Conrad Lozano and Los Lobos have come full circle. More than 30 years after the band’s debut, Del Este de Los Angeles (Just Another Band from East L.A.), the band returned to the old neighborhood to cut the vibey Tin Can Trust. Lozano anchors the notorious genre jumpers on electric and acoustic basses as the gang hops from the dusty Americana of “I’ll Burn It Down” to the saucy cumbia of “Yo Canto,” the slow burn of “Jupiter or the Moon,” and the hippie bounce of the Grateful Dead’s “West L.A. Fadeaway.”
Do you ever use a pick, or are you a strictly fingerstyle player?
I played a Gibson EB-3 with a pick when I first started. I liked the clarity the pick provided, and I saw Paul Samwell-Smith from the Yardbirds use one, so I went into that mode for a while. I started playing fingerstyle on a Rickenbacker when I was in the band Tierra—which was 1970 or ’71—and I’ve stuck with fingerstyle ever since. My technique is somewhat unorthodox; I rarely use my middle finger on my plucking hand, and I favor the middle finger on my fretting hand. That’s just what feels natural to me. It’s probably why I can’t play as fast as others do!
What basses did you use on Tin Can Trust, and how was the recording process similar or different to previous sessions?
This record has a back-to-East-L.A. vibe. We hunkered down in a funky studio and created most of the material from scratch as a group; that’s not been the case for a while. For these sessions, I brought a couple of electric basses, an upright, and a guitarrón. The upright got things going. The first song we recorded was “Jupiter Or The Moon,” and the upright felt right. I also used it on “Burn It Down,” and two Spanish-language songs—“Yo Canto,” and the norteño-style “Mujer Ingrata.” We put one mic close to the fingerboard, one on the body, and one on an Ampeg BA112, which is the same amp I used for the electric basses. The old Kay upright I use has what I’m pretty sure is a Barcus Berry pickup that sounded decent.
What’s your M.O. when it comes to tone, and how your tone fits in the overall sound of Los Lobos?
I like a really round sound—that’s why I play flatwound strings. I just try to lay back and play bass as much as possible. I play mostly in the first few positions. When you’ve got three guitar players plus keys and sax onstage, it’s best to lay way low.
HEAR HIM ON
Los Lobos, Tin Can Trust [Shout Factory, 2010]
Basses Fender ’78 Reissue Jazz Bass, Kay upright bass
Rig Ampeg SVT-4PRO head and SVT-810E 8x10 cabinet
Strings D’Addario Chromes flatwound (.050–.105)