The name brings to mind two things, yet not necessarily in the order you would think. Metalachi, doesn't take traditional mariachi music, plug it in and turn it up for maximum kerrang. No, rather the band takes classic metal songs and strips them down, interpreting them with traditional mariachi instruments. What remains in this mashed-up, mariachi head-bang is the fire and intensity in which the band retools these tunes. It's not as loud as metal but the lyrics are the same, so is the darkness and so is the foreboding. But this is not simply a Latino lampoon. This is an ingenious, energetic fiesta of song and celebration. Still the band can't help clowning around in a bombastic, self-effacing way.
City had some questions for Metalachi members Vega De La Rockha, El Cucuy, and Maximilian "Dirty" Sanche. And boy, did they have some answers. Even when replying to the questions through email, the group turned it up. A mildly-edited transcript of that interview follows.
City Newspaper: Give us some background. Where and when and how did the band begin?
Vega De La Rockha: Metalachi; we're the first and only heavy metal mariachi band in the world!... Mira, like we're all half hermanitos (brothers). Born en Juarez, Chihuahua. We all got the same mama, pero different dads and we've lived most of our lives aqui in the United States because we wanted to make our musical dreams come true, you know? We hardly 'member what it was like cause it's been so long. We got our instruments and started playing very young (late 80's, early 90's) in different mariachi bands all over east, west, south, and north Los Angeles, playing quinceañeras, at weddings, and what not ... even en funerales!
I believe our need for metal came after we first laid our ears on the amazing and timeless album "Paranoid" de Black Sabbath. We were very intrigued by the way metal made us feel and decided to incorporate it to what we do best (play mariachi instrument). Plus we didn't have enough money to buy the expensive electric guitarras and amps. We wanted to make something different that would touch and reach not only Latinos but the whole world. Plus tequila helped.
Were you metal musicians who like mariachi music, or mariachis who dug metal?
El Cucuy: We all grew up playing mariachi music. Sometimes is funny because some people think we are gringos pretending to be Mexicans, but then we bust into some Chente songs, or Jose Alfredo [Jimenez], Javier Solís, etc. ... We actually have a repertoire of about 10,000 mariachi songs, but don't play them often, unless we see some chichis or nalgas as inspirations.
List some of your influences.
Vega De La Rockha: Ijole, we got lots of them. Metal: Ozzy would be the first, Slayer, Metallica, Europe, Motörhead, Whitesnake, Pantera, Led Zeppelin, Weird Al ... Mariachi: Pedro Infante, Javier Solís, Vicente Fernandez, Cantinflas, Cepillin...
How hard is it to combine the two styles?
El Cucuy: It is extremely hard! Put it this way, there are not many mariachi musicians that can put this together. And it has to be a mariachi musician, because if you ask a rock musician to pick up and learn an instrument like the guitarón, he will probably quit after one day. Yes, mariachis can play a cover of some metal songs, but to really play it to the level and intensity of a drum-driven metal band, and if you want to get chichi flashed, a mariachi musician has to really be technically awesome and play with fire.
How was the band received initially?
Maximilian "Dirty" Sanchez: The band has always been received with a lot of praise since our very first show. Although there are always a couple people who walk out. It's an acquired taste.
Are any of your fans traditional Mariachi music fans?
El Cucuy: Yes! We have a lot of good Charro fans that like what we do, pero at the same time we have mariachi Mexican hippie purists que really hate what we do. But they are titled to their culo-tightening opinions. Maybe they are just mad because we see more chichis playing Bon Jovi than they do singing Juan Gabriel songs and corridos. I love mariachi music, I grew up playing it and did my share of quinceañeras y bodas, and our homie mariachi musicians really like what we are doing. They say we are taking mariachi music to places that they never thought it could go. We also get a lot of fans that hate mariachi music but gained a respect and appreciation for the talent needed to play these folk instruments and musicianship after rocking faces to mariachi metal.
Any traditionalists (metal or Mariachi) opposed to what you're doing?
El Cucuy: All the traditionalists and non-believers that were opposed but came to the show and experienced it live (the way it should be experienced) have been converted and are now Metalachi believers ... You have to let go of the old and roll with the gold! Metalachi 4ever!
What's a defining moment in the band's history?
Vega De La Rockha: I would say there have been a couple already, like playing with Dave Lombardo, former drummer for Slayer, at the world famous The Roxy in West Hollywood, gaining solid following after. But I believe that what will define our history as a band will be in May when we share the stage with the great Ozzy at the OzzFiesta in Mexico. We can't wait for that...Horns up!
What's a typical Metalachi show like?
Maximilian "Dirty" Sanchez: A Metalachi show is fun, sexy, high energy, and very offensive.
Do you write your own songs as well?
Maximilian "Dirty" Sanchez: We do write our own songs. Currently working on some original material for our next album.
What's something you'll never do?
El Cucuy: Never do? You mean besides run through the jungle wearing a jacket made of carne asada? Man...I don't know. I will almost do anything. One thing I will never do is get drunk. I am not a drinker, but if you give me choco milk and churros/donas I am easy to take advantage of. So to all my homies that bought us shots, it's no disrespect to you...I just don't drink alcohol. Even the Jesus wine at church, I don't drink it.