Spanish guitarist César Crespo talks about his routes on the blues circuits and the local scene

"Blues is the very truth of human existence; it’s really tough at first to accept how sad it is, but as soon as you accept absolute solitude you can begin to discover for yourself the pleasures of life."

César Crespo: Iberian Blues Party

César Crespo Yuste was born in Madrid, Spain. He began to teach himself to play the Spanish guitar when was eighteen years old. At twenty he got his first electric guitar and became involved with the underground punk-rock scene. He formed first band, Rat Racers, and also played in a few concerts as bass guitarist with the garage band, Sarcastics Bombs. Combined his musical studies with a three year course at M3Musiescuela, receiving private classes in Technique, Harmony and Musical Theory.

Whilst studied biology, during the years 2000 and 2004, the Vice & Vanity band began to take shape.  At the same time Opus Dead (Trash Hardcore band from Madrid) given him the opportunity to play in a European tour within the “do it yourself” (D.I.Y.) circuit as their bass player. Vice & Vanity was a Glam Punk Rock band inspired on the sounds of New York of the 70’s, also, went on an auto produced small tour by New York City playing in classical venues like the CBGB, Trash Bar, and Niagara’s.

Together with Pablo López and Manuel Ángel Conejero, he took part in the show called “Poets, Poems & R’n’R”. He formed part of the bands White Cabaret and the Power-Pop. He was a member of Soulstation, a Disco/Soul group from 2009 to 2010. Crespo have worked closely with the Glam-Rock band “StarMafiaBoy”, Rock/Garage band, 70’s Freewheel and rock band “Love Division”.

He met Tonky de la Peña in 2010 and formed part of his band, on a part time basis, since then. During 2011 and 2012 he has occasionally substituted Tonky de la Peña in the Jam of Blues which is held in the Soulstation venue. In November 2012 he began the project The Pinball’s Blues Party, together with reputed Blues musicians of the city. The band is planning to release the first album at the beginning of 2014. 

Interview by Michael Limnios

When was your first desire to become involved in the music and what made you fall in love with the blues music?

I think I was about 8 years old and my father showed me the walkin bass line of a 12 bar blues or R n´R  on a small Casio Pt 10 keyboard; I learnt it, I recorded it and I showed it to my friends….lol. Since that day, every time I was near a piano I started to play it as if I was the coolest guy in the world. I also learnt the riff “Use Me” by Bill Whiters and I loved playing it. We listened to a lot of music at home and my mum was always singing (she still does), I wanted to learn English so that I could understand the lyrics of the songs, I suppose that was when my love for music began. With regard to Blues I believe it is how you see it and how you live it.

The musical form of the Blues allows you to improvise and express yourself and it is very funny. When I first start playing guitar it came out naturally.

"Blues doesn’t respond to fashions, it is always going to be there, it connects with inside, it makes you move, smile, dance, shout ... it makes you feel alive."

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?

Blues shows you how to be yourself, accept yourself just as you are and love yourself for that. For me, Blues is associated with something deep and ancient which is present in all human beings; some choose to see it and others prefer to look the other way. Blues is the very truth of human existence; it’s really tough at first to accept how sad it is, but as soon as you accept absolute solitude you can begin to discover for yourself the pleasures of life. So in Blues, everything goes, from the most profound sadness to the maddest party.

What experiences in your life make you a Good Bluesman?

I think all of my experiences. The question is to be able to truly live them and then be able to transmit something from them through music. You must be honest and committed to what you do.

How do you describe Cesar Crespo sound and progress, what characterizes your music philosophy?

They say that your sound points out what you cannot play – it shows your limitations more than your achievements. That’s what BB King said. I wanted to sound like T-Bone and look, he finally sounds like B.B. I believe that we can’t talk about a Cesar Crespo sound yet, but I’m working on it. I want a natural sound, with no devices, guitar or amplifier; I want every note to be important, to “say” something.

"Blues shows you how to be yourself, accept yourself just as you are and love yourself for that. For me, Blues is associated with something deep and ancient which is present in all human beings; some choose to see it and others prefer to look the other way." 

Which is the most interesting period in your life? Which was the best and worst moment of our career?

I could say that right now. I have started my own band, The Pinball’s Blues Party, I’ve started to sing, we’re going to record our first album and things are going just great, I’m really enthusiastic. I also have another Garage Rock project, Freewheel, with whom we will also record an album in 2014 and we will have Fernando Pardo (Los Coronas/Sex Museum) on the production.

Although I do have fond memories of the years 2003 to 2005. They were the years of Punk-Rock with Vice & Vanity, just about my first band; we recorded a really good track “I know Everybody In the City” and we did a lot of gigs, we even organized a small tour in New York.  These were also the years of Opus Dead and the tours around Europe, USA and Puerto Rico. We did it all ourselves, “D.I.Y”, I placed the bass in this band and we made a lot of noise, lol.

The worst time, without a doubt, was when I started to try and earn a living with music. I ended up playing with really strange people, doing auditions for orchestras, I even did a gig with a Bisbal imitator (a Spanish pop singer), it was really hard. Fortunately, I met Tonky de la Peña one night and things began to change.

