balkans, freejazz & mexican folk
Carlos Marks is a combination of the following humans:
Carlos Alegre – Mexico City, 1983
My family has always been close to music. My father was a philosopher and classical pianist (he also played accordion and guitar) his father and his sisters were also pianists, and the only thing that
I know about my great-grandfather is that he was a violinist. In my mothers family practically all the men were rock singers. I began music studies with my father at four years of age. He taught me
to read music, my first basic notions of piano playing (now forgotten) and he gave me my first violin. I chose that instrument because I had a crush on a girl who played the violin. I was actually more
interested in wind instruments and percussion, but the feminine influence was stronger, in spite of my young age (or perhaps because of it) My first twelve years of study were under the orthodox school,
that is, the parameters of the western European tradition, until, reaching that age of rebelious impetus and deconstruction of that which has been learnt, I abandoned 'classical' studies and began to play
with rock bands. .
I didn't last long however, soon other styles of music sparked effervescence in me, taking over to such a degree that for four years I played nothing but jazz, contemporary composition and free-improvisation.
In this period I met many people that greatly influenced my conceptions of sound; German Bringas, Remi Alvarez, Julio Estrada and Salvador Ramirez were important presences in my development.
In that time one of the projects that was personally most important to me was formed, the Arto Ensamble, a free improv duo with composer Ramon del Buey. Later came the Generación Espontánea,
also free improv. But I couldn't stay still. I became involved in a diverse range of projects, Mexican music, Afro-Carribean, Arabic and Indian music. One day I met Misha Marks, who came
for a couple of weeks to Mexico and played a couple of concerts with Generación Espontánea. He came, he played, he left. But he came the next year and stayed at my house, which was when,
as explained in the history of Carlos Marks, the group was formed.
Misha Marks, Wellington, 1983
I grew up in a community on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, an hours walk from the nearest road, with a population of about fifteen. I began playing the guitar around the age of six, inspired by my older brother who was also beginning to play the guitar. I started my by first band when I was eleven, with my brother on bass and some other local kids, we played covers by The Cure, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Ween, among others. I was mainly self-taught for the first seven years of my musical life, I began taking lessons after moving to Christchurch when I was thirteen; finger-pickin’ ragtime guitar, classical and jazz and and I began composing for solo guitar and around started playing solo in cafés and restaurants around the city. When I was seventeen I went to Spain for a year on a student exchange. I was taken by flamenco music, cante jondo, cantaores like Agujetas and Manolo Caracol, the intensity of the voice and the way they approached the guitar blew me away. I bought a nylon string guitar and started studying flamenco guitar.
On returning to New Zealand, after a couple of years doing jazzy gigs and playing with ‘world music’ band Mundi, I moved to Wellington to study at the school of jazz there. There I confirmed my suspicion that playing institutionalised jazz was not path I wanted to take, everyone seemed to doing the same thing and it was horribly boring. There was a venue in Wellington called Happy, run by free-improvising saxophonist Jeff Henderson. At Happy there were gigs nearly every night of the week, improv, freejazz, punk, noise and other intriguing sounds. It was the first time I had encountered musicians who’s main thing was to improvise freely, and to make creative music above all else, that was what I wanted to do. I left jazz school after two years and became the official cleaner of Happy, and became more and more involved in world of improvised music.
I spent a couple of years in Europe; London, Barcelona, Vienna; playing with many different musicians, and hearing lots of great music, it was inspiring to be in London and be able to go to the Red Rose or the Vortex and hear some of my favourite improvisers on a weekly basis.
In 2009 I participated in a collaboration project in Sri Lanka between New Zealand improvisers and traditional Sri Lankan ritual musicians and dancers, which was one of the most challenging and rewarding collaborations I have been involved in. Challenging because of the difficulties which come with playing music from a totally different culture, the question of how to go about playing our sounds with their incredible music without ruining it, without turning it into some sort of lame fusion. Rewarding because it turned out to be possible, and playing with those guys was an amazing experience.
