Interview: Jorge Aguilera of Los Free Minds

Los Free Minds are a psychedelic rock band from León, Guanajuato, Mexico in the 70s. I love to introduce music from all over the world to you. You don’t need to know another language to appreciate music from languages other than your own. We are lucky to have the singer and guitarist Jorge Aguilera with us on the blog to talk about his life and music.

Before we get to the interview, let me tell you a little bit about the band. They are the biggest rock band to come out of their hometown of León, a city well known for its leather industry. They went to Avándaro, Mexico’s Woodstock, but didn’t end up playing. Like many rock bands in Mexico, they faced a lot of hardships because of the government’s attitude towards rock music. Many rock musicians in Mexico had to return to day jobs to pay the bills. Below, you can find an Instagram post I put together with information about Los Free Minds:

Below, you can find a couple of their songs. The first one is “Tu Debes Saber”, which translates to ‘you ought to know’.

One more song, uploaded by my friend, Esteban, this one translates to ‘change your head’:

*All questions and answers translated from Spanish to English

Angie Moon: How did you get started playing music?

Jorge Aguilera: Growing up, there was music in my family. My brothers and sisters listened to all kinds of music in the house. There were boleros, classical music, everything. And when I started listening to Elvis in the city, it was a complete revelation. But never like when we first heard The Beatles. That was when music was transformed worldwide.

Angie: What was it like in the 60s in León?

Jorge: In the 60s, the city was calm. Music was one of the things that got the youth moving and there was a lot of enthusiasm. It opened our minds to a world that existed outside and we wanted to know it. Even if it was a provincial city, things were still going on. Los Free Minds started in 1968 and instead of playing covers like many other groups, not just from León, but all over the country, we started to compose and play our own original material. It hit hard! In the region of Bajío in the centre of Mexico, we were a very popular group. And in León good imported and domestic rock and roll records were coming in, then the youth started to imitate that sound too. León wanted to be modern and even if it wasn’t a capital (not even of the state), it’s a city where things were always happening, even if it didn’t look like it.

Angie: I see that you went to medical school. Why did you decide to study medicine?

Jorge: Partially, from pressure from my dad. It wasn’t something that I really wanted, but in the end I did it. In the long run, I appreciated it because it give me a job. My ambitions were other things, but I became a doctor and this opened other doors for me. A doctor rock star isn’t something you often see, unless they do it as a hobby. I was both things completely.

Angie: What groups inspired the sound of Los Free Minds?

Jorge: First there was The Beatles. With the first group that I led, The McCoys, we played in that style. My dad travelled with my older brother for business to the Mexico-US border, to Texas. My brother would bring back records from groups that inspired us in the beginning like The Byrds, The Yardbirds, Simon & Garfunkel, all that beautiful music. Later on too Cream, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix. It was what resonated here with the restless youth.

Angie: What was it like writing and recording songs with Los Free Minds?

Jorge: At that time it was very easy for me, the ideas came to me on their own. I wrote many songs that seemed like they came out of nothing. One of my uncles lived in Stockton, California and I found some guitars over there and that’s how we got such good instruments and amplifiers. We sounded really good and we rehearsed a lot, we were into the music 100%. We played in many places: at parties, get-togethers, and tardeadas (which are parties early in the evening, generally at a house or living room). We got to play at many places here in the centre of Mexico and the people loved it. And it was when the record label, Ofeón discovered us and took us to record at some studios in Mexico City. It was between 1970 and 1971, I can’t remember the date well. We recorded four songs in this session, which were the songs that ended up on our only EP, which came out in 1971. We played the songs almost live, very few takes. In the second session we recorded four other songs, but the record label shelved the project and and then they were finally released in 2006 on a compilation called Psychedelic Rock Mexican. In this session, we did more takes and even added some acoustic guitars. They were amazing songs, but paradoxically, Avándaro worked against us.

Angie: What does the name Los Free Minds mean to you?

