We interviewed Salvador Santana in his home studio in Los Angeles, California. Salvador Santana is a Grammy Award winning musician who describes his music genre as “Life.” His father is the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Carlos Santana. We discussed music, his father, and his new single, Panic Mode.
Hello Salvador Santana. For those of us who do not know you, please tell us who Salvador Santana is.
(Audible laughter) Man! I have been trying to figure that out my whole life. Well, just by my name because Salvador means “The Savior” in Spanish. My last name Santana is very common, not a common Mexican name but common in the Latino community. I would not say that I am necessarily a savior but I have a really strong connection and desire to not only uplift through music but bring people together. It is not just about Latino, Latina, La Raza, or this and that. We are all connected in some way, shape, or form. What better way to express that than through music?
So first and foremost, I am a musician, producer, social justice activist. And last but not least, I like to compose a ton of music. I have really been dabbling in composition for film and television recently. It is a lot of fun man!
Now that I am a new father, stuff just got real, real, real fast! Really quick!y!
Congratulations! Could you tell us where your parents are from?
My mother is originally from the Bay Area, San Francisco (California). Her mother is from Texas originally via Arizona, and then she made her way to the Bay Area. My grandfather [her father] Saunders King is not a super well-known but should be, blues musician from Louisiana. He made his way up to Chicago and then to the Bay Area. That is how they met.
My father, who most people know, is Carlos Santana. He comes from Autlán, Jalisco, Mexico. He made his way up to Tijuana (Baja California, Mexico). My dad’s mom and dad are also from Mexico. Don Jose Santana should also be known. He was a mariachi musician with a beautiful voice. He was a singer as well as a violin player.
I forgot to mention my other grandfather (Saunders King) was a blues singer and played guitar.
“Esto es mi sangre!” This is in my blood! We come from the Bay Area and I made my way down here to LA. As long as I am in California I am a happy dude. Cali is my life and is just who I am.
It seems like music is just within you.
Music, California, and the West Coast [is within me]. It is not the center of the world but it is the center of my world.
Would you elaborate on where you are from and where you were raised?
I was born and raised in the Bay Area, originally in Marin County. This is a suburb just above San Francisco. But with both my families being from San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and the North Bay, I just say the Bay Area. That is who I am and where I am from.
The Bay Area, like Los Angeles, has a little bit of everything. It is a melting pot with all these different cultures. You have something musically. You have a little bit for everybody. If you want to find something up in the Bay Area, maybe you have to hunt, but it is definitely there and it exists up there.
That is who I am musically and sonically. I try to incorporate just a little bit of everything, so that sonically and musically I can present myself as someone who one can say this about: “That’s dope! That sounds familiar but also sounds original at the same time!” I want to take the best of the best from everybody, and still put my fingerprints and thumbprint on it.
Given your background, do you identify as Chicano, Latino, Latinx, any of those, or all of those?
Yeah! I definitely identify as all of those. I have definitely been getting into more of calling the Latino community “La Raza!” But for me, it is more Latinx because I want to make sure that we include everybody and nobody is left out. Of course, I am definitely proud of my culture and who I am, my family on all sides and where we’ve come from.
Musically and sonically I would not label myself as…. Well, a lot of people associate my father (Carlos Santana) with Latin rock. That is cool but I personally feel that I play and am interested in musically in a little bit of everything. If I were to create my own genre, which I am on my way to, I would say that I play the genre of music called “Life.” That is what I play: a little bit of everything. All the dope stuff that you hear that has been out and that is coming out; that is what I do.
How do you think your Latinx identity expresses itself in the music you make?
I am super grateful and blessed for those that take the time to listen. If people are into it [my music], then it is super dope to me! There is so much music out there that I tend to sometimes get lost in it. For people to just take the time to listen, it means the world to me.
It’s not that I don’t make music for specific people, but I just make music for everybody. If people get down with it, then that is dope. If not, then it’s all good, too.
