RGM Introducing – Our interview with Mar Palafox

Hiya Mar thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.

Hi! Thank you so much for having me, I greatly appreciate it.

What made you decide to start the band / become a soloist?

Well, that actually goes way back. 

Music not only has it been a part of my life; it is my life. 

I took piano lessons at the age of two, drums lessons at the age of four, learned how to play guitar and sing, and performed in a big theater with my first band at the age of nine. Before that, I would dance all around the house, finding and putting together things to make music with.

I’ve had the opportunity to rehearse and perform with so many different bands throughout my life that I never considered the option of going solo because being on a band was all I knew. However, since I was always the youngest member on every band, whenever the other guys sat down to discuss ideas for new songs or covers, my opinion didn’t really count. They were always like “Yea yea, whatever, you just stick to playing drums, we’ll figure out the rest” and that made me want to make my own thing. That’s why I started writing my own music at such a young age.

As time went by and I got older and more experienced (I was only fourteen at the time, not that old but you get the point) I figured “Hey! I know how to play drums, guitar, bass, synths, and sing, I might need a band to perform in front of an audience, but not to write and record my own music!” 

When you’re in a band, you have to sacrifice a lot of your own creative input and vision for the sake of the other band members and the typical “only what’s good for the band”, and I was burning inside to be able to make and let everyone know my personal vision of music.

I am so passionate about music that I wanted to to be completely immersed on the entire process of creating a song; I wanted to sit down and figure it out, write down every single instrument on it, arrange it, come up with the lyrics, record all the instruments, mix it, master it, and then the whole visual aspect of it, photoshoots, music videos, you name it. I wanted to be a part of everything. Some people might thing it is way too much work for them to do, but for me, since I am so in love with it, the weight is never that heavy, and when a song is finished, I am, in all confidence, able to say “This is my song, it’s mine! It is a piece of my life and soul”.

I sometimes send raw mixes to my closest friends to see what they think, however, I don’t really focus on opinions, I love taking risks. Why? Because if you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. I don’t write songs to seek approval, I write them because they make me feel good; they communicate me something and they take me to different places.

Pretty long answer to a pretty short question huh!

Introduce us all to the members and your musical history?

I’m a solo artist, so all the members are . . . me. I play all the instruments on my records. From the synths and light touches of color in the back, to the heavily distorted guitars, bass, and drums in the front. And the vocals, those are performed by me as well. 

My musical history? I think I covered it on the previous question. I’ve been on so many different bands and been able to do so much that I feel like I’m 43 even though I’m only 19!

You are all the way over in Costa Rica? How did you find out about RGM?

Through internet research. I’ve worked with other different music blogs and media outlets and RGM is definitely one of the best.

Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories? 

“Well yes, but actually no” 

Some of them are interesting and entertaining to look into but most are just utterly ridiculous and lack any common sense and logic.

The one that always makes me laugh is the “Covid Vaccine Chip” one. Like, come on! Why would the government want to install a microchip inside of you when you have your phone? Don’t you think that’s an easier and cheaper way to spy and control people?

However, I’ll tell you right away, the Lee Harvey Oswald situation seems a little off. The shot was 100% possible, anybody with some gun knowledge will tell you that, but still. And yes, we did go to the Moon, but I believe that some of the visual material was recorded and produced here on earth.

And if you ever feel bored, dumb, or without motivation, just call one of your flat-earth friends, they will make you laugh for hours and hours, and it will be even more entertaining than a Joe Rogan comedy special. 

What support is out there for new artists in Costa Rica ?

I’d say that there is support but the industry is very small. Most artists that have found different levels of success have found it outside, in other industries. For example, most of my audience comes from the US, then the UK, Canada, the Netherlands and France, and it has mostly to do with the style, sound, and language of my music. As you might know, Spanish is the main language here, and 99.9% of the music produced here is sung in Spanish. I’ve caught a lot of flack here for writing and singing in English, and what people don’t understand is that it doesn’t matter where you come from, you do the music that moves you. If you’re from the Caribbean and want to write heavy, death metal tracks, if that’s what truly moves you, go for it! Nobody ever said that people from the Caribbean should only make Caribbean music! Or if you’re from Israel and want to record catchy, bubblegum American-like pop music, do it! You be you, and you shouldn’t be limited by political boundaries to do whatever your heart feels like doing.

