Interviewing Wayo reminded me of three things: that good music is not just the kind you listen to on the radio, that good musicians are sometimes left aside so they can prove what they're worth by themselves, and that true artists always leave a message when they speak. Ladies and gentlemen, Wayo:
We know you haven't always been a solo singer, but we might not know all of the details. How about I begin by asking you to tell us about your history in music?
Sure. I began as the drummer of the Último Refugio (Last Shelter) band. That was in about 1988. Then I went to finish my high school studies in Argentina, where I also had a small project with a few classmates. When I came back, in the 1990, I returned to Último Refugio as the drummer, and I also contributed with lyrics.
We played in many underground places until, say, the band started to break up. I was left with the guitar player. Feeling somewhat abandoned, I called him about two months later and said:
—Hey, you know? I have composed some songs, but I don't want to be the drummer anymore, but the singer.
—No! —he cried— You don't sing a damn! (laughter).
It didn't matter... They were my songs, my life, my experiences.
So we started. I asked my friends, say, permission to use the name Último Refugio, as I was a founder, and I did. I continued using the name Último Refugio.
I presented the project to Manolo Barrios, of Mar de Copas. He showed it to Toto (Leverone), who helped played the drums. Jean came to play the bass, Henry on guitar, and Sharon for the backing vocals, so... we started to make music.
We played in emblematic places such as La Noche de Barranco, where we had every Friday. We were the first rock band from Lima to play in the Chabuca Granda park in Miraflores. We went to the grape harvest festival in Ica, to Iquitos... We won the 1997 Lima Metropolitan Rock contest. The prize was 1500, we were going to use the prize to record —we hoped our first tape... I got some money... but things happened; the members were not too serious about this issue of recording the tape... The producer was very demanding... They didn't show up at the rehearsals or the tests... So in the 1999 I put a stop, had a word with everybody, and that was the end of Último Refugio. The last concert was in December 1999. It was a performance we didn't know was going to be the last one, and it was very emotional too.
In 2000, recording, I was left with these songs by Último Refugio, and I was invited to take part of a project I named La Suite (The Suite), referring to the comfort, easiness, and also as a hint to Las Suites de Barranco, a well-known strip bar in Lima.
The project started out very well. We got two singles on the radio. We also made a video but it never saw the light. Then I started noticing that things were like I had always thought they should be: bands get together or start when they have common life experiences, when members share the same dreams, ideals, even the same games and jokes. Yet I was getting together with people whose goals were to become famous or make a lot of money... I felt I didn't fit into that. The project lasted about a year and a half. I couldn't make head or tails of it. I stepped away from the project, somewhat disappointed with music.
I concentrated on my job. I was working in the communications section of a company. One day, I made up my mind and travelled to Trujillo, to Huanchaco. I was there, alone, on the beach, with my guitar, my notepad, and a small tape recorder. I made a few rough recordings, and then I went back to Lima, after five days in Huanchaco, determined to record my album and become a solo singer... Not because I had a vocation for being a solo singer (I have always dreamt of having a band, feeling "part of", integrated), but because I couldn't figure how or what I had both in head and heart could be performed in the same way by others. It is very difficult to find people who could think or feel like you do.
I made the album with José Inoñán, who was its engineer. We both produced it, and, in the 2003, I released my homonymous album, Wayo. It was presented at the Theatre of the Cultural Centre of Universidad Católica del Perú.
The album was pretty well accepted. It was very ludic, much in the line of dreams, illusions, quite "porn-pop" as well. I was also lucky to have the video of the first single of that album, Eras Tú (It was you) directed by Percy Céspedes, who is quite renown in Latin America.
The video was aired as premier video in all Latin America. It had two versions. Because of it, I began to take part in festivals; play on the radio. Everything began to grow. There was much support from media those days, and I was one of the few Peruvian artists on an international channel.
