For this week’s interview, we’re lucky to have guitarist Ignacio Zas of the band “Space Lemon.” Six months ago they released their music video for the song “Alone Again” (featured below).
MW: Ignacio, thanks for being here.
IZ: Thank you for having me!
MW: So, in listening to “Alone Again,” one of the first things that stands out is the grittiness of the guitar – would you say this is chiastic of your playing in general?
IZ: Yes I would. Specially at that point in time. When we did the EP I was listening to a lot of riff oriented and guitar heavy music, and I've always been a huge fan of gritty and rough guitar tones. Sometimes it’s something that sounds a little weird or harsh by itself but when mixed with the rest of the band it really creates a cool effect. I would say though, that my approach to guitar playing is constantly changing and evolving and a lot of our songwriting has shifted to the guitar doing different things, not so much carrying the same weight the whole song, which also gives me more freedom and has a different effect.
MW: Those riffs do a great job of sticking in your head. I’m curious if you all write parts separately and then build off the sound as a group or do you have a different approach to creating music?
IZ: It mostly comes together as a whole. There might be a preconceived idea, which I think was the case with Alone Again, I kind of had that riff going on in my head, but songs as a whole come together with the rest of the band. Our songwriting process does not come about in a particular way most of the times. We do come up with most of the songs just by jamming for a while until someone plays something that seems interesting. Once we realize that, and if we’re lucky to remember it, we’ll record it right away.
MW: How many guitars do you own and which one is your favorite?
IZ: I own 5 guitars, but my main ones are my Gibson Les Paul and my Fender Strat. The Les Paul is probably my favorite, because not only does it sound amazing, it’s from 1991, which is a very special year for me although i wasn’t even born. Some of my favorite bands released some of their best work that year and the fact that this guitar came out of that era makes me think it has a certain Mojo that makes it special. HA!. Pearl Jam released Ten, Soundgarden released Badmotorfinger, Nirvana put out Nevermind. Such a great year in music. I have used the Les Paul for mostly everything i do (except for some overdubs on the EP where i used the strat) but I'm starting to slowly branch out to different guitars, particularly a Gretsch, a Jaguar and a 12 string Danelectro. Using different tones is also a way to make the sound of the band evolve, and by using other guitars that sound and feel totally unlike each other it really boosts my creativity taking me to different places.
MW: Care to name-drop a few of your guitar heroes?
IZ: This is a tough one. There are so many guitar players I admire for different reasons. I would say my all time favorite guitar player is David Gilmour. He’s got such an incredible tone and feeling, every time I listen to him I can’t help getting goose bumps. Not only that, but he has a beautiful voice. John Frusciante is another one of my main guitar heroes, Troy Van Leeuwen, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Kim Thayil, Jeff Beck, Derek Trucks and the list goes on. I must admit I'm going through a phase where I'm being influenced by songwriters more than guitar players. I’ve been really getting into Trent Reznor's work both with Nine inch Nails and on his own, as well as Alain Johannes and Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards from Failure.
MW: Do you consider yourself to be primarily self-taught or was there someone in your life showing you the ropes for the guitar?
IZ: I’ve been really fortunate to learn from some really amazing people. Both when i was back in Uruguay, where I'm from, as well as here in LA where i moved in 2013. There’s always been a lot of things that I've kind of guided myself on how to learn them, but being close to some outstanding musicians totally opened up my mind to so much i didn’t know could be done on guitar. And I'm mostly not talking about technique, but about the approach one has towards the instrument and music as a whole. I thought i kind of had a handle on my playing until i came to know people that could outplay me in their sleep. A lot of these people were just friends that happened to be amazing at what they did, not only guitar but other instruments too.
MW: Outside of rock are there any other genres that peak your interest?
IZ: Yes. I’ve been really getting into acid jazz, ever since I met an amazing guitar player called Jinshi Ozaki that showed me the ropes. That mix of rock, blues, funk and jazz really got to me. It’s very inspiring and really takes my playing places I wouldn’t normally go. I’ve also been listening to more Jazz, fusion, reggae, classical music. It’s really good to sometimes listen to completely different genres because it clears my mind and helps me bring a different element to the music I make.
MW: How did you come to be a part of Space Lemon?
IZ: Well, after being around the music scene playing with some bands and doing some sessions I met a girl called Ale Robles, who’s an amazing drummer, and we discovered we liked a lot of the same bands. A little after we met we went to a show Queens of the Stone Age was doing at The Wiltern in LA, to kick off their tour for Like Clockwork. It was mind blowing and when we left we started talking about jamming together. We started playing and really hit it off. We eventually met Tommi who’s the singer and Felipe, the bass player, and Space Lemon was born.
MW: It seems like religion plays a big part in the lyrics of “Alone Again,” does the notion of faith influence your creativity a lot?
IZ: None of us are religious in the band. We represent different aspects of society in the video for the song, one of them being religion. But not just religion itself, more specifically the act of trying to shove beliefs down someones throat and forcing them to obey certain rules or follow a particular way of life. We have nothing against religion or religious people, we just think everybody is entitled to be free and have their own opinion (as long it doesn’t involve causing harm to others of course), so it’s really a representation of what we think can be negative about religious “organizations”. I think that not being religious, faith takes a different meaning. We all have it in a way or another, and what faith really is is subjective, but what i can say from a personal standpoint is that my faith is the trust i have in myself, the people i love and the world around me. I know that can lift me up and help me move forward, and as such it does influence my creativity. Not necessarily in a good way, because creation works in mysterious ways. Sometimes when going through a difficult time what comes out is better than the things that i write when being in a happier place. Sometimes it’s the complete opposite. I guess that’s the beauty of it.
MW: Anything new on the horizon?
IZ: Yes, I've been working with Space Lemon on a new album and we’re planning on doing some tours. Possibly West Coast and Mexico. We’ve also been playing live in the LA area, trying out the new songs and seeing how people react to them. We might release a single or two before we release the full-length album but we’ll see.
MW: Thank you so much for spending time with me!
IZ: Thank you!