The wolf holds great symbolism and importance in many cultures as a warrior. The American rock band Los Lobos have championed their cause for almost 44 years and will be further establishing their place in rock and roll history with their performance at the Desert Oasis Music Festival, being held at the Empire Polo Grounds October 7-8, 2017.

Borne out of East Los Angeles, David Hidalgo, Louie Perez, Cesar Rojas, Conrad Lozano & Steve Berlin, were influenced by Tex-Mex, country, zydeco, folk, R&B, blues, brown-eyed soul, and traditional music such as cumbia, boleros and norteños, Coachella Valley Weekly spoke with Perez, lyricist, songwriter, percussionist, and guitarist for Los Lobos.

The Coachella Valley
“I was never a big fan of the desert when I was growing up. I’m just an urban kid. Going to the beach and going to the mountains. As I got older nature called me. I dig the desert now. A lot of other people are starting to dig the desert too. It’s really hard not to anymore. Everyone seems to be migrating there now. There are people all over Europe moving to the Joshua Tree area. I have childhood friends that I went to grammar school with who have retired and relocated to Indio and Palm Springs. My in-laws, when they retired in 1979, built a house in Desert Hot Springs. On the weekends we’d go to visit them all the time. And that’s when it started to change for me a little bit. We played Stagecoach last year and we stayed in Palm Springs the night before and we cruised down Palm Canyon Drive and we couldn’t believe how gentrified it had become. There’s a lot of cool stuff going on. The desert is no longer a place we avoid. My wife and I, when we have an opportunity, like this festival, will go to the show together.”


Longevity and Versatility

“We’ve been able to hang around. Maybe we sound like an old jukebox in an East LA bar. You can hear just about everything. We’re playing a folk festival this weekend in Northern California. We did a bluegrass festival about a month ago in Ohio. It just seems to make some strange sense. If you Google image the Fillmore auditorium and the gigs that were going on in the 60’s, if you look at the lineups it’s quite amazing. They had The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Jefferson Airplane, Muddy Waters; it was all mixed. When I was growing up you could hear on the radio Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds, Smokey Robinson and The Intruders all back to back. It wasn’t until later on that the powers-that-be in record companies figured they can make a lot of dough by marketing an artist directly and compartmentalizing the music. We grew up to listening to everything you could imagine, I grew up listening to Mexican music because when I was little that’s what played on the radio at home. That’s what my mom put on the record player. Then as I got older I discovered soul music. The East L.A. sound was basically R&B interpreted by Chicanos. Then I went to see Hendrix when I was 14 years old. I begged my mom. I need to go to this show! So she got a neighbor friend, he was 18 and had a car. He was my chaperone and my ride over there. Hendrix walked on stage and broke into Spanish Castle Magic and that was it. It was all over for me. It rearranged all my brain cells and they never were the same after that.”

East L.A. Sound and Tejano Music

“Our legacy, on the west coast in particular, was the East L.A. sound. The connection we had was to television as The Beatles were exploding on Ed Sullivan but it seemed like something so far away and foreign to us. The Midnighters closed that gap. They were like our Beatles. The fantasy land was what we watched on TV but it had nothing to do with our reality. The East L.A. sound was the music that really meant a lot to us. When I think about the Tejano sound I think of Little Joe. He’s like the Little Willie G of The Midnighters. He’s a cornerstone of Chicano music. Not to mention it all grew out of Tejano music. We were listening to so much stuff when we were exploring Mexican music toward the end of the 70’s we got into Tex-Mex music.”

Festivals vs. Touring

“I like being outdoors. Playing theaters is cool too. It gives us an opportunity to do a different type of set. In the winter time we do a lot of performing arts centers. Last spring we did a cool presentation of Mexican folkloric music with 13 dancers. We did this whole regional music of Mexico. For the festival, we’re gonna rock out and have a good time.”

New Music?

“At the moment we’re not. We’ve been touring a bunch. The cycle is usually every couple of years. There’s some buzz. The way the business is now, there’s no long-term record deal. Who wants them anyway? If we can find somebody that’s crazy enough to put up some love we’ll take it.”

