breaking news

Exclusive Carlos Alomar | Q&A | Carlos answers your questions…

August 16th, 2014 | by admin
Exclusive Carlos Alomar | Q&A | Carlos answers your questions…
News
0

Last month we asked you to send in your questions for Carlos Alomar who very kindly agreed to an exclusive Q&A for David Bowie News.

 

C A/ First of all, hello to all my friends (fans),

It’s rare that I get a one-on-one with you. So thanks to DavidBowieNews.com for the opportunity to answer your questions directly and uncensored.

So let’s begin…

 

Gail Murdock asked:

Hi Carlos,

If you were stranded on an Island, and you could have just one Bowie song to play, which one would it be?

C A/ Well, that’s easy… “Somebody up there likes me”. For many reasons…The total experience of first meeting David and finally working with him. Plus, David’s’ vocal performance is stellar. My wife Robin Clark and my best friend Luther Vandross are singing background vocals, so it’s easy to see why this song (to this day) pretty much expresses my gratitude for my life.

 

david_bowie_fame_12810Steven Price asked:

Carlos, What was it like working in the studio with David and John Lennon recording the “Fame” track?

C A/ The successful recording of Fame was the result of a fortuitous combination of circumstances. Serendipitous, to say the least. But I will say this … Had I accepted the invitation to go with Bowie and Lennon to get something to eat (as many would have) instead of staying in the studio to lay down my guitar tracks…. Things might not have turned out the way they did.
But, alas there are too many articles written about this… Best to look it up on Wikipedia, plus I refer to this in other questions in this Q&A session.

 

Graham Fialkiewicz asked:

davidbowie glass spider tourHi Carlos! What are your memories of the glass spider tour back in 1987?

C A/ Wow, what a tour…hmm… My memories? There are so many… Drug bust, light rigger falling to his death, getting my face slapped, meeting Princess Diana, twirling dancers on stage, lighting a bar on fire in Australia, Peter Frampton…
I guess the most traumatic experience and recovery must be, my injuring myself on stage.

I was meant to start the show by myself (go to CarlosAlomar.comto see intro performance) I had practiced my intro and I was ready to go onstage. I started running up the ramp to the stage, when snap…my calf was on fire, it felt like someone hit my calf with a bat (I had ruptured my Achilles’ tendon or calf muscle) The pain was severe, but I was taught that “the show must go on”. Yet the show hadn’t really started. What was I to do? Chuck Berry came to kind. So, I stood on my good leg and hopped onstage like my guitar hero Chuck Berry. I started playing my solo but I knew that my big problem was quickly approaching in the form of a petite young dancer by the name of Constance Marie (the George Lopez show).
Constance Marie was suppose to jump on my back as part of the choreography. Knowing this, I was intentionally not standing on my mark. In fact I was trying to put myself in a corner place that I felt would discourage her attempt. But in true professional manner she tracked me and jumped on my back. Holy smokes, the pain, the pain…THE PAIN!!!!
After the show my calf had swollen so much that they had to cut my pants off.
I was taught to “turn poison into elixir” so I decided to see how I could use this to my advantage.
(As I had to wear a cast anyway), I bought some jeans opened them up and sewed leather material around one leg. A leather jacket added the bit of sheen I needed for stage. I bought some new optics with 3D eyes attached and twirled my Afro into a spiked punk hairdo. When David saw my outfit and new look he was delighted. I started the glass spider tour with this persona and it fit perfectly. Fait accompli’

 

Heartland Anne asked:

Which guitar you have played have you loved the most and why?
And what is the funniest moment/happening while working with David?

A big hug to a great guitar player!
Anne

C A/ Thanks Anne, I love this question… Finally the secret to my comfort zone.
Well, as a rhythm guitarist I usually carry a minimum of 12 guitars on tour. With that, I can introduce any texture I’ve created in the studio to my live sound. I have introduced a lot of guitars over the years…some stood out above the rest .the B.C. Rich “Bich” was a cool double-neck Guitar … the original Steinberger, the Moog Guitar, Casio synth guitar.
But, there is no doubt as to which my favorite is… My stereo Alembic guitar- “MAVERICK”.
Maverick has played on every Bowie album and tour since back in the “Earl Slick- station to station” Days. I of course, play other guitars when I record, but I create the parts on Maverick. Maverick is just so easy to play; it makes me smile whenever I play it.
A little history about me and my partner of many years … Earl Slick. When I met Earl and we would rehearse … He would crank that Marshall stack of his, way past 11, and in a pretty small rehearsal studio too, even his single notes were driven with hundreds of watts of Rock and Roll power. Impressive indeed. I wasn’t hating, quite the opposite … I was impressed and in awe, as he was my first real Rock and Roll lead guitarist. But as a real Rhythm guitarist, I knew that I needed that kind of power and more importantly control and tone. My problem was rooted in my old school R&B roots – I had simply asked for a small twin twelve-fender combo amplifier. So, basically … I was screwed. I knew I could never compete against his Marshall stacks in concert.
I asked David to allow me to create a custom stereo rhythm guitar sound system for live performance. Now don’t forget David and I were in our ’20s. David was 27 and I was only 23 years old. So it was pretty cool to find a guy who was into experimenting like that. And to my delight, that he would encourage it.
I needed a special guitar for this experiment. And surprisingly the inspiration came from a Bass. Stanley Clark played a Stereo Alembic bass, and let me tell you, the tones that he was able to get out of that bass were unbelievable. I later found that Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead was having a guitar made by the same Alembic Company. Well, that was that…. I immediately had one made- “Maverick”. It has never failed to inspire and facilitate many of the classic guitar riffs that I was called upon to meet David’s musical needs… and it still sleeps deep in my closet, waiting for David. Although I usually do one or two additional albums per year (from 1971-2013) for other artist, I never use Maverick. Not even with Iggy… You see…Maverick works for Bowie exclusively. I have never played that guitar with anyone else.

