Rey Oropeza - downset.

April 2, 2004

Tell me a bit about the band.

That's a pretty broad question. It's a pretty interesting story. It goes back up to probably 17 years ago where 10, 11, and 12 year old kids most of which are DJs and most of which are MCs, or most of us are really into the punk rock scene. We all used to get together and paint in Hollywood which was a very rare thing back then just because not too many people were into the hip-hop scene back then. More people were into punk rock than they were into hip-hop. We all just got together and were painting. Then from there everybody wanted to because we started to realize that you can influence people by images to what you want to say as an artist. We also started to realize that rock music itself can also influence people as well if not more than images. We got together and we started a band called Social Justice and about 1990 we started to realize that there was a lot more interest in the band. There was a huge, huge interest in the type of music that we were doing and just because of the influence of Rage Against The Machine. After they got signed to Sony I think the rest of Corporate America wanted a band like that on their rosters. We got signed after that. We initially changed our name from Social Justice to downset. about that period of time. That's a general description of how we got together.

Going back to the images thing, you can influence people more so using oral imagery than visual. Music to me is image-laden itself.

Yeah, I can understand how people can come to that conclusion. We had such a politicized agenda back then that it was really important for us to speak to as many people as possible. People take music and art for granted without realizing how much of an effect it has on the day to day life of an American. People are absolutely and totally influenced by the media. It's incredible to see how much influence on the mind and on behavior that it really does have. There was a lot of shit happening on the streets back then and we wanted things to cool out. We wanted people just to chill. Kids were dropping out of school, going to jail. There was all kinds of gang violence. At that time in Los Angeles, the late 80's and early 90's, it was fucking horrifying out here. It was a lot worse than it is now. Really what we were doing was trying to fucking save the lives of people that we really, really loved. We realized with the music that it was just an emphatic medium of communication. There was nothing stopping it. Not even the fucking Feds. The Feds did their best to try to infiltrate on certain circles of artists and couldn't fucking stop it. They couldn't stop NWA. They couldn't stop us. They couldn't stop Rage Against The Machine. They still can't stop System Of A Down. It's something that is tremendously emphatic.

That's a really interesting point. I was watching "Bowling For Columbine" today and I was wondering why there is so much violence in this country. A lot of people feel that violent movies and music adds to it. There seems to be a combination of influences on that.

Is the very nature of our behavior influenced by media culture? Absolutely. Do you think kids in fucking Nebraska would have found out about being a Blood or a Crip if they hadn't seen Colors? I think more than 85 to 95 percent of the global economy is American entertainment which is the movies. I've done an extensive level of traveling transnationally throughout the Orient, throughout Europe, and throughout South America, the Americas, and Canada. People are influenced by American culture. Why the fuck do we need the strongest military of all time when we have the fucking strongest propaganda machine ever? When I discuss this with people, number one you're dealing with issues of national security and you're dealing with art both. Art is very influential. National security is based on the money that we make off of art because in the entertainment industry everything is taxed. It goes directly to the government and the government does what they want with our money. It's just incredible. It really is. When you really start to think about it, it's overwhelming at times of course.

You guys have released a number of albums and your latest one is Universal.

When me and Brian got together we said, "look what we want to do here is we want to make a traditional downset. record" which was having heavy guitars, rap, punk, and that was it. We wanted to alchemize the same formula that we did for the first record because downset. is a band that has a cult following. A strong one. We wanted to get that support base back and then from there move on and hopefully round up more support. It was really interesting because we just did a show in Seattle, WA which is a very remote but active part of the country when it comes to music and it was interesting because there were just so many different types of people on the dance floor. I think for some reason downset. has the ability to do that and that's how come we have the title that we do for the record. We wanted to be able to appeal to a universal group of people.

You guys blend rap, funk, hardcore, punk, metal, and socially aware lyrics together. I see where that can draw a varied audience.

Yeah, I think that people know that we were the first ones to do it and because of that, there's almost a novelty respect. People have a novelty understanding of our band.

When you were doing this album, what influenced your song writing? Was it stuff going on today like the war?

What's very interesting to me is that we are living in a very politically charged environment right now. We don't have much of a politicized agenda in the lyrics for this record. I don't have much of a politicized agenda anymore. I don't think people listen. That's really why I haven't really pushed a politicized agenda. As a song writer or as a lyric writer, I really, really went more personal than political. That' s pretty much the depths of it. On this record I never really tried to get too political just because I think it's more of a personal time in my life. With art in my writing, I really try to write what is natural rather than some preconceived approach towards my writing.

