Louie Perez, of Los Lobos, spends some time talking about his experience with Los Lobos increasing success, songwriting, the unique “golf tour,” and his best friend Howard (a Mexican instrument known as a jarana).
Hear to Louis Perez with Los Lobos
SSS: How has your experience evolved as guitarist/songwriter/drummer since co-founding Los Lobos in East Los Angeles in 1974?
Louie Perez: There is no easy in and out on this one. The dynamic has been an interesting one. Putting down the electric in 1973 and spending the next ten years studying regional Mexican folkloric instruments, playing drums exclusively since 1983, then picking back up electric guitar about six years ago. Lots of musical cross pollinating to say the least. Much of the poly-rhythmic stuff from Mexican music has spilled into my electric guitar playing and a lot of the information in my soloing in still back where I left off in the early seventies. An unusual recipe but I’m going for it. As for songwriting, it’s been a real adventure, embracing the formula of a time honored craft and then throwing it all out to challenge myself with a different way of hearing the song. It’s like Hank Williams and John Cage hanging out in the same room without strangling each other.
SSS: Has your relationship changed much with David and Cesar as guitarists? How has it grown and how have your multi-instrumentalist styles intertwined themselves?
Louie Perez: I’m sure they feel threatened by my white hot shredding guitar work so their attempt to control me is by giving me a supporting role.
Honestly, I glad to be in there somewhere with two of the best guitarist on the planet. It’s great to be on the front guitar line as we were in the folkloric days. We give as much attention to orchestrating three electric guitars as we did with Mexican music.
SSS: Do you consider yourself more of an acoustic or electric guitarist?
Louie Perez: I would say both. I cut my teeth on electric guitar and played acoustic instruments forever.
SSS: What’s in your guitar collection?
Louie Perez: I’m not so much a gear head. I have an early sixties Gibson SG special which was my first electric, a sixties Gibson ES 175S in factory black, a 1960 Reissue Les Paul standard gold top which was my dream guitar that Gibson was so kind to give me as well as the double cut Les Paul special in TV yellow. They comprise my a-team guitars that I use on stage. As for fenders I own a red 1965 mustang the I bought from a kid for 30 bucks about 20 years ago. I saved it from a can of black spray paint. I found a used Squire Tele which happened to fit my puny hand perfectly, so I sent it over to Bill Asher (our guitar guru extraordinaire) to upgrade and make a real one out of it. Um….
SSS: We often hear about how playing drums has helped guitarists’ skills. How about this for a change: What does your experience on the occasional drummer’s throne bring to your guitar playing?
Louie Perez: I think about it in reverse. I believe that guitar players make great drummers. Their ability to hear cadence and melody are the added ingredients. But I will say that drumming has contributed in rhythm guitar mode and in phrasing as well.
SSS: Do you perform on any other instruments?
Louie Perez: My best friend in the world is Howard, my jarana which is an eight string traditional instrument from the Mexican state of Veracruz along the gulf. The pyro involved in strumming it properly takes a few decades. I’m almost there.
SSS: How has your songwriting relationship with Hidalgo matured over the years?
Louie Perez: We’ve been writing songs together since we were teens. The creative intuition we have comes from years of work and of course our friendship underscores everything we do.
SSS: What inspires your lyrics?
Louie Perez:It comes from the deep well of experience from growing up in East Los Angeles as a starting point, and then moves out into the rest of the world. Believe me, there is nothing grandiose about it. It’s just simply paying attention. I’ve always been a good listener.
SSS: Do you normally write guitar parts with the lyrics. Or, do you leave that up to David and Cesar?
Louie Perez: Ideally I would sit with David and work lyrics and music together. But since time is so much a premium for us these days, we’ve chosen to split the chores between us. But to say that David is the music and I’m the lyrics would hugely discount us. We’re songwriters, top to bottom.
SSS: Do your songs change much from the day they are introduced to the band, to the time they are performed live?
Louie Perez: There are several phases; first, once Dave and I have worked the song all out it is presented to the band on a demo. It is then re created using the studio as a tool or instrument, leaving a lot to chance when the parts are put down by the rest of the band. What happens next is that it is released as a compact disc, arrives at record store near you and goes on to sell into the millions. Which sends us into rehearsal to ready ourselves for the stadium tour which will surely follow. The songs then take on a new life. We have never tried to duplicate the recorded effort; we would rather reinvent them to fit the live aesthetic. In other words, rock the shit out of them.
SSS: What is the biggest difference, to you, between recording in the studio and performing live?
Louie Perez: Making records are too much of a brain trip if you let it. We discovered when working with Chad and Mitchell that if you think too much you’ll make dead things.
Now, playing live is what we were put on the earth to do. The two hours on stage are the pay off; too bad the other twenty two are what will eventually kill you,
SSS: Which do you prefer: live performance or studio work?
Louie Perez: I like them both equally, live for the rush, studio because I’m a sucker for pain.
SSS: Thank you for your time Louie, but I have one more request. Tell us about the golf tour!
Louie Perez: Now that the word’s out, we’ve been able play in some beautiful locations, thanks to fans that have come out of the clubhouse and admitted that they golf too.
And like most golfers, we’ve quit the game about four times this year.
To learn more about Louie Perez and Los Lobos, please visit www.loslobos.org.