Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group
12:50am, Emo's Annex
Larry Harlow once told me a preposterous tale about being flown to Puerto Rico for a session with the Mars Volta that ultimately became 2005's Frances the Mute. The legendary Fania Records bandleader and pianist wasn't told the nature of the recordings – his role within the song or where the piece even began or ended – and pounded the keys for so long on one take that his knuckles began to bleed.
"That was one the great musical moments of my life, to be the director for one of my absolute idols," recalls Omar Rodriquez Lopez, the guitarist and brain trust behind the Mars Volta. "I was going through this process where I had to completely break down the musicians I was playing with as a way of getting them to let go and break free of the structure and refinement they were used to. I recorded Larry for 15 minutes straight, pushing him hard until he was completely exhausted, and then I stopped and said, 'Okay, now we're going to record.'
"It was completely backwards from how you would make any record, but I only wanted pure, raw energy."
That's a hallmark of Rodriguez Lopez's prolific solo career. He approaches music the same way he conducts interviews – charting cosmic revelations at the speed of light. In addition to his work with the Mars Volta and collaborations with John Frusciante and Erykah Badu, Rodriguez Lopez has released 25 solo albums to date. Most of that material's represented in some capacity on Telesterion, a new 37-song collection that swivels from hyper-psych to voltaic free jazz and downbeat cumbia with all the subtlety of a crash landing.
"The concept of saturating the market is completely foreign to me," Rodriguez Lopez stresses. "Business is completely secondary. What's important to me is my personal healing as a human being, my relationships with the universe. Anywhere there's conflict, you look there and examine your choice of words and how you reacted. You look inward."