interview to Willy Morales of Los Mac's. By Gonzalo Planet.
In the middle of the 60's, Willy Morales formed one of the most
important Chilean rock bands of these years: Los Mac's. Their musical style
took more risks that the Nueva Ola bands. They sang in English, as Los
Vidrios Quebrados, and absorbed the psych beat of The Beatles, The Animals
and other invaders.
Los Mac's were Willy Morales (voice, guitar, keyboard), the brothers Carlos (bass guitar) and David McIver (voice and guitar), and Erick Franklin (drums). Between 1966 and 1968 they recorded four LPs. Both first albums, "Go Go 22" and "Go Go" Session by The Mac's, were comprised mostly of cover songs, with only two of their own compositions. But their third record is the one that has called the attention of European and North American collectors: "Kaleidoscope Men", is the album by which they are remembered to this present time.
Kaleidoscope Men is an LP that, when listening to it 30 years later, impresses one only by the excellent compositions which are inspired by the most lysergic side of the musical vanguard of the 60's, but by its surprising clarity in a sonorous context dominated by La Nueva Ola. At the time of recording it, its members had an age average of 19 years old.
"...was an insulating period for us, because just a single area of Chile knew about what was happened outside. The communications were not those of now, and to see something new we had to tune the Shindig show, on the channel of the Universidad de Chile, where played the great figures which their records did not arrive here, like Herman's Hermits, Dave Clark Five, and later The Doors".
Around 1965, Los Mac's played on diverse stages, like the Nido de Aguilas, the only Chilean-North American school ."Gringos gave to us a music that was a total flight: Iron Butterfly, The Doors and Jimi Hendrix. So we had another vision of music. While the radio exclusively transmitted José Alfredo Fuentes, Luis Dimas and Los Tigres (members of the Nueva Ola), we had another style that cost too much to introduce it, because it didn't sell", remembers Willy.
After listening to the influential Sargent Peppers' of The Beatles, the group realized that it was the time to compose a record only of their own songs. "Friend", the single by Los Vidrios Quebrados, was also an influenced in making "Kaleidoscope Men". "When we listen to Los Vidrios Quebrados, they gave us the push that we needed, because we realized that there was more people on our same wave", Willy remembers.
But RCA was not convinced of the idea of the band, mainly because the covers Lps were best sellers. But Los Mac's finally got what they wanted, and the label gave them enough money and new equipment to record the album.
-RCA ordered to Los Mac's the first distortion
effects and Fender guitars that arrived to Chile, right?
"We ordered all Fender equipments, the best ones. We had three Reverb, Bassman, I had a Fender Stratocaster and David bought him a wonderful Gibson Stereo, the same one that Alvin Lee of Ten Years After used in Woodstock. Erick had a complete Ludwig drumming set, and in addition we were the first group that had own vocal amplification".
"Before, if you wanted to play there weren't microphones. There was nothing. There was horrible equipment, high flat loudspeakers, or those metal horns that are used to make propaganda. And we made vocal arrangements. It was a disaster. When we ordered the foreign devices, we each had one microphone and our own equipment of voices that we took to all places we played live. We eliminated all kind of problems".
In addition to the new acquisitions of Los Mac's, the talent of other collaborators was fundamental in the final result of the recording."The label put to our disposition the musicians of the orchestra we requested, and to Carlos González, who was not only a Nueva Ola singer, he also was a very good orchestrial arranger. He came to the rehearsal until he caught what we wanted".
-How was LP produced, for example, the backward
guitars and orchestra tracks, with recording techniques so limited?
"It was terrible. There was a great technician who was Luis Torrej& oacute;n, but four tracks: rhythm guitar, bass guitar, keyboards and drums were recorded live. And later the overdubs. But there wasn't headphones in the studio, so I listen the instrumental tracks through a big speaker, and the sound returned on the microphone. And we could not eliminated it". "To record backwards guitars, the technician putted all the rhythm guitar on backwards, and I had to calculate to know where I had to begin the guitar solo, for example, and to play in a opposite order the sequence of chords. It was terrible, but very fun".
A rarity was a Bob Dylan sample on the song "Degress". "We found a sample of his voice with the same tune of our song, and the same tempo. So we included it", say Willy. Probably, Los Mac's made the first Latin- american song which included a sample.
-How much time did you spent in the recording of "Kaleidoscope Men"?
"We had a month, whereas most of the albums were recorded in two or three days. We had all the possibilities. Also there was a very nice vibe with another people of RCA, like Juan Mateo O'Brien of Los Vidrios Quebrados. I was friend to him, and he came to the studio to listen to what we were doing. I needed a lyric, which David generally did, and he said to me 'could i collaborate?' Of course!".
Willy Morales talks about to the song "Dear Friend Bob", that also appears in the compilation "Pepperisms Around the Globe", which includes a selection of worldwide bands influenced by the famous LPof The Beatles. The song "A Través Del Cristal" (Through the Glass), is another example of the fascination of Sargent Pepper. "It was real madness. The instrumental arrangements of "A Través Del Cristal" were not a happy copy, but it was totally influenced by "Strawberry Fields Forever"", recognizes Morales. In spite of the excellent result, "Kaleidoscope Men" was an LP misunderstood by the Chilean people, who were more interested in dancing than listening. The only successful song was "La Muerte De Mi Hermano" (My Brother's Death), composed by the Dj Orlando Walter Muñoz, and Payo Grondona. Los Mac's hated this song, and they recorded it as a favour. "Payo Grondona was nobody, he did not know how to write or compose. Walter, a good friend of David, presented us to Grondona with "La Muerte De Mi Hermano", a horrible song".
