The Muse Behind The Ooz: Seven Hours With Ignacio CZ Salvadores

The year was 2008, and Ignacio CZ Salvadores was headed to New York City.

While he would eventually become synonymous with his mastery of the Saxophone – this wasn’t always the case: “I really wanted to be a Jazz musician with a guitar, and I still don’t know quite how I changed my mind.”

Flying in from Milan to visit a friend, a thought from his childhood nagged in the back of his mind; an insight from a teacher from years before. 

“The teacher told me that if I play the Guitar, I could be good – but there are a lot of guitar players, and if I played something else, that I could be more unique. He basically said, that if I were to play an instrument that was far less common, that I would be far more requested, and that I’d have more jobs, and I’d be busier, and so I kept that in my mind.”

Ignacio’s reasoning for eventually becoming a Saxophonist still isn’t particularly defined, but following a growing unrest with the instrument that he had devoted most of his teenage years to, he had become tired: “I thought – yeah, why not?”

Unlike other similar musical prodigies, Ignacio didn’t have an early start when it came to the Sax: “Normally, good musicians, they start playing when they were like… 7 years old, and by the time they are 12, they are already good. I was 18 years old, and – (laughs) – I’m trying to learn an instrument that I don’t even know how to… how to place my hands around.”

He recalls trips to Central Park, during the early stages of his time with the instrument: “I was in the Park, just trying to make a sound with the instrument and I was like, fucking hell, how am I going to get to a point where I will become good at this?”

Luckily for Ignacio, it didn’t take very long for him to become accustomed to it, and around six months later he was playing in a band: “I wasn’t good, either, I’m not going to lie, but that is how I started out. As my teacher had said, eventually pretty much everyone wanted me to play with my baritone Sax.”

In 2014, Ignacio played with legendary UK dub producer Mad Professor, an opportunity that had arisen through a mutual acquaintance. Over the following number of years, Ignacio kept himself busy, improving his craft, all whilst juggling multiple responsibilities: “There were times before I came to London, that I would play three or four concerts a night, over several different projects. I also went on a tour with my friend Marina for six months in Europe. I played with many bands – I played with Flamingods, and with Unknown Mortal Orchestra, which was a great show.” By this point, Ignacio had himself quite the musical repertoire, of over 80 songs learned through memory: “I didn’t read music. I had all of these songs just stored in my head… which would sometimes get quite overwhelming.”

Ignacio also branched out into film score composing – scoring multiple works over the years, including the soundtrack for multiple projects led by fellow Argentine, Actor and Director Martin Piroyansky.

In between all of this, he was (and still is) part of a Spanish-language band Hermanos McKenzie, along with his sister Cecilla, with one instrumental track of theirs in particular being inspired by a personal, reoccurring predicament.

Otra Bufanda Extraviada’, (Another Lost Scarf) from the group’s 2012 release ‘Rarezas Y Lados B’ (Oddities & B-Sides), was partly created thanks to an incredibly specific problem of his – in that he simply can’t manage to hold onto his scarves: “I honestly don’t quite understand how it works. I’ve lost like 4 or 5 scarves over the years. Does it mean anything? I don’t know, but it is quite odd.”

He takes another sip of his beer, as we discuss life, death, religion and Sax over a pint  – basking under the neon glow of the Verge, an inoffensive, cookie-cutter bar in Shoreditch, South London. In the lead-up to our interview, Ignacio had informed me that a band that he was excited to see live, called Good Sad Happy Bad – was playing at a venue called The Brixton Windmill later that evening, and he had invited me along. The doors opened at 8pm. It was half 6.

Ignacio, despite all of his achievements, appeared cool and collected, attracting an almost other-worldly vibe, unaffected by circumstance or ego. 

If there is one thing that Ignacio is afraid of, it is repetition – a fear that occasionally bleeds into his sleep: “I had a dream once. I was walking along a road, and at the end of the road was a cross-roads. At every branch in the road, the same house. It doesn’t sound that scary, but to me that repetition, that same-ness, is very disconcerting.” 

