Van Lacke picks up the pieces
Tarkus and comes up with this strange brew.
1972, a strange band appeared in the rock scene of Lima. They
were called Tarkus and were formed by two Argentinians (bassist
Guillermo Van Locke and guitarist Dario Ginella) and two
Peruvians (drummer Walo Carrillo and singer guitarist Alex
Nathanson, both veterans of prog rockers Telegraph Avenue).
After a few months the band was snapped by MAG Records and soon
after their debut album was released.
Featuring a then
bizarre sound that flawlessly mixed hard rock with early psychedelia the recording proved to be a strange brew for most
audiences. After a handful of live presentations Tarkus split
up, leaving time to work its magic. Tarkusí self-titled debut
acquired mythic proportions among prog rock connoisseurs. Copies
of the first release started fetching high prices, which led to
boutique labels reissuing the record in the US and Europe. Fast forward three
decades and Tlon has taken the post. Led by Van Lackeís son
Christian, this Argentine/Peruvian trio represents the sound of what Tarkus could have been had they
forged on. Tlon
even features Tarkusí drummer Walo Carrillo in its ranks. To find
out the full story I contacted Christian Van Lacke who was kind
enough to go into detail about everything Tlon. Read on and
spread the word.
- The formation of Tlon was just chance, wasnít it?
TL - Well, let
me tell you a story first.
- Sure, go ahead.
TL - When I was
a kid and I was just starting to get logical I was going through
an old trunk in my grandmaís house. Between old photographs and
family stuff there was a record with a black cover. It caught my
attention. To my surprise, I saw my dadís pic and info inside. I
talked to him about it and since then he started filling my head
with songs and stories. I am talking about Tarkus, of course.
Itís music that any other 5 or 6 year old would have disliked,
but I was fascinated from the start.
- I can imagine. I did not like rock music until I was about
12. Tarkusí music is difficult though. What other bands did you
like as a kid?
TL - The first
two records I bought with my allowance, I am talking about í82,
when I was 7, were Yendo de la Cama al Living by Charly
Garcia and Me Vuelvo Cada Dia Mas Loca by Celeste
Carballo. Iíd listen to them non stop while my friends were into
Parchis (80ís Spanish kid group) and Enrique Y Ana. (another
- I was like your friends at the time. Then I listened to Los
Violadores and I was hooked on rock. Going back to Tarkus, the
last few years have seen some sort of revival for that band.
TL - It took time. First it was reissued in the US, then in
Europe and then in Peru. It started to get more widely known
even though it was all pretty mythic and it still is. Collectors
started to get very interested and the original copies got
- Were people in Argentina in the know also, or this happened
only in Peru?
TL - In
Argentina it happened at the same time as in Europe. Basically
collectors in the 70ís got the record, but beyond three small
reviews in Pelo magazine (legendary Argentinean rock mag) there
was nothing else. In the 70ís the record never got distribution.
- So how did Tarkus come about?
TL - My dad
wanted some sort of musical exchange between countries. He
wanted to take Tarkus to Argentina and bring Pescado Rabioso and
La Pesada to Peru. He wanted to start some sort of cultural
exchange. But that didnít happen. Thatís something I am working
on here in Peru. I am trying to establish that connection.
- Right, and how do you get to Peru?
TL - I was playing in Argentina. It was an erratic time in my
life. I met a Peruvian girl and I came with her. Right now she
is sleeping to my side while I speak with you. Obviously as soon
as the idea of moving here came up I started thinking about
making music here. I called the Walos (father formerly of Tarkus
& son) and we agreed on making music upon my arrival.
- Did that happen at the same time of the Tarkus reunion?
TL - No, the
reunion happened later. I was already living in Lima, working on
the songs that would end up in the first Lilus record (with Walo
Carrillo, the son) and playing with Walo (father) in Mr. Blues,
with whom we play blues and classic rock covers. Alex Nathanson
called form the US saying he was coming to Lima and that it
would be a good idea to jam. Walo tells me that and tells him
about me, hangs up the phone and we looked at each other and
said, Ďhow about reuniting Tarkus?í
- I can imagine, a moment of illumination.
