Acoustic Sounds
Los Lobos
By: Michael Fremer

January 31st, 2024



Originally Seen In:


Los Lobos, America's Band—The Tracking Angle Interview

conducted in 1997 and originally published in the print edition

(This Interview originally appeared in Volume 3 #1, issue 11, Spring 1997 of The Tracking Angle magazine).

The goodies were stacked on a big table in the corner of the stars' dressing room: an industrial size sack of M&M Peanuts, big bags of Herr's tortilla and potato chips, a jar of Pace brand Thick and Chunky Salsa, fresh fruit, a ten pack of Kellogg's cereals, a plate of muffins, a cheese, tomato and deli platter, jars of Hellman's mayonnaise and Grey Poupon mustard, and some local color- loaves of Stroehmann's Pennsylvania Dutch and white bread and a big red box of Ivins' "Famous Spiced Wafers."

"Did the Los Lobos guys really ask for Pace salsa in a jar? Or did the Electric Factory people figure the beaners would expect it? If Al Kooper plays there do they put out knishes and Cel-Ray tonic?," I'm thinking. I was hungry, but I wasn't going to help myself to the band's food. If I couldn't eat it, I'd memorize it, which I did. And I waited. And waited.

Los Lobos backstage snack table

The backstage interview was scheduled for four PM but I showed up at Philadelphia's Electric Factory at three. The club, a converted, cavernous power substation, was located in an industrial zone devoid of commerce: no restaurants, no delis, no supermarkets. So I memorized and waited. Four PM rolls around and no Los Lobos. Four thirty. Now my stomach is churning and I'm thinking, "I could be at 3rd Street Records (one of Philly's best record stores) swallowing vintage vinyl dust."

I leave the dressing room and head for the stage. The sound guys are at work. You think you have trouble with ground hum and bad room acoustics? This place is brick and concrete and glass. A few minutes of "test, one TWO, one TWO, TWO, TTTWO..." and I retreat backstage.

Five PM. No Los Lobos. The color outside the dressing room window begins to turn late October afternoon orange. The sun sets and still no Los Lobos. Six PM, it's dark and no Los Lobos. "The triple bill show's gonna start in a few hours," I'm thinking, "and these guys are gonna come marching through the door in time to go on and there goes the interview."

Six thirty there's a commotion outside the door followed by familiar faces. First through, still wearing shades- always wearing shades- is the tough looking softy Cesar Rosas, followed by the great Chesire Cat face of David Hidalgo, and then the others. "Hey, man, sorry we're late," Rosas apologizes, "you must be the guy doing the interview. We were over at 3rd Avenue Records." "Well that's where I would have preferred spending my afternoon instead of sitting here waiting for you!," I replied, putting a light spin on it.

"Hey, why didn't you help yourself to something?," Rosas asks. "Not good form," I replied. "Well, we're all gonna go out and get something to eat anyway." Before I could ask about the interview the guys and the road manager and crew get into an intense discussion about where we were going to eat. After a few calls it was decided that since none of the options have less than an hour's wait, we're going to go to the band's favorite cheese steak stand.

We load ourselves into the van and with Thelonious Monk Live At The Blackhawk blaring from the car stereo, head away from The Electric Factory and into the crowded Saturday night Philadelphia streets. These guys have been doing this routine for over twenty years now, so there was nothing for me to do but sit back and watch and listen.

As if Rosas was reading my mind, he turns to me and says "Hey don't worry about your interview man, we'll have plenty of time before the show." I relax.

Cesar Rosas reading The Tracking Angle

The van fills with good natured laughter and the kind of banter where sentences don't have to be finished and a single word or a key phrase can change the direction of the conversation or create outbursts of intense emotion. These guys mesh on and off the stage, and as someone who engages in what is essentially a solitary form of creativity, I am envious of the comraderie and the positive flow of group energy. I am reminded of my raucous college days- not that these guys, all of whom are married with children, are acting like adolescents.

Over plates of greasy fries and stick to your arteries sandwiches Rosas and I discuss vintage left handed guitars. I try to keep the conversation from turning into an interview, but sitting across from someone whom you've admired on record and seen on album jackets for over a decade is somewhat disorienting, no matter how many times you've done it.

