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Omar Rodriguez Lopez

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Omar Rodriguez-Lopez is a prolific recording artist, guitarist, composer, bandleader, and filmmaker. Originally known as the athletic six-string slinger for post-hardcore outfit At the Drive-In, as well as experimental prog metal band the Mars Volta, he has released more than 50 recordings under his own name, beginning with 2004's A Manual Dexterity: Soundtrack. Vol. 1. His multivalent body of work derives inspiration from punk rock, prog, metal, funk, traditional Latin music, blues, jazz, film music, and avant-garde composition. He cites legendary salsa pianist Larry Harlow as his primary influence. Rodriguez-Lopez's left-handed playing is physical, mercurial, and fluid, adorned by a vast array of effects pedals. 2007's charting Se Dice Bisonte, No Búfalo marked the beginning of a decade-long period of activity that saw him release handfuls of albums each year. 2009's Xenophanes reflected his love of complex (and often humorous) narrative concepts. The guitarist responded to the Mars Volta's 2012 split by releasing three solo albums that year, including Un Corazón de Nadie. In 2013 he released four albums including Woman Gives Birth to Tomato! and co-founded Antemasque with former MV bandmate Cedric Bixler-Zavala. In 2016. he signed a unique deal with Ipecac that oversaw the release of a dozen biweekly albums, beginning with Sworn Virgins. The label and artist continued their relationship in 2017 with another dozen recordings. That same year, Rodriguez-Lopez joined the At the Drive-In's reunion that netted a tour and the studio album in•ter a•li•a. In 2018, Rodriguez-Lopez produced Chilean songwriter Mon Laferte's Latin Grammy-winning, cut-live-in-studio concept album Norma. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez was born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, in 1975. He spent his formative years in South Carolina and El Paso, Texas, setting up camp in the latter and forming the hardcore band Startled Calf at age 15. He joined post-hardcore outfit At the Drive-In in 1993, a gig that lasted until the band broke up at the peak of its popularity in 2001. Rodriguez-Lopez formed the Mars Volta the following year, as well as an instrumental side project called the Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Quintet. He composed the soundtrack to Jorge Hernandez Aldana's El Búfalo de la Noche in 2005 and has released four solo albums -- 2004's Manual Dexterity: Soundtrack, Vol. 1, the eponymous Omar Rodriguez in 2006, and Se Dice Bisonte, No Bufalo and The Apocalypse Inside of an Orange, both in 2007. Rodriguez-Lopez would continue his double releases in 2008 with Calibration and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Jeremy Michael Ward, a collaborative effort that was recorded prior to the formation of Mars Volta. Old Money, Megaritual, Despair, and Xenophanes (which was sung completely in Spanish by Rodriguez-Lopez and his duet partner, the Mexican singer/songwriter Ximena Sariñana) followed in 2009. The guitarist and composer continued his brisk release pace in 2010 with Solar Gambling, Cizaña de los Amores, Tychozorente, and Mantra Hiroshima. The following year found him playing and collaborating on a number of projects including producing and playing guitar on Le Butcherettes' debut long-player Sin, Sin, Sin, Ximena Sariñana's debut EP, and issuing his own Un Escorpión Perfumado. In 2012, after the death of his mother, Rodriguez-Lopez decided to put the brakes on his solo career and begin collaborating again. Mars Volta split after issuing its final outing Noctourniquet. Nonetheless, Rodriguez Lopez had a number of albums ready for the marketplace including Woman Gives Birth to Tomato! with the Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group, plus the solo outings Saber, Querer, Osar y Callar, Octopus Kool-Aid, and Un Corazón de Nadie. That year he also founded experimental art-rockers Bosnian Rainbows with ex-Mars Volta member Deantoni Parks, Le Butcherettes' vocalist Teri Gender Bender, and keyboardist Nicci Kasper. The band issued an eponymous album in 2013. In addition, Rodriguez-Lopez played bass and produced Le Butcherettes' sophomore outing Cry Is for the Flies. Further, he started the rock band Antemasque alongside longtime collaborator (and former Mars Volta singer) Cedric Bixler-Zavala and a rotating cast of players who included Flea, Travis Barker, Marfred Rodriguez-Lopez, and Dave Elitch. Antemasque issued their eponymous debut album in 2014. Rodriguez-Lopez spent much of 2015 producing the A Raw Youth, the third long-player from Le Butcherettes. He also spent time organizing an overflowing vault of back recordings. In 2016 Antemasque issued their second full-length outing, Saddle on the Atom Bomb, and Rodriguez-Lopez also joined At the Drive-In's reunion tour. He also signed a unique deal with Ipecac that saw his extensive backlog of recordings released by the label that year as a dozen biweekly albums including Sworn Virgins, Arañas en La Sombra, and Corazones. He also formed and played bass in the supergroup Crystal Fairy with Teri Gender Bender, Melvins' guitarist Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover, who released the single "Necklace of Divorce" b/w "Drugs on the Bus" in October, and "Chiseler" in December. In 2017, Rodriguez-Lopez continued his marathon series for Ipecac: He not only completed the original dozen recordings, but followed with another 12, including Gorilla Preacher Cartel, Roman Lips, Solid State Mercenaries, Birth of a Ghost, Zen Thrills, and Ensayo de un Desaparecido. Crystal Fairy also released its self-titled debut album for the label that year and played shows in support. Rodriguez-Lopez spent the first half of 2018 organizing the remainder of his unreleased material. In June he accepted the invitation of chart-topping Chilean singer/songwriter Mon Laferte to produce her next studio album, a romantic concept outing entitled Norma. The pair met two years earlier when Rodriguez-Lopez invited her to sing on some of his songs which were left unreleased. The pair connected over a mutual love of musicals. When considering the uniqueness of the project she had in mind, she asked Rodriguez-Lopez to produce as well as organize and conduct 13 musicians playing together live in the studio. Norma was cut during a single day's recording session at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles -- and mixed by Bruce Botnick without overdubs of any kind. Laferte's song cycle examined all the different stages of a love affair and took home the Latin Grammy for Best Alternative Album. In 2019 Rodriguez-Lopez collaborated with Ernie Ball/Musicman to launch his signature "Mariposa" series of electric guitars. He also put the finishing touches on a series of recent archival recordings cut, mixed, arranged, and produced by Johann Scheerer at Clouds Hill Studios in Los Angeles with bassist/keyboardist Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez, drummer Audrey Paris Johnson, pianist/keyboardist Leo Genovese, and vocalist Virginia Garcia-Alvez. Some of the source material actually referenced studio sessions the guitarist helmed as far back as 2006, though everything was rearranged and newly recorded in what were, in essence, new, uncharacteristically accessible rock songs. During the summer of 2020, three separate digital volumes of Cloud Hill Tapes comprising some 20 new songs, were released individually, as was a physical three-LP set containing all three volumes.
© James Christopher Monger & Thom Jurek /TiVo
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