Planeta Imaginario: Stretches in Spain
Recently from Barcelona, Spain, members of the jazz/rock improv group Planeta Imaginario discussed their new recording Optical Delusions (Cuneiform Records, 2011) and the group's history. Keyboardist and group leader Marc Capel, who speaks Catalan, shared his thoughts through drummer and chief translator Vasco Trilla. Fretless bassist Dimitris Bikos also sat in for the interview.
The various influences that can be heard in the music of Planeta Imaginario range from classic progressive rock groups such as Soft Machine, Caravan, and King Crimson to Frank Zappa, Miles Davis and Mahavishnu Orchestra. As revealed in this interview, the rich culture and history of Spain has provided Planeta Imaginario's music with plenty of inspiration.
All About Jazz: Please talk about the formation of Planeta Imaginario and the television show that inspired the name.
Marc Capel: I formed the band back in 1999. At the beginning, the band was more influenced by progressive rock and psychedelic music. Later on it became more jazz focused, especially when Vasco and Eneko joined the group. With this lineup, the band recorded Que me dices? (Margen Records, 2004) and Biomasa (Cuneiform Records, 2008).
AAJ: What can you tell us about the progressive music and jazz music scene in Spain?
MC: There was a strong progressive scene in the '70s, especially in Catalonia, which was known as Ona Layetana, with bands such as Musica Urbana, Iceberg, Fusion etc. Since then, there hasn't been a scene, just a few isolated bands like October Equus (a very good band from Madrid that plays some kind of avant-prog-rio-jazz related music), Kotebel, Senogul, Amoeba Split. The jazz scene here is very standard-oriented. Nevertheless, there are some interesting players like Pablo Selnik (a flautist), Liba Villavechia, Baldo Martinez, Perico Sambeat (maybe the most famous outside Spain). Now there is a strong free-jazz-improv scene in Barcelona with B.I.B (Banda de Improvitzadors de Barcelona), I.E.D8, Alfonsina y el Mal etc.
AAJ: What affect did growing up in the post-Franco period of Spain in the 1970s have on you musically?
MC: It was an exciting time. We did not have so much for 40 years, and then so much was available to us, all at once. Everything was free and open. All jazz, and other kinds of music, that was available elsewhere for so long was brand new for us. Music from England, specifically from Canterbury, like Soft Machine, Gong, Henry Cow and National Health, because they were the bands coming to Spain to play more than anyone else at that time. In Catalonia, the music of these bands became very important.
AAJ: You recorded your last CD, Biomasa, in Austria and the new one, Optical Illusions, in France. How did these locations influence the feel of the recordings for you, as opposed to your debut Que Me Dices, recorded in Spain?
MC: Both recordings were made in rural places, in small villages in the countryside, where the atmosphere was definitely more relaxed and enjoyable, which rarely happens when you record in a basement in a big city. For us, it is very refreshing to record in other countries; it's like having kind of holiday with a very nice result. The recording session with Bob Drake was inspiring, and we had a great time there.
AAJ: Talk about the themes behind the music for Optical Illusions. Was the CD artwork inspired by the music or was it the paintings themselves, by Angel Rodriguez Morales, that inspired such compositions as "The Little Dog-Man's Clinical Preludes (Preludis Clinics del Home-gos)"?
MC: Angel took the song titles and they inspired him to design the artwork and the images. We were very impressed by the final result.
AAJ: Was the title or theme for Optical Delusions a followup to the last track on the last CD Biomasa, "Trastornos opticos del oso bipolar (Optical Delusions of a Bipolar Bear)"?
MC: Yes, when we were thinking of the title, we thought we could use something that would link both CDs, and that's how we ended up with Optical Delusions.
AAJ: Why was there no guitar on the new CD? What was the thought behind this?
MC: Last year we had a European tour and three weeks before the tour we announced that our guitarist was leaving the band. Consequently we had to rearrange all the material for the tour in a big hurry. But as we were giving the concerts, we realized that the sound of the band was more interesting for us without a guitar. So, a month after the tour, we went to Bob Drake's studio and we recorded all the new arrangements. Some guitar parts were replaced by distorted Hammond. We were most satisfied with the final sound.
AAJ: There appears to be a shift from the more progressive rock sound to a slightly more jazz sound, please describe what prompted this change?