Blast From the Past: Ratas Del Vaticano
This originally ran in MRR #318/Nov 2009, which you can grab here
In the City of Monterrey, Mexico, there are four noisy rodents creating punk at the speed of light without crossing the dimension’s barrier of the good old rock ’n’ roll. They are Ratas del Vaticano, and after hunting for them like a stray cat by the roofs, I trapped them so they could answer a few questions. Here we go. Interview by Edwin.
Violeta Malverde (Bass)
Rafael Trenton (Drums)
Joaquin Cordero (Vocal and guitar)
David (Vocal and guitar)
MRR: What kind of punk rock has inspired you, I said punk rock eh!?
Violeta: The real one.
Rafael: I think cholopunk would be the best word for our sound.
Joaquin: If by punk rock you mean all those bands from the ’70s, then my favorite bands are the Sods, Anti Nowhere League, the Damned, the Boys, Dead Boys, the Kids, Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, Iggy and the Stooges, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Ramones, Sex Pistols, Hubble Bubble…and the list goes on, you know.
David: The classic stuff and the Mexican old rock ’n’ roll like Three Souls in My Mind, Sindrome del Punk, Massacre 68, and of course good bands from all around the world like the Kids, Parálisis Permanente, Ultimo Resorte, Rudimentary Peni, etc.
MRR: The question all the world wants to know the answer: why the name Ratas del Vaticano? Does it have something to do with the church? Do you guys hate Pope Benedicto?
Violeta: I don’t care about any church or the pope. We don’t intend to say that the pope is a rat. He might be one though. I heard Benedicto used to be a Nazi or something like that. That’s the sickest thing I’ve ever heard, haha. I don’t know, I guess it’s funny to live in Mexico and have a band called Ratas del Vaticano because some people here are so religious—orthodox Catholics. And it’s all bullshit. Religion is the opium of the masses, that’s what the Proletariat said.
Rafael: How can you hate the guy, he looks like fucking Emperor Palpatine!
Joaquin: Well, I don’t know it seems funny to have a band with a name like that, especially in Mexico where most of the people are catholic to the core. I don’t really think it has something to do with the church or that we hate the pope. I mean, I don’t hate anybody at all. We picked that name because we wanted to be offensive, not because we want people to stop believing in what they believe. If you try to change someone else’s beliefs then you are being as repressive as, I don’t know, the Inquisition and shit like that. Yet, I do think some people need religion because it really helps them find the confidence and the strength they are looking for. Still, I’m not defending religion. People need to believe in themselves. Just look at racism—it is based on fear and ignorance. That’s so stupid, you know, we all live on the same planet, so why hate someone who looks different, or someone who has different beliefs or ideals. Diversity itself gives some flavor to our existence. We need respect, tolerance, love, and a little humor if we want to get along with our brothers all over the world.
David: I don’t hate religion as a faith. As Joaquin says, it serves for some humans. I don’t like religions as institutions and how they brainwash people. But I know it serves for some people to keep living and shit. I just don’t care, here in Mexico they say they are Catholic, but they don’t fuckin’ care either.
MRR: All the songs seem like an old broken washing machine—repetitive, like a motor of unstoppable rock ’n’ roll. Did you decide to play like this from the beginning or did the songs just come out that way?
Rafael: Our biggest influences are Whirlpool and Oster.
David: It’s the way it ended up in the recording. It wasn’t intentional.
Joaquin: Dave recorded all the songs but I guess he didn’t have a complete idea of how to use the 4-track. So after we finished recording the songs, we listened to them and we were surprised by the result. I liked it a lot, yet I guess we knew it was going to sound cheap and bad, but we didn’t know it would sound that bad—which I guess is good, I don’t know.
MRR: You guys have other slower songs too like “Tema de las Ratas,” which has a very cool keyboard. Who wrote the lyrics of this song? Does it mean something for you or is it just a joke?
Violeta: I remember when Joaquin and Dave started this band. I told Dave how much I liked bands that had a theme song, like the Penetrators or Witchypoo or Los Rizillos, and they had just made that song “Tema de las Ratas” (“Theme of the Rats”). It was cool. At first I thought it could become a rap song, haha.
Rafael: I like “Paranoia” more than “Tema.”
Joaquin: I made the lyrics to that song, but Dave and our first drummer Danny came up with the music. Lyrics might have meant something when I was writing them because I was kinda mad at society and stuff like that, but now I just don’t care.
David: Yeah, Danny and I were improvising, and at the end Joaquin came up with these cool lyrics that seemed like a rap song and everybody thought it was cool.
MRR: Tell me about something cool that has happened to you at a show, a story that you will never forget and will be kept in the almanac of rock inside your heart.
