Being a punker in Puerto Rico can be very tough.
Hell, just living in Puerto Rico can be tough. We have a shitty economy, high cost of living, insane unemployment, crime rates off the charts, some of the most corrupt police and politicians on record, and we’ve recently been affected by a massive drought. Still, there is a thriving independent art scene. Painters abound, there are indie comics all over, poets and writers – such as myself – always have a table at bookstores among the usual New York Times bestsellers.
We also have a very interesting and varied independent music scene. It’s like, somehow, this small colony – the only colony left in the world – turned into New York in the late 70’s. An example of one of our most original acts is Dada Berlin.
I can’t remember exactly when I first heard of them, but I think I was attracted to their singer, Pequeña Vera, from the beginning. Looking at pictures of her playing live, she looked like a deranged witch casting a sexual spell on unsuspecting virgins – and I was fucking sold. Fans jump up and down and staring at her with a look of pure, dumbfounded worship for Dada Berlin’s incredible theatrics that recall Siouxsie Sioux, backed by a band with a mix of death rock, post-punk, and surf rock. Add to the mix artistic, political, and literary references. One of their songs, “Exquisito Cadaver”, is a Spanish translation of the Poppy Z. Brite novel, Exquisite Corpse.
I saw them opening up for Dirty Fences and it kicked fucking ass. What sonic insanity! What artistic psychosexuality! I was spellbound every time I saw them live. I had to know more. I had to get into their minds, probe their Germanic souls, and see what the fuck crawled around in those brains of theirs. Enjoy a few of their songs as you read the article – and fall in love with Dada Berlin.
What is your favorite kind of hamburger?
Pequeña Vera: I love black bean burgers.
Arturo: Anything with bacon.
Xavi: Anything with no cheese.
Do you think cheese makes burgers better?
PV: Definitely. If you don’t like cheese, there’s a hole in your soul.
X: See question 1.
How did Dada Berlin start?
All: Arturo met Gustavo in group therapy for troubled teens and they shared a lot in common in terms of music taste, so instant friendship right there. Pequeña Vera knew Arturo through Juanqui of Hungary Hippos, who she was dating at the time, so it was a happy coincidence. We all met up to hang out at Gustavo’s house and decided, “Hey! Let’s form a band!” And so we did. Arturo came up with the name and we made about three rough versions of the songs we know now. All that was left was a bassist. Vera made a really cool looking flyer and posted it on the Conservatory billboard and on Facebook. Soon, a friend of hers saw the ad and suggested her friend Fernando Isaac, so Vera messaged him for an audition. He saw that the flyer stated that Campo-Formio as one of their influences, and since he played with the founder of Campo-Formio in Polar Aurora, he thought that the choice was pretty logical. The rest is history.
Well, not really. Gustavo was going to leave Puerto Rico to study abroad, so we were desperately looking for a drummer. We asked a lot of people, but all of them: pfffft. We had to proceed to Plan Z: Xavi. Xavi started out as a substitute for about two shows, saying at first that he didn’t want to be part of Dada because he was already in Hungary Hippos and Nosotro and he thought his drumming sucked too much for Dada Berlin and that drumming for us would be too hard. However, he changed his mind and became part of the band. And we all lived happily ever after. The End.
Who’s in charge of songwriting, and what are the themes the band present?
All: Arturo and Fernando collaborate in the songwriting, and Pequeña Vera is in charge of vocal melodies and lyrics. Some themes that we portray include female empowerment, domestic abuse, male entitlement, queer rights, etc.
I appreciate that you guys make an effort to be entertaining, especially your lead singer, who has a lot of charisma. Where do these ideas come from?
PV: First of all: thank you! You’re so sweet! My performances are improvised, and they take a lot of influence not only from punk performers, but from pop stars. I often take influence from women such as Gloria Trevi, Madonna, Nina Hagen, Siouxsie Sioux, Iris Chacon, and Lady Gaga. I also got very inspired by Gianky and Pelu when I got into the scene. When I first saw Ardillas and Diente Perro, I said, “I want to do that!”
A: A platoon of space robots marked us at birth.
F: Ask her.
X: Nickelodeon, TV Guide Channel.
Do you guys actually like the Berlin art movements from the 20’s? If so, any particular art pieces you prefer?
PV: Oh, definitely! I love Hannah Höch’s collages and Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven’s fashion style and general Dada shenanigans. I also love German Expressionism, especially in film and music. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is one of my favorite films, and I love Lulu and Wozzeck by Alban Berg. Truly masterpieces.
If you could rename French Fries, what would you call them?
PV: Fried Dirt Apples.
A: Grease Candles.
What morbid stuff are you into?
PV: I’m really interested in surreal cases of kidnapping, abuse, and torture, such as the murder of Junko Furuta, the kidnapping of Colleen Stan, and the case of Genie. Serial killers are also something I like to read about, the weirder the better.
A: Zombie crotch.
F: Not really into anything morbid, I’m too much of a happy guy!
You have some crazy, rabid fans. What are they like and why do you think they’re so insane over you guys?
PV: We have a little bit of everything when it comes to fans: queer kids, old school punkers, new school alt rockers, glam girls, etc. I believe they like the theatricality of our shows and our energetic music.
A: We have fans?
X: …WE HAVE FANS?
Last question: If rock and roll dies, what punk rock artists would become jazz musicians?
PV: Ian MacKaye.
A: Ricardo Pérez.