GUSTAVO FARIAS, 2016 LATIN GRAMMY’s WINNER, REMEMBERS HIS BELOVED FRIEND JUAN GABRIEL

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GUSTAVO FARIAS, 2016 LATIN GRAMMY’s WINNER, REMEMBERS HIS BELOVED FRIEND JUAN GABRIEL

"I miss my friend", says Gustavo remembering the Latin music idol Juan Gabriel.

GUSTAVO FARIAS, 2016 LATIN GRAMMY’s WINNER, REMEMBERS HIS BELOVED FRIEND JUAN GABRIEL

"Juan Gabriel was so happy with this duets concept because he had so much fun working on them, he had a great time sharing with the artists, particularly the ones that were not in his “radar”; it opened his world: Natalia Lafourcade, Andrés Calamaro, Julión, J. Baldwin, Wisin… He told me: “After The Duets album, number three and four, I want to make five, six and seven"...

GUSTAVO FARIAS, 2016 LATIN GRAMMY’s WINNER, REMEMBERS HIS BELOVED FRIEND JUAN GABRIEL

The "tree house" the couple built for their three kids who grew up to be musicians as well.

GUSTAVO FARIAS, 2016 LATIN GRAMMY’s WINNER, REMEMBERS HIS BELOVED FRIEND JUAN GABRIEL

The lovely little place at the garden where Gustavo enjoys one of his many hobbies, painting.

GUSTAVO FARIAS, 2016 LATIN GRAMMY’s WINNER, REMEMBERS HIS BELOVED FRIEND JUAN GABRIEL

The studio of "el maestro" is not dark and enclosed like most music studios I have been to. It has many windows and it is full of light. “I solved the acoustic problems by installing those flags on the ceiling” points the expert in the matter. He did not resign himself to spend most of his life locked without seeing daylight.

GUSTAVO FARIAS, 2016 LATIN GRAMMY’s WINNER, REMEMBERS HIS BELOVED FRIEND JUAN GABRIEL

Gustavo comes from a family of nine siblings; Blanca, five.". If you have the fortune to know how to create an unconditional loving environment around your life, you are capable to do anything. Other have not been as lucky as us, to have been blessed with big families, to have shared so many experiences with people you love and who love you unconditionally, true?'

GUSTAVO FARIAS, 2016 LATIN GRAMMY’s WINNER, REMEMBERS HIS BELOVED FRIEND JUAN GABRIEL

"Never in the history of Mexico was it ever seen that one million people will voluntarily come to one place, other than the Pope’s visit or Our Lady of Guadalupe’s day, to say good-bye to an artist", Gustavo remembers with nostalgia while thinking of his lost friend... Thank you, Gustavo and Blanca, for inviting us into your home. Please come back to see us and let us know abour your new projects, you know, mi casa, su casa...

We wouldn’t let the year end without recalling a great loss: the Latin music idol JUAN GABRIEL, el Divo de Juarez. We talked to his producer, non other than the winner of Album of The Year at the Latin Grammy`s, the amazing Gustavo Farias. This award was granted in recognition to the great work Gustavo did along with his dear friend Juan Gabriel who will remain indelible forever in our memories thanks to his compositions,.

I have to disclose that this editorial was the idea of my dear friend Astrid Boneta. She called me one day and said, “Listen I’m here with Blanca, Gustavo Farias’ wife and you should interview him for Blog De Los Angeles”. Obviously I happily agreed. I see talent and I “jump” at the opportunity. Thank you Astrid!

Blanca Rangel is so charming… She’s all peace and happiness from the moment you see her. She immediately invited and let me into her lovely home. It’s not one of those fabulous mansions that you find in Los Angeles when you enter and it feels ‘dead.” Right away you feel the warmth when you come inside, a family lives here. On top of that, the backyard is a true work of art, you can tell Blanca takes care of it with great detail. And finally, I get to meet Gustavo Farias.

After walking the grounds with Gustavo and Blanca we stop at the studio. It looks like a picturesque guesthouse at the end of the backyard. The studio of “el maestro” is not dark and enclosed like most studios I have been to. It has many windows and it is full of light. “I solved the acoustic problems by installing those flags on the ceiling” points the expert in the matter. He did not resign himself to spend most of his life locked without seeing daylight. And just like that, like good old friends because that’s how they made me feel, this conversation was born. I learned a lot from it and I hope that you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thank you Gustavo, thank you Blanca, thank you Astrid!… Here it is, with much love, this exclusive feature for our family here at Blog de Los Angeles.

– Gustavo…I can only imagine the very tough moments you went through since you recently lost your dear friend Juan Gabriel, four months ago now. How do you feel?

