Interview – Yokozuna

Source: Yokozuna's Facebook.
Source: Yokozuna’s Facebook.

Exactly a month ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing Yokozuna’s rather excellent Quiero Venganza. I quite enjoyed the album and got in contact with Arturo & Antonio Tranquilino, the brothers who make up this band. Quick email exchange and away the questions went, which got answered in less than 24 hours.

Never be said us Mexicans are lazy. Now, for something completely different:

Thanks Yokozuna, both for blowing me out of my socks with Quiero Venganza and with letting me interview you for my shithole of a website (TM). Here are a few questions for you!

Phil Anselmo (of Pantera/Down) praising Quiero Venganza. Source: Yokozuna.
Phil Anselmo (of Pantera/Down) praising Quiero Venganza. Source: Yokozuna.

1- Loving Quiero Venganza, easily my top Mexican album of the year so far… So, did Phil Anselmo hear a leak of your album? You should be proud of that quote!

Antonio (drums): Thank you very much, man! We met him at a Down concert. A friend of a friend’s girlfriend said “I am gonna see my best friend, she is married to a guitar player, I have tickets.” The guitar player was Pepper Keenan and he was going to play with Down.

Arturo (guitar, vocals): Then I met Phil Anselmo backstage and we started writing each other. I sent him some demos, and he was also popping up with some comments, he is a great guy.

2- You shout “Quiero Venganza!” (I want revenge) on your lead single and it’s a sentiment that I can agree with. What makes Yokozuna real mad to demand revenge? 

Antonio: There are not remnants of the trauma caused by the Mexican revolution, at least in flesh and bone, they are all gone. It seems that what came after was like a period of amnesia of the brutal ways the power has to repress. There is a perfect shock doctrine going on, maybe not like any place, because Brazil is fighting back, Europe is fighting back  and a lot of other countries too. We had our moment and democracy was raped again so everybody is now minding their own business and that’s it. It seemed for us that we have to find our ways to try to convince our “compatriotas” to throw away the remote control, and see outside, see what can be done, what is this multiple headed monster taking away for justice. It is a call for justice, a call to action.

3- There seems to be a very political weight attached to several tracks in Quiero Vengaza, would that be a fair assessment of the general theme of the album? 

Antonio: Words, I think lyrics play a very special part of this record, contrary to the last ones, we play with logical and clear things but at the same time ambiguity. I feel like we made a soul manual for a revolution, it’s in enthusiasts to decide.

4- Building on that, are you sort of trying to “wake people up”, getting them out of their trance/apathy with that wonderful racket? 

Antonio: Definitely!

5- ‘Animal’ and ‘Fluoxetina’ are some sombre, slow moments in Quiero Venganza. What’s the story behind these cool songs? I’m quite fond of both!

Antonio: ‘Animal’ was made by my brother Arturo (guitar, vocals), it is an old song, from the first ones. The producer told us to make a vocal switch so I sang it in a deep voice. ‘Fluoxetina’ is mine, about certain times of uncertainty and substance abuse, in different levels.

6- You’ve collaborated with both Joe Volume (guitar overdubs) and Xavier (guitar and drums). How were your experiences? Any bands from México you’d like to work with or any collabs in the future?

Antonio: I played drums in Xavier. We make a lot of collaborations and we also have other projects. I have Hiperkinetik, which is a Multitask symphonitronic adventure. We like to record, in our hearts music is in its purest place. Always.

Arturo: With Joe I have a “blues” brotherhood. I met the guy backstage at a club in México and the moment we met we started playing old blues songs by Son House, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Robert Johnson. From that moment on, we started doing things together. He invited me to play with his band and do some gigs together. It was a great time! Then he asked me to spend a weekend at his house in Tepoztlán and record some guitars for Lonesome Water, Lonely sea (editor’s noteour review). He is a great artist and a great guy!

7- Tell us a bit more for your love of blues, Arturo. Is the song ‘Buddy’ in your soundcloud about Buddy Guy?

Arturo: Blues is the Genesis of modern music. It heals wounds and turn darkness into light and beauty. It’s sexual and violent. It’s vengeful and forgiving. I discovered Blues when I was a little boy and I’ve been in love with it ever since. And of course that song is about Buddy Guy! Ja ja ja ja! What can I say? I’m a huge fan.

8- We really like your drumming in Quiero Venganza, José Antonio, especially in ‘Sangre llama sangre’. Who’s your fave drummer? Do you usually have a drum idea before sitting on the stool or just go “fuck it, I’m jamming and hopefully my bro will catch up”?

Antonio: Bit of both – music needs to be alive to reach my like at least to go for it once. I hate the 4/4 used in the 21st century, it seems as if drummers were iPhone apps instead of real drummers. Alright, sometimes you have to play it, but I think people know tun ta tun ta tun ta too well.

Everything starts with fingers stomping the bus chair, your pant pockets or a briefcase while doing nothing. Waiting to reach a destination, then you begin to make it in the stool, alone, then is the match between my rhythmic conceptions and my brother’s.  It’s magical! About favourites, I think they all play well, great or sublime, but Krupa and Elvin Jones are the founding fathers of the art of hitting strained drumheads and bronze.

Image: Yokozuna’s Facebook.

9- Like all trends repeating after 20 years, Grunge seems to be making a comeback. Do you think it will stay longer this time around or will it be a quick visit?

Antonio: I do hope so. In a world ruled by Glee and Psy, you never know. There are some differences. Iin those days, either you listened to Soundgarden or N.W.A. and you were cool, and teen trends are the foundations of rock based marketing. Now there is so much, there are kids listening to Andre Rieu or Kathy Perry or The Roots or Porcupine Tree or Lamb of God. Let’s not forget that in those days, mp3 was only a data transcoder for Army and Research use, you had to buy a record. Now it is a very different ballgame, time will tell.

Arturo: I think rock is like the Messiah: he comes back to Earth every once in a while with a different body and a different name. 20 years ago it was called Grunge, now it has to have a different name but with the same essence of the music made by the Seattle Gods.

10- From that Twitter bio of “I make music, you make me sick”, I reckon you like Soundgarden. What’s your take on their return?

Arturo: I’m very happy they did! We are huge fans. They are an amazing band and their new album is awesome. I had the opportunity of meeting Matt and Kim  backstage and asked them a few questions for a radio program here in México called “El triste turno” (which, by the way, is one of the last bastions of real rock music in México). That was the best day of my life!

11- A long time ago, a friend got told by a famous producer that the only way to make it in México is to make love songs with little to no distortion. Was he wrong? What’s your opinion on the current scene in México?

Antonio: I believe he is greatly mistaken: a musician is not a musician because he wants to “make it”, a musician makes music. That is the prize. Otherwise, you are a vulgar mercenary. Imagine John Lennon thinking that, or Bob Dylan! Troker had a 2 month United Kingdom tour based on their distorted, heavy free jazz with no singles nor lyrics. Los Explosivos can’t stop touring Europe, playing the funkiest garage punk and so does Austin T.V., without faces [editor’s note: they use cool masks!] or lyrics. Descartes a Kant going to Russia – those are real musicians, not the ones who want to make it. I don’t hear any ballad in any of these 4 groups. I don’t see any balladist band  having that kind of success.

12- Any plans for touring outside of México this year or in 2014?

Antonio: We are working on that. We are putting our best effort, we hope. It’s a difficult time to let yourself knowx, there  is a world crisis, so opening spaces overseas is quite difficult, but, as Marv Levy once said “When it’s to tough for them, it´s just right for us”



Words: Sam J. Valdés López

Yokozuna Soundcloud. Twitter. Facebook.

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