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Interview: Juan Brujo from Brujeria

Brujeria press shot

Most legends are born from truth, and Mexican death metal giants Brujeria are no exception. Some say the octet are satanic drug lords, others say they are members of several well-established heavy bands. With performing alter egos and an intimidating disposition we may never know the truth. What we do know is for almost three decades Brujeria have lead a metal uprising against the racial divide between America and Mexico, and after 16 years they are finally releasing their new weapon in the form of album ‘Pocho Aztlan.’ We caught up with frontman Juan Brujo who revealed spoilers from the album, the true meaning behind controversial single Viva Presidente Trump!, and an urgent message to Australia.

Congratulations on the new album! As this is your first in 16 years, what made you decide it was finally time for the world to hear ‘Pocho Aztlan’?

After the last record it was hard to get everybody together so it’s always been a problem. I think in 2008 we decided to make a new record. We’d been touring for a while so that’s when we started the process. But just trying to get everybody together to record was hard to do because we would get offers for shows and we’d do that instead. Finally we got some time together to write some songs and do pieces back and forth but then things got in the way, like the guy who was going to mix it had back surgery and was out for a year. Things like that would happen each year. We finally got it together this last year and it’s coming out now.

In English Pocho Aztlan roughly means ‘Wasted Promised Land.’ Could you explain the meaning in more depth?  

‘Pocho’ is a bad word Mexicans use to describe Mexicans born in the United States – it’s like calling them trash. People from Mexico are calling us trash over here. It’s like we’re not wanted in Mexico and then over here if you’re Mexican they say, “Go back to Mexico!” so it’s like we have no real place of our own. And then ‘Aztlan’ is the Aztec Indian’s Promise Land. They’re all mythical – the city in the sky or whatever. So we take the Aztec Promise Land and put it together: ‘Pocho Aztlan’. That’s the whole thing behind the title.

The songs themselves are basically fairly like the old ones – songs that talk about crossing the border, illegal immigration into the United States, drug dealings and other things that are going on between Mexico and the United States. It’s just updated of what’s going on now compared to the old records that told what was going on then.

What was the writing and recording process like this time around?

Well like I said it’s always hard to get everybody together to write songs and with touring going on we spend a lot of our time with that. The actual getting together with everybody and trying to get things done is like, “Email me this, and email me that track.” When you start doing the email thing it’s hard to put together fast. We learnt that the hard way. Everybody’s in different bands and they’re on tour all the time and blah blah blah, so it’s hard to get them all together. 

Where did you want to take this album in terms of musical direction?

Before we would have no time so we would just put it together really fast and it came out rough around the edges and with punk rock versions, stuff like that. This time we had the time to go back and forth and get it polished up and with more modern recording and modern gear as compared to the old ones that were done in old 8-track reel to reels – really old equipment.

Which song on the album best describes you right now? 

There’s a couple, I guess. The main track Pocho Aztlan and I like the song Codigos, which is one of the last ones. There’s also the love song Bruja-. Those are my favourite ones. I could name them all but for now I like those three.

Would you ever re-release any of your albums in English? 

No, never. It’s Spanish only, it can’t be in English. I mean we never put it together trying to make records to sell. We did the underground thing, putting the album out and not expecting anything. We were actually told no for the first single and we were like, “Why, it’s free, put it out!” There’s nothing wrong with a band that doesn’t want money for their recordings but no one was going to put it out in Spanish. We finally asked in a favour and we got it and it went well. There were a lot of people crossing the border to buy them to take back to Mexico so it was a good thing.

In April you released the infamous single Viva Presidente Trump! Can you explain the message behind it?

Well Trump joined the election to become President and he just started going off on Mexicans! He wants to build a wall on the Mexican/American border and make Mexico pay for it, and he was saying, “We’ll go to war with Mexico.” The way he was saying it was just outright hate. There’s a lot of Mexican-Americans in the United States and that got them all fired up in a hurry. He was just picking on everybody, and we had a chance to do a single. So we thought about it and we didn’t want to come out saying, “Kill Trump, we hate him”.

We didn’t want to come out with that version…yet. Let him win the election and we’ll go after him then. We’re saving that version for when he actually is President and starts doing all these bad things. Right now we favour him winning in a way so we could fight. He can’t go after us saying, “Take that thing away,” or “Put them in jail,” because we want him to win in the song. We’ll see what happens (laughs).

There are some hip-hop bands from the East Coast who did something like, “Kill Trump, we hate him,” and the next day they were in jail! Looking at that we know it’s a big deal to them.

Have you heard anything from The Trump party since the release of the single?

Not directly! (laughs)

Where did you come up with your pseudonym ‘Juan Brujo?’

‘Brujo’ is like a name for warlock or witch and it just came out. Everybody had to pick their names at first cause we weren’t going to use our real names.

Apart from rare exceptions Brujeria didn’t really start to perform live until the early 2000’s. What made you decide to finally incorporate live shows into the mix?

We started doing the live thing in 2003 and it was after 14-15 years of just making records. We could never get everybody together doing any shows or touring because everybody had their other bands that got big. I used to say if you’re touring for Brujeria then your other band will get big and famous. Finally in 2003 one of the other bands broke up and our members had free time so we actually started doing some shows and we got hooked on it. We didn’t expect the big reaction we were getting so we kept touring and playing as many gigs as we could and enjoyed ourselves. Later on a new record came out but basically it’s just really hard to get the members together.

Apart from Brujeria, do you have any other projects on the side? 

Me? None. That’s it! I’ve only got Brujeria. The other guys have a million other bands but this one’s just mine.

Are there any plans to come to Australia in the near future? 

Not that I know of yet. There’s some talk but we’d have to be the opening band so we’re waiting to see what happens. Hopefully if the record comes out there and some people like it enough to think it’s worth taking us, I’d love to go.

Lastly, do you have a message for your Australian fans? 

Help us get there! We want to go and we want to teach them some Spanish so hopefully we get there. Help us out! (laughs)