By now the opening act is on stage, but we're in the van headed toward a crowded commercial zone to go used record shopping. Now that's my idea of a good time- record shopping with Los Lobos! So we march into The Philadelphia Record Exchange, a small store packed with vinyl where I find a mint 45RPM 12" British single of Peter Townshend and Ronnie Lane's "Street In the City" from Rough Mix.

I realize I don't have one Los Lobos album, La Pistola Y El Corazôn , and go looking for it. I find a mint copy for $3.98 and take it along with a few other finds, to the cashier. He sees the Los Lobos record, and his face, lighting up like a halogen lamp, moves toward mine. He whispers to me, barely able to contain himself, "They're in the store!!!!! Los Lobos is right over there!" I burst his bubble as gently as I can and I'm rewarded with a ridiculously generous discount on my purchases.

We head back to The Electric Factory. By now the middle act, Medeski, Martin and Wood is onstage. I wanted to see them but obviously that's impossible. Bedlam breaks out in the dressing room: everyone starts changing into their stage clothing which is basically a fresh set of street clothing. Steve Berlin lays out the set's song list on a laptop computer and then begins warming up with some gut flapping blasts from his baritone sax and you can feel the energy and excitement building in the room as showtime approaches.

Finally, amidst the controlled chaos, I break out the microcassette recorder and begin the group interview with Cesar Rosas, who along with drummer and chief lyricist Louis Perez, does most of the talking. Hidalgo is content to watch from the sidelines, and bassist Conrad Lozano does what bass players frequently do- remain silent. Berlin, off to the side with his horns, throws in the occasional aside.

Despite the insane conditions under which the interview was conducted, I believe it gives you a brief but sufficiently detailed account of the Los Lobos story. While I spent but a few hours with the band, I learned a great deal about the group both from our conversations and from watching them on and off stage. When you break Los Lobos down roughly into its organic parts, Rosas is the head, Hidalgo the heart and Perez the soul (he's also the group's intellect).

Berlin, who joined up about a decade after the band formed, and who's the only non-Hispanic and I presume only Jewish member in the group, is sort of the hands and feet. No sooner did he join then he co-produced its first Slash Records release with T-Bone Burnett. It was Berlin who organized the set list that night. I was surprised by the casual indifference of the others as the sax player read off the tunes. As for Lozano, as the bass player, he's the backbone.

There was one potentially uncomfortable moment during the interview, when I was less than sensitive to an issue the band obviously doesn't want to discuss, and which I was too obtuse to understand. And that is the issue of the group's drummer. On Los Lobos albums there are almost always guest drummers: Jim Keltner, Ron Tutt, Anton Fier, Pete Thomas, Mickey Curry and others. Yet in the album credits Louie Perez is also listed as playing drums. I assumed that he was the group's drummer live, and that for some reason others were used in the studio.

I was introduced to a guy in the entourage named Victor Bisetti, and though we spoke a great deal about Lenny Bruce among other things, he never told me what he did for the group. I was surprised then, when the band took the stage, that behind the drum kit was Victor Bisetti, not Perez, who, though he played drums on a few tunes, mostly handled assorted percussion and some stringed instruments.

Los Lobos will never have an official drummer other than Perez, and for good reason, I realized, but only after the interview during which I'd pressed them uncomfortably. In retrospect, the way they handled those questions only increased my admiration for the group and for the individuals in it. It also eloquently answered one obvious question you ask a group of guys who've been together for twenty three years which is "What's the secret of staying together as a group and remaining good friends for twenty four years?" And the answer in a word is "respect."

When it was showtime, the group huddled in prayer and broke with a yell. I exited the dressing room with them and headed for the crowded floor to watch. They played a long, compact set, performing renditions of songs from both Kiko and Colossal Head which were even more ferocious and fully realized than the heavily produced studio versions. They played straight forward rock, stately acoustic ballads, Latin jazz, filled with long improvised breaks, funk, folk, blues, swing and traditional Mexican dance music. They also played "La Bamba."

