A conversation with Ruben Zarate

 

    We spoke with Ruben Zarate (Dante Elephante) about deleting your past life’s memories, the mysterious properties of major 7th chords, falling in love too easily and why having everything in common with someone is meaningless.

    I’ve been in relationships where we had everything in common and it still didn’t work out. Loving the same music and movies didn’t stop us from being completely terrible to each other.


    We asked Ruben what comes to mind when he thinks of each of these integral stages of existence.

    Womb


    It’s a fresh start. Any memories from your past life have been deleted at this point.

    Birth


    This is your first victory. You made it out.

    First word


    Second victory. Learn to speak your mind.

    First steps


    Third victory. Get up and leave as soon as you can.

    Classroom


    Stuffy, hot, boring, waste of time.

    First friend


    Good man.

    Graduation


    Relief.

    Wedding


    Waste of money.

    Career


    Money over everything.

    Retirement


    That’s not going to happen for anyone in my generation.

    Death


    Inevitable. Start the cycle again. See you on the other side.

    1

    Morgan Enos

    Do you think a certain sequence of chords alone can have an effect on one’s mental or emotional state? Can you give an example to prove your stance on this?

    Ruben Zarate

    It really depends. There’s a part of me that believes that anyone can learn and play chords. So what makes chords so special? If you can connect those chords to a memory or an emotion then there’s some value to that for sure. To quote Dinah Washington, “There’s no love song finer, but how strange the change from major to minor.” Hearing a major 7th always make me feel good. I use them a lot in my songs.

    I really believe it’s what the writer does to the chord by adding a great melody that can manipulate the way a chord sounds or comes across. “Louie Louie” by Richard Berry is a great example. It’s the same three chords throughout the song, but the melody alone dictates whether you’re listening to the verse or the chorus.

    2

    Really quickly, can you please look out the nearest window in your proximity and describe exactly what is outside of it?

    It’s my neighbor’s wooden fence.

    3

    I like how love is easily the most-discussed emotion in most artistic media as well as maybe the entire field of psychology, but that it’s kind of undefinable as to what it is. I’ll even boil it down to one aspect: romantic love. Can you define what that is in words and describe the first time in your life you really felt this?

    Everyone has their own definition of love and what they want or are looking for. If you can meet someone who has similar goals, aspirations, wants and needs to you then that’s pretty good. Similar interests are great and all, but I’ve been in relationships where we had everything in common and it still didn’t work out. Loving the same music and movies didn’t stop us from being completely terrible to each other.

    Being kind, supportive, and with the ability to communicate is the LeBron, Wade, and Bosh of relationship goals. I think I fall in and out of love quicker than anyone else I know. I had my first crush in the 5th grade. I had my last crush in August 2017. It was just as exciting in 2017 as it was in 1999.

    I don’t really have time to wonder about flowers looking like the Milky Way, but I really enjoy staring at the clouds while I’m on the bus thinking of funny tweets.

    4

    From there, what is your interpretation of a really successful friendship, rather than just an acquaintanceship? Do you think platonic connection with others is just based on shared interests or on something deeper? Can you even define what that “deeper” element is?

    Friendship is a different kind of love. Having a best friend or multiple is more of a freedom than anything else — the ability to say anything you want without being judged. Unless you say something stupid, then the group chat turns and jumps all over you, but even that’s okay. Grabbing a beer and just ranting about music, co-workers, relationships, sports, or whatever is so freeing and so valuable. I don’t really think interests have a major part to play in whom you become friends with. It’s more of you who you like talking to, laughing with and being around. I met one of my best friends in kindergarten and he was still learning English. We just liked hanging out with each other even with this language barrier. It didn’t matter.

    5

    I am curious about the visual similarities and differences between objects in the universe. I wonder if certain geometric shapes might be shared by a spiral galaxy and a sunflower. What piques your curiosity in a primeval way about being alive in the world?

    I really wish I had time to think about these kinds of things, without a label or anyone really helping me release this new record. I don’t really have time to wonder about flowers looking like the Milky Way. I’m pretty busy at the moment. But I really enjoy staring at the clouds while I’m on the bus thinking of funny tweets.

    6

    Would you please describe the most beautiful song you’ve ever heard without telling us what the artist or title is?

    Okay, I’m listening to the song right now. It’s, in my opinion, one of the best crafted pop songs of all time. This particular rendition of the song is probably the best one. It’s delicate, soft, warm, the strings sit perfectly in the mix, the drums are being played with brushes, the lead singer’s voice is deep and smooth while being accompanied by a smallish choir. It has the kind of background vocals where the highest voice is this woman and she almost sounds like a Theremin. It’s insane. The song makes you feel nostalgic for this past life that you never lived.

    7

    Finally, please briefly meditate on these three objects for me: towers, T-shirts and cold water. What does each remind you of? Can you give me any specific memories, anecdotes or thoughts to go with each?

    I got one memory. Delivering pizza in Boyle Heights, driving to downtown LA while listening to Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” around 9pm, crossing the LA River, staring at the skyline with all the buildings and the line “Won’t have to drive too far, just cross the border and into the city,” was playing. That’s my fondest memory of living in LA.

    Thank you.

    Data


    Conversation: 102
    Curated by: Morgan Enos
    Conducted by: Email
    Published: January 9, 2018
    Total questions: 11 + 7
    Word count: 1082
    Reading time: Four minutes
    Hyperlinks: 4
    Birth: First victory
    Classroom: Waste
    Clouds: Tweets
    Flowers: Inconsequential
    Melody: Dictated
    Pizza: Delivered
    Memory: Fond

    Relation


    About the curator


    Morgan Enos is a songwriter and journalist originally from California. His curatorial work for North of the Internet aims to strike a deeper place in his conversation subjects — the dreamy subtext to the linear everyday. Morgan also frequently writes power pop records as Other Houses about joy, outer space, frustration, chess and spiritual light. He resides in New York, where he continues to creatively fire on all cylinders.


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