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Rodrigo San Martín

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    Posted: April 30 2011 at 15:37


Rodrigo San Martín (born 8/14/88) is an Argentine progressive rock guitarist,composer and producer. He's a multi-instrumentalist who generally performs all the instruments in his albums.


As a solo artist he has released two albums: "1" (April 2010), Argentina's first 5.1 album, and "There's No Way Out" (November 2010), which features collaboratations from Serbian singer Jelena Persic and United States born Craig Kerley.

Rodrigo is also the lead guitarist and main composer of progressive rock band De Rien and mastermind (along Juan Manuel Torres) of Souls Ignite, a project involving some of Argentina's progressive rock main figures. He has worked with many artists as sessionist/producer, including prog acts Fernando Refay and Destino 101. He's also the organizer of the Close to the Edge Buenos Aires Prog Fest.

Rodrigo works a style that blends Progressive Rock, Pop/Rock, Metal, Funk/Rock, Classical music, Ambient and Jazz fusion.

I got in touch with him and this is his story.

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Just to start with, please tell us more about your background and why you took up music.

I'm a 22 year old guy from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I graduated as a Music Teacher from “Escuela de Música Juan Pedro Esnaola” and as Producer from “Tecson” at age 20. 
My first musical interest was the piano at age 9 but I switched to guitar at age 12 when I fell in love with Rock music, I started playing 6-8 hours a day and immediatly knew that music would be my profession.
At age 14 I started the classically oriented Music School (specialized in Classical guitar and where I learnt things like Orchestation and Orchestral Conduction, in between other less useful stuff), which was very rigid and structured. At the same time I started taking electric guitar lessons with Jazz Fusion guitar player Diego Epstein .
The relationship between Jazz (very free and full of improvisation and experimentation) and Classical (very structured and technical and very rooted in music theory) would become the key element of my style.
I was the most “rebel” (music wise) student in Classical school, often changing the scores and irritating teachers (particulary Harmony teachers) by using chords which they considered forbidden. I was one of the few rock players classicaly trained as well, so I was kind of an outcast in both circles.

These two aspects of my education seemed to meld perfectly in what would become my favorite kind of music: Progressive Rock. Listening to Steve Howe going from jazzy solos to Mood for a Day and the rocking out in Close to the Edge was a MAJOR influence.

At 16 I formed a Jazz-Rock trio called Artificio, a few months later we won a very important band contest and ended up playing in “Pepsi Music”, the biggest Argentine rock festival (alongiside major acts like L.A Spinetta, Charly García and international artists like Megadeth!) Which is the weirdest thing for an instrumetnal trio comprised of three 17 year olds! Sadly that band disbanded shortly after.

You are a well known name in the Argentine scene, but perhaps not as known outside it. Please tell us more about the bands De Rien, Souls Ignite and the bands you have produced as a much used producer.

I graduated both carreers and started prog rock band De Rien. The biggest influence is definetly Porcupine Tree, but we're fronted by a female vocalist and my Symph prog influences sometimes slip away into the music. We're in the very final stage of the recording of our debut album “Con los Ojos Abiertos”. It's composed of 6 tracks (one of them is a 20 minute epic) and I hope it will be released abouth two months from today.

My other main project is Souls Ignite (the name comes from a line in Supper's Ready!), which is a composing duo between my Tecson partner Juan Manuel Torres and me. The debut album (called “Chaos”) is a rock opera, and features many of the big names in the Argentine prog scene (Fernando Refay, Alejandro Matos, Diego Epstein, Sergio López, Milena L'argentiere, to name a few) as well as my Serbian friend Jelena Perisic. Each singer takes a role in the opera, kind of like a South American Ayreon, but the music is very very different from Lucassen's work.

The recording of “Chaos” is very advanced too, only drums remaining.

