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hetpampa might be familiar to you. Sure he is. He’s part of the Unboxing series (the album and the derivative singles and EP’s). But who is he exactly? What’s the story behind his music? What are his roots? Discover it with us now, he kindly answered our invasive questions.

Your name is a tribute to the people living in the Pampa in the 16th century. Have you done some genealogic research that links you to them?

I don’t have blood links with them because I am 75% Italian and 25% Spanish and that’s equals 100% Argentinian but not only, anyone that was born and raised in Argentina is Argentinian in my opinion.

Geographically, are you close to where the Chechehet lived?

I am not a specialist and the information available is a bit mixed. This is partly because their culture was basically exterminated…  But also because they mixed between different groups and also with the Spanish during the centuries of the colony while trying to defend from the Spanish. There was a big group of people that called themselves Het. But other people called them different things like Querandies or Pampas or Tehuelches. There was a guy called Thomas Falkner who classified them in four groups and wrote a dictionary. Taluhets, Diuihets, Chechehets and Leuvuches. So I invented hetpampa in their honor because I was born there.

It’s a no-brainer that every musician is influenced by their origins, whether they like it or not. How do you think your music is influenced by Argentina? Music, culture, people, beliefs?

A lot indeed by the “Rock Nacional” that exploded in the 80’ in Argentina and conquered all the Spanish-American countries with groups like Seru Giran, Soda Stereo just to mention two.

You came to Brussels in 2002. How was the Argentinian music scene before that time, and have you kept in touch with it since then?

Unfortunately from  my point of view the music in Argentina went down following the catastrophic political scene and cultural degradation. There aren’t many new things that I like but that happens also all over the world. Rock seems to be now like a small niche in the music market.

What was the biggest cultural shock when you arrived in Belgium?

To try to find real meat that looks like meat and taste like meat!

I guess you sometimes go back to Argentina. Have your vision of local culture changed when you go back there? Like, “oh I never noticed that thing was so good / bad”.

Yes because I can see now my country form outside. I don’t see the trees but the wood.

What are some traditional or typical Argentinian instruments? Do you play any?

No I don’t play other than la guitarra criolla which is basically a Spanish guitar. There are other instruments like la quena or el bombo leguero.

You have some funny illustrations of yourself on social media. Do you draw them? Why not using some for your own albums artwork?

Yes I draw them. I have already used them in the Chau album for example and some videos like :

Superhappy and Esa Gente

You attended the Malosetti Jazz School. What did you study there exactly? Instruments, theory? Did it shape your musical inspiration too?

Yes at the Malosetti Jazz School. I studied guitar with Raul Malosetti and Federico de Castro. There were theory classes, auditory perception classes and group classes in the school. It was a very nice familiar school.

There’s an impressive list of bands you’ve played with. Where can we listen to them? Are there any of them you’re especially fond of, and can you tell us something (funny or not) about them?

Yes, my favorite band was MenoSmal! Not that I didn’t like the others but this one was special for me. The bands don’t exist anymore but you can listen to the MenoSmal! album here

I am going back to Argentina at the end of March and I will get together with Fatal Error (a trio) we’ve been doing some stuff online but is not ready yet.

MenoSmal! was great not only because of the musicians and friendship but also because things were decided democratically with no egos. And I got great memories like playing at the Buenos Aires Hard Rock Café and The Cavern Buenos Aires. We are also recording something for our 20 years!! 

You play guitar and bass. Which of them do you have the closest connection with?

The guitar definitely.

You appear on the whole Unboxing collection: the single “Tiffany”, the “Unboxing” album, the cover of Keith Richards’ “Crosseyed Heart” and the forthcoming “Last Summer On The Beach” maxi single. How would you define Gilles’ music so far for someone who never heard it, if ever that kind of mean person exists?

It’s true, I don’ think some that mean can exist! I would say that his music in general sounds very happy with a touch of Central American somehow, at least to my ears. And that with a Barry White kind of voice. So that combination makes an original sound !

You released a lot of stuff but only a few are available on modern streaming platforms. When you play live, do you dig in your past or you’d rather focus on available stuff?

