Ricky Muñoz of Intocable has seen plenty of highs and lows in his 25 years as the frontman of one of the most celebrated bands in Tejano music. Sometimes it’s been downright disheartening and other times it’s been pure joy.
One of those cautionary stories, said the co-founder of the group, was the release of the 2006 album Crossroads: Cruce de Caminos when the band flirted with a country sound that seemed to be embraced by critics and off to a great start. Then fans spoke up.
“It was tough because they hated it,” recalls Muñoz, who co-founded Intocable with drummer Rene Martinez. “Critics liked it, but fans didn’t get it. Even people who sell (concert) dates were telling us not to play songs from the album. It takes time for people to digest changes and that’s okay.”
It is Muñoz’s no-nonsense demeanor that makes him accessible and part of the reason the band has held a steady career through the years. Out today (March 15, their new album Percepción (UMLE) is 14 tracks that deliver the Intocable signature Norteño sound boosted by soulful and heartfelt songs. The project was produced by the legendary Don Was, known for his work with The Rolling Stones, Elton John and Willie Nelson, among others.
“Don Was is like Yoda,” Muñoz said. “Everything he does is with grace and passion. He’s very Zen-like and you feel comfort being around this person and that was the experience of what it was like making this album.”
Intocable’s tenure in the music business includes making an album about every three years, consistently touring and for the band—which includes Sergio Serna, percussion; Johnny Lee Rosas, bajo sexto; Jose Hernandez, group motivator and rhythms; Alejandro Gulmar, bajo sexto and Felix Salinas, bass—it was time to find a new musical perspective. Off Muñoz and his bandmates went to find the right producer and other key collaborators.
The Intocable sound is “a form of music that I’ve never played before so I’m really in awe of the parts they come up with and their brilliance,” Was said.
Muñoz also credits the album’s contributing songwriters–like Joss Favela, Luis Louie Padilla and Wilfrido Castillo–for bringing a spirited and cool sound to the album with music he hopes will inspire his fans and those who have yet to discover Intocable. The band has had 54 tracks on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs, including 20 top 10 hits, and 18 top 10s on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart, including a remarkable eight No. 1s.
As Muñoz reflects on Intocable’s 25th anniversary, he sounds off on a few monumental moments that changed everything including the Norteño fusion band’s announcement to be independent about eight years ago, which back then was considered especially bold and risky.
“When you sign to a record label you feel like you’ve made it,” Muñoz said. “When you are signed to a label you are fucked. When you’re independent you have … a say. I didn’t know any better.”
Even with major industry accolades and multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy awards and nominations, there is one major thing that rings inside Muñoz’s mind regrets: not owning the masters from the music Intocable recorded through the years.
“That’s probably the only thing I regret from the last 25 years,” Muñoz said. “But being independent is awesome. You have to work harder, but that’s okay because I love working, music and doing shows.”
This year also marks 20 years since three members of the band—Jose Angel Gonzalez, Silvestre Rodriguez and Jose Angel Farias—were killed in a car crash while in Mexico. It’s something that Muñoz still grapples with today.
“I feel like you don’t come out of that,” Muñoz said. “It’s still awkward and by that I mean that you feel awful about losing people that you have spent a lot of time with. You feel guilty, man. I’m I supposed to keep on playing and how do their families feel. I genuinely feel bad and I will carry this forever.”
As a child, Muñoz grew up in Zapata, Texas, dreaming of performing as he spent time listening to Ramon Ayala music with his grandfather on the ranch in between rounding cattle. Today, as he releases new music, it’s as celebratory as ever, even 25 years later.
“Every time we have an album we hope we can have timeless songs that stand the test of time,” Muñoz said. “We love everything about music. Make no mistake, we’ve worked hard and still do. People only get to see the finished product, but there’s so much more to the journey. I still keep the dream alive.”