I had gone into our interview skeptical. I already knew that I enjoyed Bigott as a musician. The Spanish songwriter takes cues from Americana, pop, disco, folk, and other genres to create charming, eclectic music that favors the song above all things. But as an interview subject? I wasn’t so sure. The interviews I had watched in preparation ran the gamut from caustic (“America is the land of retards“), to self-deprecating (“I wouldn’t classify myself as a singer songwriter. I’d classify myself as an idiot”) to dismissive (“next question“).
Personally, I was scrambling to fit our chat into the lunch hour of my overly busy Tuesday afternoon, and didn’t have the patience for an artist who might treat it like a joke. “Bigott doesn’t have a phone” the press contact had told me, giving me his girlfriend and bassist Clarin’s Skype contact instead. Reading this email amid a flurry of social media notifications and text messages from my boss, I felt a slight pang of envy. “Must be nice,” I thought. And my trepidation doubled.
But I needn’t have feared. Bigott, for all his quirks and idiosyncrancies, is good-humored and effusive, bringing a level of self-reflection and insight into his own creative process that would perhaps be better labeled his personal philosophy. I found myself smiling throughout the entirety of our interview, telling him that I would be musing on his words in the coming weeks.
Full interview below:
Why Bigott? Where does the name come from?
It’s because of my moustache. Back in ‘99, I used to go to a legendary bar called ‘El Fantasma de los Ojos Azules’ (The Blue-Eyed Ghost) where we hung out smoking joints, drinking, and listening to music. That’s when I started checking out new music I hadn’t heard before. I started asking people to recommend music to me, until one day the guy from the bar asked me to DJ there. He said: “how should we call you?”. And he ended up naming me: “Alright, from now on, you’re Bigott”. It started out as my DJ name and it stuck. Now everybody calls me Bigott
From where do you draw the inspiration to write your songs?
I think inspiration comes from being unblocked. If you’re unblocked, you can do what you need, what you want, however you want. And also, without any kind of expectation. For me, that’s the key: to not expect anything. Because that way, things happen more freely, like nobody’s going to hear it. You don’t have any pressure. It’s like you’re vomiting it. It’s also a little cathartic. That’s what works for me – it’s what makes my music what it is.
Something organic, one could say.
Totally. And completely depersonalized, even though you hear a song and you can say: “that’s Bigott”. When I talk about being depersonalized, I mean that one needs to get out of the way. The self, your own self, does not exist. When you’re creating something, if your self appears, then the mind starts working and doubts show up, possibilities show up, a whole lot of changes show up. Then, once you get rid of it, the ego, all that’s left is freedom. Getting to that creative process means you’re unblocked, which is way everything comes together spontaneously. There’s no judgement, it is what it is. Without any pretensions or worries about if people are going to like it or not. There’s no mind, no ego. It’s free.
I understand the concept in terms of songwriting but then, how do you discern between what finally ends up on the album or not? You speak of a space free of judgement but then ultimately you have to choose, no?
If you can get your mind of out that process, that’s it, you’ve got it. You don’t have to do anything. It’s like magic. Suddenly, all the parts come together, practically there’s no effort. The only effort is trying to keep your mind out of it, to keep your ego out of it, but it comes out naturally. When you’ve been doing it for years, it comes out naturally. It’s like it’s not me who’s doing it. I get it if it’s complicated to explain, because I’m not very good with words.`
No, I get it. I’m a musician as well and for me that’s always the case.
It’s pretty spontaneous and natural. Without trying to sound like anything, because then the mind comes in, and eight millions of possibilities arise: should I play this louder? Should I put delay on this? Should I do a double chorus? It’s crazy. The cleaner the process is, the purer. Then the song holds up on its own, with three or four basic elements. It’s cool. Since I started, I had the luck of being unblocked to do it.
And what did you do to unblock yourself?
There was a before and after in my life. Regarding my personality and how I presented myself to people, family and friends. I didn’t like that because I hadn’t had the chance to be the way I wanted to be. Then, I decided to kill myself, to kill that character, because that wasn’t who I really was. I was conditioned by all the stuff that was imposed to me and that I didn’t know how to process. I broke off from my former self, that’s how I set myself free. But it was tough to break free from all of that which you were made to do or that you made yourself do. To me, that was a key moment. That’s when I started being totally free, because I don’t feel pressured to be liked or to not be liked. I’m just myself.
Is there any activity that helps you become unblocked? I, for instance, ride my bike.
Whatever you do, make sure it’s happening in the moment. I mean, try to stay in the present. Anything you do will be effortless because you’ll be too busy doing it. Your mind won’t be up in the clouds. You’ll be here, in the present, in the right now. That’s a really cool exercise to get yourself unblocked because you’re leaving out stuff like ‘I have to go buy bread’, ‘I have to see my family’, ‘I have to call my boyfriend’. You’re not letting that stuff in. Then it’s simply what it is. Only the present exists.
Otherwise, your head is up in the clouds and lots of possibilities show up in your mind that prevent you from doing what you’re doing at the moment, which is riding your bike. It’s a constant exercise, it’s simply achieving and maintaining an amazing level of attention. And concentration. It doesn’t matter if you’re good or bad at playing guitar. You just have to be concentrated and in the now, in the present. That’s when the magic happens. It’s as if you disappeared, as if you weren’t doing it. But it’s happening.
