2:05PM I’m pretty stoked! Not only am I on the road to Milwaukee, WI to shoot “Experience Hendrix” at Riverside Theater (which was such a huge sellout that a second show had to be added), but I’m also scheduled to sit down with of Los Lobos at 6:30 for a quick Q & A. The only thing dampening my mood is the miserable cold weather outside and the fact that I have not a single question written down to ask Mr. Rosas.
2:55PM I’m driving over the Illinois-Wisconsin border and still do not have one question for Cesar. I guess it would help if I turned down the radio and concentrated, but I can’t because I need to get in my groove before I shoot tonight’s show.
6:03PM I’ve just finished dinner with a buddy when I realize that I forgot to ask him for question suggestions. Where is my mind? Why can’t I take this seriously? Naturally because I’m a photographer! I’m more worried about memory cards, batteries, ear plugs, and a place to stick my jacket during this 3.5 hour concert. Then there’s the big heavy camera bag that I have to carry around and pray I don’t drop or lose anything. Oh man if you people only knew what we go through!
6:29PM My phone rings and snaps me out of the trance that I was in due to my wondering where I would position myself during the show. It’s Cesar Rosas.
Yeah man, Cesar?
Yeah man, Hey Ed, where are you right now? Can you meet me over by the busses?
I’m in my car (frantically placing all of my supplies on my person) just behind the venue and will head over now.
Cesar: Great! Hurry up, it’s cold out here!
6:33PM I’m greeted by Cesar, dressed in his sleek black leather jacket and sporting a fancy pair of Ralf Lauren sunglasses. He kicks open the door against the brutal wind and invites me into the purple tour bus which contains an interesting portrait of Jimi Hendrix intensely making love to his guitar. Cesar smiling pours himself a glass of red wine and offers me one.
Although not as prepared as I would have wanted to be I knew I would have to begin…If Cesar can improvise a jam session on stage, I can pull off a few questions off the top of my head… right?
Live Gig Shots: Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to “Live Gig Shots” today before your show. Forgive me as I have not written down a single question to ask you, so I’ll be flying off the seat of my pants, but I’m betting this won’t take much of your time. (Grin widely)
Cesar Rosas: No Problem Ed; glad to do it. No questions? This should be easy, we can just sit here and drink wine. (Both laughing)
LGS: First of all, congratulations to you and Los Lobos for 40 years together! This is one heck of an accomplishment! Did you ever think you would make it to 40?
CR: Thank you very much! I never really stopped to think about it. I have actually just been enjoying the ride, you know what I mean? We consider ourselves very blessed to have always been doing this and to still be doing it (laughs). This is what we do…
LGS: Los Lobos has never broken up and still has all the original band members. How does it feel that you have never had to do a reunion tour?
CR: (Laughing) that’s correct, although a reunion tour is quite tempting. We can break up for about a month and then book our reunion tour. Maybe that can give us some publicity?
LGS: Just a few weeks ago I read in the “Chicago Tribune Local” that you visited Morton East High School in Cicero, Illinois. I understood that you were discussing music with an all Latino audience. Can you tell us about your experience?
CR: You know, it was just so special on every level. All the students, I believe there were 150, were so polite and boy were they shy at first. I played “La Bamba” for them and they all joined in. After I played them a second song they began asking me questions like “Do you still practice?” “Do you still get nervous?” One student asked me “Hey didn’t you win a Grammy??!!” I told him yes and explained that we found out on the road and happened to catch it on TV. We talked about how important it is for them to stay true to their roots and always be proud of their Latin heritage. I told them that the folks in East LA thought I was crazy for playing rock and roll laced with Latino influence… Afterword’s we took photos and signed autographs. I loved it!
LGS: Wow I can’t imagine a famous guitar player visiting my high school, that had to be a great experience for those students.
LGS: How did you first get involved with the Experience Hendrix Tour?
CR: Dave and I were approached by John and the Experience Hendrix team and of course we accepted. I believe this is our fourth tour and I’m pretty sure we have done all of them. Sometimes the Los Lobos schedule will have us bouncing back and forth but we always make it to the shows we can. It’s been great fun and quite the honor to be able to play the music that we grew up with by the amazing artist Jimi Hendrix. Not to mention to be on board with all these great musicians.
LGS: What is your earliest memory of Jimi Hendrix?
CR: Man, of course the very first hits. I was like any other kid living in LA and I’m pretty sure it was right around the beginning of FM radio and they would play “Foxy Lady” and it just blew my mind. As all the songs were coming out, everybody in my neighborhood started buying up all the records. We knew then that he was something very special.
LGS: I consider myself extremely lucky to have witnessed all the Experience Hendrix tours to date. From the beginning to the very end of each show there is a mountain of talent on that stage. Outside of “Experience Hendrix” I have either seen or heard of you and Los Lobos playing with just about any artist I can think of: Eric Clapton, Robert Plant, Johnny Winter, Warren Hayes, and Derick Trucks are just a few names that I have witnessed you guys playing with. Is there a living musician on this planet that you have not jammed with but would like to?
CR: At this point, I have been so darn fortunate to have been able to play with a lot of people. All the greats man, like Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Carlos, and Hubert Sumlin- bless his soul he’s no longer with us and he is so dearly missed. I got to know him pretty well from the Experience Hendrix tour we did some years back, 2008 I believe. Right now I’m so satisfied to have shared the stage with so many great people, I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head.
LGS: Do you remember when rock and roll punched you in the face and made you realize this is the life you want?
CR: ELVIS! Elvis, man, I loved “The King” and still do to this day. I remember when I was very little and just moved to the United States. I must have been around six years old. I heard Elvis Presley and fell in love with what he was doing. I would talk my Mom into taking me to see his movies. (Smiles) Then the Beatles came to the US and it was over!
LGS: Who is your favorite Beatle?
CR: ALL OF THEM!!
LGS: After 40 years of touring the world, what do you like to do on your off time?
CR: Man, I love waking up early and going running, biking, and walking. I take good care of myself because you’re nothing without your health. I’m really into photography so I’ll play around with photos taken on tour and print them.
LGS: Do you do your own printing at home?
CR: Oh yeah man, I have a really nice printer and can print any size I want. I love working with black and white the most. I’m very old school. I used to have a darkroom in my home and just loved it.
LGS: Here is the big question: Nikon or Canon?
CR: Leica! (laughing) For the most part I carry around my little Leica, it is perfect for touring and just taking great photos wherever I go. I also have a nice size collection of Nikon cameras and glass. The last body I picked up was the D600 and I like it a lot. What camera are you shooting with tonight?
LGS: I will be using the Nikon D800 with Nikon 70 – 200 2.8. For my wide shots I will put on Nikon 17-55 2.8.
CR: Woo hoo that’s a nice set up.
LGS: Thanks so much for letting me hang out and bend your ear for a little while. It was a real pleasure.
CR: No Problem Ed. This didn’t feel like an interview at all. It was actually fun!
LGS: Oh that’s because I didn’t come prepared. At all. Nadda…
Ed Spinelli is a music lover that carries around a camera to look cool.