L uis Jorge Mercader Aguilar was born in 1949 in Barcelona, although he has gone down in history as Gay Mercader. His family background is dense and striking, as exemplified by Ramón, the second cousin of his paternal grandfather who assassinated Leon Trotski in Mexico in 1940, or María, his actress aunt who married the Italian director Vittorio de Sica. But above all, he is having been a pioneer music promoter and being responsible for placing Spain in the international pop and rock market. In this sense, he was responsible for bringing Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, The Police or Patti Smith for the first time.
“I admire Rosalía, she comes up with a concept that no one has ever done before”
Retired for more than thirty years from the mundane urban noise, he lives on a large estate between La Selva and El Gironès. In 2006 he sold his promotion Gamerco to the giant Live Nation. The latest public chapter of his fascinating resume is that he has just been the first music promoter to receive the Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts. In that privileged environment and with his provocative and torrential speech, Mercader continues with very clear ideas.
Did the Ministry’s Gold Medal surprise you?
I liked. I have never expected anything; I didn’t get into this business to be famous or to earn money, even though I wanted it to live in the country, or to win prizes.
In fact, in the musical field you have hardly been recognized.
Never never. First, I live out of the way because I’m not big on cliques. I’ve been here for 32 years and before when I lived in Barcelona my house is past the Vallcarca bridge. It is a neighborhood that I love because it is indefinite since it is neither posh nor not posh. In any case, I didn’t buy anything until I was forty-something years old because I reinvested all the money I earned: in keeping the exclusive of the Badalona pavilion, of Anoeta, the Monumental bullring… Me, before Live Nation or someone else , I already understood that the trick is in the exclusive of the premises.
More than the artists?
The next one to follow me in weight in this business was Neo [Neo Sala, fundador y director de la promotora Doctor Music], and he started in 1982 with Obús while I was playing the Stones at Atlético. And I have to say that Neo, who we hit it off now after years of visceral hatred on his part, is the toughest nut to crack I’ve ever come across. He is like me, he is obsessive and able to work 28 hours a day, which is what success requires. I’ve never taken a vacation, especially not in August, and that’s why women leave me. Inka Martí, with whom I lived here for ten years, told me one day: ‘I would like to go to India’, and I told Paqui, my assistant who has been with me for thirty years, to get two tickets, one for Inka and the other for her mother…
In fact, there are already seven women who have left him. Isn’t that a very high price?
All pussies are vertical, and if you have money, you always have one. And it’s not a sexist view. If you put morality, ethics and these things, they tell you ‘but what are you doing’, but if you look at it biologically, you see that it is the hen that puts the straw in the nest, and that in fact the male is only necessary for fertilize. I have the theory that women are pussy-centric, basically because biologically they are the ones that reproduce, they live longer. The women hate each other, they compete with each other because everything revolves around the same thing. But, hey, guys are all the same: if you simplify it, basically most of them revolve around cars, women and sports. I must be anomalous, because I am not interested in cars or sports, although women are another story. I’m passionate
Could it be said that in practice he has been unable to make them happy?
No, because I talk to everyone. There is a well-known phrase that says that women are like toast, you have to spread them; When I separate I always leave them well smeared.
My last wife is Ukrainian and very patriotic. She recently had her brother killed and she decided to go back to Ukraine a couple of weeks ago with her mother, who we had staying here. I had a separation of property, and I have been with my lawyers and advisers for a month and a half to give them money so that the Treasury does not jump on me, to prevent them from doing a Lola Flores with me. In the end we got him to receive money in Ukraine. In this sense, yes, I spread the toast.
I go back to the beginning: does recognizing you with that Medal mean recognizing that staging concerts is also art and/or culture?
I’m going to say a savage thing, the way I like it. If we consider Coldplay culture, turn it off and let’s go. But with them the Mona Lisa effect has been produced, that is, you have to go see them, and that’s what people have called me who would never go to a concert wanting to go see them. Like those millions of morons wanting to get into the room to see the Mona Lisa. Mental disturbance. I believe that we are entertainment; if you want culture, go to the Prado or any library. I do appreciate being recognized, because for thirty-something of the 52 years I’ve been in the business I was the devil. Now lately I am Jesus Christ: not so much and not so little. I appreciate it because we cannot forget that rock and pop producers move more people than film or theater producers. It’s a thank you to me and what I represent.
