Interview / Pablo Color / ISH Records

Released on Zurich-based label, ISH, Pablo Color`s La Calle Roja was one of my favourite Balearic” records of last year. With guitar as its instrumental focus throughout, it managed to pack in a surprising amount of musical variation. Featuring collaborations with Phantom Island`s Lexx, Ambient genius Gigi Masin, and obscure music guru, Chee Shimizu, every track was a stand-alone standout. Making me reach for comparisons to maestros from Tommy Guerrero to Robin Guthrie. From Neil Young to Cantoma.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Switzerland, as the son of a Chilean mother and Swiss father.

Where are you based?

I live in a city called Lenzburg which is about a twenty-minute car drive west of Zurich.

Where are your favorite places to hang out? To catch a coffee, listen to music, buy records, grab a beer, go dancing?

I love being outside. During Spring, Summer and early Fall, I am usually out and about. In the streets, coffee shops or bars. At the lake, or somewhere in the heart of  nature. Sometimes I will hit two cities in the same night. For example, I might attend a concert in Zurich, and then meet up with friends in Aarau or Baden. The Kasheme in Zurich is a great spot to meet good people, listen to great music and drink a beer or two. My favorite record stores are Hum Records in Zurich, Zero Zero in Baden, Mono Records, which is inside of The Kasheme, or Dezibelle in Aarau. I rarely dance, but when I do dance, it happens where ever the music moves me.

The Kasheme

Is the local music scene lively? Are there any local bands or artists we should keep an eye / ear out for? 

Yes, the local scene is very lively. Lexx has been a great inspiration to me. His compilations, those Mellow Mixes, are a great source of inspiration for me. I had the chance to listen into two songs from his upcoming album and i’m very excited! If I can recommend one thing, then it’s surely his new album.

How long have you been making music?

I started playing the piano at age seven. Ever since then, I`ve had a special connection to music. During my time in middle school, I played the bass as part of the school band. As a teenager, I discovered how to play the keyboard / Rhodes and also started to DJ with turntables at age sixteen. I’ve always played in numerous bands.

What made you pick up the guitar? Was it a particular artist, performance, or piece of music? 

I would say it was a mix of nostalgia, reorientation, processing lovesickness, and discovering Jazz and mellow guitar chords … hahaha … I was about twenty years old when a girl broke up with me after a two month relationship. I was so in love, and hence, devastated. During that time, I would lock myself in my room, and expressed my pain by writing endless love letters, while listening to albums like Karate`s Unsolved, Geoff Farina`s Reverse Eclipse, Tortoise`s TNT, and Mazzy Star`s Among my Swan. The combination of being lovesick and listening to these melancholic tunes was what motivated me to learn a new instrument.

When I listened to Wes Montgomery’s Bumpin on Sunset for the first time and then received Pat Metheny & Charlie Haden’s album Beyond The Missoury Sky for my birthday from a friend, I was certain that I really wanted to learn how to play the guitar.

Who are your favourite guitarists? 

Before I answer this question, I just want to state that I do not see myself as a guitarist, but as a composer and multi-instrumentalist. At this point, the guitar is probably my most important tool, but I`m not playing enough professionally to perform as a pure guitarist. In my compositions, I usually also play the other instruments, like the keyboard, bass, percussion, and so on. My music is pretty heavy on the guitar, but I regard myself as a composer who plays multiple instruments. To answer your question though, among others the foIlowing guitarists have been on my playlist a lot and I really appreciate their music:

John Abercrombie

Lenny Breau

Kenny Burrell

Nick Drake

Grant Green

Ernie Isley

Pat Martino

John Martyn

Pat Metheny

Wes Montgomery

Erlend Oye

Mark Speer (of Khruangbin)

Gabor Szabo

Can you give me your top five pieces of guitar-based music, and perhaps tell me why you like them, or why they are important to you?

Khruangbin / Como Te Quiero 

Not only Mark, the guitarist of Khruangbin, but the entire band has some of the most impressive work that I`ve heard in the last few years. I had the opportunity to get to know them personally and have to say, I love this band from the bottom of my heart, both musically and personally. They are a band that get me ecstatic, make me cry, and are always able touch me in ways that stir my emotions. For me, emotions are the essence of music, and Khruangbin are true masters at triggering them.

John Martyn / Small Hours 

Thanks to a friend and former bandmate, I got to know the music of John Martyn. Solid Air and Bless The Weather got me through my teenage years. After meeting Lexx for the very first time, he handed me a compilation that he had made for a store opening. The last song on the compilation was Small Hours. So due to Lexx, I learned about the album One World. Small Hours is THE Swell guitar piece par excellence. I love Swell guitars because they have their own character – like a Synth Pad – and can portray heaven or earth in one song, and be used prominently or very subtly. To me, Small Hours is a master piece that demonstrates how you can get so much out of so little. To be specific, with a few chords, an Echoplex delay and a voice.