I do my best so that whatever I create I want to make sure that people take the time to not only listen but that they enjoy it. I want them to enjoy my music as much as I had fun making it.
What is Panic Mode?
Panic Mode is a dope track man! It just came out and is myself collabing with Felix, who is a super dope deejay and artist from the UK. He is now out here in LA. We got together through mutual friends and connections within the music industry.
He came in here like you guys into the studio and we just kind of vibed out. He had like ten to fifteen instrumentals to vibe out to. We were vibing and a lot of it was up-tempo, head-nod, club-type of music. I was vibing almost like Jay-Z and Timbaland working on the Black Album. Where Jay- Z was listening to Timbaland playing him Dirt Off Your Shoulder, this one track totally popped out at me.
I asked, “Felix, what is this?” He said, “This is Idea 54.” I’m like, “We got to do something with this one.” He goes, “Cool, cool. I am feeling this as more like …” Well, he came up with the idea of Panic Mode as a working title. We just loved it (the title) so much that we rolled with it and started vibing out with this whole apocalyptic world; where the world is literally ending our about to end and people are out in the streets going crazy. They are looting and it is the end of the world. At the same time, these other people who are not creating mischief or doing crazy stuff are out there just partying like it is the end of the world. How we did back in 1999 going into 2000, that vibe.
It stuck and we just vibed with it. After a while, we just said that we have to put this one out. We did and it has been out for the last month. We have been getting nothing but positive feedback. Again, it just came from something that you never really know. For me, whatever project I work on I put 150% into it because at the end of the day I don’t know how it will turn out. I always put out 150% of my best intentions forward and create this music with the idea that at the end of the day, if worst comes to worst, I just hope people enjoy it as much as I had fun making it.
It is a new track and we were already able to listen to several remixes uploaded on Youtube. Could you tell us about the remixes?
Yes, there are a few. There is one by Bot106 that is a really dope remix that has been getting a lot of play through the deejay world.
Yes, that is one remix we listened to on the drive here.
People seem to be vibing with that one a lot. For me, I think it is just dope. As someone who grew up listening to hip hop and being from that generation, remixes are always something that I have always been interested in. I have been interested in how to create a really dope remix that is totally different from the original but has the same qualities in its own song. I love when people take the time, deejays for instance taking the time to remix my music or music that I am affiliated with. I am always interested in seeing and hearing what other musicians and cats do and how they put their spin on it. See how they vibe on it.
There is Bot106 and there is also the Cristian Vogel one. That one was pretty dope. It is definitely more like a soundtrack kind of vibe. I can hear it in movies like a horror film, maybe Panic Room, The Matrix, or something like that. It is dope!
All these different remixes I feel there is a home for all of them. They all have their own vibe even though it is the same song being remixed. That is what I love about it. I am just grateful and honored that these cats wanted to take the time to remix it. I thought they all did an amazing job.
Are any of the remixes your work? In other words, did you work with them to remix the songs? Or did they take your work and add on to it?
Yes, they just basically took it. I did talk to Christian Vogel through Felix to try to create a vibe. That was cool, I felt like a director in a movie and I get a composer to jump on the project. I don’t necessarily want to give too much input or direction. I want to leave it like, “Hey, here is the vibe. Check it out and put your fingerprints and do your thing on it.” Otherwise, I don’t want to tamper with the creative process. I want to allow artists to do their thing. That is what I would want if I was remixing someone else’s work, which I have.
I got to remix with Soup from J5 (Jurassic 5). We did a track together called Surfboard Cali. I remixed an Ozomatli track. Asdru (Sierra) of Ozomatli and I are really good homies, all those cats actually. But Asdru and I go way back. It is always fun and always a blast to be able to part of projects like that.
You have already spoken on this. But, what does Panic Mode say about your “Life” concept of music? (In an AllAcess.com interview, Salvador said the following of his music, “I’ve been saying for some time now that the genre of music I play is called ‘life.’ All the amazing music that we know and love that has inspired us in this life, that’s what I play.”)
