Everything you ever wanted to know about The Getback's Jose Flores, including his life as Jose El Rey
Check out Jose tonight at Shake Rockers vs. Bros at The Vagabond (30 NE 14 Street). Now read the real story of the mystical, the magical, the delightful Mr. Jose Flores.
Ric Delgado: I wanted to start of with The Getback stuff, cause I know that’s the big thing coming up. Not that long ago I ran into Gus [Gonzalez, guitar] , and I wanted to touch on when you guys had just gotten signed by Livid Records, not that long ago. There was like this big “Yes! The Getback got signed,” but when I talked to Gus it was more like, “we do it for fun, it’s cool on the side” are you in that mindset also? “It’s fun, it’s cool, it’s once a month, we don’t do that many shows…”
Jose Flores: I think like 10 years ago we were trying to make it. We did the Warped tour date in ’02 or ’03 and tried to get on the bigger dates and taking the band more seriously. I was thinking about that the other day, it wasn’t fun anymore, it was like “what do we have to do?” Not like musically, but working as a band. There was touring, we did one or two out of Miami weekend [tours]. We knew people weren’t going to show up, because no one knew us, and we had to go out of town a lot more.
Then we took time off, I think we kinda broke up in 2003.
R: Yeah, I remember, because I’m friends with a close friend of Gus, and it was ’05 or ’06, she was like “oh my friend, he’s in this band called The Getback and they’re doing a little get together and it’s going to be a big deal.”
J: And that show was good. It was the first time we’d played in two years, and a lot of people came out. I learned from that [show] that when we used to try to play like crazy, even here in Miami, and people got like… not tired of seeing us, but they knew they could catch us again at 5922, or next week at Churchill’s again. That’s something that I took with me to Jose El Rey – not to play all that often.
Another thing I learned from Jose El Rey that I sort of apply to The Getback… in a way Jose El Rey made it. There was a brief period where everywhere I went people knew I was Jose El Rey. That’s pretty much everything I ever wanted when I was a kid. To be known for some kind of entertaining stuff, Saturday Night Live, who knows. Then it became… it wasn’t as cool as I thought it would be. I would bump into people and they expected me to be that guy all the time. I would be conflicted because I didn’t want to ruin people’s impression of that guy, but then I’d be getting annoyed at being like that all the time. I mean, I loved the music I did…
R: Also, my impression of you, as acquaintances, you’re sort of a quiet guy, for the most part.
J: Yeah, I’ll get ridiculous with my friends or on stage, but that’s pretty much it.
R: That spotlight coming down, and being like “no, no, no, I don’t want it right now.”
J: And I always thought that’s what I wanted. I was talking to Juan from The Getback [drummer], and I don’t know what it was, I started thinking, what would have happened if we’d stayed together instead of our first break up? Would we still be together the way we are now? With all the work it takes, and if things would have worked out the way we wanted them to. To play something for love.
I just love playing, I just love making music with these guys, and that’s what it’s all about. I think if I get to play on the stage, and there’s some people into watching it, then I’ve succeeded. I think it’s almost impossible to live off music, especially now.
R: Do you think Miami is conducive for a band to become successful?
J: Yeah! I think of the Jacuzzi Boys, everything they’re doing is right. I think Miami has to be done differently than any other city. You have to leave town right away, and then do a tour, do your thing, then come back. You got to leave, not to move away, but to be out there.
J: I think it’s cool that a lot of people want to stay. You don’t have to leave Miami for other cities. You can like “make it in New York” and only stay in New York. I think you can kind of do it here, you know we have things that the rest of the world have.
R: I think there has to be distinction between a band like Afrobeta, who I think they will make it being from here, as opposed to a straight up rock band, like Dyslexic Postcards. It’s hard for [rock music] to latch onto a lot of different venues and groups, like someone always told me, “Miami wants a party not a show.” They don’t want to watch, they want to dance. Even with Jose El Rey, everyone danced to it, and sang to it, and it was so reminiscent of that 80’s freestyle, that was so Miami.