000009750022-e1550667285973.jpg

Trading our own experiences with frustration, repetition and isolation over the table, I presented my own take of what London had meant to me personally, and considered the alternative, the terrifyingly cyclical life offered by my hometown back in Wales: “I felt exactly the same way leaving Argentina, the frustration. I mean, it obviously isn’t the same, but the scale, the feelings – with wanting to escape, I understand.”

Moving his story further into the present, Ignacio fixes on a moment – his first day in the UK, the 23rd of June 2016, which he excitedly states was – “the day of the Brexit result!” – as an important chapter in his life. 

Arriving in the UK, Ignacio was entirely alone, something that would eventually drive him (and his Saxophone) to the Hackney Marshes, at an undisclosed date that he would rather not share. He deals in mystery,  and is deliberately evasive at times. There isn’t a great deal online about Ignacio, despite making numerous headlines in his home country, which is exactly how he prefers it: “I enjoy mystery. Not always knowing everything can create excitement. Some things are too personal to talk about in the light.”

In that particular moment in his life however, Ignacio had become frustrated.

Following an argument with his flatmate, he cycled over to the Marshes of East London, Saxophone on his back, in order to clear his head: “I was in London, and I was a little bit lost in what to do, in what to do with my time, and having to find a job. I knew that I just wanted to play music, so one day I went with my bike, had the Saxophone on my back, and cycled to somewhere remote – somewhere that I could be alone.”

By chance, Ignacio came across a bridge, as suitably remote as he was hoping for, and started playing. Immediately, he noticed that the bridge – a prime location for his solitary practice, carried with it a distinct reverb that transformed his Sax’s sound into something more: “That bridge, it just made it sound so good man, so good. There was a certain echo that was just amazing for playing Saxophone in.”

That same day, Ignacio met two people that he considers “really important”- the first being a seventy-seven year old Saxophonist named Simon, and a middle aged Londoner named Arthur, who – by some circumstance – were both musicians, and who were pivotal in helping Ignacio find his feet within London.

During Ignacio’s noteworthy first visit to the Marshes of East London, he also found the time to record himself playing, in an attempt to capture the sound of the bridge. The next day, Ignacio decided to use Facebook to send his video to a musician of whose music he had enjoyed for some time. A minor stab in the dark, not necessarily hoping for much, Ignacio attached his video from his time practicing in the Marshes, and hit send. 

A week later, the Artist – London’s King Krule (real name: Archy Marshall) replied.

“A week later, I get a reply from Archy, telling me that it was beautiful – as I had sent him my Bandcamp stuff too – and he told me that he was looking for a Sax player.”

Informing him that he was in the process of producing an album, and that he had hit a creative roadblock in doing so, he invited the then 27-year-old musician to an event that he would be playing at.

“I said shit, man, I was so overwhelmed. He had invited me to a concert that he was playing at, the following day. So I went to this concert. It was Jamie, Jamie Isaac, so we were in that concert, and afterwards, we started jamming together.”

Like clockwork, the pair took to working on music together, a process that was both equal parts haphazard as it was focused, with many of the extended Saxophone solos scattered across the final product spawned following many a similar session, improvised there and then, and at times unbeknownst to even Ignacio himself: “Archy has a thing, that he might take a thing that I make and then he’ll put it in a song without me even knowing…”

On working with Marshall, Ignacio described it as a natural pairing: “He plays through me, that is his process.” The pair quickly became friends, as is par for the course for Marshall, who has himself previously stated that he has to “live in” with someone in order to work with them.

Ignacio and Marshall’s burgeoning relationship was no different. They lived together whilst producing what would eventually become 2017’s The OOZ, feeding off of each other’s talents, which combined, led to some of the album’s best tracks, including lead singles ‘Czech One’ and ‘Dum Surfer’. 

Despite an enormous amount of praise, and an equally impressive assortment of A-List fans – from Kanye West, (who he turned down) to Beyonce (which he is skeptical of) to Tyler, the Creator, Marshall has mostly kept it small-scale, preferring to collaborate with local, independent artists, such as London’s own MC Pinty & Jadasea – both of whom have been with Marshall from the very beginning, from his early days under his pseudonym of ‘Edgar the Beatmaker’. (He has several.)

