For a guy who sings things like Take me far away / to escape myself / I was born to suffer, Luis Vasquez turned out to be a really nice and forthcoming interlocutor. We’ve talked about his brilliant last album „Deeper”, Berlin, films, gigs and lots more.
You always presented The Soft Moon as your solo project which main goal was to make you know yourself and tell who you are. So, after these three successful albums, how do you feel about yourself? Do you know who you are?
I think this process is gonna probably take my whole life, but with the outcome of „Deeper”, the third record, I do feel a little bit more changed and I feel like I’m going in the direction that I want to go. In terms of just learning about who I am and things like that. And also just becoming a more, I guess, peaceful person, you know, so I’m gaining more confidence in myself. I lacked a lot of confidence in the past and I felt very insecured and things like that. And The Soft Moon helps me gain that confidence. With each album it’s like a new chapter in a way into self-discovering.
As an outcome of these changes, „Deeper” seems so much… Well, DEEPER than your previous albums in almost every sense. How big was the influence of Berlin on it?
I think the influence that Berlin had on me was more subconsious. What happened was I came here – I live here now – but I came here two years ago and I stayed for a few months. At that point I was going through a lot of difficult times in my personal life. And I felt kinda lost and that’s when I wrote the first song for the record.
„Wasting”, yeah, exactly. And I wrote just like kinda basic foundation of that song, but it definitely had potential in it and it felt important. After I did this songs I went on tour for a while, in the States and also around Europe. And then I moved into Italy and when I listened to „Wasting” again – right before I started working on „Deeper” – I realised that „Wasting” is kinda the direction that I want to go. Since it was written in Berlin, I felt like maybe Berlin has more of an influence on the record than living in Italy. But I still don’t know! I mean, it’s still subconscious for me. I was depressed and was here two years ago writing „Wasting”, but at the same time I feel very creative when I’m in Berlin. So even if I was very sad at the time, I felt inspired to write and I think that’s the biggest influence Berlin has. It’s just I feel inspired here and I feel creative, and I think that’s important: to constantly feel creative.
Yeah, Berlin does that to people. I’m sure you’re familiar with David Bowie’s famous trilogy or Depeche Mode’s „Some Great Reward”, or Einstürzende Neubauten… And I can feel these feelings on „Deeper” too.
Yeah, that’s cool. Perhaps when David Bowie came out here, you know, he came out for a certain reason. And I came out here… My music kinda let me here. Actually, I didn’t even know about Bowie coming to Berlin before I came here. I didn’t know that, I found it out later. One of my favorite records is „Low” and it was written here. I was told by friends. When I would tell them „I’m living in Berlin”, that’s what people mentioned to me „oh, you know, this person moved to Berlin”. So it’s almost like we’re kindred spirits in a way.
You may call it a long shot, but I’ve also instantly found Deeper as some kind of soulmate of Nine Inch Nails’ debut „Pretty Hate Machine”.
Yeah, possibly yeah. It’s interesting, all the things that come out… I’m not thinking about replicating anyone else or I’m not so much influenced by other bands when I write, especially when I wrote „Deeper”. It was very internal. But it’s interesting to see when I stepped out of it after it’s been completed and I can also see all the similarities sometimes. I find that very interesting.
While on the subject of Nine Inch Nails, just like it always was „Nine Inch Nails is Trent Reznor”, The Soft Moon was always just you. With „Deeper” it was the first time you let someone from the outer world in – Maurizio Baggio. What was his impact on Deeper?
He was my sound engineer on a few tours before we worked on an album together. We established a pretty close relationship. We also gained some trust in each other, because we were touring together. When you tour, you’re very close to the people. So this was the main reason I felt comfortable going into the studio with him. Just because we established this friendship. And then it benefited the album, because when I write, I write at home. And then I was able to take my songs into the studio, because he has all this equipment I don’t have. I was able to expand my sound in every direction. And he helped me do that. He helped me accomplish my goal with the record: sonically and emotionally.
So he did what most greatest producers do: bring all the best from the artist.
Yeah. So most likely I will work with him again.
That’s cool, judging from the music, he has some great influence on you. Can we expect you to bring more people on board? Will The Soft Moon ever be like, you know, the real band?