Jacobo Guerrero Elías - Mexico City, 1983
My first contact with music occurred in a military school of Mexico City, where at eleven years of age, I formed part of the military band, playing cornet, for one year. In this institution, it considered a tradition the infliction of initiation rites and arrests on the new arrivals, which consist of physical y psychological violence, and exhaustive exercise, imparted by the MP (military police). This education strongly marked my life, causing me to distance myself from any kind of artistic discipline for some years.
When I started my high school education I started in a graffiti movement with a crew of friends in the south side of Mexico, learning, and exhibiting my work in two magazines and the incursion on the legal graffiti scene with a lot of crews in the east side of the city.
In 2002 I bought my first electric bass, influenced by the sound of Rage Against the Machine, and formed a punk rock band "Ehecatl" Wind and breath, in Aztec mythology.
In 2006 I began to study Middle Eastern percussion with Francisco Bringas, multi-instrumentalist and percussionist in the groups Egiptanos and La Giralda, while at same time working as a chef for several years, until, in 2007 I was hospitalized with Gilliam Barre syndrome, causing a partial loss of movement and feeling in the lower extremities, and as a consequence spent a year and a half and thirty three days in rehabilitation.
In 2008 I joined the Balkan music group Nabuzenko as percussionist, where I started to study traditional dances and rhythms of the Balkans. In mid 2010 I became part of Carlos Marks, studying as well Turkish techniques for darbuka and daff, as well as experimenting with recycled materials, electric motors (trying to reproduce traumatic experiences) and finally, the familiarization with free-improvisation, the rhythms of the Istmus of Tehuantepec Oaxaca, and recently the study of afro-cuban percussion.
Axel Tamayo Rivera – Mexico City, 1977
II was born in Mexico City and raised in Tijuana Baja California, I began playing music at the age of 7 and had my first live performance at age 8, playing the organ. I was strongly influenced by my grandfather figure, he was the main percussionist of the Cuban mambo legend Pérez Prado. I played music when I was growing up in the local scene in Tijuana with bands like Ohtli and Karma Nostra exploring sounds and altered states in jams, funk and experimental rock bands organizing concerts and playing as well. I began my composition studies at the Orquesta de Baja California Music Conservatory were I had the opportunity of learning music from the Russian community. After three and a half years of study the conservatory got closed and I moved to Los Angeles California to study at Los Angeles Music Academy, where I attended master-classes from many important jazz and other figures like John Scofield, Meshell N'degocello, Dave Carpenter, Peter Erskine, Allan Holdsworth, Abraham Laboriel, Vinnie Colaiuta etc. After school ended I was invited to go on tour with the pop-rock band Asa Cruz for 10 months through the Pacific coast of the U.S., after that I also toured with the indie rock band Pastilla through different cities in México playing in festivals and venues like the Palacio de los Deportes. I decided to move to Mexico City to continue my composition studies at the Center of Investigation and Musical Studies (CIEM), I joined Eugenio Toussaint to learn instrumentation and orchestration and started composing classical/contemporary music for ensembles like The Fine Arts Chamber Orqestra and playing Jazz, Mexican and World Music with bands like Kromata Ensamble, Ciclos Project, Faro and Los Cafres del Son, I studied also with Shubhendra Rao basic Indian Classical Music and I have been a part of other kinds of ensembles like the Huey Mecatl, which is a contemporary gigantic string instrument based on the harmonic series, and Antanukama which is a Planetary Frecuencies ensemble and I have been working and touring with Theater companies like Género Menor, Seres Comúnes, Dance companies like Péndulo Cero and Danceability and interdisciplinary companies like Moots and Teatro Entre 2.
I met Carlos Marks through Carlos Alegre who participated in a series of Public and Privet Musical Interventions I was conducting trough the company Seres Comunes around different points of the city, intervening schools, houses, parks, hospitals, libraries, etc, after that experience he invited me to join Carlos Marks, who's bass player just had moved to Switzerland.
