This month at Intelatin, I am featuring the work of three songcrafters in three different genres: Georgian Rock and Roll, Franco Cuban Arthouse and Andes Step. Seemingly, these three different artists are unrelated but I believe that they make sense in this hour of words and song. Music for the podcast is performed by Chancha vía Circuito, Snoop Dogg with The Doors, Lera Lynn, Allman Brothers, B52s, REM, Indigo Girls, Drive-By Truckers, Ibeyi and Nicolá Cruz.
The Musical Memoir of a Mexican Being Raised in California
My first musical memory is of the trios at Las Mañanitas in Cuernavaca, Morelos, México. At the age of 3, I did not know that Las Mañanitas was a luxury resort, I just thought that those relaxing sounds of trios in beautiful tropical gardens were the sounds of México. From the age of 4 until the year KISS entered my life, my father was in control of the turntable. We listened to Mexican music like Los Tres Ases and Agustín Lara but also international artists like The Beatles, Kraftwerk and Mina.
At the age of 8 in 1981, because of MTV and Tower Records, my musical life changed. I lived in a cul de sac in Mission Viejo on the same street where I went to Castille Elementary School. Every heshian and stoner in Mission Viejo lived on this street: Ron Cast, Dustin Utterback, Cody Mascola, The Francsyk boys, the bassist from Gadnium, Brian Godshaw, Nick Russell and Suzy Nesmith. There was a low brick wall that we could climb that led us to a supermarket called Alpha Beta where we would steal half smoked cigarettes and bring them back to the only house in the cul de sac where both parents worked. We would gather around the TV or the turntable and listen to heavy metal and smoke.
Def Leppard: Pyromania. Quiet Riot: Metal Health. Judas Priest: Defenders of the Faith, Van Halen: 1984, Ratt: Out of the Cellar, Motley Crue: Too Fast for Love, Scorpions: Blackout, Rush: Moving Pictures, Iron Maiden: Killers and Ozzy Osbourne: Blizzard of Ozz. It was a radical time. From age 8 until about 13, we were out in the streets all day and night and all we cared about was when they were going to play the next great song on MTV. In Junior High and High School, I got a little more specialized in my musical tastes: Metallica, Iron Maiden, Slayer and Testament were the primary players but I diversified and began listening to new romantic music from England as well. Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, Culture Club, Spandau Ballet, Thompson Twins, Bow Wow Wow, Depeche Mode, George Michael, The Cult, Paul Young and basically anybody featured on Bob Geldof’s Do They Know its Christmas track. I loved them all. Not a black or brown person in sight. Ever. (There is a reason why MTV purposely failed to play black or brown artists for the longest time. Read: I Want My MTV by Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks)
At around 16, I started falling in love and things changed. Even though I mostly listened to metal, I didn’t want to play metal on the nylon string guitar that my aunt Nona had bought for me. The electric guitar that my cousin Octavio had given to me in Mexico City had died in a fire at Castille Park when Dave Hada and I acted out our best Jimi Hendrix impersonation. I decided that I wanted to play boleros and ballads. But I didn’t want to sing them in Spanish because my Spanish was considerably more limited than my English. I sat Dave Hada down at my house and explained my concept to him: A Hapa and a Mexican, like Simon and Garfunkel, playing boleros in Mission Viejo. We would be called Laliahounds and we would play Glossolalias. Hada wasn’t feeling it but he played with me in the closet and then played in a cover band called Stranger out in public.
When I got my driver’s license, I got a job at the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach as an usher and as the assistant for Thurl Ravenscroft (the voice of Tony the Tiger.) It was in the Irvine Bowl where the performances happen that I met Aaron Broering. A beautiful boy with a golden voice. He was perfect for the Laliahounds. I approached him to be the singer of the band and he felt it about as much as Hada did. We performed one show together where we did two Eagles covers and Wicked Game by Chris Isaak. Aaron went on to become a professional musician and front multiple cover bands. When I went to college at UC Santa Barbara at the age of 17, I went through an incredibly volatile relationship with a beautiful gal. Inspired by Jeff Buckley’s Grace album, I thought it would be possible to continue on alone and make a name for myself as Chief Ten Dogs.
During this time, I added a few more singer songwriters to my collection: Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Lenny Kravitz, Ben Harper, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Jerry Garcia, Cat Stevens, Elvis Costello (Era: Mighty Like a Rose), Carlos Forster, Tom Waits, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Perry Farrell, Les Claypool, Jerry Garcia, Daniel Lanois, Hope Sandoval, Lalo Guerrero, Morphine, Ray LaMontagne, Sade, The Doors, Tracy Chapman, and others. For the most part, my 20s and 30s were spent listening to the same old music that I always loved. Id go deeper and deeper into the catalogs and branch out to the influences of the musicians that had already caught my attention. On April 26, 2011, a sound broke through the stasis: Chancha vía Circuito, Quimey Neuquen on KCRW’s Today’s Top Tune. I began to go deeper into this sound and found ZZK Records.
It was Grant C. Dull at ZZK Records that brought me back to the modern era by sending me albums by Frikstailers, Tremor, La Yegros, El Buho and Barrio Lindo, and all the other artists on their roster including Nicolá Cruz that comes out later this month on Intelatin. I am indebted to El G for being my personal Tower Records for the last five years. I am hopeful that his Indiegogo campaign is successful so that he can keep gasoline in the engine.
The only other musical moment that I have had recently was when I watched Los Viajes del Viento by Ciro Guerra. In a lovely scene from this beautiful film, the characters fall into the Colombian jungle and find a group of men chanting a bullerengue called Mercedes. In my perfect world, my new music would be played in bullerengue beat and there would be strong visuals to support the sounds. The music of Ibeyi featured on this show comes closest to showcase the new efforts of radical musicians making gains in 2015.
Next month on Intelatin, I take a closer look at Ciro Guerra’s new film, El Abrazo del Serpiente starring Brionne Davis. Thank you for listening to our podcast.
About Intelatin: The radio broadcast for Intelatin was started in 2012 at California State University Long Beach as outreach for their majority Latin@ campus. The broadcast aired on KBeach Global and KKJZ 88.1 FM. It podcasts in 2015 on iTunes and Audioboom. The next Intelatin episode will be released at the end of July. Connect on Twitter: @Intelatin.