Cerebrum interview with Luis Navarro

February 9, 2012

Cerebrum interview with Luis Navarro

Before you start reading this interview I would like to thank to Thomas Hartlage from Shadoks and to Enrique Rivas, which provided a huge deal of details regarding Cerebrum and pre-Cerebrum and he also contributed three photos. One of them was never published before. Thank you very much!
1. Thank you for your time, Luis. You come from Madrid. Would you like to tell me about your teen years. What are some of your influences? I know you had a folk band called Tal Y Cual. Please tell me more.
In my youth I was keen to listen to every type of music that I could….from The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Procol Harum, Kinks, Hollies, TheWho ….. to groups less well known in my circle like Spencer Davis, John Mayall, etc.
The start of my musical career was forming an acoustic duo with a friend, performing our own material.  We played at festivals and entered competitions and we also frequently played live on the radio on various programmes. Several music critics were of the opinion that we should form a band since our songs were more appropriate for a group than a basic acoustic duo and so “Tal y Cual” was formed.
The drummer was Pedro Moreno, a fantastic guy who had something very special about him and it’s thanks to him that we have remained friends after all those years.
Undoubtedly the philosophy of the group was to remain low-key because of the ‘need’ to take on more ambitious projects, musically speaking.
2. Javier Esteve started in a band called Los Surcos. They used to play song covers as Evil Woman, Let me love you (Jeff Beck Group) as well as Crossroads with good songs of their own. A bit after this, Javier founded a band with more Blood Sweat & Tears sound. Blood Sweat & Tears first two records were a big influence. The name of that Band was Conexion. They tried to make good powerful soul free music in Spain. It is curious because Javier founded the band, but left it before the band put out some singles.This is pretty common in all Javier projects, he is talented but has a very “free spirit” personality.
Yes, throughout his musical career, Javier has always been on a permanent search for new projects and he has tremendous organisational skills which has always led him to having top musicians in all of his bands. I reckon that it is his great working ability and the special way in which he conceives music that has enabled him, after so many years, to continue playing, even now, in bands like Araxes and Delirium.
Los Surcos
(Guitar player of Cerebrum Javier Esteve is number 4 starting for the right.)
Chema Pellico- Bass player. He had during 1966 to 1968 (just before Cerebrum) a very amazing garage psych band. They were one of the pioneers in Spain regarding garage/psych music. They played all the pure “psych stuff” and are sure one of the first bands in Spain to start to make some Hendrix covers. Nothing was released, probably because of their really aggressive wild music. The name of the band was Los Mas and they were active around 1966/1967.
At that time Los Mas were one of the most outrageous bands in Madrid and they were well known around the city.
 Los Mas (Not MAS, which was the first name of Cerebrum).
(Bass player of Cerebrum Chema Pellico is number 3 starting from the left.)
Right from the start, Chema displayed his amazing bass playing skills and we knew that he would be perfect for us given that his band had just split up.
Pedro Moreno – Drummer. He started playing Rhythm and Blues in vein of the early Stones. He was member of  many bands.. No material exists.
Pedro was a fundamental part of another young band, Los Brumas, who also played the Madrid circuit and further down the line he was the drummer of “Tal y Cual” and was also involved in a ‘supergroup project’ with the record label Accion, before joining Cerebrum.
What can you tell me about that? How did you guys came together and form Cerebrum?
It was a lot of coincidences that all happened at the same time … on the one hand the splitting up of our former bands, (Javier had just left Conexion, I wanted to change the direction taken with Tal y Cual and Chema was without a band having split up Los Mas) and on the other hand we all had a need to start a new project with the idea of  creating a much freer type of music, more rock or blues like and with loads of improvisation.
The first drummer was Fernando Artalejo (he had tremendous power) but after a few months he was called up for military service and he was replaced by Pedro Moreno.  We also had Perry on keyboards but eventually he didn’t want to get involved with the record company and so we became a basic trio (guitar, bass and drums) plus a singer.
We were thrilled with this new line-up because it gave us the opportunity to make freer, more direct music more in line with new musical movements and the international scene.
We started doing cover versions by groups like Canned heat, Allman Brothers Band, John Mayall, Moby Grape, Ten Years After, Taste, etc. and these covers helped us to improvise and make them more personal.
After Chema had split up his band, we decided to make use of the name Mas, hoping that it would make it easier for us to get work. Regarding the final name change, it was the record company’s decision. I imagine they thought it more appropriate for our style of music and as far as we were concerned Cerebrum wasn’t bad and we took it.
