Their legend has proliferated for nearly three decades. When Brujeria first emerged from the sunbaked hellscape of Los Angeles in 1989, the city was on the brink of chaos. Daryl Gates ruled the LAPD with an iron fist, overseeing a legion of blue-suited stormtroopers who cracked brown and black skulls at every opportunity. Rodney King, the ’92 riots, and CA governor Pete ‘Pito’ Wilson’s anti-immigrant Prop 187 were all on the bleak horizon. Fast forward to right about now: ‘Pocho Aztlan’ is Brujeria’s first new album in 16 years. The title translates to ‘Wasted Promised Land,’ a combination of Aztlan, the fabled ancestral home of the Aztecs, and the term ‘pocho’, which native Mexicans use to refer – not always kindly – to their counterparts born in the States. We caught up with vocalist Juan Brujo to discuss the new album and the difficulties of keeping the band active.
Steve: So how’s things of late?
John: Well for me lately it’s like trying to plan some shows coming up and then a ton of interviews. It’s a lot of work lately I guess but it’s good, I like doing it.
Steve: Keep you on your toes yeah?
John: Oh yeah!
Steve: I see you guys are heading out with Cattle Decapitation shortly.
John: Right yeah good guys! I think they actually started their band way back in the day because they liked Brujeria and kinda do what we did and it’s always funny to see these guys. I knew them when they were kids and now to see them all grown up and getting popular is a good thing, I like that.
Steve: So can you tell me a little about what it was like to get back into the studio with the new album after such a long time away?
John: Well what happened was with the last record about 15-16 years ago or whatever was, we started to play live shows and do tours and stuff and we never did live shows or tour ever before. We played a couple of house shows maybe 3 or 4 times in the 90’s and so 2003 came on and we started doing shows and found out that people wanted us to do shows, so every time we got free time we would get together and just go on tour and do shows and really it was to just have fun. All the guys that were in other bands were like, ‘Man this is so fun, it’s like vacation and having fun’, so we toured and toured and we never thought about recording these new songs when we got together. So finally in 2008 there was some guys that were, ‘You guys need to do a record if you want to play again’, and this and that. So let’s do this then, get all the members together and start a new record and it’s just hard to get everybody together at the same time but we started working getting new songs out and then it’s like, ‘We can email you these tracks or you can email us this and that’. We started doing that and that took forever, it makes it slower than the old school way. We even had things like the guy who’s going to mix it had surgery and was going to be out for a year so things like that were going on so we had some major delays all the time. Finally we battened down and finally got this thing out and here it is so it’s been a lot of work and a lot of you guys have been waiting a long time but it’s ready to go now. We like it, it’s a good thing. It’s a modern sounding and clean and we hope people like it like that.
Steve: Awesome and getting back to what you were saying, it’s hard to get everyone together. How does it go getting everyone’s schedule to align so that you can all get together? And how does it happen whereby do you send tracks to each other and you work on your part?
John: Well getting everybody together, all in the 90’s whatever you hear recorded in singles and records, that’s all the time we’ve had together, maybe 2 or 3 hours! I would say 100 hours in everything that we did in the 90’s because Faith No More took off, Fear Factory took off, Napalm Death took off. It’s like once you joined Brujeria, your band got huge, everybody got rich and famous [laughs]. So it was like 100 hours in the 90’s and in 2003 Dino (Cazares, Fear Factory) got into a fight with the other guy in Fear Factory or threw him out or whatever so all of a sudden we had the ability to do some dates and tours and stuff so we decided to do that again. But to get them to do a record is almost impossible, very little time and as I said, emailing tracks back and forth made it take just a long time because, ‘Oh I got a tour for the next 2 months and I’ll send it back to you when I get back’, and 6 months goes by and it was just hard to get people to do it. The next record I think we really need to be motivated and to get everybody together so I’m hoping that happens because we did it the email way and I think it took a little longer to achieve that than the way we expected. But yeah getting everybody together is insane!
Steve: Yeah like you said, only 100 hours in the 90’s!
John: Yeah I could give you the hours we had in the 90’s, it was very little time. It’s a miracle that we got out that much stuff.
Steve: [laughs] So the title of the new album is translated to ‘Wasted Promise Land’, was that a reference to the state of the world and America or was there something else at play?
