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Raul Malo

A Conversation with Raul Malo (continued)

PM: So the thing about getting these advance copies is you never get any credits, even though you hear guys on the record and say, "I know who that is." So I'm really interested to know who is playing on this fantastic record. I love this record!

RM: Well, thank you, man. That's right, you get an advance and there's no musician credits on there. I'm using my live band.

PM: God bless you.

RM: Yeah. And they're fantastic musicians.

PM: Who's in the current unit?

RM: Well, I've got Jay Weaver on bass, John McTigue on drums, Howard Laravea is on keyboards, and Ben Graves is on sax phone, and Jamison Sevits on trumpet, and Steve Berlin played baritone sax on it, and I played guitar.

PM: You played all the guitar?

RM: Yeah, that's all my guitar stuff.

PM: Oh, come on? There's some great guitar on that record!

RM: Oh, thanks, man. [laughs] Yeah, I think a lot of people are going to be surprised. Not too many people realize that I even play guitar.

PM: Yeah, I mean, I thought, yeah, I think he plays a little bit, but I don't know. Oh, no, there is some great stuff. Now I'm going to go back and listen again to the guitar.

RM: Yeah, actually, on three of the songs, I'm playing everything on them because they were demos that I did at my house.

PM: Which ones?

RM: "Ready For My Lovin'." The only tracks I didn't play on that were the saxophones. Everything else was recorded at my house, and I played everything on that.

PM: Damn!

RM: "One More Angel" I played everything on that except the keyboard part. That was done at my house. And the last song, "So Beautiful," that was a little demo I had done, and we liked it, we liked it better than the studio version that we did, and that's me playing everything on that.

PM: Yeah, people who aren't in the game don't get the "can't beat the demo" concept. Sometimes you just can't get there. It's just like, well, that was the moment. What are you going to do?

RM: That's right, man. Sometimes a demo is the best version of that song at that moment. And it happens. It happened a couple of times on this record. So it's all right.

PM: Absolutely. Any way you capture the magic.

RM: Absolutely. And that's the thing about it now: these are my records. It's not a band record. If we don't capture it, I don't have to worry about the band's ego, or this or that. It happened. We didn't nail it.

PM: Or sometimes it's a drag when half the guys think they hit it, and the other half go, "No, I got a better one."

RM: Absolutely. And Berlin was--because I was like, "Really, man? We're going to use this demo." And he was like, "Yeah, what are we going to do? We're going to sit here and record it exactly like this?"

PM: [laughs] "Try and get this?"

RM: Yeah. It's like, "No, this is great." It's so funny, because I'm so untechnical, too. I had all these tracks on my computer, and the engineer was explaining to me how to take the tracks out of the computer, put it on a hard drive, bring the hard drive down to the studio so they can pop up the tracks and we can use them like that. I was like, "Sure, simple enough." So I go home, I try to do it. I'm like staring at that thing like it was just from Mars. I felt like the monkeys in 2001 A Space Odyssey when they're like staring at the monolith and just freaking out.


PM: Oh, dude, I hear you.

RM: Beating the bones to the ground and all.

PM: Oh, it's so frustrating. I've got like four manuals open here just trying to learn this stuff, and it just drives you crazy.

RM: Oh, I couldn't do it, so I finally just unplugged the computer. I took it down to the studio. And I said, "Dude, you guys got to take these tracks out of here. I have no idea what I'm doing. Here, have at it."

PM: Excellent. Now, on these tunes, did you use partners? Did you write with people, or write alone?

RM: Well, coincidently, on the three songs that I demoed, yeah, those were co-writes with my Alan Miller. We wrote quite a bit of this record together.

PM: Is he a Nashville guy?

RM: Yeah. Well, he's originally from New York, but he lives in Nashville.

PM: I haven't run into him.

RM: He's on the witness relocation program.


PM: Indeed. So are you a lover or a fighter, would you say?

RM: Oh, definitely a lover. Fighting hurts.

PM: I love the line from the title song, "losing is just a thought I can't conceive." Is that just a good lyric, or is that how it is?

RM: Oh, well, I think it pertains just to the song, it's just a little lyric, I guess.

PM: It's just a cool lyric.

RM: But with her, I can't lose, basically, that's the feeling behind it.

PM: I think that song alone is going to grow your profile.

RM: Bless you; from your lips to God's ears, I hope so.

PM: Do you have any opinion or any inside track on what's going to happen with the U.S. and Cuba now with Barack in charge? Do you think that's going to open up? Is that what people say?

RM: Man, here's the way I feel about it: I really hope so. I think that we finally have a president who will at least entertain the idea that the embargo is really not the way to go. So he may not have the perfect solution the other way, and of course he's going to meet a lot of opposition, especially from the conservative side. And certainly the conservative Cuban lobby is very powerful, very loud. I don't profess to have a solution to this, but me as a son of children whose families emigrated, I mean, I feel that we should have relations with Cuba. The best revenge we could have is to have relations with them and really bring down communism once and for all. All the embargo has done is strengthen their resolve, and increase the ill will towards us for bankrupting them.

PM: Absolutely.

RM: And I may be wrong about that to some degree; but I have met a lot of people that have come over, and I'm pretty close to that situation.

PM: I would imagine, yeah.

RM: So at the very least, with Barack, it seems like he is willing to sit down and really have some dialogue with them. No matter how you feel about it politically, I think we need to step back from it and realize that--and what made we realize it one day was I was talking to my friend about it, and I'm like, man I'm 43 years old. I have many 40-something year-old cousins that have had babies that have lives over there that I don't know. I don't know them. I don't know their babies. I can't buy them gifts. I don't know their names. I don't know what they do.

PM: That's just nuts.

RM: I don't know how they are. And you're going, wow, it's like a little parallel universe that you can't enter. And it's like, well, why can't we enter it? It's because of politics and BS. Because I think if you left it up to most Cubans, to the people, I know what would happen, people would go to the island to see their relatives, to see their families, to get reunited. So to me, that's really the saddest part of all this, is that there's these parallel lives being raised on this little island that we have no contact with. I think that's really the unfortunate part, that I don't know this family, I don't know these families. To me, I wish that that was different.

PM: Yeah, and I think that's going to change really soon. I went over there once from Costa Rica, and I thought it was fascinating, just unbelievable.

RM: Yeah. How can you not?

PM: Every little bar you head into, every little three-piece group you see on the beach, everybody plays like demons.

RM: Oh, yeah, because that's all they've had. They got educated, they went to school. Chances are they went to a conservatory. So music and dance and all that stuff was part of what they did. And it's kept them alive, because music will keep you alive. So they'll lose electrical power or whatever, but hey, we'll sit around, we got food, we're going to play some music. I mean, I remember as a kid that was one of the things that I loved about music, is how we weren't particularly wealthy or--I was the son of immigrants, and the whole family was over. So Saturday nights at the house and Grandma's house, she'd be cooking something, and inevitably the guitars would come out, and there would be some Sangria flowing.

PM: Nice.

RM: And there'd be some music to be played. It brought everybody together, and it kind of made you forget the woes of the week. So to me, I learned that early on, that music should be that real unifying kind of healing force in just about any situation.


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