The Man With the Sax

An interview with Steve Berlin, saxophonist for Los Lobos, who'll be at the new Conga Room, March 27

By Abelardo de la Pe??a Jr., El Editor
Published on LatinoLA: March 26, 2009

The Man With the Sax

I spoke on the phone with Steve Berlin, saxophonist, keyboardist and record producer, best known as a member of Los Lobos. The group will be playing this Friday at the Conga Room. More info, click here.

Q: How's the tour going?

It's theatre tour. Started up in Albuquerque. Small towns, small Colorado towns. We play San Francisco tonight, then LA tomorrow. Home for the weekend.

A: You're not touring on a new album. What are the key songs on the set?

We're sort of between albums. We have a children's record coming out in September. It's us interpreting Disney songs. We did "I Wanna Be Like You" from The Jungle Book a long time ago. This one will have Cruella De Ville, The Tiki Tiki Room, a song from Toy Story. When we were on a Disney label a long time ago, we had a children's song on the contract. It's the last thing we owed them. But it's been fun. Everyone loves Disney songs.

This tour is divided in half. The first half is acoustic, more folkloric. Then we get louder and more plugged in.

Q: What's the most requested song?

A: Besides La Bamba? It's all over the place, from every part of the catalog. That's gratifying for us, that we have fans for songs from throughout our history. It's all over the map, which is kind of cool. We really do try to put requested songs in the set, even the esoteric ones. Some fans ask for Grateful Dead songs, Nirvana songs. If we can do them, we'll give it a try.

Q: You started off as saxophonist for the group, then have taken on keyboards and the flute. What's your favorite instrument and what song or songs do you think show you at your best?

A: I like playing baritone, my best instrument, I guess. Live, I like playing Georgia Slop. That gets people going. Also, M?ís y M?ís, Cumbia Raza, I Got Loaded. Some songs that don't have stretching out built in, we manage to stretch out.

Q: I saw you at the Greek theatre on the Brotherhood tour and I see you'll be doing it again later this year. If you're co-headlining, why did Los Lonely Boys end the show in your home turf?

A: Yeah, the Lonely Boys closed. Whoever wants to close, closes. It's insignificant who closes. I played six songs with them on the tour. It was fun.

Q: I bought the One Time, One Night live CD when you were at the Greek last year. Are self-released CDs the way the group is getting music to its fans?

A: We always like to have something, if not necessarily new music, as a way for us to share what's in our vaults, to keep it going. We'll be working on new songs soon. So a new album is in the works, but we're just at the very beginning. We'll have more about it next month. We're just about to choose the label We're getting close to making that decision.

Q: Are you working on any side projects right now?

A: I produced a record by Raul Malo. It was released about a week ago. A record I produced for Buckwheat Zydeco is coming out in May. I'm always doing stuff. I just enjoy making records.

Q: This will be your first gig at the new Conga Room. So is there something different about LA audiences.

A: The only difference is that half the audience is related to Conrad (Lozano, Los Lobos bassist). Nobody's got more cousins than Conrad. Half the audience is either his cousin, knew him from high school or split a case of beer with him.

Want to know more about Los Lobos? Click here.

About Abelardo de la Pe??a Jr., El Editor:
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