Riding the crest of a musical wave that began with his Golden Globe and BAFTA-nominated score for Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Academy Award-winning film, BiRDMAN or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), followed by soundtracks composed for director Fernando León de Aranoa’s Política, Manual de Instrucciones,and EPIX network’s Get Shorty (premiering August 11), drummer/composer Antonio Sánchez returns with his most personal work to date, Bad Hombre (available September 29 via Cam Jazz), his first true solo album – composed, performed, recorded, engineered, and produced exclusively by Sánchez.
Bad Hombre aligns its powerful musical message with a socio-political alert, based on Sánchez’s concern for his country, his fellow American citizens, as well as those of his native Mexico. As spewed from the mouth of “The Combover Con Artist,” the “Short-Fingered Vulgarian,” a/k/a, President Donald J. Trump, Bad Hombre is also a call to arms.
“Becoming an American citizen was a very proud moment for me,” Sánchez says. “I’ve been in this country for almost 25 years and I truly believe it’s a unique country of immigrants of different races, backgrounds and religions that can ultimately coexist. But Donald Trump has agitated a false, misguided sense of nationalism that has slammed minorities’ backs against the wall. His constant conspiracy theories about voter fraud are nothing but a plan to implement widespread voter suppression.”
Self recorded in his new home studio, surging from Sánchez’s subconscious, Bad Hombre is an impassioned suite of solo drumming improvisations shot-through with electronic textures that create fireworks of self-expression and fervent self-purging-another ingenious turn from the gifted 45-year-old musician.
“I’ve been taunted and bullied countless times on social media because I openly oppose Trump’s views and policies and I’m very vocal about it,” Sánchez adds. “When the trolling would take its ugliest shape, it would be about my Mexican heritage and about how we’re a bunch of leeches that suck on the government’s resources. About how they (the aggressors) surely paid for my education and or that we don’t pay taxes and then it would only go lower from there.”
While Bad Hombre reflects this current Dark Age, Sánchez’s deepest feelings also expose an alter ego of sorts, a composer of turbulent, soothing, and occasionally malevolent electronic music atmospheres. (Think Miles Davis’ Live–Evil meets Squarepusher’s Music Is Rotted One Note paired to The Orb’s Cydonia and Pan Sonic’s Atomin Paluu). Left to his singular devices, Bad Hombre unleashes some of the most visceral and varied drumming of Sánchez’s career, propelled by all the fiery passion of a battle cry. Bad Hombre confirms Antonio Sánchez-the solo drummer-as-storyteller-as one of the most gifted and innovative musicians of his generation.
“A lot of artists are not open about their political views, but to me it’s part of the artist’s duty,” he says. “To speak up and make people think. Either literally or through art.”
With the American presidential election looming, Sánchez found comfort and inspiration in the music of eclectic electronic artists. Listening to Bibio, Bjork, Little Dragon, Bonobo, Hiatus Kaiyote, Beck, Aphex Twin, Baths, and Boards of Canada stimulated Sánchez to compose “soundscapes that wouldn’t necessarily work in a more conventional jazz setting. The amount of layering I was able to create opened up infinite sonic possibilities and I soon realized the only obstacle would be my own creativity.”
Simultaneously, the “banality of evil” as personified in Donald Trump’s candidacy set Sánchez’s feelings ablaze.
“Art is a reflection of life,” Sánchez says. “A surprising level of anger, frustration and awareness had grown in me due to the US political situation. The rise of Donald Trump and his xenophobic and racist rhetoric against Mexicans and other minorities troubled and angered me deeply because I’m a native Mexican and there was no other way interpret his rhetoric but as an insult and a threat. That experience dictated what kind of story this album would tell.
“We’re living in one of the worst times in American political history,” he adds. “The intolerance and hate that minorities are experiencing daily in America is extremely dangerous when implemented by some of Trump’s most fervent and troubled followers. Friends of mine have suffered verbal and physical abuse. This level of animosity doesn’t equal the principles that this country is meant to espouse.”
Creating atmospheres with Native Instruments software and treating his drums with exotic muffling techniques and added percussion, Sánchez developed Bad Hombre‘stextural palette within an improvisational framework.
“Bad Hombre is an experimental project in that it’s a complete departure from anything I’ve ever done in the past as a drummer, composer, producer and engineer,” Sánchez says. “I didn’t have a blueprint; it was all new to me. It was a steep, stressful, intriguing, and an amazingly fun learning curve.
“I recorded hours upon hours of solo drum improvisations,” he recalls. “Grooves, solos, textures, anything I could come up with spontaneously. Sometimes my goal was to simply speed-up or slow-down, to see how that would make me play. Or I would only allow myself to play certain elements of the drum kit for effect. Then I took the improvisations and began editing the tracks into more concise pieces and adding layers of electronic instruments on top.”
Determined to give voice to his Mexican heritage, Sánchez initially turned to Mariachi music, then the work of his 92-year-old Grandfather, Ignacio López Tarso-arguably the most revered working actor in all of Mexico-sampling his spoken words for opening track, “Bad Hombre Intro.”
“You’re hearing grandpa telling tales about the Mexican revolution with an excellent Mariachi band backing him up. That is very close to my heart. And it’s amazing to hear his voice reciting poetry backed by my drums opening the record.”
Also on “Bad Hombre Intro,” Sánchez originally quoted Trump, saying ‘We have some bad hombres here and we’re going to get them out,’ sampled from a presidential debate.
“That phrase is so offensive to Latinos and so absurd,” Sánchez says. “I wanted to have it in plain sight for people to be reminded of its absurdity, its malice and the character of its creator. Unfortunately, lawyers and label executives advised against it so I ended up replacing it with my voice and distorting it in a similar way as to how people that are being hunted or persecuted might sound on radio or TV answering his phrase. We’re letting him know that we, ‘The Bad Hombres,’ have no intention of going anywhere.”
“Bad Hombre is a continuation of BiRDMAN in way,” Sánchez states. “After I realized the power of drums in a cinematic context I wanted to see where I could take it. And using electronic instruments gave me unlimited possibilities. It almost felt like writing in color compared to the standard of way of writing for musicians, which is more black and white. The sheer limitless possibilities, sonically speaking, opened a whole new world.
“Bad Hombre has been one of the most liberating endeavors I’ve experienced as a musician,” Sánchez says. “My only constraint was my imagination. I had unlimited resources in my home studio; I could work at any time. Not having to deal with conventional melodies, chord changes, and forms inspired me-this all came from improvisation. It was like having an alter ego. The Bad Hombre.”
When not recording or touring with renowned jazz guitarist/composer Pat Metheny, with whom the drummer shares a 17-year relationship, Sánchez maintains a demanding schedule with his own group, Migration.
Sánchez has recorded five albums as a leader including two with Migration, including 2013’s New Life and 2015’s The Meridian Suite. Sánchez’s trio turn, Three TimesThree (with John Scofield, Brad Mehldau, Joe Lovano, Christian McBride) was released in 2014, as well as the award-winning BiRDMAN soundtrack that same year, each release further expressing Sánchez’s compositional mastery of conventional forms.
Sánchez recently scored ten episodes of the EPIX network series, Get Shorty, and is also preparing his next release, Channels of Energy, a collaboration with Vince Mendoza and the WDR Big Band performing his compositions (playing drums, as well).