“Mexican-American death/grind bands, like to answer telephones and say hello to Decibel hacks on the other end…” It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Mexico’s Rottenness. Breaking up for a short spell during 2012 didn’t help their cause, but the band is back with a new line-up and album in the wings. Gone are the disorganized, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-cargo-shorts days where they once found themselves stranded in Texas after a tour with the realization they spent too much on road booze and didn’t have enough money to go home. Rottenness is a completely different beast these days: stronger, more mature and more focused than ever. The band is now two-thirds American, which I’m sure has nothing to do with the pieces of the smarts puzzle being put into place (I kid, I kid, settle down) and…well, I don’t want to spoil the surprises that guitarist, lone original member, guiding light and spiritual force, Jaleel “Jay Garbage” Castillo reveals during his ongoing quest to stay sick and grind on.
Let’s start from the top. Who’s in the band now?
Well, Ben Pitts [bass/vocals] from Denver. He’s been with me in the band for the last four years and he did the new album with me. On drums we have Ramon Cazares from Amarillo, TX and he’s actually also the singer/bassist for Abolishment of Flesh. We’ve been together for about a year or so now and it’s been good. I finally have a steady line-up!
So, there are no other Mexicans in the Mexican band?
[laughs] Yeah, I guess I’m like the last of the Mohicans. I tried to call a couple of Mexican friends, but I don’t know if it’s the economy or whatever, but everyone says they don’t have money or they don’t want to tour or they have a family situation. It’s the same thing over and over and I just got tired with it and decided to call some people from other countries. In the United States there are more people who are focused, into the music and willing to go on the road. But now whenever we bill the band, it’s “Rottenness from Mexico-USA” so everyone knows we have Americans in the line up.
How does that set-up work when it comes to song writing and rehearsing?
I start by writing all the music and send tracks via the internet to the other guys. For the new album, what I did was I worked with [drummer] Kevin Talley first. He did the drum tracks, then I finished the guitars, then I sent it to the guys and they learned everything. For the tour we did last summer, we just got together for like a week before and started rehearsing.
Does having Americans in the band change your focus as far where you’re touring? Are you going to be focusing on playing more in the U.S. instead of Mexico?
We try to play as much as possible wherever we can or receive an offer. This year we did the United States and Mexico. It’s easier to do the United States now because I’m the only one travelling. The other guys are already there, they know the scene and it’s easier to book shows now.
And what can you tell us about the new record?
We’re really happy! I think we started about a year-and-a-half ago. Thanks to Kevin Talley, we received the drum tracks a year ago or so. We were into it, but every time I’d listen to the new stuff I’d always be like, “Nah, I’m going to change this and change that.” So, finally what we did was rearrange all the songs and in the summer I went to Denver to nail down the last arrangements and vocal lines with Ben and we just finished it. Kevin went on tour with Suffocation and we’re just waiting for him to fill in some spots and do the final mixes, so I think it will come out in February or March right before we do a tour of the states in March. Everything went good; we’re greatly satisfied with what Kevin did and the new songs and I think everything is at a different level.
As unlikely as it would be, I gotta ask if there was ever talk of Kevin joining the band?
It never went through my head to have him join the band. He’s first level, the big leagues and everything, and having him is going to cost me a lot of money because he’s receiving offers from bigger bands all the time. If we’re just doing festivals or something, then I might consider it, but we were so happy with Ramon. He did a great job doing Kevin’s stuff live on the last tour. Plus, Ramon is more available to us than Kevin.
What’s the album’s title?
A Perpetual State of Destruction.
Judging by that, it would appear you’ve moved away from the gore/porno-grind themes?
Yeah. On the last couple of tours we did, I saw the gore and sex lyrics being a trend thing and I guess I kind of got fed up with it. So, between Ben and I we decided to more intelligent lyrics – which we hopefully succeeded at. I also started looking at bands like Disgorge USA and Cephalic Carnage, where their lyrics have some humour to them. So, we’re trying to avoid the gore situation and do more mature and more interesting lyrics.
Who’s putting it out?
Ossuary Industries. We were supposed to give them the album last summer, but because of all the changes we delayed it. Plus, Tony Koehl is doing the album cover art – he’s the guy who’s done Black Dahlia Murder and Malignancy – and it’s going to be a different style of cover art that’s trying to avoid all the clichés. We’re just trying to improve as much as we can in all aspects.
How did the touring over the past year go?
Last year we did three tours. We did one in Mexico with Fuck the Facts and Landmine Marathon that was two-and-a-half weeks. We did another two week mini-tour in Texas and the three week American tour in the summer. For us, we played a lot of new places we hadn’t been; we played on the east coast, we did the New York Deathfest, we played in Boston, Buffalo, North Carolina, Minneapolis, Milwaukee and we finished the tour by playing the Denver Black Sky Fest. I think it was one of our best tours; the band was more focussed, the band sounded more professional and playing new places and venues in front of new people, everyone was having fun and enjoying it. We try to do as much as possible, reach new people and get on the road as much as we can. We’re doing another three week one in March. We’re starting in Tampa and we’re going to do the whole east coast, the mid-west and then the west coast. We’re going to do a big circle around the country.
For your upcoming Mexican tour, did you find it easier to book considering how much you have toured and are you starting to play bigger venues?
Actually, I was talking to my girlfriend about this last night. Even though we book our own tours and shows, getting a bigger name in Mexico is hard. That’s what I say all the time; you need to be a band that’s always on the road because people will forget about you. We need to do as much as possible, not only with our band, but also with our booking agency so everybody knows we’re doing shows. It’s not that hard and wouldn’t be that hard to get shows in bigger venues. We have the contacts and the CDs, but the economy in Mexico is really bad so it’s not really affordable to do tours with bigger bands in bigger venues. For example, Suffocation and Cryptopsy toured Mexico recently, but they only played two or three shows. Why can’t a bigger band like Suffocation come here and do a whole two or three week tour? But there’s no money for that. So, we keep it to DIY tours and that’s why I like to book bands that, first, are friends and, second, we really like the music. We know they’ll have a good time in Mexico. In past experiences, we’ve brought bands that didn’t enjoy anything and just complained. What we do is bring bands that really enjoy travelling around the world so they can have fun and play some shows. It’s the same for Rottenness; we try and play as much as possible and put the name out that we’ll play here and there and travel to play with this or that band. We want to be seen as the band that will always go on tour rather than just sitting in a basement saying, “Call us when you have a show.” I’d rather pick up the phone and say, “Hey, we want to play that show.”
Have you noticed any differences between Mexican and American shows, tours and people?
The people are different, definitely. I think, due to the lack of underground shows with international bands, people here are more into the music and want to discover your music. People will be more into wanting to shake your hand, asking for photographs or to sign their CD and stuff like that. People are more into that sort of stuff and they appreciate when you come to their town. In the states, they have more shows and shows every day. You can play on a Monday or Tuesday and there will 30-50 people there, but it’s a tough country to conquer.
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