Why did you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Blues doesn’t respond to fashions, it is always going to be there, it connects with inside, it makes you move, smile, dance, shout ... it makes you feel alive.

"I would go back to the day when I bought my first electric guitar and tell myself that this is the path to follow and not to bother with the university and that sort of rubbish."

What’s the best jam you ever played and what are you some of the most memorable gigs you’ve had?

Wow, that’s a difficult one... I really enjoy playing with people in any type of situation... I remember one not too long ago: after a concert we went to Carlos’s studio, he’s our drummer, and we played acoustic guitars and sang for hours, not necessarily Blues. It reminded me of the times when you could go to the park with a Spanish guitar and by the end of the evening everyone would start singing invented lyrics, they were great jams, I still have a few cassettes with the recordings. Jams are great if there is a good communication between the participants.

As for the most memorable concerts, I could mention my first concert on the night of San Juan in 2000 in a bar in my neighborhood with my first band, Rat Racers. A concert with the Opus Dead in the Czech Republic, the crowd went crazy and kept inviting us to parties, you could tell that they enjoyed the concert and that not many people went there to gig. Most recently, the concert that I played in with the Tonky Blues Band and Boney Fields in the grand theatre in Ferrol; almost 3 hours of concert. I had a great time, I really enjoyed playing.  And also the sextet concerts with The Pinball’s Blues Party in Bogui Jazz were special.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given to you?

Well, as I mentioned before, there is a before and after when I met Tonky. It was something I had always dreamed of, to meet a bluesman from whom I could learn. Tonky is a leading figure in Spain and, at that time, I had no idea who he was. I went to Beethoven Blues Bar one night to see what was going on and I saw this guy who looked like some sort of foreigner. He began to play the guitar and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. There were about 10 of us in the club. The gig finished and I went to talk to him; I began to go to his concerts until one day he called me to offer me a gig.  He had never heard me play. We met a day before the gig in the venue and he told me to play a shuffle, he gave me some instructions and off I went. If you want something hard enough, in the end it comes about. Thanks to him I have had the privilege to meet some great musicians who have become good friends, like Iker Piris or Thomas Troussier to name just a few.

I remember something that Fede Aguado once told me in one of my first jams. When we finished I used to have the sensation that I had not done very well and one day he told me that that was not important, the whole aim was to have a good time and enjoy playing… Something that is quite obvious but something that we sometimes forget.

"Maybe the power of its (Blues) authenticity. It expresses feelings and emotions which are present in everyone, regardless from where they come from."

How started the thought of project “Poets, Poems & R n R”? What is the relationship between music and poetry?

That was a project between the singer of Vice & Vanity and his father.  I saw them do it without music. Then, one day they asked me to play the guitar for them.  It was great. We played out own stuff as well as tunes by Iggy Pop, Jim Morrison, Leonard Cohen….and whilst we played his dad recited poetry, Lorca and his own compositions.

I am not really into poetry but I do believe that it helps us to connect to the emotions deep inside which we don’t always let out, just like music does.  We are catalysts of our emotions.

Make an account of the case of the blues in Spain.  Which is the most interesting period in local blues scene?

I have always like Blues but it wasn’t until quite recently that I became part of the “scene”. There was a venue called Beethoven Blues Bar, which was near my house and I used to go on Thursdays to see the jam, but I never went on stage. Some of the people amazed me – Alex Coporusscio or Fede Aguado. I really enjoyed that time. When the jam finished they would close the doors and we would stay on; my friend Juan played the flamenco guitar and Fede would sing some "coplas" whilst we ate some ham … lol

The SoulStation period, about two to three years ago, was also good.  There were jams almost every day and some really good musicians came. One of the best performances that I recall was by Enrico Crivellaro with Tonky, 40 minutes and 5 songs, one after another, without stopping and without losing intensity, it was incredible.

"To be a professional musician in Spain is a big risk. I believe that it is not respected enough."

What do you miss most nowadays from the old days of blues?  What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

For example, when you listen to the music of the 50’s you feel something which is difficult to explain and which is hard to find in recordings today. I have no idea what it is, but it’s true. I imagine that something similar can be found in today’s music.

Why Europeans are so enamored with the blues? What are the lines that connect the Blues around the world?

I have no idea. Maybe the power of its authenticity. It expresses feelings and emotions which are present in everyone, regardless from where they come from.

From the musical and feeling point of view what are the similarities between Flamenco, Punk-Rock and Blues?

Musically, these structures are quite simple but not easy to play and what is most important is the message that is transmitted through the lyrics. And of course the music helps this message to reach out even deeper. With regard to the feelings common in these sounds, I see solitude, rage, survival, the fight to be oneself and partying!

What mistakes in local blues scene would you wish to correct?  Which memory makes you smile?

I believe that the greatest error which should be corrected is that of the incompetent politicians that are in charge. They keep imposing obstacles in the way of musicians and venues. To be a professional musician in Spain is a big risk. I believe that it is not respected enough.

"The musical form of the Blues allows you to improvise and express yourself and it is very funny. When I first start playing guitar it came out naturally."

Let’s take a trip with the time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day…?

I think I would go back to the day when I bought my first electric guitar and tell myself that this is the path to follow and not to bother with the university and that sort of rubbish.

 

 

 

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