By Ferdy Belland
CALGARY – Juan Brujo, the infamous frontman-bandleader of the extreme-metal legends Brujeria, is more than happy to talk. After all, the current political climate is what triggered his long dormant death/grind band back into action.
“Trump getting elected sparked us off into finally pushing out a new album,” begins Brujo, referring to the band’s 2016 full-length Pocho Aztlan.
“There’s a LOT of stuff about him on there. Everything was going great in the United States, as far as I could see, and then all of a sudden HE comes onto the political scene and now he’s turned the social clock back 40, 50 years!
It’s, er, ‘interesting’ how he’s managed to separate and divide everybody so fast. He’s really good at that. Somebody once asked me: what would you do if you met Donald Trump alone in a windowless room? I’d say: ‘hey, you’re really good at tearing the social fabric of the country wide open! Congratulations!’”
The history of Brujeria reads like some weird rock/horror story by David J. Schow, but they are very real, very loud, and very dangerous. Formed in Tijuana in 1989, Brujeria (Spanish for “Witchcraft”) gave the turn-of-the-90s underground metal scene a sharp backhand whack across the face. They’ve delivered continuous sonic piledrivers ever since. Clad in serapes, bandanas, and balaclavas. waving bloody machetes around their heads, screaming all their lyrics in guttural Spanish, projecting an effectively unsettling stage image of crazed Satanic drug-lords on the rock-and-roll rampage… Brujeria are brutally real in their presentation. Featuring no less than eight musicians (often including THREE bassists; thus the crushing low-end pummeling), most of Brujeria’s bandmembers are a confusing revolving-door whirlwind of in-and-out anonymous moonlighters hailing from Faith No More, the Dead Kennedys, Cradle of Filth, Carcass, Napalm Death, Fear Factory, Terrorizer, At The Gates, and Christ knows wherever else.
Popularly known as “Mextremists,” Brujeria immediately baited the wrath of square-ass mainstream critics with the shocking cover artwork of their 1993 debut album Matando Güeros, which depicts someone standing out of camera-shot triumphantly holding up a bloody severed human head (said to be a drug dealer). With their song lyrics dealing in narcotics, drug smuggling, Satanism, armed uprisings, murder, revenge, illegal immigration, and general chaos, Brujeria have also released Raza odiada (1995) and Brujerizmo (2000). The band maintained a steady touring schedule, although they did enter an especially long recording hiatus due to the band members’ ongoing commitments to their main projects. The band finally returned to fine form with Pocho Aztlan (2016), which was pre-dated by their arguably most nerve-striking sociopolitical single, “Viva Presidente Trump!” The 7-inch features Trump’s bleeding face, a machete through his skull, and the phrase “fuck you puto.”
“We do get insulted on Facebook by Klansman wanna-bes, for sure,” says Brujo regarding the aftermath of the 2016 presidental election.
“We get stuff like: ‘You guys are haters,’ and blah blah blah…I mean, really? KLANSMEN calling us haters? We’ve gotten a lot more of that. But it hasn’t actually been that bad. There hasn’t been any official-type backlash from government agencies or the authorities or anything, which is sorta weird.”
He adds, “We never thought he would make President! But he did…”
Brujo delves deeper.
“If you listen to the song through to the end, where you hear the Trump character getting whacked in the Oval Office by the cholo-vigilante character with the machete… I mean, anyone with a brain knows what we’re really talking about. We’re just shocked that he actually WON the election!”
Brujo reflects on the history of politically charged music and how the band has responded to turmoil.
“You look back on antagonistic, politically-charged lyrics from punk bands and metal bands from years ago, like back when Ronald Reagan was President… and in the 1980s, everyone was thinking, ‘Jeez, it can’t get any worse than this – can it?’ I mean, Reagan was a model Republican. A classic. But even worse, to us, was California Governor Pete Wilson. He ran for President once, but he didn’t win. I met him once, face to face. It was at this big open-air event, tons of people. He was moving through the crowd, and I recognized him, and I thought: hey, it’s the Governor of California! Whaddaya know! I pushed my friends back a bit and made some room for him to walk by, and he sneers at me and turns around and covers his wife – like, protecting her – and all of a sudden the Secret Service guys swarmed up and grabbed me, yelling, ‘You’re on your way out!’ Huh? What just happened? It’s as if I was the only Mexican in the entire crowd. I was respecting him! And his wife! I was trying to make room! And three months after that incident, he comes out with all these anti-Mexican Immigrant laws that were so horrible that the Supreme Court overturned them. But when he tried pushing those laws, it was glaringly obvious that this wasn’t some uptight suit who was trying to save the state of California some money – he was persecuting and detaining Mexicans! And that was the inspiration for Brujeria’s second album.”
Wilson advocated for California Proposition 187, a state-run citizenship screening system that intended to prevent illegal immigrants from utilizing social services. He vetoed a bill written to prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, advocated for cuts to welfare, and advocated reinstating the death penalty.
“But Trump? He’s so much more way out there… He’s been in power for less than 18 months and already all his bullshit’s starting to come true. It’s like you’re watching a bad comedy about a fascist dictator. Mobilizing the National Guard to beef up security along the Mexican border? That’s a real high-voltage thing. You know how many Latinos serve in the U.S. Armed Forces? What’s going to happen if a Hispanic-American soldier refuses to shoot at unarmed Mexicans scaling a fence?”
Brujo is reminded of the apocryphal saying, “May You Live In Interesting Times.”
“The modern situation in the U.S. has just galvanized Brujeria again,” he says.
“It made us feel as if we’re needed to push the word out. There was a long period of time, like almost 15 years, where it seemed there was nothing to sing about. And then along comes Donald Trump, and he single-handedly destroyed the last four decades of positive social change in just over one year. All the good stuff, gone. So with this new album, we have some stuff to say.”
Juan is informed that Canadians are frothing at the mouth to see the band, and that the upcoming gigs will be intense.
“Well, we’ll see, gringo. Bring it on!”
Brujeria perform at Dickens Pub on June 8 (Calgary), the Starlite Room on June 9 (Edmonton), the Exchange on June 10 (Regina), and the Park Theatre on June 11 (Winnipeg).Brujeria, Dickens Pub, Exchange, Park Theatre, politics, shock-metal, The Starlite Room