I was able to catch up via telephone with Roberto Lange (more commonly known as Helado Negro) about two weeks ago in anticipation of his upcoming shows; he’ll be at the Black Cat in DC tonight alongside Sinkane and Ra Ra Riot, and on Sunday he’ll be here in NYC at Glasslands for an album release party celebrating Invisible Life. I asked him lots of questions (some more relevant than others) so if you’ve ever wondered about Roberto’s former tree climbing habits or whether he believes in ghosts, now’s your chance to find out:
So you just played The Empty Bottle on the 6th…was it as empty as that time you and Julianna Barwick played a show there?
Yeah, there were a lot more people! 100% difference. [Laughs]
Well that’s good! And congratulations on Invisible Life! Were there any aspects of the writing or recording process that were especially challenging (or maybe especially easy) for you this time around?
I think every time you make a new record and start the process of thinking about even trying to finish something like that, it feels like you’ve forgotten how to make anything. Looking back, you think, “Where was my head at when I made these things? How did I even do that?” I think that happens a lot with making any record for me.
Right, I get that. Now, this is a very theoretical scenario, but if we lived in a world where music was for some reason super flammable, and your house was on fire and you could only grab one song off this record on your way to safety, which would it be? This is basically just me forcing you to choose a favorite.
Oh, I’d let it all burn. [Laughs] I’d save myself so I could make a new song.
Good answer! Okay and NOW I’m going to ask a few questions based on the wording of your song titles, not necessarily the actual concepts or themes of the songs. SO, for “Ilumina Vos,” we have a very cheesy one, and that is: who or what lights up your life?
Well you know, that song is kind of a play on words; “vos” can be “you,” or “voz” is your voice, so it’s kind of two different things. But in terms of who lights up my life, my lady does!
Cute! Does she come with you on tour?
No, she’d probably strangle me if she came on tour.
Is that one of the harder parts about being on tour, then? Being apart?
Absolutely. It’s so tough; it’s like, you can only be so intimate in terms of talking or hanging out on the telephone, you know?
Right. But absence makes the heart grow fonder, so at least there’s that aspect of it I guess. Now, the next one is for “Lentamente.” What are some things that are really important for you to do slowly?
Well, taking your time is important in a lot of ways. I think whether you’re making music or just spending time with someone, it’s important not to be rushed.
Very true. Okay, the next one is for “Dance Ghost,” and I was going to ask you if you believe in ghosts and/or if you’ve ever seen a ghost.
Yeah, I think I believe in ghosts. I believe there are ghosts in different forms; maybe not spiritual ghosts that are people hovering over you, but I think there are ghost things that happen within our lives. You know, like when you think your phone is vibrating but it’s not. Things like that.
Right, that whole deja vu thing. Now, the next one is “You Heard,” so what’s the last thing you heard apart from maybe your own music?
The last thing I heard that I liked was this song by this guy Jib Kidder. I don’t know the name of it, but it had a really great beat.
Cool, will have to check him out! Okay, and I was also going to ask you if there have been any big disasters on tour in light of your song title “Catastrophe.”
I feel like there are small disasters, you know? There are no big moments I can think of, which I’m thankful for! It’s just been small things here and there.
Manageable disasters, that’s good. Now the NEXT one I’m going to ask has to do with “Arboles,” and first I want to know if you’ve heard of these urns that you put ashes in and then bury, and they turn into a tree.
No, that is crazy.
It’s really crazy, and I just heard about them, so I felt like I should tell someone. But the second half of that question is: were you into tree climbing when you were a kid?
I was! There was this orange tree behind our house that I used to love climbing.
That’s fun and delicious! I always envy people who had and/or have fruit trees in their backyards. Okay, and now for “Relativos,” I was going to ask you if most of your family lives in Ecuador, or the US, or if they’re split between, and whether or not they’ve been supportive of your musical career.
Yeah, there’s lots of family everywhere (Florida, all over the States, and Ecuador), but yeah, I did a tour in Ecuador last year and my dad was super excited. It wasn’t that he didn’t take what I do seriously before, but I think that was a big moment for him.
That’s great! Now, this next one is for “Cuantas,” so as a busy person, how many hours long would you make the day if you had the ability to change it from just twenty-four? Or would you keep it the way it is now?
I wish daytime was doubled, like there would be two mornings and two afternoons. I think nighttime is always enough, but two mornings and two afternoons would be great; you could eat two breakfasts, two lunches if you want.
I’d be pretty into that idea. Let’s figure out a way to make that work. And now I’m going to ask you one that was inspired by “Catch That Pain,” so have you sustained any crazy injuries while on tour?
No, I haven’t, but I did this commission in Savannah before tour, and to celebrate after the final performance we went out and danced until three in the morning, and I fell and kind of stomped on my bassist’s foot. It got really swollen, like a melon. So he caught that pain.
Sorry for him! But I’m glad nothing has happened to you yet, knock on wood! Okay, that kind of completes the song-based sections, but I wanted to ask you what (apart from your wife) you miss while you’re on the road. And/or what do you enjoy getting away from?
Being on the road is really nice in terms of meeting lots of people from all over, but I have a lot of friends in New York, so I miss them a lot when I’m on tour.
Understandable. Well, any closing statements?
My friend Jason who plays with me said (about the record) “Buy it now and listen to it forever.” So you can do that.
I think we can definitely do that.
Are you going to come to the show?
Yeah, I think so! We’re excited about it.
You have to dance a little bit.
As long as you don’t step on my foot, I will do it.
Okay, but if you come on stage, you’re on your own. [Laughs]