If the name Isabel Fernández Reviriego doesn’t ring a bell, you might be more familiarised with her alter ego, Aries. She has already published three albums: La magia bruta, Mermelada dorada and the latest one, Adieu or Die, launched by La Castanya and K Records (legendary Olympia label headed by Calvin Johnson).
Isa gets along very well with Jorge de Cascante, a writer who creates micro-stories, thoughts and poetry to read in Tumblr format, and who also co-directs with Paula Robles a small fanzine publishing house, Petirosso Press. While waiting for his second book to appear, one can get to know him better by reading the texts he writes for Vice and Apartamento or his first short story compilation, Detrás de ti en el Museo del Traje.
Although, in fact, the best way to know both of them is through this exclusive conversation (not interview) they had for O.
Isa: Jorge, initially it could seem that we’re opposites in the sense that you are a precise and brilliant observer of the human condition, which, as we all know, can be quite painful… While I stick to innocence, to my flowery and melodious world… I would like to know your vision of the world and of the humans inhabiting it… And also what is it you want to achieve with your work.
Cascante: Isa! Many thanks! I’m not sure I… As for the world, I think it’s doing OK. The world is doing OK, but people aren’t. I think everything will improve; the worst thing would be for everything to stay the same. I can’t wait for the moment in which the system will collapse and the whole of Spain will be left with no iPhones, no cars and no Ikea (other artefacts such as Crocs shoes or cook Dabiz Diverxo will take centuries to decompose). Us human beings do almost everything wrong all the time, don’t we?? I like very few people and at the same time I like almost everyone, the usual story… When I see someone with lots of friends and acquaintances and he/she smiles at anyone they see in the same way I automatically think that the person is as mad as a hatter and try to stay away form him/her. But, at the same time, every day I walk down the street and would love to hear the person in front of me, ask another person certain doubts I’ve got or shake the hand of the person feeding pigeons in front of my building. Earlier on, I saw three kids skating and holding between the three of them the mannequin of a girl with a blond wig on top of their heads as if they were a kind of mad worm. Everything is full of beautiful things. When there are many people together it’s not so nice because I think they’re all there because someone fooled them into being there. Sharing an experience with another twenty thousand people is the idea I have of hell: a music festival, Estrella Damm adverts, the sales, stuff like that.
What I write usually comes from me trying to focus on something not many people notice, so I guess I’m trying to get people to notice more the kind of thing that it’s important to me. Or for them to see something new in something they see every day. I’m kind of saying very obvious things, am I not? Oops…
Hey, I’ve been listening to your new album for one day and a half on repeat mode. In the previous two you had left out some continents, but it seems that at last you’ve managed to fit in the whole Planet Earth in thirty minutes! How do you manage to achieve such density in your songs? I don’t have a clue about music, but I felt as though I was dreaming I was looking ahead and the landscape had no horizon or anything else to stop it, it was infinite everywhere I looked. Even the titles of the songs seem titles of thick novels, full of characters and places (En el océano!). Do you think about it all a lot to be able to fit so many things in such little space?
Ha, ha, ha! I love thick novels full of characters and places! I think everything through, yes. I have this small notebooks in which each song has its space with sounds, rhythms, arpeggios, chords, lyrics, images that inspire me, sentences… And I obsessively make demos, especially with voices. I’ve tried to be more austere than ever when it comes to sound and production. In fact, there aren’t many things happening, but I tried to make them very effective! He, he, he… I tried to dig deep inside of me all I could; I wanted it to sound as visceral and pure as possible.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but when I read your texts I imagine you sitting in the tube looking at the people around you, receiving tons of information per second from each of them… While your sensitivity breaks your heart into pieces and your brain vibrates full of ideas…
Well, it’s a bit like that, yes. I’m not sure about the tons, there are worse days in which nothing seems to say anything, but I always try to tune in everywhere I go to. Paula (my girlfriend) also acts as my informer and tells me about situations and characters that could inhabit the reality I create when I write. Everything makes me sad and happy at the same time.:_D
The thousand layers that can be heard or sensed in your songs make it impossible for one to feel alone when listening to your music. In my first two hearings of your song Memorias (at around minute 2:25 of the song), I got up from the chair because I thought there was someone in my living room, but there was no one. It’s often your own voice doing the backing vocals. How important is being alone to create the kind of music you create? I don’t mean alone in life, but alone in your head.
