I could interview Salvador Govea, leader of this wonderful Mexican trio, whose music is a fusion of symphonic prog, jazz and classical music. So far they have released a CD and a DVD, both entitled "Danza Urbana"
Hope you all enjoy the interview, and why not, get Govea's music soon!
Guillermo: From general to specific, first of
all tell me why choosing music?
Salvador Govea: Well, I was introduced to
music since I was a kid, I studied music at eleven; and then with time you
choose what move you the most, you choose if you want to do it only as a
hobby, or if it is something actually serious. I studied Computing, but at
the same time I was taking music sessions, there is a moment where you decide
what your life will be about, no matter the obstacles. You have to do what
you like, because if you do not enjoy it then it makes no sense at all. I
remember those old clichés, “music will not give you money, it is not
something worth it”, things you listen everyday but that at the same time
give you strength. So after all you have to fight them, and do what you want
But tell me how to fight those clichés, in
this society where minorities have to suffer its context?
You have to be a professional, once you
decide what to do you must take it seriously and believe in yourself, of
course, you are allowed to have fun, but without losing the seriousness. You
have to reach your goals, have a schedule, plan your rehearsal days and use
them to actually rehearse, and not as a pretext of drinking a beer or doing
some “less serious things”. With this professionalism you will obtain good
cards, people will happily work with you, and of course your work will reach
more people, which is something we would like.
Once you chose music, then tell us why
choosing progressive rock, this loved/hated genre which is listened only by a
few amount o people.
That was because progressive rock is what
best fills the combination of my musical preferences. Since I was a kid I
listened to a vast amount of music, going from Bethooven, Mozart, Russian composers,
to Silvio Rodríguez, Inti-Illimani, etc. One day my elder brother arrived
with an Emerson Lake and Palmer LP, at first I thought “what a crazy thing”,
but later I couldn’t help but listening to it every single day. Actually,
Keith Emerson was the main reason I left my classical guitar and preferred
the piano. Then, with my brother’s friends I listened to Yes, King Crimson
and more prog rock bands; I remember I loved listening to “Ritual” (the Yes
song) while my classmates listened to Michael Jackson. That song made me
dream and say “I hope I can compose something like this in the future”.
So how would you describe progressive rock?
It is a fusion genre. Nowadays a lot of
people say they play fusion, sometimes they label themselves with peculiar adjectives.
But well, progressive rock was a tendency that emerged from The Beatles,
blending rock with folk rock, where lyrics had a true interesting meaning,
not like “I have a new car or I chased a girl, etc.” (laughs), that folk
element that we can appreciate with artists such as Joan Baez. Also prog rock takes classical music as an
important element, along with the jazz, and with all those influences you can
make a structure, develop pieces, and put a rhythm, harmonies, nuances, and
all that works at the service of music.
How would you link the art with music, I
mean, literature, images, scenarios, etc., which is their connection?
Progressive rock bands were pioneers of using
the multimedia experiences. All the colours in the stages, the illumination,
some groups have even used actors as a visual element in their concerts. The
cover art is also really important. It is about making a true and complete
work of art, which is led by music, but perfectly complemented by visual art.
Everything is crucial, from the design of the album, the name of the songs,
the concept, everything makes a unity. On stage, it is pretty rich to have
With that explanation, can we say that
progressive rock musicians are picky, demanding?
Yes, at least I am. We must be aware of every
single detail, people sometimes don’t realize how difficult is to write a
song, and how beautiful is to have a satisfactory result. Returning to the
previous point, I could also say that marketing is also part of the game,
because if you have a beautiful cover art, then more people could buy your
album, you and I have bought albums with just looking to the cover, even
without knowing the band. The visual part helps a lot actually, not only in
that commercial thing, but because it can facilitate your listening
experience, by understanding better their concept, that is why people love
attending to concerts, because you can also appreciate the musician’s
expressions, movements and feelings. Also with music you can create your own
images, your own story.
Why do you think progressive rock is not so
easy to listen, to dig, and why at least here in Mexico we always see the
same 30 people at concerts, why not more?
There are a lot of facts. In the 70s and 80s
when the genre was rising here, there was a little media support, in radio
shows basically, but nowadays the diffusion is inexistent. We don’t have
specialized magazines, and if one of them talks about King Crimson, they
never mention the words “progressive rock”, and well, in TV we are not
featured, not even in dreams. The worst is that some communicators and
opinion leaders say that “you have to be mad to listen to prog rock”, and of
course people believe them. This is a terrible problem that works as a wall
between music and people. But it does not end here, another problem I would
like to remark is that Mexican prog rock fans do not really support our local
scene. An example was the last “Festival Progresión” with a wonderful line-up
where you didn’t have to pay anything, the fans did not attend, and if they
did, it was mainly to the Norwegian band. So if we are 150 people and in the
festival only 10 arrive, it is really discouraging. Also, some musicians need
to survive (economically speaking) so if they receive an offer from a pop
artist they throw away their dreams and prefer the money it involves.
We have to look for better strategies.
Now please talk about Govea, how did you come
up with the project, what’s behind it.
