“We did an art installation at Tropico de Nopal, a gallery near Macarthur Park in L.A. 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.”
Percussionist Jiro Yamaguchi adds:
“There were no rules or definitions. We were in the midst of forming the seeds of these songs. I was pretty confused at first, and other people felt that way as well, but it came out really cool.”
“Dragon” reflects the creativity of the art installation, and carried into the studio with producer KC Porter. Ozo rocks the dance floor with jams like “Here We Go” and “Creo,” as well as the funk of “Magnolia Soul” (a celebration of New Orleans spirit in the wake of Katrina) and the title track’s Chinatown-meets-the-Dirty-South vibe. But the disc also features the moving Spanish-language ballad “Violeta” (about the mortal thoughts of a soldier in Iraq), the ’80s-inflected rock-ska of “When I Close My Eyes” and much more. Jiro proclaims:
\"It’s also a tour of L.A.’s diverse and rich international character. “Los Angeles is a microcosm of the world. You can drive through this city and hear music and experience cultures from all over the world. That’s who we are.”
“Dragon” reflects numerous transitions in members’ lives that brought even greater immediacy to the material. Wil notes:
“A lot of us were feeling we were becoming adults in a new way, and dealing with past demons, changes, families, relationships breaking up. That’s what the song ‘Don’t Mess With the Dragon’ is partly about – not forgetting where your heart is.”
Ozomatli’s typically relentless touring has been aided, lately, by its highly trafficked MySpace page, supervised by Wil – who tries to stay on top of the voluminous messages from fans:
“This kind of contact really lets us know how much what we do means to people,” he insists. “It’s pretty incredible. People say, ‘Your music helped me get through a terrible experience in my life.’ That’s what makes it all worthwhile. For me, it’s a dream come true; it’s serving me as a human being, doing what I love to do, and others as well. Those people out there make it possible.”
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