Los Angeles band Ozomatli’s upcoming album is a work of art, literally. “Don’t Mess With the Dragon,” due March 27 via Concord, is the product of an interactive art exhibit in which the band exposed their creative process to the public.
“We did an art installation at Tropico de Nopal, a gallery near Macarthur Park in L.A.,” recalls bassist/vocalist Wil-Dog Abers. “We stayed there for two weeks, writing; each member had a corner of the room, which we decorated ourselves. Visitors came in and each of us got a chance to show how we create music, individually and collectively. That environment gave birth to these songs. I think we created our most cohesive album yet.”
After the installation, Ozomatli took their work to the studio with producer KC Porter. The album includes reggaeton and hip-hop-influenced dance tracks, as well as the Spanish-language ballad “Violeta” and an ’80s-inflected rock/ska tune, “When I Close My Eyes.” Hurricane Katrina and Iraq are among the themes addressed in the new songs.
“It was an unusual experience,” says percussionist Jiro Yamaguchi of the art installation. “There were no rules or definitions. We were in the midst of forming the seeds of these songs.”
“Don’t Mess With the Dragon” is Ozomatli’s first studio album since 2004’s “Street Signs,” which debuted at No. 2 on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart.