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Published: 2012/08/31
by Larson Sutton

Los Lobos Look Back at Kiko

Included in the 20th anniversary edition is an excerpt from Warner Brothers original ad announcing ‘a quantum leap since you heard them last.’ To me this implies the label knew they had something special, important, from the band. Did you sense that support from the record company?

Berlin I think they dug it.

David Hidalgo Lenny was the guy we would go to, and he was into it. I think, for the most part, they were into it.

Berlin It was kind of a different relationship in those days. This was when Warner Brothers was just at the end of its heyday. We have a great relationship now with Shout Factory, but it was a very different vibe. It was like part of the family. Things went a little bit squiggly later, but when they were good, it was like we were on the A-team. We didn’t want to be anywhere else. Naïve as it may sound, it was a pretty familial vibe. It wasn’t until later that we started to question whether they actually liked our music at all.

David and Louie, you make such a great writing duo, and you have talked about having some songs prior to going into the studio, but then writing more during the session. How different were the two experiences; writing before the session and then during?

Hidalgo We started out renting a space, to get some ideas, so that’s always the same. We have to play it for the guys, and if people like it we go from there. We had four or five songs we had recorded, and then (producer) Mitchell (Froom) and (engineer) Tchad (Blake) came in after that. Then, it did change.

Berlin Sorry, was it five or seven? I keep thinking it was seven. Or was it less?

Perez That we actually did at Paul’s? [Engineer Paul duGre of Paul & Mike’s Studio in downtown Los Angeles]

Rosas It was like four songs. Four or five maybe.

So Mitchell and Tchad came in after you had established to some degree an approach for this record with your songs at Paul & Mike’s. Were Mitchell and Tchad’s roles to continue on that path or did they come in with their own ideas, as well?

Hidalgo I think we all became a team. The first song we did, we had just a basic idea, and everyone went to their corner and came up with something; an instrument to play, or a different sound. That’s how it started. Tchad, the way he interpreted the stuff, the way he recorded, had a lot to do with the way we played. We would hear these sounds, and play to it.

I got that sense, especially the guitar parts, that you were not applying tones or effects in post-production. It’s what you were hearing live.

Hidalgo The echo, the effects, whatever we did, he printed them. It makes you play a certain way.

Rosas We would get a sound, and boom. We say, ‘Tchad, we’ll get it in the mix,’ and he’d say, ‘Man, it’s done.’ That’s when we knew we had something.

Did you go in aiming to get things live without a lot of overdubbing?

Hidalgo It just happened. One thing we did do on this album that we hadn’t done was we worked on each song until it was close to done. Until we knew we had something. We didn’t do basic tracks, and then a vocal, and then overdub. We tried to do it all, each song, start to finish. Then we would work on something else. We made decisions as we went. If we’re not going to use a part- erase it, get rid of it now. We didn’t want any choices to be made at the end of the record.

Were you set up as band all in the same room?

Hidalgo For the most part.

Did you carry this process forward in the way you recorded from then on?

Hidalgo Ever since.

Rosas We liberated ourselves from all that other crap from the ‘80s. Mitchell was very influential, a very smart guy, and Tchad, too, an amazing engineer. We were just trying to get our records across. You were saying that you thought The Neighborhood was a cool record. Well, so did we, but the record company didn’t give a shit.

Hidalgo Lenny didn’t get out of his office. We’d go see Lenny and he would encourage us. ‘I told you to go crazy, not go crazy.’ He’d say things like that. He really dug it. But, it didn’t get out of his office. We did make some good friends, in certain parts of the country, where promo guys supported us, but it was more of a personal thing. A Warner Brothers guy in Boston who did all he could for it, or another guy we knew in Cincinnati.

Rosas We were lucky to be there, actually; the type of band we were. They weren’t selling our stuff. They were selling Madonna. We were like, ‘Wow, we’re on again for another record?’

Do you like looking back 20 years at that period? How do you feel about it all now?

Hidalgo I guess it holds up. That’s a good thing.

Berlin- All pleasant memories. I don’t remember any drudgery. It seemed like every day was an exciting experience.

Rosas We were just making a record, man. We didn’t have a great plan. There was a lot of great writing. Great music. We put it down on tape with a different attitude, and it worked out.

Perez It’s still my favorite record; the songs on it, the sound, the content, what they’re about, everything about it. I’m proud of it. I hope we have moved forward, but at the same time it’s like, ‘Wow, what happened?’ You would like to repeat it somehow, but you can’t really do that.

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