By Andrew Bansal
For nearly three decades, Los Angeles based extreme metal/grindcore group Brujeria have conveyed their politically charged tragicomic messages through songs sung in Spanish and an image portraying themselves as Latino drug lords. Initially a studio-only project because of the high-profile list of metal musicians involved, Brujeria soon began touring and expanded their fan-base. 16 years after the release of their third studio album ‘Brujerizmo’, Brujeria have finally ended the wait for their fans, and are ready with their fourth full-length ‘Pocho Aztlan’, coming out on September 16th 2016 via Nuclear Blast. They are also about to embark on a US headline tour with support acts Cattle Decapitation and Pinata Protest. On September 1st, Metal Assault spoke to vocalist and sole original member Juan Brujo to discuss the album, the lyrical themes, the band’s lineup and plans in detail. Enjoy the chat below.
Brujeria is back in full swing now with a new album, the first in such a long time. How did this all happen?
Well, it wasn’t all of a sudden. Way back when the last record came out, about 15 years ago, we started doing shows. We had never played live gigs before the last record. So we started touring and doing that, and we got a great response. We liked that and we just kept doing it for the next 6-7 years, every time we got together. It’s hard to get all of us together at the same time and same place to do anything, records or touring. But after those 7 years, we realized that we have a lot of new fans and many of them are young kids, so let’s give them a record. So we started doing the record but again it was hard to get everybody in the studio. We did a few songs here and there, and then finally Nuclear Blast came on board and we just sat down and cranked out the record. We finally got it done. We had a lot of delays too. The guy mixing it took a year off because he needed surgery on his neck, so we waited a year for that, and things like that were going on. But now it’s out and ready to go. So, it took a while and there was a lot of hard work.
As you said, it’s hard to get everybody together to do this, because all members are doing different things of their own. To finally complete the album, did you actually have to get people together or was it kind of just people contributing remotely?
It ended up being an exchange of tracks back and forth via email. That took a long time and we learned the hard way that it’s just better to get everybody there, instead of taking the easy way out. Someone says “I’ll send you the tracks tomorrow” and you end up waiting two months (laughs). We thought we were smart doing it that way but I just think it’s better doing it when everybody is there. But we got it done in the end.
The albums that came out in the past, they were such a long time ago but people have been responding to the band and there’s a fan-following. Do you think this album musically lives up to the expectations in that sense? Is it pretty much a continuation of the past work?
We tried to record it in a more modern way, more digital and cleaner sounding and stuff, but with the same old Brujeria attitude as always, talking about life on the border, things that happen with illegal immigration, drug running and all of that stuff. So that’s still part of the theme of the album, kind of reporting the situation at the border. Every time we put a record out, it gives an update of what’s going on there in that time period. When we tour live, we see a lot of younger people there, so that’s what really motivated us, to give them a record which represents their time. So we got this one out right now and we’ll see if they like it and if it works for everybody.
You’ve also been getting a lot of media attention since the album was announced, magazine covers and things like that. I think Brujeria’s style and content has always been more of an underground thing. Did you expect this kind of attention in 2016?
The fan-base has grown since we started playing live and touring in the last ten years or so. So we have to give them something new. We tried recording it the old-fashioned punk rock way that we used to do, but we couldn’t do that because it just didn’t sound good anymore. Using new computers and modern equipment in the studio, you’ve got to make it sound cleaner than before because it doesn’t sound good trying to do the old way. So we did it the new way and we liked it a lot, so we just went with that. There’s not as much anger in this new Brujeria record as there was in the past. The old ones are really angry because things were different back then. There were a lot of people hating, unrest everywhere in Los Angeles, and those records were hard for the times. But now, 10-15 years later, things have been alright, calmed down and it’s not so bad. So, no need to come out hating on our record. But then Donald Trump has come along. He has upset us pretty good. He’s setting back the country 40 years in a short period of time. This record wasn’t made in time to go after him, so that’s why we put out the ‘Viva Presidente Trump’ single in his honor. We’re going to wait for his election results to see about the next record for Brujeria. I think the next one might not take so long because there’s definitely some material that’s going to make us work.
You talked about the subjects on which your lyrical content is based, and that stuff is always going to be around here. I don’t think you’ll ever going to run out of material.
Yeah, the way we see it, it’s so bad and silly that it’s funny. Even the illegals crossing the border has gotten to a point that’s funny because it’s so crazy. It’s never going to change, and like you said, it’s always going to be there and there’s always going to be new material, new stories to tell. So, that’s exactly it. We’re going to tell the hard stories the way it is.