As Producer/Sessionist I worked most famously with my own projects (my two solo albums, which are the first albums mixed in 5.1 Surround in Argentina, De Rien's and Souls Ignite's debut), with Fernando Refay (played guitar in a few tracks of his amazing debut “The Paradox” and I'm about to start working on his second album), Destino 101 (great prog metal band, currently producing their EP), a few tracks for a Tamara Szych solo project and I'm doing some Sound Design (foley and stereo and surround mixes) for a few short films, currently Zoetropo Produccione's “El Hombre Caja” (“the Box-man”). I must admit that my biggest challenge as producer was with Indie artist Micaela Quinteros' debut album “Las canciones de Micaela, Vol I”, but I think I managed to restrain my “prog sounding” tendencies and make a very simple sounding album like she wanted in the first place. (maybe I'll succeed including a Mellotron for her second album!)

You are also the organiser of Close to the Edge Buenos Aires Prog Fest. Please tell us more about this festival and the challenges you face when you organise a festival in Argentina and how can a band book themselves on this festival.
How is the progressive rock scene in Argentina these days ?

The Close to the Edge Prog Fest is a regular festival I organize, alongisde De Rien, here in Buenos Aires. To submit you should send me an e-mail to [email protected] with a few tracks and a band bio.

Argentina's prog scene is a growing one. There has been lots of fantastic bands coming out lately (Fughu, Mothership, Fantasía Cromática, Sillion Zelf, William Gray, to name a random few) but the genre is relegated to the underground. I was talking to fellow prog artist Alejandro Matos during the last Close to the Edge Fest and he was telling me how television channels rejected his music without even listening to it just because he called it prog rock on the Press Release!

Being an underground band Argentina is really hard: I live in a very corrupt country where, for example, bands don't get paid to play in bars. In fact bars and pubs CHARGE bands for the spot to play. So bands have to sell an X number of tickets not to lose money (and forget about EARNING money), this way bars earn money independently of ticket sales (so there's no possible loss) and sell drinks to the crowd the band had to gather not to lose money. This leads to bar people don't worring about the quality of the music the bands that play have, because it doesn't make a monetary difference. There are no thematic bars or anything, there are no bars with reputation of “good bands”: the one who pays plays. And the ones that lose here are the musicians.
So getting a “Residence” is absolutely out of the question.

But if you make a more detailed analysis bar managers are not necesarilly the ones to blame, It's ten times harder to be a business owner here due to a number of things: high taxes, insane requirements to open a space where you can have music and mostly Corrupt government inspectors and Policemen (who require their respective bribe, even if your place is by the book), the system is perversly thought to be practically impossible to follow all rules, that way this inspectors can get away with their business and always have you by the balls (when they got tired of you or you refused to pay the bribe they close your business).

So bar people, to be able to keep doing their job screw musicians...

To cut this very long story short: the prog scece is doing wonderfully on an artistic level (specially the prog metal sub genre) but in terms of popularity and economy we are quite screwed.

And my way to fight this is to do the Close to the Edge Fest: create myself the space for our kind of music (something they are also doing quite brilliantly in La Plata and Rosario)

In the middle of all this, why did you set out on your solo career ?

I started my solo career because I had too much music inside my head and I didn't want to leave things in De Rien's waiting list for years before we could even record it. I had a lifelong dream to make an album all by myself (inspired by Mike Oldfield and most recently Steven Wilson), and
during some months that we spent auditioning musicians for De Rien I decided to do it.
And so “1” was born. (free streaming and download from http://www.rodrigosanmartin.com.ar/#/1.2/en/musica/ )



Please give us your long or brief thoughts on debut album 1 released in April this year. How would you describe the music ?

“1” is my debut as musician as well as producer. It was released in April 2010 and was the first album in Argentina mixed in 5.1 Surround as well as Stereo (as a matter of fact I'm the only music producer who works with surround sound in Argentina, but there have been surround mixes of movies)

It's comprised of a single 39 minute long track that tells the story of a critical person (in the “able to use his mind to discern truth from bullsh*t and good from bad” sense, not in the “important” one). The track is divided musically only around minute 20 (where the music stops and the sound of someone changing sides of a vinyl is heard) but lyrically divided in 8 phases.

Phase 1 deals with childhood and wanting to grow up to experience things in life.
Phase 2 is about denial, a pre adolecent trying to resist waking up and see the horrors of the world.
Phase 3 deals with being let down by those things but setting the goal for himself to change those things.
Phase 4 is an instrumental crescendo where the melody travels from mellotron, to marimba, up to electric guitar and a string quartet, representing growing up. It's my favourite.
Phase 5 is about giving up on his dream after years of disillusions and may be one of the saddest things I have written in my life.
Phase 6 is about finding a new inspiration, seeing some beauty in the world.
Phase 7 deals with loss of a loved one and yearning that childhood where everything was perfect but wasn't appreciated.
And finally Phase 8 is a rebirth of the aspirations of the main character, I guess the final line of the album reveals everything.

I played all instruments and recorded all vocals, mixed and mastered myself. It took me 3 full time months but managed to acheive a few personal dreams with this album.



You have just released your second album There's No Way Out. Please tell us more about this album.

There's No Way Out is available for free download and streaming on my website too:

There's No Way Out is my second album, released on november 2010. I had the pleasure of having two of my favourite singers ever to sing all the vocals: Jelena Perisic form Serbia (www.reverbnation.com/jelenaperisic) and Craig Kerley from the U.S (http://www.reverbnation.com/craigkerley )

There's No Way Out is a concept album about someone trying to change the world: in the first track he/she "has an epiphany" and realizes he/she must be the one that "opens the eyes" of his fellow humans and set them free. Become their leader in the "revolution against oppression".
The idea is not to be specific about this, which kind of revolution or anything. So it can be ambiguous and interpreted in a social way, artistic or political or anything. It can be a either a political leader making a revolution or a musician trying to change mainstream music, for example.
That's what happens on the first track "4378th Day".

"No" at first sight appears to be unrelated. Kind of like The Hare Who Lost It's Spectacles in A Passion Play. It can be interpreted either as a totally random song (about a relationship, for example) or as the main character screaming the words to the world "you're totally wrong, I'm tired of giving myself up and living by your rules: this is the last time I surrender to you"

The last song "War, act 2" continues the story of our "leader" of the first track, but a lot of events later (I'm planning to release an EP sometime in the future consisting of the track "War, Act 1", revealing all these events). This person has succeeded in "taking control" but everything in not perfect as he/she hoped.
He/she is depressed because now that he has accomplished his goal he/she doesn't have a purpose anymore. This, along other things not specified, turns this person into someone corrupt who "sells out".

Trying to "impose his way" he/she becomes another "oppressor" like the one he put all his life into fighting.

He/she realizes this and quits.

His absence provokes a new "war" because the people he led couldn't go on without their leader because mostly people follow charismatic leaders because "it's a trend" (or to feel a part of something), but do not understand their ideas.

The album ends in a "post apocalyptic way", the end of the "people following charisma, not ideas" giving birth to a "new age" where nobody follows anybody, only ideas that they share. Meaning that people finally become Individuals with minds of their own, not sheep following the one in front.

I don't mean individualists and selfish in a negative but in a positive way. People with a mind of their own who take their own decisions, in a relationship of equals.

If we apply the story to the artist it's like this: once he rose to fame he realizes that he is just "a fashion" and that he hasn't woken up anybody. He quits. Everything that he crated (artistic movement?) collapses because of lame imitations of him who don't really understand what his art was about. Eventually (hopefully!) people (in kind of a utopic future) stop following trends and start thinking by themselves.

What is the main differences between these two albums ?

I am extremely proud of both my albums. In my own opinion “There's No Way Out” is much better produced, and there's a HUGE difference in having two of the best singers in the scene doing all the vocals instead of my own (as I did in “1”). On a pure compositonal level I'm very fond of “1”, I believe I achieved something very special, even tough people generally prefer There's No Way Out and I don't blame them. Another difference is that I play a lot more lead guitar and keyboard on the second album, “1” has quite a few but is not so centered in the solos.