In the 2005, I devoted myself to compose Eléctrica Ciudad (Electrical City), in a fashion, which was very opposite to the first album that was very naïve at moments. Eléctrica Ciudad was an album more related to what was going on around me, in my city; an album which told about the different things that happen to different characters under a sky as grey as the one in Lima, with its traffic; with love and lack of affection songs; but above all with songs with certain kind of positivism... I mean songs like Cada Amanecer (Every Break of Dawn), in Eléctrica Ciudad, which talks a lot about myself having fun in this city; or Eléctrica Ciudad itself, dedicated to my friends, and in which the chorus reads: "...they, so electrical....” That album was that: get closer to my roots, to my city.
I presented Eléctrica Ciudad in March 2006. two videos went to MTV. Another video, Déjame Caer (Let me fall), took part of a short film called "Limbo"... That was nice. This album matched rock with the electrical music I listened to those days... modern sounds and all that... The album was considered a rebirth of national pop, and I, humbly, deem it like ahead of its time, as it had many 1980s reminiscences, something that you can listen to a lot here in 2010.
Then I came up with the idea of listening to these songs, or interpreting them in a raw er format. That's how the concept of Acústica Ciudad appeared, an album which is CD+DVD, and which was launched in physical format. Acústica Ciudad was filmed and recorded in the Theatre of the Cultural Centre of Universidad Católica, a place that, as I already mentioned to you has very good vibes with my work.
I presented Acústica Ciudad in the 2008. "Wicho" García, vocalist of Mar de Copas took part in it... and that was special because I could share with a musician I have admired since my youth. I left being a fan to sharing as a colleague. It was like a dream come true.
In that sense, Acústica Ciudad left me very very pleasant sensations, very satisfied. This album also included a video on MTV: that very song in which "Wicho" took part, Adicto a Ti (Addicted to you). That album was promoted during the 2008. It was also like a closure point for the musicians I have been working with since the first album. It also meant making another stop, like taking some vacation or something like that... And it was from this feeling of loneliness or provoked isolation that "Resistiré" (I will resist) arises.
By then, the position of the media had changed very much. There wasn't any support. They didn't broadcast our music. It was very hard for an independent artist like me to get t on the radio. Good heavens, my luck has always been better with television.
I composed "Resistiré" thinking on something even raw, singing like when I first did, on a park bench in San Miguel. I wanted an album in which you could feel the breathing, without much technicality, not technologically tuned but an album in which you could feel the guitar there, in the moment; and in which you could feel the voice as if I was singing it to you for the first time, right to your ear.
I recorded the entire album at home. They were 13 songs. I composed, sang, and played all of them. I felt it as a step I needed to take... to learn to canalise my ideas through the instruments. I'm not a good guitar player but I did my best. It is an album that, from the comments I have received, and from what I myself feel, it is much more... er... I don't know whether "honest" would be a correct word, because I feel all my works have been honest, but the one in which I could set what I wanted in that moment. Unlike the first album, which was made in a "rock star" style, willing to eat up the world; or the second one, in which I felt I had to be in contact with, down-to-earth, and walk, walk a lot, and in which I even composed songs on buses; this "Resistiré" has been more like a park album: the guitar, the park, the trees, the nature. Even the promotional photographs were taken in a park, under the sun. There were a few nostalgic touches too, such as the ones you have as a composer, but situations, which were, all in all, positive, organic.
Resistiré wanted to set that idea of resisting it all. It doesn't matter, I think, who finishes first, who wins more awards, but who is the last man standing.
So I launched "Resistiré" in December 2008. It was my first virtual album, launched through my site, WayoSite.com, The album had a good number of downloads. I think the way in which it was recorded, at home, in such a crafty manner, drew some attention. Although the album is somewhat "folky", I mean acoustic and voice, it has a very "punky" attitude, "do it yourself" without expecting anything in exchange.