Violeta: One time we were playing at this really small smelly place called Bar ni Soto in Mexico City, and the people were singing the keyboard notes of “Tema de las Ratas” because we never play keyboards live. And they were all so wasted on mescal, it was a great moment. I barely remember what happened after that show.
Rafael: A show we had in Aguascalientes was like, fucking dangerous. |We were literally waiting for the audience to sexually attack Violeta. They were a bunch of paint/glue sniffing kids. Los Inservibles were also watching Violeta’s back during the whole set. Once we finished it we went straight to our van, where hours later a cholo kid wanted to come in to sleep with us, hahaha.
Joaquin: People sometimes share some weed and beer with me before the show. That is so cool. And sometimes they throw stuff at us, which is even cooler.
David: People sometimes do not know how to react, and sometimes we have very wild shows with people smashing all over the drums and shit. And sometimes it seems they are so old and tired, they just stare at you.
MRR: Do you have something recorded besides the free download (available at www.nenerecords.net) and the LP that was released on Siltbreeze? Any future split or recordings to be released?
Rafael: We are working on a cumbia tribute to MJ.
Violeta: Lots of stuff coming soon. Besides the new releases on Volar and HBSP-2X, we are going to be on a compilation of Mexican punk bands along with Inservibles and Los Nassis and bands like that. Hopefully that will be soon.
David: A tape on Full Beans (France) and a 7” with Volar Records (Craig and Brian from Christmas Island) and two songs on a new Latin punk compilation from a Mexican label called Cintas Pepe, run by our dear friend Yecatl (from Inservibles).
MRR: Who wrote the lyrics to “Olvido?” Does it talk about death as most people think of it, or does it talk about death as something dimensional, something that is here already?
Joaquin: I did. Well, it is not about death or dying, it is about imagining life as if you have never existed. Would the world be as it is right now without you in it? That’s what it is about, and some depression and shit like that. You know, daily frustrations in the routine of a young Mexican trying to survive in his country. Boring shit in the end.
MRR: The song “Puñeta con Frenesí” is an ode to masturbation. How frequently do you practice onanism? How frequently do you guys touch your sexual parts and play with yourself? (Yes, Violeta, this question is for you too.)
Violeta: A lot of our songs talk about masturbation. “Comiénzate a Masturbar” does too. And “Cantina.” Onanism is something very important for me—it’s like a sport I try to practice as much as possible. I don’t know about the frequency though. Maybe once every two or three days.
Rafael: Every time Jerry Springer puts on any special on pay-per-view, like the Cinco de Mayo special where that fat latina and a midget were making out in a giant tortilla with beans and lettuce. You can pretty much tell that this happens every day.
David: Yeah, well. I don’t have a girlfriend, so I practice masturbation like four times a week and I try to delay my ejaculation. I also like to take a long break and enjoy going back. It feels better, you know.
Joaquin: I guess once a day, except when touring because it is difficult, which is kind of a drag.
MRR: What about the recording style? Are you satisfied with the Killed By Death sound, or do your want something better? Dave Ardilla, I know you record everything on the 4-track. Will you ever try to record on a computer?
Violeta: I’m not at all into slick production, especially when it comes to punk rock.
Rafael: I think it is a neat and unique sound—I really hate that direct-to-computer guitar sound, kinda like very electric. I don’t know how to explain it.
Joaquin: Yes, I am satisfied with the sound we have on our recordings. I would only try to record with better equipment if I had, I don’t know, a progressive rock band. Which is never going to happen, thanks to Ala.
David: I’m very satisfied ’cause we are not paying a lot of money for the recordings. We only spend money on tapes and it sounds cheap and raw, the way it was meant to be. I don’t like using computers except for watching porn or email.
MRR: Tell me about your hobbies, guys, do you collect anything? Any obsession of any kind—sexual, psychological, or gastronomic?
Violeta: I always try to collect the bus tickets that have the number 21. Also, all kinds of boxes. I am sort of obsessed with boxes. I keep a lot of useless shit in my room.
Rafael: I like gore material, like photos, videos, accident footage, suicides, executions, all that kind of stuff. Nowadays I stream it, better than collecting it, gore isn’t that much fun anymore for me.
Joaquin: I used to collect coins, rocks, records, stamps, and basketball cards when I was younger. Now I only collect skulls of dead animals and memories, which is harder and cheaper. About the obsessions, well I guess I’m kind of attracted to dead bodies, death, serial killers, space, porn, mental disorders, and exotic foods, especially those with insects as main ingredients. Lately I’ve been reading lots of Muslim authors like Al-Farabi, Averroes, and Avempace. So I guess I like world cultures and folkloric traditions of all kinds.
David: I used to collect rocks too when I was a kid. And I tried to start a collection of pogs in primary school too. I don’t collect anything nowadays, I spend my money on beer and gas. I have an obsession with odors. I really like to sniff girls’ armpits, or my own armpits sometimes. I also like to be humiliated sometimes.
