Carlos Santana's Magic Touch

For over 30 years, through countless band lineups, the essential character of the Santana group has remained unchanged because Carlos himself is unchanged. He still burns with the same passion that blew people away in his career-making appearance in the film Woodstock.

On a balmy early-October afternoon, the Santana band is onstage at the empty Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California (a half-hour south of San Francisco), charging through an incendiary version of Nigerian singer Femi Kuti's “Truth Don't Die,” at the beginning of what will be a nearly one-hour sound check. Even playing an unfamiliar song by a top Afro-beat performer, the Santana sound is unmistakable. The thundering back line of drummer Dennis Chambers, conga man Raul Rekow, and timbales player Karl Perazzo grabs hold of the groove and drives it all the way to the distant reaches of the green sloping lawn that crowns the 20,000-seat “shed.” There are two bassists laying down more low-end funk on this particular tune — Benny Rietveld and Myron Dove (who plays rhythm guitar parts on a piccolo bass), and off to one side of the drum platform trumpeter Bill Ortiz and trombonist Jeff Cressman punctuate the wall of rhythm with peppery blasts and slides.

Keyboardist Chester Thompson — a member of the group for nearly two decades — bobs his head and sways in his seat as his fingers dance across the keys and what sounds like a mixture of organ and kalimba becomes part of the brew. The group's two lead singers, Andy Vargas and Tony Lindsay, are on different sides of the stage, singing passionately to an ocean of empty orange seats and to front-of-house mixer Randy Piotroski. Soaring above it all — sounding like a cry one second, a moan the next, then bursting into a skittering flurry of long and short notes laced with a bit of distortion and a glaze of sustain — is Carlos Santana's guitar. You know it's him after one note; after two notes you're transported, and by the end of his solo you're convinced (if you weren't already) that there's no one else on the planet that plays with as much fire and heart.

Lest we get too wrapped up in the romance and majesty of the moment, Carlos abruptly stops the music after his solo and says softly but firmly, “No, no, no. We're racing. I want to slow it down and put more on that offbeat.” He demonstrates the beat he wants to the percussionists, who, without hesitation, latch on to the idea and practice it together until Carlos is satisfied. At the peak of musical ecstasy, it's easy forget that, like every other great band, this group has to work hard together to make what they do sound so natural and reflexive.


This sound check isn't just for the benefit of Piotroski and monitor mixer Brain Montgomery, to get the levels right and work the kinks out of the system. It's a band communion, too, with Carlos clearly the leader and teacher. They roll through a version of “If '60s Were '90s” (Beautiful People's hip-hop take on Jimi Hendrix's “If Six Was Nine”) and “Nothing at All” — a lovely Spanish-tinged song off Santana's new CD Shaman — which features Carlos on both electric and acoustic guitar.

At one point, Carlos leaves the stage and listens to the band from different parts of the amphitheater. He stops to make some comments to Piotroski, then comes down to the lip of the stage and speaks to the band about some fine point in the arrangement of “Nothing At All,” a song they had never performed live before (and which would have its debut onstage three nights later at the Santa Barbara Bowl). As the sound check concludes, there are satisfied smiles all around; you get a sense that this evening's performance will be another triumph for this band that seemingly can do no wrong.

The previous night, across San Francisco Bay at the Chronicle Pavilion in Concord, Santana had a remarkably multicultural sold-out crowd — young and old; working class and yuppie; black, white, Asian, and Latino — dancing deliriously and singing at the top of their lungs. Most of the material was drawn from the 25-million-selling phenomenon Supernatural and from the new CD Shaman.

The crowd seemed to love it all equally, shakin' to the new Latin cooker “Foo Foo” with the same abandon as on the ubiquitous “Smooth” and the group's one nod to '60s Santana, “Jingo.” The beautiful instrumental “Victory Is Won,” also from Shaman, was a midset highlight that gave Carlos a chance to really sing with his guitar — he roamed the stage with one of his many gorgeous Paul Reed Smith guitars, coaxing all sorts of interesting sonic subtleties from his axe: truly music of the spheres. Santana music has always been about contrasts: about air and fire, spirit and body, the ethereal and the earthy.

