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Luis Campos

Interview by Sean Mitchell // December 02 2010
Luis Campos

I think I’m a really open guy with a really easy ego inside, which allows me to try new things, not just one style. If you are a jazz player, they don’t wanna hear pop; if you are a rocker, you never buy a jazz album and that limits you so much.

Having been graced with profound skills and a whole ton of heart, Luis Campos has been grooving his way into the conciousness of an unforgiving industry. Faced with many obstacles, Luis has maintained a drum-whisperer attitude. He very elloquently presents a polished traditional approach to jazz; then (in true drum superstardom), can flex his versatility muscle and hammer out that intense hard rock 2 and 4 that every red-blooded music fan craves.

Luis keeps himself impossibly busy between his bands Collinz Room, his jazz trio and more recently the work he finished on his new DVD, Not Just Drumming, and his latest  CD, Time For Sound. Campos has worked hard to get to where he is and shows no signs of slowing down.

For anyone who has ever sat on the throne wondering if the limelight would ever shine their way, take a page from Luis’s story. It really is not about drumming. It comes down to those who dare, those who dream and those who have the strength to believe, even when all the evidence points to the contrary. Never is it the man in the fight, rather the fight in the man.

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Luis, where did you earn the nickname “Chocs”? What does it mean? 

It’s funny, 99% of people who meet me for the first time ask me that question and I gladly respond, “It’s a term of endearment for my full name (Jose Luis) that got abbreviated to Choche (Spanish). Since I moved to Los Angeles, people asked what name I went by: Jose or Luis? I always said Choche and somehow it got changed to Chocs. 

Having grown up in Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, where would a young drummer hone his skills or learn to play drums? What is the music scene like? 

Well, I haven’t lived in Culiacan for several years now so I’m pretty sure a lot of things have changed like the internet, new schools, and new technology is available. My experience, I learned as much as I could from the drummers around the city. I usually tried to set up jam sessions with friends to learn anything I could since there was no access to videos and dvds like we have today. Back then everything was a myth, so that’s how I pretty much started learning drums. Not to mention that emulating Pearl Jam’s albums helped a lot too and playing with rock bands around the city contributed too. 

What does the future hold for Mexico and its musical community? Is it growing or are there issues that need to be addressed? 

Well I’ve been in Los Angeles for six years now, so again lots of things probably changed in Mexico which I’m not really aware of. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to perform in one of the most important drum festivals in Torreon, Coauhila, where I had a taste of what’s happening in Mexico. I saw so many talented people willing to learn, support and create fields where musicians can go and share their music and talent. Mexico is definitely growing but also has lots of government issues that don’t allow people to grow—especially when we start talking about the economic situation.

When I was in Mexico City about nine years ago at Fermatta (private school of music), I couldn’t finish the music career because of economic problems. I tried to get scholarships or get accepted in public schools and it never happened (maybe I lack on talent). I tried so hard, sending projects, submissions and anything you could imagine to keep studying music in a school and I never got it. When I found two schools in Mexico City, they had a four-year pre-requisite before you join the actual music career program—or pass a test and skip the first four years (a test that I was getting ready to do but I ended up moving to LA). The test basically was out of line for somebody who was trying to join the school to learn. Plus, I was 23 years old if I’m not mistaken, it didn’t really make sense to me either to do four years and then start a career and do another five years to have a degree. I guess I would be graduating in 2012 if I would’ve stayed. I think to myself, Why was it so hard to just study music?

Being here in the US I noticed that in a public school, if you have a social security number the government pays for your semester, your books and, if you’re lucky, your personal stuff too. How awesome it would’ve been for me in Mexico to go to a school of music and hear, “Yeah give me your id number, fill out this application and you can start next year,” right? The Mexican government needs to pay attention to all this I said.

