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Metalachi Melt Faces, Cultures At Back Bar SoFa

In Music
Maracas and Mayhem: Born in Ciudad Juarez and raised in East L.A., the metal-mariachi band, Metalachi, bring the best of both worlds together.

Maracas and Mayhem: Born in Ciudad Juarez and raised in East L.A., the metal-mariachi band, Metalachi, bring the best of both worlds together.

Search the web for information on the ’80s- and ’90s-metal/mariachi mash-up band, Metalachi, and you’ll quickly realize a couple of things: First off, these guys have one hell of an origin story—involving “the village jai alai team,” a 14-year burro trip and the recreational use of horse tranquilizers—none of which, it would seem, is true. However, upon realization of the second thing (namely, that these guys totally rip), it’s hard to care about the veracity of the official “Story of Metalachi.”

For what it’s worth, Metalachi’s band leader and percussionist, Vega de la Rockha, insists that the tale isn’t entirely fabricated. “There’s a little bit of exaggeration to it for comedic relief,” he says. “But there is a little bit of truth as well.”

He calls his band members his “bros,” and says that, as a group, Metalachi “keep it all in the family, esse.”

Plus, after the beer and tequila starts flowing—as Rockha says is common at Metalachi shows—the distinction between biological family and generalized feelings of brotherhood tends to blur. So who is really to say?

What Rockha will reveal is that he and his band mates were born in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez and spent their formative years in East Los Angeles. Their upbringing was a decidedly bi-cultural one, and according to Rockha, all the members of Metalachi remember listening both to mariachi music as well as heavy metal bands, like Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Pantera and Megadeth.

It only made sense that to try to blend the two traditions, Rockha says. “When you have the talent and play music, you want to incorporate everything and make it your own. That’s what we try to do.”

And they’ve been doing it for the better part of a decade. The band formed around 2007 and began touring in 2010—taking their mariachi-fied cover versions of songs, such as “Master of Puppets” and “Crazy Train,” with horns and violins taking the place of distorted electric guitars, and shuffling Latin-flavored rhythms replacing heavy-hitting drums.

The band puts on a lively show, as well—each member dressing up as a Latino version of a heavy metal icon. For instance, Metalachi’s trumpet player wears KISS-like makeup and spikey shoulder pads; the group’s bass player has covered the underside of his sombrero with stickers, like a punk band might do with their guitars; and Rockha wears a mash-up of a sombrero and Slash’s top had, with little, fuzzy dingle berries hanging around the edge, reminiscent of the inside of Cheech’s car.

So far, it’s been a great success. “We’ve been pretty fortunate,” Rockha says. “We didn’t think it was going to work.”

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Reflecting on the success of a recent East Coast tour, Rockha details his surprise at selling out two shows in New York and New Jersey. While the band knew they had a strong following in California and Texas, they were shocked to find how many people came out to support them so far from their home.

The band is working on their second full-length album, and have plans to enter the studio at the beginning of April. The new record will have 12 songs—including two originals. Also, Rockha is hopeful that they will secure some guest performances from some of their musician-fans. Perhaps Dave Lombardo of Slayer or Vinnie Paul from Pantera, he says.

Rockha says he is looking forward to Metalachi’s upcoming show at Back Bar SoFa, noting that every time the band has played San Jose they have drawn bigger and bigger crowds—of Latinos and gringos alike.

“All the Latinos out there—we get really awesome support,” he says. “And not only Latinos. We have a lot of Caucasians coming to the show. They don’t even know what we’re saying some of the time. It’s a good kind of culture clash.”

Metalachi play the Back Bar SoFa on March 20 at 9pm. More info.

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