Los Lobos began as a party band playing traditional Mexican acoustic music at weddings. Despite the music's increased sophistication and ecclecticism over the years, moving from roots, to roots rock to a surreal amalgam of styles, they're still a party band. The big crowd, which included college aged couples both straight and gay, 60s hippie types, clean cut preppies and others, danced and swayed throughout the set while the DAT heads who follow the Lobos around, now that the Dead are no longer, stood rigidly behind their towering microphone poles, set up in a section the group reserves for them in front of the mixing console.

Los Lobos is clearly America's best band. With a little luck, America will realize it.

Michael Fremer: You had a big hit with "La Bamba", and all of a sudden you were in everyone's face, yet you chose to come back with La Pistola Y El Corazón — a Spanish-language record. What was your thinking?

Cesar Rosas: We wanted to get away from that Ritchie Valens thing, and it seems like there [would have been] a lot of pressure if we had put out a rock record — if we had really poured it on.

MF: Did Warner Bros. pressure you to do that? To do a rock record?

CR: No. They didn't as far as I remember; they never pressured us.

Louie Pérez (interrupting): They wanted us to do a follow up to La Bamba.

CR: Really? I don't remember that.

LP: They wanted us to do that right away and we didn't want to do that.

MF: By The Light of The Moon came out before La Bamba correct?

CR: Yeah.

LP: No, it was the same time.

MF: That album sounds like an attempt at making a very commercial record.

CR: Yeah, the production of it was a little more polished.

MF: It sounded like you guys were in a production straightjacket.

CR: Well, we had just come out of How Will The Wolf Survive?, you know? And that was somewhat polished, too, and we were still kind of learning how to record. We didn't know we'd be doing it for 23 years at that point and it was still sort of, "Oh, okay, so this is the way you do it," and we were starting to get a feel for recording, what to do with it; and as every record passed, we learned.

MF: Did Warner Bros. ask you to put the song "Will The Wolf Survive" at the beginning of the record, but for some reason you chose the end? That's a very strange place to stick the title track!

CR: I don't even remember. I think we were somewhat responsible for it — Warner Bros. has always sort of left us alone — we were always sort of lucky like that. Lenny Waronker [former WB label head] and some of his people — somehow they knew that they liked us because we weren't doing very typical music — rock music — that everybody else was doing; we were sort of like a specialty item.

MF: You were originally signed to Slash Records.

CR: When we happened to get on board with Slash it was right when Warner Bros. made the deal with Slash.

MF: Which was good for you. Let's get back to the beginning. The first record you did was self-produced — it was traditional Mexican folk music.

CR: It was in the '70s. You can't buy that record anymore.

MF: When you were growing up, what was the music in your home — that kind of traditional stuff, or rock?

CR: When we first started we were rock-and-roll musicians — we were rock-and-rollers before we were a folk band. We weren't together as a band. We all came from different bands to play in Los Lobos only to perform folk music. It was all to get all-stars from rock-and-roll bands together at somebody's house to — like guys went to Dicky Betts' house to make a bluegrass group; we got together to make a folk group. That's kind of the way it was — that's exactly the way it was. In fact, we absolutely had no idea we were going to be in a band. It was all just kinda coincidence; it kinda all just fell together.

MF: Even the recording?

CR: That was four or five years after we started the band.

MF: So when you picked up a guitar for the first time, what kind of music did you want to play?

CR: I was exposed to rock and roll, but my older brother — the influence I had with the instrument is that my older brother Pete — the cool thing is, there was a guitar in the house, and a right-handed guitar, and [Pete] played Mexican instrumental music and he was kind of dabbling around with Flamenco style, and he had a couple of buddies who played really good guitar, but I liked rock and roll so I picked up the guitar and I tried to learn rock songs.

MF: How did you, a lefty, play that guitar?

CR: I played upside-down and backwards.

MF: So at what point did you realize, “Hey, I can really play this guitar — I'm really good?”

CR: I have no idea. I just have loved music since I was a little kid and my brother just kind of left the guitar — he got tired of it, and at that point I asked if I could just take it and he said “yeah” and at that point I just took the strings off and turned it the other way and I transposed the chords and I learned the other way and turned them upside down and it felt more natural.

MF: I'm sure it did!