For over 30 years, through countless band lineups, the essential character of the Santana group has remained unchanged because Carlos himself is unchanged. He still burns with the same passion that blew people away in his career-making appearance in the film Woodstock. He still has faith in music's power to inspire, to heal, and to move hearts. Indeed, Carlos Santana still believes that love is the answer, and he's not afraid to use the stage — and interviews like this one — as his pulpit. At Concord and elsewhere he spoke out for peace, urging everyone to pray that President Bush doesn't take us into a war, and quoting Mahatma Gandhi: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” He spoke eloquently about the need for compassion and world unity, and about the oneness of all cultures and music — something his band demonstrates every night onstage. Promoting his first album in three-and-half years almost feels like an afterthought; raising consciousness is what Carlos Santana is really about.

After the sound check I adjourned with Carlos to the “tuning room,” a small but comfortable space in a backstage trailer with a couch, a couple of Fender amps, and the pungent smell of sandalwood incense. What follows are highlights from our interview, most of which centered on his relationship to the stage and to his band.

What was it like for you when you were coming up as a young guitarist? Was it hard to become a “performer”?

I'm still not a performer. I'm just a musician. I play guitar. I have a band. Michael Jackson is a performer. People like him do things for hours in front of a mirror; I don't have a mirror. We play music. We do sound checks and we make sure that we're not lip-syncing, first of all. I don't want to attack the people that do that, because it's okay, but it's not us. In this beautiful garden that God made, there's room for real flowers and plastic flowers. So I don't have a problem with that.

For me, playing music from the heart is what I want to do; I don't want to learn moves or have a “show” where everything is the same every night. Every night you're stuck to a computer telling you the same tempos, the same this, the same that. I like the spontaneity of playing live music with other people where you don't know everything that's going to happen, you don't play it the same way all the time. I want it to have the spontaneity of being with a person the first time you touch, the first time you kiss. I want newness. If you work everything out too much you kill the spontaneity.

Don't get me wrong. I see the beauty in Michael Jackson and Sammy Davis Jr. and all those people. I know they're consummate, supreme performers. But I couldn't do that.

Is it something you ever wanted to be, even in your fantasies?

Not at all. I applaud it, and there's an excellence that goes with it that I can admire. I'm not interested in dancing — I'm more interested in making people dance. My spirit dances for me. [Laughs]

Carlos Santana and Tony Lindsay

At the beginning of your career, were there people who helped you learn how to be an effective player onstage? The atmosphere at the Fillmore West and the other San Francisco ballrooms in the late '60s was so congenial and supportive, with everyone rooting for each other.

That's true what you said about the Fillmore. Everyone was rooting for each other and it didn't feel at all competitive. We'd all play with each other and jam, and when you're in that kind of situation, where you have that support and you're playing with people you respect and who respect you, it becomes much easier to do what you're trying to, which is play from the heart and play well for the audience.

But you know what? I really got my education in Tijuana — before I ever played the Fillmore — playing in some funky clubs, very close to what people call the “cut and shoot” crowd: if they don't like you, they cut and shoot you. My education came playing John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins, and Jimmy Reed. If you couldn't play that music, you weren't going to go anywhere. Don't even think about playing Bobby Bland or Ray Charles; you're not gonna be in it unless you can play that other stuff that was more raw.

What other players influenced you?

The main guys for me, even before I discovered B.B. King, who had such an influence on me, were T-Bone Walker, Lonnie Johnson, Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, and my father-in-law Saunders King. They were the guys who went from what Freddie Green was doing — that chunk, chunk, chunk, chunk comping he did with Count Basie; he never played a solo — to making the guitar a voice, like a saxophone, where you could play melodies and scales and things like that. Before that the guitar was like painting in the background. There were others, too, like Michael Bloomfield and Gabor Szabo, who no one really talks about much.

Anyway, I learned a lot in Tijuana, and by the time I came to the Fillmore, what I was doing was very different than the Grateful Dead or Jefferson Airplane or Creedence Clearwater or Sly. And by the time I unconsciously infused the things I learned with the Afro-Cuban music, it had a big impact because it was different than everything else. We gave birth to something that was in between a lot of things — rock, jazz, African music, Latin music. Miles Davis and Tito Puente would come around and they encouraged me, which meant everything to me when I was young. Miles used to say [he imitates the famous raspy whisper] “Oh man, I love that song…” talking about “Incident at Neshabur.” So that was some of my first real validation.

