Andy Cherniavsky: “Charly is a super smart guy who didn’t have the intelligence to take care of himself”

A painting by Callao, near Congress, said: “Can you imagine life without music?” This sentence, which has the thunderous force of a bass drum hammering in black, could find its continuation in this other question: “Can you imagine music without images?” Often – if not always – rock feeds on the iconography that emerges from photos, backdrops, costumes, “rare new hairstyles”.

Can you imagine music without images? In national rock there are certain names that, since photography, follow the movement almost from the beginning: Eduardo marti, Alexander Kuroptawa, Nora Lezano, Ale Lopez, Andy Cherniavsky. Everyone tells the story inside: backstage, rehearsals, trips, concerts. Without these photos – these stories – rock probably wouldn’t have been so epic.

Andy Cherniavsky just published Direct access (Planeta), a book in which he tells in the first person his relationship with Argentine music of the eighties: a movement that seemed more like an infinite event where musicians explored genres, discovered rhythms, intersected in parallel formations. The book is extremely new and, to a certain extent, resembles that modern classic that is Hearts on Fire, of Laura Ramos and Cynthia lejbowicz.

“Direct access”, by Andy Cherniavsky (Ed. Planeta)

Cherniavsky was invited to Let’s read the experience —The interview cycle organized by the platform Let’s as an exclusive benefit to his subscribers – and for an hour he talked about his book. Here are some passages from the meeting.

What’s in the 80’s rock scene that is so narrable?

—The 1980s were a very revolutionary time when it came to music. It had great poetry and incredible lyrics. Much was about coming out of a ferocious dictatorship and suddenly being able to express yourself. You have to think that Luis Alberto Spinetta and Charly García’s songs were banned. Suddenly, it was an explosion of expressions. What came next was still music, but it was no longer a movement that needed to break with structures as strong as those before the 1980s.

Rock in its early days was a song that generated distrust for both the dictatorship and the leftist militancy. In this environment, which was also almost entirely masculine, you started to develop your work: what were those years like for you?

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“Personally, it took me a long time to enter that man’s world.” I never had a situation of discrimination, but internally I arrived with a certain shame for being a woman who dared to enter a world of men. I remember having a flash with a security guard, my equipment was like a huge hulk, and I was ashamed to be looked at: a mine with a massive flash taking pictures on tour with many men. I was the one who was feeling a little uncomfortable. I don’t mean that there was no sexism, but I never felt discriminated against.

Soda Stereo in the dressing rooms of Obras before jumping on stage.  (Photo: Andy Cherniavsky)
Soda Stereo in the dressing rooms of Obras before jumping on stage. (Photo: Andy Cherniavsky)

However, in the introduction, you speak of your role as “active feminism”. Along these lines, I think of María Rosa Yorio’s autobiography, which is called Murder me and the subtitle says “Rock and feminism in the 70s”.

“I read Maria Rosa’s book.” She was like the mirror of a carefree mine that got excited and went up on stage and participated in that group of men. I think it was we who dared to put our feet there and hold on. A place had to be made. Charly was someone who broke up with you. Today I feel that there is a whole super important genre happening and that, at that moment, we had not noticed.

You mentioned Charly and I remember that at a Serú Girán recital they played Bay Biscuits.

“I was on that show.”

How was it? Because before starting, Charly asks people to listen to them.

“Bay Biscuits were a very aggressive group of girls.” Celsa Mel Gowland has a lot to do with the question of the Quota Law and all those who are behind on the issue of gender struggle today were part of Las Bays: Isabel (from Sebastián), Fabi (Cantilo), Vivi Tellas. They were friends of mine, they were animators. This show was tremendous. They came out dressed and painted in silver in very rare, intergalactic attire. And the public played with everything, did not let it sing. Charly was a guy who gave a lot of space to women and was fascinated with the female figure. It was great to come to defend them. Charly was very committed to this and to the defense of the group of women outside.

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Charly García, in front of Andy Cherniavsky's camera
Charly García, in front of Andy Cherniavsky’s camera

You took pictures of Los Abuelos de la Nada and Sumo, which, although there doesn’t have to be a peak between them, face different styles and models.

– I was much more with Los Abuelos. They were cheerful, they were young, they had an incredible dynamic. Grandparents were a very creative group. I think they were discovering themselves as composers and they were also discovering that funny and friendly side. You asked me about Sumo: in fact, at that time, they were all friends and everyone had a parallel band with another. Andrés (Calamaro) was a new friend of Pettinato, Luca came home to record. There was a lot of unity and a lot of respect. All that sting, for example, between Charly and Luis was not real. There may have been some discussion at some point, but it was a huge movement, including musicians who were not rockers.

How was Spinetta as a model?

—I didn’t shoot in the studio; always live, in backstage situations, at press conferences. Yes, I worked with him making the record Time is fastby David Lebón, which are all his drawings. I knew him more as a friend. He was a super creative guy who drew incredibly well and was very funny, he was making jokes all the time. And on a musical level it was very serious.

And Charly?

“It was more relaxed.” Luis was an intellectual in the studio. Charly was more delirious. The studio was a party and Luís was very methodical. It does not mean that it is right or wrong.

It is said that Spinetta came to the studio with the whole subject in mind and Charly, on the other hand, came looking for inspiration.

-Exactly. Charly had more games in the studio, which was always full of friends. They fell and put on a voice, it was a lot of fun. Luis was much more technical, to say the least.

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Andy Cherniavsky, Nora Lezano and Hilda Lizarazu at the show "Charlie's Angels"
Andy Cherniavsky, Nora Lezano and Hilda Lizarazu at the exhibition “Los Ángeles de Charly”

At that time when rock was a threatened song, was there a photo that was censored?

—No, but there are photos in my file that I would never show because I have an ethics and because I’ve seen things many times — in rock, fashion, advertising, in all fields that I’ve traveled to — that I wouldn’t show because it would expose people.

Did you get a chance to see Charly in this recovery time?

– I love that Charly wants to recover. I’ve suffered a lot with Charly since …

From the Say No More stage.

-Yes. I suffered because in the studio I gave many crazy images, but my friend was far away. I didn’t know how to get close to Charly. I went back to see the exhibition “Los Ángeles de Charly”, which we did with Nora Lezano and Hilda Lizarazu, and it was super incredible. The three of us went out crying. I went to see him in some theaters, but I didn’t see him anymore. Charly never connects to a phone, it’s like he’s always in there. Charly is a super smart guy who didn’t have the intelligence to take care of himself and it was difficult to get close to him. What I want most is for him to be well, healthy, compose himself and have fun.

See the full interview at Leamos Experience.

Let’s read is a new way of living books and reading. A community that lives the pleasure of reading, that likes to live stories, share them, talk and debate. Every week at Leamos Experience there are new conversations with writers, musicians, politicians, actors, philosophers, psychologists. You can also participate in reading workshops and a reader club exclusive to subscribers. Get informed and start enjoying all activities right now.


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