Honestly, I really had to step out of my comfort zone creatively. I don’t normally write music that is so cynical or so dark. These apocalyptic themes and partying like it is literally the end of the world. I definitely had to step out of my comfort zone a little bit.
I was sitting in this chair and Felix was sitting in the chair you are in. We are just both vibing with it and I’m typing lyrics out and he’s writing lyrics out. And we just came up with this theme like, “Yo, if you are an actor in this movie just own it. Just do it.” It is great because for me creatively I get to not only step out of my comfort zone and what isn’t my comfort zone I eventually make it my comfort zone.
I didn’t think too much about it because I didn’t want to overthink it and tamper the creative process. I just vibed with it and went with it. What you see is what you hear and I am super honored and grateful to be a part of this project.
Your music has a happier and more positive vibe as you describe it. This song is a transition.
This is definitely darker and different. Like you said, I keep it more positive and vibey. I do keep it real. I do my best to keep it real. If I am talking about something that is negative or a problem that needs to be solved then I try to put a solution and positive spin on it. But again, I definitely had fun with it, owned the character, and owned the role. If anyone takes the time to listen to it, I appreciate it and hope you all enjoy it as much as I had fun making it.
And the lyrics, did you have those already?
We had Panic Mode as the working title so we knew we wanted to talk about something that was like, “Oh, shit is about to go down!” We wanted a panicky kind of vibe. We started talking about it and one of us mentioned “apocalyptic” and it all started flowing from there. We started writing words that sounded like apocalypse; end of the world, stuff is one fire, people looting. And then we wanted to combine that with this juxtaposition that is the complete opposite of “shit is going down!” At the same time, if stuff is going down you know these other people that aren’t going to participate in that are just going to get lit in the street and vibe out wherever they are.
We created that and as you hear the song, the first lyrics are “creatures of habit searching for freedom.” That was literally the first thing that I wrote and Felix was like, “That’s cool, can you finish that?” I replied, “Yeah!” And I just started writing and writing and writing. For the most part, what you hear on the final track is pretty much what I had written out right then and there. It just all flowed. It was one of those things that I had to make sure that if I was either typing or writing it out, I just had to make sure I was writing down the words as fast as they were coming out (of my mind). They were just flowing and I had to make sure I got on that surfboard. Otherwise, I don’t know if I would have been able to jot all that stuff down.
That is one thing about the creative process; it is not easy for any musician. It is really just one of those things where you have to be in that mental state of mind where you allow this stuff to happen. If it starts raining ideas you have to make sure you have a bucket. And make sure your bucket don’t have a hole in it.
Capture the moment and strike while the iron is hot?
Absolutely, that is not only what will sell the record, but that is how fans and people are going to understand, listen, and figure out who you are, who I am on the track. For me, if I continue to overthink stuff, it will not only tamper the creative process but it will confuse the listener. For me, that is one of the last things I want to do. I just want to be not only as articulate but as authentic as I possibly can.
For those of us who are not musicians, could you tell us about the process of selecting the instruments that you use to produce music? For example, we know of your love for the keyboard and piano. Could you tell us about a particular keyboard or piano, maybe the one you used for Panic Mode?
That is a great question. I used this guy right here (points at the red keyboard behind him). That is the Nord Stage 2 EX. I just found a little synth on there that we kind of sprinkled on there a little bit and I also used to Vocoder over here (points at another keyboard). Let me turn the volume up and I might be able to let you guys listen to a sample of it (plays some notes). I have been able to vibe with this thing and it is great, really great.
Felix of course is super patient because for me during the creative process I have days where I know exactly what I want and there are some days where I feel like a chef and I have this big grocery store/ pantry filled with ingredients and I don’t know where to start.
Panic Mode, thank goodness, was one of those things where we put the track on and the combination of writing lyrics (worked well). When I was done writing the lyrics, and exhausted that, I would find a melody, find a sound, or find a synth. What was cool about that is that it all happened very naturally and very organic. Nothing was forced. That was a really cool thing about that.