History of Carlos Marks
Carlos Marks was formed in 2009 not long after I moved to Mexico City. I had been playing with Carlos Alegre in the Mexican free-improvisation project Generación Espontánea and he had put me up in his house for my first month in Mexico. After many long evenings in his garden drinking Anis del Mico and listening to music we soon realised that as well as free-improv, musically we had many other things in common. It was a time when we were both broke, (we still are) so we decided to get a repertoire together of music that we liked and take it to the streets. The name suggested itself. We began by transcribing traditional Balkan tunes and some traditional Mexican songs and arranging them loosely for acoustic guitar and violin, rehearsals would begin around midnight and finish around six in the morning. For the first six months or so our performances were exclusively on the streets, playing around the cafés of Coyoacán in the evenings and passing around the hat. As we both had a background in free-improv we couldn’t resist deconstructing the traditional pieces, opening up long free sections that could lead anywhere would make every performance a new experience for us, even if the audience didn’t take any notice.
Eventually we landed a real gig every Tuesday in a restaurant in the colonia Roma. We started inviting Chilean double-bassist Tomás Fernández along to play with us and we started composing our own material, so Carlos Marks became a trio. We got fired from that place the night one of the restuarant’s business partners turned up and heard us singing canons by Moondog which would turn into extended free-improvised vocal explorations; they were unimpressed and we were told not to come back.
I had been playing in another band called Nabuzenko, with a percussionist by the name of Jacobo Guerrero, who was sounding amazing on the darbuka and daff. We decided to invite him to some Carlos Marks rehearsals to see how things sounded with the percussive element, and we liked it, so he became the fourth member of the band.
The sound of the group took another turn with the construction of the Latarra, an electric guitar made from a biscuit tin, a classical guitar neck, a Les Paul bridge and a humbucker pickup, made with help of our friend Paco Sandria, a luthier from Tlacotalpan, contructor of jaranas. Our music became less and less like what we started out as, the traditional pieces we played became more twisted and we started composing more original music and focussing more on improvisation and experimentation. Around this time we began playing in more varied music venues, such as experimental music venue Jazzorca, Casa Carlo Gesualdo, Foro Hilvana, and jazz venues Zinco and Jazzatlán in Cholula.
In March 2012 we recorded our first album, which contains original compositions, some solo improvisations, and some free interpretations of music from Macedonia, Albania and Mexico. The album will be released in November this year, on the Mexican label Intolerancia, a sneak preview of a few tunes from the album you can listen to in this document.
After recording the album Tomás Fernández left Mexico to continue double bass studies in Europe. Axel Tamayo, from the Sister Republic of Tijuana, took over the double bass chair in the band. Carlos Marks is currently planning its first European tour for 2013.
Balkans, freejazz and Mexican folk music?
It is something that has grown quite naturally with the band. As a band we have never been interested in making an exact copy of Balkan music or Mexican folk music, or any other kind of music, that music already exists and much better than we would ever be able to do. These are interesting times in that it is now possible to easily access nearly every kind of music in the world. We are no longer limited to just hearing local music or the music that is available in shops or on the radio; we can go to villages in the most remote corners of the planet and perceive a little bit of how the people feel, think and function. In Carlos Marks we have all been inspired by hearing and studying music from the Balkans, from Mexico, from the Middle East etc, as well as the likes of Sun Ra, Evan Parker and Xenakis etc, As musicians we don't like to limit ourselves to just one thing, to just playing free-improv or just playing jazz or Macedonian music. We like playing grooves, especially if they are not easy to tap your foot to, and we also like making noise and playing melodies, the challenge is to create a music that is honest, that somehow represents us and is not just a watered-down version someone else's music, and to make music that we would like to listen to.
Misha, why you decided to move to Mexico City? Did you heard already
about references and information related to improvised and experimental music
in Mexico before moving there?