CR: The next thing that happened was there was this teen post — it was kind of a huge space where you could go and they had boxing and sports and they had music lessons, and they had this one teacher there and it was free and there was this guy named Dave — I don't remember his last name. I remember going there one day after school to shoot pool with my friends, and one day on the way home I was walking out and the door was open and it said “free guitar lessons.” So I got my guitar and I asked [Dave] if he would teach me and he said “yeah” and that's where I learned how to play guitar. And I learned what I was playing! See I already knew the chords. I just wanted to know what they were called.

MF: Now on that first record you did, there was no reverb, and you were right on the microphone.

CR: Oh, have you heard it?

MF: Well, there are a few tracks on the two-CD set [Just Another Band From East L.A.]. You had to have known you were a good player at that point!

CR: Well, you see, by that time — that was 1977 — Dave [Hidalgo] had been playing like that since he was 10 and he was playing Albert King and shit. He was trying to learn Cream and all that stuff, and I was going over and listening to him play.

MF: The playing on that first record was virtuosic. Okay, let me quote some lyrics from your first Slash EP (And A Time To Dance): “What's a man to do/ When a woman wants it all from you/ Says if you want to be my man/ Quit that band and stop acting like a fool.” Was that autobiographical?

CR: You better ask these fellows here...[everyone laughs].

MF: Were you guys married at the time?

LP: Well, we were just starting to get on the road and, yeah, we were married.

MF: So now it's 27 years later and you're still on the road and you're still happily married?

CR: Yeah! And we're still singing that song!

MF: And your spouses still accept the fact that you're out "carousing" on the road?

CR: Yeah!

LP: Carouse? You should of seen us back then!

MF: This is carousing for me, that's the sad part about my life.... Okay, now how did that EP end up getting co-produced by T-Bone Burnett and your then-new sax player, Steve Berlin?

CR: Fuck if I know!

[At this point either Steve Berlin or someone else says something to the effect of, "The white man screws us again!" and everyone cracks up.]

MF: I was waiting for that — now what did you think you were getting into when you opened for Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols at The Olympic?

CR: That was hard!

MF: Did you know what you were getting into?

CR: Yeah, fuckin'-A right, we knew what we were getting into! It was funny, 'cause we were playing folk music — I don't know if you know this — this is before we were rockin' out; we were doing what we were doing on the folk record. That's what we went out there and played in front of all these punkers, man.

MF: Did they throw stuff at you?

CR: Oh yeah! Bottles — they spit, they did everything.

Steve Berlin: That's the first time I saw them. I was at that show — in the audience!

MF: You saw that show and you felt that you belonged with these guys.

SB: There was so much noise, I hardly heard anything.

MF: Oh, that's good! And you were playing sax; how did you figure that would blend in with what they were doing?

SB: At that point I never thought I'd see them again. I thought they'd be lucky to live!

MF: So how did you hook up?

LP: How long after that was the Blasters show?

SB: Six to eight months? A couple of months later they opened for The Blasters, who I was in at that point. I saw them play and we just became friends.

MF: They asked you to join, or did you push your way in?

SB: No, it was more like osmosis. One day I had a gig with both bands and I didn't show up at the Blasters gig.

MF: That's good!

SB: They didn't notice.

MF: Why are there so many guest drummers on your records?

LP: Because I'm a guitar player. I think what happened in the ’70s with all the disco kind of stuff — all the drummers became, like, machines? So that kind of drumming became a prerequisite....

MF: And how did you feel about that? Was that pushed on the band?

Unidentified voice: The White man again! [Laughter]

MF: That was pushed on the band....

Unidentified voice: The evil White Demon! [More laughter]

MF: [Changing the subject] Have you guys heard The Plugz's soundtrack to the porno film "New Wave Hookers"?

Unidentified voice: Alright! Yeah, we have.

MF: That's a great soundtrack! The picture's not bad, either. Hey, where'd that song "I Got Loaded" come from? I had never heard that before.

CR: Little Bop & the Lollipops — from Lafayette Louisiana — about 1965. It's a cover. You should hear the original — it just puts us to shame.

MF: After listening to all of your records I had this idea: what would you think about Van Morrison Sings Los Lobos?

CR: Actually, I'd have to think about it, but I could see him singing a couple of our songs. You know, Elvis Costello has done some live. T-Bone Burnett has sung some of our songs. I could see it. Van is a great vocalist — one of the greatest of our time. I don't think he will, but it would be a great honor.

