By Jeff “Skin” Wade (@SkinWade)
I was first introduced to Adrian Quesada over a decade ago. Influential Houston rap radio-personality Matt Sonzala, who I’d known since the early 90s, was raving about this Austin-based Latin band called Grupo Fantasma. Rumor was that they were one of the best live bands in Texas in ANY genre. And one of my hip-hop heroes, DJ Baby G, had done some scratching for them on a few recordings.
I had in my mind that they were along the lines of Ozomatli, but when I first heard them, they sounded like what I perceived as “traditional Texas Latin music.” They weren’t anywhere close yet to where they were headed, but Quesada, who was a guitarist in the band and would emerge as a strong producer, had a vision as to where they could go. It was influenced by funk and hip-hop, afrobeat and afro-cuban, Latin rock and psych rock, Latin jazz and salsa, with the sonic qualities of old soul records from the 60s and 70s. And not only would the band fully realize that vision, Quesada would do it on multiple platforms and turn a BUNCH of influential heads.
By the time AQ left Grupo, they had already toured the globe, won a Grammy for Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album and performed as Prince’s backing band on numerous occasions, including the 2007 ALMA Awards. Grupo was one of the premiere “Latin bands” in the world, but Quesada had other fires he needed to stoke, so he left Grupo to focus on other projects, including Brownout – my personal favorite of his various ventures. Brownout is essentially a Latin-funk band, producing fat jams residing somewhere between the blaxploitation soundtrack sound of the 70s, James Brown, B-Boy dance anthems and War. Recently, they’ve expanded their set to include a flirtation with Brown Sabbath, which is Brownout‘s take on the Black Sabbath catalog…and it’s a cool dark magic.
Simply put, my man AQ is a soul aesthete. He’s cultivated a sound that taps into the beautiful nuances of the varied genres – he loves and connects the dots between them. I think he’s a beast. We’ve had him write for the Velocity catalog on numerous occasions before, but with the buzz of his latest project (Spanish Gold) building, the time was right to do our first artist-centric project for the Velocity library. Spanish Gold is an indie rock trio made up of AQ, drummer Patrick Hallahan (My Morning Jacket), and vocalist/guitarist Dante Schwebel (City and Colour, Hacienda). The music world was tripping on their single “Out on the Street” and their appearance on David Letterman. And I was tripping on the idea of doing a Velocity project that was AQ’s sound with us kind of serving as his A&R. The result is Desperado Soul and we love it.
Desperado Soul is a beautiful dark cauldron bubbling over with funk, soul, rock, psychedelia and post-breakbeat era hip-hop mastery. And while I literally geek out over every cut, the must listens in my opinion include the Danger Mouse meets Spaghetti Western Rock of “The Austinite,” the eerie psych rock flavor of “Back From The Dead” (I could hear B-Real from Cypress Hill rapping over this joint) and the lazy grooving Latin LA funk of “Car Show.”
Also, check for influences like Dennis Coffey on “B-Boy’s Last Call” and dubby reggae production tweeks on “Damn, Son” – plus a little salute to what the Daptone folks are doing on “Sweet Soul Serenade.”
Actually, just savor the whole damn thing. Don’t sleep…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeff "Skin" Wade and his partner Ruben Ayala are the production team that oversees and develops the Velocity Label for FirstCom. He's a full- on music and basketball nerd and his family seems OK with tolerating him, which is nice.