Having been cited multiple times for being the human catalyst behind Marshall’s journey of musical self-discovery, I found it interesting to note that the man behind said catalyst has personally fallen out with the medium – or at least, for the time being. 

000009750017-1-e1550667230786.jpg

As previously divulged in an interview given to Spin Magazine in October 2017, Marshall is especially vocal about Ignacio’s influence on The OOZ, and of his ability in helping him out of his creative mirage: “He was a breath of fresh air, because we could sit down and I could just play guitar for hours and he could make it sound really good. We listened to whole records together, in silence. It was good to meet someone like that, who could bring that side out of me again—the more organic approach to music rather than what I was doing on the computer and trying to record shit like that. My relationship with him really opened it up. Most of the arrangements, some of them are written by me, but a lot of them are improvised by him.”

The 30-year-old Saxophonist is less enthused, without any one specific reason to draw upon: “I’m simply tired of music at the moment. I’m in a period of not trying to listen to music at all, for months. I’m only slowly coming back to music these past couple of weeks, actually. I find that you can’t spend all your life in the same place, in the same spirit, and so I’m just excited to go to a concert and see new things again. I’m also going back to records that I liked when I was younger, listening with my improved understanding. I also would like to be shown new music, I’m always interested in new things.”

Ignacio’s elusive aura was inevitably noticed by Marshall, which in the recently released video for OOZ-standout – ‘Cadet Limbo’ – directed by Photographer Charlotte Patmore, (also Marshall’s long-time girlfriend) is made literal, as he vanishes in and out of frame at random, making the occasional inexplicable gesture, before vanishing once again.

Talking about the video to WePresent in October 2018, Marshall notes that: “Gal Go (Ignacio) came along in real life and influenced me to write more and more. So, the concept of the video became that he’s this important figure that I couldn’t quite get my hands on. Him behind me playing sax and then disappearing.”

Focusing on the future of the talented pair’s music together, a smile crept onto Ignacio’s face, second-guessing what I was about to ask next: “I do know the name of it – (laughs) – I can’t tell you what it is, though” – also confirming an involvement (to some degree) in Marshall’s upcoming (and as of yet untitled) third album, speculated to release at some point in 2019. He again reaffirmed Marshall’s known free-form approach, noting how virtually next to nothing was set in stone: “I mean, I might even be kicked off the fucking album – (laughs) – I don’t know yet.”

Ignacio told me that he tries to stay as active as he can. Over on Soundcloud, he still runs a personal project called ‘Gal Go’, featuring Ignacio’s multi-instrumentation (and vocal talent) on full show. “A friend gave me that name once – ‘Gal Go’ –  it means ‘greyhound’ as I am fast… and skinny.” Ignacio is a lot of things, but he isn’t lazy: “I cycle, I write, I make music, you know? All things to distract from… those, how do you say it… anxious thoughts.”

That isn’t to say that he seems particularly stressed about avoiding loneliness or anxiety. If anything, he has already confronted both.

The first time that I left London, I experienced a revelation” he tells me. 

Hours away from leaving the city that he had spent a great deal of time learning, living, and playing within, Ignacio thought it best that he paid a tribute to the Marshes that had given him so much. Taking his bike along an unknown path in the early hours of the morning, before dismounting and taking a walk, it wasn’t long before he had gotten badly off track. Retracing his steps, he quickly found that his bike had vanished into the morning mist. Confused, Ignacio was out of options.

“I was terrified… my hands were turning white… I was completely lost.”

He quickly realised that he would have to overcome his fears, find his bike – and get out of the Marshes as fast as he could, pedalling through the London fog, traditionally as thick as pea soup: “I was always afraid of the cold. In that moment, if I were anxious… then… who knows? I took what I had learned there, in not being afraid to leave my comfort zone, and applied it towards my life. I think that all people are like that. Cold, lonely. It is dealing with that, accepting it, and living within it… within that cold, that most people have a problem with.”

Ignacio recounts that experience positively: “In that moment, I became friends with the Winter. You have to make friends, as many friends as you can. In a much deeper way, you have to treat most things with the same amount of respect given to people and moments. That was my final gift from the Marshes.”

