Los Desterrados: My rock ’n’ roll moment

We join the Ladino music group as they record their new album.

By Alex Kasriel, October 17, 2008
Drummer Mark Greenfield advises Alex Kasriel on playing percussion.

Drummer Mark Greenfield advises Alex Kasriel on playing percussion.

Ever since Kate Moss was caught on camera snorting cocaine in a West London recording studio, the world has been guessing what other antics rock'n'roll stars get up to in these music recording venues.
So when Ladino band Los Desterrados invited me to watch them record their third album, Miradores, I jumped at the chance.

The band - which plays interpretations music of Sephardi origin - are not exactly the most rock'n'roll of outfits. In fact, their members include a consultant, a music magazine editor, an education worker, a student and an engineer . . . and they prefer herbal tea to hard drugs. But their melodic sound and energetic rhythms would have you believe they are from somewhere far more exotic than North London suburbia.

The band enlisted Simon Edwards, guitarist from the Scottish Pop group Fairground Attraction as their producer and have hired Premise Studios which has hosted the likes of Lily Allen, The Arctic Monkeys, Amy Winehouse and Blur. I timidly enter the studios expecting to be privy to a furious row between band members in true temperamental artist style. But the scene is nothing of the kind. The band members are all looking at the collection of control-room computers displaying wiggly lines and listening to the recording of the pacey, and rather sexy Turkish-style song, Ben Seni Seviyorum.

Edwards listens intently to the members' suggestions and twiddles the knobs on the mixing desk accordingly. This is hardly the bitchy, paranoid industry I thought it would be. In fact, in such a friendly environment, perhaps they will allow me to make some small contribution to the album.

I bide my time and offer to make the tea to get on their good side. When I return, the band are in full flow. They are playing the mournful Gulpembe, with Mark Greenfield, who is usually the drummer, on vocals.

He stands alone in a booth on his own while the rest of the band play their instruments in the main performing space, apart from Hayley Blitz, the regular vocalist who is not needed for this track. So we sit and natter while listening to Greenfield 's sweet tones and the melodic, beautiful sounds of the guitars, bass and violin.

About 10 takes later, we are more interested in the gossip than the music. This recording business is not as glamorous as I thought it would be. In fact, I'm getting a little bit restless and start to wonder if I will ever get the opportunity to leave my mark in Jewish music history.

After a word with the chipper Greenfield, he lends me an unusual percussion instrument whose origins derive from a domestic oven. No matter. I will act like a professional and not reveal my doubts.

He leads me into the booth and puts a pair of headphones on my head so I can hear the piece of music I am supposedly going to add to. After a couple of attempts at flicking the apparatus which produces a faint ding, we convince producer Simons to press record. He does, and assures me it will be heard on one of the tracks.

Weeks later I phone to find out if my contributions made the cut on the noisy song, Kohav Tzedek. They say I'm somewhere hidden in the mix. Hmm. I'm not sure if this allows me to claim my place in the Sephardi music hall of fame just yet, but at least I was let into the disappointingly not-so-crazy recording studio world.

Next challenge will be getting backstage at their Wembley gig.

Miradores is released this month on Crusoe Records. Los Desterrados are playing at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue on November 2 Information at www.ljs.org

Last updated: 11:46am, March 18 2009