Interview: Pablo San Nicasio Ramos
Photos: Lola Records
“Singers of my generation need to cultivate the cante more”
“Espécimen”, flamenco made in Carabanchel, is Enrique Bermúdez “Piculabe” (Madrid, 1981), a singer who had all but vanished from the scene. No sooner did his first record come out, “Camino y Tiempo”, than we lost track of him. And there was no excuse, because he had what it takes. But even the musicians from that record were wondering what happened, and were unable to locate him.
It’s been a while since then, and now his second record is being released, “Cante y Sueña”, a record which he assures us, is a complete about-face from the philosophy he started out with as far as recordings go.
You’re from Carabanchel and Pan Bendito, a sort of alternative neighborhood, not as flamenco as “Caño Roto”, no?
It’s different, but I think it’s also flamenco. And I don’t know if it’s any less flamenco, the whole clan lives there, “El Ciervo”…even the style of playing guitar and singing is different from that of Caño Roto, it’s surprising.
The others, I would have thought were somewhere else, I assumed you were the only one from there.
Well no, they’re from Pan Bendito. In actual fact, there are only two or three of us who sing, el Ciervo, Pepe Morgadillo and myself.
At least one of them must have been your first teacher.
We all know each other, and I’ve always been listening to them. But my father more than anyone else. He had a group, it was a trio, “Raíces Gitanas”, they did Andalusian rock like Medina Azahara and Triana. They were even on the verge of signing a formal contract with Philips, but two members converted to the Evangelical Church and quit.
The Evangelical Church is very important for you, I’d say it’s actually extraordinary.
Music-wise, it’s different. They sing boleros, ballads, the occasional rumba…but it’s more serious, and very quirky too. It’s not such an open atmosphere as flamenco. That’s where I started singing, with no ambition to anything in particular.
How did you start out that so many artists took note of you from the very beginning?
A brother-in-law of Antón Losada’s, a neighbor of mine, heard me sing and we recorded a bulería together in my house. I didn’t want to do it, but he insisted and then showed it to people, and it made a stir in the Madrid neighborhoods. En Orcasitas, Villaverde, San Blas, Carabanchel…since no one knew me they gave me all kinds of names…even “the son of Camarón”. In those days even Tomatito let me sing in one of his concerts at the Gran Vía Coliseum. But no one was quite sure who I was. They gave me nicknames like “Cheese face”
And that would lead to your first record…
I got in contact with El Negri, and he started getting me into the recording studios. He was going to do the second part of “Los Jóvenes Flamencos”. He recognized me thanks to the famous bulería demo. Naturally, I was thrilled to work with him. And so was he, but not only that, he wanted to go further and do a full-length recording. That’s how I met Paquete and did a serious demo recording with him, not the cheesy thing I’d done at home.
Also, I was clearly a neophyte, the truth be told, I didn’t know anything about flamenco. I sang to my Lord and that’s it, but they liked it.
As a result of that, we got in contact with Fernando Crespo from Universal and gave him the demo, but he didn’t believe it. He thought it was all pasted together, so we had to play for him right in his office. I started singing and they called in all the people in the building at the time.
That’s how I got the first contract, but mind you, I’d never been on a stage in my life. I was completely green, it was crazy…
Well, that says a lot about your talent.
Yes, but the record just gathered dust. It was a great start, but then I didn’t get any work. As a group, yes, collaborations and such. But when you make a record it goes to your head, you get this artificial ego that’s very negative and doesn’t do you any good.
After a time, I came into contact with Victor “el Tomate”, a guitarist from Córdoba, and began working with him. He insisted that what I had to do was get myself into a tablao and spend hours learning.
But no tablao called me!!! And I didn’t do much to make myself seen either. I started to work with him, and after a while people called me…Jorge Pardo, el Bola, Tomatito…and I started singing regularly near Atocha at the Faena, a new place.
So I got past that slow time, and that was when I met José Losada, who in turn presented me to Pepe Barroso, the owner of Lola Records.
“Pepe Barroso, to whom I am eternally grateful, gave me all the freedom I didn’t have on the first one. This time I’ve sung what I wanted…I also know much more”
And a second record…
But nothing at all to do with the first one. Pepe Barroso, to whom I am eternally grateful, gave me all the freedom I didn’t have on the first one. This time I’ve sung what I wanted…I also know much more. Because it’s material I can do live on a stage. Alejandro Sanz also helped me out, by joining forces we go further. It’s just the way I am.
Eleven different songs, even a toná chica…
José Losada, the producer, told me from the start…it was necessary to take the orthodox route. And I got verses from Basilio Bermúdez, a Madrid poet and a relative of mine, and from the genius Juan Antonio Salazar, in addition to some popular poetry.
This new recording is a reference for all the flamenco artists of Madrid. It doesn’t sound like anyone. Jorge Pardo, Luis Dulzides and Niño Josele are on the record.
You weren’t interested in mixing and fixing…
Exactly…and anyway, that breaks your inspiration, and half the time things get left out in the editing.
That’s how it goes…
And you have to get into singing for dance at a tablao…that’s fundamental. If Paco and Camarón did it, how is it not going to be good for us too?
“Singers of my generation need to cultivate the cante much more. Lots of times we young people think it’s good enough with what we already know, and we get by. But no, in this profession you never stop learning”.
So your generation really has to get on the stick.
Look, to tell the truth, only a few from my generation study. Singers of my generation need to cultivate the cante much more. Lots of times we young people think it’s good enough with what we already know, and we get by. But no, in this profession you never stop learning. Camarón and Paco themselves never stopped studying, listening to this or to that.
Ramón el Portugués himself told me not to be stupid, that I have what it takes and I can’t just listen to one source.
What do you hope to achieve?
I want to have people’s respect, and find a niche. To be there. I want them to say “that guy, yeah, he’s very good”.