3. Where all was your touring territory? With who did you play?
To begin with, we played around Madrid but further down the line we played around the whole of Spain, in dance halls with other live acts as well as at festivals and concerts which were taking place in different cities in Spain.
Normally the owners of the dance halls employed bands for live dance music. Our style of music was nothing like the other bands who played the halls.  Our music was not for dancing!  With us the youngsters ‘watched and listened’ rather than dancing, which didn’t go down well with the owners.
We began to gain a large following of young people who found our music new and different. They followed us everywhere we played and it was great to see the number of people that came on a daily basis to our rehearsal studio to listen to what we were doing.
They were long sessions with a lot of improvisation and creativity which afforded us, as well as the fans ,some truly moving  experiences. It was unforgettable.
This daily work helped built up a great rapport within the band to such an extent that our live performances were never planned, we just went with improvisation and we played new compositions along with covers, which, for the main part, we had never rehearsed but at any given moment they just came out naturally and spontaneously without us having agreed on it beforehand.
4. In 1970 you recorded and released two singles. Eagle Death / Read a Book and Time’s Door / It’s so Hard! On Dimension Label. What can you tell me about recording and producing this two singles? What are some of the strongest memories?
They were difficult times in Spain. Despite that, various musical movements were springing up and we were all having progressive thoughts, as was happening in the rest of the world.
We were the benchmark of this movement in Madrid and we had our ups and downs. On the one hand we were a band much appreciated by young people looking for new sounds, but on the other all the big multinational record companies were based in Madrid (and they had their own international commitments) but they didn’t show sufficient interest in us for our music to become widely known.
However, we were lucky that a company in Barcelona (where more interest was shown in the new musical movement of the time) was forming a new label, with a progressive direction, and they signed us.
They had got to know us through some live recordings that we had done on “Radio Nacional de España” (which are part of Shadoks recent re-releases).  We recorded in Studios Gema 2 and it was a great experience.
What gear did you guys use?
Pedro the drummer had a PremierDrum, Chema at first a Höfner bass and after a Fender Precission with a Music-Son amp.. Javier a Vox Phantom guitar plus a Marshall JTM – 45 Mark II amp (he bought it to the guitarrist of the england band “The End”, (you know they were sometime in Madrid in his period of  the record introspection). I think he had two pedals:  a Marshall supa fuzz and a Wah-Wah volume Farfisa.
Alfredo, the second guitar player, had an italian Elite guitar with a pedal Wah-wah box and amp Dynacord and Marshall.
Perry, the organ player in Mas period, had a Fender Contempo, althought I think that in the records in “Radio Nacional de España” he played a HammondOrgan that was in the studio.
Concerning myself I had a Music-son equipmente plus AKG micros.
What can you tell me about both cover artworks?
The record company (Ekypo/Dimension) showed a lot of interest in the new project, not only regarding the production but also the presentation and promotion of the singles.
They produced some fantastic artwork for the sleeves of both singles they could unfold into a poster and the lyrics were printed on them. Nobody had every put this amount of investment and work into singles. Needless to say we were really thrilled with the designs of the Ekypo artistic department!  I think the work was great because, being a visual symbol, it fused their drawings with our music.
Also it was very important that they were able to include such long songs in the singles and in stereo, which was not the norm at the time.
How many pressing were made?
I don´t know, but in both cases sure not many. I think that the first one had a more copies pressed than the second. I even remember that we promoted the first one in a live presentation concert in Picadilly Club, a good famous local in the Madrid scene of those days and many people went to saw us.
5. What happened next?
The time between the recording of the first and second single was short but it was a period of frenetic activity.  We undertook a huge promotional campaign in Spain, doing interviews on the most important radio shows, some live television performances and, of course, live gigs throughout Spain.
It was fantastic to see how, despite our somewhat strange interpretation of music, it was becoming more and more appreciated by young people and specialist music critics.
The number of people who were starting to love this new movement was growing all the time, despite what ‘fashion and cultural rebellion’ signified in Spain during the time of the dictatorship.
