The SiS Interview by Rob Fatal
Pilar Díaz is a walking paradox: she is mysterious yet honest, down-to-earth and humble yet a certifiable rock star, a veteran of music who cherishes the creative process as if it is her first time picking up a ukulele. Her new self-titled album perfectly reflects the diverse and complex nature of its creator: organic and electronic, cultured yet accessible, futuristic and classic in the same breath. Pilar Díaz turns out to be one of, if not the most important, album of 2008 and one of the most prolific albums in modern Latin music history.
Rob Fatal chatted with Pilar on the phone about her jaw-dropping new album, the creative process behind it and the artistic and cultural fires that temper her sound.
SIS: Thanks for interviewing today we know you’re busy.
PD: No sweat. Just getting ready [to take] a trip down to Chile.
SIS: Your home country?
SIS: Do you perform a lot when you’re down there?
PD: No, maybe at my grandma’s house for the family but that’s about it. Whenever I go down there I try for it to just be vacation time. Time to just reflect and be with family and to just kinda get inspired again. But it would be nice just to make a trip down there to perform.
SIS: Is Chile where you get most of your inspiration from for this album? Your sound is diverse; your subject matter is pretty diverse, where does it all come from?
PD: The solo album has been kind of a journey, each song has sort of its own world. I’ve always done that; I did that with Los Abandoned and the band previous to that as well. In general I like artists and musicians that can take me to different worlds with their songs. I’ve always looked up to that so I always try to mimic that.
Inspiration comes from pretty much anything; driving in my car, relationships, getting homesick, getting frustrated, having everyday challenges, [from] visual artists and people that have a different life from me…I just bring it into the songs if it makes sense.
SIS: You can definitely see the presence of visual art in your live shows, album cover, music videos, etc…Talk about some of those people.
PD: Well, I went to CAL Arts for school and since I was very young I’ve enjoyed music being a conceptual thing, a conceptual art form. Not intangible, but you can’t hold onto a song like you can a painting so that’s my way of making it more concrete in my brain. I’m just a visual person so I hope I do that with my music as well. I worked with Mariah Garnett this year; she did a couple of videos that I perform with live- the live visuals happening while I do my performances. She’s a great video artist; she’s done a lot of stuff for Chicks On Speed, and Sam Sparrow. I was lucky to meet her this past year, and I worked with her all year making videos and doing live visuals. I worked with Sarah Anderson on the album cover [sic] who I also met this past year through this artist residency I was in.
SIS: I was lucky to have had a chance to visit you during your Quiksilver SiteLA residency, why don’t you talk a bit about that.
PD: OK, so, we all know the record industry rock band blueprint; we all know it really really well. I think what is limiting in that world is that unfortunately the way it is now and the way it has been for the last 10 or 15 years is that [the industry] doesn’t support the artist making their art. That blueprint is more about supporting the artist when it comes to money and when it comes to how many units you are selling, marketing and all that stuff; but none of that is going to make sense if the music sucks. None of that is going to make sense if the artist isn’t enjoying themselves and not writing good songs. Adam Katz came up with this great concept, and he’s been in the art world for a while, [where] he wanted to […] create a communal workspace for a limited amount of time for a certain group of artists. And not only share this workspace but have a team of people you can go to to talk about how to get your projects up and running; how to get the foundation of what you want to do together.
[Adam] presented this idea to his brother [Josh Katz] who works for Quiksilver. Quiksilver is known for supporting athletes in this very similar way: creating community and supporting and sponsoring. So they decided, since they were coming out with a women’s line that was about independent women (visionary women, forward thinking, out-of-the-box), what we do with athletes why don’t we do it with female visionaries in all aspects: from being an activist, to a car designer, to a musician which was me, to a visual artist, to a performance artist, to a writer, [to] a humanitarian. It was this mix of women coming from different backgrounds and having different goals. It was a great experience because I feel like it’s what the record label should be doing and I hope they can see that this was such a great thing to do. It’s probably less money than the way labels are run these days.
You have a great space […] and a great creative community with all these people. You go back and fourth on ideas, you have a support team and your numbers aren’t being tallied; the money stuff is kinda put to the side and you’re just focusing on getting work done. By having that creative space and support it was so easy for me to write music.
SIS: Was this the fastest writing/recording process you’ve ever done?
PD: Ya. I think I was also itching to record and write on my own.
SIS: Compare your solo process with your process for writing and recording with a group like you did with Los Abandoned.
PD: The difference is you get to make all the choices; you have the last say on everything. […] You get to take your vision and your concept all the way through to the end and then you see if it works or not. Whereas in a group setting it’s a little bit different; you might not necessarily get that opportunity all the time.
SIS: What are you plans now?
PD: I want to finish the record. This is like the intro to what the full album is going to be. Like, here are the bulk of the songs and […] now the goal is to make it to a full length and have it out a year from now or sooner.
SIS: What were the main themes, principals or ideas that drove this album?
PD: The one thing I did want to do was collaborate. I wanted to work with many of my friends I hadn’t worked with in a while to write songs or to come up with different sounds. I thought about this all a year ago and it just happened; I didn’t even have to push it. Another idea as well was what can I write on my own, what can I do by myself all the way through? I want to write the bass part, I want to write the guitar part, I want to write this, I want to write that. I wanted to go though that process and see where my strengths are and where my weaknesses are.
SIS: Where can people go to buy the album?
PD: The online store is www.store.merchsquad.com/pilardiaz and in L.A. they are at Amoeba Records. If people go on Myspace.com/pilardiaz, there are links to my blog, my photo album, YouTube channel and all that fun stuff.