I.H.: Alright Mr. Leon Catfish. What are you looking at back there, trains? (laughs) So you were born and raised in east LA.
L.C.: That’s right.
I.H.: And, that’s predominantly kind of a…you know…well there’s good neighborhoods but there’s really some kind of bad neighborhoods over there too, right?
L.C.: Yeah, definitely.
I.H.: And you’re Mexican, from a Mexican family, and it’s really easy to fall in a gang activity if it’s all around you where you live, right? How did you get into rock and roll? I mean you’ve always been into it.
L.C.: I think it all started for me, I mean you’re very impressionable at a young age but I think it was finding my parents’ one or two English records that they ever owned and they were Jerry Lee Lewis and you know, Elvis, and 50s rock and just immediately became my obsession since then.
L.C.: And then that’s kind of how it was. And they didn’t even have those records by choice someone gave it to them. I mean they didn’t even listen to them, but I found it when I was eight years old or six or something and that kind of steered the path.
I.H.: Actually that’s really cool. Like, just by a total fluke…
L.C.: Actually I saw a couple movies growing up that inspired me maybe, like…I can’t remember right now, but –
I.H.: (Laughs) Maybe Elvis movies on TV?
L.C.: Maybe so. Maybe even those movies with Jerry Lee Lewis and…who else…even La Bamba I guess (laughs). We were young.
I.H.: Well yeah, and when did that come out, like 87?
L.C.: Yeah, 86 or 87.
I.H.: We were like, what, 8 years old?
L.C.: Stuff like that definitely opened my eyes.
I.H.: I loved that movie, and it’s funny about that movie, that was my first memory of Brian Setzer.
L.C.: Oh that’s right, he was in that.
I.H.: Cuz he played Eddie Cochran at the concert…you know, the last concert they all played before he died or whatever.
L.C.: Yeah (laughs).
I.H.: So that’s really cool, that’s amazing so your parents never even listened to those records you just found them.
L.C.: No, my mom says when she was in Mexico City she would listen to The Beatles and she always loved that stuff. So she always liked music, but you know predominantly she was very traditional tastes.
I.H.: Now that actually brings me to a follow up kind of…to your heritage. So your parents are both not from here.
L.C.: No they’re both actually from Mexico. And I actually found out later in life that my Grandpa was a musician so that’s where I got it from, on my mom’s side.
I.H.: Interesting, so it’s in the bloodline.
I.H.: But still, coming from a neighborhood with no musical influence as far as rock and roll goes, and having two parents born out of this country where English isn’t their first language, you know what I mean…did you grow up speaking Spanish first or did you learn English kind of right away?
L.C.: I think as soon as I started school it was all English I think.
I.H.: So but for the first five years it was all Spanish.
L.C.: Oh yeah, I still only speak Spanish to my parents.
I.H.: Yeah, you don’t talk in English at all. So that’s a language barrier, you know, living in a country where you learn English young but still you were learning in Spanish, being that you know, culturally speaking, where you live rock and roll wasn’t around, it’s like a total fluke. That’s my point, it’s a total fluke that you became what you are, you know? And I think it’s really, really cool.
L.C.: I think the punk rock part of my life you know beginning in high school and middle school really pushed it over the edge and made me become a musician and start bands, and ever since then, since I was thirteen, I’ve had a band.
I.H.: Is this when The Feds started?
L.C.: No, this was a few years before that, this was even a few years before I met Dave I had a band.
I.H.: Ok, the Feds was really kind of the first one that was out doing stuff.
L.C.: Oh yeah.
I.H.: And that was like a kind of fast punk band.
L.C.: Yeah, I was fifteen going on tour and stuff and making records and stuff. Nobody bought ‘em though [laughs].
I.H.: So my favorite band that you’ve done, besides the one’s you’ve had with me, is The Guilty Hearts. And how long has that band been going?
L.C.: Since…our first show was, the anniversary of 9/11, actually so it was…
L.C.: 2002 I think.
I.H.: It’s only been like 8 years? I thought you guys had been around longer than that.