MRR: I know that Joaquin makes collages with paper cut-outs, and the cover of the LP is actually one of those. Can you explain to the readers something interesting or funny about the parts used, like the Nazi Mexican flag or Hector Suarez? Or tell me about the guys that appear on the backcover—who are they actually?
Violeta: The faces you see on the back cover of Mocosos Patéticos belong to some young crazy people from a Mexican communist organization in the ’70s who used to call themselves “Liga del 23 de Septiembre” (the September 23rd League). During the ’70s a lot of people here still believed in communism and anarchy, and the government had a very rigid power over the people. Anyone that seemed subversive or communist or against the president died or disappeared. So the September 23rd League didn’t last long, but they achieved some cool stuff. They could kill the richest man from Monterrey at that time. They kidnapped the president’s brother and robbed some banks. I’ve heard several stories that these guys would kidnap kids from school and send them to Cuba, or even eat them. Crazy stuff. They’re all dead now, sadly. The Nazi flags from the front cover are designs from Mexican Nazis during World War II. It’s sort of surreal to think they were actually Mexicans and Nazis at the same time. Totally fucked up! Mexico has a sick history of weird flags.
Rafael: Hector Suarez is a cool comedian. He does a very cruel/fun impression of a ghetto Cuban boy—a drugged raver/dancer so fucking ridiculous it’s not even believable, and many more I can’t even remember.
MRR: What places have you played outside of the ranch (Monterrey) where we live? I know there is a US tour coming soon. How do you feel about it? Are you nervous or do you not give a fuck?
Joaquin: The West Coast tour in the US has recently finished. Right know we are stuck in Oakland. To tell you the truth, at first I was so nervous about the whole trip and shit like that. But it was a nice experience, and we met some very cool people, especially in Mexicali/Calexico, Portland, and San Francisco. We had some trouble at a little town in Northern California, you know with all those Republican rednecks, but in general everybody was so nice. Of course there were some disappointments, but it was worth the experience. I doubt we are going to travel again ’cause when I came here I had 140 dollars and now I’m leaving with only 5 bucks.
Rafael: We just played in Texas (Austin, Houston, and McAllen) and we have had a good response from all the gringo guys. Most of the time they don’t even know what the fuck we are playing, singing, or saying, but they seem to enjoy it. McAllen is a different story, it’s like being in Mexico. They do speak fluent Spanish and shit. We just toured the West Coast. It was amazing.
David: I liked California and Portland a lot. Portland seems like everybody is stoned. Sarah Crews (spider girl from Oakland) helped us drive all the way, so thanks to her and all her lovely friends.
MRR: If you could write a letter to someone who’s already dead (famous or not), who would it be?
Violeta: I don’t know, maybe I would write to Michael Jackson just to tell him I always believed he never raped those kids. And I would like to write the story of my life and send it to Karl Marx. And to Houdini I would send a note saying, “Is there an afterlife?” because he might be the only one who could write me back.
Rafael: It might sound corny or something, but definitely to MJ. I would ask him about the sexual abuse charges against him, like really ask him what happened. I do believe in him, but there is always this part of me that wants to believe he did abuse children.
Joaquin: I don’t know, if he or she is dead then how are they supposed to read my letter? I think I would write to myself and then get my body frozen and after being reanimated I would read it and write me back and give the letter to my past self with the help of a time machine.
David: To Kurt Cobain, aka “El Rubio,” how we call it in Mexico. I want to know his opinion about his grandfather signing guitars and selling them through eBay.
MRR: Do you believe in scenes (music, art, etc.)?
Rafael: Not really. Like at first you might think it is the right thing to believe in, but as time passes (or you grow up/get older) you find out that almost 99% of the time those people are just lame, or so obsessed with that scene/thing, which makes it kind of pointless. So they like let you down, and you are yet again lost and alone. Scenes are just stupid, you have to follow “the rules” and live by that or whatever. But fuck that. Better to believe in yourself, in the end you are going to die on your own, not with your scene.
Joaquin: I used to believe in music and arts, but now everything has changed from what it used to be. I think the internet and the growth of media has something to do with all this phenomenon. I don’t see myself living off this—I mean I have a job in Monterrey, in charge of a warehouse, you know a shitty job even when I have a college degree. I now see art and music just as hobbies, I have lost faith in both of them, but that does not mean I don’t like them.
David: Sometimes I believe in them, especially when I watch Rocky movies or stuff like that. I think sometimes there is something in the air and you can feel it, and everybody is so connected and into something related to everyone. So sometimes I do believe, sometimes I don’t. I always believe in having a good time though.