-That was the more successful song of the LP on
"Sure, but I took that song and I transformed it completely. With Los Mac's we did a modern arrangememt to it, I changed the chords and we included the sound of machine guns. But the song was really horrible. I like the book Frutos del País, the History of the Chilean Rock by Tito Esc& aacute;rate, but there is another one of an author that I don't know who is, and he mentioned more to Payo Grondona than to Los Mac's, and gives the feeling that we were a creature of Grondona, and was on the contrary". By the poor reception of "Kaleidoscope Men", they wanted to leavef Chile in search of better opportunities. But before they left, they had to fulfill the contract, and recorded a fourth LP, composed again by covers songs and some of their own tracks. The initial destiny was the United States, but by recommendations of RCA they traveled to Italy in 1968. That was the the end of Los Mac's. "Back in Italy the rock music does not work at acommercial level. We had to begin everything at zero, to learn another type of music". No one contracted them, unless it was to play Brazilian music or ballads.
|from Ritmo magazine, September 1967. It says that Los Mac's are very proud with their new electronic equipment. Now we can compite with the Beatles or The Rolling Stones!, they said. The article also says that Los Mac's were making a chilean tour, and recording a new LP. That Lp is Kaleidoscope Men.|
-So Los Mac's changed the repertoire.
"We had to change the repertoire, because we spent all the money buying instruments, and nobody contracted us nowhere". On the road they met Gino Paoli, a famous italian singer, who saw them playing and offered for them to be his support band. Of course, the ballads were the fort of Paoli. The singer gave them a box full of ballad LPs to learn. In Itally the contact with rock music was nill. In 1969 the band dissolved and members, except for Morales, went to the United States thinking that they would find better musical horizons. "Erick was temped by some friends that were in the US (Sergio del Río, of Los Jockers, and Carlos Corales from Aguaturbia were in the US on that time), but I didn't want to go. Erick worked as a painter and Carlos in a pizza restaurant, on clandestine way to later come to Chile". "And David stayed with me. We formed another group. I took an exceptional Chilean keyboard player and we contracted a very good Italian drummer". That group was called La Sangría (The Drain), and they used to play Santana covers, half an hour before accompanying Gino Paoli. They got to support the first concert of the Bee Gees in Rome, before they disolved, in 1970.
-Why did you wanted to stay in Italy?
"Because to return to Chile in those conditions was absurd. We wanted to prevail outside and to come back to this situation seemed to me, very cowardly. Eveybody had done it. I don't say names to you because... why".
And he prevailed. But it wasn't easy in the beginning. Although he passed hungry and cold, Willy Morales today boasts of having worked only in things related to the world of music. He was dedicated to write songs for other artists, and also he recorded several successful solo records, at the beginning of 70s.
-You recorded many solo LPs in Italy. "A lot. I have records all over the world. I had compositions like "Fantasma" (Ghost), that has versions in Japanese, in the US the band Tavares recorded it with the name of Amanda, in Portuguese sung by Brazilian Pablo Cesar. "Señora Melancolí a" was recorded by the italian singer Mina, and I still I recieve money by author rights. Luckily I have all".
" I also won the 1974 Benidorm Festival with the song "Ella Era" (She Was), interpreted by Tony Landa". But Willy recorded the song as a single shortly before the competition, so he had to yield the award. "Of course we won the Festival, but later the second song took the prize. And by author rights I gained a lot".
Totally involved in the Italian musical circuit, during the 70s and 80s he lived of writing and for along time he survived by the money obtained by concepts of author rights. Until today he continues receiving checks.
-And in that time did you maintained some relation
with Chilean friends or musicians?
"No. With nobody. I did not go there either. And with the social and political events between 1970 and 1973, I wasn't interesting in going to Chile". He returned in 1978. And since then he visits Chile once in a while.
-Do you still playing rock music?
"In Italy that does not work. And here (in Chile) there are very few possibilities. Here there are good musicians, but they need money. And to make a good group we need a lot of rehearsal".
Today (1999), Willy Morales is in passage in Chile, eliminating some
pending business, soon to return to Italy where he lives. His love of the
jazz also leaves place for new Chilean groups like Los Tetas, Angel Parra
Trío and La Ley.
He assures that he would not like to relive the past, except to return to meet with his old friends of the band. "If I had to join with Carlos, David and Erick, I would not do to Los Mac's, absolutely. I change the name and we would make another type of music. I am not going to make revival nor to sing "La Muerte De Mi Hermano", I would make a group to play Cream and Jimi Hendrix covers, who driveme crazy. Unfourtunately, in Italy that does not work. Here it could work, but in the long term".
And he smiles when remembers that he left the band Alan y sus Bates,
a very successful group of la Nueva Ola, to go on with Los Mac's. "There
are those things that occur at a certain time. Carlos had fantastic a vocal
sensitivity, and David a wonderful musical sensitivity. The time gave the
reason to me".
Interview with Los Vidorios Quebrados