Possibly, I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently. And I’m trying to figure out how to make that step. So I think what I’d like to do is… Next time I go into the studio… You know, normally what I do is I write the parts at home and I take them to the studio and then I can perform them, for instance like drums. I could use something like electronic drums, like a sketch, you know. And then I wanna take that to the studio and then I perform that live somehow. I recreate it. So I think something I would like to do is maybe bringing my drummer or even my bass player into the studio and for them to track their own parts. Record their own parts. But I still would have written them and maybe possibly I would allow them to have some creative freedom as well. But instead of me playing everything, I would still write at home, but then they could perform their parts in their own way. I think that would be my next step.
So you’re not into jamming?
No, I do, I love that and actually miss that. We get to do that when we rehearse together. We have our moments when we can bond in that way.
Were there any Soft Moon songs made this way?
No, not yet.
Would you like to experiment with some other producers?
Yeah, I’m open to anyone. It just depends on my connection with that person. It’s always based on the relationship for me. It would be cool for instance to work with „bigger” people, it would be cool to work with Brian Eno or David Byrne. Brian Eno would be pretty fine. He would take me into a direction that I’ve always wanted to go on the side eventually. Something more ambient or whatever. I don’t know, you never know what may happen, but I would find that very interesting.
You said The Soft Moon is a kind of therapy for youself. But „Deeper” is a rather depressing, nihilistic album. Do you think it could help anyone?
(laugh) That’s interesting. I think it possibly could help someone, because if there’s someone that can relate to it, it would let that person know that they’re not alone. And that’s always the first step in feeling more comfort and achieving one’s happiness.
Would you recommend writing songs as a therapy to other people?
I mean, only if music comes naturally to them. For me that just happens to be the way I express myself and work on myself. But I mean anything can be therapy, really. But I do recommend people to try to find their own unique way of therapy rather than going and talking to a psychiatrist. I think there’s a better way. For me it’s my creative outlet.
My favorite track off „Deeper” is „Wasting”, as you can guess. So is it really the only way: to accept the world, let the substance close you in and hope to feel alive one day?
Yeah… It’s about like letting go, just sometimes you have to stop trying to control your environment, because it’s impossible. Life is unpredictable, life is spontaneous. Things are gonna happen in your life that you know you can’t control. So giving in and letting them take over you, I think it’s just the easiest way. It’s like accepting your existence.
And you don’t want to change the world anymore?
(laugh) Maybe in my own little way, I mean more than anything I just want to leave my little impact. I hope to leave some sort of importance in my little world. Once I’m gone.
You said you’ve gained some confidence over time. The next example of changes on „Deeper” would be lyrics. There is much more of them now compared to your previous albums. Have you felt you’ve got something more to say this time? Have you found your way to express yourself in lyrics with that confidence?
I guess it’s the confidence aspect, but also it’s just because I’m kinda evolving and in the past I didn’t really know how to describe how I felt. And I didn’t really know what I was feeling. As I’ve grown a little bit older and I toured a lot and I think I’ve gone to the point where I’ve understood myself a little bit more. So now I’m able to put words behind my feelings. I think that’s just what happened naturally.
I know you were a graphic designer for some time. You seem to pay special attention to the visuals and design of your albums.
Yeah, design has always been important to me. I really like the esthetic and I think for The Soft Moon I was trying to create something bigger than just a music project. I kinda wanted to create Soft Moon’s own world. So I like to create different aspects that are involved like the graphic on the album covers or even the live shows, certain visuals that we use or certain lighting. Everything is a part of the same world. It’s more than just music.
You’ve also got some pretty good videos off this album. I thought „Far” was fantastic and then there was „Wasting”… Who is this mysterious Y2K? How did you find them?
There are these two guys that live in Los Angeles and they’re like a team. A friend of mine introduced the directors to me, actually. And my manager I guess had known them, because they had worked on a video for a musician called EMA out of Portland. Anyways, I was in Los Angeles at the time visitng my mom and I was there for about a month and a half, and so it kinda worked out nicely, because they were in Los Angeles as well. We met up and I told them my concept for „Far” – because that was the first video we did together – and originally we were only to make that video together. They were really fun to work with and they took my idea of „Far” and incorporated their own little in other style. And then we shot „Wasting” two days after. So it was like a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we did both videos. So on Sunday we did „Wasting”. But yeah, I’m very happy with „Far”. And I really didn’t have a concept for „Wasting” at the time. 'Cause they happened so soon, I was just focused on „Far”. But overall, yeah, so far it’s pretty good.
I can see so many influences in these videos, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that film „Beyond the Black Rainbow”.
That was my instant thought seeing „Wasting”. But there’s also this Dario Agento’s giallo imagery…
That’s cool, yeah, I like Dario Argento.
Even some Alejandro Jodorowski…
Oh yeah! Symbolism.
