|Special Anniversary Issue|
Larry Ortega - Chicago, IL
Last year, one of my favorite artists I had the pleasure of listening to and reviewing was Larry Ortega from Chicago, IL.
Also going by the alias of "Super Percussion Man", his CD "Planet Earth Vol. 1", which Larry calls "his first try at World Music" is a really incredible array of all kinds of instrumentals that whisk your mind to a totally different part of the world.
Producing as well as playing most of the instruments on his solo CD really gives him the opportunity to show his creative talents as well as his instrumental technique. I recommend to those that enjoy ALL kinds of music to take a listen to some of the tracks. I think you'll find his music is universal enough to be at home in just about anybody's CD collection.
I was able to catch up with Larry and get a brief interview from him, and here's what he had to say:
<HotBands> Hey there! I'm listening to "Stompin Stew" right now....quite an amazing piece of work! Let's start with who Larry Ortega is, and what your background in music is...where you started, and where you are today.
<Larry_Ortega> Well I was born in Joliet, Illinois 1963 and went to grade school in Romeoville, Illinois. I started playing in the band in 5th grade and kept it up ever since.
<HotBands> Sounds like me and a few friends of mine. When did you make music a career choice? Most people know that it isn't the most lucrative type of industry.
<Larry_Ortega> My band director already had me coming out and playing at gigs in night clubs at age 12 or 13, but I had to have a chaperone because I was too young.
<HotBands> I think that type of influence at that age makes a huge impact. I became involved around the same time, but I wasn't brave enough to pursue music as a full-time profession for more than about a year....I got pretty skinny that year and decided I'd have to support my music habit in another way, and now I'm able to do it by supporting the music industry.
<Larry_Ortega> That's great! Sometimes I wish I would just get into the business aspect instead of the performance end of it.
<HotBands> Your performing has been able to earn you a living and travel all over the world. What are some of the more notable moments in your career to this point? Any major album credits, or tours?
<Larry_Ortega> I've played with a couple of headliners but not as big as the pop scene; Screamin J Hawkins (I put a spell on you); Luther Allison; I did an opening tour act with Deep Purple about a year or so ago and went on their tour.
<HotBands> Right now, do you teach? Do studio work?
<Larry_Ortega> I use to teach but I had to keep moving my students around too much, and it got hard on some of the parents. I do studio all the time with some of the band members I play with... their always calling me about something.
<HotBands> Did you major in music in college?
<HotBands> Are you playing all of the instruments on your CD? That's a lot of complicated keyboard work.
<Larry_Ortega> Most of the sounds on the CD are sampled by me or I get someone to get me the sounds I need ... and then mix it with actual playing. . .but I play and wrote it all myself.
<HotBands> I'm listening to More Than Meets the Eye and it's a wonderful arrangement...! Very creative hooks. What I'm saying, is that you're not just your average classic-rock cover drummer! You sound like you've had years of formal training to get an understanding of music structure like you do.
<Larry_Ortega> I took lessons when I was young and then I just taught myself. However, I like all kinds of music . . .from Punk to classical, but this was my first attempt at world music. I've written a lot of dance music as well but haven't got around to finishing it.
<HotBands> The coolest thing about your music is that it takes you to
another part of the world.... from the way the song is structured rhythmically.
<HotBands> I never really thought much about what World Music was, but your music really IS about music from all over the world! I'm now listening to Geisha and Tales from From the Warrior and it makes me feel like I'm in Japan., where More Than Meets the Eye really had an Irish feel to it....each one is a painting of sound.
<Larry_Ortega> I spent 3 months in Japan and really got to know their people.
<HotBands> How many CD's do you have out?
<Larry_Ortega> Just one. I have a ton of material but none is all the way finished...I keep getting side tracked.
<HotBands> I think you have a definite market for your genre of music to a World-Wide audience! I can't say that about 95% of the bands that I hear. Your CD is almost along the lines of Planet Drum, but better because it isn't just drums...it's about rhythm and using each instrument as a drum...even the voice.
<Larry_Ortega> Some of the material for the next album has more vocals from different countries as well. I always thought that you have to look at the over all picture not ...not just drumming, but all the instruments combined have to make sense.
<HotBands> Now I'm listening to "Shades of Africa" and the samples are really amazing...takes the mind right there.
<Larry_Ortega> I actually combined a lot of real drums in there with the samples. I had a good friend of mine play the sax solo.....one of the few people on the album.
<HotBands> Who's singing?
<Larry_Ortega> Some friends of mine along with sampled vocal parts. I had found the parts on a CD and made them fit the music.
<HotBands> Who does your website?
<Larry_Ortega> So far I did it all.
<HotBands> WOW....You got it going on in every which way brother!
<Larry_Ortega> I'm just getting into the flash part of it and already designed a new site but I still have to work out the details.
<HotBands> I think you have one of the coolest websites I've seen for an artist ...especially one that isn't signed and has millions to pour into one.
<Larry_Ortega> I started out with Homestead ( a free site ) and went on from there. Homestead has always been good to work with...even thought they upgrade their site every other day.
<HotBands> Where did you learn to play the piano?
<HotBands> You're quite the virtuoso on keys and percussion. What is the drum/bugle corps and percussionman websites about?
<Larry_Ortega> Drum & Bugle Corps is like a marching band with all the bells and whistles
<HotBands> I understand, but do you teach it, or do their website?
<Larry_Ortega> No ...I marched it back in the mid 70's and I go to their shows every year. Percussion Man Links is a thing I started so I could be more in touch in what was going on in the percussion and drumming world.
<HotBands> I see....so it's more of a website showing one of your musical inspirations.
<Larry_Ortega> Yes.....I believe I learned a lot of my technique there.
<HotBands> I think that if some of the major companies drum companies like Sonor, Zildjian , Gretsch, etc. hear your music and see your web work, you could probably have little problem getting a sponsorship (if you don't have one already).
<Larry_Ortega> That would be great.....I've had a little experience in sponsorship...The drum instructor in the Guardsmen Drum & Bugle Corps, is the President of The Percussive Arts Society. I called him and he said he was really interested in my "Insane Percussion" project. . . . he thought he might be able to even get some colleges to play it
<HotBands> I think so...I'm listening to all of your songs, and have yet to find one that I'm even is even "Marginal". I think they're all excellent arrangements, great use of dynamics, rhythm, and choice of instruments and samples. I was assuming you were a Berkley School of Music bum. :-)
<Larry_Ortega> Thanks, but....nope. . .
<HotBands> Being in the world for all of these years and continuing in the music industry, what advice do you have to the readers out there? I think some of them may be younger in their musical development, and I think it's cool to give them a perspective from someone that's got it going on.
<Larry_Ortega> I think the best advice is to always keep an opened mind...Listen to different things and take what you like and leave the rest......Always try to do something that is harder than you think....that way you are always progressing. I know first hand that some teachers are not what they're cracked up to be, but I think that a good learning lesson is to record yourself playing......sometime your the worst critic and will take matters as to what to do to get better. Also, concentrate on the pocket groove rather than how fancy you can play.....There will always be a time to get fancy.
<HotBands> I want to thank you for taking the time to chat with me this evening, and I look forward to hearing your next release.
<Larry_Ortega> Hopefully this summer I will be able to have another CD or two out. Thanks for everything!
For more information on Larry, CLICK HERE
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