Words: Yasi Salek
Photos: Garvin Ha
To someone who can barely understand the magic that is making music, a one-band is beyond baffling, especially when it’s really GOOD. Thus, Chango Rey And His Broken Heart Beat bewilders me. The San Diego native (real name: not Chango, but much cooler that way, I like a little mystery) makes doo-wop and blues infused garage rock that sounds like one dude channeling both Lead Belly and 60s girl groups through a fuzzy filter for a sound that is both nostalgic and unique. I caught up with Chango in San Diego (we had tea, it was lovely) and talked to him about the solitary musician life he chose, amongst other things:
You’re a one-man band. What difficulties come along with that?
The only thing really about being a one-man band is getting respect from venues and such, because they don’t really respect you as a band.
Why did you decide to do it as a one-man band?
I’ve had backing bands in the past, but at the time I was going through a divorce and I have kids, so I was trying to stay out of trouble. I play music all the time, so I just started playing alone. Plus I was really getting into old blues stuff, and a lot of blues musicians started out like that, as one-man bands.
How did you come up with the name Chango Rey and the Broken Heart Beat?
Chango means monkey, and my mom has been calling me that since I was a little kid. The Broken Heart Beat is my drum set. It’s really broken, and I was playing with one of my old bands, and we did a Who set, and destroyed all the equipment.
So if and when you get a new drum kit, will you change the band name?
Um … nah. Because my drums are all from the 60s, and they’re hard to replace, the sound is hard to replace. It’s an old Japanese kit and has a unique sound.
Have you been playing music your whole life?
Yeah, since I was like 12 or 13.
What kind of bands did you play in when you were younger?
Punk mostly. I was really into skateboarding and stuff.
What inspired you to take a more retro direction with this new band?
Maybe getting into 60s garage stuff, like The Who. Because there’s formula to music nowadays. If you want to sound say, like garage, you listen to blues. You want to sound like 77 punk, you listen to garage, if you want to sound more rock, you listen to punk, and so on and so forth. It’s all influences.
What do you like most about being a part of the San Diego music scene?
Just playing and having fun with friends.
What are some other San Diego bands you really like right now?
The Kabbs, they’re pretty great. Let’s see…The Widows are pretty good, they’re more punk. Some of the old mod bands that come around and back again, like Ron Silva & The Monarchs, and The Crawdaddies, and such.
If you could tour with any band, what band would you tour with?
Right now? San Pedro El Cortez. They’re from Tijuana. They’re really great.
Do you go down to TJ a lot? Play down there?
Yeah, and I play Mexicali a lot too. They offered me a tour down there in Mexico, but it’s kind of hard because I have kids.
What do you find different about the crowds down in Mexico?
Mexico and Europe are totally different than here. Americans seem to mainly go to shows because their friends are going. But Europe and Mexico, they seem to come out for the love of the music more.
Tell me about the artwork on your 7-inch.
My friend Mike, he’s a great artist and plays for the Fink Bombs, I just gave him a little idea and he came up with the design. Mainly the tower symbolizes the Tower Bar, in City Heights, which is my neighborhood. It’s basically a savage land; it’s kind of crazy out there. The guy represents like hipster, and my old friends who, when I was getting divorced, stopped being my friends. When you get older you find out who your real friends are.
What’s coming up for you in the next year?
Right now I have another band I play drums for, which is fun. It’s called Last Year’s Heroes; it’s more 77 punk. And I just want to start playing more Chango shows, and do a full length or 10-inch soon.