THE INSIDE STORY: Felipe Perez Santiago and FORMIKA

FORMIKA, a new collection of chamber music from Navona Records, spans a lifetime of composition and artistic development through the eyes of the Mexican born musician and composer Felipe Perez Santiago.

Today, Felipe is our next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to hear what Felipe hopes to release in the future…

Who were your first favorite artists growing up?

Since I was very young I’ve been interested in heavy, distorted, and weird music. As a teenager I started listening to Iron Maiden, Metallica, and other heavy metal groups then discovered a new passion: progressive rock. Pink Floyd and King Crimson have always been present in my life, and of course my lifetime hero J. S. Bach.

When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist/composer/creator?

When I was a kid I was always singing, even though I had, and still have, a horrible singing voice. My mother recalls one day, when I was around four years old, I repeatedly sang one tune until she approached me and asked where I had learned it. Very seriously I replied “this song is mine and I have a lot more.” Fortunately, she immediately called my father saying “this boy needs music lessons right now,” and I have been a student of music ever since.

What was your most unusual performance, or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?

I have more unusual performances than I can recall. I am not only a classical composer and performer, but I have also played, and still play, in experimental rock bands. I have performed at major theaters and festivals, as well as clubs, pubs, and private parties, so the unusual factor is always present. However, I certainly remember one very embarrassing moment…

I was in the Theatre de la Ville in Paris and the Kronos Quartet performed my piece Campo Santo to close their concert. At the end of the piece the public was going crazy and even gave a standing ovation. The ensemble asked me to join them on the stage for a bow. After the bow, I turned to see that the ensemble was already offstage, leaving me standing there alone.

It was dark up there except for one blinding light facing me. When I attempted to leave the stage I walked to my left but there was no exit on that side. What theater doesn’t have exits on both sides of the stage?! So, I walked straight into the wall with everybody shouting at me (in French) and pointing with flashlights at the the other side of the stage. I then shamefully crossed the whole stage again.

What is your guilty pleasure?

I listen to all kinds of music, so I have no guilt in admitting that I listen to rock, pop, jazz, salsa, cumbia, trova, reggae, techno, metal, etc. My taste is very eclectic. However, I cannot stand reggaeton, a new style that’s very popular in Spanish speaking countries. That’s where I draw my line.

In the event of a zombie apocalypse, what are the three things you absolutely can’t live without?

My computer, my guitar, and my pair of jogging shoes.

If you could have any job in the world and make a living at it, what would that be?

Music, then music, after that, music, and, at the end, music. Then filmmaking then law (yes, I would love to be a lawyer).

If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Tibet. I love their culture and I’m crazy about mountains. That or Berlin, I simply love the city.

What would you say to an artist performing your work that nobody else knows?

Basically what I always tell them: communicate with the audience. During rehearsals I can be very demanding with notes, dynamics, and tempo, but once we reach the performance I always focus more on the emotion.

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What was your favorite musical moment on the album?

I must say I really love the whole thing. It’s a compilation of my chamber pieces from the last 20 years, where I selected what I liked the most out of my catalog.

Was there a piece on your album that you found more difficult to compose/perform than the others?

Not really. I had amazing performers and of course every piece represented a unique challenge, but in general I really enjoyed the whole composing, recording and production process of it all.

What does this album mean to you personally?

It represents my musical thinking of basically my whole professional life. It is also a continuation of my album MANTIS which represented the same idea but with my electronic pieces. Eventually I would like to release a third album of that concept but with my orchestral and choral works.

Is there a specific feeling you want listeners to tune into when hearing your work?

I consider this album an emotional rollercoaster. Buckle up and enjoy!

FORMIKA is now available through Big Round Records for streaming on purchase. Click here to explore this new album.

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