Lino Trujillo of Hepcat

Bothering the Band – Lino Trujillo

Hi folks! (Stereotypical Radio Voice) Big Buynak here, back with another skanking ska edition of Bothering the Band, and in the studio we have the one-and-only Lino Trujillo of Hepcat. Just like his bandmate Greg Narvas, Lino is leaning in lefty, pouring his heartfelt thoughts into these sublimely silly questions, showing his patience as a human, father, artist, husband and musician, and one lucky sonofabitch. Personally, I am honored and also lucky to be on the raucous radio with him right now, because Hepcat was such a big influence to me as a ska kid…so this is a dream come true. Dance wid’ me and Lino!

1. What’s the last thing you dropped?

I’m pretty clumsy, so I have a habit of dropping things throughout the day. I just dropped a tool a couple of minutes ago, and my lower back is in a lot of pain this morning, so I left the tool on my garage floor, and decided to  work on that project later. #oldmanlifehacks

2. Who gets punched first, Skinheads or Mods?

When you say “punched in the face”, do you mean “a big hug”? Because if so, they both equally deserve to get punched in the face. Repeatedly. Punch them in the face, to show them how much they’re loved. I punch my kids in the face all the time, except my daughter gets embarrassed now, when I do it in front of her friends. My son is really lovable, and he’ll sometimes punch me (big hug) in the face first. My wife tells me I don’t punch her in the face enough! But every now and then, when she’s cooking or doing something, I’ll sneak up behind her, and punch her right in the face.  It seems to work, our 22nd wedding anniversary was 9/5/98. True story.

3. Would you rather your kids go to Harvard or play for the LA Kings?

Well, I have three kids, and my first is already hitting her late twenties. She’s not a hockey fan, and lives a pretty Bohemian lifestyle, so I don’t see her being interested in either of those choices. My younger daughter is the second biggest Kings fan in the family, and it would be awesome to see her as the first woman in the NHL, but she’s a singer/performer. That’s her passion. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see her singing the national anthem at a Kings game in the not so distant future. My son (the youngest) on the other hand, he’s the scholar of the family. He’s in 7th grade honors, and he’s always trying to hustle a dollar, or plead his case for a Lego set. Harvard Law for sure. But he’s had his heart set on Cal Arts for some time now, and really, all I want is for my kids to be happy.

4. What is one song you can’t stand but like the ska cover?

This is a tough one. I’ve racked my brain, and the only thing I can think of, is “What’s New Pussycat?”. The Tom Jones original is pretty lame, while the Wailers version sounds completely different, and gives the song a different feel. Less carnival, more groovy. I find it fascinating how much an arrangement can change my appreciation for a song, and is probably why arranging is my favorite part of the songwriting process. One of my favorite songs is “Fly Me To The Moon” by Sunny and the Sunliners. I don’t care for the swingy, poppy arrangements popularized by singers like Tony Bennett, and Frank Sinatra, but the arrangement by the Sunliners is much darker and soulful, with great Texas vocal harmonies. Completely changes the feel of the song, and really gives me more of an appreciation for the overall song. Now if we’re talking ska covers, that’s a different story. Not really a cover of an original, but I always preferred the Specials live version over the Skatalites version of “Guns Of Navarone”. I’m sure there’s a probably a couple cries of “Heresy!” by close-minded people reading this, but it is what it is. The Specials are one of the greatest bands ever, and their version just makes you want to move.

5. True or false: Your guitar has cut you?

Tralse. I can’t recall ever cutting myself on my guitar, but I’ve poked myself and bled many times on the strings poking out of the tuners. I built my last guitar, so I don’t know, maybe I got cut in the process? I got the shit shocked out of me (figuratively thank God), at a Hepcat rehearsal once. I had a 100 amp Amplifier that had ground issues,  and I went to grab a mic while my other hand was on the guitar neck holding the strings, so my body became the missing part of the circuit. It knocked me flat on my back like I was getting tased, but I somehow kicked the mic stand, microphone and all, out of my hand. I screamed like a little girl in the process. There’s a scene in the movie “The Commitments” that was eerily similar, but without the embarrassing shriek. This was an early Hepcat practice (1990 or so), and wouldn’t have been so humiliating, were it not for the fact that we recorded EVERY rehearsal. Somewhere out there, there’s a tape of Hepcat rehearsal chatter, interrupted by what can only be described as that long, drawn out scream R2D2 makes when the action picks up in Star Wars movies. I’m laughing about it now, but I was pissed back then. I was lying on my back, on the floor, thinking I had just been on the brink of death(probably wasn’t), my muscles were already extremely stiff and sore, and the band were laughing their asses off, just staring at me. In their defense, they had no idea what had just happened to me, and thought I was just being a fool. The incident completely fried a guitar pedal that I was using at the time, and looking back, that might’ve been what actually broke the circuit, not  the laying on my back, screaming soprano, and kicking heroics that my brain wants to remember. 

