Negative Filter is a three-piece hard-rocking band that began playing gigs in Tijuana and music festivals across the state of Baja. They now live in San Diego and rock out stateside.
"As for politics, right now Tijuana is on state and city elections season," says bass player Joel Sotomayor, "and our political system has changed for the best. Our democracy is pretty young. It's getting stronger, and the main focus on governments now is the transparency of activities done by public officials, to prevent corruption. Freedom of speech now is a major factor. Before 2000 no one could make fun of the president without feeling in danger, but now we make fun of politicians freely."
How is the Tijuana music scene?
"There are mostly indie bands," Joel says, "like Lahbia, Ambiente, and there are also the experimental progressive bands like Casa Wagner, the Nortec Collective, of course, and alternative weird acoustic like Ballena de Jonás. A lot of hardcore, punk, ska, and emo bands that I don't like, but some of them are recognized not only in Mexico but Latin America, so I respect that. I think right now there is kind of a boom because there are more places where artists can perform, like MOFO bar, Sotano de Rita, Box Underground, Casa de la 9, Multikulti, Hard Rock, just to name a few. And of course the usual rave parties at the beach, and house parties for bands, those are always fun, not to mention the boom in norteño music and rancheras!"
Joel is joined by Danny J. on guitar and Jon Shimmin on drums.
TRICKIEST PROBLEM PLAYING LIVE?
Danny: "It's hard to adapt to different venues -- the stages and equipment are different. I don't have enough time to even take a deep breath before starting."
Jon: "Finding a place to set up all my drums and cymbals, if there is a band before us. So you prestage the equipment in some form, and when it's your turn to take the stage it's a hustle to get it all up there and set just right, then try to take a few breaths to chill out and then immediately try to perform a solid set. When you're done, it's back to moving equipment...the actual playing is the easiest part of the whole thing."
Danny: "A showcase in L.A. We had been rehearsing the night before in a very hot and stuffy room; afterward we spent the rest of the night hanging out in cooler weather. The next day I woke up surprised by the fact that I could not move. I had been having back pains all week, and with the change in temperature from the night before, I had some type of muscle spasm. I could barely walk, let alone hold a guitar and sing. The band was freaking out because this was supposed to be an important showcase. Long story short, I was given muscle relaxants and painkillers because I was going to perform even if I had to do it lying on the floor. I guess I don't need to say that the ride was very relaxing, and by the time we got onstage I was feeling pretty good."
Joel: "A few weeks ago at the Jumping Turtle. We drank a few beers before the show started. At the middle of our set we each drank a double shot of tequila, so when the show ended we hung out with a bunch of friends in the back of the Turtle and, well, like 90 percent of the people were wasted and the other 10 percent drunk. So it was fun."
Danny: "The second Negative Filter show at a bar in Escondido. The manager greeted us with a decibel reader that would peak with every snare hit. We had to play very low, which was something that we are not used to. The sound was terrible; we had to play with our own rehearsal equipment because they had no PA, but the worst part was that we were playing for a middle-aged drunken crowd that just kept screaming, 'We want to hear the Eagles! We want covers!'"
Joel: "A show we did at a bar on University Avenue, they had a PA only for the voice, and there wasn't a lot of people. I could barely hear Jon or Danny, but at least we didn't fuck it up."
Jon: "A dive hole -- the sound was bad; all you could hear onstage were cymbals. Danny couldn't even hear his own voice. Then we forgot to get paid so I had to go back several times just to get our 20 bucks or whatever silly amount it was."
Danny: "Out here in the perimeter there are no stars; out here we are stoned, immaculate." -- Jim Morrison
Joel: "CO-O-OBRA!" -- Cobra Commander (GI Joe).
Jon: "It's better to have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy."
WHERE IS MUSIC GOING IN THE 21st CENTURY?
Danny: "Hard to say, with everything that's out there. Now you don't have to be even slightly talented to make it. Wait, why are we not signed?"
Joel: "Everything is kind of like a loop, everything tends to repeat itself, so maybe neo-grunge or heavier bands. Hopefully more experimental artists with something we never heard, that would be awesome. Maybe more influence by Asian cultures -- a couple of years ago I heard this band called Dir en Gray, now they're opening for the Deftones. So a lot of Asian influence coming our way. I think right now is a good time to experiment with sounds, thanks to all soft synths and other music software. Your imagination and your processor are your only limitations."
Jon: "I have a feeling musicianship is going to come back a little more. Seeing a band like Avenged Sevenfold come out and Tool getting more progressive -- that's what I'm hoping for. Although the music biz seems to be at its worst right now, I think bands will make a comeback -- people are going to get tired of the Britney, Christina, and Justin stuff."