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Interview: Ozomatli's Ulises Bella

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I’ve heard your band described as a collective. I’m interested in how you would define a collective versus any other kind of band.

I think we’re a collective in the sense that there’s not one particular band leader. We all take our turns in leadership roles. For example, in any group of people, not everyone’s going to agree but I think the forte of this group is that we focus on what we do agree on and forget about the things that we don’t agree on.

Does that mean that you don’t do them or you just don’t focus on them?

Well, sometimes we don’t do them. If we were going to do a certain show that one guy was very, very strongly against, we might not do it. At the same time, there might be something that we as a collective all want to do and there might be one guy who doesn’t. So we’d help that one guy feel how important it was to the group. It’s a give and take, compromise and sacrifice.

In other groups, it’s often one or two guys who call all the shots and everyone else just follows. In our situation, we try to give everybody’s point of view consideration.

What musical groups do you think influenced your sound?

Hum. Well, there’s a lot of band members so it would be a long list. There’s a lot of guys we’ve listened to like Eddie Palmieri, The Clash, Fishbone, obviously Santana, James Brown, Public Enemy, Bob Marley - a lot of different artists.

Are there any LA groups (besides yourself) that are really hot right now in LA?

There are definitely peers that I think are doing wonderful things. Groups like Quetzal have their own blend going on that is very, very unique to their particular style of music.

How about future projects?

Since the new records come out, we’re swamped with work and touring. After the 4th, we start on an Australian tour, followed by a European tour and then there’s talk of us going to Beijing, to China, maybe even to the Middle East, playing some festivals this summer. Just this last month, we were in India and in Nepal, so we’re doing things that are really out of the box. Nepal – people kept telling us that we’re the first American band to ever play Nepal.

No one really knew who we were out there, but when we played, there were 8 – 10 thousand people showed up. That’s nuts. We got great feed back from the people.

Do you really have as much fun as it sounds like you do, listening to the music?

We have a blast! Also it’s a family thing, we’ve been a band for 12 years. Sometimes people get on each other’s nerves, sometimes you get completely exhausted traveling and the last thing you feel like doing is playing music. At the same time, this is the best job any of us have ever had. It’s given us opportunities we never would have had in any other situation.

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