Q&A: Caifanes, "La Vida da Zapes Celestiales"

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For those old enough to have witnessed the infamous separation of Mexico’s pioneering icons of rock en español, there isn’t a doubt that most of us thought: another extraordinary fucking rock ‘n’ roll band gone sour — thus the same ol’ story: addiction to fame, drugs, and lust. And proudly, millions of Latinos and fans alike continue to jam those classic “La Célula Que Explota,” “La Negra Tomasa” and “Perdí Mi Ojo De Venado” tracks that will never fade.

Emerging in the mid ’80s and influencing Mexico’s cultural and rock musical identity, Caifanes brought an original poetic yet spiritual and occult lyrical style like no other band of their time, and incredibly adorned it with genius guitar riffs that cry, screech, and speak to you. A wickedly rare group who were born to make music together, no question. So when we heard the news of a Caifanes reunion of nearly two decades of separation, we were dying to know the real story of how it all went down.

In this exclusive interview, we talk to both leader and vocalist Saúl Hernández and lead guitarist Alejandro Marcovich about the love, tension, and scandal of Caifanes’ 20 year history. These interviews were done separately a few weeks prior to the initiation of their longly awaited tour. They speaks about the real causes of the band’s infamous breakup, how exactly the reconciliation occurred (due to extreme surgical interventions), and express their highest gratification and love for one another, something that none of us, or them expected. It gets real teary.

Photo Credit: Olga Laris


You’re about to begin the tour that millions of fans have been waiting for for sixteen years! I feel safe to say that thousands of Caifanes fans believed this reunion would be impossible. What are your personal feelings in this?

Saúl Hernández: Look, I’m going to be honest: I feel surprised for many reasons. One, because life takes unexpected turns, and even though you know which road you want to walk, destiny has it much clearer. I never imagined going up on stage with Alejandro, or with all of Caifanes — at least in my part, because that was never my intention. Nowadays, I am very surprised because I feel very happy to be with Alejandro onstage, the same goes with Sabo [Romo], Diego [Herrera], and Alfonso [André]. Surprised because our public has been a powerful force in all this. They’ve been a strong motor and the most important protagonists for this tour to actually happen – certainly for these [30] dates, and for this encounter where five musicians get together to play music once again. We have four Palacio de los Deportes (in DF) dates already sold out months in advance. We’ve been very well received in many places from our fans, and want to respond the same way. We want to play many songs from all our records, listen to la raza’s petitions who wants to listen to us. You said it very clear: it took sixteen years for us to get back together and play. Don’t let us die alone, attend our concerts.

Before the tour announcement, you guys surprised crowds at Coachella and Vive Latino this 2011. How was that experience returning to enormous festivals as Caifanes?

Alejandro Marcovich: In Mexico, playing Caifanes songs is playing the [national rock] songs, I’d say. And in the U.S., playing those songs to Mexicans in the U.S. or those of Mexican descent, it brings nostalgia for Mexico. The truth is, it was very impressive having five thousand people in front of us. For me, it was the first time returning to massive crowds after twelve years of not performing. I felt like we were floating. It was something very extraordinary.

S: Vive Latino was great and certainly a strong experience, that’s our city. That’s where Caifanes was born, in DF. It is our maternal soul. Coachella was also really good. I think we were part of a larger cast, which generated a sold out festival. I saw a lot of young people at these festivals. I saw it with Jaguares and with my new album Remando that I recently toured with. A lot of young people are interested in the music we made and are making. This also surprises me: seeing fourteen and fifteen-year-olds who know all the songs better than me! They have a deep and strong understanding of the culture and what the group is about, and for the first time, they are going to see the group live. This is really interesting; that there is no generation gap from Caifanes, Jaguares, to Remando. There is a powerful connection between cities and the people. It truly seemed like a ritual, a concert that is subdivided in different regions because the truth is, the crowd gives their all at every show.




To go further back, in 1995 Mexican rock suffered with Caifanes’ breakup. Why did the separation happen in the first place?

A: The separation occurred mainly because of the stress that we were living with during that period. Many concerts and situations put us in friction, and without wanting it or knowing it, we broke up. Alas, now that Saúl and I restored our relationship after fifteen years, we began to converse since November of last year, talk face to face about everything that had happed to us during those unspoken years – the good and the bad. We found out that the bad wasn’t that bad and the good was really great. Sometimes time heals wounds, and it also gives you the perspective to value things. This was the most important; to value the group, our relationship, and our personal connection, which is really intense and great. The night that we reunited, we spoke from 7pm to about 5am, about all the topics we needed to release. We gave each other a hug and said: “Let’s see if we can do something together again.” And so it was – taking steps and removing the stones from our path.

