Interview: Gibrán Andrade

After seeing Gibrán Andrade lead his band Géiser at El Quinto Piso in Mexico City on December 30, 2017, I managed to sit down with him at the cafe El Chalet on New Years’ Day to talk with him about his music. Andrade is a drummer, saxophonist, composer, and educator active in Mexico City who has toured throughout Mexico and the United States. He also organizes a lot of concerts in his home city such as the one that I witnessed–El Quinto Piso is a brilliant DIY space on the top floor of a parking garage which I reviewed back in January. In this interview, Andrade provides a detailed and thoughtful window into some of the cutting edge of the Mexico City scene right now as well as perspective on its development and emergence over the years. See below for links, videos, and photos.

Place:  El Chalet, Mexico City

Date:   January 1, 2018

Cisco Bradley:        How did your earliest musical experiences lead you to make the music you are doing now?

Gibrán Andrade: I started playing drums when I was 11 years old. Mi grandmother whom I never met was a ranchera singer, and my dad plays guitar and lute in this traditional Spanish music group called “Tuna”, named also “Estudiantina” because it is a student activity in high school. He had some friends involved in music, one of them had this band that played 60’s rock music, and we got to hear them play once at a party. I was mesmerized just watching this guy play . Later I asked my dad if I could play. I was very influenced by cousin and his dad, they showed some current rock music and MTV. Blink 182 was one of the groups I liked the most and the drummer there was actually pretty good. It just caught me from that. I started going to this little music school, they taught drums as a part of the percussion course. In class I met some dudes that were older than me, who were into more underground music; goths, punks and weirdos in general. That school was one of the few options people their age had to start studying music or art from the beginning. They had three different categories: infant, youth and adults. I was right between the first two, so by the second year I was with the youth group. This guy, a theater student gave me a tape and some CDs to listen to; X-Ray Spex, Dead Kennedys, Mexican punk and surf bands on one side and Sun Ra and King Crimson on the other. There was punk dude on the drum class that had a band in which he sang in Nahuatl, an indigenous language from our region in Mexico.

Cisco Bradley:        What made you serious  about it?

Gibrán Andrade: I went to this other school after I finished and the teacher there suggested I could make a living out of playing drums.. So, he showed me this session drummers like Steve Gadd or Vinnie Colaiuta and people like that. Later I found out they played with everyone, from pop singers to fucking Frank Zappa. My musical palette got broadened a little bit. It wasn’t just rock or punk now. I never actually got the stranger music I was exposed to until way later. Even Zappa took me a couple of years.

My dad bought me an instructional DVD of this “jazz” drummer I never heard of before. This guy named Dave Weckl.

I remember this Dave Weckl  video has a Chick Corea song… so then I got into Chick Corea. And through Chick I went straight  to Miles Davis and then I was  gone.

I think I heard this record… Miles in the Sky when I was 17 and it was just too intense. The drumming was spectacular, so unlike any I had heard before. I wasn’t really aware of who Tony Williams  was but every drummer I was checking out spoke about him and I just didn’t know how to find any of that music, I wasn’t aware of the records or the history of the music either. Reading magazines like Modern Drummer actually helped a lot. I found that record with a pirate music dealer in a market called Lagunilla. When I heard that music, everything started for me. It was the first “real” jazz record that I really got into.

I don’t know if you’ve heard this song Black Comedy. It’s the third song on the record. It’s a Tony Williams song. The drumming is frankly impossible, i’m no exaggerating. I also learned that drummers could write their own music. I was doing research on Tony going through magazines, internet and records and I found out that aside from the Miles Quintet he made some records in the ’60s for Blue Note, like Sam Rivers, Andrew Hill, and he made two free-ish records – one is called Lifetime and the other one is called Spring. Also the Eric Dolphy record, the Out to Lunch. I checked all that music out, he was my main entrance.

That was when was attending school for jazz drumming. The only public music school that had drums as  a major.

(Géiser Live, Photo by Enero y Abril)

Cisco Bradley:        So what’s the school? What was the name of the school?

Gibrán Andrade: It’s the Escuela Superior de Musica. It’s a government school. It’s precarious in a way. They teach whatever they can. The teachers are a little outdated and somewhat irresponsible, at least when I was attending; and they weren’t into a lot of stuff.  They kind of had an idea about jazz, but were reluctant to support free jazz or different parts of jazz history. To them it was just bebop. Kinda like that Ken Burns documentary. That and only that was jazz to them.

