Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Los Impuestos interview for MRR

I sat down with Guatemala City’s Los Impuestos one evening before their rehearsal for an upcoming gig. They described in some detail the origins of their approach to hardcore and their unique experience as a band within Central America. With members stemming from earlier local Guatemalan bands such as Fuerza X, Neurotoxico, and Volver, Los Impuestos foment a diverse, heavy flavor profile of power violence and skate thrash with some top notes of black metal and even a slight hint of hip hop. Amidst plenty of jokes and banter, they had an interesting story to tell.

For the non-Spanish speakers, what does Los Impuestos mean and what is the concept behind the band name?

Chato: So, Los Impuestos means “The Taxes” and we pretty much got the name because we’re always bitching about paying taxes; working and getting stiffed all the time. But then it turned into a joke like we’re this private entity that tries to dodge taxes. It eventually devolved into a depiction of the private sector as a cult of money-worship with capital as an avatar of Satan. So, that’s pretty much what the lyrics are about; they’re fuckin ridiculous. 

Can you introduce yourselves, your role in the band, as well as your day job?

Espe: I’m Expectativa. That’s the name I go by. I play the drums. And my day job: I think I kinda run an import and distribution company.
Chato: Kinda?
Espe: Kinda. And I also do a microgrid solar company.
Kumi: Kumi. I play guitar and work in a bank.
Chang: Changzi. My name is Changzi. I run my own business, which is a restaurant.
Chato: And me, I pretend to work at a… 
Who is “me”?
Chato: Oh me, Chato. Chatisimo. Superlativo. Chatío el plus. Shaolin Master Shadow. I’m the vocalist and I work in a marketing agency and I try to sell shit to people. Terrible shit. I mean, I make people get fatter and shit. That’s pretty much my job.
Gabo: My name is Gabriel. Herrera. I do video production during the week and on the weekends I have a burger business. So, I also make people get fatter.

How did you all meet?

Chato: Expectativa and I met when we were like 14 or 15 or some shit like that. And uh… we uh… we fell in love. We fell in love. We’ve been fuckin’ playing in terrible bands and great bands since we met each other. And we met through going to shows. Kumi and I met… actually we met at Boy Scouts when we were 11 or 12. He went to school with my sister and he was the only guy that listened to decent music and it was metal. He wasn’t even into punk or anything like that, but we still hung out. Chang, I actually met… I’ve known him since a long time ago but he was a Christian before, so I wouldn’t talk to him. Then he lost his faith and we became real good buddies. I would see him at shows and he wouldn’t have crosses on or all that Christian shit. So he was lots of fun to hang out with.

When and where did you form the band?

Chato: It was when I got my bass stolen. You remember?
Espe: Yeah. We were doing a previous band that was just Chato and myself. 
Chato: Hijos de Atreus. Yeah. We were playing this stonery fuckin’… well trying to play that shit at least. I went out partying one night and I left my bass, my pedals, and my computer in my car and I got  fuckin mugged. But we had the habit of jamming every Wednesday. So, then there was just this guitar that was left to play. And I really can’t play guitar, much less I can’t play slow guitar. So, we basically just started playing the shit we liked from back in the day and started recruiting [members] after that. 

How would you describe your particular sound?

Chato: I think it sounds like.. you know… comedy hour. It sounds like a goofy fuckin’, punky…
Chang: Brewster!
Chato: Yeah. Punky Brewster-core.

What are your main musical influences?

Espe: I personally steal shit from the most random places. I think I’ve mentioned before, Phil Collins. A bunch of punk, hardcore, metal, whatever influences. 
Chato: You know, there’s a lot of early 90s powerviolence. Kumi, when he first started hanging out with us, didn’t listen to punk at all. So, there’s a lot of metal influence. It’s got that charm with Chang, you know he likes that old…
Chang: Hardcore from the early 2000s, when it became really melodic. So, that’s pretty much what I bring to the band.
Chato: And you know, I used to like all that Septic Death, Siege, and all that shit when I was young. 
Espe: Slap-A-Ham.
Chato: But really it’s like a lot of old punk bands. Void. I really like Void. And I steal a lot of riffs from 60s psych bands. I stole some shit from The Seeds, you know. Shamelessly. Just with a lot of distortion. And Broadcast, I’ve been mooching off those motherfuckers. Yeah, but I don’t care because she’s dead, man. So, she’s not going to sue me or anything.

Can you also explain the title of your EP “Donde Se Drogarán Los Niños?” and how you came up with that?

