Kevin Johansen, the “Yankee” who drinks mate and who started traveling the world when his father didn’t want to go to Vietnam

It all started with “Last Night I Was Dreaming With You”, an English translation of “Anoche sognova di te”A song by Kevin Johansen than the songwriter recorded with David Byrne in a New York studio. “Years ago I wanted to do something with him, because he is a point of reference and a person I admire. And it was all very nice. Last year I was playing in a club in New York. I invited him to come and in the meantime Juan Campodonico, an adventure companion at this stage of my life, interested me in singing a version of “Anoche soñé con tú”. I translated it, David made some very pertinent corrections, he emailed me saying he loved the song and I melted from love. Question that we went to record, it happened that Juan was in New York, we tried it on the console and that day we recorded it and we did it live together at night. And that song ended up being the starting point for this new album that I’m doing. “

– You talk about the album, but the topic that gave rise to this speech is the appearance of a second song, Leonard Cohen’s version of “Suzanne”, which you did with Jorge Drexler.

-The theme of the “album” is a recurring problem; perhaps it is generational. I’m very Taliban when I think of albums and Juan thinks more of a list of songs. Honestly I find it hard not to imagine that people listen to songs in order, from first to last song, which is what I do as a listener with the artists I like.

Kevin Johansen is back with new songs, an upcoming album and the intention to end the year with a show at the Palermo Hippodrome
Kevin Johansen is back with new songs, an upcoming album and the intention to end the year with a show at the Palermo HippodromeMAURO ALFIERI – THE NACION

– Let’s talk about the album then.

-With Campodónico, producer of all this, the possibility of carrying out this project was born. We met on tour of Europe, he with Bajofondo and I with mine. It was always: “Sometimes we have to do something together”. He has two things that I miss: an elegance and an unforced judgment. And the first thing I told him is that I wanted him to really feel in a comfort zone. I’m for the comfort zone, not against it. I think when you compose you have to feel comfortable, be in the place where you are best. In conclusion, Juan picked up the gauntlet. And the idea I proposed to him was to bring some of my songs back to his choice and add some that I usually do with other colleagues. Thus appeared, for example, this “Suzanne”, which we made with my dear friend Jorge Drexler, with whom we had done it other times as well. We decided to keep the lyrics in English and it seemed to me that we got a very nice version that we recorded in Montevideo and to which we added River Plate percussion to the pop band and electronic instruments, all led by Campodónico. And as a finishing touch, my daughter Miranda made a beautiful black and white video that you can see a couple of days ago.

-What other material will the album contain?

-With “el” Rubén Rada we made “El Tunguele”, by Eduardo Mateo. With the Mexican Natalia Lafourcade we recorded “Tú ve” and “El advertido”, by Violeta Parra. With Kiko Veneno we made a version of “Yo sé que te perdí”, which was on a DVD but didn’t have a studio record. Of course there is the Byrne thing. There is a song by Erasure with a string quartet, with Alejandro Terán and Javier Casalla, added to the Campodónico machines. All very beautiful together.

-Does the album already have a name?

-I think it will be called “Tú ve”, like the song we did with Natalia. I like that idea of ​​”moving forward” that that title elicits. I am attracted to the fact that the songs, once you have made them, belong to everyone, or to nobody. I like that personal detachment for this album where your own songs and the songs of others coexist.

-What will the live performances be like?

-We started with a beautiful tour of Chile. In May we go to Spain, where I also have a strong and miraculous audience. Then we will go up to Lima, Bogotá, Mexico City, some places in the United States. On December 5th we will have a great show at the Palermo Hippodrome. And always with my band The Nada, in which we will insert the loved ones Lefty Roizner, my older brother who turned 82 in December whenever possible. In the summer we played solo in Medio y Medio in Punta Ballena and it was wonderful. Are old school who has already backtracked and returned to being modern is the one with the youngest group leader. When there are many concerts, he feels the rush, but if it were up to him, he would do them all.

Kevin Johansen, a porteño like the others
Kevin Johansen, a porteño like the othersMAURO ALFIERI – THE NACION

-It is always difficult to place one’s work in a style other than the generic and imprecise “urban song”. How would you define yourself?

