Interview W/ Electronic Musician Frankie Reyes for New Latin Wave Fest


On February 25, 2021, Frankie Reyes and Ed Morales had a dialogue, discussing Reyes’ new Album Originalitos, their sound practice, and influences. Below are some excerpts from their conversation. 

Ed Morales: I did a little research on what you’re about and stuff like that and of course I listened to the album ‘Originalitos’ and it took me a while to figure out that those were all original compositions unlike your previous one, “Boleros y Mas”?  Give us a picture if you don’t mind, about what the broader scope of what you’re doing in music is because I did also check out some of the electronic stuff.

Frankie Reyes: Yeah, so I’d like to say, I think in general my real area of focus would just be on electronics. I guess if I play an instrument, that’s my instrument. And since that’s really my background, you know, I kind of felt like it was time to utilize that as my background, as a means for kind of communicating a little bit of my relationship with my ancestry. My mother being Puerto Rican, it was an opportunity for me to kind of get back in touch with my people. 

So that’s really what the first Frankie Reyes record was about and that’s why that was all covers. I’m covering a bunch of music that’s really from the generation of my grandparents, a lot of boleros and other styles as well. Some of them from Puerto Rican composers and other composers around Latin America because that really seemed to resonate with a lot of people, kind of for the same reason that the idea resonated with me. I think a lot of people used it as an opportunity to get in touch with their ancestry too.

I was called on to kind of, you know, do something in a similar vein as a follow-up. Then I figured, you know, it’s going to be a good opportunity to use that same style of music or broader style to create some compositions of my own that feel similar but are really expressions of my own creativity.

This latest album, ‘Originalitos’ as you said, they’re all original compositions. Some of them feel like boleros, but it’s really hard to put a genre on them because a lot of them also feel like contemporary classical or, I mean you can really throw them into a lot of different categories. Again, I felt that it was another means for accomplishing what I meant to accomplish with that first record as well, which was, furthering my relationship with my ancestry.

Frankie Reyes:  I am not a piano player, being an electronic musician my focus is more on the MIDI sequencing. A lot of times I’ll take an audio recording or recording of something that was played on a piano and run it through a software that can translate or approximate that into a midi notation. A lot of times it is not perfect so I will do it and manually correct it, fixing misplaced notes… It’s almost like the way you think about sampling. 

Some of them start as, “I like this chord progression here, and I like what this is doing here, what if I instead inverted the sequence of the chords, and then built a song around that” I will then come up with some kind of melody that more or less fits into the core arrangement I have created. 

Ed Morales: What song on “Originalitos” would be an example of that. 

Frankie Reyes: They are all done in that way but Alma De La Palma is a good example.

Ed Morales: So let’s talk about this instrument, it’s the Oberheim synthesizer?You said you just happen to have it, you didn’t really choose it for the sound that it makes?

Frankie Reyes: Not for the sound, not specifically for that, because I had already put out, you know, recordings where I’m using this synthesizer in a totally different context and it doesn’t sound anything like it.

But then, you know playing with the synthesizer even further and getting to know it better coming across new capabilities and kind of realizing, oh this sounds interesting. This sounds almost like an electric piano, but not quite. I think this could sound interesting if I were to, you know, perhaps play these compositions through this means. It sounded interesting to me, so I took it further.

Ed Morales: So, where are we here, that a particular kind of synthesizer it’s not like in British progressive rock, right

Frankie Reyes: Yeah in some British, progressive rock, you can find it in really kind of any genre. It’s really more so about the time period that it came out because when it came out It was pretty much used across genres. So around 84’ish, when it came out, this is Oberheim that I’m speaking about, particularly the Oberheim Xpander synthesizer

When that came out it was used in a lot of progressive rock. A lot of pop records were using it, you know, Prince and those guys were using it quite a bit, even jazz stuff, Miles Davis, and those guys were using it. Yeah, pretty much across the genres it was present.

Ed Morales: I was really impressed with some of the things you referred to like Sylvia Rexach, she is someone that usually only Islander Puerto Rican’s know about…

Frankie Reyes: Sylvia Rexach is such an inspiration in many ways. As an artist overall, not only as a composer, but her compositions are the primary avenue that resonates with me. Her art overall, acting, writing, she was such a creative person. I definitely had to include one of her pieces but she’s always a reference point for me for sure.

Ed Morales: You have talked about different composers that inspired you, I took a listen and I didn’t know about Rafael Aponte-Ledee. I kind of knew there was a flux thing. It sounds like John Cage or something. What attracts you to that form of musical expression?

Frankie Reyes: I know that there has been very little exploration of the time period when that was coming out. To hear one of the early pioneers of synthesized music producing in such an interesting, unique way, it’s like it didn’t follow any of the rules that traditional music was following per se.

What attracts me to it again, is I love the idea of where else can music be taken. That it is as experimental or explorative as even what somebody like Sylvia Rexach was doing, except what she was doing, it was easier to digest because it was easier to relate to traditional things. It was also very forward-thinking, especially at the time period. That’s really what attracts me to all of those reference points that I made there in that article you’re reading. I’m drawn to music that is both, that brings people together in a familiar way while touching on things that are totally unfamiliar. 

Link to Frankie Reyes music:


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