Before their first live show in London since 2007, vocalist Juan Brujo of Mexican-themed death metal/grindcore legends Brujeria sits eGigs down for an interview regarding Carcass frontman Jeff Walker's involvement in the band, the release of their first album in over 15 years and his opinion on the violent narcos country music currently taking Mexico by storm.
How has the tour been so far?
It has been surprising. We've been getting a lot of big responses. We weren't ready for it, I guess. Edinburgh, we blew them away. The presale was like ten tickets and we were like: "What's going on?!" and then it was sold out and the place went nuts. It was like a little microwave oven too, like a little cave. It was really wet and dripping rain. It was a really good show.
Last year, you released your single 'Ángelchilango'. This is the first single from your forthcoming album.
Right. That had to go out in a hurry because of the World Cup and 'Ángelchilango' is about Mexico winning the World Cup, which is funny. It went out in a hurry because we were supposed to have the album out by then but it wasn't ready so we did one song and threw it out as is, just in case Mexico wins [laughs]! It was pretty fun getting it together. There will be a better version of it on the album but it was good trying to get it out in time right went the World Cup was happening. What we did find out was that metal and sports don't mix too well out there in Mexico. Metal and sports don't mix at all. The sports guys were like: "That's a great soccer song," and the metal guys were like: "What is this shit?!"
There's no overlap between the two?
No overlap, no. The overlap was the 2,000 records we sold[laughs]. But it's funny.
You said your new album was supposed to come out then but it was delayed.
To get everybody together to work on it, it's like: "Oh, I gotta tour," or whatever so I'm not going to stress over it. When it happens, it happens. I'm a laid back guy who doesn't care.
So with Adrian Erlandsen, Shane Embury and Jeff Walker…
Yeah, Jeff Walker would be the last guy to leave Brujeria. I think the only thing he loves in the world is being in Brujeria. You'll see him with a cowboy hat on stage. He showed up to the first practice when we said come join us and he hadn't done anything in ten years. He shows up and he's wearing a cowboy hat and a cowboy shirt and I look at him. "It's not a dress rehearsal!" He just was wearing that stuff then! It was perfect. I told him to come like that to the shows and we're all good to go. He got his name that day – Cynico, which is the cynic. I know that's the perfect name and he didn't say anything about it when he got it. He's happy in Brujeria. He can be miserable sometimes.
How did you get him on board?
I've known him for a while since the early '90s, he wasn't doing anything and we needed a bass player. We said what about Walker and he comes as this cynical guy like: "I haven't played bass in ten years. Goddammit, I gotta put my own strings on it." He was just going off and we were like woah, this guy's bad. "Did you hear the songs?" "What songs I haven't heard shi-" and he was just going off. We gave him a name and then he just went quiet and hasn't complained since. It's been like eleven years…or ten years, I don't know; it has been a long time.
Getting you all together must be very hard.
Yeah, it's hard. One guy does something by himself and the rest of the band hates it: "What are you doing?!" It just takes a while.
How long have you been working on this album for?
I don't know. We started recording some songs in '07 or '08 around there, in between festivals with the band. The last three years have been: "You do it" "You do it, I can't do it." I just wanna get it out.
What does it sound like? How does it compare to the other Brujeria material?
It's going to be more polished for sure. "Let's do the digital thing," because before we were recording in a garage on an A-track and they're really primitive recordings. You can really hear how primitive they were but it worked to our advantage because it made it really crazy-sounding like a bunch of Mexican guys on a farm somewhere. It was perfect actually. So now, it's going to be a polished digital thing. I hope it sounds good. To me, it's like Metallica meets some kinds in a garage or something! It'll be interesting.
So there's no actual release date yet?
This is your first album with Nuclear Blast, who are the biggest metal label in the world and you managed to land a deal with that. How did that partnership occur?
I don't know. It just happens! No, they're fans.
So they just approached you and said that they wanted to release your new album?
Well we were putting it together and stuff and I wanted to put it out ourselves and see what happens. They wanted it and you've got Jeff Walker and other guys in the band who are like business men and I was like: "Alright, whatever." I wanted to put it out myself from the trunk of my car. I'll be the guy selling it to you and you don't even know I'm in the band [laughs]. Nobody knows it's me and I'm selling it.
With the bandanas you wear, no one would probably know it's you.
No, too much Internet but just a couple of years ago, I could have been selling the merch and they wouldn't know. That's the fun thing too and when they find you out there singing, it's funny. That's not the business way of doing it, I guess.
You guys aren't so typical. You've been around since the early '90s and you have so few albums out.
We never really toured. We started our first live gigs that were official in 2002, I think. What happens is when we do the records, the members all go in there and are like: Yeah, it's good" or whatever. Then all of a sudden, the members get famous in other bands. They'll be gone for three years touring. "When are we going to do the next thing?" "I'll be back next year." "Aw…" Everybody who joins Brujeria, right away they become famous in some other band. I'm the only one who hasn't got the famous thing going on.
No one's ever called you up and asked to join their band?
No, I'd never do that. I'm not about that. Everybody else gets the famous thing and they go off and do that or whatever. I don't care. I just want to have fun. Touring to me is just for fun. I don't have to make a living or whatever. The other guys like doing it too. We fight a lot and it's just funny. So you've got a lot of superstar guys and they're really picky, let's say. I don't know, it's just fun for me.