– Well… It was very hard when he left, now I feel a little better. It was a bad shock, I never expected it. I exchanged e-mails with him up to one hour before he passed away, just imagine… I spent that last week with him, we recorded something for “Los Dúo 3” at his house, Wednesday we shot a video with Patty Austin, Friday I saw him at his last performance at The Forum… I was in the front row, he was looking at me… A common friend came to say hi to me and when I looked up, Juan Gabriel was giving me a look like saying “Shut up, man, I’m singing”… -he remembers, laughing hard-. He was always joking, he always had that peculiarity.

– What do you miss most about him?

-I miss my friend. The way he looked at life… He was always very composed and funny. I miss his sense of humor, which was extraordinary. But more than anything, his good advises.

– Which would you say is the best advice that he gave you?

– The best advice that el Señor Alberto” gave me was…- he thinks for a few seconds and continues-: Discretion, the need to be discreet. Not to talk, but always to listen. In all the network meetings we had he used to say “Don’t talk, just listen”… That is without doubt an excellent advice. Life taught him to be discreet.

– Tell us a story about him that makes you laugh…

– During this last concert here in L.A., a couple days before he died, there was a girl who was a little drunk who apparently made a small topless “show” for a few seconds right there on the first row; somehow I did not see her, but many other people did. Later that night, when I got home I sent him an e-mail to tell him that the concert had been specially good and he answered back, “Yes, yes but… Did you see the girl with the tits?” I told him “Heck, I missed It!”, and he answered back “ I’m always telling you, you never pay attention! Do you?” It was a very funny moment that made me laugh.– Gustavo thinks it over and explains-. Don’t think I am one of those people who tell the artist “everything is nice”. I also said it if I disapproved, I was always very straightforward with him and I believe that was the pillar of our friendship. If he did things I considered were good, I would tell him and likewise, when he did things that I didn’t like. Famous people sometimes get surrounded by individuals that only tell them what they want to hear, you look great, you sing awesome, you sound very good… I was extremely brutal in that way with him, polite but sincere.

– The concept of the duets has achieved a terrific success.. Where did this idea come from?

– Universal came up with the idea. When “el Sr. Alberto” Juan Gabriel- called me to work one more time with him, he was coming from a series of bad experiences, problems, tax difficulties… The last records with Universal had very bad sales… So when he called me he said, “Gustavo, I want you to produce me because when we work as a team, it always turns out great.” He told me that we were doing a duets album. My contribution to the concept was to make records that incremented his demographic. This is what I said: “Anyone can make records for the audience you already have… If that’s the case, don’t waste your money on me. But if we can also make 15 year olds, who don’t know who Juan Gabriel is, buy your records, that is where I come in and I can commit to this project.” Universal gave us a list of artists that was targeted only to the same audience he always had. So I started to make my own list, and he told me to move forward, that he trusted me completely. Right when we started recording, a new project came up in Mexico City, a performance at El Teatro de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) and he asked me to produce it. I obviously happily accepted. We put on hold the Duets production and I told him that we were going to do “Bellas Artes” like no one had done it before: filmed in 4K, with the most advanced technique available in the market. We recorded one hundred and eighty nine audio tracks simultaneously, breaking records, and we recorded it on surround. For the DVD, I asked him to make comments for each song, like a documentary: “I made this song for Lucha Villa, because of this, and this and that, etc.” Since Juan Gabriel  has a huge audience here in the United States, we wrote English subtitles, his lyrics are so good, they HAD to be understood… By the way, my wife Blanquita was in charge of the subtitles, she is a professional translator. I had told the artist from the very beginning, “Señor Alberto, you just trust me completely and back me up.We went from selling thirty or forty thousand records to selling six hundred thousand with this one. A huge success indeed…

How many of the famous duets albums have you two both produced together?

– Three, actually four… Two of them are already in the market, both are the two best sellers albums in the last ten years, number one and number two. Juan Gabriel was so happy with this duets concept because he had so much fun working on them, he had a great time sharing with the artists, particularly the ones that were not in his “radar”; it opened his world: Natalia Lafourcade, Andrés Calamaro, Julión, J. Baldwin, Wisin… He told me: “After The Duets album, number three and four, I want to make five, six and seven…” My advice to him was not to record more than three, otherwise it would start looking like a joke… “Why not start singing with international artists instead in different languages, to make yourself known to the rest of the world and continue to grow your radar?” And we did it and we continued recording… So the third and fourth duets are yet to come out but this last one is going to be named different. I know for a fact that he didn’t like number four and I want to respect that.

When someone this famous dies, people start gossiping, secrets come to light. Of everything that has been said after his departure… is there something you want to make clear in regard to his life and career?

