JOSÉ ANTONIO SUÁREZ LONDOÑO

‘I was very into Punk and new wave, until Madonna came with her ‘Like a Virgin’, and I said: “I’ve stopped liking music!”’ 

—José Antonio Suárez Londoño  

KG: You have said that music has been important to you, and I read that the Yearbooks project started with the reading of Brian Eno’s A Year with Swollen Appendices. Is music influential in your practice? Do you listen to it while you work?

JASL: My father bought me the Meet the Beatles album when I was a little kid and I loved it. He travelled a lot and after every trip my presents were always some LPs. I was fourteen at the time of Woodstock, and I have all kinds of things from very heavy rock to ballads of Bob Dylan. I was into progressive rock, I loved Yes, ELP, King Crimson and things like that. Then came the Punk explosion, and I was there in Britain for that – Siouxsie and the Banshees, Police, Joe Jackson…it was amazing and challenging for someone like I was, to change your mind from very elaborate, complicated music to very basic themes, and enjoy them. It was amazing for me to be there at that moment, I think it was like a gift. Then I was very into Punk and new wave, until Madonna came with her ‘Like a Virgin’, and I said: ‘I’ve stopped liking music!’ …I stayed with some of my early heroes, like Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Brian Eno, Talking Heads etc… Though I changed my mind about Madonna later and came to love her music, and thought it was great how she changed everything. I do not like to hear music while I work. I like to hear people talking on the radio, that’s my background.

KG: Is it simply like some sort of background noise?

JASL: Background noise, yes. Sometimes they say things and I write them because I love them, or I say ‘how stupid that they are talking about this’… With music I am very distracted because I follow the lyrics or I try to remember what they say, so the music disturbs me a lot. Even classical music. Sometimes maybe I’m making a drawing and I am in a French mood so I put on some French music and sometimes I write the lyrics of the song – that happens very rarely; almost all the time it’s hearing people talking.

KG: It helps you to isolate yourself basically?

JASL: Yes, maybe. And you feel like you are in a gathering of people, talking with them, so you don’t feel very lonely.

— José Antonio Suárez Londoño, ‘Conversation Between José Antonio Suárez Londoño and Ketty Gottardo’ in Always Drawing: José Antonio Suárez Londoño, Works on Paper, 1997-2018, London: Ordovas, 2019, pp. 15-16. 

Susan Janet Ballion, known professionally as “Siouxsie”, photographed in the 1980s, London