“Feeling apprenticed is the most beautiful state in which an artist can find himself”
Pedro Ruy-Blas is a singer, composer and actor. His more than 50 years in the music world makes him one of the main references in Spain. He shared stages with the most important jazz musicians obtaining national and international recognition and a career of success, becoming a fundamental part of music history. Thanks to the quality of his voice, his interpretative skills and his tenacity he earned his participation in demanding musical theater productions such as Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Miserables or Cats among many others, always leaving an indelible mark on the audience.
His secret to keep going in this complex world is continuous learning and not taking anything for granted. In this interview he gives us his impressions on the profession and about his special relationship with jazz. Conversing with him is a pleasure and a privilege for YanMag.
– You have been a professional in the world of music for more than 50 years, how do you think you have evolved? What has changed in your way of working and in the environment since you started?
I really have already exceeded those fifty by adding three more. Sometimes I am surprised when I realize that they have passed by like an exhale. Fortunately, I have lived wonderful experiences
and very different from each other. It has given me time to do many things.
A few weeks ago I was watching Kowloon a magnificent audiovisual show by LRM Performance in what is now known as the Retiro Park House of Cows. Once there, I could not help but remember that the first times I sang as a professional, even charging money, they were in that place when it was still a very stately party hall called Pavillon, in an orchestra led by a couple of cuban musicians at weddings and some other communion parties when I was only sixteen years old and they hired me as a ye-ye singer and to interpret some more youthful themes, among the typical repertoire of pasodobles, cha-cha-cha, tangos and, of course, La conga de Jalisco.
The differences between yesterday, today and tomorrow, are almost infinite, logically, not only in the field of my profession, and as Roy Batty the replicant in Blade Runner said: “I have seen things you could never have imagined”. (laughs)
I myself, in those beginnings, after what happened socially in the sixties and seventies, and the achievements made in innumerable aspects, I could never have believed the degree of involution
and mediocrity in which a large part of our society is currently located.
– What is jazz for you and why did you choose it among other styles?
In my case, jazz is the consequence of having sung Rhythm and Blues during some years of my youth. A kind of quid pro quo. The extension of those years when I was a singer of Los Canarios, a
very powerful group of Soul, with whom I tanned in that wonderful musical style that ended up imprinting on me certain character that led me to find jazz as I went maturing.
On the other hand, jazz is an idealization. A kind of entelechy that presupposes for some the highest level to reach as a vocalist or instrumentalist. Not in vain, it is the most important musical
movement of the twentieth century.
Currently, I often listen and read interviews of young girls and to a lesser extent boys, expressing that their highest goal would be to sing jazz one day. So I ask myself, where will these young
people get that pretension, that expectation? Singing jazz and doing it with a foundation is very expensive, it is a really hard road; In it there is a very necessary and important lyrical component
and on the other hand it has to be linked to another root, the blues, two forms of art that in principle can seem opposed to each other. Singing jazz is not only doing Scat as many believe, it requires a lot of dedication and you have to give up many things and have a strong heart. Even more if you were born here in Spain. And I think … they do not know what mess they’re in. However, I can hear the answer in my own heart, and then I understand their longings.
“Jazz is an idealization. A kind of entelechy that presupposes for some the highest level to reach as a vocalist or instrumentalist”
“They do not know what mess they’re in. However, I can hear the answer in my own heart, and then I understand their longings”
– What was your stay in New York for a year in the early eighties and what changed in you as an artist and as a person?
Americans can be the best or the worst. When they do well things there is no one who exceeds them, as is logical, that is one of the faces of the same coin, the other is that they can become very
ignorant and mean. I always sympathized with North America. New York is exciting, if you have money to live and stay in a good status is a wonderful city, all are smiles and thousands of great
things to see, do, experience, know. Otherwise, being the world’s center of consumerism and the mixture of ethnicities and cultures, if you do not have some bucks in your pocket to afford a minimum comfort zone, you can start to tremble. There, everything has a greater dimension. Well-being and misery can be gigantic.