-I only talk about what I know about, the truth, and always in the best faith. Juan Gabriel’s sons are very dear to me, I’ve known them for most of their lives, I feel about them like as they were my nephews. I always want the best for them. My friend is no longer here. He trusted me and shared with me that most personal part of his life. And, yes, I’m going to tell you something that bothers me regarding all of this: people that were not in his life, that all of a sudden come up and want to take charge, and talk about his things, saying that they were best friends when they hardly knew him… It seems to me that some people are cowards and hypocrites because he’s not here anymore to defend himself, to prove them wrong… But I am here along with others that were also his friends. So without mentioning names there are some who come out in the news, newspapers… People that in my twenty seven years or friendship with Juan Gabriel I never heard about, I never saw them…. To those people, everyone knows who they are, I tell you, don’t be such cowards and don’t try to play a role that is not yours… Don’t assume that because at one moment in his life he might have trusted you for an instant in time, you are now trying to make money at his expense, to get your ten minutes of fame using his name…

– How would you like Juan Gabriel to be remembered?

– As who he is: a tremendous composer and a great artist, the greatest of them all. As a fact, I think everyone remembers him that way. Never in the history of Mexico was it ever seen that one million people will voluntarily come to one place, other than the Pope’s visit or Our Lady of Guadalupe’s day, to say good-bye to an artist. And they couldn’t even see him for the last time, the body was not there… People did not go to see him, they went to pay homage and show their love in front of a small box with ashes… I was there all day, the two days, all night… I saw people crying for him, singing to him, an ocean of people… On Monday, when Blanca and I came out of  Bellas Artes, at one thirty AM, I told her, “Blanquita, lets take a walk.” It was raining and the line of people still waiting to come in, went around the Alameda (park) twice. That’s when I was most touched , when I realized even more who my friend really was. I was so very close to him that even though I went to his concerts, this other aspect of his fame was not what interested me, not what I was involved in. Our thing was to go in the studio to work for hours, and in there, there was no patronizing, there was nothing, only him and I, sharing the art, the creativity… the jokes! I made fun of him and he made fun of me… There was a good vibe, we made very good music together and people responded immediately. We were a great team. He was a very clever and I always gave my best when producing for him.

Which has been the greatest joy that Juan Gabriel brought to your life?

– Several… He always treated me well. The first time I met him when I was young, he listened to some of my arrangements and he loved my work. The first joy was the opportunity he gave me to produce “Gracias Por Esperar” which sold millions and millions of records… He followed my advice to record rhythms that nobody had recorded in Spanish before. I studied music in Boston but I also had a more European influence, I specially loved British music, and I brought that influence to his projects and the outcome was magnificent. The second great gift he gave me, was great advice for my sons. All his advices were worth gold. He was someone who lived a lot, he went through a lot of scarcity in his life and yet he got to the top, he was humiliated many times…. Used to the upheavals of life, he was an extremely wise person, well read, who had a profoundly curious personality. We had that in common: when we were interested in a certain topic, we both searched into it and had conversations about it and gave each other feed-backs whether it was about politics, religion, anything…!. And the third joy that I remember right now was at the Billboard Awards, when he went upstage to pick up the four awards that we won. He said from the stage: “I dedicate these awards to Gustavo Farías, my producer, he is the one who deserves them.” I was not expecting this type of acknowledgment and obviously I was thrilled.

Lets talk about you life… How did you get involved with music?

– Both of my parents worked at the first Latin American radio station in Mexico City, the XEW. My father was a radio personality and my mother was the secretary of the general manager of the station. Everyone walked through that station Agustín Lara, Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante… And that’s how all the most prominent music celebrities of that generation hanged around my house… Since I was a kid I remember Agustín Lara in the living room playing the piano and singing. Pedro Vargas sang in our wedding, those were my dad’s friends. Soon I learned how to play several instruments, although one of my brothers was the true inspiration to dedicate myself to this. We are nine brothers and sisters and he (my brother) is a music genius, great composer, he has worked a lot, for TV.

– What a delight it is to have a big family, right?

– Yes, of course. It was also great for my musical influences. I went from children’s music to music for grown-ups, from Cri-Cri (children’s Mexican composer) to The Beatles, because it was the music my older brothers and sisters were listening at that time. This was a wonderful gift from life, that huge difference in generations at home, exposed me to all kinds of music.

– You studied at Berklee, supposedly the best school of music in the world.

– Yes, at seventeen years old I went to Boston, I studied music at Berklee College of Music and at twenty I graduated with honors as an arranger and producer. Then I moved to L.A. and I did a master’s degree in Conducting and Film Scoring

– Which was your first job?