There were small pockets appearing all over the country, joining forces with similar movements throughout the world.
Critics and record companies were quickly labelling it ‘progressive music’ and those who at first had not shown any interest in this movement didn’t want to miss the boat, albeit false thinking on their part.
We weren’t bothered about this label and the effect it could have, we were just so worked up about being able to play such free and improvised music….something that allowed us to offer such an intensity of new sounds and power and the rapport and sincerity of each musician in every session we played !!
6. Do you have any favourite moments from Cerebrum you would like to share with us? Before I forget I would also like to ask you why the name Cerebrum?
For me, in Cerebrum, there were two very different and important stages.
The first was the forming of the group where we were able to develop the musical foundation that was the basis of our entire journey. During that stage we were working with a great deal of enthusiasm for many hours a day and that gave us the base from which we were able to convey, to the public as well as the critics, this new way of shaping music.
All this led us to the crucial part in the ‘biography’ of Cerebrum, which were the singles that we recorded and they are the reason that we are known and also a way of being able to give people who were unable to see us play live an idea of what the band was like, (unfortunately an all too small legacy).  I think that the sound and themes of the Cerebrum singles have great power and personality.
The second stage is unknown to current collectors and fans (given that there are no remaining recordings of that time) but without doubt it was the most musical and emotional stage.  This was the stage of Cerebrum’s most significant live performances….after recording the second single we had the chance to play many times in our rehearsal studio with the guitarist Alfredo Santana (born in the Canary Islands) and we thought he was so good that we signed him up to the band with the aim of having two guitarists  which would give us a better chance regarding sound and creativity.
Maybe Javier wasn’t too impressed and he left the band, so once again we were the basic trio (guitar, bass and drums) plus singer.  It was a fantastic stage, really creative! For me it was a privilege to have been able to take part from the start in something so amazing.
 Cerebrum last period photo.
 (With Alfredo Santana instead Javier on Guitar! Never published in any book or  magazine in Spain!)
Pedro and Chema had become so good that they were the best rhythm section around and Alfredo was a guitarist with such talent and technique that he was able to convey all sorts of feelings and emotions. His creativity allowed us to move forward constantly.  With that set up we worked continuously round Spain and we played many live gigs.  Among those were gigs at Los Colegios Mayores at the University of Madrid, The Icade Theatre, the Progressive Music Festival of Madrid in Maria Zayas and in The Permanent Festival of  the Progresive  Music of Barcelona in the Salon Iris and that was where one of the most important moments took place….Jimmy Hendrix had just died and in our presentation in the show, Alfredo, who played the wahwah brilliantly, decided to pay tribute to him by playing some of his best known songs solo and then the rest of us joined him.   Those were unforgetable times of tremendous emotion. Nowadays, whenever I have the opportunity to speak to someone who was in the audience at some of those gigs,  they look back with great nostalgia.  It’s such a shame that none of that was recorded since we were then in the process of preparing songs for the recording of a concept album.
It was probably the difficult times in Spain, the distance between the record company and us (Barcelona and Madrid) and the lack of a manager to look after everything that led to the short-lived legacy of Cerebrum.
7. Does any unreleased material exists? We are really happy, Shadoks released your whole LP of your music. What do you think about that?
What we had was what Shadoks has released on the LP and we are very happy with the care and effort that they have put into thisbre-release.  Great work without a doubt!  It includes the four songs on the singles and five other songs (four cover versions and one of our own).  

These recordings were made during the Mas stage (before the release of the singles), live and in the Radio Nacional studios and they were copies of the final recordings but the quality isn’t very good due to the deterioration of them having been lying around for more than 40 years.  Having said that Shadoks have done everything possible regarding the quality.  Their treatment of the sound as well as their printed information, inserts etc, has been fantastic.

Through this LP, we would like to be able to give a bit of a broader idea to all the fans and collectors, of our beginnings, together with the recordings of the singles, given that nothing remains of the second stage.
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2012

© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/ 2012

  1. Mara Bunta

    Smashing, as always.

  2. Anonymous

    Im glad to read this interview,Cerebrum was great!

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