Juan S. Garcés is a musician, guitarist, and producer from Quito, Ecuador. Raised in a home where music was an essential part of the day-to-day, he started learning guitar at a young age. He nourished his musical knowledge and skills with both academic and autodidactic studies throughout the years. He has performed with some of the most renowned bands in the Ecuadorian rock/metal scene (Colapso, Descomunal, Madbrain, Viuda Negra), as well as with various artists in other genres. Currently working as an independent artist, Juan has devoted the last few years to developing his personal projects. Here’s our interview with him!
I started experimenting with a musical instrument at about the age of five. It wasn’t a guitar but instead a “cuatro”, which is a Venezuelan folk instrument shaped like a classical guitar, but much smaller and with only four strings. My parents gifted me my first electric guitar at the age of ten, during a trip to the USA. I learned my first notes and chords from my father, and later with the aid of videos, magazines, and the rise of the internet. I also had formal education in music school and university.
It is hard to say with precision when I decided that I wanted to be a musician. It was very early on! Music has always been an essential part of my life. When I was a kid, it was kind of a family ritual to watch concerts on video. I remember being absolutely mesmerized watching bands like Yes or Deep Purple playing live. Discovering Steve Vai made a huge impact on me. I visualized myself writing music and playing on stage. I was sure I wanted to pursue a career in music by the time I was in high school.
Fortunately, my parents were and have always been very supportive of my decision. I would be nowhere without them. Especially considering my country is not a friendly place for musicians or artists in general.
I have been following Haken since about 2010 with their release of “Aquarius”. I had the chance to see them live in England in 2012 and we met very briefly. During that show, I remember having a clear thought “I wish I could work with a drummer like that someday”. Since the beginning of the writing process for “Personal Warfare” I always felt like Ray Hearne and Conner Green were a perfect fit. I contacted them and showed them my demos, and I was incredibly lucky that they liked the music and were willing to jump on board. I discovered Meyrick de la Fuente and his band Exist Immortal around 2017 when I was already looking out for a vocalist. Meyrick is a fantastic singer with a unique voice. I thought he was ideal for the project as soon as I heard him. Again, I contacted him and invited him to join. I will always be grateful to them! Their input heightened and enriched the music in so many ways. It was a dream come true to work with such an amazing team.
There’s nothing more inspiring to me than life itself. The things that I’ve experienced or felt. The things that I have learned along the way. I find inspiration in love, in pain, in the challenge, in people, in nature, and in things I see, hear, or read.
The bands that inspire me are the ones that I perceive as most free and honest with their music. I love music that is dynamic and takes you on a journey. Some of those bands are Yes, Camel, Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater, Pain Of Salvation, Opeth, and way too many others to mention. I’m also inspired by finding new bands that capture my attention or surprise me in some way.
Oh, it went beautifully! It was a pleasure working with every person involved in the production, including Forrester Savell (mix, mastering) and Lenore Ani (artwork). They were all super easy-going and professional at the same time. I’ll be honest: in the beginning, I was terrified because this was my debut album, so it involved a lot of “first times” doing stuff for me. Also, we did everything long-distance, so communication was a bit of a challenge at moments. But everyone was very open, patient, and committed to doing their best in service of the music. So, I couldn’t be happier with the results.
In the case of “Personal Warfare” you can say I’m the mastermind because it is my music. But I made a very conscious effort to invite and allow everyone’s input. I wanted them to feel like they had room to do their own thing and express their creativity. I wanted them to feel like it is their music too so that they can be proud of their work. I think I was able to achieve the perfect balance between collaboration and keeping the original direction and vibe I wanted for the album.
Being the mastermind of a project allows for a higher level of control. That can be a blessing or a curse! You can do things just as you like them, but you are also the one to blame if anything goes wrong or just sucks. Working in a team splits responsibility more evenly, but it implies you’ll have to make compromises to fulfill a communal vision rather than just your own. I don’t know if I prefer one option over the other yet. I suppose I will discover that the more albums I make.
Dynamic, versatile, progressive, ambitious, honest.Describe your music in five words!
This is a challenging question. I am not sure I have many stories to tell, yet. In a way, even after many years of playing music professionally, I feel like “Personal Warfare” is the real first step of my career. Ecuador – where I am from – is a place where there is very little musical activity, so opportunities are scarce. I don’t get to play live often, even less to tour, so I don’t have those experiences.
I have been fortunate to play with some bands of the rock/metal scene in my country, as well as with some other artists, and I am grateful for that. But just to try to put things in perspective: it would take a couple of years for a local band to play as many dates as a band from Europe or the US in a single month-long tour. On top of that, up to now, I have always been a substitute player, meaning I get called only when the original guitarist of a band can’t play a show for some reason. So, I don’t have a “regular gig”.
Those are some of the reasons why I started working on my own music, and pursuing a career path by myself. I feel like I can be much more productive and efficient that way. I hope that may also open some more options or opportunities for me as a musician in the future.
Maybe not exactly a “fun fact” but a very positive one is that being the very first album I produced, I got to work with my favorite musicians, my favorite mix engineer, and my favorite artist/illustrator. I still have to pinch myself sometimes! I feel like I won the lottery! Everything flowed so well during the production, it came together so naturally. And I learned so much!