L.C.: Well Edgar and I, the guitar player, had been playing in another band called The L.A. Rippers before that…
L.C.: Since like 1999, 2000, 2001 or something like that. So we’ve been playing together for over ten years.
I.H.: Yeah and see what’s cool about The Guilty Hearts, once again, is back to like culturally speaking because we are talking about Los Angeles, everybody in the band is Mexican, right?
I.H.: And you got, you guys, well except for actually…
L.C.: Well we just added a bass player a couple of years ago and he’s the only white guy.
I.H.: Yeah, he’s the only white guy, but before that, it was three Mexican dudes playing like really garage-y rock and roll, like real Americana. It’s really interesting to watch, like to visually see it, you know, and you guys were touring Europe and the Europeans were probably just trippin’ on you guys. Like goin’ “whoa, this is so cool”.
L.C.: Yeah there were some points where people were like “Oh, I don’t speak Mexican in Europe.” And I was like, “I don’t either.” But yeah, it went really well over there but being from LA was a big selling point for the tour actually.
I.H.: [Laughs] Right.
L.C.: They’d call it, in some of the posters I saw, said “Taco Rock and Roll.”
I.H.: “Taco Rock and Roll” [Laughs]
L.C.: I’m not kidding. But you know, in a tongue in cheek way.
I.H.: Yeah, yeah just poking fun at it.
L.C.: Yeah, it was rad. Yeah, it was great.
I.H.: That is so funny. Yeah, see now that’s the thing about Los Angeles: I mean right there, that’s like Los Angeles in a nutshell. It’s like…
L.C.: Like a melting pot, yeah.
I.H.: You think, like, you think like “Oh those Mexicans from East LA it’s going to be like gang members forming hip hop bands or whatever, you know what I mean? But it’s like NOPE, they’re playing rock and roll and they’re playing it furious and they’re playing it good, and it’s really cool. That’s what I think is so cool about the city is the diversity, you know what I mean? I mean how many cultures’ music, across all music, but especially rock and roll, you know, in the city of Los Angeles. So…how did we originally meet…We originally, when I was doing The Starvations before you were in The Starvations, before we knew you, I think we were doing shows, Edgar was booking us at shows.
L.C.: My guitar player. Yeah. He was doing a lot of bookings back then because we didn’t really have any chances to see any bands we wanted to see so we started booking our own shows and started doing our own shows to get booked because nobody else would book the bands and stuff…
L.C.: And we didn’t want to play the Sunset Strip for whatever it’s worth. I mean, it’s the Sunset Strip but we kind of stayed on one side of Hollywood where all the big music was happening.
I.H.: Yeah, right, exactly.
L.C.: And we’d spread out, there’s a lot of scenes everywhere, so we met probably at one of those shows.
I.H.: And it was a good time too, because you know you guys had great taste in music, and Edgar, you know like you said took initiative and started in small clubs, like Mr. T’s Bowl, right?
L.C.: I saw you guys at Juvie…I forget the first time I saw you guys. But anyway, cuz I’ve always loved The Starvations since I heard it, so it was an honor to join the band eventually.
I.H.: Well thank you, it was an honor to have you in the band. You brought something really good to the table. I’m saying that’s what it goes back to, that’s where it starts, what it started with. I guess you started seeing us but Edgar started bookin those shows, and that’s when The Guilty Hearts started jumping on and playing with all your guys’ favorite LA bands basically.
L.C.: Yeah it was just a big circle of friends at that point.
I.H.: Yeah and that’s how we all became buddies and we all started playing together and it was really a kind of cool scene for a while you know?
I.H.: Things always change, bands break up and people move, or whatever happens but for a while it was really good. And that’s what… we kind of started up Mr. T’s Bowl, like in a sense.
L.C.: Well for the type of music we were booking at the time, I mean they’ve always booked rock and roll bands, there’s always been weird bands that play in there but we kind of got it going again. It goes in and out sometimes.
I.H.: I mean back then.
L.C.: Back then it was the happening spot for a while.
I.H.: Yeah and now it’s like way off the beaten path over in Highland Park which is…
L.C.: Yeah, that’s just North East of here.