–  My first job here was with a producer that was doing T.V. and radio commercials for the Hispanic community. It was a big school for me because we had to aim all kinds of Hispanic cultures: salsa, ranchero, cumbia, norteño, bachata and with the pressure of a deadline… Each musician that I worked with was dedicated to a different musical genre, so they were my teachers. I used to ask them everytime “Lets see, how do you apply this rhythm here?” I did that for twenty years and I have a very good knowledge of what all musical genres are about. I listen to something and immediately I do “reverse engineering”: any melody that I listen to, I dissect it, the type of music that is playing, what instrument, which is the next note that’s coming… In advertising, people don’t want to invest money in something that is not going to work so the minute I was done with a melody, they played it to a focus group. There is where I knew exactly which were the tones that people picked up, what type of melodies they liked best, what rhythms, in what moments, etc. I have an encyclopedia of all that information that I learned through the years during my productions. If you look at my career you’ll see that I don’t do a lot of records. I worked with Juan Gabriel because I knew he was going to let me apply all this knowledge. Thank God, the records that I have produced along my life have sold very, very well… Because I have all that “advertising school”, before I start producing, before I enter the studio, I know what is going to be a hit and what not. Certainly, this creates enemies among purists in the industry… But more than once, I have proved them wrong. Others that don’t sell tell me “explain me what is the point of making a record for Juan Gabriel.” After all his sales multiplied by hundreds of thousands, explain me why if it’s the same artist, nearly the same songs… With the same ingredients, the difference is the new chef. Some chefs sell, others not. Why do I sell? Because of the big school of experience I have … There’s a mathematic behind success, it’s not sitting down inspired and saying “oh! this is going to be such a hit…”, no. There are songs that require orchestration, sound, presentation, EVERYTHING. You’re looking at a product, period. A product that is very close to our emotions, yes, but at the end it is just another product to sell.

 – Have you said NO to many projects?

– I created the first corporate music for Univision. As a result of all this career of commercials and television, I have the possibility to live comfortably. That gives me the ease of mind to choose projects and I only get involved in what I believe and in what could have a big commercial outcome, otherwise I don’t get involved. I have declined big record projects because I’ve said “There is no way this is going to work.

– What is your favorite music?

British pop, Coldplay, Adele… I also listen to a lot of jazz and film scores.

– Just as your brothers showed you a whole different musical panorama,  your three sons have obliged you without a doubt to be updated in the new trends… Right?

Of course, in fact the three of them have a lot of talent and they are part of my production team. They have a Metal band and tour all around the world. They bring me that kind of music, very interesting, very complex, a social phenomenon that a lot of people don’t understand, like it happened at the time with The Beatles. They are also involved in the R&B, Hip-Hop, Rap production world, which many of my generation don’t understand. Instead, I love it and I perfectly absorb it. On top of the school I gave them at home, they have their own, and I know they’re going to be very successful. 

– Talk to me about this lady, your wife Blanca, half the world talks wonders about her.

We met in high school, we’ve been married for thirty two years, always, before any thing else, we have always had great affection for each other.

What was that special thing about her that conquered your heart when you met?

Everything. More than anything, she is a good person with very clear values. Blanca is the one who toes the line when I get lost in this business because believe me, there are moments when you get lost. She is the eldest of five children, so she has that kind of strong personality, that energy… And with our three sons and I, she’s the princess of the house.

– What do you think is the secret for a couple to last so many years together?

To share moments of silence… I believe that’s the most important. – Blanca points out from the other side of the table, to be understanding-. To be prudent… I believe that carelessness among couples when they talk to each other is the number one cause of divorces… If you’re angry, jealous, stay quiet until you’re not angry any more! Then you can talk. I don’t know… Chemistry, love! Keep the physical contact, hold hands, kiss, be present in each other’s lives, that the other person feels that you’re there, at least with a hug, holding hands… And of course, communication, knowing how to express yourself… Blanca is very good at that.

Blanca, what is it that you like most about Gustavo?

I love his sense of humor and his music fascinates me… In fact, I fell in love with him through his music, for his talent, he always came to me with a new song: “Look what I composed for you”. So then his music is my weakness with him. It’s hard to get mad at Gustavo because you’re always laughing. He is intelligent, he’s loving… I believe we complement each other very well.

– Would you get married again in spite of all the ifs and buts?

– Yes… – She answers immediately, without a second thought.

– Actually we got married again – Gustavo comments. – In our silver wedding anniversary, a priest came and we renewed our vows, me made a super party. And now were thinking of doing it again for our fortieth anniversary.

– And one last question… What is your greatest inspiration when you wake up every day?

– My family, without doubt. My wife, my sons… When I’m like “I can’t take this crap any more,” ha, ha…I think about them and I keep going… Also my mother, my brothers and sisters… In that sense, I’m very lucky. If you have the fortune to know how to create an unconditional loving environment around your life, you are capable to do anything. Other have not been as lucky as us, to have been blessed with big families, to have shared so many experiences with people you love and who love you unconditionally, true? Sometimes you feel you have the need to rescue them. They seem to see everything so grey, with only one dimension, they get so involved in the world’s big problems, they make so much drama about everything… In life, we all have to be positive. I feel so grateful for my life.

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Interview/Photos: Nunu para NUNUPICTURES

Translated by Blanca Rangel


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