You have been going for so long, you're probably Mexico's most popular metal band. What was death metal in Mexico like in the earlier days?
No one knew who we were or where we came from. It was guys just doing this metal and chopping off heads and sharing the crap out of people Mexico needed that; they didn't have it. It was all calm and "Don't do that" then we came out and destroyed everything. That was our intention to make something in Spanish and give them something they really wanted because no one was doing it over there. They were listening to bands singing in English. All the metal guys in Mexico love it because – my example is Napalm Death and they're all like [makes impression of barked shouts like Napalm Death] – no one understands it and it's like it could be any language anyway. So we were like let's do something Spanish that they could understand and see what happens and it just hit them hard.
Yes but not just Mexico, but internationally.
I was like: "Let's hit Mexico," and it exploded right away. We had a little single out that cost $100 to make and there were only 20,000 of them or something. We didn't get nothing, we were just like: "Put this out," and we gave it to somebody to put out for free. Jello Biafra was the second one of Dead Kennedys. "Put this out on your label." "What do you want for it?" "How about some t-shirts and a Dead Kenndys CD or two." "I don't wanna put it out." I go: "Why? Just put it out?" "No band doesn't want money for their record." "I don't." And he goes: "What?!" "Just keep the money or whatever. I don't care." When I told him it has to go out, he put it out. The ones he had sold a lot.
That must have been pretty incredible for you.
No, I was laughing. It's like when our first record came out 'Matandogüeros', it was on Roadrunner. On the release date it was a Tuesday, I get a call at 7am. It's the record company. "What happened? Did it sell a million already?" "No, they banned it! They banned it and they're shipping it back! It's 7am and it's already getting shipped back." I'm like: "Yes, it worked!" "What do you mean it worked?!" We just tried to put something out there and see what happened. They didn't put any warnings on it. I'm saying: "It doesn't matter. It's in Spanish; no one cares". Germany was like eight hours ahead and they banned it before I woke up. Later on, they said: "They're not just banning yours; all the Roadrunner catalogue is getting shipped back." That's when I really got a lot of phone calls: "We want to know what that thing says by noon." I had to translate it all. They didn't care until it got banned and they wanted to know exactly what it said. I was like…'killing white guys'...okay, let's translate that one nice. But they didn't care. They put it out. It's Spanish, who cares. I really like doing that.
Did you inspire people in Mexico to get their bands together?
They tried but Spanish is real hard to do anything with. We do it in half English, half Spanish. It's the easier of either language to do one language. If you're raised in Mexico, your Spanish is more correct so it won't come out of them. Mexican Americans, they speak whatever's easiest and it's understood. Everybody tries to make it funny so our songs are really funny. You can see somebody spit up a beer laughing [laughs]. And that's the whole goal; it's scary but at the same time, somebody else is laughing. Some parts translate but it won't translate exactly…some words won't come up because it's a made up word – half English, half Spanish. So it won't translate easy in other words. To get the real meaning, if you're not screwing up the language, you won't know.
It's very unique to you guys.
Yeah, a lot of bands try to copy it but they can't do it. It has a key code to it.
In Mexico, there's this whole musical subculture around the Narcos thing.
Yeah, the country music. Country music's huge in Mexico.
Yeah, it's almost like gangsta rap.
It is gangsta rap. That's exactly what it is. It's like NWA. They're playing accordion music but they're all true stories. They're all singing about stories that they know about but if you get too far with the stories, you end up getting put away. They get on stage but they can still kill them on stage. It's really like that. You want to sing that story, go ahead. The guy's wearing a gun on stage. Really crazy stuff. That's more hardcore than any metal. You look at it like: What the hell is this country music with hats on, playing a bunch of mariachi stuff and there's violins and it's really hardcore. They've banned it in Mexico and that made it worse! It's underground; don't let somebody see you buy this.
Is this an inspiration for you?
Back when we started, there were one or two bands that were just starting that stuff. We were like: "Let's try it in metal and go for it." We were ahead of our time, I guess, way ahead. It's interesting but you've got to be careful because like I say, you sing the wrong story and they come and get you. They kill you. The cartels or whatever, if you sing too much about their secrets, they're gonna shut you up. You sell a lot of records really fast but you never collect the royalties. That's its own little culture but it's real hardcore.
Is there an opportunity for people to inject metal into that? Some sort of country metal.
It'll probably be us, being the closest you get. Well, bands like that – one I like – is a punk band with an accordion. They're Spanish/English on the border in Texas singing punk rock versions. They have their stories too, which is close to that folk music and metal, more punk rock, so there are some young guys out there trying it. They're called Piñata Protest so you can look that one up. Any Mexican that hears it loves it right away even though they're not into the music. It's the accordion guy playing it. It's punk rock stuff at the same time but it all works. The first part is English then the second part is Spanish and it sticks together. So you've got to be used to hearing it that way to understand because people usually go either Spanish or English but you're mixing one sentence with both and it just gets nuts.
That's the end of the questions. Do you have any final words?
I can keep talking forever! I mean, don't start me! No, that's it. That's good.
Thanks for the interview.
Alright, thank you.