Walter Salas-Humara – The man behind the Silos turns on his Radar gun
Walter Salas-Humara’s new release, RADAR, is not a drastic departure from his previous records, but it does bring some new elements into the fold. There’s a quirkiness in the first three-quarters of the disc that lends itself well to the songs. The last part of RADAR sounds related to much of his older work. Enough with the analyzing, though; it’s a good record that deserves to be heard and should please the fans of old.
Salas-Humara’s musical background seemed much like a lot of 30-odd-years-old musicans’ background. He grew up digging ’70s hard-rock and then got nailed by the punk explosion. He seems a little frustrated by being lumped in with the folkier crowd, given that his first loves were bands such as the Velvet Underground and the Allman Brothers. Ultimately, he writes and records whatever he feels like and whatever moves him.
ND: So Walter, after being on the East Coast for so long, did the move to Los Angeles affect your sound?
WSH: Well of course every place you move to makes things different. One thing it did was I had a lot more free time because when I came out here, I didn’t really know anybody. It also forced me to go on the road more.
ND: One thing I noticed was that your writing seemed to shift gears away from the domestic subjects. Is that something you noticed yourself?
WSH: Definitely. I think I got away from that leaving the East Coast. Coming out here was a totally different ballgame. I kind of started all over again. At the same time, it was when we got dropped by RCA too.
ND: I think you sort of hit a universal chord in people with the domestic subjects of those records.
WSH: I used to always get girls coming up to me saying, “Oh God …. your wife is so lucky.” (laughing) I was like “Ahhhhh …. get me outta here …. quick!”
ND: You just seemed so sensitive….
WSH: Meanwhile, the live show — Mary (Rowell, longtime Silos violinist) wasn’t really playing live, with me and Bob and these huge fuckin’ guitar amps. We’d always play CBGBs with these 4×12 cabinets turned to 8.
ND: What are the differences between a Silos record and a Walter Salas-Humara solo record?
WSH: Well, the first Silos record is really a solo record. It’s just that my name was so weird that I came up with the Silos name. That record really came out before there was even a band. Then the band came together; the band being Mary, Bob, myself, and a revolving rhythm section. Then we made the Cuba record.
ND: Did you have a feeling about how great the songs were going to be for that record?
WSH: (laughing) No, not at all. I thought “Oh man, what have I done; it’s so commercial. This is going to ruin my whole cool reputation.”
ND: Do you still think that record is commercial sounding?
WSH: Oh, of course not — not now. But I was such an art guy.
ND: You’re probably sick of hearing this about that album, because you still make great records, but when Cuba came out, it totally thew me for a loop. I think it was probably the time period also. You were probably 25 or 23 and more impressionable. Do you find it frustrating that people keep going back to Cuba as your landmark record?
WSH: Well, do you think Lou Reed is frustrated because people like the third Velvet Underground album?
ND: I think he might be.
WSH: I wouldn’t be; it’s a great album. I mean, how many masterpieces can one artist have — even if you do a lot of great records and maybe the one considered a masterpiece is only marginally better than the other ones.
ND: Was the major-label thing a bad experience after doing it yourself for so long?
WSH: In a way it was like we were never a major-label artist. Like even when we were on RCA, they never treated us like, “Hey these guys are the next big thing.” It was never anything like that for us. The guy who was running RCA at the time told us he loved the band and that Cuba was one of his favorite records. So, it was like, “Here’s this huge pile of money; do whatever you want.” (laughing)