In June 2017 AM-PM "America for its music" event, organized for the third time by Fábrica de Arte Cubano, decided to bring together some of the most outstanding musical producers of the continent with the intention of sharing and debating with their peers about the main regularities, concerns, and trends of the profession.
As part of that meeting, AM-PM commissioned a group of interviews to several of the essential musical producers in Latin America, which were published as a dossier in the Spanish magazine Zona de Obras and that we reproduce in our magazine, with the intention of continuing to spread the musical thought of these "monsters".
Camilo Lara is an all-terrain of Latin American musical creation and production. In his native Mexico, as a composer and performer, he has completed reference music projects such as the Mexican Institute of Sound (IMS), Boom Segundo, Compass or Mexrrissey, in which his creative imprint beats.
His career includes creation for audiovisuals, materialized in the soundtracks of Mexican films such as Rudo y cursi, Club Sandwich or Y tu mamá también, as well as the animated movie Coco (Pixar); as for television series -Californication, Scrubs and Breaking Bad- and video games -like FIFA. In the media, his work also extends to collaborations as an announcer of a radio station within the Grand Theft Auto V. One of his passions: working in collaboration with musicians who enrich him. A paradigm: the enjoyment of the creative process.
To talk electronically with Camilo Lara was a privilege. Taking as a pretext the thematic lines that occupied the working days of AM-PM, we direct the dialogue around the figure of the contemporary music producer, its challenges and opportunities. His answers drew a broad panorama that leaves numerous routes open for future reflections.
Today we are in the presence of a chaotic, changing music industry, sometimes very quickly, which makes it almost impossible to adapt to changes, which makes it extremely interesting. What are the challenges facing a music producer in today's industry?
Actually the main value to be a music producer is to achieve excellence with music. In that sense, I believe that the trade has not changed. You have to create music that connects with people and has a high degree of quality.
On the other hand, you have to understand who we are talking to. The young people who consume music today are not the youth of the eighties, nor those of ten years ago. The formats continue to change. Today we live a world of songs. We went back to what happened in the fifties: a world in which records are no longer relevant. A world of much information and with a public willing to give you very little time to convince them.
It is exciting. I think the link between the public and the creator is getting shorter and shorter. Music is being more immediate, more malleable.
The figure of the producer is blurred in terms of definition, since he adopts numerous roles within the creation / production process of a phonogram or artist. It seems that a producer is a todologist who composes, arranges, plays, records, mixes, motivates ... What is producing? How would you define a contemporary music producer?
Yes and no. In the end a producer must be a tutor of form and style. For me, the big producers are those who have a clear criterion and with their taste they manage to help the musician to achieve what they are looking for.
There are producers who achieve it with recording technique, others who achieve it with musicality, some people do it with instinct. I like to think that the producer is the guardian of the style, the one who does not lose the objective. The technical, musical and intuitive must be at the service of the result. There are times that you should use a little more than one of those three elements and it should always be for the good of the song.
In this age of technology, the presence of home studios in which the young artists self-produce (a phase that you went through): what are the main (or more common) challenges that a young artist must face when producing his own music?
I think nowadays that with the available softwares we all can survive more or less and make fairly decent recordings. That is not a discussion.
The most important thing is to have the taste. To think that we live in a world in which practically all of us use the same programs to create music sounds scary ... however, I think it's great.
It is like all writers who have a blank page to create. The difference between a bad writer and a great one lies in the choice of words. Both have the same letters and the same blank sheet. What is the subtle difference? Taste, the ability to find the right words and combine them with grace. In music, exactly the same happens.
An artist must find his own voice. That is totally independent to software that they use. If you do not have enough exciting, unique, dangerous, great ideas, then nothing happens. The challenge is to put those home studios at the mercy of the ideas of creation. Ideas are the king. There is not software that can replace the lack of good ideas.
One of the fundamental problems of this practice is that it tends to lose active, objective listening in favor of production since the artist tends to stick to what it produces. What formulas can we find to listen objectively to the result we produce? How to know that the production is over, that the theme (the album) is ready?
There are many ways to break with vicious creative cycles. It has been one of the biggest problems over the years of recorded music. How to know when to stop? Nobody knows. Brian Eno invented the oblique strategies, with which the musicians manage to get out of creative potholes. In them a card was drawn at random with a random command, something like a cookie of Chinese luck. They said things that force the creator out of his comfort zone: "Mute everything you've done in the last hour "," Do you need bass? "
I think you always have to try to break with the creative processes. There appear great things.
