Annette Brown, Lifetime The story of June Carter Cash comes to life in the…
- Posted on Feb 25th 2010 5:00PM by Scott Shetler
What brought you guys together as a group?
At the time, there was a youth center called the Peace and Justice Center in downtown L.A. This center was an open space for youth to be able to express themselves through visual arts, dance, music poetry, you name it, and it was all free. In order to help out the center with expenses, they would do parties every weekend and charge $5. They ended up having music there so musicians started calling each other and asking if they wanted to support the cause. A lot of the people who showed up more and more ended up making up the lineup of Ozomatli.
How would you describe the sound of Ozomatli?
I would call it blend of music from all around the world. Through the scope of somebody who lives in Los Angeles, we digest all of these different influences that are here in the city itself but also when we tour the world. There's so much going on in each song, and through the whole set. Some people call us a political party band. Some people call us world music or people's music. It's kind of hard to pin down.
Who were your musical influences growing up?
My own personal influences are pretty diverse. In the beginning it was strictly classic music. Then it went to jazz. And there was always popular music going around. Then I started getting into early Jamaican ska & also punk rock. I really dug the message and energy of a lot of early punk bands.
What is the significance of the name Ozomatli?
Ozomatli is a little monkey on the Aztec calendar. It's kind of like a horoscope sign. The monkey itself represents passion, dance, the new harvest. It's the mischievous orchestrator of the jungle. It was our first drummer's astrological symbol. We were named something else and when we found out his horoscope sign, we got really into it, like "Whoa, what a cool name."
Do you have a musical guilty pleasure?
For me, if I like a song I like it. I don't know if I have a guilty pleasure that's embarrassing. Maybe early '80s freestyle--Debbie Deb, Stevie B, stuff like that. That was sort of the party music of the '80s in clubs and discos. There was a big scene in L.A., in Florida and New York. It was big amongst Latinos.
Do you prefer the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?
I love both bands. I guess the Beatles are the only group I can think of that's like modern classical music, where the music itself is still alive and the melodies and arrangements and songwriting still touch people to this day.
What's in your survival kit when you go to a festival like SXSW?
It depends on the festival. For a muddy, rainy European festival like Glastonbury, you might want to bring a sacrificial pair of boots or shoes. Once it gets super muddy, you have to leave it there. With SXSW, you just try to maintain a balance between letting it all go and keeping your s--- together and actually working [laughs].
You've done some concert tours throughout the world sponsored by the U.S. government. What did you take away from those experiences?
Being part of the cultural ambassadorship, we've been able to play in places off the radar of the West, like Burma, Nepal, India, Indonesia. We go there knowing that no one knows who the hell we are, so when we play music in these places, there's no hype. It's more like, "Do you like the music or not?" I've realized that our music can move people all around the world. Also, it made me definitely realize that music itself is its own language. We've been able to jam with all these local musicians from around the world. We somehow meet in the middle and are able to communicate.
What can you tell us about the new album, 'Fire Away'?
We're really happy about how it came out. The style of how we recorded it is unlike anything we've done before. It's modernist lo-fi, all the way from being together in same room recording an idea, to really breaking it down with typical studio work, to incorporating field recordings we've done in Madagascar and South Africa into our own recordings. The recording itself kind of takes you around the world.
Finally, where do you keep your Grammy Awards?
On the mantle. We have two Grammys and one Latin Grammy. So I have an extra if you want to buy it (laughs).
Scott Shetler is a contributor from Seed.com. Learn how you can contribute here.