To call Omar Rodríguez-López a Renaissance man would be an understatement. Guitarist and bandleader for several groups including Grammy-winning rock band The Mars Volta, film scorer, director, writer, producer and actor, él casi ha hecho todo. Born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico and reared in El Paso, Texas, the merging of different Latino cultures encountered had a profound influence on the artist he would become. I chatted with Omar recently about his new band, Bosnian Rainbows, which also features Mexican performance artist Teri Gender Bender, their self-titled album currently free streaming on NPR’s website , dropping June 25th, winning a Grammy and more. Check out his answers below!
Can you remember your first musical memory?
Omar: Always just around the house, I come from a really musical family and a musical culture in general- Puerto Rican. Everyone was always playing music. My dad has his band, he played the guitar and my mom would sing with them. But the first memory outside of that context was when we went to go see El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico in Naranjito and they started playing my favorite song at the time, “Brujeria” (I was six at the time) and my dad grabbed me and put me on the stage. The bandleader let me sing “Brujeria” with the singers.
I know you’re from the band The Mars Volta. How did it feel when you won a Grammy Award for “Best Rock Performance”?
Omar: It was nice. It didn’t make me feel one way or another about my own self-worth or what I think of my own ability to express myself. It was nice to be acknowledged by the industry. That’s what Grammys are; you’re being acknowledged by the industry that you work in. Usually those things are based more in record sales, on that side of prestige. It’s a great honor and by the other hand, it doesn’t define me as a person; it doesn’t define me as an artist.
How great is it to have a fanbase that made your latest single “Torn Maps”( from their self-titled album) go #1 on sub-modern single radio charts?
Omar: For all the imagination that I have, I could have never dreamt this part of it up. I could have never invented that in my head…I could have never made up the idea that one day I’d be playing music and making films for a living and that I have a fanbase that would support me and that I’d travel all over the world to speak about things that I make up in my bedroom. For all the aspirations I had, that was never one of them… It’s a wild ride and something I never take for granted.
By Being Latino Contributor, Carlita