How is your writing and creative processes ?

My writing process has varied a lot through the years, during my fusion days everything came from improvisations. Now I don't work like that that anymore.

First of all I need a musical concept and everything is built around it.
I admit I have become addicted to my studio: after I have the concept I look for the harmony and record the skeleton of the whole structure (usually with guitar or keyboards, depending on which intruments leads in each part), after that I make a drum demo and record bass and whatever instrument I need.
If I want to to write an orchestral arrangement or some very complex counterpoint I turn immediatly to Sibelius Software, make a demo and export it to Pro Tools and re-record it manually.

Always the last thing I make up are melody and lyrics (and always in that order)

For those of the readers who are not familiar with your music: How would you describe your music ?

I'm a firm believer of not tagging oneself onto any subgenre, but I think my solo works has strong Symphonic/Eclectic/Heavy Prog elements, with prevalence of none over the other.

There a few elements which are characteristic of my music:
  • Long tracks (I love taking all the time I need to express my ideas)
  • Concept albums (I like tracks that relate and enhance each other)
  • Melody is a big priority to me
  • I'm a crazy time signature/polyrhitmics junky (and specially putting them in places where they may go unnoticed)
  • I use musical styles (and the difference between them) to express different emotions. I believe this is the key to my personal style: I think there's a big impact in changing dynamics and going somewhere unexpected. Take for example minutes 4 to 10 from “1”: it stars very quiet with the acoustic part, changes to metal for a few seconds, back to acoustic, back to metal, then to electronica, then to 80's Crimson polyrhitmics, 3 minutes of (watcher of the skies-like) mellotron to an orchestal fanfarre! And I think I got away with it!



I gather both your albums has been released on your own label. How do you organise the distribution of your albums ?

I handle distribution digitally (using my own website and Paypal) and send the physical albums by mail. All my albums are available as free mp3 albums as well.


What is your plans for next year ?

The nearest thing in my future is to release De Rien's debut album and hit the road to promote it. Second in line is Souls Ignite's “Chaos”, which is my favourite album I have worked in.

Future projects include live shows promoting my solo material, forming an Argentine prog Supergroup on the second half of 2011 (with Sillion Zelf's Fernando Refay and a few kickass musicians) and make an album/play live with them.
After (or during, depending on time and schedules) I'll start working on my third solo album (for which I already have the concept)

Since december I have been working on a very ambitious project I mantained a secret but I'll reveal it right now:
A mockumentary about a fake 70's prog band. The idea is to record all the band's albums (finished album number 6 yesterday, a “”1974”” Double album with a very bizarre story) and then make a movie, a comedy, making fun of all the prog cliches. I'm working a lot in this project (composed/recorded 6 album since december 2010!) but I dare not say a release date.

I'm very excited about this because the movie will be a comedy but the music is for real, I'm quite proud of it in fact! (at least until now, having done one psychedelic 60's and a lot of prog 70's albums, I may change my mind after the unavoidable 80's crap!)

To wrap up this interview, is there anything you want to add to this interview ?

Thank you for the opportunity and hope to be included in the Archives soon!



Thank you to Rodrigo for this interview

His PA profile is here and his homepage is here

Please download his albums and review them !!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote harmonium.ro Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 30 2011 at 15:43
That is an epic beard. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote memowakeman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 30 2011 at 17:19

He's been willing to make his music noticed, he is a young taleted musician who deserves attention.

Great interview, excellent answers!

Follow me on twitter @memowakeman
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Cesar Inca Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 01 2011 at 19:50
Excellent answers, indeed.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Lima96 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 02 2011 at 06:29
Great interview! It's a shame that the depiction of the current argentine underground musical scene is as realistic as hell. I don't know how it will be in other south american countries.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sanmartinphase7 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 19 2011 at 11:18
Originally posted by harmonium.ro harmonium.ro wrote:

That is an epic beard. 

Greatest review ever!

Thanks guys
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