Coque Malla

A Revolution with a Name of its Own

11/06/2019 · By Rafa Cervera
coque malla revolucion openning
Coque Malla returns in top form with a new album entitled ‘¿Revolución?’ © Courtesy of Warner Music

A natural stage animal, Coque Malla is also the author of some of the best songs in Spanish recorded in recent decades. Although he doesn’t believe in it, his latest album is touched by what is commonly known as maturity.

His solo career began 20 years ago, but before that, for about a decade, he had been the frontman of Los Ronaldos, one of Spain’s most commercially successful rock bands. With a steadily growing discography, Coque Malla (Madrid, 1969) has become a key figure in the Spanish music scene. Over the past few years, he has released albums such as El ultimo hombre en la tierra (2016), in which he reflects on his need to continue evolving. In ¿Revolución?, Malla abandons his comfort zone once again, discovering new paths for his songs.

Why the question marks in the word ‘revolution’?

It’s not a call for revolution, nor an act of faith in revolution. It’s rather the opposite: a tongue-in-cheek question about whether it’s possible, a rhetorical question. Maybe that irony isn’t that evident in writing. It seems to me that nowadays feeling we’re changing things has become kind of trendy, but I think it’s a very formal position. We’re not taking real steps towards a situation that will make us better and freer. I’m very pessimistic about that. Revolution? Really? This isn’t a book on social criticism, but an album playing with fantasy and poetry. The question marks in the title are meant for people to make their own interpretation about what I want to say and about what revolution means to them.

Which among the revolutions that have taken place in recent years would you highlight?

I’d say social networks. They’re an incredible weapon we haven’t been able to take advantage of. Rather than using them to outwit power, we have used them to feel powerful ourselves, to become little police officers, judges, moralists, and little priests, the kind people whose control over us we should get rid of. And instead of feeling rebellious and outlaw citizens, we believe we have a small share of power.

In spite of everything, the album sounds quite optimistic.

That’s what I’ve been told, which is making me look at it differently. I thought, as I usually do, that there was a lot of tragedy and drama in it. Apparently, it isn’t a pessimistic album, but quite the opposite. I might finally have grown up and unwittingly reconciled with the world, and maybe that’s reflected in the songs. In fact, this album is much more vital and festive than El último hombre en la tierra.

You say you might have grown up. Not sure you’ve already done it?

I don't believe in maturity. Sometimes we are very mature and sometimes we are very immature. Life doesn’t take you in just one direction: sometimes we go backwards, sometimes forwards, or upwards, or downwards... It depends on your personal circumstances and where life takes you. We harbour the illusion that we have control over our life, until we are hit by a gust of wind that shatters that alleged certainty. I don’t believe that maturity is reached in the same way you can reach Zamora.

“Social networks are an incredible weapon we haven’t been able to take advantage of. We have used them to feel powerful ourselves”

There is very contemporary sound at some points in the album. Was that one of your goals?

Yes, that sound it present in the album, even though it wasn’t planned. It was rather part of an unconscious, intuitive process. I went through a moment of absolute devotion for two albums, Radiohead’s Moon Shaped Pool and especially Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, bands I hadn’t been following until then. These albums blew my mind. It even occurred to me to make a funky, danceable record. But, you know, once a wolf always a wolf: when I start writing songs, I do what I’ve always done. However, there are funky overtones on the album, inspired by Daft Punk. What really fascinated me about Radiohead was the ambition to encompass all that modern music with such a brutal coherence.

And there are also moments in which the use of the word ‘epic’ is well founded.

I’ve been drawn to all things epic for quite a while. I love to pick up the guitar, sit at the piano and let myself be seized by a false heroism. If I made a playlist with ten of my favourite songs, I'm sure nine of them would have an epic tone--songs that lift you up and make you shed some tears. That's why I'm a staunch fan of Jaime Urrutia. He has written epic romantic songs like “Where are you?” I even asked him to read a poem for the album.

What inspires you? Where do your ideas usually come from?

That’s a great question. The mystery of creation is inscrutable, that's why we feel so attracted to art, because we don't know where it comes from. From a mundane point of view, I’d say ideas emerge while working, by playing guitar and letting melodies and chords arise and take shape. And by being all ears and permeable to the music that moves you.

What do you think is your greatest talent? 

I think I’m much more talented when I’m on the stage than when I’m on the studio. I make records that are well received, but I feel much more myself when I’m onstage. My talent has more to do with performing than with writing music. And I don't mean being an actor; being an actor is something else, much more boring than making music. Actors have to put themselves at the service of a story and an author. In a live music show, you are the owner of your own madness.

“I make records that are well received, but I feel much more myself when I’m on the stage”

Does that have anything to do with the fact that you haven’t been very active lately in the acting side?

It does. Music is my trade, rather than film or acting. I have devoted my life to music; acting has eventually abandoned me and I vice versa. But I was very proud to receive the Goya Award for Best Song from my fellow actors. I said that in my speech--that it was very moving to receive it from comedians, since I come from a family of comedians.

Now that we are all invaded by nostalgia and bands never really disappear, any chance Los Ronaldos will reunite?

We all get along very well, but right now that’s very remote, and not very appealing. I’m now immersed in a wonderful artistic and musical journey. Going back to Los Ronaldos would mean abandoning all this, and that’s something I really don’t want to do.