I can imagine you standing up from your chair! Ha, ha, ha! Well, I guess the whole being alone thing is very defining, isn’t it? I understand that it marks and defines my music even if I don’t think about it. I’m always very permeable towards anything surrounding me; the conversations I have with friends, the things I see, the present… They all have a great influence on me. But, of course, when it comes to working it’s just you going mad with your insecurities, your needs and your skills. Memorias, in fact, is the last song I did, and I did it when I was already totally away with it! I would meet people but not even listen to them; I just heard bits of vocals and synthesizers. To answer your question, doing everything alone is very important, and although I love playing with people, being able to immerse myself in music to the bone marrow and fight with myself for hours, days and months… I LOVE IT!
I was saying before that we might appear as antagonistic, but I’ve always had the feeling that you understand me (through my music), and you know that I hang onto my harmony world because I suffer a lot inside… I don’t know if you know, do you?? :))) I mean, deep down, we have a very similar vision of existence that we both channel into our love for our pets… :))
Ha, ha, ha, yes! I know exactly what you’re saying, and I think that what we do is much closer than apart.
I try to spend all the time I can with animals, what I would like the most would be to be able to talk to them, and for them to answer me! When I go to the park to see the cats there is as if I was looking at the stars in the sky, it’s incredible! I also like the sea very much, although I don’t see it very often. In general, I’m attracted to all the things I don’t understand; I give them all my love.
In your music I think there’s a not very obvious happy message (the lyrics are often far removed from it), but I think it has to do with the happiness you feel when you conceive it, play it and record it, as if you had been deprived of water for a day and at night time you found a fountain and started drinking and from that feeling there emerged a music that expressed something. How happy does that whole process make you? Do you miss it when you’re not doing it, or do you need to stop sometimes and rest for a while from it? Is it better to be thirsty or fulfilled? Ha, ha, ha! Help!
Ha, ha, ha! Thirsty! If not, it would be too much, at least for me. Now I’m starting to feel a bit thirsty again. Although, as you say, making music is what makes me happier, it also leaves me empty and I need a bit of time after that to “collect myself”. The fallow time is very good too because it’s more open, it doesn’t have to do just with music, but with absorbing and thinking millions of things.
Something else I’m thinking of, regarding the things you write, is that at the same time you perceive all the bad stuff that surrounds us, I think that your eyes also capture beauty, love and purity like no others…
I don’t know! Ha, ha. It happens to me when I come across a horrible person… For example, one of those guys in a suit walking in front of me saying to a girl passing by “what a piece of ass,” then entering a Burger King, calling the guy at the counter “negro,” eating a Whopper and then in the tube seeing a baby crying and telling him to shut the fuck up (more than coming across him, I’ve been following him for five hours…); I think behind that person there’s a lot to know. I want to know if he’s in love with someone, if he likes board games (¿?), what makes him laugh and why, etc. Hating people without thinking is the easiest thing to do, it’s a feeling that often comes to my mind. Trying to see beyond horror is the most difficult thing to do, at least for me, but one should always try.
You walk the same path, but in a different direction. You can surround three minutes of music with light and from that light you can talk about death, or pain, or repeat “it’s a shame” or “I feel so much loneliness.” We’re on the same team! Maybe I’m contradicting myself a lot, but to me it’s crystal clear and it all makes sense. I think if someone is reading this and can’t understand it, no one will be able to explain it to them, ever! :S
I’m thinking that something very strong connecting the things you and I do is the migraine chasing us. Do you think that physical pain makes us more sensitive towards other kinds of alien pains? I don’t know if I’m saying something very stupid. In my case, it makes me see everything from a position of weakness: I know that at any moment I might have to disappear from the world and stay in a dark room for several hours, and I think that feeling that kind of precariousness has made me lose any hint of cockiness I had left. Does your music sound the way it sounds because your head hurts the way it hurts? How important is that pain for what you do?
