Zen turns 20 and Jhovan Tomasevich remember that it was after selling their first 3,500 recorded albums “on a home computer” that they decided to name the band. “Our demo, thanks to the public, became our first official album”. This Saturday they will play at the Grand National Theater.
In the early 2000s, Zen was playing on college campuses. Also the Peruvian bands were trying to sound abroad, right?
It’s true. In fact, we just came out on this kind of wave or growth of local rock. The Peruvian public saw it with good eyes, the radios began to look for content and there we fell in good standing because we had a new album, we were a new, fresh band.
What would you say kept them together?
Two things: the good relationship between the members –even our separation was always friendly– and we have not lost the goals of what prompted us to create Zen, that is, to make good songs, have fun and seek to live from that. In fact, we are making a new album and one always says: “our last album is the best of our career”.
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And is it so?
(Smiles) It’s not always true, sometimes it’s a lie, but it has to be said. In this case, I can say that it is an incredible feeling that the four musicians get into the studio to record and we are surprised that we still have that spark of wanting to take on the world. We also said: “what a straw! Why didn’t we do this earlier?”
You once said that you were looking to improve your lyrics. There is self-criticism in Zen.
Sure, the ego is destructive to an artist. The job of the four of us is to try to balance when something gets out of hand for one of us; say “this is not working”. That counterweight has been interesting. Now, with digital platforms, you can create a not very good product, and you can be successful, but when people are going to see you live and you are not able to sing your own songs well, you are not going to have a future. In our case, there has been an evolution in sound and lyrics. It is not so easy for a musician to feel proud of what he is doing, we are.
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Rock did not have the popularity of other genres in Peru. How do they get on the radio?
The first person in open radio who believed in us was Sergio Galliani. He told me: “I found your record in the drawer to discard the radio.” He didn’t know us, he didn’t know anything about Zen. He heard it and said “how good is this song” and put it on the radio. From there, people started calling asking about the group. It was the radios that called us and we began to distribute what was our first demo when we didn’t even have the name of the band. We were hoping to get funding or a record label. But that never came and we started playing.
There weren’t that many shows that were platforms for bands. What is your opinion of the crisis in the sector?
Honestly, I have never had any expectations about it, in any government. I have always seen that culture has been underestimated by almost all governments. When something has been tried to do somehow, we have the corruption so ingrained that you no longer trust anyone. If they are not interested in Kuelap, they will be less interested in music, less in rock. At the regional level, other countries are decades ahead of us, Peru does not appear on that map. We have discussed it with musicians, here everyone dances with their handkerchief. But what awaits a new band? The new bands enter inequality.