-This definitely has to do with how strange my life has been. I was born in Alaska a little by chance. My old lady fell in love with my old man, the gringo Johansen, who was from Denver, Colorado. A kind of Yankee Cordovan. A relaxed guy, not a hippie. He was a Democratic gringo who was against the Vietnam War and because he didn’t want to go as a conscientious objector, the government sent him to an office in Alaska as a clerk. That’s why I was born there. Then we have lived in Colorado and the last few years in San Francisco Bay. My mother had gone to the United States in the 1960s to study and from the Belgrano convent school she had become a feminist, socialist and anti-imperialist intellectual. So I have the data of Yanquee, because she listened to Joan Baez and Cat Stevens, but she mixed with the Beatles, Violeta Parra and (JOrge) Cafrune. When we returned in May 1976, I was just 12 and had to go back to sixth grade because I spoke horrible Spanish. And an uncle of mine who was quite conservative, although he knew my mother who was already raising me as a single mother, said to her: “for those of you who like left-handed people, here is the Escuela del Sol two blocks away.” , by the way, I was Javier Calamaro’s partner. And I discovered that the children, in the breaks, sang songs like “Fermín’s hands”, “My room”, “Cold tomato juice”. There I began to imbue myself with Argentine rock. I attended the second grade and the first in Montevideo, where I listened to Zitarrosa and Mateo. When I returned to Escuela del Sol for the second year, the wave was already “The Wall”, by Pink Floyd, even if The Police, which I didn’t like very much at first, was starting to look very strong. Being in my third year, my first recital was Bicycle, from Serú en Obras. That for me was Woodstock. I also went to see Spinetta Jade. But since my mother was more intellectual, I discovered Les Luthiers at the same time, or I went to the Colón to listen to Piazzolla or Andrés Segovia. In conclusion, I think all of this is what I have as information and what is definitely appearing in my repertoire and my tastes, which can sometimes complicate me to arrive at a clear definition.

-Was that sum-of-elements process taking place unconsciously?

-In my case it took me, perhaps more years than others, to find the essence. Because you add the political to my journey, beyond the cultural. Especially in my second shift after living in New York for 10 years. When we returned with my two and a half year old daughter Miranda, my in-laws at the time were very involved in the Alliance and very happy because the champagne pizza was over. The following year the Twin Towers fell and here what happened happened. And I felt a strange relief to be here and not there, 20 blocks from the fallen towers, with such a young daughter. I clicked. I understood my trip: Alaska, Colorado, San Francisco, New York, Buenos Aires, Montevideo. A socialist and feminist teacher mother. My generation had a dichotomy: having rebellious parents who rebelled against our grandparents, if we rebelled against our parents we were conservative. Perhaps all of this is also in the music I make.

-A few days ago I read some of his statements celebrating the triumph and the hiring of Gabriel Boric as the new president of Chile. How do you position yourself politically?

– Yes, of course, I’m happy with Boric’s hiring, as I was when Bachelet won. It is a joy as opposed to how disastrous it was. Likewise, Chile traditionally has a sobriety in politics that allows them to greet each other, welcome each other, be civil; unfortunately we are braver. Answering your question more, I would tell you that by educating I have that socialist, idealist and progressive base. But not even because we are a musician or an athlete we need to know and give an opinion on everything. I don’t know enough to talk about politics publicly either. I’m a singer. Just as I believe that to be a female singer you don’t have to be an intellectual. I like that word Colombians use, feeling-thinking. So I would define myself. I have ideals but at the same time a lot of disbelief in politicians. Like the sentence George Bernard Shaw, who said that politicians are like diapers, that you have to change them often because otherwise they give off a bad smell. I think everything needs to be recycled and we need to pile up the fluff when someone more neoliberal, or more to the right, comes along. If it was voted, it was voted. And if he comes more progressive or more from the left or more from the center left, you have to give him changüí too. This is the democratic exercise. I keep buying that plan. At the same time, with much disbelief in the granhermanismo which allows, for example, Russia to hide the war from the Russians. Or that question of networks that give the possibility of fake newswhich can sometimes be fun and sometimes a very serious problem.

Kevin Johansen is working on his new album with Uruguayan producer and musician Juan Campodónico
Kevin Johansen is working on his new album with Uruguayan producer and musician Juan CampodónicoMAURO ALFIERI – THE NACION

-I would say that it bothers you to locate yourself radically somewhere in the crack.

-Yes of course. But we don’t think it’s just our problem. The Yankee rift that was seen between Fox and CNN when Trump was leaving was tremendous. Americans are very crazy and it is a very sick society; And I say that as a Yankee that I am. I don’t know if it’s my look for my old lady that binds me more to this land than to the one where I was born and lived my early years, but sometimes we are also very unfair to ourselves. For example, comparing it to many cities in America or around the world, Buenos Aires is still a hellish city, with that strong problem it has with music, literature, culture in general.

-With calcium is it defined somewhere on the crack?

-They made me the band because when I came from the United States, with no connection to football, the 18 years of drought without being champions was just over. My grandfather was from Boca but my uncle and my cousins ​​were from River. They were elated and took me that way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.