Los Lobos Talk 'Rubic's Cube' of Options for 40th Anniversary
Los Lobos Talk 'Rubic's Cube' of Options for 40th Anniversary

Until then, band celebrates 20 years since release of classic "Kiko" album

Los Lobos celebrates the 20th anniversary of its lauded "Kiko" album this week with three special release, but an even more important milestone -- the group's 40th -- looms next year, officially in November of 2013. But don't ask what the quintet has planned for that occasion.

"Obviously we can't let that opportunity go by the bye," saxophonist Steve Berlin tells Billboard.com. "It's kind of a Rubric's Cube of possibilities; What can we do that would be cool enough to say what we want it to say? I'm sure we'll figure something out, but right this moment...I guarantee you nobody in our band is thinking about anything with our 40th. It still seems like it's five years away, not five months away."

Los Lobos celebrated its 30th anniversary with "The Ride," a set of new songs and re-recordings of previous group songs with all-star friends such as Elvis Costello, Mavis Staples, Bobby Womack, Tom Waits, Ruben Blades and more. Berlin says "it's hard for me to imagine doing something like 'The Ride 2,' " while bandmate Louie Perez isn't sure a recording is even the right way to go.

"Another studio record? I kinda say no?" Perez explains. "We should do a record, but I don't know what it will be. We'll probably be doing some shows, too. The little bit that we have talked about is doing an all-traditional regional Mexican music show like we did when we put out 'La Pistola y El Corazon' (in 1988), something that takes us all the way back to the beginning. I think that would be a really cool show to do. But we still have to figure it out."

Until then, Los Lobos is happy to immerse itself in "Kiko" again. On Aug. 21 the group, through Shout! Factory, releases a 20th anniversary edition of the album with bonus demos of "Whiskey Train" and "Rio De Tenampa" and three live tracks recorded for NPR on Christmas Day 1992. Also coming out on CD, DVD and Blu-ray is "Kiko Live," from a previously unreleased February 2006 show at the House of Blues in San Diego. Los Lobos is also playing "Kiko" in its entirety for four special shows -- Sept. 27 in Foxborough, Mass., Sept. 28 in Tarrytown, N.Y., Sept. 30 in Glenside, Pa. and Oct. 1 in Alexandria, Va. -- before hitting the road to open for Neil Young & Crazy Horse on Oct. 3 in Windsor, Ont.

Watch Los Lobos Perform 'Dream in Blue' in 1992

"Obviously it's a record we're really proud of and happy with, so it's no drag on our end to think about it and highlight it and live it for another couple of months or whatever," Berlin says about the set, which Los Lobos co-produced with Mitchell Froom. "I think it was kind of like the right record at the right time for us. There wasn't anything that really sounded like it at the time; I say that with all due modesty, but that lo-fi sound, as it's come to be understood, hadn't really been overdone the way it is now. People hadn't really gone there yet, so I think that's part of it."

Perez -- who went on to form the side band the Latin Playboys with Froom, Los Lobos songwriting partner David Hidalgo and "Kiko" engineer Tchad Blake -- adds that he feels his band caught a kind of lightning in the bottle while it was making that particular album.

"My recollection of the experience is it was a great time," he says. "Any artists -- writers, painters, whoever they are -- when they get in the zone and there's no hands on the clock anymore, you get into this strange place where it's mysterious and exciting. It's really hard to describe it, but we were open to anything at that point. And I think we had become more comfortable in the studio. We didn't feel quite oppressed by it. Mitchell and Tchad helped create a very comfortable environment for us, and we used (the studio) as an instrument rather than just, 'Well, we've got all these buttons and sliders to move around...' So some very cool things happened, and...they sound as cool today as they did 20 years ago."

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