DAVID BOWIE

 

And what is the funniest moment/happening while working with David?

C A/ That would be Madison Square Garden, on the “Serious Moonlight” tour.

 

I was suppose to play the guitar intro to China Girl. The problem came when the song before it finished with a blackout. Leaving the stage pitch black ( I think the song was…blackout. lol). Now, it’s not like I wasn’t prepared… Because there on the microphone stand was my salvation… My trusty foot activated mini-light. I knew if I stepped on the foot switch the light would shine down on my pedals and I’d be ABLE TO SEE MY HANDS, so I could start the song in the right key. So, I step on the footswitch and boom! … That Golden ray of florescent light beamed “straight up ” (not down) getting lost in the darkness of the arena dome. Tick-Tock… My heart started racing, as I looked down on my shadowed fingers…Tick-Tock… Damn it! Thoughts of my Roadie being whipped crossed my mind…Tick-Tock. Fuck it; my comfort zone of time was at its end…Tick-Tock… So I started the China Girl intro in darkness.
Boom! The lights came on…. oh shit, I was in the wrong key… I moved my fingers up 1 fret…. Oops, still wrong … one more fret, maybe…Oops, wrong again…as my fingers finally came to rest on the right fret, the band kicked in….whew, that was close. The band members turned their heads to give me their responses. Carmine, gave me a “WTF was that”? Look. Slicky was laughing his ass off. And David’s curled eyebrow demonstrated perfect bewilderment… Lol. I shrugged it off as a very “jazzy” new intro, knowing what all “jazz cats” know. If you make a mistake, play it three times… Then, it’s no longer a mistake. Lol

A big hug to a great guitar player!

Back at ya. Anne.

 

XN asked:

Love the guitar work on Hallo Spaceboy, it’s probably my favourite riff of yours on any Bowie track ever.

What’s the riff you’re most proud of?

C A/ Yeah, Hallo Spaceboy was a trip but I reproduced it all for the Jools Holland show (watch, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohZ_rL4HLEc) when we were in England. But honestly … Dude, I love all my riffs…
But the answer must be “Fame” of course. I feel that riffs or signature guitar lines must be classic. To me that means that they represent not only the genre’ but the epoch of music they represent. 1975- Soul train, R&B, blue-eyed soul, funky…. It was just what Bowie and Lennon needed. They were both made “funkier” after that. Lol.

 

Leticia Karoline asked:

Hi my name is Letícia, I am 17 years old, I am Brazilian, therefore my English is terrible but I hope you understand me. I am a big fan of David Bowie and all the musicians who worked and work with him…..
do you use the experience you had with David Bowie, both in composing songs much as shows, as in his other works? what influence the David Bowie left in your life?

C A/ It’s hard not to be influenced and in turn, to influence when you work with someone for decades. I have always been curious and open to new musical challenges and David realized this early on. Our ability to communicate with each other is based on one thing… trust. I influence him by giving him choices; he influences me by giving me direction. It’s a match made in heaven. For instance… David wanted some kind of Turkish groove for “Yassassin”(lodger). I convinced him that reggae was close enough. African night flight was weird as well, but I convinced him it needed a nice “R&R” line to ground it in the chorus. “Golden years” was too close to the chord changes of “On Broadway” until I came up with the signature guitar intro. As you can see, the influence must be mutual. The hidden question is what influence did Carlos have on David Bowie’s musical life during those years. Can you imagine David Bowie without me, for all those years?
Yet, left to my own devices, David is always with me, influencing my musical choices and direction in all I do.

carlos dream generatorWhen I recorded my own album, “Dream Generator”, it was a direct result of recording the Bowie/Eno trilogy.
Bowie’s influence has allowed me to work with other artists of totally different genres’ and not feel intimidated.

 

Yaki Lebrija asked:

What were the musical contributions or advices that you made to David when you started working with him? (because by then you already had great experience) ?

