It’s getting dark, and his electric guitar pulsates through the walls of Concha Segura theater and onto the freezing November streets of Yecla, a town situated in the South-East of Spain.
Juan Saurín, the name behind the strings, is a Yecla native, recognized and admired by his town. In the queue, his old High School teachers, family and friends blend in between teenagers decked head to toe in sleek, black leather. We catch a first glimpse of him, through the gap in the curtains behind the soundboards. He’s sound-checking; in a lunge, hair down, features brimmed with passion for the music he’s making.
PURE NOWHERE: When did you decide you wanted to be a musician?
JUAN SAURÍN: I started playing when I was 13; I was watching TV and I saw the music video for Metallica’s ‘Until It Sleeps’. I was like… dude… what is this? I don’t know, something came over me, and it was automatic, you know, I bought DVDs, started to find more bands, immediately joined guitar lessons…and since then, I haven’t stopped. It started there and won’t ever go away.
PN: What do you think you’d be doing if you hadn’t seen that Metallica video?
JS: Well… I wouldn’t be doing anything (laughs). I really don’t know, this is just the only thing I can think of doing. From the moment I started, at 13, I haven’t done anything else. I locked myself in my room, all I did was play, study, play, study… and everything I’ve ever done has been in relation to music. When I worked, for example, in a factory over the summertime, it was to buy an amp, or a guitar, or a… whatever. You know, everything I’ve done that hasn’t been directly related to my music has always been secondary.
After joining classical guitar lessons in Yecla to learn basic notions, Juan went onto studying ‘Instrument, Harmony and Composition’ at the Institute of Music and Technology of Madrid (IMT), and then graduating in ‘Modern Music and Jazz’ in the ‘Conservatori del Liceu’ of Barcelona. He graduated from ‘Music Teaching’ with the best qualification (Distinction) in the British institution, Rockschool, and was then taught by guitar prodigies like Frank Solari, Steve Vai, Andy Timmons, Joe Bonamassa,… etc.
He’s been a guitarist for a few bands and artists, including a Metallica tribute band and the first The Voice Spain winner (along with being his musical director).
Now, his name’s on the screen.
Two years ago, Juan presented his debut album, ‘Genesis’, in this same theater. And tonight, he’s back with his sophomore album, ‘Human’. His hometown always marks the first date of his tours.
The concert begins. The ‘Human’ album cover fades into his intro video, (‘Chaos’, the origin of humanity), and he comes out, followed by his band. The power of his electric guitar makes people’s hearts shake.
His hands, filled with silver rings, disappear between electric chords, and he tunes the guitar as he goes, molding it to fit his preferences. The looks of awe in the crowd reflect exactly what he is: a virtuoso musician, with a guitar that’s an extension of his body.
PN: What do you love the most about playing live?
JS: Playing live (laughs). I have such a great time that the thing I love most is just being able to have a live show. And if I have the chance to share the stage with huge musicians like those we had here tonight well… it all works out great.
PN: And… what’s your favorite song to play live?
JS: Um… (eyes widen). I couldn’t pick a favorite… I love playing so many things. The track that gets to me the most is Orion, by Metallica, which is why we played it today. It was the first time I heard a song and was like “What an anthem!” (Hand to his head) “What a track, dude, this is wild”.
Every time we can, we play it live. And when I play that song, I get flashbacks from when I was little and was just starting to play guitar. So… that’s the most special song for me, but I don’t have a favorite.
PN: Your music is on the instrumental side of heavy metal. Why is that?
JS: It’s definitely my area. I like tracks with lyrics, they add something to songs… but, without a shadow of a doubt, my area is instrumental music. I grew up with it; I’ve always been a huge fan of Mike Oldfield, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and to me… instrumental tracks speak to me, I don’t need lyrics. But I do also like voiced tracks, and if you can count on voices like Neus Ferri, Alberto Scarlatta or Leo Jimenez’s… well, that’s insane, right?
PN: So many people sat down for tonight’s show… is that weird for you?
JS: Actually, in my case, since it’s instrumental metal, I don’t think this theater is an inadequate fit. I mean, I think the album (Human), is one that you can listen to, chilling at home with your headphones on… there’s a ton of layers, and details, and sections and stories… so, I don’t know. I’m a huge fan of theaters, I love the atmosphere in theaters, sometimes people have to sit and pay attention, and others, we just get them up to party however we can (chuckles).
PN: What is a question you’d really like to answer that nobody’s ever asked you yet?
JS: I don’t know, but I do know the question I don’t like. When they ask me: “So, where’s the third one?” when I’ve just released the second. Because it feels like they don’t value how hard it is to make an album. You know, the second just came out, dude! Listen to it, chill! (Laughs)
I mean, it’s fine, I know they mean well, but… It feels like for society everything has to be immediate. Like, “if I don’t get this chair by tomorrow at 3 pm I don’t want it”. And, dude, when you buy a new album, you spend at least a month listening to it. Analyzing, seeing what’s been done, reading the libretto, the tracks… they gain value with listens, you know? But when you’ve just released one and they’re already asking for the next, it makes you want to say… listen to it first.
PN: Why the title ‘Human’? And ‘Genesis’? Anything special?
JS: ‘Genesis’… well, I had worked for other bands and artists, and it was the first album that I conceived for a solo career. Because when you’re in a band, you could be in it one day and not the next. In my case, I’m always going to be here (laughs) so it won’t be a problem. It was the start of a new career.
And ‘Human’… I like when an album isn’t exclusively music. I’m very sixties and seventies in that aspect, you know, back then albums were a work of art in themselves: the tracks, the music, the lyrics, the meaning, the cover, the designs, everything… This album is about humanity and it’s evolution with time. It’s also about senses; it goes through all the feelings that encompass being human, and that’s transmitted by the instrumental tracks too.
PN: Is that why the cover design is a skull?
JS: Yeah, exactly, the cover is what we are. A skull that fades. So, it’s a skull that will turn to dust, it’s not anything else. Our trajectory in life is super short, and it’s like, what Gandalf said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us”.
Juan catches us by surprise when he announces that he’s doing something he’s never done before, whips out an acoustic guitar and brings out two cellos and two violins, three of them teachers at the local Music School, where he runs the Modern Music Department.
PN: What is music to you?
JS: Life. It’s the only thing that really gets to me, and it generates a series of sensations and emotions and ideas and stories that… you know, that I need to put out in albums. It’s a way of life, I can’t imagine my life without music.
PN: How would you introduce yourself to readers of Pure Nowhere in the US?
JS: Well, I’m a huge fan of their musical culture. Actually, I was in New York a few years ago, and I didn’t want to come back (laughs). When I walked into the JFK and heard George Benson as background music, I was like… dude, this isn’t normal. They have such huge musical culture. We went to the Blue Note to listen to a Big Band; there’s always some incredible band playing there. There’s a lot of respect for music over there. I said I was a musician and they seemed amazed. Because they knew… they know how tough it is, how fucked it is to be a musician, it’s super hard. It’s an intense career choice. You have to always give it 200%. You can’t do it any other way.
Their way of seeing music and their way of seeing show business… I admire it so much, and I’m sure that it’s not just me, but everyone that makes rock and modern music… for us, American musical culture is the highest point. It’s the origin of everything.
PN: Would you like to play there?
JS: Tomorrow. If I could.
So, you know what to do now.
Stream ‘Human’, stream ‘Genesis’, stream Juan Saurín.
We wish him all the success in the world.