Whenever I'm stuck I think: "What would the Clash do?" With that, it is enough for me to think otherwise. Of course it always helps to think that "less is more". Simplicity is much better and more effective than searching ... And the other is: you have to have confidence in your judgment. Yes, the first shots may be the final ones. It is not necessary to repeat everything perfectly. In fact, perfection regularly is unattractive.
Given this technological circumstance, it seems almost natural that the figure of the producer outside the project disappears: what importance does it give to the producer in today's industry? What are the benefits / harms of having that external look (guidance)?
A producer can be the equivalent to the editor of a novel. It should help make it easy to read without losing the main values of the writer. The producer must be a person with moral quality and enough taste to be able to make choices for the sake of the songs or the record. Maybe on many levels the role of the producer would seem that it is not necessary. But I think there are very few of my favorite albums in the history of music that have been made without a producer.
One of the biggest problems of the contemporary industry is musical recycling, where it is common to repeat patterns that make many musical results look alike; even the practice of asking the artist who he wants to appear has become frequent. How to make the individuality of music prevail? How to keep the inevitable references alive without them being explicit? What role does it give to experimentation?
I think the problem often is not that something is copied, rather it is that there is very little musical culture. The more musical culture musicians have, the influences become that, influences, not copies. I am of the idea that musicians should hear a lot of music. They are nutrients that help you. In Mexico, we have a phrase that says "Those who does not know Jesus, before any barb he stuck"; is the same. If you do not know a lot of music and you have a wide mental catalog, you can not know what has already been done and what is still to be done. In art, knowledge helps to consolidate ideas, which in turn become concepts and over the years are translated into styles. Not everything is inspiration. It is finding our place in the world and understanding who we are, what our environment is and who we want to be in this difficult and competitive world.
Not only was he part of the team responsible for the soundtrack of the film, as a musical adviser, but he appears as an animated character in the film.
In the Latin American scene, what would be the producers (or production teams) that you consider essential, to take into account and why?
It depends. I think there are a lot of people doing exciting things. From Jamaica to Monterrey. I have been fortunate to travel and work with many production groups and I can say that it would be unfair to say one or two. There are hundreds of them.
What do you consider are the reference albums for the continent?
I dont know. That is the hardest question of all. Not all albums are for everyone. Not all discs are for all hours. I like Caetano in the morning, Dry & Molded after breakfast, Wanderle at noon, Jorge Ben for food, Tribalistas at night. And that's just Brazil! Imagine it for each country. From Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico or Argentina ...
Working in collaboration with other artists has marked his professional career, especially in projects such as Boom Segundo and Compass. Today, collaboration among artists is common as a formula to achieve different levels of audience. In your experience, how positive or negative is collaborative work, especially for artists who begin their journey?
The collaboration is very fun. It is always exciting and things come out that, at least, one did not expect. So how exercise is great. I highly recommend it. The more one collaborates, the more desire one has to collaborate. It is addictive I collaborate with many other creators because regularly in my personal creative process I spend most of my time in solitude. So when I go out and collaborate, it's like going to a party. I have fun, but then I return home to my reality.
You have worked on both sides of the industry (multinational and independent), as a musician, producer, A & R, director ... and you have been characterized for carrying forward risky proposals (such as the experience of Suave Records, the IMS itself, or the CD Cuba 21). What should a proposal have to decide to produce / intervene in it?
All the times that I have been involved in creative projects or with projects, or movies is because I connect with them and because I think I can help improve the result. If I do not feel emotion with a project, I prefer not to do it. I think it's my only thermometer. I need to feel that it's going to be something exciting. That has a solid idea and with vertigo. Otherwise, I prefer not to get involved.
Latin America is a musical universe to discover for the rest of the planet; However, for the world, this Latin American universe is replaced in the collective ideology by the "Latin" universe, strongly marked by market stereotypes reduced to certain genres and manifestations. How bold is the industry of the continent to represent and promote the sound itself? What is your position as a producer in this scenario?
Well: 1) Not all Latinos bring pineapples in their heads like Carmen Miranda. 2) Latin America is so varied that it would be ignorant to try to think of a single idea. 3) We must have a fierce struggle to keep showing the world that not everything is Miami.