I think that rock is not just noise or a distorted guitar but, above all, attitude. My attitude there was to rebel myself against the lassitude and the lack of motivation. I even recorded this album in my pyjamas. There is a collage there in which you can see me in a tracksuit, the pyjamas. I would wake up, plug in everything, and say to myself: "Today I am happy, so I'm going to make a happy song", "today I'm sad, let's make a sad song". I felt myself like a painter who wakes up and continues each canvas according to his mood at the moment.
The reply to this was "Resistiré en Vivo" (Live), my fifth work. CD+DVD, and virtual too. I have refused the physical format because there aren't recording companies here... The only two recording companies want you to make a lot of commercial music. Yet I don't work thinking on popularity or success factors. I think my success is communicating with people, making people happy, and making myself happy above all.
"Resistiré en Vivo" was also recorded in the Theatre of the Cultural Centre of Universidad Católica del Perú. It was my fourth time there. I was there with my band, and with guests, Pedro and José, composers of Cementerio Club. It was great to share a stage again with people you admire as a musician. The album was launched in January 2010.
I think this is all I can tell you about my work. I have presented a promotion for the album, "Hoy Puede Salir el Sol" (Today, the Sun May Come Out), which is a very positive album. I haven't allowed myself to fall in any song. I composed more than 40 songs, from which I selected a few. In this album, I care about the message, above all. The first single is titled Confiesa (Confess), a song which is dedicated to my neighbourhood, San Miguel. And allowed me to travel to Trujillo, to Ica, to take part of the 90th anniversary of the creation of the district of San Miguel, and to take part of the celebration with renowned bands in Peru such as Amén and Frágil, with positive comments.
I think this album is going to have a nice future. It will be launched in 2011.
We will be waiting for it, then. In the meantime, there are a few questions I would like to ask you. For a start, does Wayo get inspired to write the lyrics from the music? Or it is the lyrics which inspire the music?
It is music which inspires the lyrics.
Why would you say it is so hard for Peruvian artists to stand out internationally like Colombian, Mexican or Argentinian musicians have done?
I think it is basically because of a lack of determination and risk-taking of the media. As I see it, mainly from the radio stations and the corporations. I think they are not thinking in developing an industry but in achieving immediate success. This is making the whole bands lower their level.
I think that if producers had some more vision, instead of repeating every day the same songs they played 20 or 25 years ago on the radio stations. They would make up their minds to play music by artists and bands, which are making music year after year. History would be different because you could give people the opportunity of choosing other alternatives. You would give them the chance of consuming what is produced here, you could generate concerts and festivals, and promoters would organize more concerts. That would be mirrored abroad; and they would say: "hey, why don't you send us that band?", or "why don't we bring them?", or "why don't you come here and see what we can do together?"
There is a lack of risk-taking and betting. In the press, there is a need to leave the attitude of "I am a frustrated musician" behind or to stop seeing itself in the "who does he think he is?" manner. They play a role. If we could all understand we play a role in this world, everything would be more tolerable.
It is hard to find a Juanes, a Shakira, or to see the rising of a Soda Stereo in Peru because here people still see you in a "who does he think he is?" You should just give a chance to show what it's being done. I think there is much worth, composing quality and others here.
And why do you think Peruvian music has such a nostalgic subject matter? I mainly mean song lyrics.
(smiles) I think it is because of the influence we received at home since we were kids. If, for example, you play a song by The Rolling Stones in a family meeting, you will barely notice. If you play a song by The Beatles, it may move you because we have grown up listening to The Beatles, watching the cartoons, the films, etc. Yet if you play a song by Camilo Sesto, Nino Bravo or Salvatore Adamo, everyone is going to sing aloud and even cry. I also think it is a matter of weather. During winter, Lima is covered by a grey sheet that obviously moves us to be nostalgic, sometimes, without reason. We don't know what we are missing but we are missing something. Maybe a lost innocence, or a moment which didn't come out right, I don't know.
On the other hand, in my case as a composer, this semi-melodramatic tone of life allows you to let go in a song sensations or feelings that you wouldn't be able to in the daily life. Music lets you canalise happy moments, sad moments and even nostalgias.