MF: "One Time One Night" is a very gentle protest song, but beneath all the hard images it sounds very optimistic.

CR: Ask these guys [Pérez and Hidalgo] — they're the writers.

[Bedlam ensues in the room. Berlin starts blasting away on his baritone sax and the interview grinds to a halt.]

MF: This is the worst fucking interview I've ever tried to conduct! [Laughs] Are you as optimistic now as you were then?

LP: Well, I'm working on being not so cynical.

MF: That song was cynical?

LP: That digressed into cynicism. Now I'm working my way back to being more hopeful.

MF: What is it like being on the road, being married, being older guys — what's it like?

CR: It's like this [takes out a package of Rolaids and puts it in MF’s face]. Well, you know what? We hate the road.

MF: But you love playing and you have to be on the road to support the record, right?

CR: Yeah, we love playing, but being on the road is pretty difficult. We have families and it's hard leaving your family behind and we all have young ones. The road is physically hard. This tour seems like nothing. You know, we're doing 18 shows and one day off.

MF: But you try to book it so it’s concentrated and then you have time off.

CR: Yeah, that we do.

MF: Okay, I want to talk with you about the working relationship you have with Froom and Blake. People say it’s like a George Martin thing, that they're doing all of this stuff....

CR: Yeah, it's pretty much like that.

MF: Well, like on Kiko, whose idea was it to add the sounds of a scratchy record behind one track and all of the other effects-type-things? Yours or theirs?

CR: It's a collaboration of us and them, you know? It's like, we all kind of grew together, because when we did the Kiko record we were kind of messing around with — it was the first record where we just kind of said, “Fuck it, let's forget everything we've learned and just do things that are wild and not be afraid to do things, not be afraid to record a certain way, and we're going to mess around with different sounds.” So as we went along we kind of fed Tchad and Mitchell ideas, and they fed off of us, I guess.

MF: And so you were saying you want “something that sounds like this,” and they were saying, “How about that”?

CR: “Yeah. Yeah. Yeah! We like that! Stop! Stop! Stop!” They were into it too, you know? Tchad is really creative that way, he's really —

MF: Did you ever worry that they were going to run away with you? That they were going to take over and it was going to be their record?

CR: No. Because I think the final way the records come out, we're really pleased with them, you know? We've gotten to a place now where we sort of have such a great relationship with that certain sound we have with them, that it's like we really trust them — [with] everything. Now it's like, “Yeah, do that thing!”

MF: Colossal Head has more of a jam quality to it. Kiko sounds more produced; it sounds like you spent more time with it.

CR: Well, no. I like to think of the record as an extension of Kiko in a way that sounds like we're still messing around, but the other material [Kiko] wasn't as rockin', you know? It wasn't as up. It was more dreamy. This one's more aggressive.

MF: Where does that aggression come from?

CR: We like to rock, you know?

MF: Well, The Neighborhood is like a folk record, a lot of gentle stuff.

CR: Yeah. You know, another difference between Kiko and Colossal Head is that Colossal Head was done in a shorter period of time and it was more spontaneous. Kiko was thought out just a little bit more than this record. A lot of the tracks are really more live on Colossal Head. It's like we go over the song a couple of times to learn it, then, you know, “Start the machines, count it out” — we just went for it. “Fuck it, let's do it!” More play — and that was intentional. That's what we wanted to get.

MF: You know Max Fleischer’s cartoons?

CR: Yeah.

MF: Those records remind me of Max Fleischer cartoons.

CR: Oh wow.

MF: That wouldn't insult you, would it?

CR: No!

MF: Would you like to score a cartoon?

CR: That would be cool.

MF: I want to go back to The Neighborhood, which Larry Hirsch recorded. In the sense of documenting a band playing live in a room, that strikes me as your best recording.

CR: Yes, I agree with you. More organic, more of a folk record.

MF: Where does that song dedicated to the children of the St. John of God School for Special Children in Westville, New Jersey come from?

CR: You gotta ask Louie, man. Louie and Dave write 90 percent of the body of work.

