Published Apr 01, 2011Will Holland, aka Quantic, has been busy these past couple of years. Since moving from his home in the UK to the city of Calí, he's helped shine a big light on Colombia's heavy musical legacy. Quantic's two upcoming releases continue his musical journey through the dusty record shops and dance floors of Colombia – the Buenaventura Remix EP features cuts from his acclaimed Tradition in Transition album remixed by such artists as J-Boogie and Cut Chemist. And Cartagena! is a new compilation for Soundways Records that digs into big band cumbia and other tropical rhythms recorded between 1962 and 1972. Exclaim! recently had the pleasure to talk to Quantic about his career, his new home in Calí and his passion for the music of Colombia.
We're coming up to the 10-year anniversary of your first major album The Fifth Exotic. Looking back at that decade what's been the biggest moment for you?
Experimentation all the way and just keep things interesting. I've always been making music from the start so I don't see any particular milestone I've just been in it and really busy.
You've spent almost half of that time in Colombia. What made you want to pick up and move to Calí?
I went there to look for music, that was the original draw. I was looking for records. Calí has a big history of records. If you want to find soul records in England you go to Manchester, if you want to find salsa records in Colombia you go to Calí.
Your past few albums were all recorded in Calí. What about Calí continues to inspire you musically?
Calí never really had a big record industry. Grupo Niche, Guayacan obviously recorded there, but before that, Medellin was the hub of Colombia's record industry. In the '80s, Calí had a lot of groups and there was a lot of demand because of the whole narcotraficante thing in the '80s. A lot of musicians all leapt into the trade because there was a big demand for orquestas. Now you have a surplus, there's a tremendous, high level of musicianship but there's not much of an industry – which is cool for somebody like me because I'm always looking for talented new musicians.
How did you start to piece together your band in Calí?
Well, my key was Alfredito Linares from Peru. He moved to Calí at the beginning of the '80s because there was such a demand for his music there. He's been my main guy because he's got so much experience. Man, he's in his late 60s but he's such an amazing arranger/musician and basically he's known all the guys for years. He's brought a lot of guys up so a lot of my band has guys that cut their teeth in his band.
You have a new compilation coming out on Soundways records. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Basically through friends, we've been slowly getting obsessed with music from Curro Fuentes. So in the Fuentes story you have Antonio Fuentes who setup Discos Fuentes with his brother Curro and somewhere along the line Curro went off to setup his own label. After that he became a head producer for Phillips records. He basically recorded all this really heavy music, parallel to what was going on with Discos Fuentes. So this is a compilation of the best of that, so like cumbia and salsa, but there's a particular edge to the recordings he did. We went to Cartagena with Miles Cleret and we met him. We got a chance to meet him before he passed away and took some portraits. We also did a video interview and that will be online soon.
Not only are you down there doing music, you're also doing archival work. Was that part of the plan from the beginning?
It would be very easy to say, I myself as a European, that these Colombians don't care about their music. That's wrong, all Latin Americans are very proud of their music and have a great understanding and uphold old music still, which sometimes we in North America we lose that and we don't see the value in old music. The problem is there's so much of it, man. So many talented people who recorded such amazing work that I think so much stuff does gets lost.
Another project coming is the Caliventura Remix EP. Tell us about that project.
This is a remix EP of the Combo Barbaro record, kind of the best of the best getting their fingertips getting dirty and remixing stuff from Tradition in Transition. When I first moved to Colombia I was really concentrating on live music recording, I really wanted to get back to recording and I wasn't interested in beat making. Now I'm getting back into beat making. There are a lot of people who won't play live stuff, they're more into electronic music, so hopefully this will appeal more to them.
You're being included amongst the new school of Colombian artists who are pushing traditions in their own way. How does it feel to have your music embraced by not just an international audience but specifically by Colombians?
The point when I realized that it was being accepted more in that way was when I played SXSW last year. I was invited to the Colombian showcase and as I was walking along with my records on the streets of Texas, it was one of those cinematic moments, the British music showcase was on the way and I walked past it and I peered around the door and then walked on. It was very odd, logically I should be playing the British music party but I ended up playing the Colombian one. I'd be foolish to think that the music I do was just my thing and it's not. I record with so many musicians, each record I make has at least five to ten people playing. It's definitely a collaborative community-based thing.