Love it or hate it, the name Mexicans with Guns is as provocative as a salmon-colored suit at a funeral. And middle school educator/Exponential Records owner/MWG original ego Ernest Gonzales is okay with that. Though the name makes him question many things (like why many people might think of Mexicans-with-guns as menacing up-to-no-good-ers and not peacekeepers or revolutionaries), he maintains that his music isn’t meant to be all that political. He just wanted something rife with bad-assery and tried for an N.W.A. homage that might get people talking. But, honestly, it’s his newest electronica album Ceremony that’s really loaded.
“While making this album, I became really fascinated with María Sabina, a Mazatec curandera from Mexico,” Gonzales said. “In the ’50s, Sabina allowed U.S. banker and ethnomycologist R. Gordon Wasson, VP of JP Morgan, to come in and participate in rituals. These rituals combined elements of Catholicism with much older native traditions including the use of mushrooms.”
Gonzales believes that the tribal rituals of our indigenous ancestors are something that we have lost touch with. He also thinks that there is a spiritual link between our own minds, psychedelic experiences, and “God” (his quotes). From out of these musings came Ceremony, a blistering LP of moody synths, ominous atmospheres, swirling chants, and squelching basslines, all unified by the presence of what Gonzales calls “native” percussion.
“I hope that when someone listens to Ceremony, that they will listen to it from start to finish, and feel as though they have been through a journey,” Gonzales said, “from the opening incantations, to the uptempo climaxes, and concluding with a dreamy surreal end.”
The song “Death and Rebirth” alludes to what Gonzales describes as the Mexican view of death, one he wishes he could accept himself, that is, “something to celebrate as opposed to `being` something to mourn.” The track is inspired by a Mayan sculpture that was also the inspiration for the album’s cover art. This “Mask of Death and Rebirth” that Gonzales drew from is of three monsters’ heads emerging one from the other.
“I think the Mexican death beliefs, altars, and calaveras imagery go back to some ancient Aztec death-and-rebirth beliefs in our subconscious,” he noted.
Gonzales encouraged patrons to “show up ready to get down” at this weekend’s show, adding that costumes and makeup will be appreciated. Gonzales himself will don his trademark luchador mask juxtaposed with everyday outerwear. It gets crockpot-hot under the mask, but Gonzales has never considered going without, especially because the discomfort brings out the MWG persona. “I am a shy, soft-spoken, introverted type,” Gonzales said. “But with the mask on stage, all of that fades away. The more I do it the more important it’s become.”
This weekend will hopefully create a meeting of fans and music of spiritual consequence in keeping with the themes of the album. “I want an MWG show to become more and more like a ceremony,” he said. “I feel like most dance clubs and raves are just modern tribal ceremonies, anyway. The mask, the dancing, the music, the sweat. I think it’s all meant to go together and it helps everyone reach a different mental level or at least a temporary escape from reality.”
Mexicans with Guns CD release w. DJ Dus, DJM, Pena, and Sonora
10pm Fri, May 6
Limelight Music + Drinks
2718 N St. Mary’s