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Baker's Dozen

Everything's Connected: Omar Rodríguez-López Favourite LPs
Stevie Chick , September 10th, 2020 08:43

Former At The Drive In and Mars Volta member Omar Rodríguez-López speaks to Stevie Chick about the records that shaped his life, from Latin traditionals to how Janet Jackson got him into punk


Original Cast – West Side Story
This probably seems like a predictable one, because of the whole Puerto Rican thing, but it's what I grew up with, a record that was on constant rotation in my household. And also, it's the soundtrack to the movie, and it was something that was part of my route into really getting obsessed with cinema. Seeing Latinos represented in cinema, in theatre, was a big deal to me.

Rita Moreno [who played Anita] was super-inspiring – she was from Puerto Rico and she was like having our own Maria Felix. Maria Felix was this Mexican film star, and she was a huge influence, too – I grew up on a lot of Maria Felix movies. But Rita Moreno was ours – she was from Puerto Rico, she was in this major Hollywood film, she was a musician, a producer… She was super-inspiring, and the films she was in, and the people that she was working with, were a testament to someone from this tiny island in the Caribbean was really able to do things in American culture.

When I first saw [Penelope Spheeris' 1981 rockumentary chronicling the Los Angeles punk scene] The Decline Of Western Civilisation, I was super-attracted to Black Flag because they had a Puerto Rican singer, Ron 'Chavo' Reyes. And Chavo, in the film, he sings part of 'I Like To Live In America', from West Side Story. And then, later, there was a connection to Genesis, with their The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway album, and that, again, is the story of a Puerto Rican boy… They're just things that spoke to me as a minority, because when we see ourselves represented in something, we're drawn to it. And back then, as someone from Puerto Rico, there wasn't much to connect with. So any time I saw any kind of minority, anyone from the African diaspora, any kind of Latino, it was a big deal.