Back in 2008 when I was living in Wellington, this saxophone player Blair Latham asked me if I would like to move to Mexico with him and his wife and kid, to play music. I had played with him a few times but we didn't really know each other, so it was kind of an odd proposition, and I believe that one should always accept odd propositions of this kind. We formed the duo Rolling Eye moved to Puerto Vallarta, an odd destination as I soon found out. After trying to find gigs for a month and being told that out music was “too abstract” I decided to move to Mexico City. I had been to Mexico once before, and played as guest musician with the improv band Generación Espontánea, that I had contacted through myspace in 2007, so I knew I had some friends I could play with there. Eventually Blair moved to Mexico City as well and we continued with Rolling Eye, inviting drummer Darío Bernal to join the group. Other than Generación Espontánea I didn't have much reference to experimental music in Mexico before arriving.
Its hard to say what we expect to provoke, though there are certain parts of our music which are intended to generate certain feelings; nausea, drunkenness, sometimes violence, though we really don't know what the individual response will be. Some parts will perhaps feel familiar to some listeners because they contain traditional rhythms, like the kopanitsa from Bulgaria or pusteno from Macedonia, but we don't want people to feel too comfortable. We don't expect people to feel the same things that we do when listening to our music, everyone reacts differently, just as some people feel pleasant things when they listen to Kenny G and other people find it unbearable and want to vomit. We would like it if someone did actually vomit listening to our music.
Jacobo adds: The sensation that is produced in the IMR studio, inside the scanner for magnetic resonance, and a syringe that is slowly inserted lumbar zone, penetrating skin and muscle, correcting its path, as it advances it scrapes the external walls of the vertebrae, at the same time sending vibrations along the spine up to the jaw, ending up in the molars. All this accompanied by chaotic stabbing electric impulses, which are reflected in the lower extremities of the body, making them move intermittently without having any control over them.
Roots and influences:
Misha: My first influence was the pulse of the waves of the Tasman Sea breaking on the shore that permeates every corner of the place I grew up in. After that, the blues, mainly because my older brother was a blues fanatic at the time I started playing guitar, and I basically copied what he was doing. Later on I was influenced more by jazz, flamenco and other musical traditions like Balinese gamelan and Eastern European gypsy music. Guitarists like James Blood Ulmer, Ralph Towner, Derrick Bailey, Melchor de Marchena, Khalifa Ould Eide and Ali Farka Toure have been inspirational. And the fugues and canons of J.S. Bach. One of the most important influences was being involved in the musical community of the venue Happy, in Wellington. Being around and playing with free-improvisers, noise musicians and sonic explorers of all kinds. Local musicians like Jeff Henderson, guitarist Chris Palmer, Rosie Langabeer, Dan Beban, Isaac Smith, Anthony Donaldson, Leila Adu and Reuben Derrick were all very inspiring to me, and continue to be.
Axel: My roots are playing in jams meeting many different types of musicians and not letting any style of music condition the music itself, I consider that the most important thing for a musician to do, to meet musicians, to explore states and sounds, to nurture composing ideas etc, my influences of musical styles are too many, but to mention a very important few: Ustad Sultan Khan, Steve Coleman, Stefano Scodanibbio, Johan Sebastian Bach, Alexei Stanchinsky, Pérez Prado, Dave Holland, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Wayne Shorter, Trilok Gurtu, Carles Benavent, Georgy Sviridov, Jeff Buckey, Ibro Lolov, Juan Reynoso, Luis Alberto Spinetta, Dmitri Shostakovich, Ohtli, Robert Fripp, Alfred Shnitke, Thelonius Monk, Son de Madera, Brad Mehldau, Santa Sabina, Nirali Kartik, Marisa Monte, Sonios, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Yuri Yunakov, Allan Holdsworth, Supersilent, Huun Huur Tu, Igor Stravinsky, Eric Dolphy, Murcof, Ustad Shahid Parvez, Manur Bashir, Meshell N'degocello, John McLaughlin, Miguel Zenón, Gustavo Ceratti, Aphex Twin, Michael Manring, Taraf de Haidouks, Charles Mingus, Ivo Papasov, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Louis Prima, David Hykes, Heavy Vegetable, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rashid Brocca, Meshugga, George Crumb, etc.