I just hope these days a musician like me in Mexico gets better opportunities than what I found back then, ‘cause I was so hungry to learn and succeed, you have no idea! Thank God I still feel the same way and I hope it never ends no matter how much I succeed. I think God gave me a talent and it’s that when I start something I always try my best and more to finish it. For me, “quit” is not in my vocabulary. I’m not sure where all this came from, but I think somehow it might be kind of a talent. I see people giving up so easy, I can’t even stand it! You only live once so you only have one shot to achieve your dreams and that’s it to me. I didn’t come to this country just to have fun or be a dishwasher (believe me, I’ve done it, I’m proud that I did it and moved forward). I came to have a better life, learn the language and become a better and successful person. I think some people misunderstand this part sometimes. 

What prompted your move to the USA? 

Lack of opportunity to study music in Mexico, my economic situation, and I took the advice from my older brother who was already living in Los Angeles. 

You have an interesting style in that you are very much a traditional jazz player with a real raw rock edge. What and who do you credit for your influences? 

I think I’m a really open guy with a really easy ego inside, which allows me to try new things not just one style. I’ve noticed that musicians are really not that open at all. If you are a jazz player, you don’t wanna hear pop; if you are a rocker, you never buy a jazz album, and that limits you so much. Of course there’s exceptions of people who are really versatile and play different styles. The people I credit for encouraging my inspiration and shaping my style are Antonio Sanchez (Pat Metheny group) and Travis Barker (Blink 182). They definitely changed and keep changing my life. I admire those two guys a lot, and I’ll keep saying it no matter how much success I get. They rock! 

Tell me about your group Collinz Room. How did the band come to be, and what would be required listening for a new fan? 

Basically Ric (singer) and Jonny (guitar) formed the band in Reno, NV, and moved to LA. They looked for a bass player and later Ric saw me performing at BB King’s in Hollywood and invited me to join the band.  He passed me his album and when I heard it, I didn’t even hesitate; I joined them. For a fan, I would recommend you go to one of our next shows and listen to our new song “Mystery." That song is one of my favorites. 

As an artist how important is it to you to go after a major record deal? Is that the goal in your current bands? 

Well, we signed a distribution deal with Universal and other labels already. To be honest, with a label or no label all bands have to work really hard or harder unless you are Michael Jackson’s son. That’s what I really believe. I’m not really interested in signing with a label anymore. If it happens again, fine, if not I’ll keep working as hard as I’ve been doing all these years. Now I have MIP Music Group pushing my career, but it’s something that we do as a team. I’m not sitting around waiting for MIP to do everything for me and act like I’m a rockstar. We all are just human, of course, except for Travis and Mr. Sanchez. (laughs

In your opinion what makes for a good band manager? 

A guy who truly believes in you no matter what. A guy who knows how to talk and have contacts. Amen! 

You also have a trio of you own. Tell me about the Luis Campos Trio. 

Yeah I have Ric Fierabracci on bass and Jeff Miley on guitar. Great guys. I featured them in my DVD/CD and I’m really happy with the result. Now I have a jazz quartet that will be performing at Catalina Jazz Club in the upcoming months, and I’m really excited about it! Now, it’s a different lineup: sax, acoustic bass, guitar and me on drums. So it’s like a new venture for me. All details will be posted on my personal website in a few days so stay tuned. 

When you think of jazz what names (drummers or non-drummers) come to mind for you that best represent the genre? 

Well I would say Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Mr. Sandoval, Dizzy etc. The list will never finish. 

What are you listening to lately? Who gets you excited about music? 

Lately I’ve been listening a lot to Billy Childs, Metheny, Miguel Zenon, Scott Coley (how funny Antonio plays with all of them). Billy Childs inspires me a lot. Dafnis Prieto, Travis Barker, Colaiuta and Mr. Sanchez are the people that make me really excited about listening and playing music. 

When you look at the history of music and the bands that have come before you, how different does your path look than the bands of the 70s and 80s. Do you feel we have it easier or more difficult? 