J: The first time I played as Jose El Rey… I made all the songs before I played them live. I had the voice and the songs.
R: And the mustache!
J: Actually, the drawing [of Jose El Rey] had the mustache. Then someone wanted me to play a show, so I did a show as Jose El Rey with a band. People really liked it. A guy came up to me, “Those lyrics! We are the players, they are the game. Those are the truth!” He was passionate about it.
I think a few months later AHOL[SNIFFSGLUE…] asked me to play, and I couldn’t get the band together. And he said, “why don’t you sing over the beats you made?” And I was like, “is that ok?”
R: Right, cause that’s not even your background, you’re used to being in a band.
J: Yeah, I mean, I made all the music, but yeah, exactly. I need other people to mess up with me. I can’t be the only one to mess up on stage. This is going to be ridiculous, I’m going to go on stage, get booed, some people will laugh, but I guess I really did it. The way I did the first show, was the way I did every show, with the pastelitos, and the gold chain.
R: Was Charlie [El Tigre] up there?
J: No. Actually, my first security guard was El Cunaguaro and it was Abel Folgar. I needed somebody up there, and I was like “please be my security guard.” And then during the second show, [Abel] is like, “El Tigre is on his way,” and I had no idea what he was talking about. It was Charlie, who I hadn’t seen since High School. We knew each other, but weren’t super close friends, and I was like this guy is hilarious. And then El Tigre was there all the time, and sometimes he was funnier than I could ever be. Sometimes his timing and his look was so good.
R: Personally, I remember seeing your videos on YouTube. That was the first stuff I saw, and that’s what got me into it. Then I saw the stage show, and I thought it was brilliant for the gimmick, and also for the music, and the whole show of it. That was so much fun, it’s good sometimes to take music lightly, as opposed to where it’s so serious sometimes.
J: It’s funny because I didn’t take anything on the artistic side seriously, but I was very serious about being ridiculous. I was like, damn I gotta get a better suit, or a better chain, or more pastelitos. I remember, I’d finish work at five, like a normal person, then I had a show at midnight. Then I’d hit every Thrift store, and every bakery, and I’d try to get everything I could get for a show. And my parents would be like, “do you want to come by for dinner?” And I was like, “no! I have to get the things for the show.”
R: Being a guitarist, with an instrument in front of you, versus the singer who is in the audience – which is more fun for you?
J: I think the most important thing is the performance, where I’m the center of attention. That’s definitely something that me and Jose El Rey have in common. As much as I say I don’t like the spotlight, when I’m on stage I live off it.
Musically they feel the same, it’s like a blur. Either I push play on the CD Player, or I strum that first chord, and before I know it, I’m sweaty and bloody, and I’m like, “what happened?” But really if I’m not performing, a week doesn’t go by where I don’t write a song. Like I don’t even know what it’s for anymore, I turn on the computer and I’ll just start playing some guitar, then I’ll do a melody, and I’m just writing. I have all these songs that I’ll end up using. This can be a Getback song, or I’ll keep this until it finds a home. I’m always writing, and I love performing, having a guitar, having something loud.
R: It’s cool that you enjoy writing, and there’s so many musicians or artists that can’t play their own instruments, or they can’t play, and that’s always the frustrated artist.
J: I’m lucky because the drummer in The Getback pretty much taught me how to sing. I’ll tell him, “I wanna sing this, and I can’t get it out,” and I’ll show him the notes and the melody. And he’ll help me get there. Also with the Jose El Rey stuff, I wrote a lot at home, but Otto [von Schirach] really brought it out of me. Cause I don’t think I’m a good singer, I don’t really care… well, I do care, I want to get better, but there’s millions of things I can’t do. So I kind of over compensate from my lack of singing with energy and performance.
R: When Miami Bass Warriors came out, that was like the crescendo of everything going crazy? How did that come about?
