want to be a better person?
Unlike the imitation brand of salsa that your grandmother never made, Latin music is a dangerous concoction. Grupo Fantasma is an example of percussions and the Latin beat that’s inescapable in Los Angeles.
We bring you our second Artists of the Week – Grupo Fantasma.
Where does the idea of music originate? For the casual listener a friend might recommend a band and they’ll look into it. They’ll say, “Thanks dude!” And have a Quesadilla. For Gilbert Gonzalez, bass player of Grupo Fantasma, music is as natural as breathing.
Smashed Chair got a chance to talk to Mr. Gonzalez while the band prepares to catapult into the Echoplex on Valentines Day. Here are a few words on culture and soul in music.
Have you guys been to Los Angeles recently?
We played in Culver City. We played the Roosevelt. There was some cool people there. We also played the VIP party. As far as open to the public shows, we haven’t done that in Los Angeles.
How do you guys handle actors?
We’re pretty modest. We’re all entertainers. This party we played at, which was the Golden Globe, It was a kind of strange situation. As far as actors and celebrities go, I wasn’t starstruck. It was my birthday too. I think that’s just me speaking. I have this idea, you just do your job and try to get it down right – we were there doing our jobs, I just saw myself as one of the caterers. I didn’t really get to interact with many of the people. Except Cuba Gooding Jr. who we talked to for a while and we gave him a CD before he left.
Being in a band with so many horns and percussions, what’s it like being a bass player and standing out?
Um… I don’t know. That’s a tricky question (Laughs). I don’t go out to be heard or be seeing in a particular way. I think of myself more as the glue that holds all these elements together; What’s a good way to describe it. It’s like the scenery. If you were to build a house, you were to consider, metaphorically, you would have to remember the hills and the valleys. The geographical features, where everything goes. You know? I’m just trying to make everything sound as good as possible. I try to throw in a little flavor in my music, but I don’t try to get big solos.
So, how do you throw in your own personality into the mix?
Everybody has their chance to shine. It’s sort of that old school mentality, where songs feature individuals. So we’ll have a song that has a sax solo and another one has more vocals. But for the most part, it’s not my role to have too many solos.
Do you consider this band as the voice of the community in the Texas area?
I don’t necessarily consider us a voice, but more of a reflection. We don’t go out of our way to make political songs, but occasionally they come out that way. We’re not actively trying to bring around a central message on some ideologies. Really we’re more a reflection of Mexican-Americans and Latinos and other minorities – we’re a reflection of that, we’re coming up. We’re becoming the majority. You know, there isn’t one long monolithic Latino person or personality that represents. Rather it’s more a conglomeration of people and sounds. On top of that we’re also Americans, so we bring that American sound to our music. Latino’s are finding their niche, and it’s not a niche that’s necessarily linked to the nation, but to the conglomeration of the people. I think our message to the community is how we survive. You know it would be very easy to sell-out and give into the mainstream. We could throw in some techno beats – we’re a very versatile band, but ultimately we chose to reflect what we’re feeling.
Living in Texas, you probably see the immigration issue as we see it in Southern California. Do you think that we’re dealing with an issue that’s going to go away?
Oh, it’s not going to go away. It’s tremendous issue. There are politicians pretending to deal with it and acting like it’ll go away. It’s beyond anyone’s control. Borders are being broken down in this country. It’s just a matter of time before Nationality has to do with were you’re located and more with you’re heritage.
Are you a wordy guy or are you the quiet one of the band?
I’m pretty quiet, but I did get a history degree so I do know how to write a few things. I do like writing.
Grupo Fantasma will in concert at The Echoplex on Valentine’s Day.
Brownout, a sideproject for the band would like to extend to you a free copy of their album. Send us an email explaining why you deserve it.