Before actually going that school , I felt a need to hear live jazz and I wasn’t old enough to go to clubs, and the school puts together this jazz festival every summer. The students and teachers play and they invite some outside musicians as well.  I went as much as I could and I started being exposed to some of the great players that were around the city.

Cisco Bradley:        Any players you would like to mention? 

Gibrán Andrade: Well, I got to see all of them. There were a bunch of drummrers like Tavo Nandayapa, Gabriel Lauber, Hernán Hecth and Gabriel Puentes. With the last two I became involved. Gabriel is from Chile. He was my teacher for a while. Brilliant with the brushes. A very avid listener and lover of jazz. Very well informed in terms of that music, and he is self-taught. His teachings were all about listening to records. From early jazz to the downtown scene. He was a real Joey Baron fan. I soon found all the recordings Joey played in. He dad a totally different sound, more towards rock than jazz. He opened me up so much in terms of timbre, style and risk-taking, we was (and is) a bold improviser. We talked about him a lot.

Hernan Hecht was playing a lot of free stuff with a wonderful trio called Cráneo de Jade. Remi Álvarez played in that band, and Aarón Cruz was the bass player. I tried to go to every show they did. Sometimes I as the only audience member. He’s brought a lot of musicians here. He was my teacher as well. He brought Bill Carrothers  to play here and he brought Tim Berne  also. He made a band with him called 4 Limones with Mark Aanderud and Rick Parker. They did a couple of tours.  And that was another way to get into the downtown scene. Tim Berne was one of the first guys that I heard. Totally different music. Original and sort of confusing. I remember Hernan showed me the music, Tim Berne’s music, from late 2000 and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. It was too organized to be free.  Later I found out that they improvise on top of this heavily contrapunctual lines and odd  meters. It blew my mind. Plus Joey played with him.

Cisco Bradley:        You also mentioned punk a couple of times. Was that part of your aesthetic as an artist?

Gibrán Andrade: Yeah. It probably still is.

Cisco Bradley:        In what ways do you feel like you incorporate that?

Gibrán Andrade: I guess now I incorporate it more in the social and political aspects of it. The reason I got into free jazz also was partly because they had this sort of political ideal.

Cisco Bradley:        What does that mean to you today?

Gibrán Andrade: I think it’s embeded everything I do. Everything that I’m trying to do right now with improvised music is based on my experiences in punk. Not what I do in terms of my music specifically, but the whole way of doing things. The DIY way.

I’ve played punk in many countries incluiding the US, the underground community that punk developed is beautiful.  You get to play almost anywhere you want, and get to know the culture of each place through punks and their experience.

I just felt like it was a thing that was missing here in the improvised music scene, at least I wasn’t aware of it at that point…

The things that I’m doing now have more to do with the community-building aspect of it. Trying to unite people that are seemingly interested in the same things.

But as far as using punk as a mere aesthetic vehicle, or identity in improvised music, i’m not interested in doing that. At this stage of my process it seems a little obvious/cheap to just play a punk beat on top of a free jazz saxophone, Naked City did that in the ’80s and it was necessary  then but not anymore. Nowadays I might try to sneak it, use subtle references to it. I like to find new ways to blend the vocabularies, more organically. Although the raw energy is a common element. That being said, I still play in a couple of hardcore bands.

Cisco Bradley:        Can you speak more to the politics of the music?

Gibrán Andrade: Yeah. I think it is  just the idea that things can be different. We can be self-sustained in a way.  We can make our own shows, run our own labels and put this shit out ourselves. And it can just be a friendlier environment. I read all these jazz interviews where the Black musicians get screwed over by the fucking record execs. Every single interview I read it’s … Miles just talks about that shit all the time in his autobiography and, he was a millionaire.

There’s no way to just get a “big” record label to put out the shit that I’m playing here. So my music, I’m just putting it out myself or my friends are putting it out basically. And that’s just one aspect of it. Like I said it’s just believing that things can be different. Punks have that sort of faith.

Cisco Bradley:        Imagining an alternate reality or an alternative to what is here. 

Gibrán Andrade:  Yes. I always try to find people that are willing to do things that way.

We know that jazz in Mexico, for example, is a very elitist thing. It’s more for rich, “educated” people. And to me that has nothing to do with the music, really. The music came from a completely different place. It has a different history.

