Nutria NN: Ni de Aqui Ni De Allá (Interview in NYRemezcla.com)
Profile by Nuria Net
How will history look at Michelle Bachelet 40 years from now? Who tells the stories today, of those who disappeared during the South American dictatorships of the 70s and 80s? How to convey the experience of being an immigrant in the metropolis, in another language and context? Chilean past, present and future converge in the songs of Brooklyn-based musician Nutria NN, the stage name of Christian Torres-Roje, a Kant and Heidegger-buff, music teacher by day, who is part of the small yet very active Chilean artist community in New York (Iván Navarro, Elisita Punto, Cano Rojas, Francisca Benítez and Manuela Viera-Gallo are some of his partners in crime.)
Nutria NN takes the 1970’s South American folk tradition and transplants it to New York. Modern and nostalgic, with songs in English and Spanish and from the perspective of a Latin American in this country, Nutria NN could not exist anywhere but this city. Nutria NNs’ self-titled album was released on Iván Navarro’s Huesorecords, a follow-up to debut Roquerio (2002.) Its melancholic, conceptual, harrowing folk-rock is performed on stage with Nutria on vocals, guitar and harmonica and musicians Pedro Pulido on keyboards, percussions, vocals, David Colado on bombo, percussions, and palmas, Shannon Garland on bass, and in the album, Bart Higgins on the sitar.
Although he usually performs at unconventional spaces such as art galleries, catch Nutria NN this summer at Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg and a special outdoor appearance this Tuesday, June 3 at El Museo del Barrio as part of Museum Mile, where the repertoire will be comprised of South American folk classics. He might be “no-name” but onstage, Nutria is hard to miss: look for the guy with the black curly hair wearing a shirt with big, NN letters in bright reflective tape.
Remezcla:Why “nutria” (an otter)? I’m also strangely fascinated by your use of NN because they are my initials and also you use it en todos lados.
Nutria NN: The name is very strange due to strange circumstances. My nickname in high school in Chile was Nutria (a ’water rat’ in the south of Chile) because of my short and oily hair. I had started writing some songs in Chile in the mid nineties, but it was in Brooklyn, around year 2002 that I put I bunch of songs together and I called it Nutria.
After a few years I found out that there was another band called Nutria, in Athens, Georgia. I came up with "NN" which means "Name unknown" and I see it as a general reference to all the anonymous people that History forgets. Certainly there is also a reference to the people that ’disappeared’ in the dictatorial regimes in South America, and then the bodies would show up, and the news papers would report them as ’NN’. I just found out there was an Argentinean band in the 80’s named ’Tumbas NN’.
RE: You say New York is a city where everyone dreams (for good or bad), what were you dreaming about when you came here?
NN: I was dreaming of diversity, getting to know different people, cultures, sounds, getting to meet my idols. I was dreaming of high intellectual standards, I was dreaming of urban enlightenment I guess.
RE: What are you dreaming about now?
NN: I am dreaming about what’s going on with my music, writing more and better songs, studying some of the greatest music ever created.
RE: I really like the use of Latin American folk in your music –its haunting. Were you always a fan of this music or did you appreciate it later?
NN: My parents played in an informal folk band in Chile in the early seventies. I remember a tape they made the night before my aunt went to exile in Canada. The songs in that tape kept playing at home for many years; their influence on my music was decisive.
RE: The song "Tristeza de Lota" sounds like a soundtrack for a Western.
NN: It’s a miner song. It talks about the time Pinochet sent the army to Lota, a miner town in the south, to put down the miners that were protesting for better conditions. It started as a blues, cause I wanted to explore blues music, but then the song ended up as a dub reggae almost, which also interested me a lot as a style. Then I realized that what I was looking for with "Tristeza" is the African root of all rhythmic music. [Read more...]