All my songs or most of them are on YouTube. I’ve played them live in what I called the “Live Demo Sessions”.  When playing live I chose whatever I feel it will make me happy 🙂

The album Indigo World comes with a Spanish version “Chica Índiga”. Or is it the other way around?

The two ways I guess. That is because I prefer to make unilingual albums. But the reality is that some songs where in English and some in Spanish and then I translated them so the album would have only one language.

My favourite album of yours is “Chica Índiga”. There’s a good mix of rock arrangements and melodies. It seems you’ve put lots of passion in that LP. What makes it so special, following you?

I like it because the songs are related to colors in the indido-violet tones. It’s probably related to some of my moods at the time. I also like that there are some songs like “Sos un asco” and “Buenos modales” which are critical of society and I think that rock music or art in general is there to critic things and suggest people to do things better.

The track listing in Indigo World has some common ground with “Chica Índiga”, but only to some extent. What made you decide to use some songs and translate them, and create new ones that belong to one album only, without being translated?

Well I guess some songs did not translate very well in Spanish. There are only two songs which are not translated plus “Tranlecn” which is in Pampa language and not in English anyways.

When a song has two versions, it seems that you sing upon the same tracks. Don’t you feel that another language should call another arrangement?

No, not really. Only “Good manners / Buenos modales” has not the same track because I was not convinced with the version in English musically. But now I am very happy with the mood of the Spanish version.

The English and Spanish versions of the same song are an exact translation of each other?

I try but it is not always the same. But it is supposed to say the same thing.

On the Chicago EP, you offer two versions of “Tengo Que Intentar”, one being “I’ve Got To Try”. You didn’t want to release another version of the whole EP?

I worked for some time in Chicago in the 90’s and this EP has to do with that period of my life. So some songs where in English and some in Spanish and I didn’t feel like translate them. They were not that many songs so that is why it’s un EP and not an album.

Your songs are well written, there’s an obvious attention to melodies and pop atmosphere. Do you need a strict frame or are you comfortable with jamming and unexpected improvisation that occur in any rock concert?

Thank you! I am comfortable with any creative situation I guess. Many times songs happend while jamming either alone or with other people.

from left to right: hetpampa, Glen Llewellyn Smith, Gilles Snowcat and Myles Simpson

Can you reveal your next plan, musically speaking?

I’ve been playing some old stuff lately when playing live because I was revisiting my songs for my next album. The album will include songs that have not yet been released before. It will be in Spanish. I am still working on it and hopefully one or two videos. There will be a couple of songs featuring great musicians like Gilles Snowcat, Gustavo Mari and Hudson so I am very excited about it. It’s a pleasure to have their contribution to the album.

hetpampa on Facebook

Listen to hetpampa on Spotify here.

and hetpampa is also on Apple Music.

If you’re familiar with Tarzan-style old movies, you most likely have heard the porters who said, paralysed by fear: “Don’t go there, sir! There very very dangerous, sir!“. But the ‘sir’ doesn’t seem to give a damn about the wise advice from the men of the Jungle, and keeps on going straight ahead. Then they leave the trunks on the floor, shout a desperate “We don’t go there sir“, run away, yelling a last piece of wisdom sounding like “We warned you, sir. We warned you!“.

Similarly, the taxi driver who doesn’t want to lift his customer to the deep dark parts of Brooklyn at night is fitting the same category.

But it’s only a movie, isn’t it? Does it happen in reality?

Hell yeah it does. When Gilles Snowcat gathered his musicians to give them a hint about his forthcoming album he had in mind, the reaction was unanimous: “Don’t go there, Snowcat!

Don’t go there, Gilles, this is dangerous music! No one does that anymore. Those who tried never came back. And those who succeeded failed anyway. Why don’t you play safe?“.

Far from daunting the Mardi Gras-born feline, the naysaying demands from the network boosted him to not only try, but succeed into making the wild, dangerous and fun territories his.

That’s why, since 18th of April, 2018, Snowcat is exploring, creating, experimenting and pushing his own boundaries to the point of no-return. And it’s quite exciting. Wild, dangerous, fun and exciting.

And guess what? The naughty musicians who were so reluctant to take the trip, where are they now? With Gilles, on the very same boat. Excited like kids in a toys store.