It is good that you have all your keyboards here in your home studio.
Ah man, yes, right here! That is why I set it up this way. For when I did have an idea, I wouldn’t have to think about it. I could just go right up to it (keyboard) and hammer out my idea right then and there.
Your drums are there. We read about that being the first instrument you were introduced to.
Yes, you are right. Drums were my first instrument. My father used to sit me down on his lap, like I will do with my son eventually. He would control the kick and would give me the sticks and I would just mess around with the cymbals and those types of things. My father really wanted me to learn the drums.
Because he grew up listening to all sorts of music, what really influenced him, other than blues, was African music with rhythm. We hear it all throughout any type of music that is within the Latinx culture. Whether it is Afro-Cuban, cumbia, even Tex-Mex, all the rhythms that well know of come from Africa.
With all that being said, my father instilled in me and wanted to make sure that as a musician I had a good sense of rhythm and tempo before I could dive into chords, pitch, harmony, melodies, and things of that nature.
Rhythm was your foundation.
Yes, because I remember my father telling me this at a young age, “look son, as a live musician you can go to Julliard, you could be the best classical musician, you could be the best singer, this and this and that, but at the end of the day, if you are not making a stadium, club, coffee shop, or whatever amount of people, if you are not making them get up and dance and move, then you are not doing your job as a live musician.”
And that is why he really wanted to make sure that I was playing the drums and getting an understanding of rhythm and tempo. That was great because for me I have always viewed the piano as a percussive instrument. I never really thought of it as playing something super delicate, like touching a newborn baby or a newborn puppy. It is one of those things where it wants you to go to town and do your thing.
Play it with force?
Yeah, get down on it! A classic example is Stevie Wonder on Superstition playing the clavinet part. It is a very percussive sound. I am really grateful and blessed that from the very beginning, not just my father and of course my grandparents instilling music and sound in me. It is in my blood. Also, the music teachers and the friends that I had going to school in SOTA (Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts) as well as coming down here to Los Angeles and studying over at Cal Arts. I am really grateful to have been surrounded by a lot of amazing mentors and musicians and peers. It was just fun to jam with them and fun to pick their brain.
That is how I offer myself as a musician; I don’t just press buttons and create fireworks. I can do that too, but I would much rather do that musically and sonically because that is what I have been trained to do my whole life.
Let us transition a bit because you are outspoken on social issues, for example immigration. What does this song say about what you value?
That is a great question. I did not really think so much about one specific issue or thing that was going on in Panic Mode. I guess what I was subconsciously putting into the song was that we don’t take the time to honor and take the time to help each other out and care for each other. More than solving problems, solving humanitarian world issues, if we don’t solve them, Panic Mode is what is going to happen. People are going to go crazy. People are going to go nuts. We have seen stuff like this. It has happened before, like the wildfires that happened here a few months ago or these catastrophic storms and hurricanes.
When something really goes down, it really tests the level of humanity, and most people will … You never really know who somebody is until you a) live with them or b) gone on tour with them (audible laughter). You know, shared a bus with them, or shared a van with them. You really need to see how they react to pressure in really tense situations. I tend to gravitate towards the people that tend to put what is going on aside with their issues, and place their lives aside, to take the time and go help other people. You know? They handle their business and lift someone else up.
What really fueled me, not lyrically or anything specific, but some of my energy that I was putting into the song for sure was a lot of the people that were coming over across the border and then immediately being detained and separated from their families. It is one thing for adults to cross over, but these kids that just come over and are separated from their parents or the people they traveled with. Now that I am a father, I just couldn’t imagine being separated from my kid. It just drives me nuts to think that people think that it is humanly okay to do that. Again for me, I think that I put some of that energy and some of that tamed aggression into that song because that is what I was feeling at the time. Being a father, it definitely hit close to home.
With that storyline being in the news and you being aware of it, you couldn’t help but have it within you as you are producing music?
