Cafe Tacvba: Don't Call them the Beatles or Radiohead

Our singer, Rubén, wondered about doing a series of sessions that would involve the public. Recording an album is always something--I don't know if I'd call it secret, but it's an intimate thing--where only the musicians, producer, and sound engineer know what's going on, how the musical ideas are developing. How those musical ideas get cooked before they see the light of day as a finished record. And yet we decided to try out Rubén's idea. We wanted to see how the presence of an audience might mold or influence the way we record an album.

So living in Mexico, it was obvious that we needed to have a session here with all of the people who are in our everyday lives. Since Gustavo Santaoalla is Argentinean it was easy for him to set up a session there, where he'd be able to control the conditions (considering we were about to record outside of the studio and with the public). And being in Buenos Aires, it would be easy to go to Chile, where we have great friends. Chile was practically the first place in Latin America that received us--that accepted the music of Café Tacvba.

And lastly, we'd be mixing the album in Los Angeles. So our engineer, Joe Cicarelli suggested we hold a session at a concert venue in Argentina, a restaurant in Chile, a large concert hall in Mexico, and a studio in Los Angeles.

We chose [from] practically all of the sessions. There were intimate songs that were more apt for the Chilean restaurant. There were larger, more grandiose ones that sounded better in the space in Mexico, when the whole world was there and everyone was ecstatic.

But I'll say it again: this is not a live album. This is not a concert album. They were sessions that had witnesses. And the presence of those witnesses completely molded the results.

How so? And what did it feel like to record in front of an audience?

For me, it was strong risk. In fact, I was the most resistant to this exercise. For me, a musician works in a studio where few opine on his work and where he tries to find the best way to compose what'll ultimately be recorded.

With these kinds of recording sessions, one gives the public his best try. [Usually, in the studio,] you'd play some notes and someone would say "why don't you try to develop that section more." With this exercise, the people in front of you don't necessarily say, "I vote for this," but I noticed how people would react with respect to certain ideas that I'd try out in a song. I wouldn't know right away.

In next session I'd realize, "Of course, this part would work better if I did this." Then I would see that the people of that session would notice something interesting that I contributed--or didn't contribute--so that the vocals or keyboards would become more or less noticeable.

So there was variation among the sessions?

More like a dialogue. I realized there were things that I would need to change in order to generate the things I thought were needed at certain in moments in the songs. That changed how accepted this idea, which I didn't like but ended up enjoying.

When we started listening to all of the sessions that we made in all of the cities, I realized that each one had an interesting personality. Because, I mean, we're the same musicians. We recorded all of them the same way. They were the same songs. Yet I felt the energy of the people present in each of those versions.

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