MRR: Do you believe in revolutions? Do you believe in global changes?
Violeta: Yes, I do believe in revolutions. I believe the world is changing all the time and some of those changes come from revolutions. From the bottom to the top. But sometimes it’s the other way around and that’s lame. I do believe people can change things if they want it and create revolutions. Sadly in Monterrey they’re still voting for the biggest corporate political parties and it’s hard to make them realize what’s going on. We need something that comes from the bottom and goes all the way up to the top. Something that comes from the people.
Rafael: I think it’s something similar to the scene question. People can like make a revolution in their minds and live with that by their own. I really hate when “revolutionaries” or people that want to change something want you to be as involved as them. I mean, fuck that! If you can’t convince me then fuck you, don’t try to persuade me to really believe in you. Either you do it or you don’t! That’s it!
David: I believe in personal changes and then revolutions.
Joaquin: Yes I do, but once a revolution becomes static, you know, once it establishes itself as a system, it is time for another revolution. A revolution must never stop.
MRR: What does punk mean to you? Do you believe in it after all that has happened? Or is it just an attitude or a musical genre? Is it just a product or just to have fun or what?
Violeta: It becomes a product just like anything else you can think of in this world: rock ’n’ roll, sex, drugs, revolutions, even people. Living in this kind of world it’s natural to expect that’s what’s going to happen. If something like punk rock is born, it’s going to become a target for teenagers sooner or later. So you decide if you swallow it that way. But punk is not about following trends and everybody knows that. I do believe in punk, it’s not just a music genre or having a mohawk to me. I don’t know. I think everyone has their own attitude towards punk and I have my own. What punk means to me might be different from what punk means to Wavves, but it’s still punk…I guess.
Rafael: When I was young, I blindly followed the “punk code,” but then as I grew up I found out it was kind of stupid. So I see punk as a real fun thing. I love all those punk bands that don’t take themselves seriously, like you see them having fun and stuff. I hate those bands where all the members seem to be like from a Russian militia or something, that they are like dead serious about their ideals, and dying for animal rights, and shit like that. That’s not even fun! Maybe I’m just too naive, but I like it that way.
Joaquin: I used to believe in the rebellious I-don’t-give-a-fuck-attitude of punk rock when I was younger, but as I keep growing I only see it as a musical genre and a product. I mean there a lot of things to be mad at, but I don’t think music has the power to change the world. It might have power in changing someone’s attitude, but it won’t stop governments or police officers in doing what they do.
David: I don’t know what you mean by punk. I do believe in punk as an attitude, maybe it’s the rock ’n’ roll attitude of doing whatever you want to do no matter what’s popular or what the people say. I do believe in DIY of course.
MRR: What do you guys take seriously in life and what not?
Violeta: I don’t know. I don’t think I take a lot of things seriously.
Rafael: I think I’m at a point right now where again I’m lost, having no education at all, like I’m stuck between having to work a shitty job, or try to finish high school so that I can get a better job. But in the end, I find myself not doing either of those two, so I don’t think I take my life that seriously.
Joaquin: I guess I try not to take life too seriously because I don’t like being disappointed by it. But I do take some things seriously, like my family.
David: Friends and family. Everything else is not worth the worry.
MRR: If you could die and go to hell and see the devil sitting at the gates of the underworld, what would you tell him?
Violeta: Are you God?
Rafael: Wanna smoke some weed and listen to Mayhem?
Joaquin: I would invite him to have some beers. But I guess beer might be warm in hell, so probably bourbon would do better.
David: I don’t believe in the devil.
MRR: If someday you rub a bottle and a genie appears in front of you and he grants three wishes to each one of you, what would you ask?
Violeta: No border patrols anywhere. No STDs. And some indian nuts.
Rafael: An ability where the more I eat, the slimmer I get. The ability to turn Joaquin sober when it is needed, making Dave shut up when it is needed, having a smaller normal sized dick—it’s hard to pump that much blood into it!
Joaquin: A life without worries at all, I guess.
David: Yeah, a life without work as we know it nowadays and without racism and a life near the beach trading bananas.
MRR: And finally, what would you do with a million dollars?
Violeta: Buy one million burgers at McDonald’s. Or send the money to Africa.
Rafael: Probably save it so I wouldn’t have to work for a long time, or maybe buyseveral ugly looking ghetto homes.
Joaquin: I would save half in the bank and bet the rest in Vegas.
David: I would get a lot of drugs and alcohol and a stand of Mexican food and have a party for friends and I would contact the Spits to play there.
MRR: Well that’s all folks. Now that I have you in my claws I don’t know for sure if I will eat you or not. Now that I see you closer you seem to be mangy and malnourished, you smell really bad, and the lack of hair in some areas disgusts me a lot. I think I will let you go. Goddamn Rats!