JUNTACADAVERES (ENRIQUE 'KIKE' NOVIELLO) - CAFE ZEEZICHT 03/2013

Kike, how does an Argentinian end up in Belgium of all places?
Enrique 'Kike' Noviello (saxophone & bandoneon): "In fact I wanted to settle in Amsterdam, a city I'd heard wild stories about, telling tales of coffee shops and legalized prostitution, but once I got there and reality had sunken in, it wasn't quite what I ‘d imagined. Amsterdam is like Disneyland for grownups, a lot of fun, but you're nowhere without money. I tried to make a living busking and that's how I eventually met the people of Ambrassband. I relocated to Antwerp, moved into a squat and became a full-time member of Ambrassband; finally I'd found the life I'd been searching for and felt comfortable with!"

Do you stem from a musical family?
Enrique 'Kike' Noviello: "I like to describe my family as being melomaniacs (someone who's crazy about music, red.). My father had a very varied record collection, but no one in my family played an instrument. I only started playing music at a later age myself. At the age of eighteen I bought a saxophone and that's where it all started. At that time I was still studying psychology, but I decided to quit, to be able to focus all my energy on my music. In those days you could easily find me practicing my music for ten hours straight! After coming to Europe, I found a bandoneon in Germany one day. I knew the bandoneon had German roots (it was developed from the concertina by Heinrich Band in 1854, red.) and fell in love with it instantly! It's an incredibly difficult instrument to master, but the more I experimented on it, the more a whole new world opened up. That was also the time I started listening to tango music more, a genre that requires, in my opinion, a certain maturity if you want to appreciate it fully; you have to be ready for tango, have some life experience so to speak. Suddenly I realized that up until that moment I'd merely been playing with a number of bands and projects that had little or nothing to do with my own background or life story."

And now there's Juntacadaveres. Where did that name come from?
Enrique 'Kike' Noviello: ""El Juntacadaveres" ("The Body Snatcher", red.) is the title of a book by the Uruguayan novelist Juan Carlos Onetti published in 1964. It tells the story of a pimp in the autumn of his life who, together with a number of elder prostitutes, is on his way to a fictitious village to open a cabaret. The book is filled to the brim with double or even triple entendres. I got so excited when I read this book, that I felt like composing the ideal soundtrack to accompany it and that's how the story of Juntacadaveres started. In the beginning it was my story, but gradually the input of the other musicians in the band has become more important and that's exactly how things should be. Name-wise Onetti does not belong to the elite of South-American literature like Marquez or Isabelle Allende for example, but the quality of his work is in my opinion at times superior to theirs. Together with Roberto Arlt (1900 - 1942) and Leopoldo Marechall (1900 - 1970), he's the father of modern South-American literature. Like no other, Onetti knew how to capture human nature and depicted situations and characters as if they were Polaroids. He was a brilliant writer!"

With the kind of music you guys play, comparisons with Gotan Project seem inevitable.
Enrique 'Kike' Noviello: "Well, I guess that's to be expected. (laughs) Every band that uses tango elements in their music will be compared to Gotan Project as they were the ones who set the standard. Their debut album (‘La Revancha Del Tango', ¡Ya Basta!, 2001, red.) is just over ten years old now and it hasn't aged a day! Gotan did for the tango what St Germain (pseudonym of Ludovic Navarre, a French musician who for his stage name let himself be inspired by an area in Paris called Saint-Germain-des-Prés. His music is a blend of acid-jazz, nu jazz and deep house and in a broader sense could also be called lounge, red.) did for jazz; they created a perfect blend of electronics with tradition. In our instrumentation I think we're closer to Astor Piazzolla though, not that I'd ever dare compare myself to the master."

The song 'Futbol Argentino' has strong resemblances to Gotan's 'La Gloria' ('Tango 3.0', ¡Ya Basta!, 2010, red.). Argentinians and football seem to be indissolubly linked?
Enrique 'Kike' Noviello: "I wasn't born in a family of football lovers and wouldn't call myself a football fanatic, but to me the game can often be a mirror of society and life in general. There's also a lot of poetry in football: a player falls, but against all odds he manages to get up again and leave all other players behind; those kind of moments are epic. That spirit of "never giving up" has always inspired me."      

For a number of tracks on ‘De Platino' you collaborated with the late Alfredo Marcucci (14 September 1929 - 12 June 2010, was an Argentinian bandoneon player, conductor and arranger. At the age of fifteen Alfredo made his debut in the orchestra of his uncle Carlos Marcucci and when he was in his early twenties he joined the orchestra of Carlos Di Sarlis and later those of Raúl Camplun, Eduardo Bianco, Osvaldo Donato, Enrique Maria Francini and Juan Canaro. He was also a member of Los Paraguayos, a band he toured the world with. In the second half of the nineteen seventies Marcucci settled down in Belgium and put his career as a musician on hold taking a job in a local factory. The Belgian musicians Dirk Van Esbroeck en Juan Masondo eventually managed to persuade him to start playing again, red.).
Enrique 'Kike' Noviello: "That's a great story actually... At the time I had just composed my first tracks on bandoneon - 'Noche Porteña', 'A La Sombra' en 'Cortita Y El Pie' - when I learned of an elderly Argentinian bandoneon player living in Landen; Marcucci toured the globe in his day, but in the nineteen seventies he ended up in Belgium and stopped playing. For over twenty years he worked as a janitor in a factory in the area. When Dirk Van Esbroeck and Juan Masondo wanted to record their 'Tango Al Sur' album in 1985, they tracked him down and even managed to persuade him to join them in what would become the Sexteto Tango al Sur. Carlos Marcucci, Alfredo's uncle, invented one of the first methods to teach the bandoneon and Alfredo basically grew up in a family of bandeon players in the era of the great tango orchestras. When he was in his twenties, he was already performing with greats like Julio De Caro (December 11, 1899 - March 11, 1980, Argentine composer, musician and conductor, red.) and Juan D'Arienzo (December 14, 1900 - January 14, 1976, Argentine tango musician, also known as "El Rey del Compás" or "King of the Beat". He used more modern arrangements and instrumentation and his popular group produced hundreds of recordings, red.). At one stage I discovered this whole story and even managed to get his phone number from a colleague of mine (Carlos Diaz, red.). I decided to give him a call and he was immediately open to my ideas. For me our collaboration has become the basis of what is now Juntacadaveres. You only meet people like that once or twice in a lifetime; Marcucci lived and breathed the tango. Working with a man like that is like briefly being allowed to touch history!"

A very different collaboration was that with Nikkie Van Lierop - mostly known for her work in the Belgian dance scene (Milk Inc, Praga Khan, CJ Bolland, red.) - for 'Arrayanes'.
Enrique 'Kike' Noviello: "Nikkie always rehearses at Antwerp Music City, a well-known Antwerp rehearsal area. At the time I was still working with Martin Suria and because he was also a regular at Music City, he knew Nikkie quite well. He told me she was also responsible for the production of Guillermo Vilas (Argentinian former tennis player, red.) album 'Mil Nueve Noventa' (ABR Discos, 1990, red.). That whole story sounded so crazy, it made me curious enough to want to meet her. We had just composed the music for 'Arrayanes' at the time and I quickly put some lyrics for Nikkie to sing on paper. When she noticed the lyrics were in Spanish, she was a little surprised, but she's a true professional and a few hours later we'd already recorded the track."

Can I call 'Hasta Siempre', a song that even features the voice of the late Ché Guevarra, a political statement?
Enrique 'Kike' Noviello: "Putting that track on the album wasn't really my choice, but the other band members were very insistent. The first gigs we played with Juntacadaveres our repertoire was still somewhat limited and to extend our set we sometimes added a version of 'Hasta Siempre' (1965 Spanish song by Cuban composer Carlos Puebla. The song's lyrics are a reply to revolutionary Che Guevara's farewell letter when he left Cuba, in order to foster revolution in the Congo and later Bolivia, where he would be captured and executed, red.), a song that most people will recognize. When we recorded it, we added Scale's raps (Kris 'Scale' Strybos, also mc with St. Andries Mc's, red.) to give the song a bit of a more modern feel. I was just considering it to be a bonus track in case we wouldn't have enough material to fill a complete album, but as I just mentioned, the other band members really liked it and these days we even open our concerts with it. I can identify with Ché's ideology, but putting theory into practice is of course another story. Big words require great deeds, and I've grown to be a bit more careful in that respect, but just like Diego Maradona, Ché Guevarra remains one of Argentina's icons of course."

Tango music is often described as sad and melancholic, especially by people who aren't especially fond of it. Is it a valid criticism?
Enrique 'Kike' Noviello: "Tango is sad and melancholic, but so what? The founders of the genre often suffered a lot of hardship and their music was just an expression of that. Argentina is a nation of immigrants and migration meant a lot of people arrived in a country where they didn't know anyone, suffered financial hardship and didn't speak the language. When you find yourself in a situation like that, it can evoke huge feelings of loneliness and the tango captures those feelings perfectly. Tango also beautifully unites elements from the different traditions of these migrants - the Spanish morriña, the Portuguese saudade and the Italian stranamiento - thus creating something totally new for new citizens of a new nation in a new world!"