The Source Magazine caught up with Residente of Calle 13 to discuss their latest album “MultiViral,” their new art project and more.
Calle 13 has been busy touring the world to support their latest effort “MultiViral.” You can read our review here. Last week they announed the ““The MultiViral Art Project.” We had the opportunity to exclusively interview the group’s lead singer René Pérez Joglar aka Residente. Read what he had to say below.
What attracts you to social and political issues as inspiration for your lyrics?
It’s not that I’m attracted to political issues or social awareness, it’s that we all are surrounded by that, and in my case, I grew up in Puerto Rico, which is a very political country, because we are still a colony of the US, so it’s very difficult to get away from that. I grew up knowing about political issues back home, so, I think that’s really the reason.
Were any of you activists for any cause at one point in your life?
Well, right now we are working with UNICEF against human trafficking and exploitation, and also against bullets, we did a campaign with Amnesty International; And before that we were very into the strikes of the workers back home in Puerto Rico because my dad worked with them since I was a kid, and … the cause that we defend the most is the independence of Puerto Rico. I know that it’s not a social cause, but in a way yes, that’s something that we defended the most since we were kids, and also there’s another cause – the freedom for Oscar Lopez. That’s a fight that we’ve been fighting since 3 years ago, he’s been imprisoned for over 32 years now I think, and he’s a political prisoner here in the US.
As a singer-songwriter, I know an artist usually grows and evolves musically throughout their career. What is special about this new album “MultiViral” and what challenges did you face while making it come to life?
Well, something special about this album is that we took our time to make it … all the other albums during the making, we were traveling and on tour and for this album, we just decided to stop for a year and a half. So it’s the first time that we stopped and that’s why the album is very reflective. There’s a lot of – I don’t know how to say it in English – “reflexivo.” That we have a lot of “reflexiones” (reflections). For example “La Vida,” that’s a song about life. Idiots, “Los Idiotas,” is a song that reflects about the idiots. “El Aguante,” asks how much we endure as human beings.
When you said that you took like a year and a half off, did you at any point stop writing and only reflect on certain ideas, or was it more that you took a whole year and a half to gradually write the album?
It was a useful reflection time to think about what we’ve done during all these years, during the past years, and take all the time to write and think, that’s why you can feel the reflexive character (inside) of the songs. We just took the year and a half off from our tour.
So, I was listening to the songs on this album, and having heard your albums before this one, one of the tracks on this album particularly stuck with me, and I noticed on your twitter that you’ve recently started off some your mornings listening this song is “Ojos Color Sol”… it’s a beautiful song. We wanted to know what the story behind this song is, and about the collaboration with Silvio Rodriguez?
Well, the song is just about the day that we didn’t need the sun to illuminate the world because of the eyes of this woman. Because, when she opens her eyes she illuminates the world in a different way, and in a better way, and the idea came from one day I was writing at five in the morning, and I was watching someone on Skype, and the sun didn’t come out … it was supposed to come out, and I was searching for ideas, while I was looking at this person, and at 5:30 it didn’t come out, the sun, then 5:40, and six in the morning, the sun didn’t come out. And suddenly the Skype – the Internet connection went out, and then the sun started to go out. So then I had the idea of writing the Sun didn’t want to go out because he was intimidated.
I have to congratulate you. That song is so beautiful. I heard it, and it’s just something so different that I hadn’t expected to hear at all in this album.
Thank you very much, muchas gracias.
Would you ever move to a different music genre? If so, which one and why (or why not)?
We’re open we always make different combinations and fusions, so yeah … we don’t like the pure things, you know, like something that is pure and you have to follow the school of something. We just make music with different genres, so we’re open to do any kind of music. I don’t have anything now in particular that I wanna explore, but we decide that while we’re making a song, that at the same time. Like for example, for “El Aguante,” we began to mix Irish music with all the sounds, and the writing was about endurance, and I was thinking about my friends from Ireland that they drink a lot, and they don’t get drunk, so because of that … endurance, for human beings, and the music, we just decide that at the moment, the genre of the music, the kind of music that we work with, we decide that at the moment.
So basically it’s whatever the concept of the song inspires while you are making it, is the kind of fusion of genres that you decide to go with?
Yes, exactly. It depends on the idea and on the concept.
You collaborated with various international artists in this album. Which artists would you like to collaborate with in the near future?
Well, I have a few. I guess, it depends because, when we make a collaboration we do it also at the moment like, for example, the Silvio collaboration, we didn’t think about him until we were making the song, and we thought, “Oh, maybe Silvio can do this, this is for him!”, you know. I don’t do collaborations like “Oh, I wanna do something with this guy” and then I do a song for him. We just make a song and then we check who fits better. Like maybe I’ll do a project on my own and I’ll have a few friends – musicians, like Woodkid, he’s a friend of mine and I like his music. I would collaborate with him and Action Bronson is also cool, and I like his music too.
Can you reflect on a moment when your fans have shared the impact Calle 13 has had on them?
All the time! All the time I receive messages, and I don’t know if they are true or … not, but they are … people who, they were gonna commit suicide and stuff like that. Very hardcore stuff …and I write back to them and I send them messages and I guess things like that happen and “es impactante” (it’s shocking).
So, we read about “MultiViral,” the art project you began, and we think it’s amazing! How was this project born, and what can artist around the world do to be a part of it?
Well, it was born organically. One of the artists, or two artists, they sent me their “MultiViral” work, and I liked it, and then I decided to start telling other people, and then they’d start joining, and friends of friends, because I didn’t know all the artists, but some of them they were friends, so they called their friends. So, it was like a viral kind of moment, and at the end we had like 15 artists from all over the world working, making their own art … So maybe in the future, we’ll do an activity or something- something like that could happen, maybe we can do that next year, and we can invite other artists, new ones. I guess that some people are gonna send us their work also via Twitter, Facebook, and maybe – and if we like their work, we can contact them and I’m sure they can be part of the project.
That’s really cool! My last question for you is: As a successful artist and persona, you have proven to keep setting and reaching higher goals, and leaving bigger footprints in this world. What are some new goals you are currently working towards?
As I mentioned, I would like to do something on my own. It’s not gonna be now, but maybe soon … like some music, just maybe to work on something aside from Calle 13. And, also what I would like to do is make movies!
Yeah, I like that. I always work on my videos. At least on the last four videos, I’ve been like very active.
But you mean directing movies, or acting?
No, no, no! Directing! Hah! I’m not an actor, no…
Haha, you never know!
No, no. Writing scripts, and directing. I’m good at editing too, you know … that’s something that I would like to do in the future – in the near future.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Well, on September 6 we’re gonna perform here in New York! It’s gonna be a great concert with a lot of energy, and we would like to come back to New York next year and perform in a bigger place because it is practically sold out already.
Yes, we saw!
So maybe we’ll do Radio Music Hall- I don’t know, or to find a place outside of New York, I don’t know, in a gallery or in a huge place.
Calle 13 are going to play a few shows here in the states. Be sure to check them out.
Sat, Sep 6 Calle 13 Best Buy Theater, New York, NY
Fri, Sep 26 Calle 13 Echostage, Washington, DC
Wed, Oct 8 Asi Suena presents Calle 13 House of Blues San Diego, CA
Sat, Oct 11 Shrine Expo Hall and Grounds, LA
Below is artwork from the “The MultiViral Art Project”
DECERTRO & ELLIOT TUPAC