Alegre: I have been influenced by traditional Mexican music groups and artists like: Chuchumbe, Quemayama, los Camperos de Valles, Maxa Keta, Juan Reynoso, Angel Tavira, Yolotecuani, Son de Madera; and more generally, the brass bands of Oaxaca, the ritual music of the Wirrarica people, Canto Cardenche, son Huasteco, son Guerrerense, Tixtleco y Jarocho. Local artists I consider as influences are German Bringas, the band Nazca, Remi Alvarez and Nabuzenko.
From elswhere in the world; influential jazz artists that are very obvious to mention, like Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Mingus, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Coltrane, Dolphy, Sun Ra, bla bla bla, Fanfare Ciocarlia, Kocani Orkestar, Taraf de Haiduks, Andres Landero, Petrona Martinez, los Hermanos Tuiran; Ram Narayan, Gopal Krishan, Nikhil Banerjee, Lakshminarayana Shankar; Mahler, Stravinsky, Pierluigi Billone and Moondog.
Jacobo: My first influences: Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy , Mr Bungle, The Dillinger Scape Plan, Meshugga, Cannibal Corpse, Arabic music, Violent Femmes, The Mars Volta, Al Green, Bruce Lee and Enter the Dragon soundtrack, Control Machete, Cypress Hill, Afrika Bambata, Refused, Led Zeppelin, Aphex Twin, Roni Size, Venetian Snares, Cloaka Company, Moroccan music, Tim Maya, Adrian Terrazas, John Zorn, Selda, Hossam Ramzy, Quemayama, Miguel y Miguel, Los Temerarios, Los Bukis, Antonio Tanguma Guajardo, Nabuzenko, Mustafa Kandirali, Erkin Corai, Selda Bağcan, İzzet Altınmeşe, Remiti la Came, Jaipur Kawa Brass band, Shrimati Rajaswari Pariti.
Ahmet Misirli, Leven Yildirim, Nabuzenko, Carlos Marks, the images of Charles Eisenmann (photography), Rolando Rosas (Paint), Daim (graffiti artist) and Jeff Jordan.
Names of artists you consider people have to hear from NEW ZEALAND, and of course - from Mexico...
From New Zealand:
Orchestra of Spheres
Sign of the Hag
All Seeing Hand
Passenger of Shit (Australia)
Yolotecuani, traditional son group from Tixtla,
Tembembe Ensamble Continuo, group that plays traditional son jarocho and baroque music.
Los Pescadores de Guaymas
Antonio García de León
Los Camperos de Valles
Banda de Tlayacapan, Morelos
Cuinique, son planeco group.
Axel: Georgina Derbéz, Javier Alvarez, Ensamble 3, Murcof, Agustin Bernal, Eugenio Toussaint, Rashid Brocca, Santa Sabina, Kali Derjav, Nabuzenko, Juan Pablo Villa.
Jacobo: Quemayama, Miguel y Miguel, Antonio Tanguma Guajardo, Nabuzenko, Mustafa kandirali, Erkin Corai, Selda Bağcan, İzzet Altınmeşe,
Remiti la Came, Jaipur Kawa Brass band, Shrimati Rajaswari Pariti.
Names of interesting artists and bands working with projects related to improvised music and noise in the present days ( in Mexico
City, New Zealand...?
Darío Bernal Villegas
Juan Pablo Villa
Arthur Henry Fork
In New Zealand:
The Melancholy Babes
Birchville Cat Motel
Misha: Our creative process varies, up until now the bulk of the composition has been done by Alegre and I. Sometimes one of us will compose an entire piece to bring to the band, which we will then learn, play, modify, distort and leave open to further growth. Other times the composition is more collective, often one of us will have an idea which is incomplete and that we develop together, through improvising, or individual composition followed by further group workshopping. The improvisation can be free, or sometimes with certain parameters to guide it, sometimes just a simple idea to help generate a unified intention in the the improvising, like trying to play a traditional dance in an imaginary village where the dancers dance to a band which plays arrythmically and atonally, as was the case with Malakopanitsa, whether it is successful or not is another thing altogether.
Do you remember when you decided to become "this kind of musician"?