Jorge: Well, that we are free. We did what we wanted. it was a new attitude in the city, the youth never felt like that before. Music liberated us. It showed us all the possibilities in the world and we wanted to build it.

Angie: What were the challenges of playing rock music in Mexico in the 70s, since it was essentially banned?

Jorge: In the 60s, rock was free. Plus, there were certain labels that released rock music. In Mexico City there was a TV programme called Orfeón A Go Go, which was like Hullabaloo or Shindig!, with dancing troupes promoting the latest songs. Only in the early 60s, Mexican rock music was covers of British or American rock songs. Only some groups wrote original songs. Later, the groups evolved and started to write their own material and tried to do original, more expressive things. And this is where Los Free Minds come in. We were from the generation of bands in Mexico that made our own music and had our own style. There was no problems with the government. The problems started partially because of the Avándaro festival in 1971. A lot of things happened: the festival became a riot. The government were scared with the power of large, united groups of youth. The issues of drugs and vices were exaggerated as problems. Rock and roll became associated with satan and we lost a lot of support. Rock continued, but it lost its place in the mainstream media.

Angie: What made Avándaro important and magical to Mexican rock history?

Jorge: Avándaro is a complex question in Mexican rock. For many it’s almost equivalent to Woodstock, even though in reality it was far from that. It was nice to know that the young were united by the music for sure and the groups that played were amazing. But at the same time, it was the moment in which Mexican rock became something else, it stopped appearing in mass media and had to go underground. The good consciences had a pretext to attack the youth movement and some groups had the pretext to not try anything else. But even more than that, the real problem was in Mexico City, where rock was marginalised from the big concert halls, the lounges, it had to move to what they called “hoyos fonkis”. In the provincial areas, rock and roll continued. In León, for example, there was a healthy environment for rock, a scene that was not big, but was very important for many young people. There was rock, heavy metal, and punk. The guys had limited means, but they made it. And many rock groups from Mexico City wanted to come to play in León because they knew that the people had a passion for it.

Angie: Have Los Free Minds recorded music since they broke up?

Jorge: i’ve recorded more solo music than with Los Free Minds. In the 80s, I released two EPs on vinyl, Pasaría and A primera vista, a single that I recorded in Calfiornia, and in the 90s a cassette, “Como siempre”. I played with a group called Arco Iris Band (Rainbow) for a few months and we released an original song, “I Got The Future”. A few years ago I released a CD with 15 of my songs and it had a great reception. I never gave up on making music.

Angie: Looking back at the past, is there anything you wish you did differently in your music career?

Jorge: Nothing. We did what we wanted to do. We were meant to be in a context in which rock was not as big in other places, but still our music is still being listened to. The young are still interested in Los Free Minds’ music, even though it’s from 50 years ago.

Angie: Has the internet helped you find a new following and more popularity among young classic rock fans?

Jorge: Absolutely. Fifty years ago I would never have imagined this, it was like something from science fiction. But if music sticks around, it’s because it’s good. I never made money from Los Free Minds music, the record label treated us very horribly in that way, but the songs still survive, finding new fans, and I like that a lot.

Angie: What do you think of today’s psychedelic rock which is mixed with electronic music?

Jorge: Evolution is always necessary. Rock and roll has found ways to adapt and change with the times. It’s not dominant today, but it’s still holding strong. I like it.

Angie: What have you been listening to lately?

Jorge: I’ve been listening to 80s glam rock lately: Skid Row, Def Leppard, Quiet Riot. The production is tremendous. And I keep listening to classic rock. My daughter sometimes will play more modern rock and I like it. If you like music, keep your ears open.

Angie: What is advice do you have for aspiring musicians?

Jorge: Just do it. Do it again and again. If the music is good, you’ll find your audience or the audience will find you.

You can follow Los Free Minds on Facebook.

Shoutout to Patrick and Jeffrey from Maryland for supporting the blog!

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