The band Monoplasma is a fusion between three-time Grammy Award winner guitarist Cesar “EI Vampiro” Lopez, and chart-topping Spanish singer/songwriter Hector Geronimo. Vampiro played with iconic the Latin bands Maná, Jaguares, Azul Violeta. Geronimo served as the front man of the enormously popular alternative Spanish rock trio, Moebio. Together, they have created a unique, modern, indie rock sound that — while mostly in Spanish — is drawing diverse audiences in the US and Mexico. They have just released their album, “1”, produced by the Grammy Award winner Alfonso Rodenas and recorded by Grammy Award winner Rafa Sardina. I caught up with El Vampiro and Hector Geronimo at the offices of Criteria Entertainment in Hollywood the day before they took off for their latest tour. The following is an edited version of an hour-long (and really fun!) conversation.
Patrick. You have released the song “Te Llevo” as a single with a new video and you are also celebrating your earlier song “No Me Intimidas” both of which have been featured on Spotify. When you play them on tour, do people know them and sing with you?
Vampiro. We have been playing many places, some little bars, others, and there are some people who know the songs, but the majority don’t. But they like them – they are happy. Every time we started playing in closest cities like San Diego or Ensenada, some people know them. And then we go to cities deep in Mexico like Mexico City and Guadalajara, not so much, but we go back and they know the songs
Hector. When we go back they know the songs and there are some songs, like “Respirar” they know and sing it with us.
Patrick. Did you get more artistic freedom when you left the larger bands to form Monoplasma?
Vampiro. Well, no. I think it is the same. But the technology has changed a lot. We can record any time. Before you had to go to the studio and get an engineer and all that. Now it is easier, we can be more involved with the songs.
Patrick. Do you ever get song ideas and put them in your phone and carry them around for a while before you work on them for a song?
Hector. Yes!! We can carry them for years.
Patrick. Are some of the songs on the album ones you have carried around for years?
Hector. No, not for this album for me. I am working for a new song for album 2 and I write a lot of lyrics and am always listening to them
Vampiro. Some of the songs in this album “1” I have for have many years. We started this project just playing around – nothing serious, just for pleasure. Then we started doing ideas and then we had like 30 or more songs and then we decided to make a CD. And then we decided to make a band. Some of the songs have been around for three years.
Patrick. Do you ever write in English?
Hector. I tried but it is difficult for me. I just arrived in Los Angeles in June of last year.
Vampiro. When we are working with an idea, we are looking for a melody and for some songs we sing words in English.
Hector. I can mix – you know – Spanish and English. I call it “Hectorio” – a new language.
Patrick. In the video “Te Llevo” there is a screen at the end says “to be continued”.
Vampiro. I hope so!
Patrick. Do you where it will continued to?
Hector. We are working on new songs. Maybe we think about it as a trilogy. I don’t know –we are working on it.
Vampiro. We should call George Lucas – he knows how to make a trilogy.
Patrick. Your tour has big cities and small cities and big and small venues. Why do you like the small venues? What is different about them for you?
Vampiro. I like the intimacy. We are really enjoying this part of our career because with the other bands we played for 5000 or 10,000 people and even if we wanted to we cannot say hi to everyone. But in a little space we can talk to the people – they can tell you what they like and don’t like.
Patrick. What are you doing different now from what you were doing in the bigger bands?
Hector. For me, I had been playing in an alternative rock band. Now it is more organic for me, it is like when you begin your career – back to the beginning. It is beautiful for me. We are traveling a lot – I know a lot of the cities in Mexico and in the United States. And I live in Los Angeles now and it is a dream for me
Hector. I spent my life in Madrid but now I can making a lot of music every day. Many musicians, recording studios, producers. It is a dream.
Patrick. Your music is universal – you don’t have to understand Spanish to love your music. Are you seeing more anglos at your concerts?
Vampiro. Sometimes. Maybe they are lost. What you say is true. I grew up listening to music in English but not understanding the words. So that is why when I make music, the melody of the voice is the most important thing for the song. I don’t pay attention to the lyric meanings. I take it like another instrument. Sometimes people ask what is it about this song you love and I say, I don’t know.
Patrick. Does Hector write the lyrics and Vampiro write the melodies.
Hector. Yes, but together.
Vampiro. Well, we work together. Sometimes I have an idea and we work together to make a song.
PatrickIn one of the scenes from the video “Te Llovo” there is a strange man standing in the back in a trench coat and a hat pulled down over his eyes. Who is that man?
Hector. We don’t know. The story is to be continued. There really was such a man.
Vampiro. Maybe his name is Patrick O’Heffernan.
Patrick. Now I know what I am going to wear at your next concert. You tour a lot – so you have any funny stories from your tours?
Vampiro. Oh of course. One good one is from last weekend. We were on a flight with the band and there was a crazy guy making trouble who didn’t want to sit down so we could land and wouldn’t obey the flight attendant. So one of our guys took the guy and put him on the floor and got tape and taped him up. And then we landed and everyone on the plane clapped.
Patrick. Have you been driving a lot in the desert? Do you like that? You don’t drive in the VW Beetle you used in the Te Llovo do you?
Vampiro. No. We rent a car.
Hector. We like driving in the desert. We have been driving in Texas.
Patrick. I see you are going to Mexico.
Hector. We are going to play for the first time in Mexico City. It will beautiful…many, many young people.
Vampiro. We have clubs booked. We have two shows like every weekend.
Patrick. You ae very busy. I look forward to your coming back home to Los Angeles so I can see your show . Thank you for talking with me.
Patrick O’Heffernan is co-host of the LA-based, nationally syndicated weekly program, Music FridayLive! and is a music reviewer for online magazines Vents, The Hollywood Progressive and MusicJunkie. He has also co-hosted a national political talk show, The Fairness Doctrine, and hosted the “Uplinks” media segment on Saturday All Things Considered on NPR. He holds a PhD in International Relations from MIT, has been awarded an Emmy, four Addy’s, and a Webby-Honors, among other awards. He has published 5 books and ghost-written others. A project he co-launched, the North Asia Nuclear Free Zone, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. He serves on the Board of Netroots Nation.