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Hangin in the W.C. with Ozomatli

 article about Music reviews
2004-03-16 00:46:10
Welcome to the debut of Hangin' in the W.C. No, no, no, this is
not about bathroom humour or raunchy shenanigans in the loo. This
weekly column will feature bands passing through the U.S. West Coast. I
will interview local and touring bands, laying it out for you, the
reader, what it is like to hang with some great acts on a personal
level, W.C. style. If you dig Seattle, Los Angeles, Portland, San
Francisco, San Diego, and all the beautiful places in between where
music is kickin' and shaking you awake, then you have come to the right
place to expand your musical and social parameters. Sometimes wild,
sometimes sweet, always informative and fun, please tune in for
inspiration and good times.

Recently, I had the pleasure of
interviewing one of the greatest bands in the world, coming straight
out of the streets of Los Angeles, Ozomatli. The band has been playing
clubs, benefits, galleries, festivals and house parties since 1996.
Ozomatli is one of those bands that once you see live, you become
addicted to their intensely positive and energetic influence.

Combining
multiple genres of music, skilled MCs and singers, socially conscious
and passionate lyrics in Spanish and English, a tight rhythm and horn
section, and tossing all this up with infectious dancing and you got
yourself one of the most invigorating nights of your life. Ozomatli
supports more than 20 organisations musically and vocally. Check out
Ozomatli's website at www.ozomatli.com for more information.

Make
sure you check out the activism link and the very expressive fan
boards. Their numerous fans worldwide love these guys. Their expressive
lyrics inspire their listeners with stories of love and pain, struggle
and fight, celebration and recognition. Look out for their new EP,
Coming Up, out on their new label, Concord Records. Their next album,
Street Signs will be available June 2004. You can buy their albums
directly from the Ozomatli website or from www.amazon.com if you buy
online. Better yet, rush over to your local music store and get them on
the party and revolution bandwagon!

I sat down with Raul
Pacheco and Jiro Yamaguchi to talk about their upcoming U.K. tour and
the organisations they support through their music. Those of you who
are in England will definitely want to buy yourself a ticket quick for
any of the following shows:

Ozomatli U.K. Tour March 2004
March 1 - Leeds Cockpit
March 2 - Manchester MDH
March 3 - Glasgow Queens University
March 4 - Newcastle University
March 6 - Bristol Academy
March 7 - Warwick University
March 8 - Cardiff University
March 9, 11&12 - London Jazz Caf


Ozomatli Interview

The Showbox, Seattle, Washington, the W.C.
Sunday, January 25, 2004
With Raul Pacheco, Guitar and Lead Vocals & Jiro Yamaguchi, Tabla and Percussion

Valeria Valiente: How are you guys feeling about the upcoming UK tour you will be doing?

RAUL & JIRO: We love playing England. We love going there.

VV: How do the English accept you there?

RAUL
& JIRO: They are very receptive. They are warm and receptive
people. We have fun playing there. Weve been there a bunch of times. We
played Glastonbury a couple of times. Lots of festivals, thats how we
got in there and then we did club shows, then everywhere. We have a
good time. This tour is pretty extensive. We are doing all the cities,
like Leeds, Cardiff, Manchester, London

VV: Is there any
particular city or venue that you are really looking forward to
visiting and playing a show, because the fans are super ecstatic?

JIRO:
Its different everywhere. I like Bristol because there is an active
music scene there. Theyre pretty much on the edge of whats going on in
the DJ world and electronic music. I always love going to London, eat
the Indian food.

VV: Ah Brick Lane!

JIRO: Yeah, I am looking forward to that. We have three nights in London, playing at the Jazz Caf.

RAUL: It will be good to be in one place for three nights. Camden is fun. Mr. Bongos

VV:
Now with your touring schedule, do you guys get a lot of free time or
do you spend a lot of your time travelling the road, sound checks,
interviews and such?

RAUL: Its not like how people think. Its
not a vacation. You know what I mean? I think all Im trying to do is
get as much sleep as I can, be prepared for it, for what I gotta do. If
I got to go out and buy equipment, thats always a priority. Its like
our job.

JIRO: There are times we have breaks in order to go see the things, to see what the local area has to offer.

RAUL:
Yeah, three days in London will be fun; because we will only have to do
sound check the first day, probably wont have to do that for the next
few days, then we will be able to hang out all day until we have to
play.

VV: I want to know and go into what you guys think about
the political activism going on here with our impending presidential
election. Before we go into that, when you guys went to Cuba, did you
notice political activism going on out in the streets or people engaged
more at your shows?

JIRO: Yeah, at the time we went it there was
a festival going on, the annual youth festival that they have every
year, where kids from everywhere, from all over the world, come to
discuss political issues and the world that we live in. So at the time
that we were there, there was a lot going on, there was a buzz.

We didnt go particularly for that. We raised money. We had a benefit for ourselves.

RAUL: That was before we were signed.