Oh man, it’s way more difficult, without a doubt! I’m Mexican with an accent in the US so that should tell you something. Definitely, music is harder these days. People get everything for free online, nobody really buys CDs or DVDs anymore unless they’re at the show. I wasn’t in the business in the 70s, but as I’ve heard stories of record deals with cash advances, people were flying everywhere, now everybody wants to be a rockstar and of course that includes me. (laughs) For me things have been really difficult in order to keep drumming. I moved to another country and I’ve been dealing with racism, I went through a hard immigration process on top of that learning another language. If you were born here you think you have it hard, bud? Not sure about that. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I think we (foreigners) have it harder now. I always say if you think I had it easy, then move to Japan and make a new life there. If you don’t come back after one month then we can start talking. 

In your interview on Drum Channel, you told Dom Lombardi you want the world to respect you as a drummer. Are you there yet? If not, how will you know when you are there? 

I’m definitely not there, but when I sell out the Hollywood bowl in LA, have my drums set up by somebody else the way I use it, with a few thousands of people screaming my band’s name or “Chocs”... then I’ll realize I’m there. (laughs

Tell me about your new DVD Not Just Drumming, Luis. 

It was filmed at Drum Channel studios in Oxnard, CA, and produced by MIP Music Group (company I recently signed with). I have to admit that being the drummer for this DVD was definitely not an easy task. I really had to multitask a lot in the process and be extremely patient. I feel blessed and really proud of this DVD though. 

Interestingly DW’s Don Lombardi directed your video. How was the experience working alongside a legend like Don? How did you come to have Don direct it? 

Well, basically, Blanca Austin (CEO of MIP Music Group) somehow knew Mr. Lombardi. She presented my project to Don at Drum Channel and everything started from there. As far as I remember, I performed for him at Drum Channel and next day he offered to direct the DVD and even offered an extra day at the studio to make an album of the DVD (I still can’t believe he did that! He’s one of the most humble people you can imagine). Obviously I didn’t even hesitate on the offer, and of course it was a really important step in my career to have Don directing my DVD and doing the interview for me and my trio. I will cherish that all the days I remain in this world. 

Is this your first DVD? What is the experience like shooting a full length DVD? 

Yes, it’s my first DVD and I wouldn’t regret anything about it. I think everything happened the way it was supposed to. I had to put my heart, soul and life into this DVD. Shooting was really hard and stressful for me because I care about every single detail a lot and I think MIP deserved the best of me and way more than that. I definitely tried my best to make this DVD a great one. If you haven’t seen it, go online and order your copy and judge for yourself. 

What can potential fans learn from this DVD? Where can they purchase it? 

They can buy it worldwide online through www.mipmusicgroup.com. It’s also available at music stores in California and obviously at my live shows. MIP is working hard on distribution to get the DVD in other main stores out there, as well as online. I think fans can learn a lot from this DVD. The first thing is that with dedication you can accomplish anything! Who would’ve thought 13 years ago a guy from Culiacan would have Mr. Lombardi on his DVD? Or that I’d be touring the US with a cool American rock band, signing autographs? Not bad so far, I think! I always say if the mountain doesn’t come to you, you go to the mountain (I heard that from Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez). So far it has worked for me. I have always followed the mountain and I truly believe the mountain hasn’t come to me at all in the last 10 years. 

What do you have coming up in 2011? 

My Jazz Quartet at Catalina Jazz Club, a tour in the US with Collinz Room, some clinics sponsored by Paiste Cymbals, and Ddrum, a few festivals and a new project I’m about to drop out there, not to mention to spread MIP Music Group around the world.

Visit Luis online: http://www.joseluiscampos.com/




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About the Author
Sean Mitchell

Sean Mitchell has been an active participant in the drumming industry for over 20 years. He has studied under Crash Test Dummies drummer Mitch Dorge and Drumming's Global Ambassador Dom Famularo. Sean is also a songwriter and regularly performs with his wife (and singer) Jill Mitchell. Sean proudly endorses Aquarian Drumheads.



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