Yes, you are absolutely right. I couldn’t help but absorb that energy and at the same time I knew that I had to channel it the right way so that I could creatively succeed and handle what I was trying to handle, which was producing this track along with Felix. I could not let my personal emotions or feelings get the best of me or tamper and/or hinder the song in any way, shape, or form. It is easier said than done but for me, especially now that I am in my mid-thirties. In my twenties, like everyone says, you think you know everything. Now that I am in my thirties, I am totally cool with barely knowing anything and happy to learn and continue to learn more.
There is a saying, “The more I learn, the less I think I know.”
That’s it. That’s it right there. I am going to borrow that one.
So, you are a Grammy Award winner. You describe the award as being symbolic of the appreciation people have for your music. What have been your proudest accomplishments with music?
Those are really good questions. The Grammys, and any type of award, I am truly honored and grateful and blessed for it, especially being able to win a Grammy at sixteen or seventeen. What means more to me though, than just the Grammy, was the song that was nominated and actually won. It was a song called El Farol. It was the only instrumental that went on the big album Supernatural, it was my father’s record (Carlos Santana).
My dad and I originally wrote that song for Don Jose, my grandfather. What is crazy was that we were writing the song just hours before he passed away. We sat down and my father was like, “Yo, I got this melody.” Well, he didn’t say “Yo.” (audible laughter). He’s like, “Son, I have this melody and I need you to help me find the chorus to it.” So he is playing the melody on the guitar and I am sitting on the piano and fishing out the chorus. We got through about half of the song and then we got the call saying that my grandpa/abuelito had passed on. So we handled that.
And this is your dad’s father?
Yes, my dad’s dad: Don Jose Santana. Mi abuelito, but I used to call him my dad just to mess with my dad. It was one of those things where we finished the song and performed it at his service. It was beautiful and everyone loved it. We kind of, not forgot about it, but as you know life happens and we move on. My pops is gearing up for Supernatural and I am so grateful and blessed it made it on the album. If it wasn’t for that than I wouldn’t have the Grammy and I feel abuelito Don Jose’s legacy wouldn’t have been honored or would have continued to live through, greatly honored, on that level that it has.
Again, winning these awards is amazing, and I hope to win more, and continue to do more. But at the end of the day, for me, the best reward is the things that you don’t see. Like how many hearts and lives I am able to touch and impact; obviously, in a positive way.
This one lady came up to me after a show and she was like, “You know Salvador, I am a little older than you, more of your dad’s generation. Two things I want to say to you. One, I feel like if your father grew up in your generation/era, I feel like he would be doing the exact same thing you are doing. Taking all these genres together: rock, hip hop, jazz, latin, cumbia, everything, and putting it all in one.” And also, she is like, “I have to tell you that I was feeling really down and didn’t want to come to the show and then my daughter asked me to come to the show. I came and I am just so grateful that I did. You and the band that played before, you guys just played amazing and the music that you guys played was awesome. I am just so grateful that I came out.”
It made me realize that music can just connect us in different ways. No matter what is going on in life, music is one of those things where we welcome that distraction. Some of the stuff that is going on in this world, the real stuff, the stuff that they want you to think is going on in the world within the media; the music, if it grabs you by your soul, if it gives you goosebumps and it makes your hair stand up in the back of your neck, for me, I feel it doesn’t get any more real than that. That is what I like to gravitate to. That is the music I like to affiliate myself with.
Following that then, what Latino artists would you recommend to us that we might not have heard of?
I love the questions you are asking me. There are a few like Ozomatli because we go way back. I love those guys. You know what’s funny about that is that Asdru and I have been working together for a couple of years now on a project that we are getting ready to put out. It is going to follow Panic Mode. We are calling ourselves The RMXKNZ (Remixicans). It is going to be coming out pretty soon. It is collaboration with me and Asdru. We just got together, and again, the same thing. He just came in here in the studio and he dropped some beats. I threw some lyrics up on there or I play him some music and he put his thing up on there. We just got together and we had up to like thirty songs. We narrowed it down to fifteen and now we are at a place where we can start sharing it with the world. I guess we qualify as Latino artists so I would throw us in there.
