We sit with Boris, one part of ‘Los Vagabundos’, talking about life, music and a lot more.
The other part of the Vagabundos is Denis Stern, both together form an act that is quite unusual as they manage to transmit an energy just with two guitars that is hard to find.
How did you come to music in the first place?
I started playing the guitar when i was 8 years old, and i never stopped… It’s all i ever did, basically.
Did you ever get bored of it?
No, it always goes on, there is no stopping. Every time you think you’ve learned something there is something new coming up, and every time you think you play a song really well you find somebody else playing it so much better… and even if you master an instrument really well it just becomes a tool to play what ever you have in mind. Making music comes from the energy that is produced by my inner self, and since my inner self keeps changing all the time the energy i transmit playing music is in constant change as well, so there is no stopping, it is an unstoppable force.
Denis + Boris:
Would you describe yourself as a real life band?
Yes, that is what we do best, because we create an energy between us and play it out to the people, and in all our gigs we experienced that the people very well receive this energy, so we give it back and convert it into a party.
The same track never sounds the same?
Absolutely not, especially between Dennis, my partner, and myself. And it also feels different as the venues vary and the sound is always different too. As we are just two guys with guitars we can transform any song in any moment into something different.
Why the name ‘Los Vagabundos’?
Because when Dennis and i met we were ‘poor as a church mouse’, as the Germans say. We had nothing, Dennis lived in a house in Benimussa with only half a roof, no electricity and no running water, and i lived in a cave in the mountains of San Miguel where my old friend Djin let me stay… so after meeting we thought of a name and came up with Los Vagabundos. We are very different characters and the only thing we had in common was that we both were vagabonds in the true meaning, playing guitar all the time. We could have taken on a normal 9-to-5 job but then when do you find the many hours a day you need to play the guitar?? So the name ‘Los Vabagundos’ was a natural thing, it was the common factor of both our lives. And we remain the same up to today, maintaining the same lifestyle, playing the guitar whenever we can. My good friend Gisela once said a rich musician is a charlatan and i really liked that.
It is as with all artists, to get money for something that you do out of inspiration feels kind of strange, no?
Well, most artists i know invest all the money they get for one piece of art goes directly into their next creation, so to get money for it is just to keep the flow in creation. And if there is money left after investing in your next creation that is the money you use to buy food. Some artists i met here in Ibiza made millions out of their music but they invested a big part of it for their next songs. sure there is also the other type of artist, they spend the money they made on hookers and nights in the clubs, borrow some more money from friends for their next creation, then leave the island and never come back…
Tell us more about your partner, Denis Stern.
Denis is a guy from St. Petersburg, Russia, which he left wanting to be a free man, more than 25 years ago where Russia was in a not-so-funny political situation for free thinkers such as himself. He ran away with no passport, no visa, making it all the way down to Tel Aviv where he found friends and studied oriental music. Then there was a big music festival in the desert, about 200 miles away from Tel Aviv where he played, and there he met Aura, an italian singer from Ibiza. After the festival she brought him down to the island, and as we met he still didn’t have any papers. He was running around with an Israelian plastic card, i think it was from a video club and he showed it to anybody who would ask him for an ID or a drivers license. Since anything on it was written in Hebrow nobody knew what it means, it had his picture on it and it looked quite serious so it worked out quite well for him. Our first meeting was at Lenny Ibizarre’s studio because Greg, Lenny’s brother, and i were working on some songs in one studio and Lenny and Dennis worked on something different in the other studio upstairs… As both projects needed some mixing and mastering we had some time off and sat down on the terrace, asking about one another, finding out that we both play guitar and like to smoke, that was it. Then Dennis’ phone rang and Chris Gonzalez from Las Dalias rang him up offering him a gig in the restaurant for the following day, but Dennis had no band.. He put down the phone, looked at me and asked ‘You play good?’ and i smiled at him and said ‘Come on man!’… So he confirmed the gig, next day we climbed the stage with no rehearsal, not knowing each other, even forgot our names. We made a line check, all very simple as it was just two guitars and Dennis looked over to me and said in his funny english ‘You like e-minor Bob?’ and i confirmed, and as we started to play the waitress stopped working and everybody was astonished about the energy flash that we both transmitted. In the audience there was Peter Musebrink from Deep Dive Corporation, he liked a lot what we played and offered us to do the first recordings so we could do a mini album to get it out to the people. It was once more Lenny who helped us to get the album printed and it was Eva Pacifico who helped us distributing the album as she ran over the whole island spreading the word for us. As you know Eva, if she likes an album she gives it 110%. After that we had a great year, we played around 128 shows, often playing twice a night in different venues, all this in a 100 day season! Lots of times we played e.g. in Las Dalias and after the gig a rich guy came and took us to his villa for an afterparty, paying us well to perform so we had a great time…
