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performed a fiery set of songs when he brought his trio to Apogee's Berkeley Street Studios. Beloved favorites and new songs came alive in this intimate setting in front of a live audience. Hosted by Tom Schnabel and recorded specifically for Morning Becomes Eclectic we'll share this exclusive set at 11:15am.
PHOTO BY: Salvador Farfan
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Tom Schnabel: Years ago a guy named Vince Nicoletti, who fronted Soy Cowboy a great Country Western band with Thai flavoring, told me to really give the Manu Chao song “Bongo Bong” a close listen. I did and was charmed. A few years later, I found myself on the tiny and remote Indonesian island of Lombok. I went out onto the patio next to the beach for dinner. The bar band came out and set up. The song they opened with was “Clandestino”. I felt right at home.
So Manu Chao is international, he’s everywhere. But tonight he’s here with us in this intimate venue, and we love it, so let’s welcome him with a big big round of applause!!! Manu Chao and La Ventura!!!!
Manu Chao: Pleasure. Thanks for the hospitality. Thank you.
TS: I'm Tom Schnabel. I'm kind of like the jurassic DJ here at KCRW. I've been there from the very beginning when KCRW was a little, small, tiny station and it's great to still be there and it's grown and it's fantastic.
Manu, so this isn't going to take very long we are going to get back to your music in a minute, but Manu did you have any idea that “Clandestino” would become a bestseller all over the world?
M.C.: You mean when I recorded it?
M.C.: No. No. I really thought nobody would like it. I was sure of that.
T.S.: You were very wrong.
M.C.: Yeah, I know -- really often in my life that happens. But no, at that time I was really sure this was my last CD because nobody would like it. So, I was ready to do something else in my life. I didn’t know really what, but I knew music was over because
-- I mean, professionally -- I knew all the bars of the planet were still mine.
T.S.: We want to know about your creative process and how you put “Clandestino” together. You traveled all over. You met a lot of regular people and then you put stuff from telenovelas, political speeches, I think a Pac Man sample into “Bongo Bong.” How did this . . . what does the brain of Manu Chao look like when composing this stuff?
M.C.: Ah, it's hard to say. A lot of marijuana, for sure.
T.S.: Ilegal. Ilegal. (in Spanish)
M.C.: Well, hopefully it will be legal, one day. We are really working for that. It has to be legal, one day. It makes no sense, you know.
Well, recording, travelling … now technology brings to me something interesting that you can have your studio in your backpack. So I can travel around and be able to record around, avoiding studios. Playing in a friend's kitchen, in a room, outside and the thing of casuality . . . I think the best artist of all history of humanity is called casuality, so just be open and see what happens and when it is nice, record. And if it's not nice, record just in case.
T.S.: You helped re-establish train service in mountain villages in Columbia when putting together material for “Clandestino.” Can you tell us about that?
M.C.: It had nothing to do with “Clandestino” but this adventure in Columbia was of course part of the process of a CD like “Clandestino.” Years ago, we made a lovely adventure in Columbia, crossing all the country by train. At that time, the trains in Columbia were more and more dilapidated -- I don't know the word in English -- there were no more jobs for the guys, no more trains. It was out of control, people were out of work just because of the mafia of trucks.
I think in all of South America they killed all the trains just to sell motors and I think it was totally a stupid way and no good for the future. I think that train travel is a much more ecological way of transport and much better than using the road or travelling by truck. By that time, in Columbia, trains were almost finished and we decided to rebuild the train and cross all Columbia in the train. It was a wonderful adventure.
T.S.: When I hear about this and think of your song “Politik Kills,” it makes me think about your parents who left Spain because of Franco.
M.C.: Yeah, my mother left when she was young because of the Civil War. My grandfather was sentenced to death and so she had to leave the country. That is why I was born in France.
T.S.: You sing in French and, mostly, in Spanish and you live in Madrid and travel everywhere?
M.C.: No, now I live in Barcelona. My home, I was raised in France, at home we speak Spanish and French; French at school, Spanish at home. So, I have both cultures and I think that was very positive for me.
T.S.: I want to ask you one more question: Your second album, which I loved, was called “Proxima Estacion: Esperanza.” That's the train station in Madrid, but it is a metaphor, isn't it?
M.C.: Metro station, yeah.
TS: And yet with “Politik Kills,” “Rainin’ in Paradize,” there is this kind of dialectic that goes back and forth between Esperanza – hope --and politics and stuff. Does that describe anything about you?
MC: I don't know. The problem with politics is that politics is everywhere. Whenever you open your fridge, 'politic' is there. So, it is very difficult to write songs without any kind of politics. Maybe one day if I travel around the world and I come to a place where people are going to say: ‘Manu, here everything is going good,’ maybe I will write a love song. But for the moment there is no way to find this place.
TS: Who are the musicians and the music that you are listening to now?
MC: Ooh, it depends. There is a lot of music. I am not focused on anything special, whatever people bring to me. I am lucky in the sense that a lot of people come to me and give me music. With all the CDs people give me, I try to listen to everything so it takes part of my time.
A lot of old music, like traditional. The other day we were listening for old school vallenato from Columbia. We had a nice party at home. It can be a thousand things: reggae, raggamuffin, salsa, punk, anything; a lot of folkloric, also. I think the base is there. I really like to listen to folkloric because it can come from a lot of places in the world, but you can find out that sometimes there are the same chords in it. Maybe the base of the music all around the world came maybe from the same place.
T.S.: You call your current band, the one here right now is called La Ventura.
T.S.: That was a film by Michelangelo Antonioni.
MC: I did not know.
TS: You did not know. That's the way life works, sometimes. My big question falls on its face!
MC: I did not know. No, that is interesting.
TS: What about Radio Bemba? Is that still . . . your bigger group?
MC: Of course, of course. Radio Bemba is the band with seven or eight musicians, it depends. We have been working a lot and running all over the world.
The new adventure for the moment is La Ventura, a trio, which is interesting in the way that you can jam a lot. With only three, it is easy to get off the tracks and invent in the moment. And to get in danger, a little bit, is interesting. A lot of people told us: ‘You are crazy. A band without bass is not possible.’ It is a heresy in the rock n' roll world. Even more in reggae, imagine! But we do it and we went to Japan we have been to Brazil, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and here and we are having a lot of fun, for sure.
T.S.: What is the craziest concert you ever gave? And where was it and what happened?
M.C.: I don't know. I don't remember so much! Marijuana doesn't only do good things; it is very bad for the memory!
M.C.: That is a very hard question. I mean for years and years we were touring all around the world and we really tried to make every show something special as if every show is the last one, every show is something that you have to give more than 100% of yourself. So, for the moment, we have been quite lucky that everywhere we've been something really special has happened. So, it is very hard to make a kind of ranking of that.
T.S.: Cool. Well. Let's get right back into it. Manu Chao. La Ventura. Here with you tonight. Thank you so much.