So, I feel like I’m trying to just bring back that thing into whatever it is that we’re doing now. That feeling of Community.

There’s probably 50 people that I know are doing this in the whole city and it’s a very big city. We all know each other and we feel like we got to help each other out, otherwise nothing will happen. I think it’s a good start.

That’s the political ideal that I have. If we’re going to do this, we have to help each other out in any way we can. There’s just no other path to follow.

(Gibrán Andrade, Photo by Rodrigo Jardon)

Cisco Bradley:        So, you talked about getting into the downtown scene. Tony Malaby introduced you to a lot of music. Was that when you attended SIM?

Gibrán Andrade: After hearing some other music that Gabriel showed me, he mentioned he went to this workshop in New York with some of the people we were checking out. Eventually I found out that it was SIM. I applied and got admitted. Tony was part of  the faculty, and played in a lot of the groups I was discovering, he played with all these drummers that were incredible. I believe his playing with Paul Motian got my attention. Motian was my absolute favorite drummer for a very long time.

From listening to people like that I realized that all those musicians wrote their own music. So I started looking for people that did that. Tim Berne was an example  and he was a faculty member at SIM as well, through him I checked out Julius Hemphill and then realize that there was this  underground and almost buried cast of musicians that did that since the 60’s and 70’s. In my Tony Williams phase Andrew Hill appeared and; even though it sounds cliché; changed my life.

Cisco Bradley:        You had an interest in doing that, eventually writing your own music?

Gibrán Andrade: Yes, after some time I decided to study composition, and got lessons from a contemporary classical composer named Alejandro Romero. Did that for about a year.

In those lessons the more unconventional music started coming to me. It was necessary in a way. The current mainstream jazz players I adored started to sound boring or predictable. I wanted the other thing, the challenge, the dissidence.

Cisco Bradley:        It appealed to you in certain ways?

Gibrán Andrade: Yeah, I needed that. But SIM was before I started writing. When I applied I was particularly interested in Tom Rainey‘s playing. In my essay for SIM I just wrote “i’m a big fan of Tom Rainey  and I want to meet him”. I was obsessed with his music, with his playing. It’s just so transparent and yet so abstract. It has a reaffirming quality to me. His playing was a very nice way to enter this new world of music.

Cisco Bradley:        So, you went to SIM and studied with him primarily?

Gibrán Andrade: I mean I took a private lesson with him and he was part of the faculty there.

Cisco Bradley:        So what did he teach you or what did you feel like you learned from him?

Gibrán Andrade: They had open rehearsals so you’d get to see them work out this really crazy hard music. Just looking at him work it out was enough.

We didn’t talk about much. We talk about just standard drum things. He just gave me a couple of exercises regarding pulse and subdivision ; at the time I didn’t realize what they meant, it was too simple and profound for me to grasp. I was on a different channel; I wanted more information, I was too young I guess; now I feel like I know more what he meant. But we became close because he really liked the way that I played. When we did this student concert he  said, “Man, you should keep going. I really enjoyed your playing.” And if he hadn’t said that I probably wouldn’t be playing right now. He was really encouraging. It was a very wild experience when I did  SIM. I was 19.

I saw Tom with Angelica Sanchez and Malaby play at the Jazz Gallery druing my stay. I think I cried at that show, man. I’d never seen anybody play like that before.

(Gibrán Andrade, photo by Jess Aguirre)

Cisco Bradley:        What year were you at SIM?

Gibrán Andrade: 2009. Yeah. I did it twice. I did 2009 and 2010. It was really cool. That workshop, it’s life changing if you’re open to it. … Very valuable lessons…all the students were great and the teachers have an honesty and a commitment that are not common, it wasn’t their job. They actually cared. Besides they never impose themselves. They want to find you, not to make you.

Private lessons are important to me, I like the intimacy. After I did SIM I figured out that I could just write to people that live in New York and just get private lessons with them. So every musician that I was interested in, I saved up some money and wrote them an email and asked them for lessons. So I took lessons with people that I found interesting at the time.

The last drum lesson that I had in NY was from Randy Peterson. Probably one the most unique and beautiful persons i’ve ever met. I was going in a direction where I had to find extreme players, the weirdest and more “uncomfortable”players. Things I could not grasp or disect immediately. Things that took work.

