October 9th, 2009

Rollo & Grady Interview :: Roberto Carlos Lange


I’ve never been a fan of karaoke; I’ve always thought it was just for drunks who wanted to see how bad they could butcher “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “Sweet Home Alabama.” Talking to Roberto Carlos Lange changed my perception of it. The South Florida native learned how to make music by experimenting with his parents’ karaoke machine.

Lange grew up listening to Latin American pop songs with his Ecuadorian parents and their friends during festive parties in the late 80s and early 90s. He left Florida for Savannah, Georgia – a “completely different world” – to attend Savannah College of Art and Design. He then went on to collaborate with famed music producer Guillermo Scott Herren in Savath & Savalas and Prefuse 73, and also worked with School of Seven Bells and Bear in Heaven.

His latest project, Helado Negro, combines his Caribbean musical influences with computer synthesis, record samples, and mellow Spanish lyrics. His debut album Awe Owe is one of the most refreshing and unique albums of 2009.

Awe Owe

R&G: What’s up Roberto? How are you doing?

Roberto: Doing well, thanks.

R&G: You’re from Miami, originally, correct?

Roberto: Yeah, well, I was born in South Florida, so I grew up in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, in a way. I lived in Fort Lauderdale, but I was back and forth most of the time.

R&G: Tell me about your experiences growing up in South Florida.

Roberto: There’s a huge Latin American community down there. My family’s from Ecuador. Most of our time was spent with the types of parties and cultural events and the general sense of community of Latin American countries. When I was growing up, my family had parties almost every weekend. There was always a lot of dancing and singing. My dad would have his friends come over and play instruments, and they would play dance songs, or late night they would play really slow folk music, like South American stuff or cover songs.

R&G: Did you play or just observe the adults?

Roberto: I was little. I would learn a song and then my dad would make me stand in front of all his friends and sing and play guitar.

R&G: Was it embarrassing?

Roberto: [Laughs] Yeah, it was really embarrassing, but I was just doing it. It had nothing to do with anything other than having fun.

R&G: Sounds like fun.

Roberto: My parents would also record each other singing on a karaoke machine. Then, like an hour later, after they’d been drinking some more and hanging out, they would listen back to the recording. It was a lot of entertainment for them, you know?

R&G: So experimenting with the karaoke machine was the first time you learned about sampling music.

Roberto: Yeah, I thought I invented overdubs. I was sitting there and I thought, “Oh man.” I played one guitar line and laid another one right over it immediately. I was like, “Holy Crap!” I couldn’t believe I could do that and just kept doing it over and over and over again.

Rollo & Grady Interview :: Roberto Carlos Lange