JIRO:
Yeah, before we were signed. We had been playing a lot of benefits. For
all these different causes around L.A. We decided to pull one together
for ourselves, to raise money to buy plane tickets. We then drove to TJ
(Tijuana, Baja California, Norte, Mexico), flew to Monterrey (Mexico),
and then to Havana. We ended up playing seven shows. We didnt have any
plans.

RAUL: We were there for 10 days.

VV: When was this?

RAUL:
Back in August of 1997. It was cool. You know there, its a whole
different style. Obviously, you know, you kinda just have to go and do
things, you know, on the fly.

JIRO: We did everything by word of mouth.

RAUL:
Things will be scheduled and then they wont happen so then you just
create something else. Its a different way of doing things.

JIRO: Yeah, it is a very resourceful place.

VV: Where would you say you have your biggest ecstatic fan base? Would you say that its here in the States, say in Los Angeles?

JIRO:
Yeah, we do well on the West Coast, Southern California, and we do well
in Australia. And we have done well in England as well.

RAUL: Yeah we do well in Europe. We play a lot of festivals during the summer.

VV:
So tell me about the NION concert you did in the Bay Area, The Not in
Our Name Benefit concert about a year ago. How did that all come about?

RAUL: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, Jose Olivas organised that.

VV: And hes a friend of the band and asked you guys to play?

RAUL: Yeah, we were trying to do something for years.

JIRO: Yeah the first thing we did was against Prop 227, the education bill

RAUL: We did one in Santa Cruz and one in LA.

JIRO: It was right after the US started bombing Afghanistan.

RAUL: Then we tried to do one for conscientious objectors.

VV:
In March of 2003, we saw a huge uproar here and around the world
against the U.S. attack on Iraq and now you dont see big crowds at
protests, but we are still over there. What do you guys think and feel
about that? I know you guys are anti-police brutality,

RAUL: I
thinkwell, me personally, I think, theres a maybe Im being apathetic.
Maybe I am kind of caught up with what I have to do day to day. Instead
of judging people, I think about what I have to do. I try to juggle it
in; we speak up and play shows. We are around, talking about it, I
think we engage people to think about issues. We do it through music.

JIRO:
Being in the position that we are in, playing in a band that plays
music that brings people together, we are in a position where we can
vocalise certain issues. We have access to people like you, different
media outlets that a lot of people dont have. I think thats the power
that artists have, we can bring people together and disseminate
information, information that is out there but not on the major news
stations or major print media. That is what needs to happen.

VV: You guys did a film about police brutality during the Democratic National Convention. What ever happened to it?

RAUL: Did you see this film?

VV:
Yeah, at the Bergamot Station in Santa Monica around 2000 or 2001.
Justin was there, the filmmaker, the whole band wasnt there but the
film played to a small crowd in an art gallery.

JIRO: Yeah, it was Wil, Uli, um, it was awhile ago. You want to know what happened to the movie. I dont know.

RAUL:
They made the movie, put it on disc, and now, I dont know. They dont
have distribution so now they just have to pass it out to friends or
sell it at events. They try to get it out there however they can.

VV: All right. That is the nature of getting out information. What do you think of the Governator in California?

JIRO: Its a real sad state of politics right now. Its a celebrity popularity contest.

VV: Hey, Ronald Reagan made it all the way to the top. Hah!

JIRO: OK, so thats what people stand for.

VV:
Well maybe it might not be so bad. He (Schwarzenegger) funded that
Proposition that allocated state money to fund inner city after school
programs and tutoring centres. Ive been out of the loop and I dont know
offhand if the money is there and being used now. So who knows?

RAUL: Well it is what it is.

JIRO: It is what it is.

VV:
Yeah. Speaking of programs, I checked out the activist page of your
website, and you guys have tons and tons of organisations that you
support. Do you have any favourites?

RAUL: The way that it works
a lot of the time is people will approach us, whether its friends or
something one of us is involved with. I dont think there is one that we
like more than the other. I think we work with as many as we can, in
different ways.

JIRO: A lot of the times, the groups will have events that we cant do and sometimes we can.

RAUL:
I remember the MUJER festival. That was in El Paso. That was a really,
really great, but we havent been able to do anything with them since.
It is a very special organisation.

VV: How did that come about?

RAUL: You know about whats going on?

VV: Yeah, they are trying to find the killers of the extraviadas in Juarez.

RAUL: Yeah, many women are missing there in Mexico.

VV: I helped raise money for Casa Amiga while living in Mexico last year. I played in the Vagina Monologues there.

RAUL: Where were you at?

VV: That was in Baja California in a town called Todos Santos.

RAUL: Yeah, I know where that is.

VV: You know Todos Santos? You been there?

JIRO: Yeah, Ive been there. We were playing in Cabo. I rented a car and drove there with my girlfriend to go swimming.

VV:
Its awesome there. Theres a little town next to Todos Santos called
Pescadero. They have a raging skate park there. You see all the local
kids skateboarding there with some talent. That place is going to
generate some famous skaters some day.

