Local Gibraltarian musician Adrian Pisarello’s cultural upbringing, free spirited mind set and taste for a vast array of musical styles make him the perfect embodiment of the island’s unique culture and society. We talk to Pisarello about his music, which blends elements of punk, folk and rock, and his identity as an icon of the Gibraltar music scene.
In Gibraltar, where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean, combinations of cultural sounds merge together to form a musical style very emblematic of Gibraltar. Home to many musicians, Gibraltar gains its influences from its neighbouring countries, such as Morocco, Spain and the rest of the Mediterranean. These inspirations, infused with a Rock ‘n’ roll attitude, give the local music scene its own personality.
Adrian Pisarello is emblematic of that personality; he is your typical ‘llanito’ and his musical influences are similar to those found by other musicians on the rock. His musical style can be described as a mixture of uplifting rhythmic Spanish folk acoustic with a punk’s edge. He showcases his distinctive gravelly voice and his lyrics are an authentic representation of the Gibraltarian culture that reflects the concerns of the locals.
Let’s begin with your childhood; Gibraltar’s border with Spain was closed by the time you were born and this closure affected many locals. What was it like for you as a young child growing up in Gibraltar in the 70s?
I had a normal childhood and have loads of great memories. I grew up in Catalan Bay so the summers were always awesome. The frontier being closed never affected me because I never knew otherwise, I was born in 1970 and the frontier was closed from 1969 to 1982.
During your teenage years you got involved in the local music scene playing in local bands. All this mingling with productive individuals ranging in styles and musical tastes must have got your musical juices flowing. What was that like?
I started playing at the age of 16 and from then on I was totally hooked. I and the other musicians I played with always managed to do original music, maybe some covers but original stuff was always a priority. To tell you the truth the Gibraltar music scene in the late 80s was non-existent, we used to rehearse and rehearse but it was very difficult to play live. This was very frustrating; it’s a mystery to me why I didn’t grow tired of this situation and stopped playing all together. I guess my love for music was greater than my frustrations.
You later took the solo route and wrote your own material, for example the song ‘Libertad’ which won the John Lennon song writing contest in the Latin Category. Then you went on to record your first EP entitled Cuidado con El. Tell us more about this time.
I was recording six of my songs. I just wanted to record these songs for myself. I had planned to record them on tape but I was informed that it could be possible to pass them onto CD. This sounds normal now but for me back in 1998 this was science fiction (laughs).This was what would later be the EP Cuidado con El. It sounded much better than I had anticipated and I decided that I would try to make and sell as much copies as possible giving half of the money to the disability awareness group. This is how I first met my great friend Eric Rowbottom.
But before I started to make the CDs I decided to enter two songs in the John Lennon Song Writing Contest (USA). I never thought much about it but I had nothing to lose so I sent a tape with both songs. One of the songs was ‘libertad’. An anti-war song I had written with very strong Latin/South American influences. To my amazement the song managed to come first in the Latin category of the contest. More important than the prizes was the confidence that this gave me. This really made me believe that I was doing something right. I felt over the moon.
In 2001 after touring Spain supporting well known artists you released your second album Adelante, talk to us about this album.
This album was quite difficult for me to write because I wanted it to be as good as or better than my first EP. This album contains one of my most popular songs ‘Nunca Jamas’, again a song with a Latin feel to it. It’s a funny song about hangovers. This song is requested nearly every time I play. This song is also featured in an Australian documentary about Gibraltar entitled ‘The Fork of the Mediterranean’.
In the song ‘Aqui nadie se lo traga’ you use your lyrics and voice to speak for the Gibraltarian community. What inspired you to write it?
‘Aqui Nadie Se Lo Traga’ is a song from my third CD No Hay Dos Sin Tres. I had written songs about injustices in other countries, for example ‘Ya esta bien’ a song about what was done to the Native American Indians and what is still done today in the Amazon. I decided that it was time for me to sing about local injustice. This song is about the 2002 Gibraltar referendum about joint sovereignty and criticizes both the British and Spanish Governments.
Can you tell us a bit about the title and CD cover of No Hay Dos Sin Tres, and about the album itself and the process behind it? Is it a combination of your first two albums?
This album is my personal favourite out of the three I’ve done under the ‘Adrian Pisarello’ banner. The name says it all. It’s a Spanish saying meaning that things come in threes, this is my third album so I decided to name it that. If you look at the cover you see three pint glasses. The two of them that are empty are on top of beer mats. If you look closely you’ll find that the beer mats are the covers of my first two CDs. The empty pints meaning that I had already exhausted the life of my first two albums. The last pint has still some beer left meaning that I still had to exhaust this CD and the beer mat has no picture because the cover of the third CD is all of this. I hope I have made this clear.
Where does most of your inspiration come from, is it daily life, family, politics and injustice?
All of what you have mentioned. Inspiration comes from everything and nowhere. It can depend on the type of music I’m playing, what has caught my attention, stuff you may feel strong about, and sometimes really small things. Everything and anything can inspire me.
Are you working on any new material at the moment?
I’ve been working on an album entitled The Purple/Violet War for quite some time now. It’s a concept album that tells the story of a young lad that goes to war. The album is in English and has many styles of music, Blues, Rock, Hip Hop/jazz, Acoustic, reggae. Hopefully it will be ready shortly. I am also involved recording with one of my musical friends from the past. This I cannot say anything yet but will be very interesting to say the least.
Any other side projects we should know about?
I am very proud of my other band ‘The Return of the Punk Zombies’. We’ve got an album entitled The Ultimate Love Collection. This was brilliant to record I really had a brilliant time with my mate Charlie Moore. We played support to Breed 77 at the Scala in London one of my most memorable gigs to date.