With a constantly-shifting lineup of metal heavyweights (quite literally in the case of Dino Cazares), death/grindcore merchants Brujeria hit Edinburgh for the first time tonight. They also have a much-delayed new album – their first in fifteen years – due to drop in the next couple of months. So we had a lot to talk about…
Welcome to Edinburgh, and Bannerman’s!
Yeah, it’s a small venue – like a cave. We’ve got seven members! We come on with machetes and stuff. I don’t want anyone getting stabbed!
Are you insured for that?
I don’t know!
So, Brujo, you’re a founder member of Brujeria?
Yeah, founder member, singer… Since 1989. It’s been a while!
Is this the first time you’ve played in Scotland?
Yes, yes it is. We played in England in 2007 during the “Weapons of Change” tour – the Underworld – but didn’t make it to Scotland that time. It was alright. We didn’t expect anyone there but it was OK.
You seem to be a band that gets by on reputation as much as anything else.
Yeah, ’cause we’ve never had a record company doing any advertising or anything. We’ve always done everything by ourselves. Word of mouth.
Do you think that’s going to change now you’ve signed with Nuclear Blast?
I don’t know. People do know where we’re going to be now, word’s getting around. We’ll let them do it there way and see what happens. We’re just in it for the fun, really. We’ve known the guys for a long time.
The band’s had a bit of a disjointed history, with a hiatus around 2000 for a few years. What made you decide to get the band going again?
The first ten years or so we were just doing recordings when we could. The members just kept getting busy. We’d do a couple of Brujeria singles and then all of a sudden the members all got famous. They took of touring and I never saw them again! So it was hard to get records done. Then finally, things started clearing up. After 2000 they had more time free so we could do touring. We’d only played two or three gigs between 1989 and 2002/2003. One was in a back yard. There was a fight during the first song, by the second somebody got stabbed… Once we started touring, we just kept going. Time flies.
I think the first official mention we had of a new record was in 2007, in an interview with Hongo [Shane Embury of Napalm Death fame – Mosh]. Any firm release date as yet?
We’ve been recording a record at the same time and that’s taken forever. Members were just disappearing. “Oh, my old band’s getting back together,” and off they’d go! But the records ready to go pretty much about now. It’ll be out later this year, or beginning of next year.
We recorded some songs here, some songs there… It’s cursed. One guy tries to mix it and it blows up, so someone else gets it and… it’s all messed up! It’ll be out this year, but I can’t tell you what it’s going to sound like right now! It’ll sound different to the old stuff, though. It’ll be different. The first album was on old eight track tape; for the double-kick drum, two mics went into one channel. Now it’s going to be a bit more polished. I’m old school but everyone wants more modern and digital. I gave up fighting!
You had a reputation for pretty uncompromising lyrics – drugs, sex, violence. Have you kept that for the new album?
Yeah… it used to be all “prejudice against Mexicans” and so on. There was a lot of that in the US, I met Pete Wilson – the governor of California – which kept that kind of motivation going. It’s calmed down a lot now, though. Kids today don’t have any idea how racist it used to be. It’s gone away – it’s a good thing. We’ve done the political thing, it sorts itself out nowadays. Like Donald Trump – he’s effectively committed suicide before the election. A lot of Latinos in the US are voting now which is making a difference so it’s all going good. Everything that use to get us all angry… it’s all gotten fixed.
So now, it’s stuff like drug-dealing stories. There are a couple of songs in there about that. Most of our songs are true stories that happened to us, or happened to friends. The Mexican style of writing, corrido, is like story telling. There are some Mexican bands that sound more like NWA – all drug-dealing songs, but like your mom’s listening to them. We’re writing about the same thing, but in metal. Mexican people go nuts for it; it’s a style they really love.
What can we expect from a Brujeria live show?
Acting some of the stories out. Machetes. You have to come and feel it! We have a bunch of singers on stage and everyone has their parts. It’s not just a bunch of guys standing there, there’s movement and things going on. And when the crowd sing the songs… we’ve had that happen in the Czech Republic and they must listen to them so many times to learn the words. Every show is different.
Which band members do you have touring with you at the moment?