Alegre: Since I was a kid I have liked contemporary music, but I didn't start to participate in sonic experimentation until, when at the Escuela Nacional de Música de la UNAM, I took the free improvisation workshop lead by saxophonist Remi Alvarez and I began composition clases with Julio Estrada. Then it was love at first sight. I turned completely towards experimental music, it had to be radical or it was not worth it; I used to play every weekend at Jazzorca, began the improv group Arto Ensamble. It was my youth, and it continues to be when the sonic search manifests itself with that same adolescent force.
Misha: I remember as a kid wanting to be either a musician or a surfer when I grew up, from the age of about seven I think. Eventually I narrowed it down to just music and I have never contemplated doing anything else. I have never been very interested in being a ‘working musician’ in the sense of being a musician that plays any kind of music for money (although I have done it a few times). Now I really only want to be involved in projects that I really love and believe in, and this often means having no money for extended periods of time, but lots more good things happen when you do what you love doing.
Axel: No, it has been a lifetime process, always in continuous movement and evolution.
Jacobo: When I started to play with Nabuzenko and Carlos Marks.
Advantages and disadvantages of independent venues in Mexico City?
The marginalization of independent venues is at once an advantage and a disadvantage. Advantage because in my judgement experimental music moves like a fish in the waters of dissidence. Disadvantage because the places open to this music appear sporadically and die prematurely, with only a few exceptions. There is no economic remuneration for sonic experimentation; there is however spiritual nourishment. None of these venues come into being without a passionate love for that which is experimental. We know that there will be no money and yet we still place the risky bet. There is no lack of motivation, only the lack of audience and the capital that allows the survival of these venues.
Cool sites, venues and communities for experimental
& noise music in Mexico and in New Zeland?
The Audio Foundation, Auckland, a space dedicated to the support, promotion
nd preservation of innovative audio culture in Aotearoa, New Zealand:
Borderline Ballroom, experimental music series in Christchurch
Frederick Street Sound and Light Exploration Society in Wellington, with links to local artists:www.soundexplorers.co.nz
Feeding Habits, In Auckland, improvised music series run by Jeff Henderson: facebook.com/feeding.habits.1 | soundcloud.com/feedinghabits
Adventurous New Zealand music label iiii: iiiimusic.blogspot.mx
One of the venues for experimental music that has stayed standing longest (over 17 years) in spite of the inclemencies that come with being dedicated to experimentation in our country is Cafe Jazzorca.
a somewhat marginalized venue for free-improv and freejazz projects, run by multi-
instrumentalist Germán Bringas.
Casa Vecina (www.casavecina.com) is
a space for the presentation and development of different multi-disciplinary projects, experimental music being one of the elements with a strong presence.
Volta- El Museo Británico in the Centro Histórico hosts improvised and experimental music concerts on the first Thursday of every month, with a prominent electronic presence.
Run by exponent of electronic music Juanjose Rivas. (juanjoserivas.info/volta).
Mandorla, experimental music label based in Mexico, run by sound-artist Manrico Montero,
Festivals related to experimental and improvised music in Mexico?
Chak'ab'Paaxil, improvised and experimental music festival
in Mérida, Yucatán.
Carlos Marks, November 2012 Mexico City
[ar077] CARLOS MARKS
balkans, freejazz & mexican folk
Promotional compilation curated by Julian Bonequi
Carlos Alegre, Violin
Misha Marks, Biscuit Tin Guitar, Accordion, Baritone Horn
Jacobo Guererro, Darbuka, Daff, Rik
Tomás Fernández, Double Bass (on recording)
Axel Tamayo, Current double-bassist.
Recorded in Intolerancia studios, Mexico City, 6,7,8 of March, 2012.
Malakopanitsa, recorded and mixed by Gerry Rosado, of record label Intolerancia.
(These versions have yet to be mastered)
Guests: Blair Latham, Bass Clarinet (Borrachioaca)
Alexander Bruck, Stroh Violin (Malakopanitsa)
Picture by Rodrigo Vázquez. Design by AR. Special thanks to Discos Intolerancia & Emilio Gordoa Rodriguez.