Espe: Chepe.
Chato: My friends from college that are more preppy just had a spoof with the Maná record “Donde Se Jugarán los Niños?” (where are the children going to play?). My friend, Chepe, was like, “aw, man, you should call it Donde Se Drogarán los Niños.” Which means “where are the kids going to do drugs?” And the cover is an illustration of Richie Rich being served some heroin. So, it explains a lot about our band. Our lyrics are just making fun of whatever type of economic system they’re trying to run here. 

Do you have any more releases planned in the future?

Chang: We just listened to a live recording from our show this past weekend.
Chato: Yeah, and we have about seven loose songs we need to record.  We’ve just been too busy to go about it, but we need to lay them down. That’s enough for another 7” I would think. But I think we need to bust out an LP soon. 
Kumi: There are two unreleased songs from the last 7”.
Chato: Yeah, but the recording is not that awesome. That’s why we didn’t include them. But they’re there. They’re there. But yeah, we really want to keep playing. We need to tour and get out there. That’s part of what this interview is all about. Also, anyone can get to our music on Bandcamp: http://losimpuestos.bandcamp.com. You can buy the 7” for a cool $1000 USD.

Do you channel any inspiration for your live performances?

Chato: I mean I’m kinda like a fuckin’ show boy.
Espe: I don’t know. I just like to hit shit as hard as I can, really.
Chato: On my side, you know hardcore is all like… well not all of it… but you know, it’s not really feminine. So, I try to dance and pretend I’m listening to some 80s synth-wave while I’m playing. So, it’s definitely like I’m channeling this very feminine, or boyish, whatever you try to call it. It’s pretty androgynous.

What do your parents say about your music?

Espe: Nothing good, really. They don’t like it.
Chang: But after all these years, they are used to it.
Chato: I don’t think my parents even know I’m in a band.

Latin America has a reputation for being rather conservative and Catholic - how do you feel your music is received by people in Guatemala? Are there strong reactions against it?

Chato: Everybody wants anal now, man. Five years earlier, it was kinda weird. But now people are opening up. I mean look, fuckin’ Chang came out of the closet last year, man. Congratulations! Salud! (applause). So everybody is loosening up a little bit. So, we’re just trying to fuck anybody or everybody in the ass.
Espe: I think we’ve really played the most random of settings. I think Chato has to do with it…
Kumi: A bunch of private parties.
Espe: A bunch of rich people.
Chato: They fucking love it, man. They fucking love it. I don’t know if it’s necessarily rich. It’s a bunch of people that listen to dance music or whatever they’re playing in the clubs now. We hang out with a lot of people, so we end up playing those random places. We’re playing the fuckin’ International Burger Day thing on Sunday. So, we’ll just play anything, you know? And most of the time people kinda like it because it’s funny. And it’s rowdy.

Is there a strong scene for hardcore and underground music in Guatemala? Are there a lot of venues that welcome your kind of music?

Chato: I mean it’s weird now in Guate. There are a lot more people getting interested in the kind of music we’re playing, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re in the scene, you know? We just started hanging out with the metal kids and even the rap kids. So, we’re playing different shows, but I wouldn’t consider it a scene. It’s just like we’re partying on a Friday in Guate. 
Espe: A lot of clubs and venues are being shut down. There are also new ones that are trying to pop up. And because we play around with a bunch of different types of music, we hang around with a bunch of different people, so there are always open doors for us.
Chato: There’s a common denominator in bands, though. We always play with Gamezán or Fosa Común.
Chang: Now people are going to Google that shit.
Chato: Don’t Google! Google is the devil, man! But yeah, there’s still a scene. It’s a tiny scene and it’s the kids we’ve hung out with since we were young that stayed, and some new punky kids like the Desverga kids. They’re playing those shows, but they never set them up. So, that’s why we just started playing those other places.

Do you want to explain why the venues are always being shut down?

Chato: You want to talk about Arzú? Our fucking mayor?
Kumi: Most of our venues are shit holes.
Chato: They are. That’s why they get closed. Because the mayor of this fucking city is just a money grubbing fuck. And so the thing is, he just never gives anybody liquor licenses or anything. He ends up buying the places with some private entity and they just shut it down. In Guate there’s been a new type of gentrification but it’s more forceful by the government. They’re closing down crummy old bars and just putting in coffee shops. It’s just because the government gives those guys permits and not local venues or the local, shitty bars we would play in.

What’s the craziest thing that’s happened at one of your shows?

