Oscar Lasprilla talks about Los Ampex and the Speakers
During the Beat & Psych 60’s in Colombia
By Hugo Taylor - Ravenfilm Magazine
RF: Where did you meet the members of los Ampex, were they serious players as well?
OL: The first members of Los Ampex to meet each other were Oscar L. and Yamel Uribe, at the Radio Station "Radio-Cordillera" in Bogota. OscarL. was the pianist of the program, and Yamel had a rock-trio that performed occasionally. He played the electric-guitar and had a bass-player and a drummer, they sung mostly Trini Lopez covers.
RF: In what recording studios did you record your First EP and the two subsequent LPs?
OL: Our first E.P. and our first L.P. "Infierno a go-go”, were recorded at Studio-15 record label, under the production of Alfonzo Lizaraso at the Caracol Radio station studio . Our second L.P. Los Ampex “Same” was recorded at Discos-Fuentes, at their own record plant studio.
RF: What equipment was used in the studio? What brand of instruments and amps did you use?
OL: The Radio Station had the use of 2-track Ampex machines and several mono recorders. Discos Fuentes had one of the largest and best equipped recording studios in the country in those days. They owned two Ampex 2-track machines, several others machines and good guitar amps, like Gibson and Ampeg. Past the "Golfinger’s epoch" of home-made equipment, the Ampex bought some very good quality Japanese-guitars and powerful amps in Venezuela, as Colombia's instrument shops did not sell electronic instruments equipment in those early days. (Goldfinger was the bands’ name before they became Los Ampex).
RF: What were the means of exposure for the band and the albums? Can you tell me some of the TV and Radio shows that you were involved in?
OL: The Ampex had a lot of exposure on the only TV channel available those days, we performed in the “Club del Clan” TV show as the Goldfingers. After our first recordings at Studio-15, we performed at Studio-15's show , La Hora Juvenil . The Ampex were popular on live radio since the days of the Golfingers. We played in Radio stations such as Radio-Cordillera, Caracol, Todelar, and others.
RF: How did you get involved with the Milo a Go-Go tour campaign?
OL: Milo’s tour vetting panel, chose the musical bands according to popularity ratings, the most popular and technically able acts.
RF: How long did it last and where did you tour?
OL: The tour lasted well over a year, started in the mid-1966 and ended at the end of 1967 covering most of the Colombian counties, including capital cities and smaller towns too.
RF: Can you describe the band members’ personalities?
OL: Well, starting with Oscar Ceballos (drums), also one of the original founders of the band, was a dedicated musician, experienced already in Latin-dance ensembles, had played in numerous bands around his county. In his youth he was also an "amateur-wrestling" champion at the inter-county championships.
Yamel Uribe (Bass and vocals), was a well reserved character, was studying Accounting in the days of Radio-Cordillera, was a very keen musician, had a good-voice and good disposition for learning new things. His father, being himself a folk-singer and a guitarist, taught Yamel the first rudiments of the guitar.
Jaime Rodriguez (Rhythm Guitar and vocals), last member to join the Ampex, was a happy character with little worries and cares, difficult at keeping appointments on time, but helpful and resourceful at most situations He had an excellent quick-ear, and was familiar with lower harmony-voices, a bit undisciplined guitar-strumming though. He was keen at tinkering with electronics and enjoyed repairing old radios and amps.
And last, me, Oscar L (Lead Guitar and vocals) well, I’ve been passionate about music since tender age, obstinate and meticoulus, ambitious and persevering "never-surrender" type, get up and go person, mad about keyboards and guitars since school days. My second passion is drawing and interfering with "mechanical-things".
RF: What were Los Ampex musical influences?
OL: Oscar Ceballos, enjoyed heavy Latin-bands such as Tito Puente and also the "Modern-Jazz-Quartet".
Yamel U liked to listen to Trini Lopez albums, the Beatles, and later, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Cream and Hendrix.
Jaime.R. was passionate in his early days about the South-American balladists called "boleristas", and knew most of the words to their tunes.
Later on he began to show interest in the Byrds, the Beatles, and the Beach Boys.
Oscar L was 6 years old when he learned to play the accordion by ear, as he was not disciplined enough those days to sit down and take formal music lessons. Later at the age of 9, began to take music lessons and become obsessed with classical music. In his teen-years, when first heard Elvis Presley's first recordings was stunned by all this new sound, and begun to collect all the new rock outfits and vinyl of the day. Later on came the Beatles, The Byrds, Lovin' Spoonful, the Hollies, Cream, Hendrix, the Animals, the Doors , all of the new Rhythm & Blues bands and the new modern-jazz groups, favourite then, Dave Brubeck's jazz quartet.