That same government has also given the green light to the Artist Statute.
This is essential. After all, I am at the top of the pyramid when I do something but below nothing could be done without the technicians, those who assemble… and during the pandemic they were two candles. And that’s okay, because it’s not logical that these people, including the musician, pay the same tax as someone who has a salary, because they only get paid when they have a gig. And this makes you see that there is no music industry here. It was about time that the Statute was made; In this I have always been very politicized and very much to the left. I always vote socialist although I should vote for Vox because, apart from being mentally ill, they would take away my taxes. Although, in mental retardation, the independentistas surpass them.
The increase in the price of large concerts is very topical. Is it not desirable that prices are affordable for the vast majority?
Let’s see. Most of the time I’ve been a promoter I’ve fought to keep prices down. Except with the Stones on one occasion, I always kept prices as low as possible. As for Dylan, it took me so long to have it, not because he didn’t have it within reach, but because they asked me for an amount of money that was not acceptable here. Today we are more aligned with European prices than before, and this without forgetting that we are in a free market. I was also a pioneer in selling my company to Live Nation, though I resisted for many years because we didn’t need the money. So, for a while I fought over the issue of tickets but then Michael Cohl came along, who was the one who did those world tours for the Stones that lasted several years, among others, and he said something that made me think: if there’s a resale it’s because we have put the entrance too cheap.
Can such high prices not become immoral even if there are those who can pay them?
José Luis de Vilallonga has a very good phrase: money never has to offend. And we are in a society that spends the day offending, like Cristiano Ronaldo driving around with a car that costs ten kilos. One day I told Sting that if you’re okay and life has smiled on you, you have a moral obligation to help the most disadvantaged, and he answered yes, that ‘we’re here to be kind’.
The success of styles such as urban styles and the way of consuming music have transformed a scene that has little to do with its beginnings.
Of course. When I brought Genesis back in ’75, Peter Gabriel told me that one day there would be keyboards in washing machines. I think necessity sharpens wits, always has. But I find that in the music of today there is little uniqueness. I admire Rosalía, what she has done is unthinkable. She has also succeeded practically since Sant Esteve Sesrovires; when she jumped, the rocket was already launched. Also, when she appeared in the Goyas singing Los Chunguitos I was amazed, it seemed the best; and the badly I love it. What she does now is not my style and I didn’t go to the concert in Barcelona, but she approaches the public with great familiarity and she does it with a concept that no one has done before her, so shameless.
Do you miss the time when you appeared as promoters compared to today?
Now I am not interested in anything because this business has become very boring. In fact, currently going to a concert is a drag. Before, we changed things and you knew it was important. Be careful, that does not mean that the goal of our work is to get the public excited, but before, apart from this, I knew that you played balls. I remember that my father, who, although we lived in Paris, worked a lot with British reinsurance companies, came one day saying that one of his colleagues was freaking out because one of the Rolls Royces parked on his street in London belonged to one of the members of the Beatles. That day something clicked on me because I thought that those of us with long hair were giving it up the ass. This was the good part of being a promoter. We had the censorship that forbade us, censored, vetoed, because they didn’t like it: send balls that Bob Marley be banned from us in Madrid for being subversive. And now I see that socially, especially in those times, we were a spigot like the one on the teapots: for two hours people would let off steam and go home more meek. On the other hand, being a promoter is now the same as being a singer, that is, your parents take you to see if you succeed in The voice.
How do you see Barcelona as a musical capital?
First, say that what has been done with the Pedralbes festival is immoral. On the other hand, I think that Barcelona is not the host within the circuit, although it is in a good place to cross because it is next to the border, and it has never disappeared from the map. And I repeat what I said recently and that is that Barcelona is an incredible city because it has survived even Ada Colau. The only time the city was interested in culture was when my relative Pasqual Maragall was in power. Let Martín Pérez tell how she went to the festival in previous years. Or what Sergi Caballero from Sónar said about how, in the first edition with her as mayoress, he told them that culture doesn’t matter. And then we have the famous law of the Generalitat that you have to make parity to be able to receive aid, don’t bother me. This is leadership. Now it will turn out that the macho are the ones of the music and the others are not.