In short, who is Javier Leal and what is has been his musical career until now?
'Who am I' seems to be an easy question, maybe the easiest, and however it can be so difficult to answer. It is deep, because since we receive the gift of self-awareness, we walk through life looking for the answer. In a very summarized way, and without any big detail, Javier Leal is a humble human being and, like any other, made of atoms forged in distant stars. A person who loves life and enjoys living, and who aspires to leave a better world that the one he found. Maybe I'm more a sybarite philosopher than a musician.
Previously I took part in several compilation albums in Spain, contributing with some solo themes. Besides, I made a two-discs project called Entropía with my good friend and Spanish musician Ignacio Sánchez 'Everkindness'. We explored the creation of fractal music using mathematic algorithms. Later in 2011, together with Franco Palmetti 'Xethis', we published our first album of instrumental electronic music called Holding on to Eternity.
Which are your musical influences?
Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, Mike Oldfield or Robert Miles, just to say a few.
Holding on to eternity is your first commercial album. Which is its origin? Which is the idea behing 'holding on to eternity'?
Holding on to eternity is a conceptual work, linked to freudian theories describing art origin and the pulses behind it. According to Sigmund Freud, the artist is someone who make their work to scape death, to avoid self-destruction, to run from destruction. The genuine artist doesnt' create because they want to be famous: they do it because they can't help it. Their creation is a gift, but also a curse, a need to exorcize the demons that consume them. A creator looks to sublimate that destruction in poems, music, pictures, sculptures, dances, books... Direct the destruction and the wishes to another direction, transforming them into what we call Art. Doing this, real artists manage to hold on to life and "defeat death", reaching "inmortality" through their works.
'Holding on to eternity' is also a musical metaphor of the life's journey that every human being makes. An allegory about discovering journeys to distant places, and imaginary but brave voyages to outer space. But it also invites us to think about our personal journeys to our inner space, to the deepest corners of the mind and human soul. True keys of self-discovering lie there.
A few year ago, a NASA observatory took pictures of a pulsar star, 17 thousand light-years from Earth. It looks exactly like an enormous hand, 150 light-years wide. This image was called 'the hand of God' and it seems to hold on to the infinite cosmos... to eternity. This picture (included with the promotional images of the album with NASA's kind permission), space travels, and Sigmund Freud ideas about art, are the main elements that brings the concept, the title and the images in the album.
This album is a collaboration with argentinian musician Xethis. How was the process?
In 2008, while surfing the web, I met this argentinian musician, Franco Palmetti (aka Xethis) in a very popular Spanish forum about Jean Michel Jarre. We had very similar musical tastes and started talking and sharing some music we were working on. Then, Franco asked me to produce and arrange some of my tracks, and in a few months we finished our first themes together. In 2009 we both came to a meeting of Jarre's fans in Spain and premiered a couple of them. In San Fernando (Cádiz, Spain), we took part in a concert and received an excelent and enthusiastic answer from the audience.
In 2010, satisfied with the results in the Old Continent, we both kept working on new projects. Palmetti, who has made arrangements and remixes for musicians from several countries, encouraged me to make something I had wanted for a long time: to finish and publish my first solo album. He offered to produce it, and I accepted without hesitation. After months of meetings using webchat, videoconference and recording sessions in the distance, we finished Holding on to eternity, which was released on August 17th, 2010 through www.holdingontoeternity.com
What 'aesthetic' wanted you to capture in this work? How would you discribe your musical style?
Holding on to eternity is a cosmic musical vision that mixes contemporary electronic music, rythmic and melodyc, with sci-fy sounds from the 70s. We consider it an ambitious first work, because of the ideas we worked with. Ideas that may turn out to be uncomfortable to some, but above all to a musical industry that currently shelters in proposals and already tested formulas. Now you can download two or three sonds, listen to them in your phone or iPod and within a week you delete them and forget about them forever. The idea of composing and recording a musical work almost spiritual and conceptual was a movement we considered intriguing and risky at the same time. But somehow it worked, since we even played on several countries' radiostations and Mexican TV, as the theme from 'Mejores Fotos', for two years now.
