Los Lobos with Delta Moon
8 p.m. Aug. 28. $35. Atlanta Botanical Garden, 1345 Piedmont Ave. N.E., Atlanta, 404-876-5859. www.ticketmaster.com or charge by phone at 404-249-6400.
By Bob Townsend
For the AJC
Los Lobos can be counted as one of the most original, musical and long-lived American bands of recent times. Emerging from East Los Angeles in the late ’70s, Cesar Rosas, David Hidalgo, Louie Perez and Conrad Lozano played in cover bands and explored Mexican folk music. They went on to become part of the L.A. punk and roots rock scene of the early ’80s, along with the likes of the Blasters and X.
Saxophonist Steve Berlin joined Los Lobos during that time, helping produce the band’s early albums. While the 1987 soundtrack to the Richie Valens biopic, “La Bamba,” marked its greatest commercial success with a hit single, Los Lobos went on to make a long string of recordings with eclectic influences from rock, country, folk, R&B, blues, traditional Mexican and experimental music, winning the band three Grammy awards.
Steve Berlin recently phoned during a tour stop in Las Vegas to talk about some of that history and what Los Lobos is doing now, including a show on Aug. 28 at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
Q: As a member of Los Lobos for more than 25 years, what sort of a trip has it been?
A: Pretty amazing, really. We haven’t had to compromise anything or do something we don’t believe in or make music we don’t like. That, in and of itself, is kind of remarkable. And of the groups we grew up with, we’re the ones still doing it. We’re carrying on, still trying to create new music every day.
Q: You started working with Los Lobos as a producer, what did you think about the band then?
A: I started that first record as a producer and ended as a band member. This was coming out of the punk rock era, and a lot of what was going on was inspired amateurism and experimentation. There wasn’t really anybody, except maybe John Doe [of X], who you would say was a great singer. And I just remember thinking at the time, here are these two great singers in the same band, Cesar Rosas and David Hidalgo, with two completely different singer/songwriter personalities.
Q: Could you do a little compare and contrast on the musical styles of Cesar, David and Louie?
A: David and Louie are one animal, really. Everything they do is together, and then Cesar kind of writes in his own world. Cesar’s influences are fairly revealed; the stuff he’s writing these days is either very blues-based or Latin-based, with some reggae thrown in. He’s always been that deep, dark pole of the band. The David and Louie pole is the more experimental and further out, and you never know where the songs are coming from. Every time we start a new record, it’s always amazing to hear what they’ve cooked up.
Q: So bring us up to date. You have a new record deal and you’re going to be working on a new album soon. Any idea what that will be like and when it will be released?
A: It’s at the twinkle in the eye stage. We signed the deal earlier this summer, and we’ve been on the road ever since. We are not the kind of band that writes anything on the road. We need to take time off and hunker down. I’d anticipate that sometime in the fall, we’ll take that time and let the writers write. And we’ll reconvene in the late fall or early winter to record, with the idea of putting it out in the spring of 2010.
Q: So what can we expect to hear at the show at the Botanical Garden? And are you still taking requests via the Web site?
A: You’ll hear a little bit of everything. I think it will cover every part of our career. I heartily encourage people to go to the Web site and make requests, including songs we don’t play or know. (popup-request.shtml) Help us out with the set list. And if anyone wants to hear “La Bamba,” they’re going to hear “La Bamba.”