Louder Than War Interview with Omar Rodriguez Lopez & Live Review of Bosnian Rainbows in London
Omar Rodriguez Lopez’s genre-defying sixteen-year career has resulted in more than 40 albums and Rolling Stone have deemed him one of the “Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” You’ll know him from both The Mars Volta & At the Drive-In of course, but his latest project, Bosnian Rainbows, is just beginning to take shape. The band recently came over to the UK to play a few shows & Louder Than War caught up with him in London both for a chat & to see his live show.
“I’m not interested in genre, I’m not interested in bands, I’m not interested in music scenes- I’m just interested in expression, and expression is constantly changing. You’re learning new things, new influences, language changes, body language changes over the years, we completely shed our skin every seven years as human beings, I’m more interested in that, the human thing”
- Omar Rodriguez-Lopez describes his stance and position as a music maker and composer.
Bosnian Rainbows gave a breathtaking performance at Londons The Garage on Oct 3rd, marking their 30th gig as a new band with the notoriously ‘tough’ UK crowd.
The risk in a new band featuring Omar Rodriguez Lopez is that the followers of both his previous two bands, At The Drive In and The Mars Volta, will have expectations based on those lengthy & much loved endeavors. However, the Bosnian Rainbows set was received with rapturous applause by fans of both those previous bands. Although this in reality is merely a bonus as the music is the focus of our attention tonight as opposed to the musical history of the musician, a man who owes nothing to a field to which he consistently gives so much. Thus, this is not an Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group, this is Bosnian Rainbows.
“I sort of crawled out of one era where there was a lot of death and now a lot of new things are being born and it’s the same thing I can say for my band mates and when I started the group” he says.
“It really just came out of experimenting with things and naturally getting to the place I am at now. Collaborating with Deantoni Parks for the past six years on stuff that hasn’t been released, it was just sorta an idea that popped into my head”.
Bosnian Rainbows consists of Teri ‘Gender Bender’ Suarez of Le Butcherettes on vocals, Deantoni Parks of The Mars Volta, KUDU and Dark Angels on drums/keyboard, Nicci Kasper of KUDU and Dark Angels on synth and Omar on electric guitar and backing vocals.
To describe Omar as ‘humble’ is in itself vacuous and unnecessary, when the inference is, understandably and expectedly, only on the music that he makes, the manifestation of the messages and feelings. The birth of Bosnian Rainbows seems as if it came out of a creative necessity more than anything else:
“Well, you know, I did that for eleven years (controlling all aspects of the music) and now I’m tired of it, just like when I came out of At The Drive In, I left that band because I was tired of being in a collaborative situation so I said I just wanted to do my own thing and I started The Mars Volta and after eleven years of TMV I’m like fuck I just want to collaborate”
“You’ve always got to be changing it up, or else you’ll find yourself turning fifty and being in the Rolling Stones or Slayer” he jokes.
Live in London, leading lady Teri ‘Gender Bender’ was a perfectly possessed display of theatrics, bordering on both interpretive and rain dance. The vocals were strong and unique enough to balance the showmanship of crowd surfing and sneaking up on unsuspecting audience members during the set. Her emotions on stage were absolutely thrilling, being only the 30th gig for Bosnian Rainbows it was evident how exciting this project felt, how raw and moving the experience itself was. However, this theatrical style of performance in itself is not at all rare for Teri, who is the maniacal leading lady of Le Butcherettes too, seen in London this year supporting The Mars Volta in July.
“[Teri] definitely has her own thing going, she has great compositions, the idea was to put together a band where everybody composes, everybody has an input where they want to help to shape the music, the idea was that everybody could compose, everybody could produce and everybody was an engineer, that was the basis. You gotta know how to record yourself, you gotta know a little bit about the studio and about production and that’s why I chose these three people: they all have backgrounds in being their own band leaders” explains Omar.
Brooklyn based Nicci Kasper gave a wonderful thick sense of haunting atmosphere and depth to every track, something which is clearly his forte, recognisable from his work with Parks on Dark Angels projects such as Icons Remix Project (available on Dark Angels bandcamp). Deantoni absolutely bought all of the different sounds, ideas and feelings together with masterful musicianship, drum machine on one hand and keyboard on the other, powerfully executing perfect and deep rhythm seamlessly.
“I said to Deantoni, ‘hey let’s collaborate, you can play whatever you want, I just don’t want any more cymbals’, a normal drummer you tell that to and they freak out ‘what do you mean no cymbals, I’m just supposed to play my toms?!’ and Deantoni looked at me and said ‘I don’t wanna play no more toms either’ and I said-cool, and I wanted him to play melody- a lot of people don’t know but Deantoni is actually an amazing keyboard player and amazing composer-he just happens to be the one of the worlds best drummers. He took it a step further and said ‘How about I play tom parts and other percussive parts on the keyboard along with the melody’-you know the best idea comes when you’re working in a group-I wouldn’t have gone there with a singular vision”.
Live there was a very natural coordination between all of the very idiosyncratic sounds, Omar explains the closeness and methodology behind the groups workings:
“We like to think of ourselves as ants and bees because that’s where we’re at, you know, we’re just trying to serve music and that’s way larger than me, Teri, Nicci or De put together. When you go and put together a group of players it’s very easy to whip them into submission, but when you’ve put together a group of people who know the same things you do and even moreso and have their own ideas it inevitably becomes a collaborative situation, it became a way to make sure I wasn’t able to slip into old habits-I’m at my best when I’m part of a team, when I have a birds eye view on the situation” says Omar, referencing his control over the many aspects of composition in the past.
Omar gave a stirring performance on guitar, whilst his composing and guitar skills are already well known, the liberating nature of Bosnian Rainbows was massively evident in the way in which he performed.
He marks the end of the gig by thanking fans for attending, for making the effort to participate and listen, for giving Bosnian Rainbows a try. Introducing the members of the group, they finish with one more song and every member of the band comes forward to the crowd to shake hands, talk and take pictures in what was a momentous and moving experience of a gig for everyone on the building. With an album being recorded and then released next year and a tour that is continuing around the world, Bosnian Rainbows are on the verge of a massive musical discovery.
“For me the bottom line is we were all born with amazing endless imagination and so we should all really utilise it at all moments possible, because we’re living in an age where not so far down the line those tools are going to be taken away from us and we’ll be subdued into one mass homogenised internet Starbucks culture”