To a Parallel Chicano/Latino Universe- San Francisco
April 5- 6, 2005
by Mark Guerrero
On April 5, 2005 I took a plane up to the San Francisco Bay
Area mainly for the purpose of speaking to a Chicano music
class at U.C. Berkeley. It was the class of Alfred Arteaga,
a brilliant teacher and author, who had e mailed me a year
or so previously to tell me he enjoyed my website and often
used it as a resource for his class. Several of his
students had also e mailed me and I had done an interview
with one of them for a class paper she was doing. This
all led to an invitation to speak to and with his class.
I figured while I was going up there I could meet with some
musicians I knew, some through my website that I hadn't met
in person. What made the trip of particular current
interest was I had just finished reading the book "Voices
of Latin Rock," about the San Francisco Latin Rock boom
of the late 60s and beyond. Among many other things,
the book talked about the Mission District and many of the
people and places relevant to the period. I call this
article "My Visit To a Parallel Universe," because
what was going on in the San Francisco Chicano/Latino community
in the same era was very similar musically, socially, politically,
and culturally to what was happening in East L.A., where I
grew up. Even though East L.A. and the Bay Area are
a mere 400 or so miles apart, the communities in both areas
were blissfully unaware of what was occurring in in each other's
barrio, except for the bands from each area who surfaced nationally.
Through my website, I had met a musician/producer by the name
of Marcus Lopez, who has an excellent salsa band called Cubanacan
and is also the bass player for the Jorge Santana Band.
He kindly took the day off to show me around the Mission District
(La Misión). We walked around the district and had lunch
in a down home mom and pop Mexican restaurant. We also
went into an old night club called "El Toro," which
used to be called "The Night Life." This is
one of the clubs where Santana, Malo, and East L.A.'s El Chicano
often played in the late 60s/early 70s. According to
Marcus, who was there at the time, the room and stage are
virtually the same as they were then. The Mission District
felt similar to East L.A., so I felt very comfortable and
at home there. After drinking sangrias in another restaurant,
he took me to the studio of producer/musician Greg Landau.
Greg has produced many Latin and Latin-American artists over
the years and achieved much success and critical acclaim.
He graciously played some of his current projects for us which
sounded very impressive. Earlier that same morning,
I had breakfast with and interviewed college professor/band
leader, Dr. Loco (Jose Cuellar). He's had a very interesting
life, which combined his scholarly interest in anthropology
and his love and talent for music. He's a PhD in anthropology
by day and leads his band Dr. Loco's Rockin' Jalapeño Band
by night. His story will soon appear on "My Chicano
Music Articles" page. After meeting with Dr. Loco,
I headed down the 101 toward San Jose to meet with the original
Malo drummer, Richard Spremich. I had previously featured
a CD by his current band, The Damascus Experiment (DMX), on
my website, "What's New," page 3. We talked
about some of his experiences in the early Malo, his new band,
and his drum instructional DVD that's soon to be released.
The next day I headed for Berkeley to meet with Mr. Arteaga's
class. I invited pc Muñoz, a talented speaker/songwriter
as he describes himself, who has a couple of excellent CDs
out. He's not really a rapper, but more of an urban
poet with some excellent songs and a positive approach.
He had visited me in Palm Springs previously so this was an
opportunity to hang out with him in his town. We've
found we have a mutual admiration for each other's music and
have become good friends in the process. The lecture
lasted two hours and went very well. I showed video,
played music clips, spoke about Chicano music, my dad (the
late Lalo Guerrero), and the Eastside sound. The students
were very bright and interested in the subject. They
asked many good questions and we had a great dialogue.
After the class, Mr. Arteaga, pc, and a couple of students
had pizza, beer, and soft drinks outdoors at the Bear's Lair
campus bar/cafeteria. After some good laughs and conversation,
pc took me to see a studio in which he's been recording out
in Oakland. After checking it out, I headed across the
Bay Bridge back to San Francisco to meet with Abel Zarate,
an original guitarist/arranger/songwriter with Malo.
Abel had been prominently featured in the aforementioned book
"Voices of Latin Rock." We met at a small
restaurant and had a very good meal and even better conversation.
He proved to be a very bright and nice man. It was not
a formal interview, but two musicians talking about music
and some of the experiences we've had in the music business.
I particularly enjoyed hearing about some of what he experienced
in the early days of the San Francisco Latin rock explosion,
including his positive encounters with Carlos Santana.
Abel was lead guitarist, along with Jorge Santana, in the
original Malo and was co-writer on four songs on the first
album, including their big hit "Suavecito."
He also was one of the main arrangers on the album and contributed
heavily to the second Malo album called "Dos," before
leaving the band. Abel currently has a CD out entitled
"Soul Redemption" with his new group the Zarate
Pollace Project, which I've since featured on my website ("What's
New," page 3). It's an excellent instrumental record
with music he describes as "Afro-Brazilian global beat
jazz." It showcases his fine guitar work as well
as his compositional skills. I had also been trying
to hook up with Abel's early Malo band mate Richard Bean,
who was the lead singer and main writer of "Suavecito."
We didn't make that happen, but he did call me at my hotel
on my first night in town and we had a good conversation.
I'm going to interview him at a later date for the story of
his other band, Sapo. I had a great time in the Bay
area and met and hung out with some great and interesting