El Paso Music Scene


by Charles Hurley

Totimoshi (Crucial Blast Records), a metal/progressive/rock trio founded in 1997 by guitarist/vocalist Tony Aguilar and bassist Meg Castellanos, make their second El Paso appearance on September 17 at the House of Rock and Roll. The third leg of the trio is the ever-changing drummer, currently Luke Herbst. Hailing from Oakland, they are freqently compared to The Melvins. Their first CD, Totimoshi, was released in 1999, followed by Mysterioso and Monali.

The name of the band came from a nonsense word made up by Tony's Spanish language-only grandmother to refer to her gibberish English. Tony asked Meg, his wife, to take up the bass in 1997 when he couldn not find a bass player with which to start the band.

EPMS: Is Luke your fifth drummer?

Tony Aguilar: Umm, seventh.

EPMS: Really?

Tony Aguilar: Yeah, really. Seventh drummer, officially. A few of the drummers were not able to tour. So, speaking in terms of that, it's really like the fourth drummer.

We had a couple friends, like the last drummer, Tyler, currently at The Mass, play just as a favor. He's a friend of ours.

We've had, overall, I mean, seven drummers.

EPMS: So, tell us about your current drummer.

Tony Aguilar: Luke Herbst. He moved to the Bay area from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He'd been in a lot of bands over there. He was in All Night, which was a heavy rock band. another band called Bats 'N' Lice. He's been around for a while. He's a really quality drummer; a good musician.

EPMS: I was reading a quote of yours about where you grew up.

Tony Aguilar: My dad was born in the U.S.

My grandmother was born in Mexico. I'm a third generation Mexican-American. Meg is half Irish, half Cuban. My latin roots are a huge influence on my songwriting.

EPMS: Have you been to El Paso before?

Tony Aguilar: We played there once, I don't remember the name of the place, five years ago, probably. It was really weird, this one bar.

We've had trouble finding places to play. It's a place to stop - we always pass through on the way to California. Just that one time, it was a long time ago. Literally, there were two people at the show.

EPMS: Unfortunately, we have a lot of shows where there's only a few people. Depends on which day of the week.

You've been around about eight years, since 1997?

Tony Aguilar: Yeah, eight years in November.

EPMS: How many CDs do you have?

Tony Aguilar: Officially, we've had two real releases on labels. We did one full-length CD, which we consider kind of a throwaway. They tell me, like, "Write your first book, throw it away." I kind of feel the same way. First CD, see how the production goes, see what it takes to do it. We do stuff off it every once in a while... Second CD, Mysterioso... Third CD, Monali. We're going into the studio in October with Page Hamilton; he's going to produce it for us. Hopefully it'll be out next year. It'll be our third official CD.

EPMS: You've had a number of producers.

Tony Aguilar: Yeah, Mysterioso was produced by Alex Newport (At The Drive-Inn, The Melvins). We've also worked in the past with Billy Anderson (Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, Sleep, Neurosis). Most recently produced by our drummer at the time, Don (Voss) to save a lot of money as well.

EPMS: Is it kind of unusual to have a different producer every time around?

Tony Aguilar: Umm, not really, for a band without a lot of money. We kind of price things out, go with somebody we feel who'll give us the right quality sound. The music is constantly evolving. I'm excited to work with different people.

EPMS: We get a lot of bands here from LA and Austin. How is the LA scene different than that of the Bay area?

Tony Aguilar: The Bay area scene, I think, I don't know if you've ever been to Oakland, it's a little bleaker. It's a beautiful place... weather, area-wise. San Francisco, and the Bay area, and Northern California. Oakland is a really tough, bleak city. Oakland bands tend to be kind of a little gloomier. Hollywood has so much that revolves around being a star.

EPMS: Tell me about the documentary that you were going to do about your latin roots.

Tony Aguilar: It didn't end up happening. The idea was, we were going to go to Cuba. We were going to do punk rock shows with Cubans, just an exchange of ideas and art. We went to Cuba, we were just walking down the street and fell into this metal concert that was going on. We made friends with the musicians down there. We were going to do an exchange. We got the approval of the Cuban government but not the United States government.

EPMS: How many times have you been to Cuba?

Tony Aguilar: Me and Meg have been there four times. Her grandmother lives in Havana. She's ninety-four years old. It's kind of tough for Meg.

EPMS: After many years of touring, are you making money on your tours?

Tony Aguilar: A little bit, not very much. It's a labor of love. Our van died in Kansas City. We ended up having to buy another van... back on the road. There's always things that happen on the road. Like I said, it's a labor of love.

EPMS: How many months a year do you tour?

Tony Aguilar: Right now, maybe two or three. Hopefully in the future do a hell of a lot more. Maybe six months out of the year. That's in the future. We're trying to figure out how we're going to be able to quit our jobs and make big money touring. Right now, it's not happening. Mostly, finding the right label that can promote us the right way. Make it really happen. Get our name out there.

EPMS: Seems like the ones that can do it full-time are either twenty years old, or kind of big-time.

Tony Aguilar: Exactly... don't have any responsibilities in life.

EPMS: How many music videos have you done?

Tony Aguilar: We've done three. One for the song, "Make your Day," which is on Monali. One for Cellophane, which is on Mysterioso. We recently did a tour video which is on the re-release of Mysterioso. It's a brand new song. That record's going to be called Ladròn.