RF: What were your opinions about your competitors the Flippers, the Speakers and los Yetis?
OL: Well, this is not an understatement, the main 4 bands in Bogota who enjoyed the most popularity and adulation of the crowds were, the Speakers who were the oldest band and the first to make it in the scene, followed by the Young Beats, then The Flippers, and finally the new-comers, the Ampex.
All these bands that thought of themselves as being the number 1. They would not communicate with each other unless through an intermediary, such was the level of rivalry within these 4 groups. These antagonisms didn’t came to an end until they started touring together, so lodgings and means of transportation were shared with each other and the "ice” started to brake. Band members were then sharing tables at restaurants, sharing cabs, lending each other equipment gear, and some, finally becoming good friends in the end.
Los Yetis from Medellin and other groups from other counties had little or no contact with the bands from the Capital of Bogota . Everyone enjoyed success in their own regions.
RF: Were los Ampex ever a back up band?
OL: The Ampex were well known in the recording studios for their prowess and ability to assimilate quickly complex arrangements, so they became in demand in the "recording-circles" for providing backing tracks for the solo stars of the day, such Harold Orozco, Vicky, Marcel, Maria Elvira, J. Mario, Oscar Golden and others.
The Ampex became good partners with Oscar Golden and as a result we traveled to many Colombian cities performing many private engagements with him.
RF: Why did the band break up? Who were you closest to?
OL: The Ampex and also other bands began to dissolve mainly because the music scene in Colombia started to change dramatically. Certain members of the band were not interested in the changes. As a result, two members of the group who always kept up-to date with the new music, started making plans to form something modern to the style of the new in-coming music, these two members were Oscar Lasprilla and Yamel Uribe.
I got on extremely well with all of the four Ampex, but Yamel and I had the same level of knowledge of the English language, consequently we spent many hours together, translating the new tunes that just arrived from abroad or doing our own words in Spanish, keeping the Ampex's repertoire up to date.
RF: How did you end up hooking up with Roberto Fiorilli?
OL: When Yamel and I started looking for a new concept to form a new updated band, we noticed that there were other musicians in other bands were in the same circumstances as we were. During conversations in cafés and bars we got engaged in conversation a few times with Roberto Fiorilli, so he confided in us about his new fears and wishes, about the current music scene in the Country. Through various meetings and exchanges of ideas, we forged a "mutual-concept”, which was to form a new "ultra-modern group”, with a style and repertoire that nobody else would be able to emulate in the city.
This was the birth of "the Time Machine".
RF: How many members of los Ampex were involved in the Time Machine?
OL: OscarL and Yamel.U.
RF: Were you involved in a recording with some members of the Speakers under the name "Los Angeles"?
OL: I do remember doing some lobby-background music album with the new Speakers line up on our return from Ecuador, but I can not remember the pseudonym we used for that particular album.
RF: What are your recollections of the Speakers personalities?
OL: First Rodrigo Garcia, I remember Rodrigo as a Spanish accomplished musician who had a diploma studies in violin, and that while in Bogotá, took over the direction of the young Speakers on their early stage. He was a very dynamic man with great initiative and drive, but his “academic musical-background”, seemed to withhold him as a Rock musician and restrain his development in this “modern field”. However, the early Speakers owe a lot of their success to his efforts.
Humberto Monroy was an original founder and the only one from the original line-up who remained with the group until its final days. He was a very pleasant mild mannered young man, who had a good tone of voice and an exorbitant appetite for rock-music. His enthusiasm contributed in keeping the Speakers together, as he demonstrated that he had blind-faith in the group.
Roberto Fiorilli. I'm talking about the last stage of the Speakers, which I was part of. Roberto as you perhaps know, formed part of the Time Machine with me. Roberto was another great pioneer of Rock in Colombia. He was also well known in the Arts world as he was a keen canvas-painter, had a lot of contacts in the artistic circles of Bogotá, and was a very keen drummer, thirsty for all the new music that was flooding into Colombia.
He always kept in touch with his old Colombian roots regardless of being of Italian origin, always kept in touch with his old mates, even after he returned back to Italy.
RF: Who was Padre Duran and how did he manage to own instruments?
OL: In the early stages of all the bands in Bogotá, most of the bands could not afford to finance the entire gear so there was always someone who would provide a loan , this someone was sometimes a parent or a friend.
In the Speakers case, the Padre Duran, was a Priest who ran cultural programs for the youth in town. He offered them a loan when they needed to upgrade from homemade equipment to American standard gear. Immediately after this, the Speakers traveled to Miami and brought back with them new Fender guitars and amps.
The Ampex too had a "kind creditor”, a parent in this case, who helped us to subsidize our new equipment gear.
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