J: Otto and I, and oddly enough Jacuzzi Boys, we all played Avenue D’s last show. That hasn’t even been 4 years, it was December 28, 2007. At that show they told me to be an MC and not really play, and I think that I initially misunderstood what they wanted, and I ended up doing sets between the bands. I even made a little live via satellite for Otto. They had a big screen in Studio A, and I was like, “I had to take a little break, but Otto is next!” And I was wearing the same clothes [on the video and at the show]. And I went to buy coffee on the satellite feed, and I popped back out and gave some to Otto.
And we just joked around, and Slim Biscayne was telling me to work with Otto, and he was telling Otto to work with me. So we sorta had our eyes on each other, in a way. And I was like we should meet up. Otto and I hit it off, and the first time I went to his house, I was like, “I can sorta play the keyboard, I know how I want things to sound but I don’t know how to do what you do,” and he didn’t really care. I made the melodies, and he made the beats, and we were there for hours working on the songs.
We still do actually, on his next album my guitar is on a couple of songs, and on his last album I had a keyboard line on it. We’re sort of figuring out what we’re doing next, and we have all this stuff that sounds like B-52, Billy Idol, IDM, and crazy. But his voice is more of his actual voice, and I haven’t even sung anything on his songs. We’re trying to figure out how I can fit in as myself in the Otto world, vocally.
R: So I’m sure everyone asks… have you ever discussed what happened with the character of Jose El Rey?
J: I don’t know. I mean, I know in conversation if anyone asks… like I said earlier, I pretty much, sort of had everything I ever wanted. Like I said, if I was 12 years old, and I was playing music, and people would know me, and my face was on T-shirts, that would be the coolest thing in the world. Then like, I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I thought I’d enjoy it, because it wasn’t fun anymore, it became like… I sorta felt like I was stuck, I did feel stuck.
Remember how I told you, I’d go all out before a show, get the suits, the pastelitos, then I noticed that I started to… eh, I’ll just wear this shirt this time, and I’ll get up there, and do this song.
R: Like the novelty wore out for you as much as anyone else.
J: And I had ((SHAKE)) every Thursday, and I’d be Jose El Rey each week at the club, and it was this crazy thing in my head, and people would be like, “yo, Jose El Rey,” and I’d be like “hey, what’s up,” fake annoyed and fake loving it. Then there would be people who didn’t know who I was, and they’d be like, “who are you Mario (from Super Mario Brothers)?” And I’d be like, “don’t you know who I am…?” Those things happening at the same time.
R: That’s a weird ego trip. Like your dream, but someone else is getting it. Jose Flores had this dream, then Jose El Rey is getting the attention.
J: Then I have to be Jose El Rey.
R: Then when someone doesn’t know Jose El Rey, you’re protecting the guy who took your dream.
J: I was even working on a pilot for a TV show. You know we did the Calle Ocho video, and it first came out it was on Pitbull’s TV show. It was put together by that production staff. Everyone who works on that show was super cool, and they were like, “man, you’re funny, we should get together and do something.” I’d meet up with these writers every week and come up with jokes. Some were awesome, some of them were just ok. We even filmed a couple of scenes for the Pilot, I don’t know where they are. I never saw them, they were filmed just like the Calle Ocho thing. And I was sort of like, “I’m working really hard at this, and if this really catches on then I really have to do this forever.”
But then I would think about it, and I’d be like, “this is it, this is what I really gotta do. I want it, so I gotta do it.” Regardless of the friendships that I lose, or the family stuff I miss, like putting everything in my life to be secondary behind Jose El Rey. Jose El Rey became a job that I felt like I had to do, but I didn’t want as much anymore.
R: Are you at the point where, you’re like cool with it, and not even sure if you want it to go any further?
J: My version now of my music dream, is to put out an album every few years, even if I have to do it myself. If I get to play a few shows every year, if I have to do it myself, [I’ll do it] until either my voice gives out or I can’t play a guitar. I’m not going to stop playing, that’s for sure. But I’m not looking for anything. I definitely want people to like it, and I definitely want people to say, “man you wrote a good song” or “that show was crazy last night.” But all the other stuff, it doesn’t even feel any better than when just one person says that’s a great show or song.