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Sound & Vision {SEPT 26th 2016} – Santana Interview




Edition #4 – September 26, 2016




When the original “Woodstock” era version of Santana reunited in the spring of this year, fans couldn’t wait to hear and see them. It had been nearly 45 years since Carlos Santana (guitar, vocals); Gregg Rolie, (keyboards, lead vocals); Neal Schon (guitar, vocals); Michael Shrieve (drums); and Michael Carabello (percussion, vocals) had worked together and the announcement of the reunion came with the promise of very exciting music.

The group’s new studio album, entitled Santana IV (because the last album with this line up was 1971’s Santana III ) was released in April and raced straight to the top of the charts, but due to Carlos’ already booked commitments with his current Supernatural version of Santana, the classic line up was limited on the number of live shows it could perform.

Fortunately, on March 21st of this year the band played a blistering live show at the House of Blues in Las Vegas. That show has been captured with state-of-the-art production and surround sound audio and will be released on October 21st., by Eagle Rock Entertainment.

The powerful show captured on the DVD features not only material from Santana IV, but also many of the band’s classic radio hits such as: “Jingo,” “Soul Sacrifice,” “Samba Pa Ti,” “Black Magic Woman,” “Evil Ways,” “Oye Como Va,” and “Everybody’s Everything.” In addition to the core band of Santana, Rolie, Schon, Shrieve, and Carabello, the group was joined by

Karl Perazzo (percussion, vocals), Benny Rietveld (bass), David K. Mathews (keyboards. R&B legend Ronald Isley. also makes a guest appearance in the show.

I recently caught up with the Santana IV band in New York, where they shed some light on the story behind their reunion.

Explain the impetus behind the reunion of the Santana IV band…

Carlos Santana: When Neil first approached me he wanted to do a guitar player album, and we mentioned a few guitarists that represented that era. Eventually, that grew into the idea of putting this band back together. There are a lot of people that played at Woodstock that are not here or are here but don’t play with the same intensity. The ones that are here, have, because of various circumstances, reduced themselves to burning embers. We are not an ember. We are a tornado of fire. We love to ignite ourselves in front of the people we are playing for. If I am gonna die I want to do it with all the fire I can give to you. When I am playing I am always thinking: Are you ready to die right here right now? You have to play like that.

Gregg Rolie: As far as this Santana reunion, it was Neil who pursued everyone. I was playing with Ringo Starr in the Pacific Rim, and I am getting emails from Neil. I said it sounded great but I would wait to hear from Carlos. I waited for Carlos to get home and I called him from Austin. He told me the basic theory of Santana IV because the old band started at Santana III. He asked if I was in, and I said of course! However, It took 2 and half years! Everybody was doing something and we all stayed in touch and we were writing in between. So it came together eventually.

The band’s Santana IV album and the live shows attained rave reviews and were commercial successes. It is clear the band reunited because it really wanted to come back

and make this timeless music.

Michael Carabello: We just counted off the first song, 1, 2, 3 and bang- it was there. Everyone brought their best behavior and their best compassion. We did like we had always done it. We threw it out on the table and we each took a piece of it.

Mike Shrieve: We picked up where we left off before. It’s always been the same. We are a great team together. We are all individuals in our own right. When we put it all together it was just like the other 3 Santana albums.

Carlos Santana: Not too many people get a second opportunity to re-ignite a chemistry like Paul McCartney & John Lennon or The Rolling Stones, who are still here. There is a chemistry with this band. As soon as we get into a room and start playing. Gregg Rolie; Michael Carabello; Michael Shreve; Neil Schon and myself of course, there is a sound immediately that enters. At this point in 2016, if you are cynical, you should look at this. If you don’t breath- you die; if you don’t drink water- you die. Certain things are essential to your physical body. For me what was essential to my physical body was to be honest. I had to be genuine, honest, true, sincere, proof for real, and authentic. It had to go into the music. This is no schuckin’ and jivin’. There was none of that. You’re gonna leave the room with that kind of energy. It’s about: show me the center of your heart. Give me the heart of it. When Greg brings that; and Neil brings that; it is very easy to create music that becomes elevated. Music that you walk out saying: what the hell was that? It is like the Holy Ghost when you go to church. You cannot analyze that.