I got into Randy through a lesson I took with Ches Smith. I also heard him play subbing for Gerald Cleaver. And I remember at one session we did in Malaby’s garage he told me that I was playing a lot like the drummers on his records, that I needed to check out other things, and he mentioned Randy. It took me a couple of years to get in touch with him, he wasn’t playing live shows when I was in town.  No facebook or website, I had to ask around if anyone had his  contact information. Eventually a good friend told him I was interested in meeting him and he agreed.

I think he is extremely underrated and underappreciated. His way of dealing with rhythm and the way he improvises are just like nothing you’ll ever hear. His playing on those Maneri records and the other sutff he did was very influential to me in recent years. That music and Joe Maneri’s story changed the way I think of in terms of improvised music and it’s possibilites. I reached a point where it seemed like I found a limit.  It couldn’t get any werider, that music was and still is “it’s own kind”.

Cisco Bradley:        So after that were you prepared to start your own bands?

Gibrán Andrade: I was already doing that here.  I actually came and went to NY, been doing that since the first SIM Workshop. So the lesson with Randy was in between many different changes in my process. But his was the last one I took, in 2015 or 16.

Cisco Bradley:        So then in creating your own bands… can you talk about that process, the bands that you put together?

Gibrán Andrade: You mean in this music or in punk? Maybe it’s the same.

Cisco Bradley:        All the same. I mean… I’d be curious to hear about kind of everything you’re doing. I mean, coming back to Mexico City and then launching your own project.

Gibrán Andrade:    When I came back the first time I started calling some people I knew played this music. I started going to hear free players in the city, and asked them to play. First Remi Álvarez and then Germán Bringas, they both play saxophone and were very open to playing with me. They are the two most important musicians in the city for this music. We played from time to time in different contexts. In the meantime I developed several improvised and jazz projects that were active for a little bit and then people got sick of losing money or whatever. Plus I wasn’t involved in the community, I didn’t know what that was, I just felt like a misunderstood genius, you know? 20 years old and thinking I was the only one doing what I did. Now it’s different. We know each other’s work and I know the players more personally so I can put together bands that have a concept. For example the band you heard the other night; Géiser.

Cisco Bradley:        What is your vision for Géiser?

Gibrán Andrade: It is putting players in different contexts, people that I know don’t play with each other that much, and that are willing to take some chances in improvising. The band is more made up of people that wouldn’t really match playing-wise, but that can make a sound together. A sound that’s different to each of their usual musical edeavors. First of all the instrumentation is Remi on Soprano Saxophone, Iñigo Barandiaran (aka El Meteko on Electronics, and Carlos Alegre on Violin.

Remi hardly plays with electronics, so I thought it would be cool for him him to play with  Iñigo, someone I’ve been working very closely since the time I got back from SIM. Iñigo plays and composes electronic music, all of different styles but always with great taste and diversity, he doesn’t come from jazz at all, not even free jazz, but he is a great improviser and we have a special friendship and chemistry, I knew that that would work with Remi. And Carlos plays balkan and contemporary classical oriented music, an he usually with drummers that are way different than me, more textural I guess, or more like mixed percussion. So I thought we could create some contrast.

That band we put together in February or March 2017. We did our first show and it was just really nice. It just felt good. So we’ve played eight or nine shows since.

Cisco Bradley:        Wow. All here in Mexico City?

Gibrán Andrade: Yes.

Cisco Bradley:        They’re your regular band?

Gibrán Andrade: When I want to do an improv show I try to do it with them. We’re achieving a sort of language, a collective language that we enjoy a lot. We work it out just by playing with each other. And we talk. We hang out and we travel together sometimes.

The reason I guess for putting together a band now consists of me having an idea and then asking people to do it. I think of projects in those terms. Aside from Géiser I play duo with Bringas, it’s a multi-instrumental duo. I play piano and soprano saxophone besides the drums. And he plays all saxophones and piano. He’s probably the only guy I can do that with, that group is another context as well.

And I have this other band where I write music of my own, which is more like a jazz oriented improvisation. There are solos and there are heads and themes. We play some Sonny Sharrock  tunes or Paul Motian, even rock tunes. It’s mainly focused on written music and reinterpretation.

That band has these jazz guys from when I went to school in Mexico, and I got them to play in a more open setting but they play jazz as well so it’s like a nice cross. It’s like my way of doing what Paul Motian did. The Gibrán Andrade Quartet. I want to change that name, though.

The other project I do is my solo music, inspired by hip-hop and sampling culture, Androide. For drums and electronics.