Staying United

“We’ve been a band since 1973. We’re gonna have our 44th anniversary as a band this November. That’s a long-ass time! I’ve never really been satisfied with my answer as to how we have remained intact but the one reason that has a lot to do with it is that we were friends before we ever became musicians. It was never a proposition. It was something that we grew up together as friends and as family because when you’re a kid your parents know each other and you go to the same schools. It builds real deep roots. It’s not like a band looking for a bass player and they put out a classified ad or they put an index card on a bulletin board at Guitar Center. This root goes way deep and is more of a family connection.”

Serious Fun

“We have a blast when we play live. Maybe that’s why people keep coming. They don’t feel like they’re paying money to go see some spectacle or someone just staying within the lines. When the Los Lonely Boys were kids, we’d play Texas where their dad would put them on stage playing a Stevie Ray Vaughn set. We’d hang out with them. We have roots all over the US. We’ve had the opportunity to meet some of our heroes. We don’t take what we do all that serious. We’re serious about the music we do but all the other stuff, the accolades we get all that stuff. It’s almost like we’re looking over our shoulders to see who they’re talking about. We concentrate so much on the work. All the other fluff doesn’t mean that much.”

Avenues for Latin Music

“Back when access to music wasn’t as technically advanced as it is now, I would say yes, absolutely, there was a problem accessing Latin music. You didn’t see many Latinos in rock. We’re a rock band who happens to be Mexican-American. We promote that as well. We have to talk about what’s going on in mainstream music. Justin Beiber did that song. There’s a recognized need for it and a viable marketing place that people are looking at. To this day, there’s not a lot of cross talk between Latino bands and American rock and roll. It’s not necessarily because they are being ignored, it’s because there’s such a huge infrastructure for Latin music now and you might as well sit where you’re comfortable. But I don’t really believe that we should explore everything; they have the Latin billboard awards, the Latin Grammys now, and I think it’s a wonderful beautiful thing for a celebration for our culture too but there’s just a little bit that rubs me wrong, I don’t know exactly what it is, I don’t want to go as far as saying its ‘ghettoizing’ us but I think when you look at music, and certainly our career and what we have done, there’s no reason why we can look more at the similarities of what we do than the differences. I don’t think there is an underrepresentation, I think people are waking up; it’s taken a long time. Of course with all the bullshit that’s going on right now every time we take two steps forward we take four steps back. There are a lot of people still in the industry, the powers-that-be, who are not doing anything maliciously, but are kind of ignorant to what we have to offer. If you’re a good fuckin’ band, you’re a good band, right? If your band sucks, get better at it.”

Louis the Songwriter and Artist

“I’ve painted all my life. I’m an accidental musician. Songwriting for me, I always go back to my own experiences. I’m a songwriter. David and I have been writing songs since we were teenagers. To say that he was the musical component and I am only the lyricist discounts us a little bit, we’re songwriters. We do both things. Primarily, because time is a premium, we don’t have the chance to sit down face to face and work out everything, so I’ve taken on the task of writing most of the lyrics and David is in charge of the musical inspiration but ultimately we put the thing together and work in the studio together. I draw inspiration from my own personal experience because of what I’ve done and being around the U.S. I write songs that are from my experience but they’re not right on the nose because I want people to be able to relate. My deal is, I try to put people together rather than divide them. I was supposed to go to a four-year art school when the band was starting to do stuff in the late 70’s and I came to that fork in the road; it worked out alright. I’m different from most Chicano artists; I don’t paint things schematically Mexicano or Chicano. Mostly its impressionistic, the paint flies around quite a bit. But I always have the feeling I always want to say something. There’s always some kind of message. I come from a tradition, as a Chicano, growing up in the late 60’s that I am aware of and to some degree politicized. A little of that makes its way into everything I do.”

Good Morning Aztlán

“I’m working on a book right now. A career retrospective entitled, “Good Morning Aztlán”. It’s a compilation of song lyrics, other miscellaneous writing, painting and drawing reproductions. There’s an essay on the songs by Dave Alvin from The Blasters, Martha Gonzalez wrote the afterword, I wrote the introduction and Luis Rodriguez wrote an essay too. It’s time for me to capsulate it for the time vault for generations to follow. It’s gonna be released soon.”