Santana’s ‘celestial supersonic’ ambition
He’s been at the top of his game for nearly 50 years – but Carlos dreams of making the sound of dinosaurs and motorbikes, and warns the solution isn’t in computers
Carlos Santana may have spent nearly 50 years recognised as one of the world’s leading guitarists – but there’s one more thing he’d like to achieve with his instrument.
The multi-award winning pioneer, named the fifteenth-best axeman of all time by Rolling Stone, would love to experiment with what he calls “celestial” soundscapes, and he believes only two other musicians have been there before him.
Santana tells Music Radar: “Like Jimi Hendrix before he went to the National Anthem, or before he played Wild Thing. There was a celestial texture he achieved and the only other person who got to that same place was Stevie Ray Vaughan. Here it comes: celestial supersonic textures.
“You open up the guitar and the amplifiers, and all of a sudden it’s like an aurora borealis of sound. If you don’t know what you’re doing it can sound really corny and awful.
“But if you know what you’re doing it’s like all the dinosaurs in the world are screaming with motorcycles from the Hell’s Angels. Hendrix knew how to create a texture on a big canvas, but it wasn’t noise – it was art.”
But Santana warns anyone who shares his ambition won’t find the answer in modern technology: “If you think you can sound great plugged into a laptop, I’ve got news for you, man – you’re kidding yourself.
“Ain’t nothing like a Marshall or a Boogie. If you think you can get Marshall on a laptop you’re defeating yourself and you don’t even know it.
“Sound coming out of an amp, see, you’re moving air and molecules. Anything that comes out of a computer sounds horrible to me. I need the real thing.”
Santana’s new album, Shape Shifter, is a mainly instrumental work that moves away from his more poppy output. He describes it as “more a collection of stories than songs” and says one of his proudest moments is his collaboration on two track with his pianist son, Salvador.