When we first discovered Diamante Eléctrico in 2015--the powerhouse trio formed in Columbia in the early part of the decade--we called them the next great rock & roll band. In the last three years since, the band has earned a Latin GRAMMY, jammed with Gary Clark Jr., recorded with ZZ Top legend and super fan Billy Gibbons, shared a bill with The Rolling Stones (“Keith was such a great guy”) and added three additional projects to their discography, including an album produced and recorded by longtime Jack White producer Joshua Smith. And though they are not yet a household name, nothing in our assessment has changed. Diamante Eléctricorock. On their first trip to Nashville, they played a last-minute show on a Sunday night at one of the city's favorite music venues, The Basement, in East Nashville. And from the very first note, the trio transfixed the small crowd with a bolt of rock & roll lightning made of powerful songs, great harmony, and killer riffs. The collective reaction from everyone that night was disbelief: this was clearly a band that has a bright future. In the summer of 2019, Diamante Eléctrico returned to Nashville to anchor the NAMM Festival and even though they were plugged in to acoustic instruments, they quickly energized the considerably weakened attendees into rock and roll fervor. Epiphone spoke with guitarist, bassist, and songwriter Juan Galeano about the Diamante Eléctrico--the band's origins, where they are headed, and his recent move to Mexico City.
Thanks for speaking with us again, Juan. How is Diamante Electrico?
We are doing great, our last album Buitres
has been our most successful release yet, we are touring a lot, we are playing Austin City Limits this year and we are playing the States, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Chile this year.
How was your visit to Nashville for the NAMM Conference? The band sounded fantastic.
We are proud to be part of the Gibson Brands and Epiphone family and this year we played both winter and summer NAMM, they were both amazing, had a blast, got to hang and play with friends and colleagues we admire.
Tell me about the new album, Oro, which you produced. What was the inspiration for the album?
our last record was recorded a bit different than our previous albums. We didn’t conceive it in the rehearsal space like the previous ones, we didn’t play together, we did a lot of sampling of old soul and funk records, we took 8 months to do this one whereas te other ones were made really fast. The result was a more soulful, groovy and pop record and we are proud of it.
You made your last album La Gran Oscilacion with Joshua Smith who has worked a lot with Third Man Records. How did his production style influence the band?
We love Joshua, he is such a wizard, he came down to Bogotá in Colombia in 2016 and we made an all analog, played live straight to tape record that won 2 Latin Grammys in 2017. He is an amazing engineer and a great friend.
You recently moved to Mexico City and you also plan to work in Nashville soon. What is your vision for the future as a songwriter? What are you listening to?
I moved to Mexico City last year to broaden both my production and writing possibilities and also to open up a greater market for Diamante and I’m very happy with my decision. I love Mexico, the food, the people, art and culture. I’m writing like crazy with and for many artist in the last year. I’m also listening a lot to old soul, funk and R&B and also that new R&B and hip hop I love from Bill Withers to Anderson Paak and Thundercat.
Do you have any plans to record in the U.S.?
We have already, actually. We want to make a record in the states, either Nashville and New York and we want to collaborate with local musicians, we would love to have an American producer help us with this record to broaden our sound. I have produced all the bands albums but I think is time to have an extra hand for this.
You have been an active musician, songwriter, and producer for most of your adult life. When you think of yourself as a kid--dreaming of being a rock and roll singer--did you turn out to be the musician you always wanted to be?
More than I ever dreamed or expected. I wanted to be a bass player and now being also a frontman, a singer, producer and songwriter is more than I ever expected.
Tell us the story of how the band got together. Where are you from and what was the musical scene like there? What inspired your name?
Actually we started the band because we were pissed off with the whole music business thing and with what you were "supposed to do" in order to make it--press, radio, kissing ass, forget it! I was signed to EMI for a while as a singer-songwriter and they didn't do shit for me. One day after a whiskey brand that was supposed to sponsor me for a new record dropped the project after a full year of working on it, I said I'm going to do it my way. So I called two of my good friends and two of the best musicians I know here in Bogota and asked them if they wanted to join me on a new project. We didn't even have a name; we just wanted to let all the anger and frustration go with some songs, and that's what we did. We had a song called "Diamante Electrico" and we thought it would be a cool name, we didn't even give it too much thought, we just wanted to write songs and play our music without compromise.