A couple of years ago, you said in an interview that you didn’t listen to your songs after recording them. Has this changed in recent years?
Like you might know, after writing, producing, and mixing the songs you get tired of hearing yourself. Once the album is done, that’s that. I mean, we’re playing those songs all the time. I listen to the songs while we play them live. Sometimes, I’ll walk into a bar and people play my music as a sign of affection. To me, it’s the same. I’ve already listened to the songs, I’ve already written them. I don’t need to listen to them again, you know?
Then it’s not because you listen to it and you think ‘ugh, why didn’t I change that?’ or try to improve them?
The thing is, songs belong to a specific period of time in your life and everything is changing all the time. Then, we’d be changing an album every two months because we don’t like it. Songs simply stay the same, they’re part of something you did back then and now you’re doing something different. When it comes to playing live, you can adapt your old songs to your current syle. That I do. But listening to them… once I release them, they’re free. Just like me.
Browsing through your catalog, we can’t help notice that most of your songs are sung in English. Is there any reason behind that?
I think it’s because I’ve always listened to music in English. I just like how the words flow in English. If I liked Japanese, maybe I’d write in Japanese but it just doesn’t appeal to me. Or German. They sound harsh, English flows better with the music. Even if you can’t articulate it very well, it still sounds pretty cool. I don’t, I think it’s just because I like it. I don’t think there’s a reason behind it. I just like it.
Have you received criticism by Spanish-speaking audiences?
I don’t know, I don’t read reviews or any of that, never. Anyhow, I don’t even have a phone at my place. I don’t watch the news, I don’t read newspapers, none of that. I think it’s… everything is so absurd.
Because we’ve reached a time when people don’t feel anything anymore. It’s mental. And they’re tearing everything apart. There’s no stopping it. So, I don’t feel like I take part in that world. I live in it, but I don’t participate in it. I’ve got my own world. It’s amazing, it’s open, and it’s full of love without any kind of borders.
You’ve been compared to a lot of artists, from Bonnie “Prince” Billy to Johnny Cash and Tom Waits. What’s your opinion about it?
I don’t have an opinion. I listen to a lot of music, from jazz to calypso and pop. I don’t have anything to say about those comparisons. I think I sound like Bigott, and the influences are clearly there because I’ve been listening to music my whole life. Then, they appear and disappear subconsciously but I don’t know, I’ve always sounded like me. People tend to project their own taste. If they listen to Johnny Cash and they hear something similar, they’ll say “hey, this sounds like Johnny Cash” but it’s mostly because they feel secure by doing that, projecting their own taste on the music they’re listening to.
There are very few people that listen to music without any kind of judgement, simply for the sake of listening. Very few people. Most people listen to music thinking it reminds them of this or that, but they’re missing out on the pureness of listening without judgement. Just for the sake of enjoying music. Everyone is projecting their own stuff on somebody else. Because they’re personalized, because they’re inside their minds. If they just felt, that wouldn’t be necessary.
Out of curiosity, have you ever listened to Bill Callahan / Smog?
Yes, those were the first albums that I listened to back in the ‘90s, at the bar where we used to hang out. Smog, Sparklehorse, Daniel Johnston – I was mind-blown by all those artists. I was like “Man, I’ve never heard this before. This is simple and awesome at the same time. I feel this very near to me, it speaks to me. I dig it.” And that’s when I started doing my thing. I was completely fascinated. That woke up all the music that I had inside me. It’s inevitable, when someone does something truly authentic and it gets to you, you just soak it in. I don’t listen to that type of music anymore, but I’ve been nourished by it.
What have you been listening to lately?
Now I only listen to Ennio Morricone, mostly his ‘70s stuff. Mondo Morricone and all those semi-erotic films with highly curated soundtracks. And then I’ve been obsessed with this guy called R. Stevie Moore. He released more than 400 albums, he’s been recording since the ‘50s. It’s wild. And all of his stuff is super lo-fi, recorded in his house, just doing everything himself and with incredible quality. But yeah, I listen to all kinds of things.
Are there any argentine artists or bands that were influential to his music?
Well, yes, there must have been a couple. It’s just that most of the bands I listen to, I don’t even know where they’re from. I hit shuffle and they appear and disappear, I don’t know. I don’t have that type of storage in my memory. To me, it’s just music.
How would you describe your live shows to someone who’s never seen you play?
I’m really bad at describing things. I’m good at doing it, but professionals should be in charge of describing what I do. Practically, all my music is spontaneous. The whole show is. Everything comes together there. It’s our 12th album, so we play stuff from 15 years ago and our latest songs. It’s like a summary of everything we’ve done. I’d say there’s good vibes at our shows. If I had to say something, I’d go with ‘good vibes’. But hey, I leave that to you guys. You are the professionals, I have no idea.
What are your expectations for the show with Hiroshima Dandys and Gente Conversando?
None whatsoever, I never expect anything. That just makes me not live the present. This moment that I’m having with you is wonderful, unique, it won’t happen again. It’s everything. Everything is right here. I don’t have any expectations, I just go with the flow and talk to you. I never have any expectations or expect anything from anyone. If I did, I’d just be a slave to myself.
Bigott will be performing next Friday, June 7th at Xirgu Untref, along with Hiroshima Dandys and Gente Conversando. Tickets are available at the theatre, or at Plateanet.