supersweet    I  urko dorronsoro sagasti Imanol G. Alcón, Andoni Etxebeste and Alvaro T. are skilful musicians. The first two were members of the mythical group Señor No. Alvaro joined them in the Chico Boom project. The three of them formed Supersweet in 2010. Last year listeners and critics combined in praising their record The Hereafter. They have now taken on a project which we fans are going to be grateful for: the challenge of playing The Who’s rock opera Tommy live. Imanol’s shaking guitar, Alvaro’s exact keyboards and Andoni’s extraterrestrial drum-playing skills, along with the trio’s wonderful voices, make Supersweet’s Tommy a compulsory live show to see over the next few months. We spoke with Imanol. Why Tommy? How did the idea come about to do a new version of the The Who’s famous work?

Last May we played with Chuck Prophet at the Bilbao Kafe Antzokia on Jerry Corral’s radio programme. Jerry directs Radio Popular’s “33 revoluciones” programme as well as the Izar & Star concerts. The idea is for artists to play their own repertoires along with that of another artist who has inspired them along the way. We knew about the concerts, and when we started thinking about who we would chose if we took part, we had no doubt it would be The Who. And all of a sudden Jerry invited us to take part in Izar & Star. Then we started thinking about which record it would be best to do. I wasn’t at all sure, but Alvaro and Andoni thought Tommy was the best option. Tommy wasn’t one of my favourite records by The Who, but I’ve really got to love it after all the work we’ve done. After doing all that work, we decided it wasn’t going to be for just a single concert, we were going to tour the whole project.

Do you like the film as well as the record?

I don’t think it’s an easy film to watch. It’s a really good reflection of English chaos and psychodelia. It’s a hard and interesting story.
Tina Turner is incredible as the Acid Queen and Keith Moon plays himself very well indeed. I don’t agree with Pete Townsend’s decision to fill the sound track with synthesisers, that distracts me from the story. It’s a film I like, but not too much. All fans of The Who should see it.

Being a rock opera can put you off a bit at first, but it’s an amazing live show. We went to the first concert you gave, at Bukowski, and people were looking at each other as if they couldn’t believe what they were seeing and hearing… Has it been hard adapting Tommy for your trio? What were the rehearsals like?

Thank you very much. Bearing in mind it was the first concert, we’re happy with the way it went. There are still a few things we have to improve on. As well as being a rock opera it’s also a very powerful live show. All fans of rock and pop,
not just The Who fans, can enjoy it. We’ve been rehearsing since the end of May. We’ve worked on the blocks of songs in the order they come in. We’ve done special voice rehearsals. Each part has been adapted for each of our voices. Andoni,
for instance, is great at doing Uncle Ernie’s voice, and he gets so deeply into Moon’s role that he does it perfectly. The best thing about doing Tommy is that we learn and get better as musicians. We’re now using registers that we
didn’t use before. And yes, it is hard to adapt those four historical rock stars’ work, especially for a trio.

Are you faithful to the original word by word, or do you give it your own feel? How would you categorise Supersweet’s Tommy?

As far as I know, there are three versions Tommy. There’s the original 1969 record, the film’s original sound track and then there’s Live at Leeds. We’ve mostly based ourselves on the third version, but we have taken some voice harmonies and arrangements from the original record. We think The Who have always shown their strength and energy in their live shows.

We were at the first concert; how many Tommy concerts are you going to play?

IIzar & Star still have to give us their dates and then, in November, December and January, we’ve got around ten concerts in different towns in Asturias, Catalonia and Galicia. We also want to play in Madrid, Zaragoza, Burgos, Leon and many other places and we want to play in Gipuzkoa again next year.

Now it’s time for the usual questions. It’s a cliché, but we’re really interested in your opinion. You all spent years in different groups.
What do you make of our current musical panorama, how do you see rock’s evolution (or involution) over the last few years?

Music has suffered all over the world, and rock music more so. We lived through the times in record companies would bring out, distribute
and promote the records. They signed you up at the concert halls you played at. Nowadays it’s really difficult to find any record company that will help you at all. Concert halls want to charge you for playing there and you have to do all the work yourself. There are some and associations which give you help, such as Etxepare Institute and Buenawista Prolleckziom´s, but many people don’t even know of their existence.
It’s hard times for the industry: the big companies aren’t all that big and there are lots of groups. New groups have a really hard time finding the right way to develop. On the one hand, there are groups with talent which develop in this crisis; then there are groups with no talent whatsoever, with no criteria, which are helped by record companies. There needs to be a reflection by everyone involved: musicians, business people, concert halls, consumers. It’s an overall sign of the times we’re living in.

Tommy: The Who’s fourth studio record and the very first rock opera. Pete Townshend wrote most of the record, there are two songs by John Entwistle and one by Sonny Boy Willianson II. It was brought out in 1969 and received conflicting criticisms. Some people said that Tommy opened the door to a whole new rock genre, while others said that the subject matter should mean it was forbidden. A film of it was made in 1975 based on the sound track. The Who’s singer, Roger Daltrey, was the lead actor.