TL - We called
Alex again and we started planning a one time gig. In the end we
played four shows; one at Templario n Huacho, in the Festival de
la Vendimia in Ica in front of 15,000 people and in downtown
Lima for a TV show. We did radio, printed press and the audience
responded very well. We started recording an Šlbum, kinda like
Tarkus Volume 2. Alex was in his second visit to Peru. We
recorded a few songs but tere were musical differences between
Alex, Walo and myself. We couldnít agree with Alex about a
specific sound, the songs and the arrangements. Alex ended up
doing the songs where we had already recorded the bases. He gave
us the master and we didnít like it. We wished him good luck and
said, Ďletís do it the way we want to do ití.
- So Tlon took over from there. Itís a different band.
TL - Tlon is what Tarkus Volume 2 could have been, but because
we respect the past we changed the name. Alex had something
commercial in mind, modern sounds with arrangements from the
- Had you continued with the Tarkus name you would have
fucked it up.
TL - Alex
wanted to do songs that had nothing to do with the Tarkusí
sound. We wanted nothing to do with that so respecting
everyoneís convictions and respecting Tarkusí weirdness and its
essence we cut it right there. We named that Tlon.
- Right, now Tlonís debut includes some old Tarkusí songs,
TL - ďLa Ciudad DespiertaĒ is from lyrics that Dario (Tarkusí )
wrote in 1972. I wrote the music. The lyrics on the bridge on
ďMar de ManzanasĒ isa all written by Dario even though I had to
reimagine what he would have done with some of the chords. ďLulu
Esta VolandoĒ is from Darioís lyrics and the music is mine and
ďElla AndaĒ is entirely by Dario. I played it acoustically
because I wanted it to be as pure as possible and because there
is an unwritten ĎTarkusianí law that dictates that the record
must end with an acoustic song. That idea comes from ďTiempo del
SolĒ, the last songo on Tarkus 1972 debut. The rest of the songs
are mine with astral help from Walo and bassist Marcos Coifman.
- Thatís whatís surprising about Tlonís sound, itís really
sober and pure. What have you recorded before Tlon?
TL - Tons of
stuff. Iíve produced several bands and solo artists as well has
recorded my own songs and editing my friendsí. When I arrived to
Peru I recorded with Mr. Blues, then some solo work for
Argentinean artists, Gloria Maria Solari, Lilus. Nothing that
sounds like Tlon. And I had a band called Simnil in í94 but we
never recorded anything.
- So Tlon reflects what you are the best? Or it sounds like
it does because it is the continuation of Tarkus?
TL - Sound runs
through my veins and I like lots of music. I couldn't tell you
which one reflects me the best. Tlon or the Tlon sound is what I
like playing the most. Itís too soon to tell because the first
Tlon record just came out but Iíve already demoed the second. I
canít stop writing and recording music. Thatís how it is. The
new stuff is going to be off the hook.
- Yeah, like you say, it runs in your veins. One thing I
liked a lot are your vocals. They are really calmed. It matches
the music, which is heavy but controlled.
TL - I was influenced by vocalists with a high pitch; Miguel
Abuelo (from Abuelos de la Nada), Spinetta, Edelmiro Molinari
(Color Humano, Almendra), Litto Nebbia (from classic Argentine
band Los Gatos) and even Ales from Tarkus. Obviously, the way he
sung back in 1972.
- I could say the same thing about your guitars, they serve
the music. There is a modest prog rock vive, but while
progressive rock musicians tend to lose control with the number
of notes you keep them under control.
TL - The guitar has to be Heard in all its textures. I get bored
listening to players that have a flat sound. Besides I play with
my fingers and not with a pick, that gives me a bigger range.
- Why did you start playing with your fingers instead of with
a pick? Are you a masochist?
TL - Hahaha. I
lost my picks and I had none left. Laziness. I did not want to
go to the store to buy more. I still havenít bought any and itís
been fifteen years.
- As far as prog rock bands, which ones influenced you?
TL - King Crimson and Invisible (Argentinean band led by
musician Luis Alberto Spinetta, also of Almendra and Pescado
Maquina de Hacer Pajaros. Color Humano and Return to Forever.
Guedes from Brasil.
- I checked out Color Humano. Good stuff. Iíll have to search
for Beto Guedes. As far as hard rock, who influences you?
TL - Well, I am a 'melůmano' (a person who is passionate
about music) and I have a huge collection of Argentine rock
records and books, so I could give you a huge list of who I
like, but the foreign bands I like the most are Black Sabbath,
Led Zeppelin and Iron Butterfly.
- Did you get to listen to Graveyard and Witchcraft?
TL - Yes, they are great. I had heard some of their stuff but I
hadnít paid attention.
