Q&A: Carlos Santana
Carlos Santana is revered not only for his innovative guitar skills, but also his ability to connect musicality with spirituality. The unending search for intimacy and innocence within his music has made him one of rock’s most interesting figures. Santana recently spoke with Las Vegas Magazine’s Alex Haase about commercialism, dismissing the mind and celebrating five years of his House of Blues residency at Mandalay Bay, to which he returns on Sept. 13.
You put your heart and your soul into your music; I think people can hear that in how diverse your music is. Hearing you say you don’t want to play music for any other reason than love, how do you reconcile creating music that is fulfilling and still commercially successful?
I believe in my heart, since I’ve been a child, that quality and quantity can dance together. The most commercial thing in this planet is probably Mona Lisa … And I’m sure that when Leonardo da Vinci painted her, he wasn’t set out to be the most commercial guy over all the other artists. But nevertheless, Mona Lisa represents quality and quantity forevermore. So I relate to that part of being significant and meaningful. Commercial to me is not bad. Nat King Cole singing “Mona Lisa,” chocolates, flowers and it’s very commercial. But it’s the love behind it. Commercial only has a bad name when certain people in certain offices manufacture shallow, hollow, insignificant, pointless, meaningless, no-feeling, no-substance crap.
You have been doing the House of Blues residency five years. What does it mean to have something steady like that?
Well, I’m really, really blessed. As my mom said, as long as you’re healthy and you have a gig, you know, what the hell are you complaining about? (Laughs.) … I don’t even call it work, or a job, or a gig. It’s a golden opportunity to each day try it all over again in a different way … The experiment is how to make the spiritual and the physical dance together.
How does the venue’s intimacy affect your playing?
Since it’s so intimate, it reminds me of when you’re–it’s a romantic thing. I’m talking about discovering innocence. When you think of innocence, it’s like kids for the first time under the sheets sneaking a kiss or something. And there’s something that happens to you when you’re a child, and you don’t even know what it is, and your palms get sweaty. That’s the kind of music that I want to play, with that kind of newness of innocence, yet it’s sensual and it’s spiritual. And I don’t apologize for saying that, because if you don’t play like that, you might as well just be working at the post office licking stamps.
When you look back from then to now, I feel like your phrasing is a lot better as a guitar player; it definitely sounds more intimate to me. What inspires you to keep learning and perfecting that craft?
Well, thank you for saying that. I have confidence that my whole life has meaning, since the beginning. I have confidence that everything that I learned and pursued, I don’t have to reach out anymore. It’s in my heart. … I think one word would be sufficient; I feel supremely confident. One word: confident–enough to dismiss my mind and just invite my heart to just tell another story as differently elevating, but above all, dismiss the mind. Because the mind is doubt and fear and predictableness–we don’t want nothing to do with the mind. The only time we need the mind is when it goes to sleep. That’s the good time (laughs). Because then it dreams. Being … perfect. Like flying. How many people have dreams about flying?
I have. Except I always end up falling.
I never fall.