Alex Lebron Torrent – a musician for these times
What we need in times like these is some good news, a silver lining and the bit of perspective that makes things seem a little brighter.
That’s why we respond to those viral clips from around the World, opera singers in Italy, and in Barcelona an impromtu concert – one guy on a balcony playing piano and another guy hanging out of a window playing sax.
It went completely viral a couple of weeks ago and got picked up by TV news channels locally and as far afield as the USA. You’ve probably seen it, and you’ve probably seen this guy in commercials for beer or vans – or my favourite for a phone company, his face on the back of city busses.
This is a guy who was always going places, and this may have just given him the boost he needed. He’s since had a profile in the biggest local paper and online. Front Page News has the inside track on up and coming Barcelona musicians though – he’s a close personal friend and we’ve known him for years, playing in and around the Barcelona music scene. I sat down with him and asked him for his story, his music and influences, tips for musicians trying to make it and his opinion on the growing Barcelona music scene. Typically, he didn’t hold back and gives it to us straight.
Early days – Colombia, Sweden, Catalunya
So Alex - where are you from?
I was born in 1985 in Cali, Colombia, and was adopted by my Catalan father in 87, Pere and my Swedish mum, and we moved to the Swedish countryside – Häggenäs. It’s about 7 hours North of Stockholm, a farming community of only two thousand - a rough start for a little black kid. I was one of 60 000, and when I say 60 000, that was only when we moved into the city when I was 5 after my parents divorced.
Do you have any early musical memories?
Growing up there, it started with me lip-synching to an Elvis Presley cassette given away free with our car- it was the greatest hits, I had no idea what I was singing, maybe that was for the best ha!
I have a lot to thank my father Pere for, because through him, well he played a lot of classic rock, older music was never frowned on, it was always appreciated – it was a broad variety from Elvis Presley to the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton – you know - the who’s who of rock music basically. And then there was Miles Davis, the Jazz king, Queen has to be mentioned and Rod Stewart – a broad variety as I said.
And then, I’d say that was Dad, and approaching high school, while you know, getting a bit older and spending more time with friends, they influenced what I was listening to – that was more in the realms of pop, different kinds of pop, and then in my latter school years, because during my gymnasium (Swedish college) years, I was studying music but I was more of a jock, but I always had music lingering on the side.
Those years, it was back to a lot of old stuff, Jethro Tull and Jeferson Airplane were some of my favourites, you had The Inkspots as kind of a wild card, not too many people my age listened to The Inkspots. So, I tried to.., I realised very young that I loved music, it’s not like a particular genre I grew up with – I just loved music. A song that I loved, I loved, whether it was like a Japanese jingle for a Japanese TV show, or this piece by Mozart – it doesn’t really matter if it makes me feel good. I’ve always tried to compile as much as I can because I realised the more I listened to and the wider my vision when I listen, the more I stand to learn when I, myself, start to write my own songs. So that’s why and it would only broaden my perspectives even more.
Which instruments do you play and how did you learn?
Right now I’d say I play, the soprano, alto and tenor saxophone – I play the piano, I dabble with a little bit of bass guitar (mostly ‘cos I get it for free from playing guitar, so a Bass player would know that I’m not actually a bass player, but if I’m asked to carry a bass line in a song, I can basically figure that out from my tab with rhythm and melody) so I throw bass in there if given a chance to work it out…
The guitar I’ve mentioned and then there’s the drums – that’s the one instrument I’ve taken classes in – I started taking classes when I was seven years old. Then we have the xylophone and vibraphone – I picked them up when we had a big show in high school and we were just asked “Who wants to try these instruments?” and I was just like if I say yes, and they choose to have me in the show, that means I’ve gotten to learn this instrument for free… so I just say yes and they ended up picking me for the show. So my idea came through – I learned to play them for the show in my second year at gymnasium.
Other than that, what do we have? The djembe and general percussion all round, also the harmonica, which I start to have a little bit in my own music now, when I try to produce, you know I just try to again – since I’ve been listening to a lot of blues growing up and rock, if you will, the harmonica is utilised in so many different ways, as so many instruments – so I figured the more instruments I can dabble with at least, the more inspiration and you know the more I can add to my own vision. Different melody lines, for example, maybe don’t sound good on the saxophone in that particular song, but it will if you hit the melody on the harmonica in the very same song – it can be like the timbre or the tune of the instrument that can be like the factor X, in those situations so – you never know… so I’m just trying to be open-minded.