A Conversation with Alex aka “Rocka”: Ex-drummer of Mexicans at Night current drummer for Los TraQues
Y: How long have you been in the El Paso music scene?
R: Not even that long, like thirteen years.
Y: Thirteen years? Okay, how do you think it’s changed from where you started to now?
R: It hasn’t really changed. Has it?
Y: It hasn’t changed at all in thirteen years?
R: No, I mean it hasn’t. I mean the kids did get new stuff and everything, but you know, they got new DJ stuff and all sorts of other stuff, but yeah the scene hasn’t changed. Nothing’s happened. I mean before there were a lot more original bands. Now there are a lot of posers.
Y: What do you consider an original band?
R: A band that doesn’t play covers.
Y: And posers, you used that word, what is that? What is your definition of a poser?
R: Cover bands.
R: There’s a lot more posers. A lot more cover bands. And, not enough support for original bands, because, there was a lot more venues in the past. A lot more venues that catered, Wildhairs, La Tuya, The Attic, The Regal Beagle, there was just a bunch of places.
Y: And now there’s not as many places?
R: Not for original music, no.
Y: So how many venues do you think there are now? What are good venues in El Paso, now?
R: There’s places like Lowbrow, House of Rock, but now a lot of places just have cover bands because that’s what makes bars money. A lot of places don’t pay original bands to play. A bar owner won’t pay if they don’t make enough money, you know, but then what happened to those original bands? Cause if I go in there and play three fucking hours of Mana, they’re gonna fucking pay me, but I’m not gonna do that, you know?
I’d like to see venues be more supportive of original bands. There’s a lot of changes that people, places should do, a lot of things, from the business side, to the managers, to the bands, you know?
Y: What about the sound though? If you just focus on the music? What do you think is different about the sound of music here versus other cities? Because we are different.
R: Well, because we’re really isolated you know, and then we have Juarez right there and everybody refuses to see that it’s a huge influence. And it is a huge influence, a giant influence you know? Because you know we have so much original stuff here, because of it. You just can’t write anywhere else, you know? We used to go to L.A. and play there all the time, and they would, just the lingo alone, they would try to be like us, you know? Everybody tries to be like us. Nobody knows what it is. Everybody—
Y: Tries to be like you how? Tries to be like the music how?
R: Like, El Paso style. It’s because El Paso is a very organic city. Kids have a bunch of fuckin’ technology and pedals and a bunch of shit, but deep down inside it’s a very organic city, a lot of us, not me per say, but a lot of us learned guitar through your uncle. Stuff like that, from around the family, so it’s a very, you know, you just know because you know it. You play it because you love it, you know? So, nobody expects to get big in this city, nobody, everybody does it because they love it. In L.A. everyone expects to get fuckin’ big. They want a contract, they want this, they want that. But, here man, nah, everyone just makes a fuckin’ band to play, and sometimes it gets attention and they look at it from other places.
Y: What is about music at its core that still interests you?
R: I don’t know, you know? I’ve played music for so long, it’s taken a lot from me, and it only gives back a little. It’s like that girlfriend you can’t get rid of, you know? You don’t want her sometimes but she keeps coming back, and then when you play a show, it’s like make up sex and you remember, “That’s why I love her.”
I don’t know. I guess… It’s when you’re playing music with a lot of people, like with a band, and you start a show and it starts like this (holds hands far apart) and then it gets tighter and tighter and tighter (moves hands closer and closer) it just becomes a little ball, you know? And it just becomes your own little world, right there (hand in a clenched fist). And everything is floating; you know what I’m saying? Time is just like, it belongs to you now. I get a little rush off of that. I think sometimes, I think that’s the only reason that I do it.
Y: Do you ever feel that way when you listen to other people’s music?
Y: It’s only when you’re playing?
Y: What music do you think has inspired your music?
R: Holy Shit, a lot. Like a lot. Like a lot of music. Like a lot, a lot. I pick little shit from, fuck man, shit from Veracruz, shit from Seattle, Colombia, anywhere you know?
Y: If you had to be specific though? Artists that you’ve listened to, or dissected, closely.
R: Well everybody likes the rock n’ roll stuff, you know?
Y: Rock n’ roll like what?
R: Well you know I’m a grunge kid. But, then again, you live in El Paso, so like, you have your connects with, uh, Juan Gabriel and all these other people, from your mom and stuff you know? So, yeah, it’s like, uh, toof toof (makes a mixing gesture with his hands), a freakin’ Kurt Cobain Antonio Aguilar kinda combination you know?