Yes there are sharks, traps, toxic stuff and tempting sirens carrying bottles of forbidden liquors, but so what? Isn’t it what makes rock’n’roll the upper it should always be?

Will we keep you updated on the making-of the album? Will we send you lots of pictures? Probably not. What happens backstage remains backstage. When time will come for you to discover the new collection of Snowcat’s tunes, you’ll know it without even realise. And you’ll feel in a wild, dangerous and fun mood.

The Night Cats.

But, I mean, there’s nothing in the RULE BOOK that says you’ve GOT to have a bass on there. (Keith Richards)

Yeah, Mr Keef is right. He’s talking about a tune on their (underrated) “Dirty Work” collection. The song was “Had It With You” and, you name it: there’s no bass guitar on it.  No bass synthesizer either. No bass at all. Not an acoustic song, it’s a rock song. With drums, electric guitars, raunchy voice. And, did I tell you? No bass.

Art is all about breaking rules. Then the new thing becomes the rule, you need someone else (or yourself) to break it again. Pretty funny.

Musicians are good at breaking rules, yet sadly better at following them. Musicians have codes too, that make them often as obedient as the society they dream to escape from.

But hey it’s just a human characteristic, for sure. We need codes. But we may need to break them. Sometimes.

The new trend amongst musicians is somehow questionable. Just look: go to a show, hire a keyboardist, check a concert on TV, whatever that features a keyboard player. What do you see? Yeah, that red thing. It blooms as quickly as weed in a Greek ruin. Make a keyboardist proud as a egotistic rooster by complimenting him on his Nord synth. Nord Lead, Clavia or whatever, it has to be red and clean-looking. They’re in the big community of ahem… ‘real’ musicians, those who have the Nord. Young lads, they use their pocket money to get their first Nord keys. More meaningful than their first cigarette. Old farts, they switched their Hammond, OB-X or Mellotron with the red box.

Mass phenomenons have a huge power: to make me cringe. Then I use what mother Nature gave me one cold evening: a brain. So what’s so exciting with the Nord Lead Clavia etcaetera? There must be something. Something that makes some lad actually dream of getting one. So it’s not the price.

OK, the point may be easy to get: lighter than a Hammond, more reliable than a Mellotron, more stable than a CS-80, and plus it has great piano sounds!

Yes pal I got your idea, but still: why the Nord? Cause you know, great organ sounds, Mellotron samples and CS80 patches are mostly on every machine. Some are as light to carry and affordable. So why the hell that red box???

A voice (in the wilderness?) shouts at me: “Why not? What’s the problem with that? You didn’t complain when I was the DX-7! The OB-X! The ‘Tron! The Farfisa! The Emulator! The Fairlight! The Synclavier! (…) “ (I cut the shouting here, you’re not supposed to be scolded).

Yes, after all, I didn’t cringe when it was the DX-7 (and the rest on that list). So why should I be suspicious about the Nord?

Easy: the DX-7 brought something really new. So did the aforementioned keys. Not only could you do anything creative with them, but also you actually did. You can hear something happening when the DX-7 came out. All those new keyboards brought freshness (boredom later maybe, but that’s the lot of any novelty’s life). A record from 1979 would sound differently from one from 1975. Then 1984 is not 1978. In most of cases, you can ‘blame’ it on those machines.

But now… besides the convenient use and reliability, what does the Nord thing bring? New sounds? Never heard any. Either you don’t hear the keys (hello Bon Jovi), either they just shamelessly photocopy the past keys (hello Keene).

Seems that the Nord is perfectly fitting the 2000’s, that sad era where the stars are cover bands and worse: tribute bands. So the Nord makes musicians feel safe. They have the sounds like Led Zeppelin had, they just have to worry to have Robert Plant’s haircut. And safe because they’re in the big club of Nord owners.

Buy 1 Nord Lead, get 1 free Robert-Plant haircut to make your tribute-band sucessful.

The Nord is 2000’s musicians dream because it doesn’t bring anything that would make them feel creative. Just the safe –probably high quality, I admit- sounds that will offer them the gig in I don’t know what lousy copy of Queen. Rock is dying and Nord will be its red tombstone.

乾杯、

G.S.