Somebody said to me not long ago, “Man, for 35 years nobody invited you to the Grammys. Didn't you feel weird?” And I said, “You know, in all truthfulness, when my phone used to ring and it was Mr. Miles Davis, Mr. Wayne Shorter, Mr. Herbie Hancock, Mr. Otis Rush, Mr. Buddy Guy, Mr. John Lee Hooker, Mr. Pharoah Sanders…those were my awards!” Okay, it's not always cool to be called at two or three o'clock in the morning. [Laughs] But, hey, it's John Lee Hooker! When it finally happened two or three years ago, and I got that kind of validation in what you'd call the mainstream, it was a shock, but I'm still the same guy.

It's nice that everyone seemed to be rooting for you.

That's true. I felt that. And it's great to realize that you're reaching grandparents, parents, teenagers, little children, and even toddlers. I want to play to everyone; I don't want to leave anybody out.

I guess that appealing to such a wide range is key to remaining successful.

Another thing I learned is that you've got to have the songs, man. Those are the vehicles. Miles Davis played “Human Nature” and “Time After Time” until the day he died. John Coltrane played “My Favorite Things” until the day he died. I stepped back and realized, “Oh, it's the songs.” Ozomatli needs some songs. Santana needs some songs. Frank Sinatra needs some songs; that's the key to the multidimensional crossover. That's why Supernatural was so successful — the songs.

I'd like to switch gears and talk about your shows. What do you tell your band on the day of a show to psych them up or to get in sync with them?

I remind the musicians about the G-spot. There's a collective G-spot we all need to visit together. When I went to Africa, I saw women in the circle [with percussion instruments] going ginka-ginka-dinka-ginka-ginka-dinka-ginka-a ching…wah! Ginka-ginka-dinka-ginka-ginka-dinka-ginka-a ching…wah! Well, if you don't visit the wah, it sounds monotonous; you need that release. The people in my band are all great players — they've been with Michael Stern, John McLaughlin, all sorts of people — but I still need to remind them that in this band you must visit the wah. This isn't a nightclub gig where you show up with your chops and just play the songs. This is music that if you visit the wah, then all those people who come here start laughing, crying, dancing, and they forget about the rent, they forget about whether you're Mexican or Irish. They forget about all those things and all of a sudden they enter into this vortex of exhilaration that's orgasmic.

Miles Davis said, “I wake up every morning to give and receive a two-hour orgasm onstage. And if I don't get it I'm not a nice man.” And I thought, “Wow, he's right.” So in order to get an orgasm, you've got to visit the G-spot, which is the wah. My children used to squirm when they'd see me talking like this. “Gee, Dad, what is this? It's always about sex with you.” [Laughs] I said, “Don't kid yourself. There ain't nothing higher on this planet than orgasms and music.” Because at the peak of both you say “Oh, my God!” They both lead you to totality and absoluteness.

Looking through your bio, I saw 14 different drummers, 11 bass players, all those singers. That's a lot of people you've had to teach the “Santana Way.”

Dennis Chambers on drums

I've been blessed to play with so many great musicians through the years. It's nice to get the different interpretations, the different energy. But in this band, Raul [Rekow] has been with me since 1976 and Chester Thompson's been here since '83, so there is some continuity there, and obviously each of them contributes a lot. The only thing that I ask is that people don't park their energy. Keep the enthusiasm, keep your eyes open.

I had a meeting with the band yesterday where I said, “With Supernatural, I didn't see it coming. But this time I do see it coming. There's a big old wave about to happen, and I need something from all of you and I need you to know that I am available to you also. I need for you to listen to the CD once in a while and go back and discover what you captured in the studio — that fire, or maybe it was a romantic moment…take that and put it onstage. Don't lose that. Don't let it ever become routine.”

Do you ever play a bad show, an off day where you're not feeling well or just not into it?

Fortunately, I'm surrounded by great musicians where even if I have a bad day, they're having a great day. There hasn't been one day where all of us collectively sucked.

At least you're at the level where it's going to sound good every night. You don't have to deal with bad feedback or the right side of the P.A. going out — like some of those '60s and '70s nightmares.