Chato: Chang, you’re always outdoing yourself. I mean, you broke your fuckin’ foot last time because you were showing off your legs.
Chang: I wasn’t showing off my legs, I was just…
Chato: For the record, he’s got beautiful legs. He’s a beautiful man.
Espe: I would say that between Chang’s proclivity to stand on drums and amps and stuff and Chato’s rants and rolling around… that and the fights…
Chato: Oh yeah! Chino was trying to fight a dude like a month ago, man. That shit was funny, man.
Espe: We were doing the Beastie Boys cover…
Chato: Yeah, I made him do the Breastie Boys cover because he wanted to get into a fight. I was like “Chino! C’mon, man!” But I mean, yeah, there’s some rowdy shit at the shows. I don’t think there’s crazy shit going on, but it’s just the craziest fucking people in the crowd. It could be like a fuckin’ hobo just moshin’ it up. I mean like this 70 year old dude with no pants, there’s a video of it. There were these people from the street, we were playing in the middle of the park and they just came over and started dancing up a fuckin’ storm. No pants and shit. That shit was a lot of fun. 

Do you guys have a lot of groupies?

Chato: No. I don’t think so.
Kumi: We have a lot of friends.
Chato: Yeah, that’s the thing here… we’ve mostly only played here in Guate where we know everyone and a lot of the band has significant others… but I mean… we get laid.
Espe: I say “hi” now to a much larger number of people now than I did before. I think that’s gotta count for something.
Chang: Oh! I autographed one of our records the other night. That was weird!
Chato: Yeah! First autograph! But yeah, usually that’s why everybody I think likes coming to the shows, because it’s like family/friend time. It’s just like hanging out. I don’t think we have any fans, we just have people that like our music and our friends.

How did you all get into underground music? Was there a gateway through a particular person or band?

Espe: It might sound dumb, but it was CD warehouse…
Chato: Oh, shit yeah, man!
Espe: …and Thrasher Magazine. Those things kinda collided and made me search for you know… like Fugazi and random punk music.
Chato: It was in Discomanía, not CD Warehouse, but I bumped into a used Fugazi record. But back then, there was no internet and shit when you were a kid. I got into punk rock because of some older kids in my school. We used to skateboard together and they just got into music because of their older brothers, like Mako Diaz, man. I was like in the 5th grade. I was a fuckin’ child. Like a fuckin’ baby. And he got me into Adolescents and bands like that. Later on, we met Kathy. Kathy got us into the real shit. She was this American girl. Well, she’s not a girl anymore. She’s more like a lady.
Espe: Yeah, she was a lady back then, I think.
Chato: Yeah, sorry, America. No fuckin’ disrespect to the ladies. I know how sensitive you are about the subject. But yeah, it was just this random girl we met at the mall. She was probably in her late 20s and we were 14 or 15. She was totally stoked our friend Roberto had a Black Flag shirt. So, she was pretty impressed that anybody would listen to punk rock here in Guatemala City in like 1996. So, she had this big record collection and she got us into powerviolence. She got me into Septic Death, Negative FX, and all that harder shit. Back when we met her, we were more into just the Epitaph catalogue and she got us into more substantial punk rock. 
Chang: For me it was weird. I had a classmate from Canada. I used to get really excited about watching Blink 182 and Green Day on MTV. When I was talking about music to this guy, he was sort of like, “well, that’s cool but I’m going to introduce you to the real shit.” He got me into The Sex Pistols, The Misfits, and all of that stuff. After that, he went back to Canada and I met these guys [in the band].
Gabo: I was into metal in high school. My grandma was friends with some ladies and one of their daughters had a boyfriend in a punk rock band that was looking for a singer. So, she saw me around and I had metal shirts on, you know? So, she asked me if I wanted to try out. So, when I tried out for the band I knew about punk rock, but only whatever was on the radio.
Chato: I remember that, man. We played that first show together. That shit was funny, man. He looked like fuckin’ Bobby Hill. He was so tiny. 
Gabo: So, I got into the band and everybody had really cool influences from skate punk to crossover thrash. So, everything just kinda made sense to me. 
Kumi: I used to read a magazine called The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds.
Chato: Ah, is that a business journal?

Growing up, was it accessible to get records in Guatemala?