So you went along well from the very beginning…
The great thing about us both performing music is that we don’t need a lot of words, we just start playing and one thing leads to another. I studied music in a whole different genre, he is all about Oriental music and Russian folk, and my sound is all about Flamenco, Rock and Heavy Metal! And for some magical reason we manage to fit it together… We just went to Hamburg recording our second album, actually it is the third one but the second is a kind of lost one…
And when many years after you vanished people discover the lost album it will sell millions…
Well, you will have to find it first as it is really lost – big laughter again… We recorded it, printed and released it but it never hit the stores… so now we recorded the third – or second-and-a-half – album in Hamburg and it was such a joy again as we had to record 20 cover songs and 20 original songs not knowing exactly what we ant to do. We are not the kind of artist who have it all prepared already, we are more the ones sitting in the studio and starting something that will take us somewhere. Packed with weed and food we locked ourselves up in the studio and let the energy flow. As we are only two it is quite easy to do, even more if you have a basic understanding beyond reason. And on top we now perform together for more than 10 years, so we know exactly what the other is all about. We can pretty much predict what the other is going to play so we go along the same path, enriching ourselves on the way. As we never had big hotels to stay during our tours we were always stuck together in small rooms, there you learn to read each others minds instantly. We once played in Caprice on a huge stage (see the picture), so in order to not get lost they put two drum risers for us to get onto, so when the show was over i jumped off my riser and i see him still standing on his drum riser being really drunk as he already starts to play half drunk, having more Vodka during the gig, thinking of how to get down his riser so i helped him down… People came to us afterwards and said ‘how sweet of you hugging your partner after the gig’ and i thought i didn’t hug him, i tried to help him down to not fall over on stage!
How would you describe your music?
Wild and savage, as our lives were and still are. This is what we live and can express the best. Then there is one side of Dennis, because he is Russian, that is drama and tragedy, so on each album there is at least one track submitting those feelings of drama and tragedy, but the rest is basically wild and savage. Since most of the harmonies we play are old spanish and russian Gipsy harmonies and most rhythms we use are old rock and metal rhythms mixed with Rumbitas which gives it an extra drive it is almost a fusion of all of it. The last label taught us to not go too crazy, when you play 30 chords in a song people go home and do not remember the song but if you play less chords people can remember it easier and relate to it. On the new album for example we took a song from Rammstein called ‘Engel’ and converted it into a very nice flamenco-ish version of this brute Heavy Metal track. Another very nice one is a new version of the soundtrack to ‘Once upon a time in the West’, especially the song ‘Man with a Harmonica’ where we converted the harmonica into guitar as Dennis has a special technique to play using the slider to lose the attack of the notes in order to get those sad Blues sounds. Then there is something more, i think it was Jimmy Page who first used a violin bow to play his electric guitar which was quite a big thing, so many years after the original was created some clever nerd thought what a great idea to play the guitar with a violin bow but the way Jimmy did it wouldn’t work so well, so this guy made a bow especially for the guitar called the ‘E-Bow’. It is a little plastic thing having two magnets inside run by a 9 volt battery, and you just hold those two magnets to your string so it starts swinging between the two magnets with an eternal sustain, just as a violin, never stopping the note. So to go even further, in a very stoned night, Dennis combined the E-Bow with the Slider, producing sounds like a crying whale, using this technique to play the harmonic melody of the original song ‘Man with a Harmonica’ and it worked out incredibly nice. and we probably would have never come to this point if the record label would not have told us to do some covers, but we felt so good with them that it was all meant to be.