LP: My wife contributes to many different charities, and she came into the room and I was looking for inspiration and this thing had come in the mail and it was a note card with the name of the school and I thought about what the whole school was about and then just sort of spun this little tale about a kid who has this problem, and then I told David about it and he got really excited and it was just one of those things that wrote itself.

MF: Do you like that record? It's a very different sound for you.

LP: Yeah, it's different. It's us trying to still kind of shake La Bamba — it was kind of like a long process. Our first reaction was to go back to the beginning and retrace our steps because we were all trying to screw our heads back on.

MF: It wasn't comfortable to have a hit with "La Bamba" because it was sort of a novelty item?

LP: Yeah, really. Commercially it eclipsed everything we'd done prior to that. It was the culmination of all of our experience playing in garage bands and then years of playing rock music, putting Mexican music aside, kind of entering the stream again with the punk-rock thing and the whole music community, the comraderie, and making a couple of records and finding ourselves all over the United States, and then all of a sudden, "La Bamba."

MF: Did you feel kind of cheapened?

LP: No, we didn't feel cheap. We didn't lose sight. But everybody kind of had this funny, kind of twisted kind of vision of us, you know?

MF: They kind of tried to put you in a box?

LP: It was easy for them to put us there.

MF: And you had to claw your way out.

LP: Yeah. We could have gone in the direction of "La Bamba" and we could have ended up with "Los Lobos' Mexican Village" in Branson, Missouri, and at that point we figured we had to go back to what we were doing, and I guess La Pistola... was about, like, throwing the proverbial monkey wrench in the works. And then The Neighborhood was kind of an overkill reaction. When we took that thing on the road we had, like, the Marshall amps way too loud 'cause we're rock guys. We wanted to interpret it loud. Then we met Mitchell and Tchad and they helped up to get to another chapter.

MF: You began using the studio as a tool — not just as a place to document the band.

LP: Yeah. We screwed around with technology. We found in Mitch and Tchad people who didn't take it as literally as most people had. They went in and said, “Hey, there's no formula” — we always believed that, you know?

MF: On your earlier records it sounds like the rhythm section is put down first — Jerry Marotta, or Ron Tutt — the beat is put down first and you guys had so much more to give, but you were in a rhythmic straightjacket. Now you have these heavily processed studio records. How do you take these songs and do them live? I guess I'm gonna hear that in an hour.

LP: Well, we've been playing together for so long, and we didn't have a Saturday off between 1973 and 1981. The way we tell it, if you're a Mexican American and you got married between 1973 and 1981, we probably played at your wedding. It's an intuitive thing. We just reinterpret again. As long as we don't beat ourselves up trying to sound exactly like the record.... There's a Zen story about how it's better to approximate and maintain all of the soul than to make a lifeless duplicate.

MF: Ah yes. The CD versus LP story.

LP: I think our approach to the studio now is that it is a tool and that it is a different medium — it's all about expressing yourself. The studio is just another way of expressing yourself. Mitchell and Tchad — and I don't think I'm discounting them — they've admitted that they learned a great deal from us.

MF: Have you thought about doing a live album?

LP: Yeah. It's overdue. We kind of reclassified ourselves by the live stuff we threw on the two-CD set. Those things were recorded in Holland using 24-track recorders. Even if it's a radio taping they bring out stuff like that. I think the only way we would do it is if we had some kind of small transport and recorded every night and see what happens.

MF: Well, yeah, you wouldn't want the pressure of recording a one-nighter! And you'd want to do it in a smaller-sized club. So who's your audience today, do you know?

LP: We're not too sure. With our first record we had this huge college following of alternative rockers and we had stage-diving going on. We had hard-core kids and new-wave kids. Then "La Bamba" hit and these kids went, “Well, they're not cool anymore.” Then that went away and we kind of found ourselves in this funny kind of grey area again. You see, when we first made our way across town to play in the Hollywood clubs, like when we opened for The Blasters, they couldn't understand what was so exciting about us. They were like, “Stage diving?!” It could have been The Circle Jerks up there. And then back home [in East L.A.] everybody said, “What are they doing over there?”

MF: Isn't that amazing? In the United States you go across town and all of a sudden its, “What are you doing there?”

