As world/pop producer and solo artist El Guincho, Diaz-Reixa channels the classic production techniques greats like Quincy Jones and Tony Visconti used in the 1980s to make his own third album Pop Negro a world-class sounding record.
Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder – they’re three of the names that instantly spring to Pablo Diaz-Reixa’s mind at the mention of pop music’s golden era. As world/pop producer and solo artist El Guincho, Diaz-Reixa channels the classic production techniques greats like Quincy Jones and Tony Visconti used in the 1980s to make his own third album Pop Negro a world-class sounding record. With one half radio-friendly mainstream and one half lusciously exotic, Pop Negro sees Diaz-Reixa revisit his childhood idols.
“I didn’t know too much about pop music when I was growing up,” he says of his early years. “We lived in the Canary Islands where pretty much the only music you could hear on the radio was American pop and Spanish music, so that was always going to be a big influence on me obviously. I guess I took it in subconsciously because I didn’t even realise my love for music until I was about 16 – up until then I just cared about the beach and playing sport.”
Discovering the eccentric beats and stylings of MC Solaar and La Funk Mob as a teenager studying in Paris, however, changed all that. Not long after, tastes began to rapidly expand for Diaz-Reixa as he began to realise that music production just might be his destiny rather than a mere bedroom hobby…
“When I was a kid, it started with French rap,” he recalls. “It was a French school, so all the kids there were messing around on their computers and making free loops. I also moved to Barcelona after a while and I started to play the drums in bands for a while. I was in a group called Coconot and I remember trying to get the guys in my band to play some of stuff that I’d been coming up with on the computer… But they weren’t into it so much!
“That didn’t stop me from still making beats,” he adds, “if anything, I wanted to get them out and play them live. The only thing was that I didn’t know how to do it all by myself, so I decided to study electronic music so that I could start doing it live.”
As an intern in a recording studio where film soundtracks were made, Diaz-Reixa began to discover his inner El Guincho, he claims. Blending together his early ‘80s pop influences with Afro-Latin grooves and the hip-hop he discovered as a teenager, Diaz-Reixa unleashed his debut Folias in 2007.
“But so much has changed in just a few years,” he adds. “In the music world people have become so much more accepting of different or foreign sounds. It’s not a case of the radio being the most popular tool in music anymore. Maybe it’s thanks to the internet, I don’t know, but it helps artists like me. I have a little cousin who is nine years old, and she listens to the most weird music ever. A lot of kids her age and even older would be listening to Lady Gaga or something, but she is proof that this is changing and that people are becoming more open to new sounds.”
And while El Guincho is all about the eccentric and unusual, on Pop Negro it’s a little more accessible than Diaz-Reixa had been known for. With some help from studio legend John Gass – also known for his engineering efforts for Mariah Carey – on his latest album Diaz-Reixa attempts to pin-point what it was that made the ‘80s such an important decade in pop.
“It took us about a year and a half to make this record,” he ppints out. “It was recorded over four different cities, starting with Berlin and then Spain and then the Canary Islands, and it ended up in Barcelona. Being recorded in four different studios and different settings and desks and rooms – that really affected the record.
“Berlin was probably the most high-end studio while in the Canary Islands it was just me in my bedroom. If you translate Pop Negro ,” he adds, “it also has a meaning as ‘black pop’. It made me think about all the black music that was huge in the golden era – like Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson… But there were a lot more coincidences I found for these artists, mostly to do with their producers.
“I made it my mission to start studying these guys who made all these great hits – what made them so great? A lot of them used lined recording instead of amping stuff. It went straight to the desk and they worked a lot with the backing vocals in tracks. And backing vocals are such an important part of the song – vocals in general give songs a different dynamic and it’s what defined the radio sound. Vocals pushed the rhythm as well.
“It wasn’t really my intention to make this album clean and commercial, but to a lot of people who compare it to my last albums, it is quite mainstream.”
EL GUINCHO plays the sold out MEREDITH MUSIC FESTIVAL across December 10-12, as well Rooftop Bar’s ‘Happy Mondays’ on Monday December 15, and The East Brunswick Club on Wednesday December 15 (tickets through The East, 9388 9794 or eastbrunswickclub.com). Pop Negro is out now through Remote Control.