Steve Reich & Pat Metheny / Electric Counterpoint III Fast

I`ve been a fan of Pat Metheny for many years. The first Metheny record I bought, at the age of fifteen years, in a record store called Musik Spirale in Aarau, was Watercolors. I had no idea who Pat was, but I liked the cover and was blown away by the music. A couple of years later, I watched the movie Koyaanisgatsi with a couple of friends and discovered the minimal music of Philipp Glass, and later Steve Reich. Electric Counterpoint: III. Fast unites the precise guitar mastery of Pat Metheny with the genius and visionary composition of Steve Reich in a truly cineaste soundtrack; I aim to create this facet in my music as well – transporting or conveying images and emotions.

Kings of Convenience / Scars On Land

I discovered Kings Of Convenience in the same year that their first album, Quiet Is The New Loud, was released and was a fan from the very first note onwards. As the name of the album indicates, KOC make music in a soft and calm way. The arrangement of nylon and steel string guitars with a few additional elements of the piano here, or the bass and trumpet combined there, seem well thought out from a composition view point, and always achieve amazing dramaturgy. I could list all their songs as they are all important to me. The magic of KOC happens between the notes in my opinion, specifically when warm thoughtful melancholy and nostalgia appears. I chose Scars On Land because this song in particular demonstrates so much going on in between the notes.

Tommy Guerrero / And The Folklore Continues 

A good friend of mine showed me the album The Return Of the Bastard, which turned into one of my musical philosophies; to let simple be simple. Tommy manages to create a good cineaste song with just a few chords and a melody – one that is interesting and full of emotions, direct and full of honesty. This album gave me the confidence to release my own music. For a long time, I had the feeling that my songs were missing elements, or were not completely composed. Today, I can accept the “simple” that can sometimes express much more than a perfectly composed piece.

Your recent LP, La Calle Roja, featured some pretty special collaborators – Gigi Masin, Chee Shimizu, and Lexx. How did you connect with these people, and how did the collaborations work? 

Together with Nick of The Kasheme, I was able to invite Gigi Masin several times to Zurich. After hearing Clouds and his amazing album, Talk to the Sea, we were both huge fans of his music. Through a friend, who had worked with him a few years earlier, I got in touch with him. We developed a friendship, shared the stage of Zukunft in Zurich and performed together. During this time, I showed him my music and asked if he would consider working together, which he immediately accepted.

I did not know Chee Shimizu previously. Michel, the head of my label (ISH Records, Hum Records Zurich) was friends with him and sent him the songs. He liked the music and agreed to do a remix.

I`ve known Lexx for a long time and have always been a great fan of his DJ sets. I also like many of his productions. I`d asked him to collaborate a couple times, but he was always too busy and could not make the time. On my first record, he jumped on the remix of Viajando which was produced by Kejeblos – with the help of Fu – and played a keyboard part. On the new record, I approached him again and got lucky; he had time and agreed to collaborate.

When I reviewed the album – which was easily in my top ten new records of last year – I referenced Cantoma, Japan’s DSK, Tommy Guerrero, Robin Guthrie, July Skies, Ennio Morricone, Paqua, and Neil Young. How do you feel about these comparisons, and would any of these artists have influenced the making of La Calle Roja? If not, who did?

First of all, thank you very much for the kind words and your appreciation. I am always amazed how well the record is received; I would have never expected that.

I felt very flattered and slightly uncomfortable at the same time. Flattered because I really like all the bands you named. Uncomfortable because you put me up against a lot of big established names that are in my opinion in a completely different ball-park. I would never compare myself with these musicians. The comparison with Tommy Guerrero did impress me though, because I’m sure that I was influenced by his music with regards to tone aesthetics. With tone aesthetics I mean the grainy, direct and honest recording of his songs, and the personable simplicity of the arrangements. You hit the nail on the head with this comparison.

I would lie if I said I was not inspired by any other artist. Subconsciously I’m certainly influenced by many things, but with regards to La Calle Roja I cannot tell you what artists influenced me. It’s a combination of several artists, albums and songs.

However, the title La Calle Roja itself was a source of inspiration. I chose the name before I had composed a single note. My technique is to visualize how the album will look like, what the title is, how the record will feel in my hands, what the dramaturgy of the record should be, and then I start to compose. The inspiration for La Calle Roja came from my memories as a teenager on vacation in Puerto Sagunto. That is a small port near Valencia in Spain. When we used to walk home from the beach, there was a golden hue and as it got later, the sky would turn red. The streets in the city and across the landscape would reflect that tint. I wanted to musically capture that moment when the last rays of sunlight color everything with a warm gold and red. That was my motivation for La Calle Roja.

puerto sagunto sunset

What are you working on right now, and what do you have planned for 2019?

I started with Viajando in 2017, and followed up with La Calle Roja in 2018. I’m planning to release a third E.P. in 2019. That should close off the trilogy. I’ve chosen the title, dramaturgy and content already … now I’m working on arranging the compositions.


You can order a copy of Pablo Color`s La Calle Roja directly here


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