Saúl Hernández is best known as the lead singer and prolific songwriter for two of Mexico’s biggest rock groups, Caifanes and its later incarnation Jaguares. In 2011, Hernández released his first solo album, Remando (available in )to critical and public acclaim garnering a Latin Grammy nomination for Best Album. After a long-awaited reunion tour with Caifanes, Hernández is ready to hit the stage once again, but this time solo with several upcoming concerts that will showcase his compositions from his earlier work up until now. I had the pleasure of interviewing Hernández via phone from Mexico and he was very candid about moving away from the spotlight of Caifanes to find his own spotlight, what inspires him, politics in Mexico, and the alleged end of the world.
Photo Credit: Olga Laris, Courtesy of Saúl Hernández
First of all, thank you for your time. While you were playing with Jaguares, did you have any idea that you would one day play with the original members of Caifanes?
No, with Jaguares it was a continuation of many things. But I never imagined that I would play again with my colleagues of Caifanes, all together once again.
Now for this tour, are you playing from the repertoire of your previous bands as well or solely your own?
I have a need to express myself and this is the moment where I am presenting my career as a songwriter. The songs I wrote for Caifanes and Jaguares, and the songs I wrote for my solo album all together create a retrospective of compositions by Saúl Hernández that I showcase live.
Do you have new songs for your new solo album already?
I am precisely working on that.
Are these shows acoustic?
No, they are very electric and powerful.
Now, let’s talk about your lyrics. You strike me as a spiritual person and very connected to the ancestors of Mexico; do you draw on that for inspiration to write your lyrics? What inspires you?
I would say everything, it all inspires you. Life itself gives you many visions and realities: reading the newspaper, walking down the street and the illusions that one has for life and what you seek. All of this inspires and makes one write.
You have written a vast number of songs. Is there one in particular that is special to you or that you are very proud of?
Well, all of my work…all of my work is a song that never ends.
ALL OF MY WORK IS A SONG THAT NEVER ENDS
Do you enjoy or hear covers that other bands make of your songs?
Yeah, well some I like and others I don’t. But in the long run, it’s very interesting to me that other bands reinterpret these songs in their own way. They mold them to their styles and it’s interesting to see what they do with them. I am flattered and grateful for that.
Are there any contemporary artists that you listen to?
I noticed on your website some quotes and images that reflect the political climate in Mexico, the various movements, like “Yo Soy 132” and freedom of the press. I wanted to see if you could share your thoughts on this.
Look, Mexico is going through a phase of change and this change is coming from within. I see the change coming from the people. It comes from a need to recover liberty and to recover rights. Our political system is not making many changes. We keep living in a false democracy and there continues to be a lot of discrimination in our country. And now with everything that has happened with the insecurities and violence it has marked this chapter where the need of the people has become a need of survival and struggle.
I believe that this new presidency that is about to enter has the commitment to confront what we all know and can’t deceive us anymore. It can’t manipulate information and block reality. I think that now is the time where the President needs to sit down and have a dialogue with society and the working class, and work closely with them. There are many interests around the presidency and that is clearly evident, Mexico unfortunately is a country that is seized by an oligarchy. But there are movements like “Yo Soy 132” and the youth that are demonstrating their existence, they are protesting and saying what they think and sharing their opinions. However, I do not agree with the vandalism and aggression but I am in favor of freedom of speech.
In this case, I commend the reporters that have done exceptional jobs, some have died, some disappeared and others have been exiled. This gives you the certainty that the country does not have freedom of speech or expression and it doesn’t also have a security towards its own people. All this has to change and I do believe that it is important that all of society participates.
Now, let’s change the topic: Many believe that the end of world is coming with the end of the 13 bak’tun on December 21st, 2012. What you think about this? What do you believe will happen?
From one side, I think it’s a form of marketing that’s being proposed, and on the other side, what the ancient Mayans wanted to say that the world was not going to end. They had calculated numerically the end of an era and they said as of 2013 a new era begins. There will be shift. I believe we have to think more on the shift and less on the fatality and the end of things. There are other philosophies that we can follow that could help us more to rebuild. I want to focus on that more. We are going to enter another dynamic of thinking differently and experience a change of things. This seems more pertinent than what the calendar says: that things are going to end. That’s not true, that’s just absurd.
I wanted to thank you for your time. It was really an honor to able to ask you some questions. I’ve been a long-time fan and I am grateful for this opportunity.
On the contrary, thank you for the space. Look, I extend an invitation to do a second-part of the interview once you see the show as I know that you will have many more questions that you will want to ask me afterwards. I don’t want it to just be a promotional interview for the upcoming shows. I am interested in what you think about my work, whether it’s negative or positive. I open the door to do it right after the concert, but if it is not possible we can program another interview some other day. Once you see the show, you will understand many things that I briefly addressed but did not talk as much, about as to why I am doing what I am doing live.
It would be an honor.
If you’re around the LA area, you can check out Saúl Hernandez live on Thurs. 12/6 @ The Fillmore, Fri. 12/7 @ HOB Hollywood, and Sat. 12/8 @ HOB Anaheim. Don’t miss out!