No, no, it's never like that anymore. But you know what? When that used to happen, you still have to play and do your best. You might be distracted. You might have to try a little harder. But you're still out there with that audience and they're going to know if you're parking it. Sometimes the shows where you have to overcome something — whether it's a technical problem, or something inside, something emotional — are the ones that end up rising higher. So you don't just give up and say, “Oh, this sucks tonight.” You can't ever do that.

With the sound, I still go out and remind the gentleman who's doing the mixing, Randy [Piotroski], that I don't want things to sound like an omelet. I want distinction between the bass and the bass drum. I don't want it to sound like tie-dye. I need to hear the distinction between both vocalists, left hand and right hand. I like clarity. So when we do all freak together, you can still hear every individual part.

What's your monitor mix like?

It's fantastic!

You have that wall of drums right at your ear level.

That's true. But I like that. [In my mix] I want to hear everything soft but balanced. I want to be able to close my eyes and hear everything and my guitar is right there. I like to be able to move around and keep everything in perspective. That's why I don't wear [in-ear monitors]. I talked to Eric Clapton about it — I said, “You wear those things?” He goes, “No, do you?” I said, “No, I can't.” He said, “I don't wear them because when you move around, everywhere I go it sounds the same.” And that's true. I don't want it to sound the same.

I sensed last night that the new material was received nearly as well as the old stuff. You didn't have to play “Smooth” or “Jingo” to win over the crowd. That freedom is the greatest gift an audience can give you.

We didn't play “Black Magic Woman”! [Laughs]

But that must be a nice feeling — to know that you can play what you want to play and in a sense not worry about it. You're not playing the same 12 songs every night.

I remember we used to get really pissed: “Play ‘Evil Ways,'' motherf — .” [Laughs] “Go get the album, man, we're gonna play something else.” But I'll sneak that one in once in a while. I still like playing some of the old songs. If I didn't, I wouldn't. Right now I'm really fascinated with learning the things on Shaman, since some of it was with different people than my band. Today, by playing “Nothing At All” [at sound check], I could tell by the eyes of my band that they were like, “Hey, that's nice.” It's a different place than all that ass-kicking music. It's a song that works on a lot of different levels. Not everything has to be an assault on the senses. They understand about dynamics and that's why there is so much range to what we do live. I'm very, very grateful to be surrounded with these musicians because they understand that it's not about Carlos or Santana. It's about a collective win-win situation. We're carriers of a wonderful spiritual virus.

More of Blair Jackson's interview with Carlos Santana .

The last time I interviewed you was about 20 years ago, with Herbie Hancock, sitting around his pool in L.A. right after Swing of Delight came out.
Yeah, right. Well, thank God we're both still here, and still doing the swing of delight!

I want to talk to you about [performance and what your experience is like onstage. I saw the show last night [in Concord, Calif.] and thought it was really great. I hadn't seen you in a few years. It was a really good audience.
We haven't played in the Bay Area for maybe two years so it's great to se people hungry for our music. Especially with what's happening right now in the world, with the anger and the fear and all that. I know I need to hear some music that takes me out of the Bush cage.

I was impressed you took the time during the show to speak out about Bush. I was surprised.
It's important to pray for him that his soul will dictate to his mind to make a decision that would really benefit a lot of people on the planet, not just rich white people with a dark agenda. It's kind of like I said last night, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." Ghandi said that. Some people have fear in what they do. They wrap themselves in the American flag like a burrito or something-I don't want to get into names, because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but that's not my agenda. My agenda is basically "God bless humanity"-not god bless one nation or one anything. That's still very negative to me. America shines the best when America does things from the spiritual point of view, not from a monetary point of view, or an ego point of view. I'm always trying to look at the big picture, the global picture, and with my music trying to get people to understand that we're all on this planet together and we have to love and respect each other.

I was really blown away by your opening band last night, Ozomatli-
Good! Good! I like to hear that!

