Hi Walter we can start the interview not speaking, as usual, about the origins of the group, but starting from the normal end of an interview. So could you tell me what you are your future projects as Decibel and also what is Walter Schmidt doing at the moment (I know you have a lot of interests!) ?
Decibel´s future projects include a new album in the works. This time the main theme will be José Manuel Schmill´s work. We are planning to do a retrospective exhibition of his work and make a concert (or a series of concerts) using his work as back projections…this are the plans for Decibel for 2016…we are in the middle of recording and we have some finished tracks.
One of the most important things for me in many ways has been herpetology. I have been working as collector of reptiles for de Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico´s Museo de Zoología. I have published some notes in different herpetological magazines about Mexican lizards. Now I am working for the Comisión Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas on a project to protect lizards of the genus Abronia-endangered by many different threats- I have been working with these lizards for years and I am working on a book on these lizards in collaboration with some herpetologists from Mexico and USA.
Which are the reasons that brought you to re-form Decibel including Alex Eisenring who never was a member of Decibel before? Who are exactly the members of Decibel at present?
My friend Carlos Becerra, brother of Javier Baviera, sax player for Decibel for years, wanted to produce a new album of Decibel when Javier came back from New York-where he lived for more than 20 years-to Mexico in 2010. Carlos Robledo and I always have been the core of Decibel. On deciding to reform the band, Carlos Robledo suggested to work with Alex Eisenring an old friend of ours and the new Decibel was born with Alex Eisenring, Javier Baviera, Carlos Robledo and Me.
Can you give us your personal opinions about the 3 Last CD’s of Decibel that came out from 2012 to nowadays? (Méliès, En Vivo and Insecto Mecanico) ?
“Méliès” album is our music for the silent movies of George Meliés the extraordinary French film director, commissioned by the Cineteca Nacional. Carlos and I have being doing “Voyage dans la lune” since early 2000´s and made performances in Tijuana and Monterrey in music and film festivals. For the Decibel album we started from there and ended with the whole album while working on other more “rock” oriented pieces for future release.
“En vivo” started from a piece called “Los sueños en la casa de la Bruja” based on a tale by HP Lovecraft that was commissioned by author Carlos Prieto for the release of his book on Mexican experimental music. That was a solo piece played live in collaboration with Alex Eisenring. Then when time for a new Decibel record came we decided to work on that material. The album is the actual live recording of Decibel at Museo Carrillo Gil in Mexico City, is the most electronic work of Decibel in which we used recordings of Mexico City Soundscape together with sinthersizers and electronics.
“Insecto Mecánico” is our album for 2015 showcased at the Vive latino festival it includes a series of pieces recorded between 2010 and 2014. Is an album in the full Decibel spirit with collaborations from friends like Carlos Alvarado (via Láctea), Juan Carlos Ruizx (Arteria), Ramsés Luna (Luz de Riasda), Víctor Robledo, Carlos Vivanco and Elliot Levin. Here we explore in different directions from jazz fusion to minimalism, from musique concrete to rock in opposition and is a good sample of Decibel´s wide interests in contemporary music; electronics, live improvisations, soundscapes, ambient: experimental music.
Do you think there is a musical and spiritual continuity with the “old” Decibel?
I think that Decibel spirit is alive in all of our recordings: experimentation in different directions is something in common to all our albums.
What can you tell us about your past experiences with Size and Casino Shanghai which made something completely different from Decibel?
In 1980 Carlos Robledo and I decided to move into new wave/punk rock and formed Size with Illy Bleeding, vocals and Dean Style, drums. We recorded a couple singles and one album and appeared in a couple compilations, most notably “Sound Cosmodel” in Japan. “Nadie puede vivir con un monstruo”(No one can live with a monster) a video documentary on the band was released in 2015.
Casino Shanghai was another band in a more electronic, “tecnopop” oriented direction. The band released the album “Film” in 1985. Formed by Carlos Robledo,sinthesizers, Ulalume, vocals , Humberto Alvarez, keyboards and myself in keyboards and percussion. In 2013 the album was digitally remastered and released under GatoXLiebre. A remix of “Action minimal” was released in Germany together with the song “L¨tombeau d¨E.A.Poe” as a 12 inch in 2014.Some shows were done in Mexican clubs to promote the release of “Film” in 2013-2014
I know that you occupy yourself also of the label “Discos Abronia” that has released the last 3 Cds of Decibel, is it a hard work?
Discos Abronia is my pet project where I released two solo albums A third one “Rios de Sangre” appeared under Laguna Negra, these three records were only private pressings. In fact Discos Abronia is just “our label”. Decibel´s “Méliès” appeared on Abronia, distribuited by Fonarte Latino. And “En vivo” and “Insecto Mecánico” appeared under Abronia with distribution from Intolerancia Record Label. It is not a record company, but an output for our music that can be distribuited by anyone.interested.
