An artist of many hats, Adrian Quesada has been a part of the music scene in Austin for the past two decades, playing in numerous bands such as Grupo Fantasma, Brownout, The Echocentrics and Spanish Gold. Never one to focus on one particular sound, Adrian is renowned for his ability to mesh many different types of music with various artists, and he is branching out into several other musical avenues these days. Adrian sat down with us and recounted his musical influences as well as his experiences here in Austin.
Adrian Quesada. Courtesy of Stevan Alcala.
With as many bands and projects that you’ve worked on, how do you keep the sounds for each band distinctive from each other? Or do you try to incorporate different aspects of each band into each other?
There’s not a lot of crossover in sound between different bands I’ve been in, maybe a little here and there but not enough to make it confusing. I never really intended to be in a bunch of bands I just like making different kinds of music! I’m down to two active bands I’m technically in right now; it got a little crazy there for a while, when I was in about five bands at one point.
Are there any influences outside of music that help shape your various sounds?
I would say that growing up on the border influenced what I do musically, in a number of ways. First would be the idea of growing up between two countries and how that affects the approach to language; I’ve never been phased by two different languages and that lends itself to the music, I suppose. Funny enough, we may be the only country in the world that only speaks one language.
The second would be the idea of multiple cultures, in general, and how I’ve tried to honor some of my “roots” but have also been firmly steeped in traditional “American” music like hip hop and rock and roll. I’ve also really come to appreciate time out in the country and in nature, in general. I find myself enjoying getting away from city madness and soaking in more quiet time, natural sounds and skies.
Looking back on all the impressive number of musicians that you’ve worked with in the past, which ones would you like to work with again?
Unfortunately the passing of Prince last year left me feeling like I wish I had been able to be in a room with him one more time.
What is some advice for musicians who are trying to break out here in Austin?
Be original, work your ass off and be humble, but not too humble; the music industry itself will do the humbling for you. Building community is really important as well and that means getting out there, making friends and supporting others. The last thing is that it’s easy to grow complacent in Austin, as it’s a town with its own musical infrastructure but it’s very important to step outside of Austin and focus on the rest of the country and/or world if you want to sustain yourself with a career in music.
You run your own studio, Level One Sound. Are there any particular producers or sound engineers that are influencing how you produce or anyone that you’d like to work with in that capacity?
I am lucky to call many of my influences as producers, friends or peers - Shawn Lee, Steve Berlin, Quantic, Gabe Roth and more, but one artist who is not necessarily just a producer but definitely has a producer’s touch who I’d like to work with is Beck.
With SXSW right around the corner, what does the festival mean to you and what are some of your most memorable experiences there?
The festival at its best has grown into an annual gathering of minds and ideas which we are lucky to have in our backyard; that’s not to say there is no bad side to that but I do think, as big and overcrowded as it's become, the good still outweighs the bad. Our first show with GZA from WuTang Clan many years ago was a memorable one but I’ve been a part of about two decades of SXSW, so it’s hard to pinpoint what really stands out. It’s usually been a whirlwind of activity, so the last couple of years I’ve enjoyed having some down time to actually catch up with friends who are in town and actually see a few shows.
Are there any tips or suggestions you might have for first-timers going to SXSW?
[The] first thing I have to explain to people all the time is that it’s not the “true” Austin, so factor that in when thinking about your experience here.
As someone that’s spent a lot of time here in Austin, what are some hidden food spots people may not know about and what are your go-to eateries?
The late night taco trucks on South Congress near Ben White are always rockin' and something off-the-beaten-path of sometimes overpriced food trucks, plus they’re incredible for a late night snack after some SXSW-ing and drinking. There’s probably ten of them between William Cannon and just north of Ben White. I’ve been frequenting Taste of Ethiopia on South Congress a bit with my family and it’s still somewhat under the radar. Little Darlin is awesome in South Austin and Pollo Regio and all its offshoots are also killin', and something you may not find everywhere.
I read that you’re interested in scoring films in the future. What kind of challenges exist with doing that and is there a local filmmaker that you’d like to work with? What are some of your favorite Austin films and soundtracks?
The challenge is that there aren't a lot of features being produced in Austin and a lot of scoring work still comes from Los Angeles, and even sometimes New York City. Obviously Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez are the two who come to mind, and have been amazing at being true to who they are and keeping a lot of their work based around these parts. I am a good friend and frequent collaborator of Graham Reynolds who scores a lot of Richard Linklater’s films so I have really enjoyed his work.
Is there any new music that you’re working on right now or any upcoming projects we can expect from you?
At the moment Brownout is working on an EP of original music and an album of Public Enemy instrumentals for a hip hop label called Fat Beats. I also recently worked on an album out near Santa Fe with a large cast of folks - Matthew Logan Vazquez of Delta Spirit, Jason Blum, Kelsey Wilson of Wild Child, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, David Ramirez and Noah Gundersun, and that will be a really cool record. In between lots of producing and engineering, trying to find time to write a new Echocentrics record but that may not be till late spring/early summer.
Contributed by John Esparza, ACVB Music Marketing Intern.