John: Yeah it was something else, it was more like…well Pocho is word you give to a Mexican guy born in the United States. Like me I’m born in the United States and my parents are from Mexico so I would go down to Mexico and they’re calling me Pocho which is a really bad word for you, you’re Pocho, you don’t belong here and I get shit from people down in Mexico when they know I’m born over here (US) and live over here so it’s just a bad word that they call us down there. They don’t want us down there and when I’m over here, the American people don’t want us here either, ‘You’re Mexican, go back to Mexico’, ‘I go to Mexico, they don’t want me there so we got nowhere to go’. With the people of the Pochos, they have nowhere to go. No land to do good, they don’t want us here, they don’t want us there. So with the Pochos on the outside it’s just like the old Indian promise land that the Spaniards looked for that the Indians knew existed so we put them together, the old promised land and us Pochos that have no country of our own. Put them together and that’s our country, Pochos Aztlan. It’s like a country with no land to it, it’s in the sky I guess and that’s the whole theory behind that. It’s just us Mexican/American guys that feel unwanted everywhere.
Steve: So basically it’s a record for the outcasts?
John: Yeah it’s what it is. It’s having faith that there’s a nation of outcasts out there somewhere, somwhere like the old Indians, somewhere there’s a promise land. So that’s what this is, starting that idea.
Steve: So what would be your favorite track off the album as it currently stands?
John: Oh geez! I like them all. There’s the usual drug trafficking songs up to date with what’s going on in the latest drug dealing days. If you go back to 1993 you can see how it works then for our first record and now it’s updated with how it’s going now. There’s the old immigration thing of people coming from Mexico to the United States illegally so there’s another update on that, what it is today versus the old days. Then there’s the old things with religion…I wouldn’t say religion but give an opinion on what’s going on with all that and what updates I’ve found on that stuff. Then there’s 1 or 2 songs on things that actually happened that are really funny like “Isla De La Fantasia” which translated is Fantasy Island which is an old TV program here in the States and it’s about a bunch of friends of ours fishing in Florida on a boat and a small plane comes by and passes over once and the second time it throws a big box into the water right next to their boat and they pull it in and it turns out to be 50 pounds of cocaine and they’re like, ‘Oh my god they thought we were a different boat’, and this and that. So that whole story is in that song and we called it Fantasy Island because they were all lawyer guys on this boat but one of them was saying, ‘I wish we had cocaine here’, he wished like like on fantasy island and here comes the plane and drops it off and it was pretty funny that one guy out of all the lawyers was like, ‘Leave it here!’ [laughs]. That’s what that song is about so things like that, that come up and happened to our friends, there’s songs like that on there too.
Steve: So what do you think makes Brujeria so controversial? Why do you think people sort of shun away from it? Are they scared of it? What’s your take on it?
John: Well yeah in the beginning it was scary. The releases that came out were meant to scare you hard and it pretty much did that but as things go on and people know more, it’s not as bad. But we’re singing about it and stuff, it really hits home. A lot of it are true stories and it’s easier to relate to, like, ‘Oh that happened here’ and whatever and we just added the finishing touch to it of our style. The things you sing about in the past and the way they come out now, people automatically think it’s bad and it’s not but if you go see our show – you might think it’s bad and want to go and see what’s going on – but you see our show and as you go through it, by the end you’re having a good time like a big party with everybody and high energy going on there and it’s all positive. So you can actually see that on stage, you have to see the people held back and quite and reserved and having a good time so jumping around being positive is just a good thing and that’s what we like to do. Take it from the bad part into the good part where everybody is happy, that’s what we like to do.
Steve: So given that everybody is so busy, would there ever be a chance for you guys to head to Australia or would that be a really difficult thing to put together?
John: Well we hope that it can be done, it’s going to be difficult. First of all the market for Brujeria out there might not be as big as needed because all the songs are in Spanish and noone here speaks Spanish so we’re going to have to write and hopefully some other band takes us out there and open for them and hopefully then we get to show our stuff and people like it and want to see us again, so we’ll see what happens. I know we have some fans out there, I just hope there’s enough to make us go over there as I would love to go over there! I want to check out your weed, I know you got the best so we can compare them out [laughs].
Steve: We can compare notes!
John; Exactly! Have you ever been over here in the States?
Steve: No I haven’t! Much like you I would love to head over your side. Maybe do a trade!
John: [laughs] Right! You come over here, rest assured I’ll show you around!
Steve: Sounds like a plan! Well it’s been really awesome to talk to you, really appreciated your time. Good luck with the new album and everything, all the best with the band and hope to see you down here some time!
John: Alright thank you! I hope so too, thanks a lot then!