Lets talk about your Zapatista video. Thats the one that also has Zack de la Rocha in it.

RAUL: We lent songs to it.

VV:
What do you think is going on with that situation? I have some speeches
here that the commandantes did in January 2003. The Zapatistas came out
into the streets of San Cristobal (Chiapas, Mexico) to let the world
know that they are still resisting. Do you guys have any contact with
that?

RAUL: I think that we had more contact before. There was a
group in LA that was doing a lot of work with them and that was our
connection to them. And some of those situations change. I have a great
picture of a kid wearing our shirt there. No one believes it!

JIRO:
Yeah, I was telling someone about that the other day. This person was
relaying to me a story about a group of organisers who went down to
Chiapas to lend a hand. A group of women there asked them, "why are you
coming here? Why dont you go back to your home and help yourselves? You
guys need a lot of help in LA." It kinda made a statement. I mean they
werent nasty about it. It was a comment that if you want to help, you
need to help yourself first.

RAUL: Thats part of their philosophy.

VV:
Thats true. They are about resistance. You have to resist and you do
not have to ask for permission from your corrupt government to make
change. Dont sit around waiting for things to change. You go out and
make your own autonomous groups, organisations, or government. Maybe
that is the message the Zapatista women were trying to get across. You
can make a greater change when you start at home.

I have one
more question and it pertains to Mexico, specifically a Mexican band.
Are you guys going to collaborate with El Gran Silencio from Monterrey?

RAUL: No, but we would love to!

VV:
Theres a long post on your websites fan boards speculating whether you
will in the future. They all want to know if you will be doing
something together real soon.

RAUL: Its not that easy to make things like that happen. They would be fun to work with.

VV: Have you heard their new album that has received some Latin Grammy nominations.

RAUL: Ive seen them live more than Ive heard their records.

VV: Right on. Well fans, they dont know, maybe in the future.

RAUL &JIRO: We would love to.

VV: Do you guys have any favourite bands or albums that you are listening to right now?

RAUL: Right now I have The Dead Presidents.

JIRO: I have a Bjork CD that I am listening to right now.

RAUL: I have a mix of our new record that I am listening to as well.

VV: When is that coming out?

RAUL: June (2004). Its called Street Signs.

VV: Cant wait to hear you play the songs tonight. I just bought your EP Coming Up.

JIRO: Heh, good.

VV: Well, you guys must be feeling positive about your future.

JIRO: You have to remain positive.

VV:
I am excited for your band and your future. You guys are genuinely
great. Ive seen you guys so many times throughout the years, seen the
progress and I am really excited to be here in Seattle to see one of my
favourite LA bands rock the house tonight.

RAUL: It will be fun.

VV: Good luck and thanks for the great interview.

R&J: Thank you for coming. Good night!

-----------

Do
the world and yourself a favor by checking out the following
organisations mentioned in the interview. There are some screwed up
things happening in our societies and government, but there are
Guerreros or fighters combating these injustices and Ozomatli supports
them. So should you!

Ozomatli official website

http://www.ozomatli.com/home-frameset.html

Again, check out their music, activist organization links and entertaining fan boards.

Not in Our Name (NION)

http://notinourname-seattle.net

http://www.notinourname.net/index.html

Not
in Our Name, a nationwide project opposed to endless war on the world,
detentions and round-ups of immigrants, and police state restrictions,
calls on all people of conscience to strengthen the nationwide movement
to turn the tide of war and repression.

M.U.J.E.R. Musicians United for Justice, Equality and Respect

http://manismachine.homestead.com/festivalhome.html

Based
out of El Paso, Texas, this organization, dedicated to finding the
killers of over 250 women working in the maquiladoras or sweatshops of
Juarez, Mexico, use local media and the vocal strength of musicians to
shed light to this awful situation.

Casa Amiga

http://www.casa-amiga.org/

This Juarez, Mexico organization provides education and support for victims of class and gender violence.

Refuse and Resist

http://www.refuseandresist.org/altindex.html

Refuse
& Resist is the organization for everyone who refuses to go along
with today's national agenda of repression and cruelty, poverty and
punishment. Our mission is to build a climate, culture and community of
resistance to defeat the whole reactionary agenda. If you agree that
this needs to be done, then you belong in Refuse & Resist!

Zapatistas- Ya Basta! international support organisation

http://www.ezln.org

Ya
Basta! was put together in the Spring of 1994 in order to provide
reliable information on the Zapatista uprising and serve as a
mouthpiece for the Zapatistas in cyberspace. The page is always
growing, and well over two million people from Mexico and elsewhere
have used it as a resource. Material contained on this page is in
Spanish, English, Portuguese, and less frequently, French or German,
depending on what is available and accessible.

The V-Day Organization

http://www.vday.org

V-Day
is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. Through
V-Day campaigns, local volunteers and college students produce annual
benefit performances of "The Vagina Monologues" to raise awareness and
funds for anti-violence groups within their own communities. Support
V-Day near you wherever you are around the world.





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