by Rana Santacruz
Thank you for accepting our invitation for this interview.
The sun, the moon, playful ideas about light and darkness, the struggle to avoid stagnation and float with the waves appear often in your lyrics. What do you credit with your ability to provide such vivid and emotional landscapes that transport us away from the ordinary?
Hmmm… I’m not sure. The first thing that comes to mind is my mother’s influence. Mom is an art teacher and from early age she talked to me a lot about the power of art. And I think part of this power is communicating sensations and emotions in different and unique ways. I guess that’s always present when I’m writing.
El Chapulin is such an enjoyable and humorous take on the sad reality of politics not only in Mexico, but around the world, sadly. This is one of those protest songs that doesn’t make anyone yawn, quite the contrary, it awakens the best emotions in a human being and reassess one’s love for a good life beginning with music and dance. Do you always have a musical response to political occurrences and frustrations or was this an exception to how you usually deal with politics?
I’m glad you noticed! El Chapulín was an exception. I am really into politics, but I rarely write music about politics. I think sometimes people writing protest songs hamper their own creativity. They think they need to sound angry or sad, and although these are totally valid responses it becomes a rational process that lacks spontaneity and follows pre-determined rules. I find this lack of individuality and spontaneity kind of lame and boring and I always try to write in a way that speaks to me. That’s something I really like about John Stewart, John Oliver and SNL, they often talk about serious stuff in an original and fun way.
Te Quiero Ver Llorar - why? This song creates an atmosphere that will make people dance, sing along, but it won’t make anyone shed a single tear. That was the intended reaction, wasn’t it?
Yes. Haha. It’s obviously from the singer’s selfish point of view. I don’t care if it hurts baby, if your tears make your eyes shinier and more beautiful that’s all I care… that will make me dance and sing.
Why A Frog that Sings in Ranchero Style? What’s the significance of picking out a frog or is it just for the heck of it, simply a sign of self depreciating humor?
No, it has a more straightforward explanation. The Muppet’s Kermit the Frog is called Rana Rene in Mexico. Rana means frog so it is pretty common for Mexican guys called Rene to inherit the “Rana” nickname. I also think it creates a nice image. I like complexities. Finding beauty in what is supposed to be ugly and vice versa. So I guess the frog image plays well with that idea.
What is The Only Thing You Want for yourself? How about in more general terms?
I think the only thing I want is to be able to make a living using my creativity and doing what I love to do. I want to be surrounded by people with whom I have a fulfilling emotional connection.
photo by: Erin Patrice OBrien
Some of your influences include Classical Mexican cinema, American Bluegrass, and post punk favorites like The Smiths, The Cure and even the Pogues, but also Tom Waits and Brooklyn based Balkan brass bands and more. Having an open heart and mind to have such a wide and fantastic list of musical favorites is not as common as it should be. Were you wired like this from the beginning or is it your chosen path that has shaped your musical preferences as well?
I think I was just wired that way. I like what I like and I can’t help it. And some of it might be kind of dorky or cheesy or not that cool sometimes, but I feel that acknowledging, accepting and respecting what you like can lead to more unique and original forms of expression and art.
What inspired you to write A Dead Man’s Wishes?
The song kind of captured two personal situations where close family members passed away. One of them was my uncle who died of cancer a few years ago, and the other one was my grandfather who passed away probably close to 20 years ago. Both of them lived… and died with a lot of pride and dignity (thus the lines “I’ll be waiting for them, sons of bitches… they’ll have to shoot me in the front and in the back if they really wanna kill me”).
I remember right after my grandpa died that although feeling very sad I also felt an overwhelming desire to go out, live, have adventures and enjoy. Somehow experiencing their deaths helped me value and enjoy life more. In a way I feel like their ghosts whispered to my ear the line “Bury my ashes under a tree near the sea, enjoy a polka and have a feast”.
We know of your love for Brooklyn and New York with the wealth of talent and artistic possibilities here. Can you share with us a short story about the most exciting and surprising thing that you’ve experienced here?
One day I was playing at a bar and the 2nd trumpet flaked out and did not make it to the gig. There was a trumpet player having a beer randomly in the venue. One of the band members knew him and asked him to step in. He played flawlessly and incredibly well, and added his personal touch into the mix. I love when random things like that happen, and what’s awesome is that they can really happen pretty often.
Where are the most exciting venues you’ve performed in and the most amazing artists you have shared the stage with?
I loved performing at Lincoln Center a few months ago. I also loved performing at Vive Latino in Mexico City. It was nerve racking, but it felt great to play in front of such a huge crowd. And artists… hmmm… I shared stage with Men At Work once with my old band. That was pretty funny. I’d love to share the stage with The Pogues, Tom Waits or David Byrne. The Cure would be great too.
At the end of the day, what are the things you know for sure?
I know for sure that I love and will always love refried beans, salsa, and freshly baked bread on a Friday night.