A quarter of a century has passed since the dissolution of El Último de la Fila, a period of time that Quimi Portet (Vic, 65 years old) has taken advantage of to develop a very personal artistic career that today, Friday, will receive his tribute in his hometown and where currently resides. Without intending it, but with that magic that exuded in the songs of El Último de la Fila, chance meant that at the same time the launch of pyramidal disorder, Quimi and Manolo’s first studio album with 24 new versions of the band’s classics.
How are you feeling back in the studio?
It was a very gradual and natural thing, a while ago there was a tribute to Ángel Casas and they asked us to play a song, so we locked ourselves in the studio for a couple of days to make a new version of silver planes We had a great time, we immediately recovered the sensations of when the two of us worked alone in the studio, laughing. Afterwards there was still another tribute to Julia Otero, and we also prepared a song. From here we said that we had to meet from time to time and spend a while in the studio. We started one day a week, two days, until we had a few songs recorded and we said “let’s make an album.”
The version of Far from the Laws of Men, the first preview of the album, has a calmer rhythm than the original, is this the spirit?
In general yes, but there are issues that are the opposite. The original version had a fast tempo rhythm, more stressed and tense, and here it has relaxed with a sexier and mid-tempo rhythm. In other cases like ancient sea which the original was acoustic, without drums, has become more of a power-pop song, turning towards rock at the end in the last bars.
When you cover these songs, do you update them?
Yes, and there was nothing painful about it, on the contrary, there is a lack of pressure because you know that you are working with material that has already passed the test of the public, both in the texts and in the music. Plus you become a bit of a fan, you transport yourself back to when you were 28, you cheat. I do it, listen to songs from when I was a kid and started listening to music, and it immediately transports me physically and emotionally to another time, with other people and another environment. It is a pleasure that music provides that in our case, who are the composers and performers of the songs, is exaggerated.
It is a welcome inheritance
There is a positive relationship with these songs, there is none that we don’t like. Furthermore, it can be said, now with retroactive effect, that it was a super pleasant time. With Manolo we separated but never because of a crisis or a confrontation, but because we wanted to explore different paths in our careers. All the memories we have from the time of the Último are pleasant, both in the studio and live.
How did you do the instrumentation of the album?
We have recovered the system from the first two El Último albums, when Manolo and I were practically alone in the studio and we had to wake up and record the albums. A lot of the special sound that El Último had was because we were alone in the studio. An entity is created that is neither Quimi nor Manolo, it is a different thing. We have exploited this to the fullest on this album.
“I would never have written Far from the Laws of Men for me, but when sung by Manolo it makes perfect sense”
The lyrics of El Último have a surreal point
But they are not as disturbed as the ones I make on my own.
You said it…
When I was writing for El Último I was thinking about Manolo, I am a friend of Manolo and I know that I had to generate material that he felt comfortable with and could make his own with peace of mind. When it’s for me I can compose things, in quotes, that are more disturbed. I would never have written Far from the laws of men For me, it would seem too epic, it would not be credible sung by me. On the other hand, sung by Manolo it sounds incredibly emphatic, it makes perfect sense.
What do you miss from your time at El Último?
My solo career has continued with fantastic musicians, with Antonio Fidel, with Ángel Celada or Jordi Busquets. I have never lost the enthusiasm and fun part of our job, but it is another world. And I don’t miss Manolo because we see each other often and we exchange impressions, we explain things about the concerts, anecdotes from my tour, from his. You miss people who are no longer here, and you miss yourself at 30 years old, that’s the most.
He has been in music since he was 15, and that means that this year he turns 50 in his profession.
Yes, it’s funny that I’m celebrating 25 years, I started playing with groups when I was 15, more or less.
His first solo album is from 1987, Strange people.
It’s a very curious story, we had a studio booked during Christmas, and Manolo broke a vertebra while singing at a concert. Bones , curiously. She continued the entire white concert, like a scroll, we did it in its entirety but he was in a neck brace for a couple of months. We couldn’t cancel the studio, and I told Manolo: “Why don’t you let me make an album in Catalan?” “Fantastic,” he replied, “I’ll come with the neck brace and we’ll co-produce it.” We didn’t think about it much, I composed the songs in 15 days, we went to the studio and recorded it.
“There is a desire to counterbalance the success of El Último with some art and essay”
The idea of recording an album of his was already on his mind.
I am a lucky person to have a career with El Último, but from time to time I like to stick my head out here and say my little things, study this other sector of my composition. You are also very wealthy when you are young, when you are 27 years old. I suppose that if I had been more mature I would not have had the poise and audacity to make an album like that, there is a point of unconsciousness, but I’m glad I did it, honestly. It is an unconsciousness that sometimes has a positive outcome, you also have unwanted accidents, failures, but a large part of the things you do in life when you are young are thanks to this audacity.
There is a continuity in the language and style, which has been maintained to this day.
That’s what I get when I get into a studio. Seen in retrospect, there is a desire to counterbalance the success of the Último with something of art and essay, to look for something that is a little more art. You don’t always succeed, but now I notice that there is an attempt to deny the mainstream. In any case, these 11 albums have been a pleasure, I have had a fantastic time.
Without the success of El Último his career would not have been the same.
It would have been very different, obviously after that there was a calmness, a total lack of pressure which is very pleasant. My solo career is not what people expect from me, because it is what you expect from you, an exploration to see what happens when you compose with absolute freedom and without any premise.
What is the difference between composing with Manolo and doing it alone?
I always say that teamwork hides shortcomings, defects, and enhances qualities. On the other hand, working alone enhances defects and hides qualities. But as a musician, as a lover of the profession, facing your career alone is a pleasure, you have to make all the decisions, everything comes from the surface, professionally and artistically it is a very pleasant challenge.
“Perhaps what inspires me the least is my environment, I make lyrics and music to escape from reality”
How do you see the health of music in Catalonia?
There are always young people, who come out like motorcycles, very enthusiastic about that audacity of youth. I don’t know of a time when this didn’t exist, and it happens now too. What is true is that I feel closer to some musical styles for generational reasons, I cannot pretend that I am a reggaeton or trap enthusiast even though I like the provocative part. But the obligation of the music of the youngest is to try to make it unpleasant for the older generation, this happened with rock’n’roll and it has happened with all the music that has been made, also with punk, and now it happens with other music. In any case, there are many things that interest me and I really like, such as the Ludwig Band, or Nuria Graham, who is from here in Vic.
What inspires you to compose?
With all the modesty in the world, I am quite literary, I like to write, I am not an everyday lyricist. I have some small, rudimentary literary pretensions, and I like the language itself, the music itself. I almost always write the lyrics after the music, and many times it is the music that brings me words, situations, landscapes, and from here I get everything. Perhaps what inspires me the least is my surroundings. I make lyrics and music to escape from reality.
He’s a bit of an aesthete
They don’t always have to look pretty, but a little bit yes, I don’t talk about everyday life or my life, or my world, or the people around me. I’m talking about the deepest part, the subconscious, the most abstract emotions, and that’s why sometimes it seems surreal. Humor also interests me a lot, because it is inexplicable and mysterious, it can be a very rudimentary thing, but at the same time it can be an infinitely complex thing.
What has music given you in life?
It has been my job and it cost me a lot, because with Manolo it was difficult for us to start making a living, it wasn’t until I was in my thirties. I have been a musician since I was very young, because this disease bit me at a very young age and I never considered being anything else. I went from wanting to be an astronaut to wanting to be a musician, directly, without going through any trade based on industry and commerce. It was a total will, an obsession and almost a disease.