Interview: Pablo San Nicasio
“This record represents my goal to make a name for myself in this”
Montse, the oldest of the Pérez sisters, both singers, who has made quite a space for herself in the panorama of Almería cante has now come along with “Del Deseo”. It’s her second recording which, thanks to Paco Ortega, brings back some nearly obsolete cantes and again brings to the forefront a voice important enough to do big things. We spoke to Montserrat Pérez Rodríguez (Almería 1978), an artist who is short-cutting the normal route of professional ascent at an admirable pace, while at the same time relishing those moments that flamenco provides more abundantly than any other kind of music.
When Paco Ortega sets his sights on someone, they tend to become the talk of the town.
I can only hope it’s that way with me. Certainly, it was a very big opportunity I couldn’t turn down. That someone as important in flamenco as Paco Ortega would take notice of me and set me up to work with Diego Magallanes, with those five incredible guitarists, in the Musigrama studios and with all the musicians at my disposal…obviously there was no way I could refuse.
The title “Del Deseo”…is that taken from the final fandango cut?
Well, not exactly…it’s the “deseo”, the desire to continue in this, the dream of becoming someone. The fandangos have that title, but that’s not the allusion in the title of the recording. It’s my intention of moving forward no matter what.
Like you said, the line-up of guitarists is important, and the variety of styles as well.
Yes, Paco put some incredible guitarists at my disposal. Morao, imagine, who also gave me pointers about how to work each style…it was an honor. Antonio Carrión, who played on my previous record, Juan Carlos Romero whose playing is unusually sweet. José Losada, Antón Jiménez…with an especially well-developed style for festive flamenco. They play the cuts that best suit them, Paco Ortega had something to do with that, he distributed the assignments with good judgement.
In this respect I must say that being with Diego Magallanes and seeing him work out the arrangement has been a wonderful experience, some of the best moments. I can’t recall having learned so much musically, and had such a good time. About the songs I chose, the truth is I sent many to Paco Ortega. Just to give you an idea, I sent him all the styles of fandangos that exist and we made a selection. A similar system for siguiriyas…we just listened and analyzed for hours on end.
Mostly we were trying to recuperate things that are no longer done or which were in need of reworking. For example, the tangos of Piyayo are hardly heard any more, alboreas that don’t sound like a song…
I took things from my repertoire, things I prepare for my recitals, and we made a selection. I went for the most sentimental verses, ones I could identify with and get into…
How long did it all take?
About a year, coinciding with the first year of life of my son. We started to record when he was three months old, and there were all kinds of anecdotes in the studio, because I always brought my baby in his carriage…everyone was crazy about him.
How would you say your cante has evolved?
From the first record to the second, most of all, a different philosophy. This one is more mine, not quite as influenced by anyone telling me what to sing or do. The other record was made almost without thinking. I sent Antonio Carrión some cuts, more with the idea of it being a demo recording than anything else, but he encouraged me to make a record, and we really liked it, I hadn’t expected so much support.
Even so, I’ve now reworked the end result more, the objective wasn’t to present Montse Pérez in society so people would get to know me. There are different goals now.
“I’ve now reworked the end result more, the objective wasn’t to present Montse Pérez in society so people would get to know me”
Even so, before your first record you were already well-known.
Yes, well, there were many contests, and very successful, really. If I didn’t win, I would usually come in second, so I can’t complain. But it’s not a world I particularly care for. You can’t possibly sing in a natural way, impossible.
How do you mean?
You’re more worried about being perfect, about the judges, about how you come out that day than about singing at ease. In fact, they assign you the guitarists and you can’t even talk to them, not even to shout “ole!”, you can’t get up out of the chair. All those things are penalized. The world of cante competitions is good for studying and learning other cantes, meeting singers, but for singing the way you want to…no.
In Almería is that the only way to get experience?
Well, it’s one option. I learned from recordings and by going to contests. Listening to whatever I could of Chacón, Mairena… Now there are courses you can take, seminars, both the municipal and regional governments, in addition to the cultural associations (peñas) are doing a better job. And I can’t overlook my people, because at home there was always a lot of singing.
But besides your sister, is there anyone else who sings in your family?
Not professionally, but whenever there was a party at home, my family would be capable of going on for three or four hours singing all sorts of things. It’s a normal thing here. And they always had records of Luis de Córdoba on hand, of Camarón, Polaco, Poveda.
Well, you and your sister are both going at it strong.
Yes, I’m the oldest. The thing is, in the beginning I was more isolated in what I was doing. At home it didn’t go over that well that I was going in for flamenco singing, but with my sister we started going to peñas and such, and everything was easier. I remember my sister María José was very small, and she didn’t have that shy adolescent thing that I started to have at that age, sensing the responsibility with my people. My sister was much more forward. We started carving out our space, but without any pressure. That was because we didn’t depend only on our artistic vocation.
”The world of cante competitions is good for studying and learning other cantes, meeting singers, but for singing the way you want to…no”.
That’s right, I knew your sister studied something else…what about you?
Me too. I danced a lot as a child. Regional dance, ballet…and then agricultural technical engineering, for which I’m only missing a few credits. You have to know about everything, I believe that’s artistically enriching.
Will we be seeing you soon?
I hope to present this record as soon as possible, in Madrid, at the end of the month perhaps, although it hasn’t been confirmed yet.