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Emilio Castillo - "Five People acting as one"

To experience this band on stage in the venue of NH Hotel during the "Jazztage Ingolstadt" was an exceptional event. The incredible energy of Tower Of Power with it's famous brass section rocked the audience—and to watch extraordinary musicians like these near enough to touch makes a concert unforgetable, like this Tower Of Power gig in November 2009.

Emilio Castillo

Tower of Power may well be "the" No.1 funk band in the world—especially it's singular horn section is in a class of it's own. Maybe that's owed to the heart and soul the group's founder, Emilio Castillo, puts into the project. And also to the family-like structures in the band…

Carina Prange talked to Emilio Castillo during Jazzfest Ingolstadt 2009

Carina: Let's start with a question that probably has been asked often before, but that's inevitable in a way: The horn section of Tower Of Power is a legend in it's own—what is the special ingredient in it's sound that makes it so wanted?

Emilio: Well, I think the fact that it's five people that play constantly—and have done that for years and years and years! And even when we first got together, there was a definite understanding about what type of sound we wanted to have.

We wanted to be soulful, we wanted to be tight, we wanted to be in tune. We wanted everybody to stop at the same time and start at the same time. And then get louder at the same time and get soft at the same time. So it's "five people acting as one".

Carina: The group was founded in 1968. To be part of it for more than four decades, what a feeling is that?

Emilio: Unbelief. Total gratitude, that God has blessed us to play the type of music that makes it really easy to go to work. We make our music to please ourselves. We are very selfish in that respect!

But we find, that when we do that, the fans like it better and we enjoy going to work better. And, you know, to play for four decades is beyond my understanding. So I am just grateful and blessed.

Emilio Castillo

Carina: At the time of the group's foundation you were just 18. Did you in a way grow up together and with oneanother? Does a band always keep pace with the ripening of it's members as individuals?

Emilio: I think, yes, we grow together. But obviously not all ten members have stayed the same for these four decades. We are five originals and one of them just came back after a twenty-five years absence. Our drummer David Garibaldi is back about ten years, but before that he was out for eighteen years and he was in the band three different times before that!

So, you know, we have very intertwining lives—even when people are out of the band, we still know each other and interact. And certainly, the people in the band have grown together, have matured together, have seen each other through difficult times. And certainly we had a lot of fun times together. So, yeah, we ripen together.

Carina: Is this band the work of a lifetime—your lifetime?

Emilio: This is definitely my life's work. And I knew it was going to be, from the time I was fifteen years old. I am not one of these people that took lessons and learned how to play and practiced for years and years and then joined a band. I started a band. And then I learned to play! I had a band from the first moment I had an instrument. Then I have been the leader of a band for all those years.

It's what I know. From the moment I started a band, I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do. I was consumed with it—and I'm every bit as consumed with it forty years later as I was back then. You know, I love doing this. It's never a chore. I have difficult days, but it's my passion, I enjoy it, I love it.

And in a very real aspect it sort of defines me. It's who I am. And it's a legacy that I can leave for my children, it will last far longer than I will. I am just truly blessed to be able to do what I do and to never have had to worry about what my career's gonna be. I always knew. (laughs)

Tower Of Power - "Great American Soulbook"

Carina: This year Tower Of Power published the album "Great American Soulbook", featuring guest singers—Tom Jones among others—, who also chose most of the repertoire. If you'd have to pick the three greatest soul songs of all time, which would it be?

Emilio: I don't think I could pick the three "greatest" soul songs of all time. I could name three for today. And that might change this afternoon and it might change again this evening. But I certainly have a lot of favorites and if I were to pick three…

I just pick three, because there are so many that I love, that I thoroughly love. But one of my favorite is "This old heart of mine" by the Isley Brothers. Another one would be "Hypnotized" by Linda Jones. And if I had to choose another it would probably be Curtis Mayfield's "We are winner".

Carina: Where do you see the position of soul presently? Is it underrated, outdated … or is it even more important nowadays than ever? Should people have more soul in their hearts?

Emilio: I never really think much about the "status" of soul music from year to year. There was a time I remember in the late eighties, when Robert Cray first came on the scene and people started using the word "retro". They said "retro is in" and "authentic bands playing soulful music is back in vogue". And they used to ask me that question all on.

I used to tell them then—and I tell them the same thing now—: I don't really think about it. Because I don't do it because it's "in vogue" or because it's "hot" right now. I do it because I love it. And to be all honest, I can't even do anything else. I mean, if I try to play differently, it always comes out sounding like soul music.

I learned a long time ago not to mess with that. So it's just what I do. And as far as the state of soul music and the industry today, there is always some sort of soul music going. And for that matter, there is always very good music going on. And there is always junk going on! And you see that in the two-thousands and the nineties and the eighties, in the seventies—all the way back—, I mean, there has always been very good music and really lame music.

If you are looking for something good, you can find it. I think pretty much, really, really good music has a certain degree of "soul" to it. And in answer to your question, should people have more soul in their hearts, or more soul in their lives: The more soul, the better.

Carina: To make a concert an "almost transcendental experience"—to cite you—, what has to be fulfilled in advance—by the audience on one hand and by the musicians on the other?

Emilio: Well, I think, it's very much a "team effort", a great concert. It's not just the artist and certainly not just the audience. Both of those segments of the concert need to bring it, you know. (laughs)

The audience needs to come with a lot of energy, ready to fully embrace the atmosphere and the soul of the concert. And the artist needs to bring twice as much energy even. And feed off of the energy coming from the audience.

And together it goes to that place, that you are talking about: that transcendental place, where everything is clicking and tense and all that. And sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it happens to a degree and sometimes it happens beyond degrees. And that's really wonderful when that happens.

Emilio Castillo

Carina: You constantly have to give energy and emotion to the audience during a concert. But where do you take it from yourself?

Emilio: Well, the type of music we play is soul music. And soul music by definition—by my definition anyway—, is emotional music. It stirs the emotions in a person. Sometimes people say: Tower of Power? Great funk band! That's but a very small part of what we do.

Soul music has funk in it, but it also has very emotional ballads, and mid-tempo love songs. And happy, finger-popping shuffles and jazz. There is just a lot of different elements to soul and all of it is emotional. It touches the emotions.

For me, when I am off stage, which touches my emotions, is my relation with God. I pray. I read the bible. I put all my faith and trust in God. And I try to work on that on a daily basis. And just the fact, that he showed his love for me in such a profound way by sending his son to pay the prize for my sins, that I can have eternal life with him, that stirs the biggest emotion in me. Because that type of love is beyond description and beyond understanding. You have to attain a true faith.

Carina Prange

CD: Tower Of Power - "Great American Soulbook"
(Care Music)

Tower Of Power im Internet: www.towerofpower.com

Fotos: Pressefotos

© jazzdimensions 2010
erschienen: 6.8.2010
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