Jose Roman Garcia has been part of the underground music scene for over 30 years. His latest project O.P.A.L. recently released a stunning new E.P. called “Sedative” and he also distributes music for multiple projects through his label Rojo y Negro Records. We sat down with Jose to talk about his earliest musical memories, how he started playing multiple instruments and the writing and recording process of “Sedative”. You can check out a ton of Jose’s musichere.
What was the first music that really made an impact on you when you were a child?
My parents and my older half-brother love music. My father was into a lot of Cuban and Puerto Rican folk music, as well as salsa, and other Caribbean rhythms. My mom loves classical and Puerto Rican folk music. They met at a dance, so it makes sense their love for music bought them together. My older half-brother left quite a record collection at our home in Puerto Rico when he moved to live and work Stateside. Beatles, Dave Clarke Five, and a particular little album called “Switched On Bach” by Wendy Carlos. That record and “Rubber Soul” by The Beatles blew my little mind. Also, radio was more adventurous then. It was a bit more freeform and I remember listening to Kraftwerk, Donna Summer, Blondie, Sly & The Family Stone, and a wide variety of music on the admittedly few stations that played rock on the island (WBMJ “Radio Rock”, 95X, Y96, early Alfa Rock). Anyway, I’m rambling. I think between Wendy Carlos and the early British invasion, they sowed the seeds.
When did you first start playing instruments and writing your own songs?
I started playing the piano, and eventually picked up a borrowed bass and started fiddling with them. I took piano lessons, but between my family’s economic troubles (the early ’80s weren’t too kind to us and my parents’ priorities were keeping the lights on and the three of us in school, clothed, and fed) piano lessons were not a priority Still, they managed to rescue an old upright piano and used to mess around with it until termites destroyed the poor thing (life in the tropics). A childhood friend gave me a bass he wasn’t using and noodled with it learning basslines by ear. Nothing fancy, but I do love a good solid one. All those funk, salsa, disco, and dub records made a dent. Adolescence destroyed my hand-eye coordination, but I read about synthesizers and sequencers, and one of my neighbors was a preacher’s kid who played keyboards in local rock bands. He had synths (Dx-7, Roland), drum machines (808, 909), and samplers (Ensoniq Mirage) at his home studio/rehearsal space, and he let me fiddle with them. I eventually bought a synth (Casio CZ-101), and an amp and started messing with it. I also got three other projects: Antartica (techno/electronic), Musica Casual (psych/experimental), and what brought us here O.P.A.L.
You just released a new E.P. called “Sedative”. What was the writing and recording process for that like? Any particular gear you used that really helped shape specific parts of the record?
I’m quite proud of that one. I’ve been working strictly with computers and digital audio workstations since 2002. I was moving around between Puerto Rico and the States so bringing a workstation, drum machines, and effects is not economically feasible for an independent solo musician. For what you spend, say on a good instrument and/or workstation, mics, a capable drum machine with good sounds, and a good effects unit, you can get a nice desktop, laptop, or hell even an iPad, a musical interface, a mic, some good software, samples, and plugins. I love the technology curve and with artificial intelligence taking things a bit further, musicians can accomplish a lot with it. You still need creativity and inspiration to put it all together, so the human element will always be present. I think O.P.A.L. joins all my favorite musical genres from the last 40 years and I mash them and hopefully, there are people who will enjoy that.
.f you could do a soundtrack for any film director, who would it be and what would the film be about?
Killer question! My immediate response would be “I’m not worthy!”, but say a director would be interested in what I could add to their vision, my list would include:
Guillermo Gomez Alvarez (a fellow scenester from Puerto Rico’s punk scene and a director back home)
Carla Cavina (queer PR director)
Gisela Rosario Ramos (queer PR director. love her energy)
Claudia Calderon (Pr director)
But hey, we can only dream.
Any thing new coming up?
Besides releasing the “Beatless” and “Pacific” albums along with the “Sedative” EP on BandCamp and the physical releases of those three releases and the “Sleepless” and “Insomniac” albums as well as the “Sleep Demon EP” on your label, I just completed a 5-song up of brand new material called “Collapse”, got 2 more tracks in the vein of “Beatless” done (one done today), and a track off “Pacific” appearing in the upcoming Tuza Noise 4 compilation on Bandcamp. Whew!
I like doing remix work and done so for Puerto Rican shoegazers Un.real in the past to our delight.
Live works? Tempted to do some DJ sets of my material along with whatever I am cooking sonically speaking at the moment. Open to maybe some pseudo improvisational work with any collaborator willing to put up with me. Lol. I will supply the beats and some textures, add more textures, vocals, and noises, shake them, record, release, repeat.