I.H.: Yeah north east of downtown. What are your influences? I mean, now I know you have a really good knowledge of music I mean now, roots music, that I know like Lead Belly and those guys are influences for you, but I mean like what else? Like where else did it come from when you guys first started playing?
L.C.: Well, I think it was the type of music that was being put out at the time was this really lo-fi kind of swampy trashy garage punk blues almost. You know it’s like a couple labels that I can, like, name a few would like put out these awesome records and I was always thinking like I want to sound like that, you know? But there were also a lot of other bands…you know it was like the early mid-90s garage bands that are no longer around. But basically what I always wanted to do was start a band where I could play slide guitar.
I.H.: And that’s because of listening to the old blues records
L.C. Not only the blues records from growing up, but even like a band called The Gun Club, which is from LA too. The Gun Club was like way influential because that’s kind of where I stole my style of guitar, my setup, my sound.
I.H.: And they were 1980s?
L.C.: They were mid 80s to 90s, but initially like the first three records are like the quintessential blues punk to me, and that’s kind of what we got labeled, The Guilty Hearts: “blues punk” because I was playing like slide like crazy. No one else was doing that either – they were doing that back then. But like, mixing that with The Cramps and you know… growing up listening to The Cramps too was a big deal because they turned me on to a lot of the roots and rockabilly and R&B Stuff.
I.H.: Right. So you’re like me, it’s really interesting: roots music, at its roots, is your influence, but then any modern band that does it too that’s influenced by it as well is also your influence.
L.C.: Well we live in that age, you know…
I.H.: I’m the same way too though. It like, catches your ear, you’re like “whoa, that’s like a Robert Johnson riff” and I was kind of like…I mean, everybody covered Lead Belly’s songs. Like Johnny cash had 3 or 4 or 5 of his songs from Lead Belly. Everybody. You know that folk music from the 20s and 30s and stuff was really influential. What defines “LA music” to you? What do you think…and it could be whatever, it doesn’t have to be, not as a sound that defines the city, but for you.
L.C.: I guess just mostly aside from the music it’s the people. Different types of people have come from all over the world to live here. It’s just like kinda New York, and that alone creates this awesome blend of influences. Even the stuff that I don’t like particularly, it’s amazing to think how these influences come in and land here in LA, and it’s like no other city in the world.
I.H.: LA…a lot of the music is born out of LA because of that..so you think…yeah that sums it, I mean I would agree with you. I mean that is a good way to sum up LA music absolutely. I’m in complete agreement. Well that being said, I’m going to be leaving LA, for good.
I.H.: Well yeah, I want to go across the country, which I’ve done with you we’ve toured, you know, but I want to go by myself and really go and spend time in different cities and really learn about what makes them tick musically in those cities. And I feel like as much as a melting pot as Los Angeles is, I feel like there’s more I can learn, and more questions I can ask, and we can go to the source. There’s people from Louisiana that moved here to play, there’s people from Montana that moved here to play, but I want to go…
L.C.: To where they’re still at…
I.H.: Into their backyards. Yeah, and see how did they end up here? And how did they end up with that kind of music? You know what I mean?
I.H.: What do you think? Do you think it’s a good idea? Do you think it’s a bad idea?
L.C.: I think you’re going to find a lot of interesting things, and don’t forget to pack an extra pair of underwear.
I.H.: [Laughs] Hopefully I’ll have enough underwear.
L.C.: I think that’s great. I think you’re going to learn a lot. I think you’re going to see parts of America that no one else will ever see.
I.H.: That’s true, yeah.
L.C.: You’ll really see it.
I.H.: I need a break, too, I’ve spent a lot of time working hard here in music, and I think it’s time…
L.C.: Just to see how it’s done everywhere else.
I.H.: Exactly. With the exception of only being there for a night, you know what I mean? Like on tour, which we’ve all done, but actually going and spending time, and finding up. Yeah. Well good. I’m glad that you are liking the idea.
L.C.: You have my blessing.
I.H.: Oh thank you very much. And hopefully I won’t die and totally take this trip. [Laughs]