Combining the idiosyncratic approach of the Melvins with the wild eyed uncertainty of the Jesus Lizard, Totimoshi’s sludgy noise-rock has been turning heads since 1999. Frontman Antonio Aguilar told M3 about sleeping on floors, Robert Johnson LPs and the challenges presented to the musicians of tomorrow…
photo credit: Tony Tornay
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Antonio – My name is Antonio Aguilar. I play guitar and sing in Totimoshi. We’re a rock band out of Los Angeles, we’ve been together for 15 years – touring for over 10 years. I also Tour Manage three bands (Sleep, Neurosis, Shrinebuilder) and Guitar tech for two bands (Melvins, Fuel).
What inspired you to form Totimoshi? What are your own musical backgrounds?
I’ve been writing music since I was 6 years old. I started playing guitar when I was 13 and didn’t start Totimoshi until I was 29. I was in a few bands before but none I really got to write for. I started Totimoshi so that I could be the main writer. I grew up in the 1970’s ( I was born in 1968) – listening to Elvis, Buddy Holly, – old 50’s rock and also Merle Haggard, Buck Owens etc. I grew up 45 miles from Bakersfield. That’s where Merle and Buck were doing their thing. I also grew up on Mariachi music. My little brother is a professional Mariachi now. About the age of 13 I heard Jimi Hendrix for the first time. That’s what made me want to play the guitar. Then it was Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, etc. There was a period of time when I stopped listening to heavy music (80’s hair metal days). Hair metal made me so sick that I just stopped listening to rock. That’s when I got into jazz and blues. Especially John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Eric Dolphy. I also really loved John Lee Hooker, Big Joe Williams, Elmore James etc. I grew up in a small town where there were no music stores. I had to order my first Robert Johnson album in the mail. When it came, it came warped so I put it under my mattress to straighten it out. I had to wait another 2 weeks before it was straight enough to play. The day I finally heard it was a magical day. About the time I was 21 I moved to San Francisco. That’s where I met Meg (my wife and bass player). We started Totimoshi together. I think that Totimoshi is a meshing of all those different musical influences – Bakersfield country, Mariachi, Jazz, Blues, Rock, and metal.
Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
If you have an audience it’s true. Otherwise good luck. Gas prices aren’t getting any lower. If you’re a struggling band (which we still are) be ready to sleep on floors and be incredibly creative towards ideas for touring. As for record sales I think they are a non quotient for working musicians these days. It’s sort of like merch sales. Never do a tour based on what you think you can sell on merch to make up for the loss on a guarantee. If your guarantee isn’t big enough to make ends meet then it’s not a good idea to do the tour. Of course unless you’re willing to lose money.
Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
Record stores are still around. There’s a few in my neighborhood here in LA and I still go out and buy vinyl. If anything the digital age has killed the huge record stores and more than likely it’s because their mark up was so giant. I think that the internet is amazing. I told the story earlier about having to wait weeks for my first Robert Johnson album. Back then there was no way to sample music. I had to read about something, order it, and wait. Today – if you read about something that interests you – you can have immediate sampling via the internet. I think that is great. There is nothing wrong with information at your fingertips.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
Vinyl. I like the experience of putting on a record and having to go change it 25 – 30 minutes later. I also like the information on the cover, I like the pictures, artwork etc. I still see a record as a piece of art. I think that people who don’t only demonstrate how all of our societies are failing to teach music and art appreciation in schools. There is nothing more dull than a person that has no passion for art and music.
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
Yes. It’s created a collector’s market however which can make it really interesting. It could eventually end up like a painting made by an artist – where there are only a few available to the general public at a slightly higher cost because they are hand made. Totimoshi has always written with the intent of creating a record. All of our songs are a piece of a bigger whole.
Recently, there seem to be a large number of bands offering their releases for free via sites like Bandcamp. What do you think of this distribution method, do you think it is a realistic solution to the problem of illegal downloading?
I don’t think it’s a solution so much as a capitulation. I think musicians just realize that there is no real way to stop it.
What would you say are the main challenges facing an up-and-coming musician/band in today’s cultural climate?
Apart from the universal challenges like thieving labels, thieving promoters, thieving distributers, etc etc. I’d say: Illegal downloading, no more record labels, gas prices rising, less and less venues willing to take a chance, less community supporting live music. Geez take your pick.
Finally, what does the future hold for Totimoshi?
I don’t know. We recently had to turn down a tour because of money. We would have lost a few thousand dollars to do it and honestly we’re all over that. We’re already writing new music – but I’m always writing new music. I guess only the future really knows.