Bloody migraines… No, no! We have to be cockier than them! I went to see a physiotherapist that was a bit of a witch doctor here in Vigo, and she made me ask myself about the positive things that migraines provoke. And I’m trying to see them that way: they make me celebrate each day I don’t have a migraine. Since they’re always there, breathing down my neck, they make me value health and feeling OK a great deal. We take health for granted, when it’s the most magical present. She also told me to think about what they made me do: lock myself up and stop doing things completely… Our body is saying, “STOP!!” So we might just have to slow down and see them as days to rest a bit and lie in the dark between vomits and pain, ha, ha, ha!
I’m sure that fearing and feeling that kind of pain so often give us a particular vision… I think it’s a mixture of fear, self-consciousness and empathy!
How is your working routine? Are you a morning or a night person? Do you work with bursts of inspiration or sit down to write no matter what?
I’ll try to go back to being cocky, thanks, my friend!!!
I don’t know how this is going to sound, but I wake up at 6AM every morning and I do exactly the same, in the same order. I need to do it this way to try and control the migraines. For years I used to fall asleep when the sun was rising and would wake up at 3PM. Now I don’t go out, or drink, or use any drugs people use. I’m quite ready for when I’m ninety, and that fills me with a sense of calm that I hadn’t felt since I was seventeen and thought I was never going to die. The truth is I still think I’m never going to die.
I sit down to write every day, but sometimes I write nothing. I take a long time to start, and when I do I’m always full of doubt. It’s complicated because I’m always more inclined towards not doing than towards doing, there’s something very strong in me that wants to escape everything and lie on the floor listening to the wind shaking the leaves of the trees. I need to make a great effort to finish things. My second book will come out this year at a publishing house that commissioned it… in 2011 (help?).
Your album Mermelada dorada encouraged me to write at a time I found it even more difficult than now, and I think your new record is going to help me even more. I also find encouraging the fact that you always do everything yourself, which is the same thing I’m trying to do. What attitudes inspire you and make you want to do things?
Perseverant people that have their vision and follow it no matter what inspire me, even if no one pays any attention to them, or no one values them as they should. People that don’t succumb to superficial shit, people with strong personalities, people who are alive, who are curious, who are surprised by things, who work hard. And also those who act in an honest way, without any seedy interests.
By the way, I love your descriptions of Madrid, when I read them they take me back to the years I lived there. They’re wonderful descriptions… Please, tell me about your feelings towards Madrid.
I’ve lived in Madrid almost all my life, although I always try to maintain a certain degree of ingenuity towards the city. I’m not one of those people who knows all the stories about Madrid, or the names of all the places, nothing like that. I try for the city to be mine in what I write, but I always talk about Madrid from my memories and I don’t try to fit them in with what is meant to be Real. Last year, I was asked by Vice to talk about what it was like for me to grow here and I got lots of insults from people I didn’t know that said Madrid was in no way like what I had written, so I think I’m doing the right thing.
When I went to the presentation of your book in Madrid a few months ago I remember a girl saying that publishing a book, or a record, today was stupid because everything is on the internet and it’s better to have your house empty, without so many objects. I don’t want to be nasty about “objects”, but what do you think? My house is like Gómez de la Serna’s, there’s no room for a needle. My friend, is it better to be able to touch things, or to not touch them at all? Ha, ha! I don’t even know what I’m talking about!
Ha, ha, ha! I don’t know if you remember that during the presentation they also said that my house was like a giant collage, full of objects! I suffer from horror vacui, so what can I say to that? I love objects and I love being surrounded by beautiful things. Since I was a little girl I’ve always felt a huge attraction towards objects, be it little boxes, fabrics or drawings. But why should we choose, both things can co-exist, can’t they? We can have a wooden library full of nice-smelling pages and an iCloud with a million gigabytes. I’ll take both!
Have you ever lived or see yourself living away from Madrid?
