An array of musical instruments arrived unexpectedly at David Pérez’s house when he was 9 years old. As an early Christmas present? Where did they come from? Who had heard his pleas? Apparently, that was not the case, because David grew up amongst instruments. His father played a variety of instruments at church and, his mother was a sort of demure diva who sang opera at home and religious temples. That is to say that the boy was used to the rhythms of the guitar, the saxophone and the drums, because Joche and Amparito were both amateur musicians. Also, the festive character of his beloved grandma Lydia, better known as “Arroz con Gandules en leche de Coco” (roughly translated into: rice with pigeon peas, in coconut milk) of the West Coast, kept the spark alive and drove him to experiment with melodies to the best beat: the good cheer. Of all the instruments that on that good day appeared in his Aguada home, there was a set of drums and cymbals that struck him, just as he did the same to the instruments. That’s how the drums came to David’s life, to stay. The Perez-Figueroa family’s mission was well established by the early 80’s: to spoil and drive the kid around to private music lessons. All of this because the introverted youngster had started to develop his talents, after vexing everyone by playing with every stick and surface he could find. As a kid in the backseat of the car, he would strike the driver’s headrest with the sticks. When old enough to drive, he started to play with the dash as he drove, caught up in his own melomania, getting a wide range of tonalities from the plastic surface (and metals, woods and acrylics). Fortunately, he had cousins who collected LPs and some neighborhood friends with whom to share and exchange cassettes, to later jam out to with the boom-box. !
As a teenager (for many reasons), between 11 and 17 years old, he already had a super-band installed in his room. Then, he started playing with the best of the best, sharing the stage with Neil Peart (Rush), Matt Cameron (Pearl Jam and ex-Soundgarden), Vinnie Paul (Pantera), Dave Weckl (Michel Camilo Band and Chick Corea’s Elektric Band) and, he always had Pioneer and Peavy’s latest models. There, in that space, everything was hefty. The sound was thunderous and grand, as it was the drummer’s imagination. !
Many school getaways, beach hangouts and parties, he spent listening to music and practicing alone in his room instead. He played basketball, occasionally even in tournaments, but nothing compared to the adrenaline caused by the music staff. “I enjoy investigating and scrutinizing what [music] makes me feel” says the handsome and talented musician.!
He entered the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico to further his studies in Percussion, specializing in Classical Performance and graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music. From his time in academia on, he started meeting with his peers and forming groups where they could experiment and be open to the unknown, two emblematic allies of his musical path.
David Pérez has been in many great stages. “I have intense memories from stages of many different sizes, but I confess that I like the small stages and spaces the best, because I can closely feel the response and breathing of the audience,” he prolixly states as he sets his kit. With special affection, he remembers what he calls a sublime experience playing with the Symphonic Orchestra of Puerto Rico at the Casals Festival, and from his time at the Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington D.C., he recalls the concentration and the positive performance.!
But it’s with rock-and-roll where he hallucinates. “Being able to gift the audience with a sound, rhythm or riff is very interesting and tempting. You can see the immediate response to your work,” he admits with great emotion. Undoubtedly, one of his most internationally renowned projects was his participation and complicity with alternative rock band Circo. He spent more than a decade roaming through Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States, with this innovative and fun band. It was during this noted stage of his career when he received some of his biggest recognitions, like the Latin Grammy Awards of 2002, 2005 and 2008. He also received solid sponsorships (Paiste, Slingerland) which helped him move forward with his career and focus his musical expressions towards new markets and audiences.!
Like any good caribbean guy would, he admits that his music has a certain “island effect.” With this, he refers to his innate way to employ rhythms from the alternative rock and infuse them with elements from Electro, Post-Punk, New Wave, Latin and Electronic influences. “Combined with our racial heritage, we’ve been exposed to an extensive and varied musical culture,” he explained.!
Some of his most recent projects are Amplitud[e] and Turista, where he shows a more sophisticated, narrative and experimental side, sailing through electronic, lounge, jazz and funk waters. Other collaborations as a member of a group or as a recording musician are: El Manjar de los Dioses, William Cepeda, Philharmonic Orchestra of Puerto Rico, Los Ultra Criollos, Teatro Breve, Andanza, Calle 13, Diana Fuentes, Jorge Drexler, Rita Indiana, Trending Tropics, Monsieur Periné, Cultura Profética, Bad Bunny, Ile (PG13), PJ Sin Suela, Pedro Capó, Swing Original Monks, Waldemar Reyes, Antonio Cabán Vale “El Topo”, Y no había luz, Willy Rodríguez (Cultura Profética), Javiera Mena, Charlie Aponte, Vicente García, La Tortuga China, Silvina Moreno, Polem, Luis Enrique Juliá, Mima, Obie Bermúdez, Ardnaxela, Betún, Mobious Collective, Andrea Cruz, Lado Ve, Los Walters, Alegría Rampante, El Show de los Mocosos, Sotomayor, Colectivo de Electrónica Isleña, Ozuna, Metales del Adoquín, Yerby I Reyes, Cristian Daniel, Danny Fornaris, Manolo Ramos, Kanny García, Abel Pintos, Calma Carmona, Santiago Cruz, Raquel Sofía, Juan Pablo Diaz, Claire Delíc, Yuba Iré, Onda Sagrada, Ian, Habish, Polbo, Danovan Swosa, La Frekuencia, Colectivo de Electrónica Isleña; and, the psyco- dramatic band with pop, electronic, Puerto Rican folk and experimental music colorings, with whom he’s shared the stage in numerous occasions, Superaquello.
The incessant evolution of David’s live performances, the harvest of his work as the multitude hums, sings, gesticulates and explores the language of his sounds are his biggest and most precious pulsations. “The most gratifying part of being a musician is witnessing how the ideas become songs, then they become anthems, and from there they go on to become the soundtrack of someone’s life. If I could, I would freeze in the moment of the improvisation when every soul in the ensemble is thinking of constructing, adding or shattering the musical dialogue.”
By Dalila Rodríguez Saavedra