Right now we’ve got Hongo [Shane Embury, Napalm Death], Hongo Jr. on drums [Nicholas Barker, ex-Cradle of Filth/Dimmu Borgir], El Cynico on the bass [Carcass’ Jeff Walker], Cuernito on second guitar. On vocals we’ve got Sangron who’s filling in for our original member Fantasma who can’t make it. Also Pititis, the concubine from Hell, our female vocalist. So three singers and four guys in the band.
Was Brujeria ever meant to be a touring band or was it just a fun project?
No, we only ever meant to make some records. What it was, was back in LA in 1989 there was a metal scene which included grind and hardcore stuff… there was a band call Terrorizer, and they wouldn’t let them play in the normal clubs so they’d play in back yards in the Mexican parts of town. We would go – in the back yard of someone’s house – and none of the fans there watching the show spoke English. All these Mexican, there are a lot of Mexicans in LA, so we just thought “we have to start a band that sings in Spanish! Give them what they want!”
There were issues with some of the guys – I’ve got a contract with my other band, I might be on the road… but we were only ever going to make music, we were never going to tour it. Just make music in SPanish and see how it went. We did the first record in a day at the studio. We had nothing written, we had no drummer… we just showed up. Someone who’d never played drums in their lives was playing drums! We recorded four songs and when we left we gave a copy to a Mexican kid and a white guy – one of those hardcore dudes, just someone who didn’t speak Spanish. The next day we met the hardcore guy again and he had a patch on his arm. He’d got a Brujeria tattoo! He wanted to be the first guy with a Brujeria tattoo! The day after we recorded the songs!
The Mexican guy – he didn’t speak any English – we saw him a couple of days later and he’d memorised all the words. I mean, they’re really [makes harsh vocal noises] but he’d listened to them about a thousand times and worked them all out. He was singing them to us there and that’s when we thought – this thing is gonna work!
Have you yourself always spoken Spanish?
It’s kind of a “Spanglish” – a mash of English and Spanish. If I go to Mexico, they don’t really understand me. You use the easiest word out of either language. It’s easy to learn – as long as you can communicate, that’s it!
You mentioned playing in back yards and so forth. I read in an old interview with Asesino [Fear Factory’s Dino Cazares – Mosh] that you used to pick out the scummiest, dirtiest venues. Was this deliberate?
Well, the real clubs wouldn’t want us because of a bad reputation that came from who knows where. I mean, we’d never played before so I don’t know what that came from. We’d pick some good clubs and right away there’d be protests, nuns with signs…! I thought it would be great to pick things like old, abandoned factories and make them a venue. I wouldn’t go out of my way to find them, they just seemed like a good place to have a show. You’d just know. An old theatre with a stage – perfect.
Playing some shows, particularly heading south into Mexico, you must have seen some insane shit.
Oh, those shows were great. We’d be thinking how great the show was and someone in the band would be crying! There was one in Rio de Janeiro in an old gym that hadn’t been touched since the 50’s or something. The drumkit was half on cement and half on wood. We had to get the kick drum and nail it down into the wood part while the guy was sitting on the cement part playing it. It was nailed down onto the fucking stage!
We’ve done some crazy gigs. Tables for a stage, but we’d turn up and we’d play. Some other bands might have taken one look and run. We just get off on it.
Are we going to hear any new songs tonight?
Yeah, a couple of them. They’ve been going down good, too. People like them.
Would you class Brujeria as a “supergroup”?
Nah! All our members really started in Brujeria and then went on to be famous afterwards! Like our original bassist Güero Sin Fe [Faith No More’s Billy Gould] who went on to get a massive contract and tour with Metallica and so on… that’s great, but I want to do Brujeria full time. Sure enough a month or to after we get serious with Brujeria, they get nominated for a Grammy, they’re touring… didn’t see him for three years! They don’t come into Brujeria like that. They come in with nothing, then right away it turns around for them. Some of them, their bands have been retired for ten years. They join Brujeria and the next thing you know their old band’s reformed. But that’s great, let them do their thing. I get by whatever. When we can do it, we do it. So if you see us touring you better come see the show because you never know when we’ll manage to do it again!