By saying this, someone could answer me that it is the same anywhere, to which I in turn would respond: go to check it for yourself and then we talk. Even so, I have to say that I love New York
and there I lived many of the most beautiful moments of my life.
“In New York everything has a greater dimension. Well-being and misery can be gigantic”
“I love New York and there I lived many of the most beautiful moments of my life”
– You have always worked with the best musicians, such as Paco de Lucía, Jorge Pardo, Peer Wyboris, Dave Thomas, Jean-Luc Vallet, Tomás San Miguel, Bob Sands, Horacio Icasto, Antonio Serrano, Rubén Dantas, Teddy Bautista, Noah Shaye, Reinier Elizarde “Negrón”, Carles Benavent, Joan Albert Amargós, Pedro Sarmiento, Frances Capella, David Simó, Manel Santisteban, Pepe Torres, Nono García, Larry Martin and Israel Sandoval, among many others, attending the main jazz festivals. Do you remember these concerts?
They are very numerous, I could not highlight any in particular and doing so would be too long. Many of those memories are full of enthusiasm, courage, dedication and sometimes, why not say
it?, of unconsciousness.
I am honored that my name appears in the history of countless jazz festivals, and even have been in them in its first edition such as Guetxo, Vitoria, San Javier, or have participated twice in the
Donosti, three editions in Madrid, Terrassa, and a long etc.
I have had the privilege of working with the best musicians in the country, and of having earned their respect and affection. That has been one of the best gifts that life has given me.
“I have had the privilege of working with the best musicians in the country, and of having earned their respect and affection”
“That has been one of the best gifts that life has given me”
– An important part of your career has been developed as an interpreter in the musicals Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Miserables, La Bella Helena, La Maja de Goya or Cats as well as others. What were the musicals that most excited you to participate? Was it very tiring to go on stage several times a day for months in such complex productions?
Any of those participations in the Musical Theater created in me a great emotion. All were an unforgettable experience that led me to feel a great love for the theater.
Each one of the musicals in which I intervened, I obtained them by opposition, presenting myself as one more to castings almost always of great demand and much competitiveness. I never got
any paper in those works by decree and frankly, I feel proud for it.
The role of Jean Valjean in the first Spanish version of Los Miserables (1992), which I agreed to after overcoming countless and difficult tests for two years, has a special place in my heart, not only because of the exhausting 645 functions in which I intervened. Especially for having been part of one of the most beautiful stories written by the great humanist and having been able to participate in one of the most important musicals in history, in which there was not a single one of those functions in which I intervened, in I did not feel an enormous emotion doing my job.
If, without any doubt, the Musical Theater, with the rigor of a precision mechanism with which the British and North American productions are carried out, your day to day leaves you exhausted,
although in exchange, it grants you to be part of a show of great quality, what that as a counterpart they mean, enormous stimuli and satisfactions, and the indelible love for those who were
companions of fatigue.
“The role of Jean Valjean in the first Spanish version of Los Miserables has a special place in my heart”
“There was not a single one of those functions in which I intervened, in I did not feel an enormous emotion doing my job”
– You have recorded and produced numerous albums with different musicians, with success and national and international recognition. Is it easy to communicate with such different artists?
Yes it is, because the language of music makes us all be better people and among musicians, a strong bond used to be created that often, neither distance nor time manage to undo.
– This year you have published Homo Ludens, your first experience in recording a completely solo album in your studio. In what way have you felt working without the collaboration of other musicians?
I started in the handling of MIDI instruments and sequencers in 1987, first with an Atari computer, then I went to Mac and I have not stopped working on any of the models that have appeared
secularly. When it was time to choose whether to get on the technology train and the Internet or not, fortunately, after thinking it over I chose to take the trip.