An historical context: In 1994 I was in my
first progressive rock band, called Similares y Conexos, I played in the
first album and then left the band. Later I had an experience with a great
band called Metaconciencia, but I decided to step down because I felt I did
not have anything to add, I did not find my way there. So then I went with my
friends of Iconoclasta and played with them for four years, from 2001 to
2004.Then I decided to study, I took a composition course with Eugenio
Toussaint, and since then I began to compose my own songs. Later I realized I
cannot only compose them, but only play them.
In 2007 I went again with Víctor Baldovinos
(Iconoclasta) and told him about a project I was planning to start, so he as
a drummer, me in keyboards and Ernesto Mendoza in bass, formed the first
steps of what Govea is right now. Back then we briefly had the name of
Govea-Mendoza-Valdovinos, but the line-up was also brief, because after our
first gig, Mendoza left the band. Then I auditioned several bass players,
until we found in Luis Arturo Guerrero the perfect man for us. And by
suggestion of Víctor, (and after he rejected my different name proposals) the
name of the band was simply Govea. We composed, recorded and released “Danza
Urbana” and nowadays we are working in a new material. As you know, Valdovinos
left the band, but he is a key part of Govea.
How is your compositional process, what moves
you, how do you start a piece?
The melody is for me the most important part.
Once I have the melody, then I can start making the harmony, the rhythm and
the other elements. It makes everything stronger, it links and joins the
ideas, works as a guide. Sometimes rhythm and groove can be pretty good, but
if there is not a melody, it fails. In bass for instance, I don’t like
listening to the same note repeated every 4/4, I need it to have a melody, it
also develops the musician’s creativity and gives the fanatics music with
About the topics, sometimes you have a lot of
ideas depending of your experiences. It can be the simplest thing, for
instance, if you just watched a somber film, you may have some ideas and two
or three notes can be composed, with those notes you already have something
to communicate and to follow. Sometimes I wake up with some ideas and I
immediately go and write them.
I write a lot, but if I don’t like anything I
delete it and start over again. I have to love it first, then I hope my
musicians love it, and If they do, then we can expect fanatics appreciate it.
What will people listen in “Danza Urbana”? Please give us a brief
Sounds from the 70s: mellotron, mini-moog,
hammond, fender rhodes. I try to take that tradition, and I don’t deny I’ve
been influenced by ELP, among others, but I would like to point out that they
are only inspirational icons, we don’t copy them. In the album you will find
high quality music, sounds of jazz, classical music, rock elements that
together make that fusion style I talked earlier.
What about the songs’ titles?
That is one of the most difficult things I’ve
done. Right now the songs I’ve composed for the upcoming album don’t really
have a name, I recognized them by titles such as “song one” “the guitar riff
piece”, “unfinished song” etc. In “Danza Urbana” they have to do with the
structure of the city, “Danza Urbana” is dissonant, just like the city. The
other titles are related with my experience as a musician, it is a concept
about blending the genres, I mean, some people say you either choose rock, or
classical music, black or white, but don’t let you choose about all the range
of colors. What if I want to play both styles, and more styles fused into
one, then I do it, that is why titles such as “Convergentes” or “Claroscuro”
You’ve just released a DVD, please tell us
We have already talked about the importance
of the image, the visual side. So we had lots of ideas for videos and
fortunately we found director Julio Salinas, who with his vision helped us
reaching those concerns and ideas we already had. So we played with different
elements, used diverse stages such as the roof of a building, in which you
can see the city’s smog (which is part of the folklore), we recorded at the
studio, and in other places. The result was a decent DVD which also works as
homage to Víctor Valdovinos, who is featured in all the videos, in spite he
is not in the band anymore. The inclusion of an interview was a good
decision, David Cortés had already written a favorable review of our album,
and then he kindly interviewed us. With that, we felt people who have the DVD
can know much more about Govea and understand the band better.
Which are your future plans?
We are about to release our second album. I
hope it will be out in next December, and make an introductory concert and
even a press conference. In that album there will be less 70s elements, some
reviewers think we only do retro-prog, but that’s a timbral issue. We will
have a song that sounds like Mexico, with that folkish element that makes it
recognizable. I also want to put more drums and bass solos. We will also take
again a movement of Bernal Castillo’s Concertino (already taken for the first
album), among other things.
Please give us your opinión about recent
progressive rock bands.
I find a problem there, because nowadays we
have a lot of talented musicians who have everything to succeed, the problem
is that they are terrific in the execution, but they lack in the
compositional side. For instance, some months ago I saw Stick Men, and people
were more excited to listen to King Crimson covers instead of their own compositions,
that is mainly because the style of Stick Men is very Crimsonian, I mean,
they do not have their own style. Playing covers is not bad, actually we all
start imitating our heroes, but with time you have to find your own voice. In
spite of that, fortunately there are bands such as After Crying or Isildurs
Bane that have amazed me, and I truly enjoy them.
Finally, which are your goals?
At short-term is to release the second album.
Mid-term to perform live and have a tour in different schools and stages.
Long-term to make a live DVD, and of course, to have in Govea a long-term
project, I hope I have the health to continue with it for so many years.