In the summer of '92, while Spain was beginning to delude itself thinking we were something we're not, I was down and out in the streets of London. Not that I was skint. I wasn't rich either, but I'd rather spend my cash in records. Just in Oxford Street there were two HMV and two Virgin stores, four multi-storey record shops in just over one mile. Add to that Tower Records and another HMV in Piccadilly Circus. On top of all that there were the specialized shops, like Ray's at the time still in Shaftesbury Avenue, with jazz on the ground floor and blues in the cellar. In those four weeks of August, I did do all my touristy sight-seeing, but even though I had my eyes on the attractions, my mind was working out what to bring back home, how much to spend, and where. I'm not really proud of this. I say it like addicts tell things to other addicts.
The hangover from such feast resulted in an unprecedented exercise in stream of consciousness writing, which ended up being an article over four hand-written pages about everything I had seen in London. Telling everybody I knew wasn't enough. I had to put it on paper. What I cannot recall is what on Earth made me send it to the main newspaper in my province.
A few day later the phone rang. It was the paper. They were interested in what I had sent. They weren't going to publish it, but they were interested in my working for them.
At the time I was just a little old perpetrator: I was perpetrating a relationship with a girlfriend, I was perpetrating a university degree, and I was perpetrating attacks against musical order with a guitar. I guess I was just busy perpetrating stuff, because it took me a few months to have an idea for my premiere. One day it came to me, I sent a proposal, and they agreed.
The paper was El Diario Vasco, from San Sebastián, the youth magazine was DeVórame (eat me), and my editor and mentor, Iñaki Zarata (real name: Zaratiegi, "zarata" means "noise" in Basque). Many have criticised him along the years, but besides building DeVórame (the model for other Friday magazines) and keep it going for over twenty years, he taught me how to be concise, to be brief, to remain in the background in interviews (“questions can't be longer than answers!” “I'm interested in what the artist has to say, not you!”). What few people know is that he was, or is, brilliant at cropping texts. I used to compare what I had sent with what was published. A considerable part of what I know today stems from those lessons, and I was getting paid for it. Like my mother used to say, “at least you're getting something for all that”, pointing to my record collection, which, oh, wonder of wonders, kept expanding without her ever seeing me bring a record home.
After that article, there would be others, interviews, record reviews, and a small reporting job during Jazzaldia, the local jazz festival in the summer. One day I left all that behind, quite hastily with hardly any goodbyes, for which I'm sorry. Mistakes of youth, I guess.
Today it's Tuesday, April 30th, but twenty years ago April 30th was a Friday, the day when DeVórame came out. It was also the 10th anniversary of Muddy Waters' passing, the perfect occasion to remind everybody why he was such an important musician. That's what I thought anyway, Zarata agreed, and it took a whole page, tabloid size.