The following is an Independent Spotlight exclusive interview with Ignacio Zas, the guitarist of the rock band Space Lemon, which is based in Los Angeles.
Ignacio - You’re currently the lead guitarist of Space Lemon, a Los Angeles based alternative rock outfit. Your band’s inception can trace its roots to a Queens of the Stone Age concert. What kind of alternative rock beyond that influences your music?
I would say our core influences are the rock bands from the 90s. Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, STP and so on. There’s something about that sound and that really raw, in your face element those bands have that really got to us. Not to say that we only enjoy their heavy side, because we love all of their material. We also derive influences from different musicians and bands that we might not all like in the same way.
One of the unique aspects of Space Lemon is its diversity. You’re Uruguayan, the drummer is Mexican, the bass player is Brazilian and the lead singer is Italian. How does this diversity within your collaboration affect it?
Since we all grew up listening to a lot of the same bands from different parts of the world, the different nationalities don’t get in the way of the creative process. But in a way, we’ll sometimes play or write something that without wanting to, is somehow linked to the music from our home countries. Inevitably there’s going to be an aspect of our culture that’s going to bleed into what we do creatively, which might not even be really notorious, but is still there. It is really a unique experience to work with people from all over the world though. Sometimes I realize how crazy it is that people from completely different countries were somehow meant to find each other in Los Angeles and felt compelled to make music together. I’m extremely lucky to have found the people I now call my bandmates.
As a guitarist, who in particular do you derive inspiration from? Do you have American influences and home country influences?
I have a lot of artists I derive inspiration from in different ways. Some are guitar players and some are not. I would say my all time favorite is David Gilmour. He gets to me in a way not many guitar players do. I recently got into Derek Trucks, and was fortunate to see him play live a bunch of times, and I must say he has the power to convey feeling like no other guitar player can. I’ve also been a huge fan of John Frusciante for a really long time.
I would say I’m more driven towards guitarists that play with more feeling than chops. There’s also other musicians who are not necessarily guitar players that have a very deep impact in the way I make and perceive music. I’ve been devouring every Nine Inch Nails record. Trent Reznor has a brilliant way of composing and arranging songs that is totally amazing. It changed the way I view songwriting. So yes, you could say I have quite a lot of American influences. There’s also musicians in Uruguay that inspire me. Carlos Quintana, who taught me a lot of what I know today, was a huge influence on me. He made me discover a lot of music that was strange and unknown to me. He’s played with most major musicians in Uruguay and I advise anyone that wants to know how Uruguayan music sounds like to go check him out.
You moved to the United States three years ago. How has that shift affected you as a musician? How has it changed your craft, if at all?
It affected me tremendously. Firstly, I came in contact with so many musicians that are incredible. They made me realize a lot of flaws in my guitar playing, and it forced me to get better. I also had to start playing different genres and developed my sound in a way I couldn’t have if I was still in Uruguay. So I would say it really changed my craft, making me a more well rounded and appreciative musician. In a way, I learned how to really listen, that oddly enough, is the best peace of advice I got from anyone. Learn to listen and react to what you’re listening to accordingly. It’s also worth mentioning that when I moved to the States it forced me to change very much as a person; it was a huge slap in the face that was the death of my innocence. Hollywood and L.A really test you as a person. There’s lot’s of bull***t but there’s also amazing people and amazing experiences to be had.
Has the Californian music scene been impactful to you? How does it compare to Uruguay?
Yes, it has. There’s a LOT going on. Many bands playing every night. It’s a little overwhelming but it’s good to be submerged in a place where there’s so much to listen to. I don’t like all of them of course, but there’s also many great bands and musicians going around. Really pushes us as a band to get better. Uruguay has a music scene that doesn’t produce that much variety, unfortunately. There might have been changes since I left, but during my time there I found it a little dull.
Space Lemon only has one guitarist, meaning you control the rhythm and lead performances in unison. How have you adapted your playing style to be an effective part of the band?
Well, that kind of playing has always come naturally to me. That big chunky guitar riff driven music was something I’ve always loved. But I also love when guitar is less predominant and becomes more of a coloration. I think guitarists like Tom Morello are amazing at mixing both approaches. He’ll play the most insane riff and then alternate to the simplest most laid back rhythm in the same song, creating a contrast that gives the songs a unique vibe.
One of the most important parts of being a rock guitarist is continuing to evolve. You don’t want to become stagnant in your stylistic decisions or rely on the same devices continually. How have you changed as musician throughout the band’s run?
I would say I’ve changed to a more relaxed approach in a way. There’s still intense riffs, but there’s so many things that can be done, and sometimes leaving space or barely playing something is ten times more effective than maintaining the same line. I’m always looking for new music to listen to, with musicians or songwriters that have different ways of approaching the same kind of song or style. That has driven me to make my guitar playing evolve, not only with what I play and how I play it, but also how I sound. We still sound like Space Lemon, I just think we’ve all matured more and our songwriting is taking a turn that we’re really excited about.
Where do you see yourself as a musician in the next several years? Is Space Lemon an endeavor you see a long term future with?
I have a lot of interests as a musician and as a creative person in general. Space Lemon is definitely something I see going on for a long time. I’m fascinated with how bands shift, mature, evolve and I really thrive when I see that happening to us. So I want to stick with it, and see how far we can push the envelope with this. It’s just something that excites me, and keeps me alive. I love songs, and I can’t wait for the moment where I can surprise myself doing something that I thought I was incapable of.
Do you have any intention to do solo work or session work as a guitarist outside of Space Lemon?
Yes, I do. I don’t see myself as the sort of singer songwriter type, so it would definitely not be that. I enjoy doing session work because it drives me to play differently than I normally would, so it keeps me “fresh” in a way. I’m about to start working on a soundtrack which is something I had been wanting to do for a while. I must admit I would really like to get into producing. I love creating music but there’s also something quite fascinating about the role of a producer. People like Alain Johannes, Josh Homme, Trent Reznor and David Bowie really inspired me to look into this other side of music that I had never really payed that much attention to.
Finally, we always ask the same question of each artist we interview on the Spotlight to close out the interview. You’re a musical creator, but it’s always compelling to see where you stand as a consumer. If we were to take your iTunes or Spotify and shuffle it, what five songs might play?
Pet - A Perfect Circle
Piggy - Nine inch Nails
Misfit Love - Queens of the Stone Age
Red Eyes and Tears - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Searching With My Good Eye Closed - Soundgarden