You did a tour called "Tattoo The Earth" with Slipknot, Hatebreed, Slayer, and a number of other bands.

Manson, Ozzy. It was really cool because I think that was the real last Ozzfest. Marilyn Manson brought a lot of attention to the tour which as an artist he really brought a lot of attention at that period of time in his career. I think he was doing it more out of being an artist rather than trying to accrue some type of shock value. Not that he's doing that these days but I saw something a lot more sincere from him and he started to bring a lot of attention to the tour. We were actually on a side stage which erupted with really good bands. Coal Chamber was on it with us and it just erupted into this huge, huge side stage adventure and it was great. I can't even really describe it with words. It was just really active, really expressive. Great people. All around great business. It was just wonderful. I really thank Sharon Osbourne and Ozzy for giving us the opportunity to be on that tour. It was fucking extravagant. Sharon's children were really small. We were hanging out. It was just a really great time. We'd play basketball. It was just a real wholesome, warm time in rock and roll history.

Ozzfest is my favorite music festival. I go every year and I enjoy the variety of bands and the carnival atmosphere. Some people I talk to are rather negative about it and they say they hate the bands. There may be bands on the bill that I don't care for but someone likes them. These bands deserve the opportunity to be seen and Ozzfest is the ultimate stage for them to get that chance.

I absolutely agree. If you really think about what Ozzfest is, Ozzfest is the manifestation of Ozzy Osbourne's business. Sharon Osbourne was trying to get Ozzy on a Lollapalooza tour. The Lollapalooza people were saying "fuck no, we don't want nothing to do with Ozzy. He's metal. He's from the 80's. What are you talking about? He's not cool enough. This is fucking 1990 something. We don't give a shit. Fucking Ozzy is old and done. That's metal. That's crap." Sharon was like "fuck you. He's a fucking wonderful artist. I believe in him. I believe in his songs. This is what I'm going to do you fucking bastards. I'm going to create something called the Ozzfest." It just flourished into this fucking huge monster of a work with this huge whirlwind of art and music into a formula that supersedes the fucking Lollapalooza tour.

I think Ozzfest is bigger than Lollapalooza.

Not that Lollapalooza is a shit bag but it's interesting with the Ozzy story. The Ozzfest story is about people saying "fuck that. I believe in myself. I believe in my songs."

Are you guys planning on doing any major touring?

Yeah, supposedly we have a Fear Factory tour coming up. We also have a Kittie tour coming up and we also have a tentative tour with Snoop Dogg this summer. We'll see what happens. We fucking gave Kittie their first tour years ago. We gave Coal Chamber their first tour. We've given a lot of bands that people didn't necessarily want anything to do with, we gave them their first tour. It's really cool to see a lot of bands do what they do for themselves these days because I feel as an artist I was able to contribute to the well being of another person's career and it's rough to maintain a righteous and progressive career.

I understand you guys had to deal with some label problems.

Huge. The biggest label problems in history.

If you have advice for any up and coming band as far as labels go, what advice would that be?

Have a good lawyer and have a good accountant and that's it. We have a good lawyer. Legally you're in a position where you can always perform and it creates a condition of peace for the band so then you can write your songs and have a functional agenda. With your accountant you always know where you are with your business. A lawyer and an accountant. That's fucking where it's at. That's my advice.

I've talked with a number of bands and they've told me some of their stories. It ranges from Kittie being screwed out of millions of dollars to not owning the rights to your own songs. It's amazing.

Yeah, it is. The people who do that type of shit to those type of bands are a bunch of fucking shit bags. It's like all right, you've screwed this band for fucking a million bucks. What kind of contribution to your society and to music and to culture and to history is that? Really you're some fucking pseudo-intellectual business person that fucking got away with this, that, and the other. Now what? You think Kittie is affected by that? Absolutely not because they fucking care about each other and love each other and they're going to move on. They were probably really young when it happened. You've got these business people doing this to these fucking kids. When we took Kittie on tour, most of them were not even of a legal age yet and that's one of the reasons we really, really stood by them because we knew that they were probably going to end up dealing with a lot of shit from the industry. An all girls band under the age of 18. Most of these people probably were ready to just fucking take what they could from them.

What gave me the creeps was the label wanting to separate the girls from their parents who were managing everything. That was creepy.

Let me tell you something. We live in a fucking creepy world. We live in a society where we have much of a draconian character and that's just the fucking essence of most of American culture. That should be nothing new to you. That's just the way people are. They're older now. Hopefully we can work and get this shit done. Get a good tour. I know they're working with Danny Goldberg. He was a part of our first record deal. He really cares about artists and cares about people so hopefully he can help them.