Trophy case full, musician Gustavo Santaolalla turns to solo project

Mexico City (AFP) –


Gustavo Santaolalla is not quite a household name, but you have almost definitely heard his music.

The Argentine composer and producer has won two Oscars, two Grammys, 16 Latin Grammys and a trophy case full of other awards in his glittering career.

He notably wrote the scores for the movies "Brokeback Mountain" and "Babel," winning back-to-back Academy Awards in 2006 and 2007.

He has also produced albums for some of the biggest names in Latin music, scored the video game "The Last of Us," and even runs his own winery.

Now, at the age of 66, he is finally getting around to one of the few projects that has eluded him: his debut solo album.

Santaolalla released the album, "Raconto," last year, and is now embarking on a tour, "Retracing the Road" (Desandando el camino), where he will play it live.

The project draws on his more than four decades of making resolutely original music, from his rock band beginnings in Buenos Aires to what the director Ang Lee called the "sparse and yearning" score for "Brokeback Mountain."

In an interview in Mexico City, Santaolalla talked to AFP about looking back and looking forward as he takes a break from his adopted city, Los Angeles, to tour his native Latin America.

Q: Where did "Raconto" come from?

"At some point I felt the need to take a break, turn around and look at how I've arrived where I am.... I'm debuting as a soloist at 66 years old, which is definitely atypical. But I think my whole career has been atypical in the things I've chosen to do."

Q: And what have you found revisiting your musical past?

"I had recorded albums that I never played live. I realized there was an atemporal element in a lot of those songs that makes them seem new to people, and even to me, because I'd never had a chance to play them live."

Q: What has it been like as a Latin American making your way in Hollywood?

"Hollywood is a very hard industry. It's very tough and very closed. It's hard to get a break, and not just for Latinos."

Q: How are things for Latinos in the United States now given Donald Trump's anti-immigration policies?

"I think we all agree that his policies are horrible and retrograde and go against everything we want for humanity: a united world, where borders cease to exist as they are today. We will undoubtedly keep up the struggle we've always been fighting, the same one that leads us to call immigrants 'undocumented' when they call them 'illegal.'"

Migration has always existed around the world and throughout history, and it's always been related to these issues, to empires that dominate. They advertise their world as 'the American dream,' so what are they complaining about? They're the ones who have sold us this idea.

Q: Tell us about another project of yours: writing the music for the stage version of Del Toro's movie "Pan's Labyrinth."

These kinds of projects take years. We just finished the first stage, writing all the songs. Now Guillermo del Toro is looking for the right director. Part of his success is that he's always very careful in choosing his collaborators. The first step was to decide who would compose the music: (American composer) Paul Williams and your humble servant.