DJ Dusty is out of Corpus Christi, Texas. He is dope and throwing a lot of that cumbia mixed in with trap and hip hop style. There is some dope stuff there. Take your pick from even the top artists now: Ozuna, Bad Bunny, JBalvin, even Selenena Gomez, Ariana Grande, all of it, even the pop stuff. I feel it is all just representing La Raza or Latinx.
Representing the different aspects of it?
Yeah. Like you said before we started off the interview. Not only are we underappreciated but we have been doing stuff but we just aren’t getting the ….
Yeah, we are not getting the recognition but also the credentials and the accolades. Even with the Latin Grammys, I feel like there are certain artists that are in there, I’m like, “Why are yall in the Latin Grammys?” Even though I love JLo, “Why are you in the Grammys and why are you doing a tribute to Motown? What the heck is going on here?” You know what I am saying?
For me it’s more like, you know, not that people just need to, “Like you are Latino, than you need to represent your country, and this and this and that.” No, it’s more like we are “con todo” and we are all Latinx. This is Brazilian, Mexicano, Colombiano, Puertoriqueño. We are all this (Latinx) and we all have something to say. All of our cultures have something in common, and quite frankly for me, I feel that it is all music. A lot of it is the creative arts and music. It is just one of those things where there are so many Latin artists out there that the ones I named are just a few. For anybody that is listening, go and check out as many as you can and just vibe out to it. I know at some point there will be one that somebody will vibe to.
You have worked on collaborations, like Ozomatli, who you mentioned earlier. What are some artists that you have not worked with but would like to?
Ah man, there are so many. Off the top of my head, hands down, first and foremost, first and last, a dream come true would be working with a cat like Herbie Hancock. I mirrored my entire career after all the dope stuff that he’s done; constantly not afraid to reinvent himself. First, he’s a jazz musician, a jazz pianist playing for Miles Davis, then he’s got the Headhunters, he’s got the big afro and he’s experimenting with synthesizers and plugging this thing in, and what does this sound make, and this and that. Going into the eighties and fucking around with the Vocoder and the keytar, playing it like a guitar. Rockit was the jam! You know what I am saying? He was just constantly reinventing himself and continuing to create. That would be amazing (to collaborate with him).
Let me tell you a really cool story about him. I had the opportunity to go to an award show and I had just come out with my album Keyboard City. We ran into each other backstage and I’m like, “Herbie, what’s up?” He’s like, “Hey Salvador.” He is super cool. He is a genuine, just awesome human being. And I do the whole Wayne’s World thing and get on my knees “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy (as he bows with extended arms)!” Herbie’s like, “Man, come on! Get up!”
We start talking and Herbie’s like, “Salvador, I got to tell you that I checked out your album Keyboard City and I really dig it and I really love it. I love some of the synths that you experimented with.” He was asking me technical questions, like “what synthesizer did you use on this song or on this track?” And I’m sitting here like my face is melting, like bro, my idol is talking to me about my song and he’s asking me, not only is he asking me what I did to create it, but he’s also telling me that he digs it. I’m thinking, “Yo God, if you want to take me right now that’s totally cool with me.” I had that kind of feeling. That really was dope for me.
Having the opportunity to work with someone on his level, with his accomplishments, overall everything who he is, that would be a dream come true. You know?
But honestly, I am open man. I feel like collaboration is an art in itself. It is one thing to be able to create on your own and it is another thing to be able to join forces or combine forces. And not everybody can do that, not even some of the most talented people in the world. I have talked to them and they are not the best at collaborating because for some people, even as talented as they are and with everything they bring to the table, they can’t do it.
The one thing that I am continuing to learn to do on a regular basis is get out of my own way. I check my ego and just get out of my own way. Like I was saying before with the creative process, allowing stuff to just happen and not force it, not be over-analytical, over-critical, over-cynical. Just allow stuff to happen. And in collaborating during the creative process, I love being able to just push myself.
