Juan Brujo, Brujeria
Just as the previous interview with Aggression finished, Sarah Cummings bumps into Brujeria vocalist and sole original member, Juan Brujo to discuss American politics, the past, present and future of the band.
“Hola Brujo, welcome back to Manchester. How’s the tour going for you guys?”
Hey! Yeah it’s been good. We’ve had some good turn outs, some not so good… But there’s been a lot of good shows. Really good shows!
“So… let’s get straight to it. You probably get this question all the time actually. Trump! I hate that guy. You don’t like him either! How have your audience, America in particular, responded to your Anti-Trump songs?”
That guy is totally hateable. Well the first, Viva Presidente Trump, we wrote that before he was even elected. It was like “Viva President Trump, Long Live President Trump” as a joke! And then he won!!!
So then his followers are looking at this song, and they are looking at it not knowing if it’s good or bad. The title is good for Trump but really the song is about him being a crazy dude and how he shouldn’t be president. We wrote it before the election and then he ended up winning, which none of us thought would happen. That was interesting… That could have been interpreted as a plot to kill the president, and I could have been arrested. I think there’s a death penalty for treason? He could have executed me haha.
So then, we did another song, the new one Amaricon Czar, talking about him and the Russians. Why is he so friendly with the Russians? Did they help him win the election by cheating the votes? That one came out about a month ago!
“It’s a really good song man! Where did your journey into Metal begin? What bands inspired you in the beginning?”
I was never a musician or in a band, but back in 1989 the grind movement and the bands from Earache Records were turning out this music. I lived in L.A. and me and my friends went to go see a band called Terrorizer which was all Mexican guys from L.A. They wouldn’t let them even play in the clubs back then. They wouldn’t let Mexicans play in the clubs, they didn’t like the guys in the band, they didn’t like the people who came to shows, they would have nothing to do with us. So Terrorizer were playing at a house, in the back yard of a house in the Mexican neighbourhood and we went. It was packed with kids and nobody there spoke English, you couldn’t even get a beer without talking Spanish and I was like ‘Damn! I didn’t know it would be like this, no-ones speaking any English’ and that’s when I got the idea. We have to do this band, and give it to them in Spanish. That’s where it was born, at that backyard Terrorizer gig in 1989. Go Brujeria! Give them what they wanted.
Of course at first, we had no real names, so we could just say whatever we wanted. It was never about getting famous, we could just put out some trash and say some stuff and make people open their eyes. I guess it worked out really well, it’s just sold itself for like 30 years and it’s still going.
“What current music are you listening to?”
Right now, it’s not even any metal bands! Mostly Chicano Punk Rock, Mexican-American punk bands. There’s a band called Pinata Protest, they are half Spanish, half English, half punk, whatever… The guy plays an accordion, so it gives it a little German Polka as well. It’s really fun! I wish we could bring them to Europe! We’ll have to see what happens… In Germany they’d be great because of that polka thing they got. Mexican folk music sounds very similar to that, it’s got a tone very similar to that German Polka”
“Brujo, make that happen! Bring Pinata Protest to us. We need cheering up here in the UK. Or I do at least! If you could go back and give your younger self one piece of advice, what would that be?”
I would say we should have started playing the live shows much earlier. It’d be that. We didn’t actually start playing the live shows until 2003. We went 1990 to 2003 with never playing a show. We were just writing records. Everyone was in different bands. Once they joined Brujeria, that was it, they got famous and they took off touring, so they were busy. One guy was with Faith No More, another with Fear Factory. They would be so busy we’d never see them. Whenever they get a week off around about Christmas we’d be like “Lets go record some songs” and we’d hit the studio, and record what we could and then they would take off again. We’d get a few hours to get together and make records.
“Was that your entire creative process at that time? You’d do the writing on the off chance you had all the members together to do it?”
Yeah completely! We’d show up at the studio with nothing written, we’d just get there and start recording. We only had very little time together until 2003 when their other bands started breaking up and going on hiatus and they had more time, then it became a thing of ‘Lets tour it’. And I never thought I would like the touring but I do, I like the touring and we’ve been touring it wherever we could. It’s hard to sell Spanish Metal but we’ve been doing our best to keep it going.
“What’s the greatest challenge the band has had to over come?”
The Spanish! That language barrier. It’s in Spanish and it’s not really nice things we’re making our songs about. That first record got banned within hours of coming out for sale in Germany, they banned it right away. They were like ‘This is racist crap, we’re returning it to Roadrunner Records’ and they returned it along with all the Roadrunner catalogue. They banned Roadrunner everywhere because of us.
*note – I’m laughing my head off*
I get this call at 6.00 in the morning, going “WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT RECORD SAY?” and I was like “What, why? Did we sell a million already?!?”
They tell me they were sending it back and I was like “Good, that’s what it was supposed to do” but then they sent all of Roadrunner stuff back at the same time. So that was a huge problem on day one, it was a big hurdle but we expected it and we actually wanted that to happen. We’ve had a lot of hurdles like that.
“What is your favourite song in tonight’s set list?”
I like them all actually. I can’t tell you one… no honestly, I do I like them all! I could probably tell you one I don’t like…
“Alright Brujo, what song do you not like in tonight’s set list?”
Which one wouldn’t I like? Oh Crap… I can’t tell you…
“Is there no particular song you struggle with vocally for any reason?”
Well you know if I’m tired I’ll struggle with all of them!!! The performance is either all good or all bad, I’m either struggling through the set or I’m absolutely fine.
I don’t have any one song that I don’t like to play… maybe the newer ones as I’m more likely to forget the lyrics. Those newer ones would probably be the only ones I worry about in case I forget a line or two.
“Any plans for new music?”
Of course yes, we’re already working on a new album.
“Could you tell me a bit more about the themes you’re working with for this one?”
A little Trump! Our favourite! The usual Brujeria themes updated for the year 2019! Giving a little update on things. Drug running, we’ll give a little update on that. US Laws and Trump, more on that. It’s like updated news. Each record tells story about what’s going on. It’s been years and it’s different now to how it was 30 years ago, so we just like to update the news.
Each album has ‘Crossing the boarder’ songs, that’s a big deal, there’s two or three of them. So obviously we’ve got songs about that, songs about the drug stuff, racist stuff, dirty politicians. History is just repeating itself I guess.
When we started writing there was no Internet and stories came to us by word of mouth. Now with the Internet everybody knows everything so it’s harder to get stuff out there that people don’t already know about.
We’ve come a long way since then, with no internet and no names, and nobody knowing who was in Brujeria. Who is in Brujeria? Nobody knows! People were going crazy with the rumours about us, nobody knew what was going on.
The rumours were amazing though, I liked the rumour mill. All kinds. Metallica are Brujeria, Tom Araya is in Brujeria, crazy rumours I’ve heard. People were just guessing who was in the band and random guys from the scene started saying “Oh yeah, I’m in Brujeria” taking the credit when they were nothing to do with it. There were even fake Brujeria bands playing. All that kind of stuff was happening.
“I’m guessing you miss having that mystery about the band?”
It was great. It was really great. It would take time to get news around and get news back, but it was always way stronger than it is now. There’s like a million rumours online, so people don’t tend to believe anything anymore. But back then, if somebody wanted to know anything, they’d be dying for info and they’d get a little piece and they’d be getting so excited. That was good.
“Juan Brujo, it was an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much”
Interview by Sarah Cummings