Saul Hernandez Talks Caifanes, Coachella and Crossovers

Saul Hernandez, founding vocalist-guitarist of seminal rock en español band Caifanes, had a lot to say in his recent interview with the Weekly–more than we could fit into this week's cover story about the band reuniting to play Coachella. Here are some sabroso outtakes, with extra bonus video goodness.

On the Early Days:
Hernandez downplays Caifanes' role as pioneers of rock en español in general, pointing out that strong scenes already existed in Spain and Argentina, dating back as far as the '60s. But in Mexico in the '80s, any kind of rock & roll–much less New Wave-y stuff played by dudes with teased hair and makeup–was completely marginalized.

“We played underground, in places where even the police wouldn't go,” Hernandez recalls. And the police would hassle, even arrest, any kid with long hair. “Back then, to be young was synonymous with being a delinquent,” he says.

In that environment, “A movement came together with a very strong attitude,” he says. “It's great that we came up in those circumstances, because now, we haven't lost that essence.”

Of course when they did end up signing a major-label contract, they did get slammed in some quarters. “You can imagine: 'You've broken the code, and now you're not pure!'” he says with a laugh.

He also laughs at the suggestion that they might bust out the guyliner and hairspray for the Coachella gig. But, come on, it was muy padre:

On Getting the Band Back Together for Coachella:
“We're going to play like crazy. I think we're going to be very excited to be up there,” he says, before switching to English: “Sometimes I think it's just a gift to be on stage.” And then back to Spanish: “Lo demas es vanidad” (“The rest is vanity”).

After the initial interviews, Hernandez e-mailed this typically poetic assessment of the band's first practice together on March 28: “La pasión tiene memoria.” Passion has memory.

On His Solo Album:
Whether it was Caifanes of Jaguares, Hernandez had always written in, and for, a group. When he first tried writing songs for a solo record, he says, they started coming out like Caifanes or Jaguares tunes. “I finally got to a place where it sounded different,” he says.

Playing as the only guitarist in a trio–as well as working with his friend, producer Don Was– helped him craft something distinctive for Remando. “There are spaces, silences,” he says. “We recorded as much as possible live; there are very few overdubs.”

On Crossing Over and Crossing Over:
Hernandez has long been engaged politically, especially in human-rights issues. In March, he shared the stage with Joan Baez and Steve Earle at Amnesty International's annual meeting in San Francisco.

Asked about the United States' broken immigration laws, he has an all-too-logical slogan at the ready: “No human being is illegal.” But when he and his old friends take the stage in Indio, he'll be thinking about transcending linguistic and musical borders, welcoming all the Anglo music lovers there to stick around and see what all the fuss is about–and be a part of what he calls “a real crossover.”
“When you're in front of us, you're an ally,” he declares. “Language doesn't matter. All the world listens to music in English.” He then switches to English for this final thought: “The future is that people jump to the other side.”

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