Alex de Lacey catches up with Full Attack Band’s bandleader, Alejandro Toledo, who is not afraid to push the boundaries
Bandleader and saxophonist Alejandro Toledo is a certified globetrotter. Born in Argentina and now residing in London, his musical journey has so far taken him to the ornate climes of McGill University in Montréal – for a degree in classical saxophone – via the inner villages of east Moldova where he learned the ins and outs of its unique Balkan tradition for a subsequent PhD thesis. Each experience is of equal value, with every venture informing and guiding the work of his latest group Full Attack Band: a riotous six-piece whose resultant mix of Latin American folk, hip-hop, electronic wizardry and Balkan sensibilities is enthralling.
This mix of styles isn’t taken for granted, however, as attested to by Full Attack’s singer and rapper Fedzilla. “It’s a big stew, but we’re not mindlessly putting these ingredients in. We understand where the music came from, the meaning it has, and the power it possesses.” There is an awareness of heritage, and these influences can be seen as a homage to their predecessors: much like the practice of hip-hop producers who sample their favourite jazz records to express a shared lineage that carries cultural significance. For Toledo, too, it’s about learning through discovery, with every new pursuit imbuing a fresh sense of purpose. “I adopted new ways of thinking,” he explains. “I was experiencing these worlds of music, but changing myself through these experiences in the process.”
Indeed, this notion of a continually evolving creative endeavour underpins Full Attack Band’s album 1001, inspired by the functionality and aesthetics of the binary system, its connections to computer technologies, outer space and thinking outside oneself. Fedzilla and Toledo come from very different worlds – Fedzilla is half-German, half-Chilean and grew up in the US – but what they share is an enthusiasm for pooling together different aspects of their make-up to form something fundamentally hybrid, yet true to their understanding of the world as ‘third culture kids.’ It’s in a way much more reflective than a music that is archaically bound by the rules.
“There’s a sense of anarchy in what we do,” continues Toledo. “It’s kind of do what you enjoy, be what you are. We don’t play Latin music where you have to do two steps to the side and one step forward. It’s also dance music.” It’s this riveting and forward-thinking approach that has cemented Full Attack Band as one of the most exhilarating acts on the scene. Voraciously feeding off the atmosphere in the room, and then some, the band time and again escalate in intensity to a point of elation, that Toledo likens to an orgasm. Performing live is what they live for, breaking down norms and building the house anew with each frenetic exposition. “There’s no restriction, aside from the stage,” claims Fedzilla, “and even then we can jump off of it.”
This article originally appeared in Songlines #117. To find out more about subscribing to Songlines, visit: www.songlines.co.uk/subs