Some people told us that they like to listen to our more happy or optimistic tunes in the morning, before the day starts, so they can charge their mood with energy and start with good humour. Many people said that they perceive a 'good vibe' in Holding on to Eternity. In one occasion, someone trying to define our style called it 'electro-optimistic' music: I think it was a terrific idea.
'Happiness (Is a State of Mind)' is our favourite track. What can you tell us about it?
It is my search of combining experimental music with more commercial rythms or melodies. This theme, that currently plays on television, has some arrangements and a synth solo ending created from fractals, that is, music created with mathematic ecuations. To me, writing this way, more than composing music is discovering it.
Which has been the album reception? Do you consider it a success, or just a first step towards something bigger?
We have reached some radio stations in Spain, Argentina, Mexico and England. And one of our themes play in Mexican television every Saturday and Sunday: it is the opening theme of a very popular section in the news, directed by one of the most famous photographers in Mexico, Carlos Bravo. Many of his spectacular pictures have a possitive tone, so I think that his images and our notes make a perfect combination. Suggested by Xethis, we will release a new edition, including some alternate versions that were left outside in the first moment, but we believe they're worth listening. Also some remixes, and the best to come: reinterpretations of our themes by guest musicians from 5 different countries.
What's more important to you, studio work or live playing? Was there any live presentation of Holding on to eternity?
Absolutely work studio. Xethis has in fact played some of our themes live in Spain. But I prefer to wait, have a bigger repertoire and more scenic resources, to offer something special to the public that has given so much to us.
In recent times, technology has changed the way of making and distributing music: streaming, direct interaction with fans through social networks, cooperation between musicians despite the distance... what's your opinion about these changes?
Until the arrival of Internet, the industry's value was not only the opportunity to record and album and maybe earn some money with the contract and rights. Signing with an important label ment promotion: radio play, tv and newspaper ads, interviews... In sume, the posibility of earning money was related to how well-known your work was, and the only way to achieve that was through a record company. Today, bands and artists can show their work through internet and reach thousands, even millions of people.
But here's the detail. Sharing your music for free has two effects: the 'replacement effect', when an user don't buy an album that they might have bought if they hadn't got the music for free, and the 'promotion effect', when the music is succesfully distributed with big projection, getting to many countries and awaking interest to buy the album and even go to concerts. The times have changed, and we must adapt.
An interesting data: according to Billboard's 2009 report, only 2% of the albums released in USA sold more than 5.000 units. From each thousand dollars earned, the average musician keeps just 23. So, there are artists who, even selling a million copies, will not see a cent. I don't want to say I'm against record companies, it's only that these numbers show that the musical world trending is the independent publishing.
How is the Mexican electronic scene? Are there other musicians in your country that you're interested in?
Most people in Mexico, when listening to the 'electronic music' label, think about raves and Dj. There are very good and successful musicians, like Murcof, but I realise that their work is more appreciated in other countries. Although during the eighties, and even the nineties, big music video channels like MTV or VH1 dedicated some time to instrumental musicians like Vangelis, Mike Oldfield or Jean Michel Jarre, nowadays this genres have nearly disappeared from big media.
What are your plans for the future? Are we listening to another work by Javier Leal anytime soon?
Actually, yes. We are releasing Holding on to Eternity – Revisited very soon. Then comes a musical project with Xethis we are calling SynthBiosis. And in 2015 another conceptual album, a solo project, but it is still too soon to give away titles or details.
I am fully aware of the difficulties about the musical genre I chose, but I also know its advantages. At first, it may seem very complicated to get to a massive audience doing instrumental music. But I think that it is precisely this aspect what makes it more valuable. The way I see it, instrumental music has the advantage of being universal, it goes beyond languages and the ties and limits of lyrics. It allows listeners from everywhere to imagine freely and go with the melodies wherever they want to.
I also have a wish: that my music survives me, at least a few years. That, once I'm gone from this world, my music will still leave echoes from my soul beyond my own time and space, playing from time to time somewhere in the planet. So everytime one of my themes will be played, new emotions will be born in other souls, like distant echoes of my own feelings, that one day gave birth to those melodies. I admit that, sometimes, I let myself dream with that.
Thanks to everyone for reading me here and listening to our music.