Since then these tools have evolved intensely and sometimes it was difficult to learn to manage them – and it continues to be -, however, it has been worthwhile. Really for a musician, a sequencer, for example Cubase that is after the Atari that I have always used, is an excellent notebook in which to shape compositions, record different instruments and get closer to the sound and arrangement that you would like, to later be played by musicians of flesh and blood.
That has always been and in some way will be my philosophy, notes to show later to the musicians. However, in the process, at least I, have come to work intensely in many compositions that for different reasons are intended to remain at the bottom of a drawer for the remains. One day I asked myself: why not let them come out? What would be wrong to do? perhaps with its virtues and defects could be that they had an added value to be fully interpreted by me all instruments, ideas, sounds, percussions, arrangements, mixtures, etc. And besides, I like them, I love them, so … Why not? Why let them rot in the darkness of the bottom of a drawer?
– What projects would you like to carry out in the future? With what professionals would you like to collaborate again and what others would you like to work with?
Frankly, I have no idea. In my case always some projects have been superimposed on others.
There are projects that due to different circumstances and even though they are important, remain in a kind of limbo, and others come before and take the lead. It depends largely on sometimes
At present, music in Spain is an unknown. Now, this profession is full of uncertainty, therefore, I try not to create expectations, and I’m on the go. On the other hand, I spent more than a year writing my memoirs combining them with the work of composition in my homestudy, although not with the usual intensity, because as I said, now it has taken the lead to write, which takes up a lot of time. I also usually have rehearsals with the musicians that currently accompany me in some other concert.
Next spring, a record producer in Denmark wants to publish a vinyl with a series of instrumental songs made entirely by me with my computer and my virtual instruments, in which most of the
themes were made during the eighties. I think the album will be titled: Pedro Ruy-Blas – CyborgDolores. This producer, through his record label, publishes his vinyls in U.S.A, England,
Japan, France, Germany, etc. The idea of going back to see a vinyl record of mine pleases me, because I never thought something like that would happen to me again.
There are many musicians with whom I worked throughout my career, of all learned music and humanly. With any of them I would work again without thinking.
Also today there are many young people with great talent with whom I would also like to make music. What is really important is that there are places, productions and opportunities for all, that
allow us to work and get to know each other.
“What is really important is that there are places, productions and opportunities for all, that allow us to work and get to know each other”
– What advice would you give to a musician that begins at this moment? Is the world of music more complicated now than when you started?
I’m not sure how to respond to this. Sometimes I think so. What happens is that in order to value it, it is necessary to have a holistic view of the current situation, and it is not possible for me. Now I can look and understand the whole picture of what happened during several decades before the present, because it is time that allows you to contemplate things with more perspective, at a
greater distance, and in this way to see the interrelation of some facts with others and form a more objective opinion. The present is too close to my nose, my eyes and forces me to see everything
pixelated. The present is always uncertain and on the other hand, I hardly have any certainty anymore. To anyone who starts in their profession, be it music or anything else, I would just tell
them to try to let their skin be in the effort. His and not others’.
“To anyone who starts in their profession, be it music or anything else, I would just tell them to try to let their skin be in the effort. His and not others´ “
– After so many years in the profession, what do you consider your ethics at work?
Respect for my profession. Respect for any musician, for any interpreter whatever the style.
Never stop being an apprentice, because this is the most beautiful state in which an artist can find
Poor to the one who thinks that he already knows everything and is content to imitate himself.
Without humility, without innocence, there is only pride and megalomania. Too much, unfortunately.
– How do you like to enjoy your time when you are not working?
Reading, listening to music, talking with friends, the theater, the cinema, although this lately, except for honorable exceptions, has been displaced to my way of thinking, mainly by HBO and some
other cable TV channels with high quality series. Since the beginning of The Sopranos, I am addicted to many serials.
– A wish that you would like to come true
After all epoch of decay, a rebirth arises. History thus reveals it to us. I would like to get to see it soon, to be able to live it even if it were for a short time.
” I would like to get to see it soon, to be able to live it even if it were for a short time.”
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