THE DRAGONS – interview by liz ortega
In the vein of Johnny Thunders, Rolling Stones, and the Texas Tornados–The Dragons ignite a rock n roll blaze of glory with their trashy, alcohol induced tales of getting loaded and fucking–everyone!
With Mario “from the Bario” Escovedo on guitar and vocals, Kenny Horne on lead guitar, Steve Rodriguez on bass, and Jarrod Lucas on drums, the Dragons embark on a rock n roll revolution that will surely seize and conquer your soul. Their last release, Live at the Casbah (Junk Records), captivated the electrifying yet highly liquored -up sounds that only the Dragons can construe.
Now, the Dragons are back with yet another hard-hitting album–which sounds amazing–that will definitely violate your core. Recently, I met up with Mario and Kenny while taking a break from recording their new album and spoke in depth about living life as a fire breathing Dragon.
Liz: So, you’re back in the studio recording another classic–what’s the name of the new record?
Mario: Kamikaze is probably what it’s going to be. This is the first time we’ve actually written a record, you know, to go into the studio and do it. The first couple of months, we were playing in clubs and we made a record of songs that we had. We had two new songs for the last album and I wanted to go with 15 songs so we’d have something for singles or whatever. In the last two months, we kind of concentrated on writing songs and getting ready to record.
Liz: Who is the main song writer or do you all collaborate your talents?
Mario: I’m probably the main song writer…Kenny also writes and the rest of us will bring in the basic song into the rehearsal room and we’ll all put in our part.
Liz: Kenny, what would you say triggers the ideas for your songs?
Kenny: For this album, Mario usually writes like the chorus lines, so there would be two songs he writes at first then I’ll know where he’s kind of going. I’ll try to write songs that are the same as his or a little more different. What I thought was kind of funny is that when he writes songs…he writes a song that has a lot of guitar playing but then I write a song and it’s like a short, catchier, pop song.
Mario: We kind of bounce off each other. He puts in all the leads and the melodies and I’ll bring in the structure of it. I was telling Kenny that this album is kind of like a movie…the movie has this kind of a theme to it and we’ve already got the slow crying scene. We need some more action!
Liz: You bring in the sleaze!
Liz: Do you consider your songs to be sleazy?
Mario: We’re just sleazy!
Liz: You guys put on such great shows. I was at the Christmas show a few months back at the Garage. It was honestly one of the best times I’ve had!
Kenny: Was this the one with all the white snow on stage?
Liz: Yes, it was. Christmas with the Dragons!
Mario: Yeah, I was breathing fiber glass…I didn’t want to stop the set because all this stuff was in the air, so I just kept going. My lungs were filling up with all the fiberglass.
Kenny: Yeah, and that stuff sticks to you when you’re all sweaty. Then I thought ‘Wait, doesn’t fiber glass itch?’ After that, I was like ‘Ohhh, damn!’
Liz: Are you all originally from San Diego?
Mario: I’m from Huntington Beach, originally. Kenny is from Japan.
Liz: Wow, really? Did you grow up there?
Kenny: Yes, I moved when I was 16 and started playing with these guys when I was 18.
Liz: So, how’d you find Kenny…all the way in Japan?
Mario: I put out an ad saying ‘Hanoi Rocks, Johnny Thunders…’ He was the first to call, as far as guitar players, and we’ve been playing since. The band has been together 10 years.
Liz: How many albums do you have out?
Mario: This new album will be our 5th release, I think? We did a record in Spain and we did a PainKiller with Scam-o-Rama, and we did 3 albums with Lou (Junk Records) and this will be our–6th release!
Kenny: One of them is actually a Live album.
Liz: The Live album, which was recorded at the Casbah in San Diego, really captured the band’s chemistry. It must have been an insane night.
Mario: It was cool because it was on a Wednesday night and Wednesday nights in San Diego–well, not a lot happens. It was cool…everybody turned out and they went nuts. There was a pretty electric vibe in the room.
Liz: Now, does the name of the band have a particular meaning?
Mario: I wanted to make like a street rock n roll band and it just seemed like an Asian street gang. (Laughs) You know, The Dragons against the Sharks or whoever.
Liz: You guys have a strong following here in the states–what is it like to go to a different country and get the same positive reaction you get here?
Mario: It’s cool! We went to tour Canada and the East Coast and stuff, and we’d never been there before. So, it was good because it’s like we’ve been playing there already, you know. We had a following already because of cds and stuff. We get emails from around the world, so it’s cool that people want to communicate with us and talk to us. It means a lot to me.
Liz: Mario, you come from a long line of musicians. Your brother, Javier, is from the Zeros…
Mario: Yeah, my brother Pete Escovedo played in Santana. (A well known studio percussionist around the world.) Sheila E is Pete’s daughter. Peter Michael is Pete’s son and he’s done a lot of stuff. Then there’s Alejandro from the Rank and File and the Nuns and Javier from the Zeros and the True Believers. Then there’s Mario from the Bario.
Liz: So, when is the touring taking place? What cities are you hitting up?
Mario: We’re doing the SXSW in Austin…we’re doing four shows out there. Two weeks from then, we’re going to Japan for 9 days…I’ve never been there, but Kenny has. That’s going to be really cool.
Liz: So, what usually gives you the drive to put on a powerful performance? Is it the Jack and Coke?
Mario: I would have to say the music. Usually, we’ve been able to test our music by playing it live. This is the first time where we’ve actually written a bunch of songs and came in and recorded them. Steve was learning a lot of the songs even up until laying them down. Jarrod, the drummer, had a month to learn the stuff. Me and Kenny have been working on them little by little. It was kind of scary this time…recording and me not singing the songs live–it was more intimidating. We’ve always been like a combination of a punk rock n roll band and the songs are sounding really good. It’s a whole new thing for us. This has been a whole new experience, especially for Kenny and I. We’ve been to the studio from 10 am till like 2 am being totally involved in the recording. It’s been intimidating and exciting at the same time.
Liz: It’s like a kick in the ass…it makes you put more effort into it.
Mario: That’s the scary part because whatever we walk away with, that’s us. There’s no coming back and re-doing it. Everything else you’ve done in the past has to be represented here and it’s very exciting.
Liz: Are you content with what you have accomplished as musicians or do you feels there’s more damage to be done?
Mario: Oh, yeah! For us, this is what we always wanted to do. To see if we could do this…actually, I think this is the best work we’ve done. All the music we’re doing now sounds better than anything we’ve ever done. We want to represent what we deal with inside.