Born in Buenos Aires, music producer Gustavo Santaolalla is at the forefront of the Latin alternative and "rock en Espa & #324;ol" movement.
The style, fusing American rock 'n' roll with Latin rhythms and Spanish lyrics, is extremely popular in South America, Mexico and among U.S. Latinos and some of the groups Santaolalla helped discover, such as Caf & #233; Tacuba, have even enjoyed some crossover success with mainstream audiences.
"I really believe that some of the best artistic expression comes out of cultural clashes," says Santaolalla. "It produces a new brand of alternative music which has a freshness to it. (In the United States), there is a lot of recycling taking place. The new frontier for alternative music is in Third World countries."
That's where Santaolalla is looking for talent, using a network of contacts in Latin America that scour the streets and clubs.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, Surco has five acts on its roster some of which have released gold and platinum albums both in the U.S. and internationally and has lined up six to seven more. Two of its more popular bands are Peyote Asesino from Uruguay and Arbol from Argentina.
Santaolalla's eye for talent caught the attention of Universal Music Group President Zach Horowitz, and in August 1997 Surco inked a deal valued at $5 million with Universal Records to finance and distribute the label.
Having started his career in music at age 16, Santaolalla became a star in his own right when he formed a band, Arco Iris, in the '60s that was influenced by folk and traditional South American music. It was during that time that Santaolalla hooked up with Anibal Kerpel, a keyboardist. The two men began producing music with other bands, and getting them deals at the studios.
Santaolalla works closely with his bands to develop their songs and sound, but is hoping to find a co-producer so that he'll have more time to find new talent and make his own music.
"I'm very happy that people are starting to recognize that (rock en Espa & #324;ol) can have an impact in the business," Santaolalla said.
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