- Yeah, those two along with Dead Man have the same vibes.
Itís strange, I always thought that ideas are floating in the
air and thatís why people in different places think of them at
the same time. There are some common patterns to your music and
the music of those above mentioned. I guess there is an
appreciation and some influence from the same bands.
TL - Ideas float in the air. Some ideas travel further than
others, the tricky part is catching them in the moment. Itís an
act of illumination.
- Thatís right. How and when do you write music?
TL - All the time. Most of the time with an acoustic guitar
(with nylon strings) that I have on my bedside. Most of the time
at night but other times I am in a car and something comes up, a
song, an arrangement of a song. I work in several ways.
- Do you write everything down or do you memorize it?
TL - If I am in the studio or close by, I record it right away.
Other times I just make these strange sketches that only an
alien could decipher and yet others I have to memorize them.
There have been times when Iíve been hanging out with people and
I stop talking until I get home or until I make these strange
sketches. In a napkin, in a ticket, anywhere. Only then I can
relax. If I didnít record those ideas I would have gone mad a
long time ago. I couldnít keep all this inside my head.
- When do you know whether a song is completely finished? When
it canít be improved?
TL - I try no to overproduce. In other words, even when a song
seems super produced, they are all fresh ideas. The songs are
recorded pretty quick. I am happy with them instantly. Whatís
slow is the mix because you can keep on changing stuff, a small
decibel can ruin a part or a whole song.
- Yeah, I admire the bandís control. Not only in the
execution but also in the production side. Where does all the
space vive come from? There is something very martian about Tlon?
Is it because it is the continuation of Tarkus?
TL - We
did not want it to sound like Tarkus. There are also other
influences, and there is also something Ďmartianí, or in this
case, Tlon-like thatís very much a part of me. In the end we all
are from space. Itís about connecting and not stay too grounded,
itís about seeing beyond our limits, itís about imagining places
and situations and itís about living those places and
- Correct, thatís why you generate so much music. .
TL - To me all
those hallucinations that are in Tlonís songs are very real.
Iíve lived them and anyone can live them.
- How so?
TL - Everything
is real, my hallucinations are real. It depends on how you look
at them. For someone who has his head in Jupiter, people would
believe him to be crazy, that he is delirious, but he is totally
living that, he is feeling that, then that is real. Itís
difficult to explain, but well, letís move on.
- But I understand. Itís like believing in God or being an
atheist, if you believe in God you are right, and if you donít
you are also right.
TL Ė Yes,
thatís a good analogy. Everyone is praying to the sky, looking
at that being with no body, they feel it, but there is also
another crazy person looking at the sky, waiting for a spaceship
to come down and take him away. Itís not as popular but is the
- How about the cover artwork?
TL - Bassist
Marcos Coifman drew it. He made a sketch with a pencil, pretty
quick, then he colored it in his computer for us to see and then
make a full piece. But we liked it was it was in the computer so
he didnít need to finish it. The sketch was perfect.
- How was the album recorded?
TL - We
recorded it in our studio in Pueblo Libre and also in MCA
Studios. The drums were recorded at MCA and the final mix was
also done there. At the time we did not have any good mix
monitors so I had moral support and advice from the Cornejo
brothers and Miguel Yance. I like the result. It sounds rounded.
- Yes, I like it too. It has a very warm sound, very classic.
It will age well.
TL - We could
have polished it more. We could have taken some of the hiss out,
but we wanted a raw sound. The drums weren't mixed track by
track but all at the same time. Like it used to be done. We did
not compress the sound too much. The vocals were recorded in a
cheap Berihnger Mike. I recorded the vocals in Pueblo Libre, but
they came out so well we did not re-record them. I used a Les
Paul and a Fender amp with tubes.
- Very organic recording. How do the new songs compare to the
TL - The sound is similar but the songs are more out there. Itís
a continuation, but I never do the same thing twice. Besides the
result of the first one and the search for a sound on the first
one helped us realize what we want for the second album. We have
already the technical concepts laid out.
- When do you think youíll be recording?
TL - August or
September so that it comes out before the end of the year.
- Did the record come out in Argentina?
TL - In
Argentina it is being distributed by Viajero Inmovil, a label
especialized in the genre, very much like Repsychled and Ogro
are here. It was issued in vinyl and CD in Germany by Nasoni,
who have done some really quality work.
- So what did your father say when he heard the record?
TL - It blew
his mind. He liked it a lot.
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