They had so much energy and spirit and they're in that position in the music world where they're obviously just about to break through to great things. They're trying so hard every night. Can you remember what that feeling was line-that sense that you're on the verge of something big?
Sure! Of course. I'm still riding that wave. I'm still an opening band sometimes. I'm still an opening band for the Rolling Stones or Prince or Sting or Michael Jackson. I'm still opening for people. It's not a competition. I'm just as hungry as Ozomatli. Some people get to where I am and they park it. I haven't parked it. I still remember exactly what it was like to open up for my heroes-to open up for Sly Stone, Creedence Clearwater, Janis Joplin, Chicago, Paul Butterfield. You're happy to be there, honored to be playing with them, but you still have to go out and do your thing and maybe playing with those people gives you a little something extra because they're so great. Again, you're not competing with them.

I'm the same guy and I have the same erectus keepemupus; I have the same intensity about playing and about life. Some people might even be intimidated to play with a group like Ozomatli, because , like you say, they've got all that youthful energy and the crowd loves them. I like that energy. I thrive on it. They're a great band. They just need a couple of songs to get to the radio airwaves so they can get to the next level.

More on "performers":
I'm not interested in Carlos Santana the way Michael Jackson is interested in Michael Jackson, with all respect to my brother. But you can tell he don't leave the house unless he's got four or five hours in front of the mirror. [Laughs] That's too much a waste of time and energy for me. It might work for him, but it might not in the long run. The worst thing that can happen to a performer is if you're not living in your heart, you become predictable and you become a caricature of yourself. I'm not interested in seeing a Carlos Santana cartoon. I'm not dumping on it. I validate it. I know there's a lot of beauty in the Monkees and Michael Jackson and N'Sync-they give a lot of young people a lot of joy. Some of them will grow up-like Ricky Martin grew out of Menudo, and maybe one day he'll be like Frank Sinatra or Paul Anka. I see goodness in all of it. It's only when it's phony, shallow or superficial that it's wasted energy.

Some people felt that Supernatural seemed overly calculated to sound commercial.
Oh yeah, I got a lot of that. I see reviews saying things about Supernatural and myself, and they can't hide the jealousy they have, because they feel there's some sort of formula gimick gadget gizmo. But there isn't. They can try it. I can give them the same amplifier, the same songs and everything and it might not work for them. Because they don't have my intentions, motives and purpose. I'm not doing all this just to get on the radio. I'm doing it to get people to think and feel collectively about totality and absoluteness because with everything that's happening on this planet, musicians have a responsibility to wake up the masses to the other side-"Peace on Earth," John Coltrane; "One Love," Bob Marley. Marvin Gaye saw it, too.

It's not a grandioso thing, either. I just don't have any fear to work with Mr. Placido Domingo or P.O.D. [both of whom are guests on Shaman]. I don't have those kind of ideas that I only play with Keith Jarrett or Al DiMeola or whoever.

You're inclusive, no exclusive.
Right. Why put such a low ceiling on yourself that you say, "I don't do windows." The whole world and life is nothing but windows. That's the difference between myself and a lot of musicians. This is why I love my brother Ry Cooder. He's my man. We don't have that fear to go to Madagascar or go to Cuba or whatever and maybe for half an hour look like total idiots because we don't play their kind of music. But we're gonna get it! I want to go to Timbuktu and play with Ali Farka Toure. Just give me a little bit of time and I'm going to get to it.

People forget how much African music is a part of what we now call "Latin" music, and of course rock 'n' roll has African roots.
Absolutely! I step back and look at the people before me-B.B. King, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy and all the English guys-Jeff Beck, Peter Green, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton. All of us are cut from the same thing; all of us are playing African music. Now a lot of people were upset when I said that at the Grammys. They didn't even want me to come to Spain, because I said, "I don't play Spanish music, I don't play Latin music. I play African music." They got ticked off.

It struck me last night at the show that it's like you're on a boat in the middle of this river, and what we call "Santana music" flows all around you, and it always has; it's the same river that you were riding in 1968 and 1974 and 1989 pulling this musician and that musician onto the raft with you and plucking from different styles you pass on the riverbank It's a bit of a tortured metaphor, but you know what I'm saying It's more than just the continuity of your guitar sound and the Latin percussion
I'm really touched that you would say such a thing, man, because the first thing I heard when I was consciously stepping outside of being a Mexican or being a child in Tijuana, I heard this old dude say to another old dude, "Hey man, how's it going? What's happening?" And the other guy says, "Oh, you know, the river just keeps rolling along." I thought, "What the hell does that mean?" He meant consciousness; human consciousness keeps flowing. Old Man River. That river just keeps rolling along.

