"I´ve had to start from the bottom again and i like that. Starting from zero has brought me many good things."
STORY LISSETTE C0RA
PHOTO VITO RIVELLI
"I don"t believe in set phrases," Flavio Cianciarulo intones, his voice crackling over the phone from Mar del Plata, Argentina. "But there's a popular one that says life begins at 40, At least for me, it's turning out to be true."
Of course, this begs the kneejerk follow-up "never trust anyone over 30"— a
sound bite from the '60s civil rights era that rears up every decade or so as a
rallying cry for the latest youth-led alternative trend—but that hasn't deterred
Cianciarulo, a.k.a. Senor Flavio. from setting out to reconquer the underground.
Since the disintegration of his high-octane band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, which
over the course of 15 years became one of the most internationally recognized
Latin ska-punk fusion outfits to come out of Argentina. Flavio has produced
several solo projects, as well as upstart indie acts from Mexico to Chile.
Talkig a page from kindred Dunk soul Henry Rollins, he has also written a series
of rock 'n roll fiction narratives, that include a collection of short stories
and two novels. For the past two years, he has hosted "Radio Atomika"—a popular
underground radio show based in Buenos Aires. Senor Flavio also has a new band.
The Flavio Mandinga Project, and their third album Supersound 2012 has been
released stateside by the Latin alt-rock tastemakers at Nacional Records. "I'm
more active than ever," asserts the 43-year-old bass player. "I've had to start
from the bottom again, and I like that. Starting from zero has brought me many
good things. Most of all it's bought me time to pursue a bunch of different
As a founding member of Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. Senor Flavio penned many of the band's songs, including the seminal hit single "Matador," which in 1994 carried LFC out of a slump and thrust them back into the limelight. The song won MTV's International Viewer's Choice Award, and was even featured in the platinum-selling soundtrack to the film Grosse Point Blank Collaborations with Debbie Harry and Fishbone (with whom the Cadillacs covered the '60s schlock classic "What's New Pussycat?") helped make them the most viable crossover act to emerge from the burgeoning Rock En Espanol movement. They even joined up with the late salsa icon Celia Cruz to record a ballad—a move that solidified them as chameleonic eccentrics at home, and introduced them to an older Latin audience in the U.S.
"It occurs to me that precisely around that time, beyond listening to punk rock, ska and reggae, we had started to listen to salsa." Flavio explains. "Celia had collaborated with David Byrne and—well, that was the link. The salsa sound was definitely very close to ska. so this happened very naturally, without any type of logistical planning. At some point we realized that we could very naturally fuse Latin music with what we were doing, and that it fit very comfortably. But for the Argentine public at the moment, it was something exotic and unknown."
Daring fusions like these are exactly what the Cadillacs became known for. When
their 1986 debut Bares Y Fondas [Bars and Inns) dropped, it was very nearly lost
on Argentina's homegrown rock nacional audience, which was informed by heavy
doses of British and American rock and punk. "During that time we embraced a
kind of music that was not commonly heard in our country." Flavio says, pointing
out the fact that any music even remotely related to the rhythmic hotbed of the
Caribbean basin was off the radar.
Flash forward 12 years, when the band released Fabulosos Calavera. and by then Rock En Espanol—the predecessor of what's now called Latin alternative music—had reached the pinnacle of popularity in the U.S. The landmark record rode the California ska craze, while the hybrid sound generated by other influential bands continued to spread like wildfire from the barrios of Latin America to Hispanic communities north of the border. For the first time, the National Academy Of Recording Arts And Sciences (NARAS) felt obligated to create a new category to recognize the genre, appropriately honoring the band's genre-defying masterpiece with the historic Grammy Award in 1998. It was a milestone that marked the continued upsurge and evolution of Latin alternative rock on the one hand, and the waning of Los Fabulosos Cadillacs on the other.
"Arriving al (he summit always has a price, like everything in life." Flavio says in hindsight. "I especially think fame has a price. Celebrity is so much bigger than us and I find it logical— valid, if you will—for a band to have comings and goings."
With their frenzied, funk-driven, samba-reggae workouts and feral, brass-fueled,
salsa-punk overtures, the rude boys of Argentine rock had become the first Latin
rock group to perform on prime time television in the U.S. But it wasn't long
before the members of Los Fabulosos Cadillacs quietly parted ways. After 16
records in 15 years, it was time to move on. and Senor Flavio welcomed the
changing tide. He retreated with his family to Mexico, but by no means did he
retire from music. There were some middling solo outings (200l's Flavio, Solo.
Viejo y Peludo and 2003's El Marplatense) and half-baked reunions with Los
Cadillacs that lacked any kind of commitment beyond the moment. But Flavio had
also tapped budding young musicians from Argentina to form the Flavio Mandinga
Project, and in 2005 they recorded Cachivache. followed a year later by Sonidero
(both released on EMI).
On the forward-looking Supersound 2012. Flavio builds even further on his
kaleidoscopic approach to making music. In fact. most of the album's 13 tracks
seem to unspool from a reel of film, trapping the soundscapes painted by the
band under a static patina that at times turns fluid as the music changes
direction. On the dreamy "Polaroid 66." Flavio pays homage to a fleeting feeling
of contentment captured by a childhood photograph, while the cinematic "Gaumont"
is an unsettling tale spun by a haunting horn line that reveals the torment of
two lovers who go to a Buenos Aires theater on a seemingly cathartic mission to
"kill love." On che psychobilly "De Story Of De Loko Univers-Love." Flavio's
croon is draped in a slapback echo over sparkly acoustic guitar and an eerily
meandering organ. It's followed by "Tropicana 50"—a quirky, eclectic foray that
opens with congas, turntable scratching and squelchy synths folded into a
vintage mambo groove and layered with frantic rapping, twangy guitar and hip-hop
"This is the album I wanted to make." Flavio says. "Probably the next album will
be more mature, more evolved, and I like that—I like being away from the
mainstream and going back to playing in underground bars. I think the album has
a little bit of all of this, with all of my fetishes and musical whims." Rising
up again, as he once did with Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, from the pulsating
underground of the Buenos Aires pub circuit. Senor Flavio is re-positioning
himself at the forefront of a new movement—one where a Rock En Espanol pioneer
can begin anew as Latin alternative music's latest messenger. Jjs
Nota publicada en la revista Global Rhythm, EEUU, marzo de 2008
www.lfcrarezas.com.ar / 2008