With Panic Mode I was trying something different with Felix. Let’s play something super dark. I could have been like “Nah man, I’m positive, I’m vibey. I’m not dark, I’m not cynical.” But a part of me is saying, “Yeah, challenge accepted! Let’s get this done, know what I’m saying? And let’s see what happens.”
So, that’s why I love collaborating because I feel like I get to know a part of myself that I didn’t know that I had. Same thing with another artist, “Well, I thought I knew you. Okay. Right on! Dope!”
You get to see different parts of them?
Yeaah, yeah! And sometimes we just create stuff that we had no idea we had inside. That’s what I love about it. If we knew our story and somebody gave you cliff notes of your life, and you knew the beginning, the middle, and the end, I think it would obviously be pretty boring because everything would be predictable and we would know what was up. I think with collaboration, especially with a first time collaboration, you just never really know. And rather than having the fear of the unknown, which I think we all have to some degree, I just embrace and feel like whatever happens I know it will be dope because I am going to make sure that it is going to be dope. You know? Once you set that precedent, that vibe is already there and whoever I am collaborating with they get right on board. That’s why I do my best just to be consistent with that.
In addition to music, are there other arts which interest you or that you participate in?
My boys: ARInkBomb as well as Rask Opticon. Both are actually my tattoo artists, but they do amazing art work. They have amazing stuff that is very Cali and very graffiti style. I am into Chicano art as well. Cheech Marin is like an uncle to me; he’s got the greatest collection of Chicano art.
Yes, he will be opening up a permanent gallery in the Riverside Art Museum.
Yeah, I am super stoked for him about that. I hope I can get an invite, like “Cheech, what’s up? Let me get an invite!” You know? I can’t draw stick figures. I am always interested in how people can visually see it in their head and take a paintbrush or a pencil or whatever and just draw it all out and just make amazing visual art.
Could you tell us about that quilt there? (It hangs on a wall behind us.)
That quilt over there is from when I went to South Africa back in 2007 with my family. We were invited to perform at Desmond Tutu’s 85th birthday. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to perform but I did attend with my father and family. On a day off, we got to go into Sujeto. Into the ghetto, ghetto, ghetto. Not like the ghettos here in America; it makes Compton and East LA look like Beverly Hills. Like ghetto, ghetto. We went there and they were some of the nicest people. These ladies were out there putting together all these quilts. And I’m like, “How are they doing all this?” I just had to pick one up and that one just gravitated towards me. It’s very vibey. I grew up with a lot of strong women in my life, my grandmothers, my mom, my aunts, my sisters even, I just grew up with a lot of strong women in my life. So, that one just sort of gravitated towards me.
Now I am using it as a diffuser to be technical and geek out. When the speakers produce sound, rather than having them bouncing off of the wall, circulating and going all over the place and reverbing, the diffuser what that does is allows it to soak up the sound, and make it more dead sounding, so I can really hear the instruments and what is going on rather than trying to listen to music like you’re in a cave and it’s all swirling around.
I enjoyed all the arts and going to SOTA, Ruth Asawa School of the Arts San Francisco. There I was immersing myself with not just musicians, really dope musicians, but also with dancers, and actors, visual artists, even cats that were media and making films.
Then, I came down here to LA and started going to Cal Arts to study music. I was recreating everything that I learned at SOTA but now at a college level. It made me understand that music is just one expression of art and there are so many different expressions out there. I was like “Wow! I am just only scratching the surface. This is really cool!”
Funny enough, I actually ended hanging out more with a lot of actors and dancers and animators, and cats like that, rather than just musicians when I was in school. Musicians are cool but I feel if you know one or you know two, than you know the rest of them. I really just wanted to get down with everybody and it was pretty dope. That was really cool, both the high school and the college experience.
Where were these schools?