I step back and see how many people before me-B.B. King, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy and all the English guys-Jeff Beck, Peter Green, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton-all of us are cut from the same thing. All of us are playing African music. Now, a lot of people were upset when I said that at the Grammys. They didn't even want me to come to Spain, because I said, "I don't play Spanish, I don't play Latin. I play African music." They got ticked off.

I'm able to appreciate Irish music as different from Welsh or Scottish music or Norwegian music. I don't just put a white hat on it say it's all "white music." So why do you want to say what I do is just "Latin"? I like to respect individuality. If you have four sisters and two brothers, none of them are the same in my house. So why do want to lump everybody in the same thing? Okay, we are Latin. We are all Spanish. Spanish people play the way they do because they got conquered by the Moors; otherwise they'd be playing polkas and waltzes like everyone else in Europe. But they were conquered by the Moors and they have that Islamic [he sings] weee-ayyyeeeyayy.

So people get upset when I say these things, because they want to be able to say, "You're Mexican and you're mariachi." The first label Rolling Stone put on me and my band was "psychedelic mariachi rock." [Laughs] I said "Really? That's what you think we're playing?" Wrong, man. We're playing African music.

The first label that Rolling Stone put on me and my band was "psychedelic mariachi rock." [Laughs] I said "Really? That's what you think we're playing?" Wrong, man. We're playing African music. That's what gave birth to merengue, charanga, cha-cha-cha, mambo, cumbia, danzón, bolero, rumba, shuffles, ska, and everything from Chicago, Mississippi, Texas or California. The basis of all this music came from Africa.

When you play in Africa, do the audiences relate more to the Afro-Cuban elements in your music?
Probably not, because they hear that all the time. If I play Puerto Rican music when I go to Puerto Rico, they hear that music 24 hours a day; they're probably tired of it and want to hear something different. I mean, the African audiences react to "Jingo" and certain African things, but because they play that kind of music so much, they like the contrasts. It's that way all over the world when we play-they want to hear the contrasts. That's what's stimulating and inspiring.

On being transported by music
The first time I was transported out of myself by music was B.B. King, Charles Lloyd's band with Keith Jarrett and Jack de Johnette, and John Handy's band. One of the other guys who really did it for me was John Gilmore in Sun Ra's band. He was the first to really make interdenominational, multidimensional intergalactic music. Not Coltrane, not Dexter Gordon-John Gilmore and Sun Ra in the '50s. Then you heard [Coltrane's] "A Love Supreme." Coltrane went to see Sun Ra and heard them. "Oh, you found the key to all the chord changes. You found the key to all the rhythms!" It was John Gilmore. I know my history, man.

For drummers, it's Papa Joe Jones and Buddy Rich-and then everybody else: Tony Williams, Elvin Jones. Although Elvin Jones did come up with something that was extremely different. In two notes I can tell the difference between Lee Morgan and Fats Navarro or Freddie Hubbard. Or between Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass and Grant Green. I love uniqueness and individuality. So I feel really grateful with God that he has allowed me the heart to be open enough to take all these things in. Some people say, "Oh, I only listen to Chet Atkins," or "I only listen Art Tatum."

That's just sad
It is sad! I don't just listen Miles Davis with Red Garland and Philly Joe Jones. What's that about, man? I listen all Miles; I love all of it. Especially the Agartha stuff, because that sounds like jungle music; that is some of the wildest stuff you'll ever hear.

What's that Miles piece you use at the beginning of the show?
It's called "Car Chase." It's from the last CD that he made, Doo-Bop. I've been using that for many years now. It gets people going. I like that.

What do you like to do with a sound check? Today, you were working out the tempo on one new song.
That was "Truth Don't Die," which is by Fema Kuti. I always tell my band I don't want to sound like Palo Alto; I want to sound like real Africa. I want to get past the Fresnos of Africa. [Laughs]

You were listening to the band guys, walking around the arena a little bet, checking it out as they played.
I'm getting the guy at the front-of-house to get all the things they're not getting. Because when people hear it, they start dancing and laughing and crying. It's just like creating crystal from a different kind of sand. I do have to remind the musicians once in a while when someone parks the energy. I don't like them to put it in park. I need to hear it in first gear, because there are going to be a lot hills and valleys

And you eventually want to go into overdrive
Exactly. Don't drive it like you would from here to Fresno where everything's flat and monotone. Don't do that. For me, it's going to be boring and for the audience, too. I like dynamics.