6. What’s the weirdest thing in your fridge?

A bag full of coconut oil, and decarboxylated flower. Folk medicine.

7. Have you ever peed at a urinal next to a celebrity?

I’m sure I have, although I can’t recall an instance. I once rode an elevator with Chuck Berry, just us two, which was pretty surreal. This was around ’90 or ‘91, and would’ve been mind-blowingly surreal had I known about his home videos back then. He was pretty tall, wearing, some tight assed Wrangler type, rust colored, polyester pants, with matching, tucked in disco shirt, long, bony, gold ring clad fingers, with slicked back, side-burned, wavy hair, and a pencil mustache to top off the whole look. He looked intense, like he was going to get some money owed to him. That image of him is burned into my brain, and I just glanced over so as not to seem like I was star struck. I ended up seeing him perform live a few years later, and it was one of the worst/greatest performances I’ve ever seen, but that’s a story for another time. Speaking of surreal celebrity experiences, Hepcat played the Hollywood House of Blues before it opened it’s doors to the public, for a pre-grand opening party, and it was full of celebrities. Seriously, I recognized at least half of the faces there, and the club was packed. And these were some A list celebrities like Warren Beatty and Rod Stewart. We were opening for blues legend, Taj Mahal, and apparently, he grew up with a Jamaican stepfather, and is a huge Ska and Rocksteady fan. He geeked hard over our band, and serenaded some Prince Buster to me backstage, with his guitar. I watched Dan Aykroyd, and Kenny Loggins along with Paul Schaefer, among other familiar faces, skanking in the front row, while Jim Brown (football) was standing off to the side bouncing his head while we played. The show wasn’t open to the public, and I never felt so out of place in my life while walking around the club, but it was really cool seeing these people enjoy our music. And eventually, at the end of the night we all go back to our own lives, and we all pee yellow. Amirite?

8. The song “Lean On Me” or the movie “Stand By Me”?

Stand By Me, and I stand by that opinion. Don’t get it twisted, I dig Bill Withers (RIP), but “Lean On Me” isn’t one of my favorites of his. “Stand By Me” on the other hand, is one of, if not the best Stephen King adaptation. And that includes “The Shining”, “Dolores Claiborne”, and “Shawshank Redemption” among some other really good flicks. I still enjoy watching it occasionally if it’s on the tv.  I’d probably choose “Stand By Me” the song over “Lean On Me” the movie too. I caught a girl in high school jokingly singing “Lino on Me”  to her friends in school, and it was extremely awkward, and embarrassing for the both of us, because we were friends, and even though I knew she liked me like that, she never let it be known, and the feelings weren’t mutual. So maybe that’s why that song hits me the wrong way. We weren’t really friends after that. 

9. Where did you lose your virginity?

At the Marriott Suites in Buena Park, on my wedding night, naturally. A true gentleman never kisses and tells.

10. When is the last time you skanked?

I’m ashamed to admit I can’t remember the last time I skanked. It’s been a while. I’m not that old, but my body has taken a lot of abuse over the years because I spent most of my adulthood working in construction, and arthritis and other joint issues make me feel older than I am. I’ll get down to some Rocksteady or Reggae if I’m watching a group play, but the thought of actually skanking to some ska hurts my body. But I will move to music. The last time I danced to a group was in January. The Capsouls were playing at Boomer’s in Lakewood, for a show commemorating the life of local Ska legend, Jason Lawless, and I can’t help but dance to that group when they play. 

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