S: At the time of the breakup, each of us was looking in different directions. Two of our bandmates had already left the group, Sabo and Diego. I think that part of that magic began to diminish. This was evident from my humble point of view. That’s probably when cycles begun to change, natural cycles. The problem wasn’t that these problems existed, it was knowing how to execute them, but perhaps we were too young. We never thought that our success would be so huge, and this caused many things to enter our heads. We lacked a bit of vision, a bit of maturity in our decisions, and a bit of intelligence in life. And all this you acquire within time, but I think that it all happened as it was supposed to. That’s how life is. Decisions are made and only time tells if they were the best or the worst. And look, here we are again, all together again, and very happy too.

Alejandro, lamentably I heard that you were combating an illness and underwent a few operations. In many cases, one can find these experiences to be revelatory. Would you agree?

A: I totally agree. In fact, the reunion of Caifanes basically occurred thanks to my health problem. It is a lot to say that thanks to a problem that I would have not preferred, a tumor in my brain. Saúl approached me with an email, this was before my surgical intervention, wishing me that all went well. This was the first sign to restore our relationship. If it wasn’t for this health problem, we’d still be in dispute. He had sworn never to step foot onstage with me again, and after all this I think he realized that it wasn’t worth all the fuzz. Anyways, thanks to this health situation, this bridge of communication was rebuilt which I welcomed with an open heart, and answered his email. That’s how we approached the proposal to get together to personally talk. Thus, this arose the possibility for Caifanes to return once again, because if Saúl and I had continued our distance, Caifanes would not be playing again.

Saul, how did this reconciliation really occur?

S: There have been many strange happenings among us. I fell really ill and was unable to work or speak for about three years. Then when those years passed by, Sabo suffers a heart attack, and Alejandro, well he had a very delicate problem undergoing surgery in his brain, because of a tumor. With all of these lessons, we suddenly gained a consciousness that we didn’t have before. Alas, la vida da zapes celestiales. For those who understand this, things will go very well for them, and for those who don’t, then too bad. From there, a situation was born where we began to learn, and said, “If it’s not today, then it’s never, so let’s do this.” Thank god we have life and we’re here in this moment on earth. We’re going to give us that cariño that we deserve, and also, give the people that acknowledgement, endearment, and love. As I insist, la raza has been very fundamental for all of this to happen. The important thing is to give lots of light to this cycle. If all of a sudden Caifanes closes that cycle after the tour, then it was finished as it should: with big concerts and a great attitude. Perhaps, we’ll accomplish leaving a memory of something really positive, and not leaving with what I thought was going to be – that bitter flavor, the breakup, the fights, and arguments — I don’t know, those situations that separated us. I believe this will help close our cycle right. I don’t know what’s going to happen after, but what I can guarantee is that these gigs are going to be something very special.

Alejandro, after Caifanes’ breakup, Saúl underwent several surgeries on his throat. As the focal instrumentalist of the band, would you say that these surgical interventions somehow affected the quality of music Caifanes produces nowadays?

A: For the moment, we only had to change one song by lowering it one key. In Caifanes’ repertoire, Saúl composed many songs in high notes. So, after he was subjected to many surgical interventions in his vocal chords, about 40 of them if I remember correctly, this caused some weakening in the high register. But he’s singing really well, and if there’s a song in our repertoire that’s too high, then we can lower it, which I don’t see it being a problem. We will do anything that needs to be done to make the product quality.




Besides the tour, what else is underway for Caifanes, or as solo artists?

A: During the tour, we’re going to record the concerts to then make a live album. But in terms of making new songs, well that depends on us, how we feel during rehearsals – if it flows then we’ll come into an agreement to rehears more and make new songs. I thing this would be really good, but we don’t know for sure. A little while ago I was playing for a symphonic orchestra. This is something that impacted me and I’d like to do this again. I have lots of original songs I’d like to release on record as well as have productions. Though this is all in pause during this tour with Caifanes, but the intention is that the five of us can make room for Caifanes and other personal projects so that both things can coexist.

S: As of now, we’re only concentrating on the tour, and I’m not sure if we’re prepared to enter into the intimacy of a recording studio. We’d like to study further plans step by step, be feeling it, and if all of a sudden we feel the creative need to begin something new, then I’ll assure you that we’ll do it, but if it doesn’t naturally come out, then there’s no need to force it. I can’t speak for my fellow bandmates, so I’ll tell you what I think and what I opinionate, but until now, there are no plans of recording. On the other hand, my solo album Remando did receive great feedback. It was one of the top sellers in Mexico, and all the concerts were really packed. I put this album on pause during our Caifanes tour, anclé la panga. After we finish our moment with Caifanes, I’ll once again aboard my little boat and continue with Remando.

We’re really happy the band reunited, because Caifanes is the shit! We await you with open arms!

A: Likewise! With open arms and open hearts. Thanks for this opportunity that life gave us and Caifanes’ crowd, you, and all those who work in media. We’re going to make every night a special night.

S: Thanks so much. I want to take this moment to send a shout to la raza thanking their presence during [my performance at] BB Kings, New York show with Remando, and we await for you all with an invitation to see Caifanes after many years of not being together. It’ll be a concert of gratitude for la raza, so we’ll see you all soon first and foremost and we’ll be there dándole duro.