Brownout is a Latin Funk group t from Austin, Texas, a project of members of the Grammy nominated Group Fantasma, a nine-piece Latin Funk group. Consisting of bassist, Greg Gonzalez, guitarists Beto Martinez, and Adrian Quesada , and drummer and Johnny Speice, the band also features Sweet Lou on congas, Josh Levy on saxophone, "Speedy" Gonzalez on the trombone and Gilbert Elorreaga on trumpet. Since forming in 2004, Brownout has released three critically acclaimed albums of funk, with hints of jazz, rock, other Latin rhythm and percussion and world music influences. The band has performed as Brownout but also backed several high profile musical artists, and recently began a tour of the West Coast.
Recently, the band created a special set of 'cover' songs, reinterpreting the classics of Black Sabbath with a Latin Funk Twist, known as Brown Sabbath. They play tonight at the Observatory, a couple weeks before dropping their Brownout Presents: Brown Sabbath album June 24 on Costa Mesa's Ubiquity Records. Brownout guitarist Beto Martinez recently took time from the road, to talk to the Weekly about why the band chose cover Black Sabbath, the diversity of fans at a Brownout show, the various artists the band has backed live and whether or not members of Black Sabbath have reached out to Brown Sabbath.
OC Weekly (Alex Distefano): What are the different influences that go into the music of Brownout?
Beto Martinez: We're big fans of all kinds of music there are tons of different influences we all have. Almost all of us in Brownout play in a group called Group Fantasma that we have been playing with for over 15 years now, we play Salsa and Latin Music, and with Brownout we play Funk infused with Latin Rhythms. With Brown Sabbath we showcase an entirely different sound we bring in all of our heavy metal and rock influences, and it's a big mix; everything from Jazz Latin, Funk and now metal. We work to bring that all together.
Tell us about the various musicians and artists that Brownout has worked as a backing band for?
We had a relationship and played as a backing band for Prince for a few years we started playing out of his club in Vegas. We opened up for him and played as his backup band for several parties and events. We also got the chance to play with Sheila E, as well as Daniel Johnston and GZA from Wu Tang Clan. It's a pretty diverse list there.
Why did Brownout chose to cover Black Sabbath songs? What is the difference between imitation and interpretation, and how does this come across when you play these Sabbath songs live?
We did a residency in Austin in Sept. it was 4 nights each night had a diff theme one was James Brown, one was all break dancing music then a hip-hop night we did a night of Sabbath songs and called it brown Sabbath. It was almost a joke, but when we decided to do it we felt something special the music of Sabbath is heavy but also has a funk to it so it worked well. But we didn't want to be just another cover band so we added our own sounds and changed up some of the feel to make sure we were interpreting and not just imitating. Playing these classic songs it's difficult to change them too much though people know these songs people love them, but we had to add a little here and there making it our own. One thing we want to make sure though is that people know we're not just another Black Sabbath cover band, and have a lot of original material with Brownout.
Has anyone from Black Sabbath approached you guys about Brown Sabbath?
Someone we know, through a record label, goes to the same hair stylist as Toni Iommi, and they told him about our musical project. This was a few months back, I know he's busy with Sabbath and has had health problems as well. But, from what we've heard through this person we know, is that at least Iommi is open to checking out, but so far we haven't heard anything else. Other than that no one from Black Sabbath has contacted us in any way.
What is the crowd reception like when you guys play live?
It really all depends on where we're playing, what city. The crowds are usually diverse, we have lots of younger and older fans but now with Brown Sabbath we're getting an entirely different crowd. We're getting metal heads that are only into Black Sabbath and they end up being totally surprised in a good way, loving it. So far we've had a great reception on all of the dates we've played.
What can fans expect from your live show at the Observatory on Tuesday?
We'll be playing two sets, one set of Brownout and original material. It's going to be a very energetic set that is upbeat and pretty danceable Latin funk with lots of bass and percussion. The second set will be Brown Sabbath which is for all the head hangers out there. We put a Latin twist on all those Sabbath songs people love out there. It will be a fun night!
Be sure to catch Brownout, playing a set of Brown Sabbath songs, on Tuesday, June 10, at the Constellation Room with Chicano Batman. For full details, click here.