I’ve spent time in Germany several times (I always studied in German schools in Madrid), but I’m not sure that could be considered “living abroad”, I never spent a whole year there… I see myself moving away from the city, like you. Your example is amazing; I’d love to do the same. One of the people I admire the most is Konrad Lorenz and many nights I fall asleep imagining myself imitating his life, among gooses and dogs and horses. But the bad thing is that since I’m usually so distracted, I might fall inside the pen, hit my head, pass out, and have the hens eat me alive! I cannot say. I cannot say because I’m not God. I’m not God!
Ah, another thing: collages. You make collages, and your music, for what you’ve been saying, is created following a similar technique. I write a bit in the same way too, I always have notes everywhere, and insert sentences I’ve heard in the street or read in books, among the rest of things created by me (and in the end I think that nothing comes out of me completely, the rest are notes that aren’t written but have stayed in my head somehow). Do you have any way of selecting the reality you perceive to turn it into music? When you feel something, or see something, be it horrible or beautiful, do you sometimes think “I’m going to put this in a song”? Do you think that being transmitters of reality (Whaaat!? Ha, ha, ha!) makes us lose it a bit when it comes to valuing those emotions when they take place? I’m serious!
Wow, good question! Do you think we don’t live the moment fully because instead of living it we’re gathering information for our purposes? Yes, sometimes I’m experiencing something amazing and I can’t help wanting to note it down in a notebook. Maybe we lose casualness, emotion and experience. But it’s not the same as when people are in museums and they record it all with their mobiles, is it? :=O
It has the positive side of living being tuned in and receptive. I don’t know, maybe we miss things. I should have thought about this before. Thanks for the question! Regarding the criterion of selection, it’s pure personal choices and feelings. Although I think we have to give life to our eyes, and not only YouTube videos.
What things have you discovered lately that you find amazing?
Well! Let’s see, apart from your album, which is the absolute top 1, these come to mind…
1. A 1988 Lynda Barry interview at the Letterman show. He’s the worst, but she’s one of the people I like the most and her attitude and what she does are a constant source of inspiration to me.
2. The California Raisins. I mean the dolls, not the food. I re-discovered them for a project I did with collective Nosotros for which I scanned pages from my childhood and teenage diaries (I’ve always kept a diary) and on a 1989 page my me from then said that he was obsessed with The California Raisins. My favourite raisin is the one dressed like Flavor Flav.
3. A dog I’ve just adopted, called Yoko. For the moment is as small as a grapefruit, jumps really high and has a very long beard.
4. The Ehrmann Grand Dessert, a kind of Copa Danone in which the top cream layer is substituted by two extra chocolate layers, each with different textures. An idea and a surname that could only belong to a dessert loving Nazi scientist who took refuge in Paraguay! The Ehrmann Grand Dessert! The Real Life Dessert!
5. El mundo de la tarántula, Pablo Carbonell’s memoir, published by Blackie Books; I’ve been editing it for months. I loved both the book, which I read around seventy times (and loved it the seventy times), and Pablo himself, who’s really cool.
Tell me things you’ve discovered lately that have made your head spin. Don’t tell me the same things you have already said in the two thousand interviews you’ve given in the last month! Well, if you can’t think of anything else, then it’s OK.
Ha, ha, ha! OK, I’ll try!
1. This Portland silk-screen printing workshop made my head spin! They have the second biggest fanzine library in the US: IRPC (Independent Publishing Resource Center). A marvel!
2. My head spun too during the concert that Vigo-based band Jay gave at La Melona festival a couple of weeks ago. Seeing them live is like seeing a giant black ball, but super bright at the same time.
3. My head is spinning with the new device that Teenage Engineering is going to launch very soon. The OP Z.
4. My head is also spinning with Daniel Clowes’ Patience, published here by Fulgencio Pimentel.
5. And, literally, my head spun with the Space Cake with which Coki -my friend and ex-keyboard player with Charades- greeted me in Los Angeles when I went to play there in March. I spent about eight hours vibrating with Californian gardens, prawn tacos and my friends’ conversations. Delicious and frenetic!