Is it at all intimidating to know that because you have outside singers on the album you probably can't play some of the material live?
We do it anyway. We do "Smooth," "Maria," "Game of Love" [from Supernatural]. We can do all those songs or I wouldn't put them on the CD. We could even do the Dido song [on Shaman]; we'll see. I like that song a lot.

The Placido Domingo song might be trouble.
[Laughs] That might be trouble; you're right. We could do as an instrumental. I snuck a little bit of it on "Day of Celebration." But that one might be trouble, because there's only one Placido Domingo, you know.

Are you a shaman?
Yeah. There's goodness in everyone. That's the affirmation of a shaman.

But the word also implies a healer, magician
A spiritual healer. Sure. We do that with our music. You're a healer, too. The way you write, the gift that you have to put words together to have impact on people that's being a shaman. Anyone who complements life is a shaman. It's not just Bob Marley
or some guy in the jungle or an Apache. John Coltrane, Stravinsky, Einstein. All of us have shamanic things in us. My wife said, "People are gonna think you're tripping, calling yourself a shaman." I'll say it like this: Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Allah, Rama, Jehovah-they're all pointing at the same thing: the light inside your heart. Yet most people, instead of looking at the light, they go and smell his finger, instead of what he's pointing at. So that's what a shaman is to me-someone who can spread the spiritual virus. It's very contagious. We want to invite people to transmute fear and anger the way Jesus transmuted wine from water. We invite people to create a masterpiece of joy out of your life; out of all the emotions, all the up and downs; your horns and your halo.

Blair Jacksonfirst interviewed Carlos Santana for a BAM magazine cover story in 1978.


Carlos Santana: guitar
Paul Reed Smith Santana model guitars (3)
Alvarez-Yairi CY127CE nylon-string acoustic
Mu-Tron wah pedal
Ibanez Tube Screamer
Jim Dunlop customized selector box
Dumble Overdrive/Reverb amp head
Mesa/Boogie Mark I amp head
Fender Cyber Twin amp
Motion Sound AR-112 rotary guitar amps (2)
Mesa/Boogie 1x12 cabinet
Marshall 4x12 speaker cabinets with Celestion G12M Greenback speakers
Brown 4x12 cabinet with Tone Tubby Speakers

Chester Thompson: keyboards
Hammond B-3 (chopped by Bill Beard)
Leslie 145 (customized)
Dynacord Leslie simulator
Yamaha Motif keyboard
E-mu E4K keyboard
Kurzweil K2000R
Korg 01W R
Roland JV-1080
JL Cooper MIDI patchbay
Soundcraft Line Mixer
Morley volume pedal (6 in-6 out)
Yamaha stereo volume pedal
Peavey monitor cabinets (2) w/JBL speakers
Peavey 1/3-octave graphic EQ
Peavey CS1200 power amp (lows)
Peavey CS800 power amp (highs)

Benny Reitveld: bass
Ibanez BTB 1000 (4-string), BTB 1005 (5-string) basses
Azola Baby Bass
Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler
EBS OctaBass
BP200 Digitech
Jim Dunlop Bass Switcher (customized)
Eden WP-100 Navigator preamp
Eden WT-1000 stereo power amp (2)
Eden D-410 XLT 4x10 cabinets (2)

Dennis Chambers: drums
Pearl Master Series maple drums:
22" Bass Drum, with EMAD bass drum head
Pearl 14"x 6" Classic Wood Snare with Evans G2 heads
10" x 8", 12" x 8", 13" x 9" and 14" x 14" toms with Evans G2 heads
16" x 16" and 18" x 18" floor toms with Evans G2 heads
20" x 16" gong drum with Evans G2 heads
Zildjian K cymbals with Slick Nut cymbal holders
22" Ride
20" China
18" Dark Crash
17" Dark Crash
16" Dark Crash
K Master Work 14" Hi Hats
Dennis Chambers signature drum sticks
Pearl Double Bass Drum Pedal