Cisco Bradley:        Cool. And you do stuff in the punk setting?

Gibrán Andrade: Yeah I play in two bands now. Malcría and Magnolias. I’ve been touring with Boom Boom Kid from Argentina when he comes to Mexico.

Cisco Bradley:        You mentioned Géiser playing mainly here in Mexico City?

Gibrán Andrade: Yeah. It’s hard to tour with them because they’re… I mean they all have families and stuff. They’re twice my age basically. The violin player is about 10 years older than me but the other dudes are twice my age so  they have their own responsibilities. But we’re trying to go out of the city at some point.

Cisco Bradley:        And your quartet?

Gibrán Andrade: That is hard also because they are jazz musicians and they’re busy. They’re really good musicians so they’re always booked. We only get one day each month to rehearse, sometimes less. I need also to make some time to write new music or transcribe some tunes. We play seldomly.

The stuff that I can play most is my solo thing because it’s just me and I can just book myself. When people ask me to do it and I can negotiate the dates with ease.

Cisco Bradley:        Have you played around Mexico with your solo project?

Gibrán Andrade: I did a tour. I put out this tape in the summer and I did a little tour. I went up to Monterey  and then to Austin and Houston. I played a show in Houston. A friend of mine books shows in Houston and she asked me to play a show there. This year I’m touring more with that . I’m going to make a new record and… I’m just trying to put out one record every year with each project. Hopefully that’s possible.

It’d be cool to just start my label and just do it, just put it out by myself and my friends . That’s another thing in my mind.

Cisco Bradley:        Starting your own label could do wonders. Putting out your own stuff and maybe even putting out some of the other stuff.

Gibrán Andrade: German has a really nice duo with a singer, a noise vocalist named Rodrigo Ambriz. That duo is just beautiful. They’re my favorite band at the moment. I saw them play twice. I booked them in a show that I was organizing and I want to put their record out. I want to put it out on tape; just record to a 4-track. If I do start a label it will probably release tapes. But it’s uncertain at the moment.

Cisco Bradley:        Recording… I mean, would you say  a lot of recording here is it done in a way?  I mean what kind of settings you’ve done? Are there a lot of recordings happening in sort of more informal settings? Like in backstage or at home?

Gibrán Andrade: It’s different for everyone, I haven’t really recorded that much. It’s just not a thing here, I guess. But all of the recordings I’ve made whether it’s punk or improvised have been in home studios and with friends.

Cisco Bradley:        So in terms of being a curator or organizer of shows, how long have you been doing that?

Gibrán Andrade: Been doing that for three years maybe.

Cisco Bradley:        And what compelled you to start?

Gibrán Andrade:  As I started getting more involved in the punk scene. I asked myself, how do the punks book their shows? They just ask some random venue that will hold 100 people, until it stops and then try find another. I asked some venues to hold improvised music concerts, because I wasn’t really getting invited to play. So I started inviting people.

Cisco Bradley:        Do you feel like when you play jazz, it is in front of a jazz audience and then you play a punk show in front of a punk audience?

Gibrán Andrade: It blends. I’m not booking a punk band and then a jazz act, but sometimes my friends from the punk scene come to hear whatever it is that I’m doing with experimental music and the other way around.

I mean punk doesn’t need new fans. There are lots of punks in this city. It seems like there will always be punks.  People get drawn into it and it’s very simple, you just show up and that’s it, you’re a part of it.

But this music is a little harder because it’s very personal. So people don’t really identify that much with the people that are doing it because of that–  we have to find a way to deliver it in order for people to just check it out or to feel drawn to it in the same way. 5-people shows were common, 0-people also.

Cisco Bradley:        Have you been curating in different spaces?

Gibrán Andrade: It’s just random places. Places that don’t need much business. Different bars, art spaces, etc. You play a Monday or Tuesday night show somewhere. A lot of these places don’t get many people on weeknights.

Cisco Bradley:        As long as some people come then they’re happy?

Gibrán Andrade: Yeah. Yeah, basically.

Cisco Bradley:        Not a huge pressure to bring an audience or a little bit of a pressure?

Gibrán Andrade: No, not really. I mean I sort of warn them, “there’s not going to be a lot of people showing up. So we’re not asking you for money, we just need your space to play.”

And then I figured … I mean if we want to make this music a little more accessible for some reason why don’t we just ask for people to pay whatever for now and then if they like it they can pay a cover charge.