C A/ When I started working with David on “Young Americans” it is true that I had already experienced many great things for a 24-year-old musician. I was the house guitarist for RCA studios, so my recording techniques, discipline and attitude were already honed. Thus, “Young Americans” was recorded in record time, Bowie was impressed with my contributions to the sessions. I was also already playing live behind the greatest soul acts by being in the house band at the famous Apollo theatre in Harlem. And he did come to see me as a bandleader with the ” Main Ingredient”. So his confidence was high, as far as my bandleader contribution was concerned. But my greatest contribution was my friendship. So, I was very happy when he took my advice to include my friends in his musical odyssey. My contribution…. my friendship came with my friends, Luther Vandross, Robin Clark, Dennis Davis, Emir Ksasan, Anthony Hinton and Diane Sumler all contributed to the success of our first endeavor “Young Americans” and Bowie was impressed.

Tristan Lewis asked:

If Bowie staged another world tour and asked you to be in the band would you do it?

CA/ Funny, but as a New York session musician I have never turned down a gig. If you log into http://www.allmusic.com/ and enter my name to see credits, you’ll see that my timeline indicates i’ve been recording one or more albums every year since 1973 (mind you, before that, they did not credit musicians on albums). And this is apart from David. I’m still working. This year alone I recorded with Brandon Flowers (The Killers), Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars, and Mystikal… All David has to do is call and it’s a done deal. My confidence is high that I will record with David once again…. But touring is another thing. That is always, up to David.

SB asked:

Do you listen to new bands?
I was quite surprised to find out that you worked with the French singer Raphael. What are the main differences between working with David Bowie on “cocaine frenzy” songs such as “Stay” or “Fame”, and working with Raphael on slow acoustic ballads?

C A/ I try to listen to as many new acts as possible. Check out… Die Antwoord, Passalacqua, Flint Eastward, Cold Men Young, Angie Screams. But, I must say. That it’s not easy. Many new acts don’t get the play that they need to break into radio. And it seems that if I turn my back on the industry for a year (which is not unusual with my schedule) those bands are hard to find and a hundred new bands have emerged. So may bands, so little time. I really liked the band Phoenix, but when I tried to find them when I returned from France… It was Internet play only…what a shame.
My daughter Lea Lorien who is a singer and songwriter (“How would you feel”? -David Morales) introduces me to new Dance music and Electronica as best she can, but it’s definitely hard.
Working with Foreign acts is very different than working with acts in the U.S.
Japan (Casiopea), Italy (Alberto Fortis), France (Raphael), Brazil (Soda Stereo), even Puerto Rico (Wilkens). Etc. They all have their own interpretation of “Pop” music. Rock and Roll, in these countries seemed to be trapped in time as well (70’s, 80’s or 90’s rock). But to be specific about Raphael. I had a very organic approach to his production. I would use natural instruments to create a synthesized sound. For example… for the recording, I would capo my acoustic guitar very high on the left while doubling with a mandolin on the right. Then a synthesizer guitar with an accordion sound playing the same thing in the middle. When you hear it, the typical French romantic tonality of this combo was just what the production needed. I was rewarded with a platinum album for my efforts.

John Mather asked:

Carlos you were already an accomplished musician when you started work with David ! Did David’s methods influence your future input ?

C A/ I think I’ve already answered this one.

David Bowie News asked:

Out of all the years you have worked with David, which period is your favourite and why?
C A/ I’m split about this, because they were all great for different reasons.
Obviously, “Young Americans” is high up there. The fact that I was on the road with my wife and best friends really register high on the favorite meter. It doesn’t get better than that.
Yet, the “Let’s Dance” tour was an amazing international greatest hits tour… What an experience that was. So many exotic locations. You see what I mean. I really loved all of the tours, wouldn’t you?

When is your book out Carlos? Is it an autobiography?

C A/ Believe it not, it’s really a love story between me and my wife of 44 years- Robin Clark (Alomar) and how we have influenced the music industry.
If you go on http://www.allmusic.com/ and look at the timeline of credits that Robin and I have created since the late 60’s you’ll understand why Bowie can only be a part of a whole.
“Dancing with the big boys” chronicles our odyssey. Did you know that we’ve never asked to be on anyone’s album? We don’t even have these superstars’ telephone numbers. They find us, ask us to work with them and we say yes…it’s been like that for over 4 decades. Isn’t that the coolest ever? We were so young, yet so talented.
Like all good things the book will be released when it’s ready. Recently I worked with Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars and Mystikal…. It was awesome. Don’t they deserve a chapter too? If you’d like to read some excerpts visit me at http://carlosalomar.com/ and read my blogs. Or just say hi on Facebook

Till next time, I remain

Sincerely yours

Carlos Alomar

 

logoCarlos Alomar is the distinguished artist in residence for the Sound Synthesis Research Center at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey – which is now the *second best innovative college music program in the USA – http://www.stevens.edu/cal/music/carlos-alomar.php

*(the bestcolleges.com)

You can contact Carlos via his website http://carlosalomar.com/

Or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/carlos.alomar

Twitter https://twitter.com/guitarlos1

Carlos Alomar on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlos_Alomar

 

Many thanks to everyone who sent in questions and to Carlos for kindly agreeing to do this.

 

 

 

Comments are closed.