An Interview with Karlos Paez of the B-Side Players
By Casey Pukl
One of San Diego’s favorite local acts can be described as War meets Lenny Kravitz. The B-Side Players are going into their 18th year as a band, and are releasing their 10th record. With influences ranging from Earth, Wind and Fire to Carlos Santana, the group’s eclectic background spans Latin rock, funk, and good old American rock and roll. Band leader, Karlos Paez, took some time out to give us a little background on the group and some insight into the latest record and their CD release show tomorrow night!
CP: I know you guys have a new album coming out. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
KP: Well, it’s our tenth release as a band, and the record is called “Revolutionize”. It’s kind of the same formula that we’ve been sticking to for the past 15 years. It’s a blend of different music and rhythms, like all the different genres that we love. We are featuring a lot of reggae in our records, you know, but we have some electric rock ‘n’ roll kind of vibes as well as the whole folkloric and cultural thing.
We are also featuring some great artists that we have been working with for the last year since we’re a touring band. We have Poncho Sanchez on the record, who is a conguero, a Latin legend conguero, who gave us the opportunity to open up for him back in the early ‘90s when we started. Also, our friends, Ozomatli is featured on it. Slightly Stoopid, a local band that’s blowing up and doing really good right now, they’re on it. The record is barbeque-proof. You can start it from beginning to end and there’s not a lot of forwarding of the music; it’s just a nice blend of good, conscious lyrics, and dance music.
CP: Awesome. I’m looking forward to it! I know you guys are some of our hometown heroes. What has kept you in the San Diego music scene?
KP: We have always been based in San Diego because it’s home, but now, we have adopted musicians from across the border that are in the band. We’ve got some on the other side in Tijuana and Tecate. We’ve always represented San Diego, but now, we represent the frontera, the border, which is like- that’s how I grew up as a youth, crossing both sides, having my grandparents live in Mexico and my parents live on the U.S. side. I have always been a “border baby” just going back and forth every weekend, and so that’s why we have that multi-cultural, bilingual, Chicano sound. That’s how we grew up. All of us in the band migrated back and forth on both sides of the border. We just played last week in Mexicali, and we did about five hours of lying to cross back, but we were talking about how it was no big deal because really, that’s how we grew up, all the time. We have always been, you know, sitting at the border line one way or another.
CP: Sure. How did you guys get your start and get together?
KP: Well, we all came from bands. We were all young musicians at the time, in our teens. There was a huge punk rock movement in San Diego back in the days, and there was an alternative music scene and punk rock. There wasn’t really any culture. There wasn’t really a cultural movement here. So, we all were products of our parents’ record collection, like Carlos Santana, the whole ‘70s Chicano movement— War, Chicago, Earth Wind and Fire, you know. We all grew up with those records being at home. But we wanted to do something different. And me being the son of a trombone player from Mexico, whose name is Ezequiel Paez, I’ve always wanted to create a horn section and all, but once I started my horn section, I didn’t know what to do with it. So I started meeting these other cats that were spreading Latin music and African drumming, and so it all came together that we didn’t want to do rock ‘n’ roll anymore. We wanted to do something that would make people dance. Right away, it was like an instant hit- in the early 90′s, we started playing in the Gaslamp, and like, gradually just started moving to the West Coast and going up to L.A. and then San Francisco. The next thing you know, we’re just in the West Coast doing runs with no record, and then the acid jazz movement came along from the ‘90s from Europe, and then everybody just start catching on to the whole Latin Fever thing.
CP: I mean, you guys have been around, what- you said, 15 years now? Mid-‘90s, about?
KP: 18 years.
CP: 18 years. You’ve really seen some changes in the music business in that time, I’m sure. Have you guys really had to change the way you do business to survive in the new economy and the new business model?
KP: Well, for bands like us, we never really sold records. You know, we’ve sold our old records on tour and stuff, but we’ve never been that band that was selling, you know, thousands and thousands of records. So, for us, for the whole record industry to the not sell records anymore- people downloading music and all that- is good for us, because we’re a band where our members come from Brazil and Japan, so that’s a great thing for us. It’s only helped us in our traveling way better, because we have always given our music out for free anyways. So, now it’s just all about the live show, and that’s what I love about the path these days- just going back to the live show and that’s where bands are making their money and making their living. We’ve always been that touring band. We’ve never relied on record sales or the record company to give us money to go out and do stuff. We always did it on our own. We always supported ourselves, so we never relied on anything else but our own touring. So, you know, we’ve never stopped touring, and that’s how we make a living. We realized early that in order to be a successful artist in San Diego, which has a really poor music scene, you have to leave. You have to travel, and we’ve always just done that.
CP: Sure. And what are you guys most looking forward to about this upcoming tour and coming to Anthology?
KP: Well for us, we love playing at Anthology because of the sound. It is one of the places in San Diego that I believe has the best sound, right up there with The Belly Up Tavern, as far as sounding great and also it’s just a different venue for us. For the last 10 years, we have always just played at the House of Blues and The Belly Up Tavern, so it’s good to play somewhere different and we’re just excited about it. And also, the tour is exciting because we are supporting our CD and going back to the places that, you know, receive us well and treat us really well. Like, we’re not taking chances and going to some new town we’ve never been to before. These are all places that we have fans and they receive us pretty well, like in the middle of nowhere, Idaho, and Jackson, Wyoming. These are all places that we’ve been going to and traveling to for the past 15 years. So, we’re excited about going back to our fans. The CD will be available there. It’s going to be an official CD release party, and we’re excited for everyone to come out and have a great time.
Special thanks to Karlos for his time! Be sure to come on out and dance your tail off tomorrow night with one of San Diego’s greatest local acts!