San Francisco School of the Arts, now it is called Ruth Asawa School of the Arts San Francisco and it is located in the Twin Peaks Area. Also, California Institute of the Arts which is in Valencia, but we just call it Cal Arts. Some of us call it Cow Farts because it is way out in the boonies, way out between a farm, a cow, and tumbleweed. Again, having those experiences definitely shaped me. It reminded me and made me truly understand that music is a beautiful language and expression, but it is just one expression of the arts. Again, that for me was really, really cool. It was eye-opening.
And what can we expect from Salvador Santana in 2019?
Ah man, right now I am just learning how to balance being a new father and everything else (audible laughter). It’s a trip but I love it. My son is my world; everything I do is for him. I am always thinking about him. I go to bed and wake up each morning reminding myself, “What is the absolute best for my son?” And then I just go out and get it. You know? I do it for him. I am learning how to balance all that out with the music and production. I am composing my own stuff for my solo project and the RMXKNZ project I got with Asdru.
I am definitely dabbling more in the film world by doing composition for film and television. You can expect a lot from me. I am just doing a little bit of everything with the intentions of not throwing stuff against the wall and just hoping that it would stick but throwing stuff against the wall and just making sure that something will stick. Once it does, I am just going to hone in on that and get up on it. But right now, I am just enjoying, exploring, but having a focus and right now my focus is my son.
I appreciate that!
Well, we appreciate your time. In conclusion, is there anything that we did not ask about that you would like to share with us? You have any shout-outs to give?
Shout-out to the Chicanos and the Latinx community, to everybody. I say it in my songs, “I’m black and brown and I’m hella proud!” Shout-out to everyone that is going through it right now crossing the border. Don’t think that you are not being thought of or that you are not being acknowledged. The world is watching and we are all listening. We all want to make sure that they have a quality of life that America proclaims to give to the rest of world. You know, everyone deserves that.
Shout-out to Asdru and the RMXKNZ project that is coming very, very soon. I promise that is going to be coming out this year 2019.
Shout-out to my son. I love you. I will see you in a few minutes!
Lastly, I want to mention a project I worked on with my team the last two years; it is titled “30 Days of Latinx.” Julissa Arce and I got together; she’s super awesome and amazing. We did a video series where we did thirty, not just artists, but thirty amazing human beings that fall under the Latinx community.
First, in 2017 we covered thirty Latinx people and how they impacted America in one way, shape, or form. Richie Valens, we did him. We did Dolores Huerta. “Si se peude.” She is another one, she is awesome. Go check out her movie if you haven’t (Dolores). We also did Desi Arnaz. He was one of the first to come up with camera one, camera two, and camera three.
And last year in 2018, Julissa and I got together with our teams and we did the same thing. We wanted to do, not just America, but how the Latinx community shaped the world. We touched on so many different artists. I hope that we can get together to do it again this year. Check out that series on my youtube. We had a blast doing it and I provided some of the music that you hear in the background.
Thank you for that. I watched some of the videos with Dolores Huerta and another with the actor Edward James Olmos.
That was with Casa in Action, it was different. But that sparked it and one thing led to another. The Casa theme was “This is my home.” We were doing that in late 2016, right before the naranja pendejo became not my president. We were trying to bring together all these great artists within the Latino community: Eddie Olmos, my father, Dolores Huerta.
We tried to bring all these greats within the Latino community to make sure that we could spread our word because I don’t want to say that we outnumber the world, but we definitely have a huge impact on the world. We can make a difference collectively as a community and we can inspire the rest of the world to band together. We should not look at each other as just Latinx, African-American, or white people, or this and this and that. Yo, at the end of the day, when the skin is decomposed, when we’re all bones, we’re still human beings.
It would be great to not have flags; it would be great to not have borders; it would be great to just, you know, I wouldn’t say have complete freedom, but at the same time, we don’t need these levels of restrictions.
As sons of immigrants and on behalf of friends that are immigrants, we thank you. We hope you keep using your platform as a public figure to speak out and bring attention to these issues.
Absolutely man! Es muy importante! Super important! Absolutely, igualmente y muchas gracias!