the AU interview: Raúl Pacheco of Ozomatli (Los Angeles) talks Bluesfest and "Place in the Sun"!

This Easter weekend, Los Angeles group Ozomatli will be bringing their some twenty years of experience back to the Byron Bay Bluesfest. They’re a band who are always a favourite of the festival and this year should be no different. Just before they come down under though, they are releasing their eighth studio album, Place in the Sun, an anticipated release, and their first since 2010’s acclaimed Fire Away – with the notable exception of Ozokids in 2012 – which, as you can guess, was a kids record. Now it’s time we see the band back to what they do best!

Ozomatli have always been a band resolute on keeping things interesting musically, while delivering the best live shows on the planet. To chat about the Australian tour and their latest record, Raúl Pacheco, the guitarist and vocalist of the group, caught up with me from Los Angeles and told me that this was no exception. They wanted to explore new sounds and the resulting record sees an electic mix of tracks, “It takes us a long time to make records, and Place in the Sun was no different. But it sounds great. We’ve gone to places we’ve never gone before with this release. There’s a dance, rap track in there, some North African rock music… all along with the sorts of things people know us from. After the years of writing and laying it down in the studio, we’re looking forward to sharing it with the world.”

Never a band to rest on their laurels, I ask how the group works together to decide to explore different sounds, “We’re a pretty democratic band, we all have to like the songs we play. Not every song that one of us writes might be appropriate for the band. But there aren’t any rules to it. If we all get excited about it, we’ll do it. We try to find a way to make it make sense to us. I think that’s the challenge… so if we’ve never played this kind of strumming acoustic song (that one of us has written), how can we give it more fire and rhythm and perform it as a band? At the same time, we don’t take it all too seriously, so in the end it’s a fun process for us.”

Another difference for this release is their partnership with Pledge Music for their pre-orders. I asked Raúl what took them down this road, “Over the years we have enough fans who’ve seen us that they want different experiences. One-on-one, individualised. We’ve been doing this for 20 years, so anything new we can add to the experience, for us and for the fans, we’ll try to do.”

And few experiences come better than Bluesfest in Byron Bay, which has seen the band make multiple appearances at over the years, “We love it there (at Bluesfest). It’s a true music festival, you can see so many different types of music. We have so many friends in Australia, and we always make new ones too. It’s just so beautiful there it’s a joy. I get to call this my job!”

As for what to expect from the shows, “We’ll be playing some new songs, and some old facourites… it’ll definitely be high energy as always. We want you to be part of the show. We want to interact as much as possible… that’s always been important to us. All of us are the focus at a Ozomatli show.”

Then there’s the sideshows. Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na will be joining them at their Sydney and Melbourne sideshows, an artist who worked with Ozomatli on their debut, self-titled record in 1998, “the shows with Chali will be special. We try to get together when we can. It’s a joy for us, and it’s a joy for fans, especially the ones that have been with us since our first record.”

So here’s hoping for some collaboration on stage. Raúl doesn’t rule it out. Speaking of collaborations, the band ended 2013 with two very special symphony performances, one with the Colorado Orchestra, and the other with the San Francisco Symphony, continuing to prove that this is a band who never go the expected route, “…these shows were really special. As musicians, we love music, all types of music. And symphony musicians are some of the most dedicated and impressive musicians. We’re easy going guys, so they really enjoy working with us… and we enjoyed working with them. It’s so great to hear such incredible musicians supporting you while you’re performing up there.”

I end the interview asking if this is something we might hear on record one day, “…we’re talking about it, about what we can do with it… when you’ve been around for 20 years, anything you can do to bring different elements… well, if we can rock it, then we’ll do it.”

And indeed, rock it they do.


Don’t miss Raúl and Ozomatli when they return to Byron Bay Bluesfest this Easter weekend, ahead of shows at The Zoo in Brisbane on the 23rd of April, and then shows in Sydney at The Factory on the 25th and The Corner in Melbourne on the 26th, supported by Chali 2na.

Tickets to Bluesfest and more details are available at

Ozomatli’s new record Place in the Sun can be pre-ordered through Pledge Music via their website,, and is released on March 11th.

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.