Yeah. So how many of it came from you?
Well, Dario Argento and Alejandro Jodorowski are like two of my favorites. Perhaps for „Wasting” it was more of a concept and I can totally see the „Beyong the Black Rainbow” similarity now that you mentioned that. And for „Far” it was like a David Cronenberg, David Lynch – like „The Elephant Man” – those kind of things were my influences for that.
Do films also influence your songs?
Just videos. Songs come from a different source, you know. It’s more like internal, it’s my existence. Sometimes when someone says a line in a movie and I’m like „wow, I can really relate to that”. Those kind of little things are sparks. But at the same time it’s hard not to be inspired or influenced by many things. It’s like a sponge. But a lot of times I’m not aware of what I’m influenced by. It always comes back to the subconscious. It hits me, it comes into my body and it’s not until I write a song or work on music that will somehow come out and I will notice it later.
So if you have to bring three movies on a lonely island…
(laugh) Well, I’m terrible with this kind of questions. There is a movie I really like. I saw it as a child, it’s called „La Bamba”. True story about this Mexican-American singer and songwriter, who became famous in the 50s and then he died in an airplane crash. But the movie always was special to me. I remember seeing it in theater when I was a kid. That’s really a hard question. (laugh) „La Bamba” is a true story that I relate to and I would probably choose something really strange… Like „Eraserhead” or something like that. I would definitely choose three different styles of movies.
Have you ever thought about making a soundtrack? You can certainly capture that cinematic atmosphere.
Yup, that’s one of my goals, to eventually score a film. Whatever opportunity I get, I would love to do that and move into that world. Horror would be cool. The suspense… Maybe even fantasy or sci-fi.
Sci-fi would be great.
Yeah, that would be cool.
You started in the MySpace era, when it was ruling the Internet. How would you compare that times with the present reality of Spotify, Facebook etc.? Is it getting better or quite the opposite?
You know, it’s interesting – I actually don’t pay atention too much to these things. I’ve kinda switched all my focus to just writing my music. And it also has to do with the fact now I have a manager, I have a publicist and all these people that work for me. So it allows me to step away. Which is cool. I like to just focus on myself and what I’m doing and how I’m living and I think in a way it kinda benefits my music, because that’s why my music comes out so unique and so honest. Because I’m not exposing myself too much. I’m still very much in my own head. I’d like to stay pure.
You’ve done some touring already. How was it? How different are your shows now, with the „Deeper” material?
Bigger, I guess. (laugh) They’ve definitely grown, I’ve noticed, and we’re also going to places we’ve never gone before, which is great. Also going back to the singing on the record, people can sing along a little bit more on the shows, it’s very fun. These are the things I’m noticing. Which is good and it seems very positive.
How about visuals?
These past tours I’ve focused more on lighting. I wanted to step away from visuals for a moment and see what kind of impact we can make with the lighting. And that’ve been actually very fun. We travel with the lighting guy, so it’s everything in sync with the music and very impactful and it’s very cool. But we’ll see what happens in the future, I would like to also expand… It’s just always about money and budget, basically.
You’ve been to Poland on two festivals, what are you memories?
They were both great, actually. I really enjoy performing in Poland, the fans there seem to be pretty loyal and very excited and not afraid to have fun or express themselves at the show. When there are other places where it’s hard to get like a facial expression from someone. It’s always different, but Poland is always fun and pretty spontaneous and exciting. It’s cool.
Thanks! What can we expect this time?
I don’t know, that’s a good question! We’ll see… I’m just gonna give you everything I’ve got like I always do, I always transform on the stage. It’s just very emotional, hopefully it’s very impactful and it’s something you’ll remember forever.
With how different each of your records is, I’m dead curious what will the next one sound like. Do you already think about new songs?
No, I never predetermine what the future is gonna be like, what the music… I just… When it’s time to write, I just sit down and whatever comes out, comes out. I don’t like to think about it. I put out the new record and then tour the new record, and once that’s over then I feel that’s been completed and now I can move on.
We’ve got this tradition on our blog, because it’s called „You haven’t heard this one before”. Now it’s your time to bring some artist we should listen and you could recommend to us.
Yeah, there’s one of my favorite artists I talk about quite often and I think he needs a little bit more exposure. He’s dead now, but his name is Patrick Miller. And his project was called Minimal Man. And I feel very connected to this guy. He’s actually very influential for me and his music’s a little strange… It’s not for everyone, but if you give it a chance – maybe you’ll like it.
Thanks and see you on tour!