Being so few the bands, which just release their albums over the Internet, how did you make up your mind to do it?
I did it because of the lack of risk-taking of recording companies here. There aren't recording companies here, period. Also, because modernity has changed everything. Nowadays people don't buy CDs anymore. If you want to listen to music, you just need to burn yourself a CD and play it in your car, or download the songs and copy them to your player or mobile phone. So, if it was going to be so hard for me to make my music known, sound on the radio, and the like, I'd rather publish it myself on my website, without allowing anyone to obtain profit from this. Perhaps I will be able to make known what I have been doing these years, and what I will continue doing.
And how did people respond?
I think that it has gone over very well. I think I have been one of the first Peruvian musicians to release his music over the Internet, since the fourth album; and this one had, during the first few months, an average of 10 thousand downloads. I don't know what number the counter is in now, but all in all, I think it's good. People from Spain, Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, the United States, Germany, and Japan have been able to listen to my music because of this. It's a pity this hasn't turned into a chance to go play in those countries, but I don't lose sleep over it. I am interested in going through my country now. I think it's my first mission, my first objective.
I also think that giving away the songs is coherent with the idea of "Resistiré": to love is to share. I just hope people will receive the songs well, download them, and give them a fair use. If they like any song, or it touches something in his life, I think it is mission accomplished.
You mentioned people can burn their own CDs and also copy music into their players or mobile phones. How has this affected musicians? Are things better or worse?
It's obvious the most affected are those artists who belong to large recording companies, where there are great interests, great promotion campaigns. As for me, this is something only my wife, my booking agency, Pop Art Perú, and I do. She is my manager, and we make our own decisions. We decide whether we want to sell something or not. Of course, it would be much more productive if people would buy the CDs. I still have some physical discs such as the "Acústica Ciudad", which is not free on my website. For free, you only get a single, but the album needs to be bought at the concerts. I am selling it at a bargain price because sales are low in the market, and people don't really like to buy discs any longer.
We have lost the pleasure of sitting down in the living room to enjoy the art, the pictures, read the credits, of having the album always with you. Yet I think it is a dual thing.
At least, we are not talking about piracy any longer here —that was really a pain in the ass. We talk about downloads instead. That's why I rather release it myself than launching an album one day, and seeing it on the Internet the next day just because an enthusiast thought it was a good idea to spread it. If they want to spread it, I want it to be under my consent! ha, ha, ha...
Now, the mp3 and the cultural exchange it has generated has also allowed me both to learn about the artists or heroes I have in music —which I wouldn't have been able to get in any other way— and the about the music that is being made today.
Just a final question, Wayo: What do you do when you are not thinking about music? How do you have fun? What are your hobbies?
That's something I wonder too (smiles), because my world spins around music. Something I enjoy a lot is to be able to spend time with my family. I also enjoy watching films. I have the problem of watching films about musicians or concerts, though. Before you arrived I was watching "Nowhere Boy", for instance, which is about the young John Lennon. After that, I will unavoidably pick up one of my guitars, and start playing for half an hour. I devote myself to spending some time with my instrument. I don't try to compose necessarily, just play a while. So I do think about music all day, I even dream with music. As a matter of fact, in Resistiré there is a song titled Creo en Ti (I believe in you). I did the demo for that song at about 3.30 a.m., and lyrics and music just flowed through because —I swear— I dreamt the lyrics... and had the melody there. So I woke up, picked up the guitar, whispered the lyrics, melody, everything, and the next morning I retook the idea I recorded then.
I think about music all the time, but I also like to prepare a cebiche, share with my friends, have a few drinks at home. I'd rather be at home than go somewhere else. I am home-loving, I think.
Perfect, Wayo, all the best, and thank you.
Thank you, Jorge, for this opportunity to make myself known through Heptagrama. I invite everybody to visit my site, WayoSite.com. Bye!
Arts and expression + Musicians