Published Sep 22, 2016For their first new album in 16 years, long-running deathgrind band Brujeria (featuring members of Napalm Death and Carcass) aptly released Pocho Aztlan (on Nuclear Blast) on Mexico's Independence Day. The title loosely translates to "wasted promised land" and the record continues the band's tradition of controversial, tongue-in-cheek lyrics, this time tackling issues such as drug trafficking, immigration and racial divides.
As Mexican-American frontman Juan Brujo tells Exclaim!, the lyrics are the most important aspect of Brujeria for him. He describes the meaning behind the two words that make up the title Pocho Aztlan.
"Pocho is a bad word that Mexicans in Mexico use to call Mexican guys born in the United States," Brujo explains. "Like, my parents are Mexican from Mexico and I was born in the United States, so the bad word to call us is Pocho, it's like wasted or trash. I go to Mexico, and they say, 'Oh you're from over there? You're Pocho, you're trash, go back, you're garbage to us' and this and that.
"And then over here in the United States, it's like I'm the brown guy and they say, 'Go back to Mexico, you don't belong here, cross the border again.' So anywhere I go, they don't want me. And then Aztlan is the promised land of the old Aztec Indians, their great place to be. So you put that together and you get the wasted guy's promised land and it's got to be up in the sky, because it's not on the ground."
Brujo says much of the lyrical inspiration for Brujeria songs comes from stories he hears from other people.
"A lot of border-crossing stories, and there are a lot of the narco drug dealing stories that you hear and sometimes there are some good ones that have to be told, that inspire us to write songs about them.
"There's one on this record that's about a bunch of Harvard lawyers fishing out in Florida by the Keys when a small plane comes by over them really low and comes back and drops off a package. And the package was like 100 pounds of cocaine, and there's all these Harvard lawyer guys looking at it on the boat," he laughs. "And they were all like, 'What do we do? What do we do?' And one guy was like, 'Keep it, we gotta keep it.' So one of our songs is about that."
However, there are also times when the lyrical message can be quite personal. "Sometimes a point has to get across, like at the beginning it was a very angry younger me that, you know, you're not liked. Anywhere you go, people are giving you crap and you don't feel at home anywhere and you get a little angry and that type of stuff," Brujo says.
"But things have gotten better. The last 10, 15 years over here, everybody started being cool and getting along and the kids didn't even know about racism until Donald Trump came along. Pretty much he set us back by 40 years in about six months and he's making problems again, turning it back to the way it used to be. Things like that sparked some songs, and fired us up to talk about some things."
Earlier this year, Brujeria released a single about Trump, titled "Viva Presidente Trump!," which Brujo explains shouldn't be taken literally. "We're being sarcastic, obviously, because otherwise if we say, 'Go kill the guy now' then they're going to come after us.
"But it's so scary, people are backing him. I went somewhere to get something and the guy who owns the store was like, 'If Hillary wins, I'm selling the company and moving to Europe, I'm getting out of this country.' Like, what? You mean if Trump wins? But they're like, 'No, if Hillary wins.' People are really possessed by Trump, they're really into him, he's like their god or something, they really worship the guy. And that's even scarier — the people who are into him. I mean Trump is bad already, but when the people are following him, like 'I'm going to sell everything I have and leave the country,' that's pretty crazy."