It’s really hard for people to pay cover charges here. I don’t know why. If you ask for 50 pesos some people won’t show up, probably because musicians are fucking broke.

Cisco Bradley:        A lot of the audience is other musicians?

Gibrán Andrade: Of course.

Cisco Bradley:        Well, I mean it’s a similar problem in New York in some way. Musicians are broke. It’s hard for them to pay for shows. There’s also this thing where people are resistant to buy music. They feel like they should be getting that for free. But musicians and other artists need to eat and they need to be paid for their work.

Gibrán Andrade: They get it for free already. So why would they pay for it?. Spotify or what not… When I read an interview of someone who runs a label, I remember especially Tim Berne talking about that with his label Screwgun. He talks about being able to pull it off, to break even, in the pre-streaming era, and that the internet ruined him. When I read about that I feel bad because I know that music it’s just a commodity now, not something of actual value to people.

If it’s for free people won’t pay for it. It’s just how it is.

Cisco Bradley:        It’s a massive calamity that the whole music industry is now suffering.

Gibrán Andrade: Especially for independent music. I like the fact that the big record labels are getting screwed.

But if you run your own label, if you’re a musician and that’s the only way to put out your music because no one wants to take a chance on it; or if they do they will pretty much own you; it will ruin you, you still need to somehow make a profit. It’s your work. There used to be a way from what i’ve heard. Not anymore.

Cisco Bradley:        There’s no network of distribution. That’s gone now.

Gibrán Andrade: Mark Helias came here to play with Hecht and this other Argentinian saxophone player… His records are really hard to find because he puts them out himself. But he managed to sell some here, and that’s his distribution network. That is probably the only way, put them out on your own and touring with them. But not everybody is able or willing to do things like that. It takes a lot out of you.

Cisco Bradley:        Yeah. I had a hard time finding those records even in New York.

Cisco Bradley:        So you talked about all these different spaces. I’ve just come to the one show.  I’ve just been here for three days. Can you just talk about El Quinto Piso where I saw you play the other day? How did that come about?

Gibrán Andrade: That space is an art gallery.

Usually the spaces that we find are old abandoned places that people just take over and start booking art or music .

Cisco Bradley:        So it’s the 5th floor of it, parking garage? They didn’t have enough cars to fill the top space?

Gibrán Andrade: Yeah, I think the top space is owned by someone else.

Cisco Bradley:        Oh, okay. I mean I know there are bathrooms up there. There are amenities and it’s a beautiful space.

Gibrán Andrade: It’s a really nice space. It’s just wide open.

Cisco Bradley:        And the sound I thought was– I mean I was wondering how the strings would sound. How the cello and the bass would sound. They sounded great.

Gibrán Andrade: I know, it’s a privilege to have a space like that. Sometimes it’s hard for people to go to. I think the violin player in Géiser has a shipping crew with the guy that runs that space. The guy that runs the space, he’s the captain of the boat.

Cisco Bradley:        Oh, wow. Okay.

Gibrán Andrade: And they became friends and then they asked if they could use his space. I believe he is a painter.

Carlos and Misha Marks did this really big festival of improvised music in May last year.  They did  a 3-day improvised music festival. Derrepente Enderredor. Everyone in the scene played, 50 musicians, all different configurations. It was really cool.

Fortunately there’s some people that own spaces and are willing to help with the shows.

Cisco Bradley:        Are there a lot of informal art spaces, abandoned spaces in Mexico City that allow this kind of stuff to happen?

Gibrán Andrade: There’s not a lot of them that have music, a lot of graphic art is produced in the city as well as film and theater, those are bigger communities and they have their spaces, but musicians don’t have access to things like that, we haven’t found a way to relate to each other. Only a few people in other artist communities have responded to what we do.  That’s also a reason for the lack of places with acoustic piano, most of the “venues” are not intended for music concerts.

Cisco Bradley:        Wow. That must be tough. I wonder about that in New York. A lot of venues don’t have pianos. Pianists can only play certain spaces all the time.

Gibrán Andrade: I mean there’s one jazz venue that has a piano in the city. but to get a show there is really difficult.

Cisco Bradley:        It’s really hard?

Gibrán Andrade: The people that book there are not really interested in the music. They care more about the image or the name. More about doing business. Improvised music is no business to them.

Cisco Bradley:        That’s the problem with a lot of jazz.

