Now we just feel awful that our tourism board have possibly intimidated the five Spaniards with the idea that we are all Mark Occhilupo look-a-likes born with webbing between our toes and surfboards under our arms. There’s more to Los Coronas’ absence than that though. “It’s hard to play out of Spain if you’re an r’n’r band, we’ve got everything easier as there are no language barriers for instrumental music but at the same time the instrumental r’n’r market has always been more limited than vocals market.” And fair point too. It’s rare to see an instrumental band top of the charts, let alone a foreign one that specialises in surf rock’n’roll tinged with traditional Spanish music and spaghetti western scores – genres that wouldn’t immediately spring to mind when you think of surf rock.
“We love Ennio Morricone’s (composer for many of Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns) and Dmitri Tiomkin’s (composer for High Noon) music. You must bear in mind that movies like Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad And The Ugly or Once Upon A Time In Mexico were filmed in the south of Spain. We’ve been opening our shows with Tiomkin’s Theme From Rio Bravo for a few years, it’s a really dramatic theme, Mexican people call it ‘Degüello’, like the ZZ Top album, you can clearly imagine something tragic is going to happen [when you hear that theme].”
Formed in Madrid in ’91, Los Coronos (The Coronas if your Spanish is even worse than mine) have, as many instrumental bands must, built their reputation in a sizzling live show, one that they have honed in the last 20 years all across Europe and in particular Mexico, the litmus test for an instrumental band according to Krahe. “[Mexicans] are really demanding when you are on stage. In Mexico there’s a great tradition of instrumental r’n’r and has been for a long time. They’re pretty close to the US so they’ve listened to the roots right from the beginning, The Ventures, Dick Dale, The Fireballs, Bobby Fuller Four, The Chantays. So people are demanding and experts at the same time.”
When we suggest that from time to time Melbourne crowds can be accused of being, well… a hard bunch to impress and get dancing, Krahe seems untroubled. “I bet you people from Madrid are much worse than Melbournians. We attach much importance to the groove factor, the rhythm section has to get people dancing, the trumpet contributes with the lyric and emotional factor and the guitars take responsibility to protect the bandmates, they create a wall of melodies, riffs, chaos, whatever. They are representing the epic factor in the band, like electric warriors playing rugby.”
It’s this ability to entertain the masses live that has perhaps contributed largely to Los Coronas longevity, but certainly an ability to evolve has helped as well. “I think if Los Coronas would have repeated the same formula we wouldn’t have been able to develop our own sound,” Krahe citing the early ’90s as their “learning phase,” whereby they were recreating the sounds of the genres masters rather than experimenting with them. They came into their own by adding trumpet; an aggressiveness to their sound, and by letting other influences seep in. As years have gone by they’ve found themselves moving more and more from the sea to the desert. So which is the greater influence, genre, or landscape? “Our first albums were recorded in Madrid but the last two have been recorded out of our hometown, one in the north of Spain, El Baile Final, and Adios Sancho in Tucson, U.S.A. So I think the landscapes have been more influential in these last two albums than in the others. In the first recordings we were just trying to be loyal to the genre.”
So where to next in the evolution of Los Coronas? “I hope to jungle, jungle-surf, like C.W. Stoneking. I recommend you see this bluesman, his music is primitive and real, an absolutely amazing artist.”
It would seem that we Australians aren’t so hard done by after all, as despite none of us seeing Los Coronas play on our Island continent, we will be getting the benefit of 20 years worth of musical evolution and live experience. Krahe assures us too that they won’t be wasting the chance to impress us. “We’ll turn to our bull’s heart to play in order to get the attention of the Aussie public. We try to create a kind of tidal wave with our rhythm section and people only have only way to save themselves. They must take a longboard and enjoy the wave.”
BY GARRY WESTMORE