Was there a model for the band--a particular artist or sound?
Personally, I've been obsessed with the whole 50's and 60's sound--the reverb, the fuzz--that's what we were aiming for in the beginning. We are very influenced by black music from all over the world, from blues and soul, to son and salsa and Afrobeat and Cumbia. When we recorded that first record, we knew we wanted to have the upright bass, the fuzz, Farfisa and the reverb to-a-full on the whole record. We did it in 6 days. We were angry and hungry and people noticed. They started calling us to play and it went naturally from then on.
Something special happened with Diamante. We did everything ourselves, we built our amps, recorded and produced our own records, made our own music videos, played killer shows since the beginning--so it actually was very natural. In the beginning, our fans were our friends who work with us in the business, but off course radio would not play us; no album reviews, no label, no distribution, we didn't care, we just wanted to play.
How did you discover your Epiphone Jack Casady bass and who are some of your favorite bassists?
I had the chance to meet Kike Rangel, the bass player for Cafe Tacuba a couple of years ago and he told me it was his favorite touring bass and he let me try it and immediately I noticed the fat round sound and the defined notes, loved it. I've been influenced by many bass players, mostly upright players like Charles Mingus, Ray Brown and Gary Peacock. On electric, I've always loved Jaco, John Paul Jones, and off course, Geezer Butler and Paul McCartney.
You do a lot of the songwriting for Diamante Electrico. Do you ever find it hard to write for a trio? In other words, since you're just guitar, bass, and drums on stage--everyone in the band has to work hard all the time. Will you stick with the trio format?
I do most of the writing in the band. Recently, I've been writing a lot with Daniel the guitar player. We write very simply and avoid the more "modern" harmonies. We like to keep it simple. I think that's the beauty of Diamante, simple songs that when we play live we have lots of space to interact.
Your first Latin GRAMMY for B was recorded in a single night which is unusual for any GRAMMY winning album.
Haha! Yes, it's totally unusual. We were supposed to record a 5 song EP in one night and we had time left during the recording so we played a couple of ideas we had there on the spot and we ended up with 8 songs. We did a couple of extra nights where I recorded keys, Dobro and vocals and that was it! On this record we were less pissed so we had a bigger sound spectrum. More 70's psychedelic stuff--down tempo, more experimental with delays and space. For sure it's a blueprint for what is coming in the future.
Diamante Electrico have an original sound but also fit in with bands that have a deep love of rock 'n' roll. I know you opened both for the Foo Fighters and the Rolling Stones. Did they give you any advice or take notice of your performance?
To be honest, I wasn't a huge Foo Fighters fan until I met them and saw them play. Now I'm their biggest fan. Amazing musicians and amazing human beings. You can see if a band is huge by the way their crew treats opening acts. They were so kind and humble to us, it turned out to be an extremely humbling experience. We had a couple of drinks with the guys and chatted about music for a while, then they took on the stage and absolutely killed it. I love them. And the Rolling Stones—Keith and Ronnie especially—we such gentleman.
Do you feel pressure to make an English-language album to "break into" the American market?
Not at all, We love English, and we grew up listening to English spoken songs but we are Latinos and we are very proud of it, so, for now we are going to keep it in Spanish. It's a language that sounds beautiful in our view. The English and Americans do it so good it's kind of stupid to try and do it like them. I've always thought, if Ramstein and Sigur Ros did it, why not us?
I know you're an excellent guitarist as well as a bassist. What other Epiphone instruments do you like to play--or would you like to play?
I've always been a fan of the Casino
. It's such a beautiful sounding guitar. I'm also obsessed with old Epiphone archtops and acoustics from the 1940 and 50s. They sound beautiful. I also have a Dobro I love, but last time we were in the Gibson offices in Nashville I fell in love with the new all steel model. I'm still trying to get my hands on it!