Raul Rekow: Percussion
LP Galaxy Quinto, with Remo Fiber Skin heads
LP Galaxy Congas (2), with Remo Fiber Skin heads
LP Galaxy Tumbas (2), with Remo Fiber Skin heads
LP Wind Chimes
LP Shells
Remo 20" Djun-Djun with Remo Fiber Skin heads
Sabian Sheet Gong
Vater Wood Mallets

Karl Perazzo:
1 LP Galaxy Fiberglass Conga with Remo Fiber Skin heads
1 LP Galaxy Fiberglass Tumba with Remo Fiber Skin heads
2 LP Galaxy Fiberglass Bongos with Remo Fiber Skin heads
2 LP Tito Puente 14" & 15" timbales with Remo Fiber Skin heads
Assorted LP Hand Percussion
Sabian Cymbals:
18", 16", and 14" El Sabor Crashes
12" Hand-Hammered Regular Hats
16" AAX Chinese
18" Hand Hammered Thin Chinese
6" AAX Splash
8" AAX Splash
Slick Nut Cymbal Holders
Remo 12" Mondo Snare
Vater Drumbale Sticks

Myron Dove: acoustic guitar, piccolo bass
Modulus Piccolo Bass (4-string, played as a rhythm guitar)
(2) Framus Ruby Riot amps (one with Celestion Green G12N speaker, one with Celestion Vintage 30 G12.)
Yamaha SPX900
Behringer FCB1010 MIDI Controller
Boss DD3 Delay
Vox Wah
DigiTech X-Series Main Squeeze compressor
Summit TD100 tube direct box
Taylor NS72-CE nylon string acoustic
Taylor 614-CE steel string acoustic

Bill Ortiz: trumpet
Martin trumpet (customized by Dick Akright)
Shure Beta 98 H/C (wireless)

Jeff Cressman: trombone
custom-built Steven L. Terry trombone
w/Bach mouthpiece
Shure Beta 98 H/C (wireless)

Andy Vargas: vocals
Shure Beta 58A wireless mic

Tony Lindsay: vocals
Shure Beta 58A wireless mic

Thanks to Mike Keifer, Ed Adair, Stubby, Brian Montgomery, Davey Crockett, and David Trouse from Santana's crew.




1. kick

Shure Beta 52A

2. snare (top)

Shure SM57

3. snare (bottom)

Shure SM56

4. hi-hat

AKG C 460 B

5. rack tom 1

Shure SM98

6. rack tom 2

Shure SM98

7. rack tom 3

Shure SM98

8. floor tom 1

Shure SM98

9. floor tom 2

Shure SM98

10. floor tom 3

Shure SM98

11. gong drum

Shure Beta 52A

12. ride

Shure SM98

13. overhead stage right


14. overhead stage left


15. timbale (high)

Shure Beta 56A

16. timbale (low)

Shure Beta 56A

17. cowbells


18. congas

Shure SM98s

19. bongos

Shure SM98

20. overhead 1


21. overhead 2


22. djembe

Shure SM56

23. conga 1

Shure Beta 56A

24. conga 2

Shure Beta 56A

25. conga 3

Shure Beta 56A

26. conga 4

Shure Beta 56A

27. surdo

Shure SM91

28. chimes

Shure SM81

29. bass pedals


30. bass

Avalon Tube Direct DI

31. Leslie (low)

Shure Beta 56A

32. Leslie (high)

Shure Beta 57A

33. keyboards (left)


34. keyboards (right)


35. Mesa/Boogie (front)

Shure KSM32

36. Mesa/Boogie (rear)

Shure KSM32

37. Marshall

Shure KSM32

38. Brown

Shure KSM32

39. Carlos acoustic


40. Myron acoustic


41. trumpet

Shure Beta 98 H/C (wireless)

42. trombone

Shure Beta 98 H/C (wireless)

43. Chester vox

Shure SM58

44. Carlos vox

Shure SM58

45. Tony vox

Shure Beta 58A (wireless)

46. Andy vox

Shure Beta 58A (wireless)

47. Karl vox

Shure SM58

48. Myron gtr L

Sennheiser MD409

49. Myron gtr R

Sennheiser MD409