Juan Brujo of Brujeria: Hacer Brujeria Odio Otra Vez

"Yeah, we don’t do nice things to him in that song"

Wearing a bandana and wielding a Machete was never considered cool unless it was in conjunction with anything Brujeria. This enigmatic and fiery group were born into chaos and the stories of their trials are well documented in albums such as Matando Güeros, Raza Odiada, Brujerizmo and the latest release; Pocho Aztlan. Constant controversy circled the group; who can forget dearly beloved mascot Coco Loco? Yet behind the bandanas are just some honest folk telling their stories.... Juan Brujo lured me in from the get go as I attempted to dig up some much overdue information about the band and lay some rumours to rest. Juan talks past and present politics, story time, that tit-mouse Trump and the new album Pocho Aztlan for Metal As Fuck

2016 marks the first full length album from Brujeria – the first in sixteen years. With the current political climate in America at the moment was it a sense of patriotic duty or is it all just an uncanny coincidence? “It was a coincidence [Laughs] the album took a lot to get ready as we started touring for the band in 2003 and spent a lot of years touring, then we started putting the record together – what’s happening now isn’t what it’s about and I wish I could go back and change that and make it about the way things are, as its pretty crazy over here”. [Laughs]

The album was earmarked for a 2015 release however pushed back, I guess due to member’s schedules? “The guy mixing it had to have surgery and he was out for a whole year, so we waited a whole year for him to come out of it. Situations like this were happening a lot, so we were lucky to get it out this year [Laughs] but it is out and good to go”.

Pocho Aztlan’ which roughly translates to ‘wasted promise land’ again incorporates the Narcocorrido style – so for those playing at home, how would you describe this style? “Well, Mexican music; northern Mexican music is a lot about story telling; the ‘corridos’ as you mentioned and a lot of it is about drug dealing – we try to pick up that story telling technique but mix it with heavy metal music as oppose to the traditional use of country music and we just tell the stories as we see them and so on”. So obviously the band has included a lot of cultural heritage within the music and have witnessed some true clashes of cultires as the band themselves formed on the cusp of a social revolution in California, it wasn’t long before the band witnessed the LA Riots of 1993 and the bleak Proposition 187 - do you feel you were a voice for the minorities at the time? “Oh yeah, because when you speak of Proposition 187, that was brought through by the Californian Governor at the time, Pete Wilson, and as it turns out I met Pete, I bumped into him at a Grammy party in the early 90's – one of our members was nominated for another band so we were there and we literally bumped into one another, my reaction was ‘oh the Governor’ and I made room for him as it was a pretty crowded area, he looks at me, turns around and covered his wife, like as if to protect her from me! I was like ‘whaaa?’ everyone is looking – then security guys rush over to me, ask what the hell am I doing.... Ok whatever that was weird. Six months later he came out with the Proposition 187 – prop 187 was just hate! The Raza Odiada [translates in English as "Hated Race"] album followed with a song dedicated to Pete Wilson.... Yeah, we don’t do nice things to him in that song”. This whole situation was despicable, the nonsense of prop 187 was despicable.... I’ve always been interested in the beginnings of Brujeria as to what you were facing; Pete Wilson included so take us through the first few years of the band and the obstacles you faced “Well back then, the USA was in hater mode, everybody was against each other. Being Mexican and born in the United States was never popular ‘go back to Mexico’ they would scream out – going to Mexico and being born in the states wasn’t well received either. They’d call you Pocho which is Spanish for white trash or something useless so they didn’t want me here, they didn’t want me there. This is how records like Matando Güeros were born. The last ten to fifteen years have been ok, yeah, pretty ok, everything was nice.... Until Donald Trump comes along and ruins everything. In just six months he has set us back decades. Win or lose, he has already ruined it. Everyone hates each other again. It’s sad to see it happen so fast”.

Together with Dino [CazerasFear Factory, Divine Heresy, Asesino] you both formed Brujeria, so what was your original objective forming the band? “Well we were in LA about 88, 89 – we wanted to go see this band called Terrorizer. They wouldn’t let the band play in clubs around LA so they had to play in someone’s backyard and we went to the show and it was full of long haired Mexican guys and no one there spoke English....  and we were in LA. I was like ‘Damn, we’re the only ones speaking English’ [Laughs] and I thought, you know what, these kids need us – these kids need a band that can give them what they want and something that speaks their own language, literally. Something that was brutal and in their face – then Brujeria was born. We never thought about making money, we just wanted to make some songs and get them out to the kids... It just exploded from there”.

The band has had such longevity and I guess the anonymity and the limited releases can attribute to the mystery and attractiveness that had fans pining for Brujeria “That was one of the parts that was killing everyone [Laughs] ‘whose in the band?!”.

Brujeria cover a lot of ground with the material, the Satanism, sex, immigration, drugs – do you at times though find that some choice topics are often crass stereotypes? Do you feel that you are feeding the propaganda machine at times or is it just a reality that people have to face? “When we are dealing with topics that are considered stereotypical we look at it like some stereotypes are so bad - they’re just funny and a lot of our songs are funny. It’s making fun or something we can’t change, something that has gone beyond the point of silly. So we try not to take it too seriously we don’t want to create hate from hate”.  

Pocho Aztlan is bursting with tales and Brujeria are renowned for putting the truth in their stories – so take us through the ideas “They were stories we had to tell. We like to do stories that are entertaining. There is one particular song on the new record that is my favourite at the moment called Isla de la Fantasia, which translates to ‘Fantasy Island’. It’s a story about some friends of ours that went fishing outside Florida and all of a sudden a small airplane comes out of the sky and flies low over them, the second time it passes over them a package is dropped and it lands right next to them in the water – they get the package back on their boat, open it up.... 50 to 100 pounds of Cocaine. These guys were a bunch of lawyers, like Harvard grads just fishing – so their first reaction was ‘fuck, we’re going to be killed, get this off the boat!’ then there was one lawyer ‘..... Wait’ [Laughs] our story didn’t have a good ending [Laughs] but the guys are ok”. The stories are just so insane which makes it all the more interesting.

Brujeria are using the infamous Coco Loco mascot on the new album cover, who is superimposed as the ancient Aztec warrior – the image speaks volumes; a contrast between modern LA and the Aztec empire, it all sits together so brilliantly and so tongue in cheek – how did you arrive at this concept for the cover art? “You know Brujeria when you see it [Laughs] let’s get that wall put in, starting at California and everything below is Mexico [Laughs] it so funny, let’s take LA down.... We already had the wall on the cover – then Trump comes out with his wall, and we’re like ‘hey that’s our wall’ [Laughs] so we put his name on the wall on the album cover, make LA Mexico again [Laughs] and then label it the promised wasted land”. I love that Coco Loco was still there, seamlessly fitted into a warrior body “Yeah, you know where our roots are”. [Laughs] I was interested in the original location of Aztlan.... It covered quite a bit of North America “Yeah the ancient Aztec Indians, the promised land, it was all there. It was a long history”. 

Due to storms and the fact I had already gone well over my time with Brujo we were cut off.... Dang it