March 21st, 2011 | Interviews

David Forth

Dávila 666 is a garage punk band from Puerto Rico who sing in Spanish over fuzzed-out guitars and a rollicking rhythm section. Bassist A.J. joins us to talk about the benefits of always being able to see in 3-D and the benefits of always doing what you wanna. This interview by Kristina Benson.

I was looking at the video for ‘Tu.’ Do a lot of Puerto Rican bands make music videos that depict them performing cunnilingus on their girlfriends and then killing people?
A.J. (bass): Maybe reggaetón artists do videos of like shooting people and shit but I think we’re the only ones killing our girlfriends in the countryside.
How did you get your girlfriends to agree to that?
They like it! They said they like it! We did that video like two years ago. It was like my best friend—she died, and that was her house in the countryside. We always hung out there when we were kids and we wanted to do a memorial for her, so we went there.
On one of your albums you had a Santerían altar with a bunch of candles and a gorilla mask and a gun? Whose gun was that? Well, we put all the stuff on it that involved our culture.
A gun, 3-D glasses, a gorilla mask, and potatoes are representative of Puerto Rican culture?
Yeah! It’s part of how things is! In Puerto Rico, it’s live by the gun and die by the gun, you know what I mean? And it’s always good to see everything in 3-D. Tell me you would not love to see everything in 3-D. We always make potato soup. You never tried potato soup? What about the gorilla mask?
People think we live in the jungle so we want to make a parody of that so we put the monkey mask.
Did you have to get a new Puerto Ri- can birth certificate? You know the Department of Homeland Security awhile back said that 40 percent of the cases of fraudulent IDs to get in the country were people posing as Puerto Ricans. So they invalidated all the birth certificates issued before July in 2010. Does it feel like Puerto Rico is the Nigeria of the United States?
We fucking hate that! We are like a fucking colony—we are one of the last standing colonies in the fucking world. We can’t vote for the president of the U.S., or for nothing. Not nothing! We vote in the primaries for the first time which is politics bullshit because why they let us vote for Hillary or for Obama but not for the president, you know? They let us vote in the primaries of that, because I don’t know why. But at the same time, people here in Puerto Rico are not aware of politics in the United States. In the primaries they only vote for who the prettiest.
So they voted for Hillary over Obama?
Yes—Hillary won here! Cuz she’s a woman. People here don’t know what the fuck is happening in U.S.A. politics. There are 3.5 million Puerto Ricans here, in New York there’s 7 million, in Chicago 4 million and in Florida 4 million. I think there’s like 3 in L.A.! We have a friend in L.A.—Blaque Chris. He’s half Puerto Rican like you.
Are there are other garage bands in Puerto Rico now?
In the 60s there were the Scavengers—a really popular garage band. But in this era we’re the first ones doing what we do. Now there’s Los Vigilantes, Los Podridos … it’s getting really good. In the past it was more punk rock but now we’re getting more dance. Kids here are really hungry for music so everyone is starting a new band. You don’t need a studio—you buy a 4-track, you hook up your computer. That’s what I like about these times. Every- body could record what they want in their house. Me and Carlito used to do hip-hop together, but our dads were playing rock ‘n’ roll and we loved it since we were kids. In the 1990s, we were playing rock—post-punk. But in 2004 we had gangsta-rap music. We got tired of that and decided to do a rock ‘n’ roll band and that’s how we started doing Dávila. I made the beats and Carlito rapped. Now I’m the bass player. I used to play guitar, and I switched. I just started playing bass in Dávila. You don’t need to know anything to play an instrument to play with us—you just go with it!
Puerto Rico—and Cuba too—are so small but there’s such a rich musical culture. Why do you think that is?
I think it’s our African roots. We are a mix of native Indians, Africans and Spaniards, so we have that rich influence from the African people. Like American blues, soul, rock ‘n’ roll, all that influence from Africa. Cuba and Puerto Rico, we have like a close relation for years— we are like family and our flags are almost the same. We helped for the Cuban revolution against Spain—sent a lot of soldiers and helped for the revolution. When the Cubans were free and tried to help us, we didn’t have a chance because then it was the Spanish-American war and that got more fucked up. For us it’s not that happy. People think we’re happy, but we’re a colony. Nobody is happy to be a colony. We didn’t ask to be part of the U.S.—we were invaded.
They gave citizenship to Puerto Ricans so that they could be drafted in WWI to guard the Panama Canal. Yes, exactly! They make us U.S. citizens to go to war, and in Korea, in WWI, do you know how many Puerto Ricans have died in U.S. wars? It’s crazy. These days, we have a lot of people who want to be free, independent, but mainly there’s like two big parties. One that wants to be part of the U.S. and one that wants to be—como se dice? a commonwealth. But it doesn’t matter what the people think here, it all depends on the U.S. We have been part of the U.S. before Hawaii or Alaska. They don’t want us. They don’t want us to be part of the U.S.—they made that very clear, and they make more money off us like a colony. If we were a state, we’d have more rights. Every states have their own laws and rules and they don’t want to give us that power. It’s never going to happen. We gonna stay a commonwealth—as much they can do. They do voting here, whatever that bullshit, but it gonna stay the same. We have been like this for more than a hundred years, no change. We don’t have senators, we don’t have nothing over there. We have these stupid thing called like commissioner of Washington but it’s stupid—that guy can go over there but he can’t do shit. They want to make people look happy and they invade us with their economy, Burger King and all this commercial shit. Puerto Rico is full of all that. Burger King, malls, all our local economy has been fucked up because of all these big enterprises. If you have like a local drugstore, you can’t compete with Walgreens or CVS.
That’s one thing I love about Cuba. No McDonald’s, no Burger King. So pure.
Here you have Walmart, K-Mart—everything that is in the U.S. is here and it’s sad cuz all the money they make out of the industries get out of Puerto Rico. Nothing stay here.
All of your songs are in Spanish—why?
Everything is in Spanish. We think in Spanish, and that’s the best way for us to express ourself you know?
Do you feel like English speakers might be missing out?