The lyrical content is funny because it’s kind of like a tragic comedy. Did you intend it to be that way or was it always supposed to be angry and real?
It’s always angry and real, but at the same time, it’s so angry and it’s about things that are so bad and things that are not going to change, it’s just funny sometimes. One song can make people mad but the same song can get people laughing. That’s the way we’ve always done it. We wanted to make the point that it’s really, really bad, but it’s so bad it’s funny to us now. So, if you take it to a certain point you can get really mad at what we’re saying but if you keep going, you’ll see the humor that we have because it’s impossible to change this stuff and it gets to a point where it’s funny.
You mentioned Nuclear Blast earlier, and they’re putting out this album. But when you were about to finish the album, did you shop around for labels or did they come forward to approach you on their own?
We looked around for labels, but it’s not like it used to be. The labels nowadays are really … how do you put it … out to screw bands. It’s nothing like it was before, so it was hard to find someone to partner up with, but Nuclear Blast worked out fine. We know the guys from before, we’ve known Monte Connor for like 30 years. So we’re good with them and it’s been easy to work with them.
One of the more important questions that people might be wondering about is the live lineup. Are you still going to keep the same people to play these shows coming up? Who’s going to be playing in the band?
That always changes. Even I don’t know. We could be in the middle of a tour and things happen where someone has to leave to do some other gigs. So, I don’t know who’s going to be in the lineup, but we’re going to start off with Hongo, Hongo Jr, and we’ll have a mystery person coming in probably. And then the vocalist is going to me and Pititis, and we’ve also got Fantasma and El Sangron, and Pinche Peach is going to be part of the tour too. So, some old names and may be one or two new ones. We’ll see what happens.
In terms of shows, you’re doing a tour real soon and you’re also making a couple of festival appearances, including Ozzfest.
Yeah, we got Ozzfest just a couple of weeks ago! It was a surprise. I think Hongo can’t make that one, so we’ll have someone for him. Things like that happen all the time, but we can’t say No to Ozzfest. We have to find members to replace some members and that’s the way it’s going to be, because I don’t want to miss something like Ozzfest. So, whoever we’ve got, we use, and as long as the vocalists are there, we’re good to go. The US tour (with Cattle Decapitation and Pinata Protest) was announced a couple of months ago, but the Ozzfest thing just came to us, and then about a week ago they called me up with an offer for this metal festival in Monterrey, Mexico. They had a band drop off and they needed another band to take their place, so they called us and I said, “OK, we’ll be there next week!” So I’m leaving tomorrow to Mexico and we have a festival there with Megadeth on Saturday. So it’s all crazy.
That brings me to my next question. With the style of the band and the language, it’s kind of a novelty to people here in the US and it’s appreciated because it’s different from other bands. How about Mexico? How is the response there towards the band?
Over there it’s crazy. The shows get nuts, and there’s fans everywhere. Even the police are like, “Oh, you’re Brujeria? Go ahead!” The drug lords, those guys go to the shows wearing their cowboy hats and boots. Everybody there seems to have a liking to it one way or another, even if they’re not metal fans. It’s a big deal and people know about it wherever we go. Here it’s a novelty and that’s cool, but over there it’s like religion.
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Brujeria US tour dates with Cattle Decapitation and Pinata Protest:
09/24/2016 – San Bernardino CA @ San Manuel Amphitheater (Ozzfest) *
10/01/2016 – Baltimore, MD @ Soundstage
10/02/2016 – Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall
10/03/2016 – New York, NY @ Gramercy Theatre
10/04/2016 – Philadelphia, PA @ Voltage
10/06/2016 – Cleveland, OH @ Agora Ballroom
10/07/2016 – Chicago, IL @ Reggies
10/08/2016 – Minneapolis, MN @ Cabooze
10/09/2016 – Kansas City, MO @ Riot Room
10/10/2016 – Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
10/12/2016 – Seattle, WA @ Studio Seven
10/13/2016 – Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theater
10/17/2016 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Roxy
10/18/2016 – San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick
10/19/2016 – Phoenix, AZ @ Club Red
10/20/2016 – Las Vegas, NV @ LVCS
10/21/2016 – Fresno, CA @ Strummers
10/22/2016 – Silverado, CA @ Oak Canyon Park (Beach Goth Festival) *
* = Brujeria only