Although he was raised listening to salsa and funk, out gay Cuban-American singer Ariel Aparicio is a dyed-in-the-wool rocker. On his most recent CD, Aerials, Aparicio employs driving grooves that percolate with a variety of musical genres—especially rock. The CD includes "Sorry," an older fan favorite about Aparicio coming to terms with his own sexuality.
In a recent interview with Windy City Times, Aparicio talked about New York City, his album and his family (which includes husband Andrew Jerro, their son and dogs).
WCT: (Windy City Times) Let's start with your background. You were born in Cuba and raised in Miami. Just so our readers know, how did you end up a New York City boy?
AA: (Ariel Aparicio) The truth is I was dying to get out of Miami. I felt trapped.
WCT: I don't understand that.
AA: [Laughs] It'll take pages and pages of explanation for that.
So I came to New York to study at NYU. It was the only school I had applied to at that point because my mission was to come to New York ... oh, no—not true! I had also applied to an art school in Chicago back then. If NYU hadn't taken me, I would've been in Chicago. I visited Chicago a few years ago, and I would love to live there. But after I got here, I had no intention of leaving.
WCT: So what is it exactly about New York City that's so attractive?
AA: It was many things. Music has always been my passion since I was a kid, and the kind of music I was listening to wasn't [popular] in Miami. Miami has such a Latin culture, with dance music, and my loves were New Wave, rock ‘n roll and punk rock. So I would see videos and magazines about New York, with the spiky hair and lots of chains, and it was where I wanted to be.
I have to tell you the truth: The first day I came to New York [in the ‘80s] it was everything I imagined it to be. I dropped off my luggage and hit the streets; walking down the streets of New York, it was exactly what I wanted. I got to the corner of, I believe, Broadway and 8th, and I saw two guys holding hands and kissing, and I said, "Oh, my God! Here I am. I'm home." [Both laugh.] I needed to leave to be whom I am and to be truthful to my sexuality; I felt like I couldn't do that at home.
WCT: You're also a husband and father. How has being those two things changed your approach to music—or has it changed it at all?
AA: Yes, it changed it in many ways. First and foremost, it's scheduling. [Laughs] But I really see my art through my son's eyes. He's very aware that I'm a musician and he's very aware that I have to rehearsal. When I get home, he asks, "How was rehearsal, papi?" He knows all my songs, and sings them from beginning to end. That's a whole new inspiration for me.
WCT: Speaking of fathers, 2004 was a very pivotal year for you. You celebrated your 10th anniversary with Andrew but your father passed away. How much did your father know about your private life?
AA: It was never spoken but I truly felt in my heart that he knew. I left home when I was 17 and never once in my trips back to Florida or over the phone did my father ever ask "Do you have a girlfriend?" For my niece's sweet 16, I took Andrew; we all sat at the same table. My father was right next to my husband and they talked all night long, but they never talked about anything [private].
My father was a Cuban man with old traditions. I know he knew but he never spoke about it. I wish I had spoken with him about it, just to get over that hump. I think he would've come around—and I really wish he was around to meet our son.
WCT: So how did you introduce Andrew to your father?
AA: "This is my .... friend." [Laughs] But we were also business partners, having owned several restaurants. My father knew that, and he knew that we lived together.
Everyone in my family—my mother and everyone else—knows Andrew is my husband. If my father had been around now, he definitely would've known.
WCT: OK, let's talk more about music. Where did the title Aerials come from?
AA: That was my producer's idea. While we were recording and in the middle of everything, he and his family were taking a drive and he saw all of these antennas that you see out in the field; they're called "aerials." He thought that would be the perfect name for the record—and I thought it was really clever.
WCT: Yes, because it's a play on your name.
WCT: How would you describe this CD?
AA: It's the culmination of the music I've listened to all my life, and I've been trying to get to this place. It combines all the elements of the genres I listen to: rock ‘n roll and dance music. During the ‘80s, there was the whole punk-music thing that was happening. I wanted to bring all that together. I call it a dance record that's totally, totally, totally worked over by guitar.
WCT: I have to mention the song "Sorry," which I think is the catchiest song on the album. It reminds me a little bit of Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me."
AA: [Laughs] That's funny. I gotta tell my guitar player that because he's a huge Def Leppard fan.
I started writing "Sorry" in college, right after a break-up; I was dating women back then—[and this was] someone I was close to and still love dearly. But I couldn't love her the way she loved me because I wasn't being truthful in our relationship or to myself. So that's what that song's about; it's my apology to this young lady. It's very dear and close to me; it still rings very true.
WCT: When are going to tour?
AA: We're working on that now. We're trying to get some dates going. We want to go on the Pride [circuit]. I'm going to try to make it to Chicago this summer. I was there for the Gay Games [in 2006].
WCT: Going back to Def Leppard, I saw two members on television this morning. The interview asked them what had happened to rock music because it used to be the biggest thing on the radio and everywhere. Has it disappeared or morphed into something else?
AA: In that large arena scale, yes. The younger generation is listening to something else now but in the indie world, rock music lives and flourishes. There's great music out there; you just have to look a little harder for it. Since rock bands don't sell out like they used to and you have people like Justin Bieber, you have to find it—but it's there and it's amazing.
WCT: If you could duet with anyone living or dead, who would it be?
AA: My first choice would be Chrissie Hynde [who's done solo work and music with The Pretenders]. She's always been an inspiration. I adore this woman, and her voice is amazing. I recently saw her live, and she was amazing. She epitomizes rock ‘n roll—everything about her: the in-your-face attitude, the way she plays a guitar.
My second choice would be Mr. David Bowie; he's the other huge inspiration in my life. I think my favorite phase was the Thin White Duke one. It'd be an honor to sing with either one of them. I think I'd be overcome.
WCT: What do you want people to take away from your music?
AA: I want my music to affect people personally. I try to stay away from describing what every song means, but I always remember meant to me growing up and it could be far, far from what the writer intended. I want to move people with my words and with my music.