From Big Mountain to Teaching, Local Vocalist Prepares for 2013

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 13:17

An Interview with Joaquin “Quino” McWhinney of Big Mountain

By Casey Pukl

From the incredible success of reggae ensemble Big Mountain to soundtracking NASA space shuttle launches, San Diego favorite, Joaquin “Quino” McWhinney has certainly had an interesting career. In the early 90’s, Big Mountain dominated the airwaves with their rendition of Peter Frampton’s “Baby, I Love Your Way”. They released several singles after that before taking a break in 2003. From there, Quino embarked on a solo adventure that led him not only to teaching at Olympian High School, but also to working with some of San Diego’s greatest musicians.

These days, Quino keeping busy! Read on to find out what he’s been up to lately and what listeners can expect to hear at his Anthology show tomorrow night!

CP: What have you been up to in 2012?

JW: I’m just wrapping up a 7-year hiatus. I had a little baby girl about 5 years ago, and at that time, that was when Big Mountain was about to take a break. I took advantage of the moment to finish school and start a teaching career. I’d kind of been sidetracked by Big Mountain’s success and everything. I also spent a lot of time investigating and studying music that I have always loved and appreciated, but never really had the chance to dig into.

I started to make my rounds around some of the veteran musicians here in San Diego. One person I spent a lot of time working and studying with was Jose Molina Serrano. He comes from a Chicano rock tradition. He actually grew up next to Carlos Santana when they were young. They spent a lot of time together. They were part of that whole scene of amazing musicians that came out of that era when Tijuana rock really crystallized and formed. So I sang lead vocals for his band for several years and recorded an album. A couple of our songs ironically made it onto space shuttle missions!

His first album, there was a song, “Away From Home,” that was chosen by the astronauts to listen to. It has a story with a background connection, and long story short, it went onto the shuttle Discovery for their missions! Then he was asked to compose a song for the final flight of Endeavor. So we got together and wrote a song with Allan Phillips, a well-known producer here in town. So Jose, Allan, and me, we knocked that out. The song was called “Luna Llena,” which means, “Moon” in English. It was also on the final flight in May of last year. That was an interesting development. We got to go to Cape Canaveral, and we were there the day of the initial launch, but then it was canceled. So we didn’t actually get to see it, but it was a cool time.

Another significant musical step from the last few years was that I also got together with orchestra leader, Gene Perry. He’s Puerto Rican, and he’s a conguero. I know he’s performed at Anthology many times with his salsa band, Afro Rumba.

I also recorded and album produced by Allan Phillips, and that was a real big technical achievement. Singing in Spanish and singing that music was a dream that I always had. I’m a lover of salsa. It was always something I thought I could do, I just didn’t know how it was going to happen. You put these wishes out into the universe, and next thing you know, someone turns around and says, “Hey! Want to do this?”

The opportunities I’ve had to fill out my musical experience have been so amazing. I’m Mexican-American, so the Latin music was really important to me. I’ve just had such a great time playing blues and rock. It helped me round things out. Without going back to the blues, it’s hard to even understand music as simple as reggae. It’s great to go back and play and sing blues, then work my way back up.

CP: What’s the status of Big Mountain these days?

JW: Big Mountain just started becoming active again! We did our first tour in January of this year, and we hadn’t toured since 2003. We went to Australia and New Zealand, and it was the icebreaker. We did a few dates in the fall, and then we went there. Then we did a big reggae show here in San Diego called “Tribute to the Legends” and that was in February. Ever since then, we’ve been focusing on a record. We’ve slowly started recording a new record. We’re really setting our sights on a spring 2013 release. It’s been something long awaited, and I think people will be really excited!

CP: Tell me a little about this upcoming show!

JW: You know, most of the material is going to be Big Mountain music, and some of it will be more cultural R&B stuff I’ve been doing as of late. I’ll be bringing a great band, a San Diego band. It’s a young band that I just started working with. Coincidentally, my brother who is the other vocalist in Big Mountain, flew into town yesterday, and he’ll be here for a couple of weeks. He’ll actually be there! You’ll get almost the whole real thing [laughs]. I love to perform with my brother, and we just have a natural charisma on stage. We both really appreciate each other a lot. He was too young to be on the first Big Mountain album, but once he graduated high school, I snatched him up [laughs]!

CP: That sounds like a really special show we’re going to see!

JW: Yeah! It’ll be something special for the people.

CP: What do you most enjoy about performing here at Anthology?

JW: Musicians always really appreciate a great house with great sound. We spend so much time in our lives in settings and environments that aren’t made for sound, and I think that’s something that’s neat about Anthology. You know you’ll be dealing with professionals. There’ll be professional engineers, professional equipment, and I’m really interested to see how my crowd will respond to the experience. Anthology is a very upscale and very specialized upscale venue. It’s really starting to click in San Diego. I think at first people were figuring out where it was going to fit into their lives. But it’s where you want to be when something very special is going on.

This gives me an opportunity to dress up, look nice, have a sophisticated night, and it’s just a great experience. In San Diego, there’s nothing like it. It’s a very special place. It’s a great opportunity for us to really appreciate the sound of the music. That’s what is so beautiful about Anthology. I’m really looking forward to the show.

Special thanks to Quino for his time! Be sure to come out and catch this extra special show with our local fav tomorrow night!

WHAT: Quino with LoCura
WHEN: Thursday, August 2, 7:00pm
TICKETS: $10-$23 Buy Tickets
MORE INFO: Artist Profile