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Guti: Heart of Jazz

Spotlight’s Lydia Laws and the Argentinian musician discuss Ibiza, his musical evolution, and how the relationship between music and the heart is what really matters.

It was a Sunday around midnight, just after Guti's set on the roof of the Ushuaïa Tower at Sasha's Never Say Never. As we sat cross-legged facing each other on the plush lobby sofas downstairs, it became clear that any preconceptions I had about him as an exceptional and passionate Latino musician were well and truly justified. His playful personality and infectious laugh accompanied by his blunt honesty about the industry and the obvious fact that jazz is the real musical love of his life made him a great subject to interview.

You'll see that he makes a point of saying that one's past is irrelevant, but ironically Guti's musical past is one of great interest and influence. He is a classically trained jazz pianist-cum-rock musician-cum-house music DJ and producer, and now he is en route full circle back to jazz, starting his own instrumental jazz label with three forthcoming releases. This season we've seen him getting around the island somewhat, playing live sets at VIVa Warriors, Defected in the House, Used & Abused, Music On, tINI and the Gang, Carl Cox, Cocoon... He's been a big part of people's ‘Ibiza', so I was keen to see what part Ibiza has played for him.

After digressing about Music On (his favourite night on the island), the fact that ENTER dots just don't come off your skin (I was still sporting mine from Thursday) and comparing matching tattoos, we got down to business. "I hope you've done your homework" he said playfully, ‘I hate boring questions. I'll be honest too.' Luckily, I'm happy to admit that being a singer and pianist myself I have always found him rather fascinating, and was readily prepared...

You've played everywhere on the island this season... Meaning you must spend quite a lot of time here. What is your relationship like with Ibiza in a creative sense? Does it distract or inspire you?

"I produce here all the time. To be honest, the island represents... I don't know. In July I played 18 shows in 18 countries. The island is just one more amazing place in a way. It did influence me a couple of years ago, when I was playing fewer gigs. Beautiful girls everywhere, party after party... But I find inspiration in my proper experiences. If I'm in love, have a broken heart, where I am, cities..."

Care to expand on that? Lots of producers are inspired by different things; Stimming uses music to purge his emotions and Henry Saiz has even admitted before he starts a new project he'll go out into the bush, take acid and sketch what he wants to produce as he feels it creates the most honest work! When you're looking for inspiration for a track where do you go to?

"I actually never listen to electronic music. It's an experience in a club and I am in the club four times a week so I hear it enough. I taught myself piano when I was five so I just listen to jazz, and now I'm opening my own label which is instrumental jazz. Electronic music in the club with a monster sound system... that makes sense. Out of the club it just sounds stupid!"

I started piano when I was six...

"Yeah? Awesome!"

Yeah and I sing too!

"You sing? No way! Sing something for me."

[I sing the opening verses of Ella Fitzgerald's Summertime]

"That was amazing! I really liked that."

Well Guti, if you ever need a singer... But back to you! As a classically trained musician, do you find it liberating to know music theory and the rules, but to have the freedom to break those rules when DJing?

"You know what; it's all about feeling the music. In the end you've got to connect with your heart. I know so many rules about music, but if you can get away from those and just give your heart that's really cool. That's why some people who aren't musicians still make good music. Of course knowledge is good in anything but in the end just give your heart."

After jazz, you meandered into rock bands ‘Jovenes Pordioseros' and ‘Intoxicados' for a bit, now house, but jazz is clearly still very relevant to your present and future. Tell me more about your musical transition, where is it going next?

"Ahh you know the names, you have done your homework! Well, I'm 33 and still making music; I'm still doing new things as an artist and evolving... Yes I had an amazing past, stadiums, golden records... But at the end of the day the past... it's nothing. It's today. Today I'm alive and I'm happy."

"Knowledge is good but you've got to connect with your heart."

How do you compare the buzz of playing in a stadium when you were in the bands to playing in a dark club full of ravers?

"Pretty different. When I DJ I'm on my own, and I'm actually a shy person. I played EXIT for example, to 20,000 people in Serbia, up there alone... So now I feel I'm a man! I've grown up."

Do you still find it exhilarating? Or do you still get nervous?

"I was nervous the other day playing after Kenny Gonzalez. He's a legend. I just thought what am I going to do? I think after all the experience I've had its good I still feel nervous."

You and tINI both seem to share a special bond and she's a much loved member of our industry. For those who may not have met her, what is it about her that is so special?

"She's a great DJ and she's a woman. It's not that often you can get a woman that can mix!"

Ooh controversial...

"It's true! There's a few; Cassy, Sonja, Magda... We're talking about 3 trillion boys and ten girls... So tINI is a great artist."

Tell me a few artists that you listen to all the time?

"Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, Lionel Hampton..."

When you're over here and you get time to relax, where do you go?

"Where my friends are!"

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