On the bus over, I explained how I had felt as if Ignacio’s string of good luck seemed almost guided by an exterior force – with all of the coincidences, circumstances, and moving parts required for the events in his recent history to occur. This is something that Ignacio has himself come to realise: “I take the random decision to go with my bike, along some random path, and I reach this place that sounds amazing with my Saxophone… I meet Simon, I meet Arthur.. and all on the same day I make this fucking video, that day was like a… like a portal, and I shifted my reality.”

Ignacio doesn’t believe in Karma, and identifies as Agnostic, but he is spiritual, that much is obvious, as seemingly every other sentence spoken by the 30 year old Argentine ring almost as haiku on the ears, which he swears is wholly unintentional. I called the traditional ‘wanderer’ trope to mind – that of a mysterious stranger, who rolls into town, raises hell, and then leaves, which he laughed off: “No, no – (laughs) – I’m not like that at all. I just say, you know – I just do.”

I had wondered throughout the night whether or not the musician’s current Saxophone had remained with him since the start of his decade-long love affair with the instrument. As our bus slows to a halt, Ignacio explains that he has had his current (baritone) Saxophone for approximately 5 years, having his previous pair stolen. Arriving at the Windmill just after 8pm, the focus of our conversation again shifted toward Ignacio’s appreciation of the venue’s central draw.

The band, formerly known as Micachu and The Shapesis led by Surrey’s Mica Levi. Following a branch out into film composing in 2014, Mica is also highly acclaimed. In 2016, she scored Pablo Larrain’s Jackie, earning her an Academy Award nomination for best original music. A happy accident – especially as I had much enjoyed Jackie (and its haunting soundtrack) some months before.

While Ignacio had been listening to M&TS for a while, this was the first time that he was ever going to see them live. “One of the things that attracted me to London was the music here, with M&TS’s music being one of those attractions. I know the drummer, he plays with Mount Kimbie. I also know the keyboard player. I met her once, but I’ve never heard them live.”

The first support act of the night was the newest member of Good Sad Happy Bad, Chris Caldenwell, a talented Saxophonist, who employed use of his loop pedal to create a series of OOZ-esque soundscapes.

We both particularly enjoyed Caldwell’s final track, which featured a reversed drum sample, knocking back violently against a slithering Sax solo. In-between sets, I flitted between the smoking area and the bathroom. In the Mens, the phrase – “fuck the Tories” – decorated the urinal in permanent marker. Elsewhere, a disembodied voice bemoaned the fact that it couldn’t look at itself in the mirror, due to the fact that each one was absolutely plastered in stickers, adverts and posters.

Talking briefly to the various patrons of the bar, it had seemed as if the entirety of the crowd present was something or another, a band-member, an artist – everyone was a someone. Of the crowd present, I spoke to two members (Jonny & Sarah) from Hampshire rock outfit Drug Store Romeos, and Tom Grey from North London – of whose music can best be described as part Spoken-word, part rap, audibly inspired by the lo-fi, raw-sounding cuts of MF Doom, Madlib and Earl Sweatshirt.

Following an illuminating evening, we said our goodbyes, after which the mysterious musician slinked away through the crowd and into the night.

Whilst the life of the talented, ambitious, and mythical 30 year old Argentine does seem to resemble the classic ‘wanderer’ archetype, drifting from place to place, he does have plans for the future. Earlier in the evening, Ignacio had mentioned a desire to teach Saxophone, along with an eventual – and more permanent – move to London. With such a meteoric life in what has so far been mostly improvised – one can only wonder what lies in store for Ignacio, in the coming days, weeks, months, and years down the line.

WORDS: Ben Jones
PHOTOGRAPHY: Andriana Oborocean (@andriaobor)

 

To listen to Ignacio (and his sister’s) work on Hermanos McKenzie: click here.
To listen and to support Ignacio’s solo project, GAL GO: click here.
To hear Ignacio’s work with Marshall on The OOZ: click here.
To see Ignacio in action alongside Marshall at Barcelona’s Primavera Sound Festival in 2017: click here.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s