Chato: No. Not at all. I told you we met Kathy, right? She moved to Belgium and she had a distro. And from the States it was impossible to get anything after we got into all this music. So, she would send us all of these European zines in French and shit. We couldn’t even fuckin’ read ‘em. Through zines, we started ordering records, but since we couldn’t get it from the States, she started ordering shit to Belgium and would send it down to Guate. So it would take, what?-- three and a half months to get a fuckin’ record? So, that’s why we know all of those records by heart. We couldn’t get shit.
Espe: And once one of us got a record, it would be taped and prostituted massively amongst everybody.
Chato: The Hardass Compilations! We used to get these compilations called Hardass. Well, that’s the name the dude from the distro would call it. He was sending awesome fucking mixtapes and it would have Los Crudos, fuckin’ Spazz, and European shit like Fingerprint, terrible Italian shit like Timebomb. it was a little bit of everything. From that to J Church. Fuckin’ Promise Ring and shit. It was a little bit of everything. So, it was these mixtapes from Europe and we would pick up on that.

Were any of you straightedge? And if so, how did you break edge?

Chato:  That would just be Expectativa. You were straightedge! You were straightedge, too (points at Chang)!
Espe: He was also Christian, so that doesn’t count. He broke Christ.
Chang: How did I break? I think it was because of Gabo. I sort of quit the punk and hardcore scene for a couple of years. These skinhead guys started inviting me to their barbecue parties. I just saw these guys never stop drinking beer and I decided “what the fuck? it’s just a drink.” And I liked it. 
Chato: And now he’s a full-fledged drug addict.  Alright? Además? Oh, Expectativa is still kinda straightedge.
 Espe: I was straightedge for a long time, really. And then I moved to Spain. I didn’t want to break edge and become one of those guys that goes to clubs. I just didn’t want to be straightedge anymore. In Spain, there’s beer and wine everywhere.
Chato: And it’s good shit!
Espe: And it’s good shit. So, it seemed like a good idea. 
Gabo: I had the Christian edge.
Espe: He broke the Christ!
Chato: Christ Edge!
Chang: Christian Death!
Chato: Christian meth!
Gabo: When I was in college, all of my friends started robo tripping. It seemed pretty fun.
Chato: And Kumi, you were never edge.
Kumi: Never edge, never veggie, never vegan. Never. None of that.
Chato: And I, I have never.
Espe: No n-n-n-n-no.
Chato: What, for like three weeks when I was like 14?
Espe: Chato tried.
Chato: For like two weeks!
Espe: Yeah, he lasted for like two weeks.
Chato: I was 14! I mean, I wouldn’t drink because they wouldn’t sell me that shit. I was straightedge by default. Been drinkin’ ever since.

What’s the most interesting music you’ve heard in 2017?

Chang: I would have to say Black Randy and the Metro Squad. And Defroster, of course.
Espe: I’ve been getting a lot more into Sun Ra and Albert Ayler.
Kumi: Big Daddy Kane.
Gabo: Cocksparrer.
Espe: The Forever record
Chato: I’ve been into Italo-bands since last year, but I keep fuckin’ with it. And the guy interviewing us right now just got me into Phurpa. It’s the sickest shit. Sickest shit ever. And I started getting into that Thai shit you got me into, too. But I would say none of us really listen to that much hardcore.
Chang: Also, Tumour. I really like Tumour and Epiploenterocele Pusliquid Wormchunk. Gorenoise. Stuff like that. Bubble vocals.

How do you go about finding out about new music?

Espe: I think that I mainly just go back to records that I never paid attention to before. 
Kumi: I’m addicted to buying shit on Bandcamp. I buy probably five records every week. What I do is I follow a bunch of people there and a bunch of labels. You listen to it, you like it, you buy it.
Chato: I think that the bottom line is following the trail of the bands you like and looking at what influenced them. Also, having a fucking friend like you, man. And Le Club. What’s up to Le Club! We have this music listening club that gets together every Thursday. It’s just random people bringing records, smoking weed, and listening to music. Most of the people there don’t even listen to punk rock. It’s all sorts of people. There’s this dude that listens to reggae all the time, which is pretty unnerving. There’re people that listen to EDM, unfortunately. A lot of people listen to metal. But what really brings the group together is probably rock n’ roll. So, that’s a good input to new music. 

Any bands you want to give a shout out to?

Chato: Jeannette, dude. That’s my shit. “Soy Rebelde.” I forgot to talk about that. That’s the shit I’m into right now. 
Chang. Defroster. And The Dunce Club.
Espe: All kidding aside, Gamezán, really. 
Chato: Our boys, Gamezán! And Fosa Común!
Espe: Mother Earth.
Chato: Mother Earth! You need to get into some Mother Earth, man. It’s forest crust. 
Gabo: They’re from Sololá.
Chato: It’s these crusty kids that live in the fucking forest here.
Chang: The fucking lake.
Chato: A shout out to everybody in Guate that’s doing whatever the fuck they want with music.

Friday, May 19, 2017