Decibel always tried to self-produce its music which were the benefits and the handicaps of this decision?
The benefits of self production are mainly in the freedom we have to record as we please the music we like without any interference from outside the band. But the problems are distribution and promotion. We never had a manager or musical director. So we have to do everything by ourselves and as we have to do other things outside music to make a living we are limited in these aspects.
Mio Records approached me to release the box set “Fiat Lux” and we did well, I think. Unfortunately, as far as I know the company disappeared. But the box set is there as a compilation of Decibel´s Music from 1974 to 2000. We really like this record. It is a fine production and we are grateful to Meidad Zaharia of MIO for helping Decibel´s music to be heard outside Mexico.
Are there other Mexican artists you feel related to?
There are some artists in Mexico that we appreciate and are our friends for years, like Carlos Alvarado, Juan Carlos Ruiz (Nazca/Arteria), Ramsés Luna (Luz de Riada), Oxomaxoma and many others, we usually play concerts together with them.
Do you still like horror movies? Do you have a favourite film director ?
I have always been a Horror and Scince Fiction Fan. I love the Old Horror Movies with Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, the Big Names in the Hammer films . I relate more to actors than directors. I also like the Warhol´s produced “Blood for Dracula” and “Flesh for Frankenstein”: Pure fun. On Sci-Fi my favourite is Roger Vadim´s Barbarella with Jane Fonda, produced by Dino de Laurentiis. But my favourite director of all time is Federico Fellini and his “Satyricon”, one of his best.
Do you still have relationships with Recommended Records that brought you some celebrity outside
From 1975 to 1986 I was director of the music magazine “Sonido” and produced a weekly radio show for the University Radio Station. I wrote a lot about progressive rock, free jazz and new music. I started to have correspondence with Chris Cutler and through his contacts I made many interviews with Rock in Opposition artists including Chris, Fred Frith, Univers Zero, Etron Fou Leloublan, Zamla Mammaz Manna, etc. Chris gently included Decibel in his Recommended Records Sampler and distributed Decibel´s “El Poeta del Ruido” though his distribution network, helping Decibel to be heard for the first time outside of Mexico. This sampler gained Decibel reputation as a Rock in Opposition band.
Experimental music doesn´t have a big audience in Mexico so the situation has not changed for Decibel over the years. Of course is easier to get places to play and companies to release our records now, after forty years, but I might say that Decibel has just a little loyal audience that keep on buying the records in a small scale. Through the years we have played in different cities around the country, but we have never played outside Mexico.
Alternative music scene in Mexico is as big as it is in any big city, we have some independent labels, including Intolerancia and Independent Recordings among others. There are many bands of all kinds from punk to electronic, improvisation, progressive rock. I Think that mexican music offer is getting bigger than demand for it. We are crowded with independent releases and many, many of them are worthless or lack a definite direction.
You said in another interview that Italian Progressive was one of your inspirations is it true?
Could you tell us which were the highpoints of your musical path and when you decided you wanted to be a musician?
I consider myself privileged to have interviewed and met so many extraordinary artists over the years as Peter Gabriel, Robert Wyatt, Chris Cutler, Fred Frith, Daniel Denis, Dave Stewart (Egg),John Cage, Iannis Xenakis, David Bedford, Christian Vander, Daevid Allen, Peter Hammill, B.B.King, David Vorhaus, Winston Tong, Steven Brown…too many to mention. For Decibel I think the highlights have been playing along with Magma and Gong in Mexico City as well as opening for Univers Zero.
Since our teens Carlos Robledo and I have been very close friends, for years I have played his music mostly, we share very similar interests so we can work together very easy, the music flows and we can adapt to different situations. I think he is the perfect partner to work with.
Now the band is formed by Carlos Robledo, Alex Eisenring- who produces all recordings and concerts-, Carlos Vivanco (who guested in “Méliès”) and me.
I know that you often write about music, so could you write a few lines about what you feel while you compose and play your music?
My inspiration comes from many things. Books and films are a good source. Nature too. Sometimes I write with a definite idea in mind. Other times it just happens, for example “El Eclipse” from the album “Méliès”, I was improvising on the keyboard and Alex just recorded it without telling me and ended up as a piece and I think there is a strong influence of Robert Wyatt´s Rock Bottom in it. I was tempted to send it to him…
How is it to be an artist in nowadays
Even with the many difficulties we have to face to survive I feel really happy to have the opportunity to make music and share it with other people.