Another track from the new album is called ‘возвраще́ние’ which means ‘the return’ in russian and the story behind it is funny… When Dennis left Russia there was nothing, it was the last months of the Soviet Union, even if you had loads of Rubels you could not buy, let’s say, a steak, because there was none, and not in a little village but St. Petersburg! So having arrived to Ibiza, having met me and playing together there was Sandra, a famous German singer, who saw us playing in Guarana and decided to pick us up, take us to her studio and even take us on tour with her. She also helped Dennis to get valid papers in order to receive a new Russian passport which he then changed for an italian passport to be able to go on tour, and at some point he returned to Russia, finding a country where you could see the Gucci and Calvin Klein signs already in the airport, where you could buy Haribo and Babybel cheese! So he was freaking out, knowing that his parents and all former generations were fooled, all except him because he took his guitar and left for good… So putting all this into this song made one of the most interesting ones on the album, it starts subtle but then gets really aggressive in the middle part. Starting with drama and sadness, then anger and frustration pour out of it just to finally culminate in forgiveness. And it is the only song written in the original cyrillic letters as we insisted on it.
Where can people listen to the Vagabundos in the near future?
The thing is, life music in Ibiza is not so easy to perform on a certain level… The venues we have here are very poorly equipped, the money paid is very poor as well and the audience is not really the most enthusiastic too……. It is quite understandable though, we are in Ibiza, more than 2 million people come to this island during the season to see the best DJs on the globe, they do not come here to see two guitar players or even a whole Rock band. It’s like going to Los Angeles and expecting anything else than Rock music… Truly, most of the time we played our music in Ibiza it felt like fucking a lesbian, so…
So for people to actually listen to you they have to find you somewhere else than in Ibiza?
Well, at least once a year we play in the best venue for live music on the island which is Las Dalias. This is out of various reasons, first of all because it is the place where everything started, second because at the time we started playing together and living in a house with half a roof and a cave it was Las Dalias that helped us to survive with numerous gigs. It was not enough to pay a decent rent but we had to eat and gasoline in our tanks. So it is out of respect and love to this place that we keep coming back to perform, and as said it is one of the very few places that is equipped to play live gigs.
What’s the difference on playing live in Ibiza and abroad?
Well we kind of had that before, abroad you can pick your places at your choice, be them bigger or at least better prepared, there is more to choose from then if you have only San Antonio, Sta. Gertrudis, Ibiza town or San Carlos as a choice… If we e.g. play in Germany and we can choose between Munich, Hamburg and Berlin we choose between folk music, electronic music and Rock n’ Roll, so you can already estimate the kind of audience you will have. So many times i hear artists telling me ‘oh the audience was so crap’, to them i say ‘maybe you didn’t choose the right venue’. And nowadays it is even more different, there is no more Germany, Berlin, this is Europe. In 2014 we played in Switzerland, Turkey and Germany, and we will play in France, Ireland, Odessa, so for me leaving Ibiza means the rest is Disneyland, Ibiza is like our little home with our friends and family, this is where we are safe, our safeplace. Everywhere in the world i find those people running after something they are in search for and they keep running and running, just like in a Circus, and you go around and find the audience that fits to create your own little circus…
If music wouldn’t exist, what would you do?
Invent it? Surely with Denis we could do such thing.
How does your perfect day look like?
Sleep in, ride my motor cycle, sit on the beach with Dennis smoking a joint while playing the guitar, going to Mr. Kebap in Sta. Eulalia to eat a Döner and a frozen yoghurt with strawberries and chocolate sauce… Later hang out with friends having some drinks, maybe in the Veto, maybe somewhere else.
That was a loooong but very honest talk my dearest friend, hope to catch you somewhere playing, if not maybe at Mr. Kebap or the usual places!
more info about Los Vagabundos here: