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Catching Up with Quetzal Flores of the Band - QUETZAL

As part of our continuing series featuring artists performing on stage at the Aratani Theatre, JACCC's Director of Performing Arts & Community Engagement Alison De La Cruz sat down with Quetzal Flores, from the East LA Chican@ Rock Band about their latest album THE ETERNAL GETDOWN and the forthcoming album release concert on March 25, 2017.

Alison De La Cruz: Can you tell me a little bit about the process of making this new album, The Eternal Getdown?

Quetzal Flores: This new album came out of an idea of further exploring the intersections of Jarocho music and black American music, mainly rock, soul and blues. So that was the umbrella or the pocket that we all agreed to live in.  One of the rules or agreements was that we were going to each firmly hold onto our traditions that we came from and that we weren’t going to try and fit those traditions into boxes in order to accommodate another tradition. We were going to allow the process of jamming for hours on end as a way to arrive at agreements about rhythm, cords and melodies.

DeLa: Was this how your previous work was created? Or was this process part of an evolution?

Q: I feel like this was part of an evolution.

DeLa: Did you already have people I mind or did the guest artists came out of the jam process?

Q: Initially, we didn’t want anyone else, we wanted to incubate and be in this little bubble and find and challenge and rise to another level. And as the album progressed we let go that insular idea and decided that we were going to allow people to come in. Especially the people who were in the traditions that we were sourcing and re-sourcing to collaborate with us.

DeLa: Do you have a favorite track on the album?

Q: I have a favorite track for different parts of the day:  The opening track: On my drive into work, as I get ready for battle – especially the chorus: “you’re standing on my land, taking what you can, I already told you to go away”. I got to work yesterday and we were going to be working with a woman from Belize who works on reparations. I was playing it and I was feeling it, and how it was tied into indigenous peoples and African Americans. I’m not talking about 40 acres and mule, I’m talking about political and economic control and not of this system, but of an entirely new system.

Other parts of the day; usually middle of day/lunch time, I have to listen to Barrio Healer – especially when I’m in Boyle heights and East LA and hopping around from place to place and absorbing the landscape. My day job is to think about the resources in Boyle Heights and how they push back on displacement and gentrification and how the resources support a sense of autonomy, self determination. I have to think about the healers that are sprinkled about the neighborhood who are doing that work to really help people self-care. 

DeLa: That track was dedicated to Ofelia Esparza but it seems like there are other people that inspire the track and can be named when hearing or playing it.

Q: Most definitely.

DeLa: Ok – finish us out, favorite song off the album to list to at night?

Q; When I’m driving home: I’m listening to Cellular Memory, being connected to everything and allow yourself to have healing moments: shout out and declare to the world that you are whole again and are connected and your hands are extended and you’re ready to connect to everyone else. That cellular memory affords us solidarity and collaboration because every human being who can tap into those histories and moments can understand this.

DeLa: Why the Aratani Theatre?

Q: The Aratani is a historic place for Chicanos in general. The Aratani and the Japanese American community, and JACCC, is an important place for Chicano people, leftists and people who have been displaced, there is such a rich history in the plaza there that reinforces and supports the idea that we know how to be together. And that if we are together, making decisions together that we will be able to build something that is much more humane and sustainable than those things that have been built around us. Historically the Aratani Theatre has supported this idea of not just culture, but culture as it speaks to a return to humanity.

From the JACCC Archive - black and white flyer image of SOS: Comedy for These Urgent Times (image drawn by Herbert Siguenza)

From the JACCC Archive - black and white flyer image of SOS: Comedy for These Urgent Times (image drawn by Herbert Siguenza)

I remember when I used to work there, the whole masters of the Hawaiian guitar that used to happen, talking to those guys and hearing their stories and the way that their people talked about land and resources and the struggles that they’ve gone through. I remember too that just after the Rodney King rebellion Culture Clash performed SOS: COMEDY FOR THESE URGENT TIMES and I was laughing so hard and being moved to tears to what I was hearing and witnessing collectively.  Then there was the Grand Kabuki and knowing the history of this country’s relationship with Japan and the bombs in particular and how much culture supported Japanese people’s sustenance during this incredibly difficult time. And then the taiko drum being a life raft for Japanese and Japanese Americans being imprisoned and having s** taken away from them and the brutal and systematic removal of their humanity. I relate to all these things and it helps me to continue to build out a home and reach out to the real downtown that still exists, despite the fake downtown that is being built around it.

DeLa: When did you work at the Aratani?

Q: It was my first crew job, I was working at the same time we were playing at Troy Café, 92-96, 97 even.

DeLa: Any last things?

Q: The concert is there to help people re-generate in this difficult time and see themselves in something powerful and positive and engaging and vulnerable and fearless at the same time. We want people to come and see a mirror of themselves. Through the concert, through the images, through the words that will be spoken, sung and screamed. And through the rhythms as well, we want people to empower themselves through this performance. The only way that we are able to create these things is through living the experience ourselves, and watching people in close proximity who are living through this and what people can understand. And that is what is being put out through these songs and this concert. Its really important for people to take a moment and generate some hope.

 

Final tickets available HERE  

Join us as 6:30 pm for the pre-show video montage by Marco Loera. 

 

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