And as a side note, I graduated from an American high school with an American diploma. English has been extremely present all my life (I’ve also dated English-speaking girls and they’re way more fun).

All of that being said, I’ve also brought my own Costa Rican culture to my music, in which I don’t like sticking to formulas and always try to find new, fresh and innovative things to incorporate into my records.

What useless party trick /talent do you have/? 

Oh boy, I don’t go to parties that much. And when I’ve been to one, I’m always the guy that’s making his drunk and stoned friends laugh and filming them while he’s completely sober and in all his senses. (I don’t drink or smoke.)

I’d rather stay home watching a movie, or in the studio writing and recording something. Or if you wanna go out with me, I’ll take you to Starbucks at 4pm to drink coffee and eat brownies while gossiping. 

I can juggle, make horn-like note nosies with glass bottles, and make random coin and card tricks if that helps. Or I can submerge you and bore you with the amount of Star Wars lore that’s stored in my brain.

But if you start talking about politics, I’ll take the stand-up comedy route and start throwing jokes, some people may get pissed, others may laugh but that’s the beauty of it. My best friend does that too and it’s pretty fun (now you see why I don’t go to parties).

What was the most fun you have had on stage?

I think there’s always something special and different when you perform. But there is this one time that stands out to me and that was back in 2018, when I performed my song “Into Space” in a music theater. What was different about it was that we did an unplugged version and performed it. That was special. Most of the kids and bands that were performing did full-on band songs, and when I came on stage and me and my band started playing a very organic version of a loud and aggressive song, the audience seemed to be refreshed by it. I even got to sign some autographs that day, it was very beautiful and humbling.

And of course, when we recorded “Algorithm: The Live YouTube Show” a few months ago. That was also very fun and different because me and my guitarist, Thomas Stone, were performing live in front of a bunch of cameras so it was a very cool experience.

What was the worst experience on stage?

Well, you definitely cannot escape the occasional mishaps on stage. I completely forgot the intro of a song one time and butchered it, I’m pretty sure everybody noticed. But that is very common mistake.

However, there were two incidents that I consider to be the worst. A funny one, and a not-so-funny one.

The not-so-funny one happened when I was like 12 or 13, and me and my band were performing inside a huge shopping mall. I cannot recall how many people were watching us but it was packed. There were also other bands performing that day. When we got on stage and started playing, I literally wanted to dig up a whole in the ground and bury myself in it. The guitarist was out of tune (according to him, someone backstage had been messing with his guitar’s tuners), the singer became so confused she sang out of key and out of pitch, and only the bassist was in key, but he began tuning his bass mid song to compensate for the terrible guitar sound. It was a mess.

The funny one was one time I was playing drums with my other band, and the crash cymbal wasn’t very well adjusted into the stand, so, in the middle of the verse, the crash flew and landed on my snare. I had to toss away the thing and finished the song without a crash.

Tell us something about each member that you think people would be surprised about? 

I am every member. I think that is pretty surprising.

Okay now for the serious answer, I currently don’t have a band (Thanks covid) but like I mentioned above, I performed with guitarist Thomas Stone and he’s an incredible musician. He can play from hard rock tracks to alternative songs and smooth classical guitar pieces. He’s very talented. And his vocals are very amazing too.

What makes you stand out as a band/Artist?

I’m one of the very few Rock artists that writes and plays every single instrument in his records.

I am not in favor of making the listener the victim, I strive to make him the victor. I take hard and tough personal situations in life, and turn them around so that you can make the most of them, learn from them, come out victorious and move on. 

I think this best exemplifies it: When someone does you wrong or hurts you, they expect you to fall down and get hurt, but instead, you surprise them in the face and say “What, you thought this was gonna bring me down? The joke’s on you! I’m too strong for that” 

I feel like people focus very much on the negative side and on the pain, and not in the positive opportunities that a situation like that brings.

I also feel like there’s not enough new music that’s raw, fierce and aggressive, not only in lyrics but also in sound. Artists these days are too scared to say out loud what they thing or how they truly feel. There’s always something that mellows their message or sound down. People connect more with honesty than with a compromised and conditioned message, and to me, honesty is the most important thing.

Right now, whats pissing you off the most? (Cant say the virus )

Speaking of turning a negative into a positive, the virus has actually allowed me to be more creative because I’m always looking for more creative ways to do things that are harder to accomplish because of the virus. I’ve learned to be more resourceful and efficient. 

