Adrian Quesada (Black Pumas) - The Fresh Pots! Playlist
Adrian Quesada is a jack of all trades. He’s an accomplished musician, producer, studio owner and more. He co-founded Grammy award-winning band Grupo Fantasma, Brownout, Spanish Gold, The Echocentrics. Has collaborated with Shawn Lee (Electric Peanut Butter Co.) and Martin Perna (Ocote Soul Sounds) just to name a few.
In 2019, Adrian released a new record with his new band Black Pumas. A contemporary retro soul record that, according to Quesada is “more Pete Rock than hard rock.”
Listen to his playlist below and read our chat about all things music including sharing music with Prince, his favorite covers and of course coffee.
Fresh Pots!: Hey Adrian. Thank you for putting together this playlist and talking to us. Any standout tracks?
Adrian Quesada: My playlist is a collection of songs I find myself running/shooting hoops/exercising to in the morning, which usually comes right after some strong coffee.
FP: Grupo Fantasma, Brownout, Ocote Soul Sounds, Spanish Gold, The Electric Peanut Butter Company, Echocentrics, and now Black Pumas. First off, am I missing any projects? Maybe something a little more obscure for us collectors? Secondly, is there a common denominator between all these projects? What drives you to continually push your musical boundaries?
AQ: I co-produced and was a part of the Glorietta album that came out 2018, among a lot of other productions that weren’t necessarily a band I was in. The common denominator is that i just like to make music and am constantly trying to get better at what I do. I feel like I’m still on a journey getting better at music in general, maybe I’m a late bloomer or maybe its just the kind of journey its hard to imagine getting complacent over. I also listen to and grew up on so many different kinds of music so it feels natural to work on different Styles or genres or whatever.
FP: You grew up in Laredo, Texas. I’m from Tijuana/San Diego. I know border towns are their own unique magical place. What kind of music did you grow up listening to in Laredo, and how has it manifested itself into the music you make now, if at all?
AQ: I grew up mainly on rock (everything from hair metal to skate punk and punk rock) and hip hop. The early years of MTV were huge for me as I didn’t have access to a lot of good music otherwise so it opened my ears (and eyes) up to so much, particularly hip hop. Growing up on the border there is of course lots of regional Mexican music, mariachi, boleros, cumbias, etc. but I didn’t come around to appreciate that until a later in life. Hip Hop was the most influential music for me as it opened the doors to funk, soul and jazz as my taste became more discerning from when I was about 18 through my college years.
FP: Kid you not, I had the idea of doing these artist and band features when I listened to your guest DJ segment on Felix Contreras’ Alt Latino on NPR. You put together a really cool covers-only playlist. Do covers get a bad rep? And do you make a lot of playlists?
AQ: I do think nowadays covers don’t carry the same weight they used to. Nowadays there is a lot of pressure to write original songs, and understandably so, but to me there’s something about interpretation to that I love. I love how jazz artists could record the same tunes and bring them to life with their own feelings and interpretation, Carlos Santana is a good example of someone who was an interpreter and as much as I love Tito Puente and Peter Green, Santana made “Oye Como Va’ And “Black Magic Woman” his own. I do kind of make a lot of inspiration playlists, one good thing about Spotify I guess.
FP: Speaking of covers, Esclavo Y Amo is one of my favorites. What made you want to cover Javier Solis, or specifically that song?
AQ: Boleros have always resonated with me and it probably goes back to my upbringing and just hearing them around everywhere. I remember the day I was driving in my early 20s and heard Los Pasteles’ version of Esclavo Y Amo on AM radio and I don’t think I’ve ever lost it hearing a song in the car like I did that day. I pulled over and waited, then called the station to ask about it. I had NO IDEA that there was such a thing - bands in the psychedelic era putting that spin on timeless songs! It sounded like it was drenched in acid and also sounded like Ghostface Killah could just start rapping at any point. One of the most transformative musical experiences Ive ever had lol. Naturally, i had to cover it, hoping to do an album of psychedelic boleros real soon. Been peppering them on Echocentrics albums since.
FP: Tell us a little bit about Black Pumas, your new project with Eric Burton. Groovy psychedelic soul music? How would you describe it? Any particular influences or inspiration on the forefront of this sound?
AQ: Soul is probably the easiest way to describe it, psychedelic soul works as well, though I feel like people are starting to overuse that term. To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of coming up with genres to describe but i understand its a necessary evil. We didn’t set out to make anything exactly like any old records, thats the great things about Eric, he’s sincere in his expression - he’ll nod here and there to some influences but its never overt and never sets out to be anything but himself. The production was definitely influenced by “psychedelic soul” - Norman Whitfield era Temptations, Syl Johnson, etc.
FP: Your collaborations are legendary. You've made music with Prince, Shawn Lee, Martin Perna, Chico Mann among many many others. Did any those guys turn you on to some cool music? Did you get a chance to talk music with Prince?
AQ: Thanks - Martin in particular, used to drop all kinds of jams on my hard drive (back in the days when you transferred mp3s to folks and it wasn’t all available online), along with movies and concert films. When we were playing with Prince he was in a particular phase where he was really going back to some of his roots - James Brown, Santana, Tower of Power and more, so thats what we usually talked about.
FP: How do you find new music nowadays?
AQ: Everywhere from following tastemakers/DJs/labels on Instagram to word of mouth from friends to the good old fashioned record store. I find myself having less and less time to listen to new music because I’m seemingly always working on my own music and it consumes a lot of time to be writing, producing and mixing. I was asked to do some year end top ten album lists last year and I realized I couldn’t come up with ten contemporary albums I really liked - not because they didn’t exist but because I need to put more time into listening to new music. Right at that time, Shawn Lee posted his top ten on FB and I thought “well thats a great start” and listened to his and discovered easily 4-5 gems in there I still listen to. If Shawn Lee can find time to listen to new music than I should be able to as well!
FP: What do you have coming up? I saw Black Pumas is hitting the road soon…
AQ: On the road now! Album came out June 21st and we’re out spreading the gospel of the Pumas. Busy with this for the rest of the year.
FP: Lastly, such a busy and prolific man like yourself must enjoy a fresh pot more often than now. How do you take your coffee?
AQ: Ideally, its a good espresso pour from a Marzocco and a good barista - either in a macchiato or a cappuccino, but at home I either French Press or realistically when in hurry its from my Nespresso machine which is pretty great. Pro tip on the road - Starbucks sells instant coffee packets I carry which are strong and consistent and although its not my favorite option it sure beats a crappy hotel coffee.