LP: Yeah. And with "La Bamba," with our audiences, we kind of felt like we were in the same place again, where there were all these people coming to see our show expecting to see "The Ritchie Valens Show," and it didn't happen. And we had all the others — the core following — going, “Okay, next!”

MF: No wonder you went back home, musically speaking. So what is a good-selling album for you?

LP: For us? We're not selling any records.

MF: Kiko didn't sell?

LP: Kiko did really well.

MF: What is really well? 50,000? 100,000?

LP: No, about 250,000.

MF: That's respectable.

LP: We never used to have any airplay. But now with the AAA [Adult Alternative] format, we're getting a lot of airplay for Colossal Head. But since April, since the release date, we've only sold around 100,000 copies. That's like, “Okay, all this time it’s like, radio is the thing we're trying to crack,” and we finally do....

MF: Well, maybe they don't hear "songs" in the standard sense. The record is more of a charging, jazzy kind of thing. But the record will have “legs,” I think.

LP: As long as the record company stays with us!

MF: By the way, do you know how many records are out there right now with pictures of robots on the cover? Whose idea was that?

LP: Actually that was Steve's idea. I've been art-directing most of them.

MF: Well, that's a real problem. I must have gotten, in the last six months, about 10 different groups with robots like that on the cover. I swear to God! To see you guys in that pile is very strange! It's not terrible, but for a distinctive group, it's not a distinctive cover!

[After a pause in the interview, I sat down again with Cesar Rosas to talk about his home recording studio.]

MF: So what's in your studio?

CR: I have a small studio and I have a handful of outboard tube stuff. I have a pair of Manleys, I have a pair of Neves, a pair of tubed Siemens, the ones that came out of The Beatles' studio. I have a tubed compressor. I have that new Peavey stereo tube mic preamp, and I track with that stuff first.

MF: What kind of recorder?

CR: I got ADATs, which is really why I have a lot of tube stuff.

MF: Warm it up a bit?

CR: Yeah.

MF: Most of what you do there is demos?

CR: No. I make albums there. We've done a handful of movies that we've scored there. We've done the Desperado soundtrack there. We've done a new movie called

"Feeling Minnesota" with Keanu Reeves and Cameron Diaz. We did this thing for HBO or Cinemax called "The Wrong Man," and we've done some Levi's commercials. We did the theme song to a sitcom, “Common Law.” I produced several records there.

MF: So that must be fun. You get to stay home and work.

CR: Yeah, it's great.

MF: So are you scoring scoring or just doing background stuff? Are you scoring cues and hitting action?

CR: Oh, yeah!

MF: So you've got time code and all of that?

CR: Yes. We've been getting into that in the past couple of years and learning to like it. It's a lot of hard work, but we appreciate it. It keeps us calm.

MF: And you do it as a group effort?

CR: Right.



  • 2024-02-01 10:59:25 AM

    Lemon Curry wrote:

    This is a GREAT interview from a time when I was seeing the band quite often in the NYC area. I find their opinions about Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake to be VERY interesting. Perhaps this is heresy, but Colossal Head, despite its highlights, begins a period of what I perceived as studio self-indulgence with heavy amounts of processing (distortion, compression) and discordant musical sounds that seemed, to me, to lack context or rational. I disliked that they ever bumped into these guys. Deeply. Their Beatle-esque rise to Kiko was truly special. Colossal Head should have been their Revolver or Sgt Pepper, but it hit like a weird left turn on the way to the peak of greatness.

    So special tho that you caught them in their element, at that time. A true historical nugget.

  • 2024-02-01 12:31:07 PM

    Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

    I loved this interview - it rings of the indie chaos of the 80's and 90's that simply are gone today- and miss them as its been a bit that I've caught them live. I do hope they come to Summerfest in Milwaukee this year! I've been a fan since I was 14-15 with 'Wolf' (those meaty riffs), especially singing along with "...Time to Dance", and "By the Light..." great guitar tones. I remember their IRS / MTV series "The Cutting Edge" with REM, Chilli Peppers and Los Lobos. I loved Kiko but I could never bring myself to buy it, despite singing it all the time. I regret the many times I wussed out and still failed to buy it. Here's to hoping 2024 is a fruitful and blessed time for Los Lobos (and the rest of the world to enjoy it).