Antemasque is the most recent band and creative outlet for Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of At The Drive-In/The Mars Volta fame. The music of Antemasque has been simplified with an emphasis on Cedric and Omar’s love for pop rock music—not the kind of pop rock you hear on radio today, but more like the pop rock stuff you would have heard 20 years ago. We had the opportunity to spend some time with Cedric to discuss his early memories of music, his first bands he played in, and the eventual emergence of Antemasque.
I follow you on twitter, you’re pretty funny, I think if you weren’t doing music you’d be a good stand-up comedian.
Bixler: (laughs) I kind of tried doing that once but, it’s really, really hard. It’s easier when I have a band behind me, and I could get tuned into saying stupid shit.
Do you usually come up with that stuff on the fly?
Sometimes I do. Sometimes I’ll just remember an inside joke or something we said right before, I guess the difference is hearing it before it’s the way maybe I deliver it and stuff. I never really started acting like that, after I got completely sober and stuff, I think for a while that you’d come see any of the bands I was in, well, mainly Mars Volta; I wouldn’t say anything. So there was always this, I hate calling it this, but some mystery and mystique of the band , and I always fucking hated that, I think if anyone know me personally, they would’ve thought, ‘what a corny dad I am.’
What is your first memory of music?
My first memory of music was, halloween night, one of the major TV stations was playing Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Amusement Park, which is a really awful movie, but it was probably the most important thing I ever saw at that age, because it was like, I saw superheroes with guitars, and I finally got to see what that band look liked. I had moved from California to El Paso, and you know, I was already into Kiss, but when that came out and I saw that, it just kind of changed my world.
When did you and your family move to El Paso?
Well, my parents had always lived here, and my dad went to Stanford and then, he was in the military for a little bit, and they had me, in 1974, probably when I was about 5 we came back here, can’t remember the year.
I went to UTEP and took a Chicano Studies class with your dad, I didn’t know he was your dad until I went to his office and he had this entire At the Drive-In memorabilia all over the place, and I made the connection.
It’s always been cool; my dad has always been a really big inspiration as far all that kind of stuff. Growing up it’s always every teacher I met was like ‘oh I know your dad.’ If you think I’m a cornball now on twitter, I was twice that when I was in high school and elementary school so it was always like, ugh! I can’t misbehave! I always knew that my dad was on point when it came to being Chicano, you know? I don’t know if you remember, do you remember when Def Leppard came to El Paso for Pyromania? I was so into Def Leppard, and prior to them coming to El Paso, someone had jokingly told them, you should call El Paso greasy Mexicans. So they were banned, for like, forever. I remember I was really little and I had Def Leppard pins, I remember my dad scolding me, and it was the first time I understood and had a lesson in what racism was and I’ll always remember that because it was a huge impact on me. My dad steered me right.
What Instruments did you first learn to play?
Drums was always my first thing; I just could never afford them. I was always borrowing, whatever band I was in, I was borrowing drums, sort of just taking bits and pieces, that was my first thing. I couldn’t afford that. Drums were expensive.
What bands were you in before At the Drive-In?
I played in this band called Three Blind Bats, a band called Phantasmagoria, I used to play with Omar’s old band called band Jerk, another band called Gambini Meat Leak, played in a band called Fall on Deaf Ears; tons of different bands, all of them different styles.
What was the El Paso music scene like at that time?
It always sort of went up and down. You were always kind of watching the oldest kids who were about to leave El Paso, who had just graduated from high school, and you’d kind of get really into their band and then they’d leave El Paso. It was always sort of desolate then fruitful, desolate then fruitful. It was always sort of mimicking what was popular at the time. There was always a sense of…things going from people’s backyards more, and shows moving from downtown area and west side all the way down to the lower valley. It was always interesting to see all of that. Cause when I grew up, my parents wouldn’t let me go to the shows, because I watched this documentary called Another State of Mind and it kind of scared them. At the time, things like Sound Seas were around, those were shows that had bands like Operation Ivy, all these old classic bands that people love now, that you see at Hot Topic, had actually once been through El Paso, played people’s living rooms. It was always like that; you know, just backyards, houses, clubs people’s living rooms, it was always interesting that way.
What are some of the local bands you liked at the time?
When I was like in 8th grade and barely starting to…my first show was at the 3 Fountains ditch, I don’t know if you know where that is, it’s where all the skate demos used to happen, and the first show I saw was this band called Uglor, they eventually moved from El Paso. That was a big impact on me, cause I had never seen anything like that. I was just a little skateboarder in the mid 80s, and to go to a show in a ditch and watch this band play was pretty great. In fact they sent me a copy of it, I actually have my first show on DVD, I slam dance in the audience. I saw Uglor and eventually the band I ended up joining, this band called Phantasmagoria, I was just a little kid watching this band, and then I got to join my favorite band. Bands like MSF, Twisted Thought, Soggy Buns, Zombie Chest Cold, and of course the Rhythm Pigs, who were the first punk El Paso band to put on us the map, really, per se, because they went towards Europe and toured everywhere and had records out, so, bands like that really, had a big impact on me. Still to this day I keep in touch with a lot of those people and I constantly thank them, because those are my real teachers in life.
How did Antemasque emerge?
He’s basically a brother to me. We had what any brothers go through and had a little falling out, just came back together . I would romantically and naively maybe think that my boys did it, and I mean that in the best way, my kids being born brought me and Omar back together, the music really just brought us back together, it was sort of his necessity to sort of, mend a relationship that you couldn’t ignore. Basically we’re brothers, there was just kind of us having reconciliation through music rally, which is the best language we’ve ever had.
Can you tell me a little bit about the album and the songs? Was the creative approach different in the making of this album?
This time we both collaborated musically. It started off with me on drums, and him on guitar. I would show him songs, and he would show me songs. There was sort of this conscious effort to make it short, sharp and sweet.
Can you tell me about the chemistry between the 4 of you on stage?
Now that we have Mafred with us, it sort of just like, going back to roots, really, keeping it in the family. Its just this natural thing we have. We played with At The Drive-In for Marfred’s birthday when he was a teenager, in their garage, and now he’s playing with us, and it just feels really good. It feels like home, and I think he understands the way we are and it’s always been an outlet to behave a certain way you can’t behave in regular everyday life.
What do you do during your downtime?
I’m chasing my 2 twin boys around the house, taking to the park, taking them to the skatepark, Just sort of re-meeting El Paso people really, its nice. A lot has changed here, and I’m glad that my kids are here and they’re going to the same parks (where) I grew up. Just went down to Barrio Skate Shop and they gifted my kids with 2 skateboards. They already love that kind of stuff. I’m just chasing my 2 little kids around, trying to raise them, trying to raise them right.
What are your thoughts on El Paso today?
I probably got a little soft living in LA, and got a little tired of it. When I come back over here, I see how there’s just a difference in personality, as far as people go it’s so refreshing. Coming back to El Paso, it’s just been so nice to be around down to earth people that aren’t really industry savvy, involved in that kind of shit, it’s almost like just being around real working class people, it’s inspiring to me. Took me a while to be away from it to come back, because, it was a whole lot different from when I left here. Kind of desolate when I left here. There was definitely a cool music scene and stuff, but bands just came and went, and there really wasn’t like a solid thing to hold on to. I went out to go see the world, and now I’m here again. Which is great place for my kids I think, you know.
Text: Alex Durán
Antemasque performs on Saturday May 23, 2015 at 8:30 p.m. at the Franklin Mountains Stage