EPMS: Something else I was noticing, you have the wildest van problems. I never heard of a van having its roof blown off.

Tony Aguilar: It was a Transvan. Kind of a cross between an RV and a van. It had one of those faux roofs that RVs have, it kind of covers the real roof. The thing just lifted off in Virginia. Tearing down the freeway, we had to pull over really fast.

It was pretty scary. Always something weird that happens on tour like that. It just so happened we were playing with this band, a punk band, we'd never played with a band like that, ever, and they happened to have a body shop at their house. LOL.

Pretty funny.

EPMS: Once in a while, somebody has one story, but you guys have several.

Tony Aguilar: Oh, yeah, we have quite a bit. We were inside of this house where a guy had tried to kill himself. During that same tour, whatever, we had five breakdowns. We had to get out in the pouring rain. We had vans in New York City... we had one lose a ball joint. It happens to a lot of bands, especially, when you can't afford to buy a new van.

EPMS: Your van caught fire one day, I didn't even hear the one about the ball joints.

Tony Aguilar: Well, actually, caught fire in Oakland. We put the fire out with a water bottle. One of those water bottles that you drink out of.

EPMS: Were you and Meg married before the band was formed?

Tony Aguilar: Umm, me and Meg were married right about the time the band was born. We were married in '96.

EPMS: She started learning the bass because the band needed a bass player?

Tony Aguilar: Yeah, I asked her to play in the band.

EPMS: Sounds like a Linda McCartney story.

Tony Aguilar: LOL. Yeah. Definitely.

EPMS: How has being in a band together affected your marriage? If you don't mind my asking.

Tony Aguilar: Honestly, I think, fantastic. I don't have to leave my loved one behind. It's a lot easier, we just go together. A lot of the problems with the drummers that we had in the past, it's kind of rough on people. Touring by themselves, it's kind of rough on them. I understand how it's kind of tough on people. People might get lonely. That's how it is.

EPMS: In the past, your vocals were not in the forefront. You were talking about changing that. Have you changed that yet, or is it still something you're just talking about?

Tony Aguilar: Well, I think what happened on Mysterioso, I wanted a certain type of sound for the record. Like I said before, we always wanted a different type of sound. We try to make every record a piece of work by itself. On that album, the vocals were a little bit in the background. I think on Monali they were a little more in the forefront. On our new record, it's going to be a little different as well.

EPMS: The way you write reminds me of something I saw David Byrne say on Letterman. He was talking about how he writes lyrics, and he was saying he just does nonsense vocalizations. and then later comes up with the lyrics to match it.

Tony Aguilar: Yeah, exactly. I just do it phonetically. When I'm writing music, I just use a little recorder and my guitar. Singing, then come up with parts that I like, later on, I'll try to figure out what I was actually saying. It's never really anything of meaning, until I listen back to it I realize there really was something of meaning. I heard Tom Waits does it the same way. King Bozo... as well. Also, Buzz Osborne, of The Melvins, which is one of my biggest influences. I think it's just a different type of brain. You know, there's left and right, one side of the brain writes that way, the other side writes a more literal way. I do, honestly, when I write lyrics, I really like to create more of an image of a scene like kind of a color and a feel more than a little meaning to the songs. They end up having a literal meaning for different people. But I do like to write to create color with the words you know, meaning.

EPMS: Do you ever play any Gene Autry?

Tony Aguilar: You know, that's funny that you say that. Gene Autry was one of my biggest influences. When I was a kid, I used to watch all of his movies. When I was a kid I used to borrow records from my Dad's Gene Autry records, and, I was used to be embarrassed to tell anybody.

I used to play it on my Mickey Mouse turntable. All those old westerns, especially Gene Autry, Singing Cowboy. He used to kill me.

EPMS: Do you play any now?

Tony Aguilar: Only in my head. LOL.

EPMS: Who's the band that you've played with, first of all, that you liked playing with, whether you like their music or not?

Tony Aguilar: We just recently toured with Helmet, which was awesome. They were all the nicest guys in the world. Like I said, Page is going to produce our record. We get along really well. We love his music, he respects our music enough to want to produce it, that really... makes me incredibly happy. It's great. We toured with The Melvins,... not really a long tour, like three or four shows, that was incredible. I honestly believe, one of the greatest bands in the history of rock 'n' roll. We did a small tour with High on Fire; we love those guys they're really close friends of ours from Oakland, and Mastodon, absolutely a godsend to music. They're really good people who are in the forefront of anything progressive in music. It was absolutely wonderful to watch them play.

Tony Aguilar: Incredible. Other than that, a lot of bands,... Theory of Ruin, 400 Blows, incredible, incredible.

EPMS: Anything else to say to your fans in El Paso?

Tony Aguilar: Come on out, we'd love to see as many people as we can, we can't wait to get some good Mexican food in El Paso. One more thing: Viva Zapata. LOL. I'm reading a book right now on the Mexican Revolution.

EPMS: Pancho Villa's pretty big around here. We're right across the border from Juarez. I've been there like three times in the last five days.

Tony Aguilar: My mom was from Matamoros, which is closer to Houston. My grandfather was actually a Tejano, he's from the state of Texas. He went over into Mexico. I've got a lot of Texas in my history. LOL.

EPMS: Thanks a lot.

Tony Aguilar: Thank you, Charles, I really appreciate it.

EPMS: Thank you.

Tony Aguilar: Take care.