Gibrán Andrade: That’s sort of what I wanted to get away from. That high-class minded part of society that believe jazz musicians are just a sophisticated product they can consume in exclusive places.

Cisco Bradley:        There is honestly a similar thing in the U.S. There’s a certain type of jazz, I consider it more mainstream jazz, that attracts a kind of high expectation. Performers are going to be wearing tuxes and it’s going to be for an elite audience. This is a different thing. I don’t go to those shows really.

Gibrán Andrade: They’ve done that here. There’s a company that has a relationship with Lincoln Center, the Jazz at Lincoln Center, and then they bring musicians from New York but they play that kind of jazz that’s more corporate mainstream jazz.

And they’re great musicians and they teach some master classes and it’s pretty cool. I’ve attended them.

But I feel, man, if they brought a different thing maybe it would help the students choose what they want to hear, instead of just imposing – I mean if you have already the power to do that you can just broaden your palette.

It’s not let’s bring just straight ahead jazz because that’s the jazz that I like. It’s just so conservative and selfish, maybe even a little fascist. Monopolizing the knowledge and the perspective. I find that harmful to culture in general.

Cisco Bradley:        Well, you said it, they have the power.

Gibrán Andrade: Yeah. I don’t have that kind of infrastructure and I don’t care really. I don’t want to have it. I’d rather make my own different kind of community.

Cisco Bradley:        Different audience. You’re not appealing to the same audience obviously.

Gibrán Andrade: The thing is that the audience for those shows are jazz or music students. If you’re a student anything can click if it hits you at the right moment.

That’s what happened to me. I listened to something at that stage, and I identified with it, the more choices I had, the more I could find the one that suited me.

I just think that offering only one view of things it taking advantage of people, specially people in their formative years when they’re very malleable and confused. I just don’t believe that it will help the scene in terms of creativity. Because of these criteria, jazz musicians in Mexico always be a (bad) copy of the New York guys. And only the mainstream ones, because they’re the ones being brought here.

On a more positive note, I wanted to mention people that I feel have influenced me throughout that process and still do in the present. People from this place that might be unheard of somewhere else.

Cisco Bradley:        So please do.

Gibrán Andrade:  Besides Germán Bringas and Remi Álvarez, who are the veterans and the beacons of this music, there are other people who have been associated with them, and that are doing amazing things. There is a label called Ruido Horrible, a noise label run by Sergio Sánchez, it’s been putting out great noise acts in the city for a while. Since this city is loud and fast, the noise artists are actually very good, very representative of the place we live in. People like Arthur Henry Fork, Le Trash Can, Rodrigo Ambriz and Alejandro Tux (who run a label as well, called Campo Abierto) and Sergio’s Project “Los Heraldos Negros” are among my favorite. Also, a bunch of female artists are doing things now, all female concerts of improvised music, bass player Adriana Camacho is organizing that. Some of those players are very interesting. Alina Hernández, Mabe Fratti, Amanda Irarrázabal and Natalia Pérez Turner are some people to check out. Other people to seek are the ones that are coming from the contemporary classical background, since the level of musicianship in those areas is very high in Mexico, they can play anything they want , and fortunately a lot of players and teachers get involved in improvised music through people like Wilfrido Terrazas, a flute player  that has been a very important link between those traditions. There are also people who do it more in the contemporary art realm, like Fernando Vigueras or Milo Tamez, and they’re getting some of those spaces covered. It’s interesting that many of those artists have a direct link to Germán’s venue, we all started playing there.

Cisco Bradley:        Jazzorca ?

Gibrán Andrade:  Yeah. That place is the main space for this music , for both young and veteran musicians. It’s were it all started for most of us. Germán found a way to keep it running for over 20 years, without him it would be a different story. It’s either that or Remi Álvarez’ free jazz workshop at UNAM’s Music Faculty. They are without doubt the most important musicians because they care about the next generations and they’re moving forward. Their contribution should not be taken for granted.

More and more I am leaning towards those kind artists and their aesthetic, which is less concerned with relevance and visibility, and more concerned with building a community and a personal language, and  to me jazz is getting further and further away from that. It’s so corporate and self-centered. It’s suspicious. Even though I still think some of them are great musicians, and I listen to it all the time (the old stuff), what it represents socially  today is not what I want my music to be.

Cisco Bradley:        Great. Thank you for sharing all of your insights into your music and the scene you have been a part of here in Mexico City.

Cisco BradleyInterview: Gibrán Andrade