I don’t think so because music is a universal language. If you have the feeling, the melodies, if you like it, that’s it. It’s about the feeling. Maybe they are missing the lyrics but that is part of everything.
What’s Puro Vicio? A documentary all about Dávila 666?
A friend of us is documenting all our tours. He has a company called Puro Vicio that does film and videos, art, design, projections. He’s like the seventh member of Dávila—he always goes with us on tour. He has been with us the whole time and we’re doing a documentary of five years of us on the road.
Has he filmed anything you’re afraid he’ll put in the final video?
No, because that would not be fair. You have to show everything. We’re not ashamed of anything, not even the bad things. He needs to put everything.
Will you let your parents see?
Why not? They know who we are—we don’t have nothing to hide and they respect who we are. We want him to put everything—even the craziest shit that happens. You will see!
What can you get away with at a show in Puerto Rico that you can’t get away with in the U.S.?
We do what we wanna—it doesn’t matter. We have played here in places like on TV where they tell us we can’t say bad words or do some bullshit and we do it anyway. We do what we want and they can’t do shit because it’s live. Or they try to not say the 666. They say, ‘This is Dávila’ and we always say, ‘No, this is Dávila 666.’ Over here, there are a lot of conservative people. Even though we have all this crazy shit and everyone is drinking crazy and doing crazy shit, people are religious and have Catholic traditions. But everyone is so hypocrite, you know? I think in the U.S. we can do more whatever we want than here.
A lot of Catholics in Puerto Rico but also a lot of Santeríans, right?
A lot of our grandparents are Catholics but at the same time they practice Santería. I remember seeing when I was a kid—my grandmother has this Indian statue, like fucking huge, more bigger than me. And she’d put all this food to it. And every time I woke up I smell all this rotten food. It was all the food that Indian had had over the weekend and he couldn’t eat it. Everybody over here has a saint, and it depends—they do this ritual and this priest gives you a saint. I don’t know who is my saint—I haven’t done that yet.
Is there a patron saint of Dávila 666?
I don’t know if you can give a band a saint. I think you have to be a person. Over here you can’t get going with that like it’s a joke because people take it very serious. And we respect that.