Alex Wong, Getty Last week, Nelly's stop at the Sierra Blanca border in Texas…
Carlos Santana's 'Keys to Survival': Not Letting Grammys Inside His House, Approaching the World Like Einstein
- Posted on Apr 16th 2012 5:00PM by Chris Epting
Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images
"Santana Live at Montreux 2011" was recently released on a two-DVD set and Blu-ray by Eagle Rock Entertainment. It features a career-spanning show that covers all the bases: From Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va," Fleetwood Mac's "Black Magic Woman," Babatunde Olatunji's "Jingo" and Willie Bobo's "Evil Ways" to John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme." Carlos Santana spoke with Spinner recently to talk about the release and his unique approach to his craft.
When you know you're recording a show, is there anything special you do beforehand to prepare?
The main thing is, what I do at sound check is to remind the musicians to really bring more. But I do that every show. To be present with love, effervescence, genuineness, honesty, sincerity, truth -- just to go out there and be freaking real [laughs].
Longtime fans will no doubt enjoy the scope and history of what's presented on this DVD. But do you still think about creating new fans?
Absolutely. First of all, I learned something by watching James Brown and Michael Jackson, that certain songs remind listeners of being at the center of the room with family. So when I gather these songs for people, it's almost like cooking all day at Thanksgiving -- you have to make sure everything is delicious. And I think people that don't know me can appreciate the care I take in the presentation, even if the music is unfamiliar to them.
You never seem to get bored with your standards like "Black Magic Woman" or "Oye Como Va." You still seem as if you're exploring new ways to make them sound fresh. Is that the case?
People ask me all the time, "Aren't you tired of playing the same songs?" I say, "Are you tired of breathing?" It's really perception. People may be projecting that on me, that maybe I get bored, but I don't feel that way, ever. I've found a way to make everything feels like the first time ever -- everything. You see, I like life. And if you like life, seriously relish every moment, then whatever you play is going to have seriously spectacular passion and genuineness. You have to do some inner work in your brain I think to get to this sort of point. Right now where I am in my life, I call "Forward Thinking," like Einstein approached things.
Talk about that a little more, Carlos.
Well, it means that we all need to consciously get rid of fragments of fear in our lives, eliminating things like superiority and inferiority. We need to make things welcome in our life -- for me it's my listeners, my family. We can't tell people how to be. Forward thinking is an invitation for people to clam their own light. That's why I always loved Bob Marley and John Coltrane, because they were very forward-thinking artists when they were here. So I think very hard with deep emotion about how to make the songs always sound good. When I play a solo, I always take a deep breath and go for that consciousness where, it's like I am stepping out of time, existing in a better place. All of sudden the notes sound different, and for me they feel different.
You obviously put a lot of thought and energy into performing.
Finding my way, man. Some people may say, "This guy is smoking too much weed" [laughs]. But I've got to tell you, it's an approach that's working for me because I am happy and I am one of the few musicians to play with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Justin Timberlake or even Justin Bieber. I'm in a place where people I play with respect me, from Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy to Jaco Pastorious and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
What was it like having your wife Cindy join you onstage for this show?
Amazing. Her heart is spectacular. What I adore about her besides her looks and skills as a musician is her spiritual clarity of certainty. A lot of people suffer from insecurity. She does not. She is a gentle and incredible person at home, but fearless on stage -- like Bruce Lee [laughs].
Can you compare this recorded performance with other productions you've worked on?
I'm grateful that there is a consistency and deliciousness in how it is. But see, I have what I call "celestial amnesia." I have no concept of yesterday. I look around here in my office with the Grammys and other trophies. I'm grateful -- but grateful they're not at my house. There is nothing at my house related to my career. That's a must, that I see nothing to remind me of the personality that I am. That hurt Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye. You have know when to get off the stage. I like being a person and not always a persona. Feeding a persona is exhausting and you end up smelling funny [laughs]. True! Being a full-time musical persona is a lot of work, man. And so it's important to get off that stage and be just a person at home. That separation, for me, is the key to survival.