And what pisses me off right now is that people are always angry about something. They are always looking for things to complain about. And they’re over-sensitive. People can’t seem to enjoy life because there’s always something around the corner that they have decided is going to offend them. They live in fear all the time because they know that if they step out of their herd mentality (the “if you don’t think the same way as I do, then get out of my life” mentality) or simply disagree with it, they can be condemned too. And even when saying this some people will get offended, which just proves my point.

Family, “prank”, clout-chasing YouTube vloggers and goatees also piss me off; they’re the worst.

Talk me through the thought process of the album?

It was a fairly simple process yet very long. It look almost 3 years to complete (March 2018 – September 2020), and the reason for that is that I was still attending high school, meaning that I only recorded on the weekends, Fridays to Sundays. 

3 years is a very long time to create an album, but this worked in favor of the music because I started when I was 16, and finished it when I turned 19. As a teenager, many different things happen during those three years, new friendships, new romantic relationships, heartbreaks, betrayal, figuring out the flaws of the education system, and at that age, you’re still figuring out who you are, I still am though. All of that is illustrated throughout the album. I took those three years of my life and turned them into music. 

“Mar: The Debut Album” is a piece of my soul, and I gave it everything I got.

I never had “writing sessions” for the album, why? Because music just hit me randomly. I could be washing dishes on the kitchen and all of a sudden “I see you go out into space . . .” and I just started singing and hearing all the guitars, drums, and bass in my head, so, what I did next was that I ran to my bedroom, grabbed my phone out of my pocket, and started singing the song into Voice Memos. Later on I sat down with my cherry colored SG and started figuring out the parts by ear. I did the same with my drums and bass, and by the following week, the song would be fully recorded.

I’m moved by human struggle, whether that’d be personal difficulties, insecurities, other people bringing you down, betrayal, tiredness, breakups, etc. I take all of that and turn it around, so that you can scream in the face of the situation or person that tried to break you: “See? You couldn’t bring me down! It’s your loss now!” 

Being yourself and having a mind of your own is also one of the main themes of the album; I encourage it.

What was the recording process like?

I started in March 2018 and finished in September 2020. Like I mentioned above, the process was fairly simple. I took two weeks per song, or should I say, two weekends per song. During the week, while in school, I would come up with the song, recorded it on Friday afternoon, finish it Saturday morning, and I spent the rest of the day and the majority of the Sunday mixing it. I would revisit the song next week to finish the mixing process and done. I collected all the unmastered mixes until the end, and spent August and September 2020 mastering them all. I ended up recording 60+ songs.

I took a break from recording in October 2018 because my assistant producer got sick very badly so we had to stop for a while, which worked very well because after the break, I had come up with a fresh batch of songs. The process picked up speed as soon as I graduated from high school in early 2019.

What was the biggest learning curve in writing the album?

The biggest learning curve for me was finding a sonic balance for the record. I first started with the idea of making a fully upbeat, heavy record, but as soon as the songs started coming, and as I let the music do the job, I understood that this particular record didn’t have to be a straight line, but a rollercoaster; sometimes it goes up, sometimes it turns around and sometimes it goes down.

And I also learned not to stick to a certain genere, but to try to mix and blend to come up with versatile sounds and interesting products.

Would you change anything now that it is finished?

Oh yes! I am unbelievably proud of it but there’s always a huge room for improvement and change. However, I wouldn’t change anything about it. Why? Because “Mar: The Debut Album” reflects who I was and how I was feeling at that particular stage in my life. It is part of my story. 

Now, the things that I learned and those that I need to improve on, I am doing it now while recording new material that I won’t give away (it’s a secret!) but yes, the goal is to make a great, exciting, and solid record, and to make the next one even better and more exciting.

What are your plans for the year ahead?

I’m extremely excited for next year because new and exciting things, are coming. More music. More artistic projects. More of everything! I’ve been working very hard and having so much fun and liberation and freedom with new material that I cannot wait for everybody to hear it.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?

I would like to thank everybody for your continued support. My audience, supporters and fans, I greatly appreciate you.

Thank you guys at RGM for having me, I am very thankful and I had a blast!

I’ll just go and find me some pizza.

Thanks for doing us today folks, all the best and keep in touch.