Explain the dynamic between yourself and Carlos as guitarists…

Neil Schon: It is pretty much a natural chemistry between Carlos and myself guitar-wise. I felt we always had that chemistry, on this record, and on the Santana III record. I try to get a little different sound than Carlos when we work together. We play different guitars, and if he is on the wah wah pedal I am doing something else. We try to mix it up. The playing is just very natural. The rhythm just sort of takes you there. I felt the need to do it. Everything in my gut instinct, which I follow always told me to do it. Everytime I go by my gut instinct I am usually 99.9% correct. It told me it was time; time to rekindle and help get these guys all back together again. Some, I hadn’t spoken with in many many years. They took me under their wing when I was a kid. they got me my start and showed me the ropes; I never forgot that. It was sort of my way of repaying them. Not that it is about me; it was more about them. the icing on the cake was me being able to be there with them. It is a true blessing to play with them twice in my life.

Carlos, you had already attained amazing success after the original band splintered. You went home with 9 Grammys with Supernatural. From a career standpoint, this was not really something you needed to do, was it?

Carlos Santana: There are two energies that always intertwine and that is the spiritual and the essential. Those are two incredible forces. Something like a cherry tree is happiest when it is in blossom. So, when I take a solo I think of myself as being in blossom. When you play like that, it becomes special. You enter that commonality where there no walls. That is what music does it reminds of the blessing it is to be you. I adore playing music with these gentlemen. Because their sound is their life; and their language is their sound. It is a real honor and a real joy to play with them.

Michael (Shrieve), you were so young when you played Woodstock. That had to be overwhelming for someone who was still in his teenage years….

Michael Shrieve: It wasn’t overwhelming, but I don’t know why. It was OK. I can’t explain it except we really played it as a tight little unit looking at each other on the stage. We didn’t play it looking out to the vast audience; although we did fly in and said “Oh My God! This is a huge audience!” It was an ocean of people, but when it came time to play, we played to each other as if we were in a club.

We had a sound that was very tribal and people just related to it. Yeah, I was very young and it was a daunting situation. Everybody asks if I was overwhelmed and it is a valid question, but it was OK for some reason.

What was it like for you to see your drum solo in a movie theater with three split screens.

Michael Shrieve: When I saw the three split screens I sank myself down in the chair in the movie theater and I said: “”Oh my God- look at all those me’s up there!” I wanted to slid down and hide but at the same time I wanted to stand up and shout, “Look! That’s me!” In the end I did neither. It was a moment.

Michael (Carabello), there has got to be a lot respect between you and Michael Shrieve. Is it that or do the both of you just know instinctively what to do:

Michael Carabello: It’s a little of both. You have to have a drummer that knows how to play with percussion. The drummer has to work with a conga player and a timbale player. It’s like sports. The players within the team have to work together. The first time we heard Michael we knew that was it. Michael was a jazz drummer and he could adapt. He fit the uniform perfect. You don’t have to tell that person what to play. We always have each other’s back.

Carlos, did you find there was more love working again with this line up because of the fingerprint you all shared? Was there more love than with other versions of Santana?

Carlos Santana: That is interesting. I would say there is a deeper appreciation of each other than we had back then. We were so young and we used to fight over everything and argue over everything. We were so belligerent. We could be hurtful to one another at times.

But now, we can say to one another that we really adore what is coming out of your heart and fingers. I adore that your sound makes my sound go from 2 and 2 to 777! There is some deeper appreciation, whether your atheist or not, of being considerate and generous. You can’t validate anyone if you don’t validate yourself. If you are at war and conflict with yourself it is very difficult to make a union with someone else. But somehow, 45 years later, we are in a place where we can say, “Wow, we were all at Woodstock together and you sound incredible now.” You don’t sound like embers, you sound like a tornado of fire. There is a lot of energy here. I would like to do a trilogy with these guys. It is very easy to do. I just bring the thing that I do, which is all from African music. Gregg brings what he brings, and so on. We are all thirsty to reunite to like superheroes on their way to Viet Nam to stop that war. This is a super hero band.

©2016 Pilato Entertainment

Bruce Pilato Picture

Bruce Pilato is a 40 year music industry veteran, who has covered entertainment for Variety, USA TODAY, Gannett News Service, US Weekly, Mix and others. He is president of Pilato Entertainment Marketing & Media LLC and also teaches music industry courses for The University Of Rochester’s American Institute of Popular Music and Nazareth College.



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