Jet Jaguar – Riding Those Endless NightsSunday, 2nd August 2020
Hailing from Mexico, Jet Jaguar have accomplished a fair amount of buzz relating to their traditional/classic metal platform since their start in 2014. They’ve recorded a demo and EP – toured across Mexico and mainland Europe, winning the Wacken Metal Battle competition in 2017 among other accomplishments. Signing with German record label Pride & Joy Music, their debut full-length Endless Nights contains a variety of songs from fast power/speed offerings to solid mid-tempo anthems and even the occasional ballad – fueled with melody, hooks, and harmony aspects all around. It’s evident that this band love 80’s artists like Iron Maiden, Accept, Judas Priest, and more – but also dig some of the newer breed like Enforcer and Skull Fist in their ascent to international appeal.
We reached out to bassist Jorge Ramirez who was very happy to bring us up to speed on all things related to Jet Jaguar. You’ll learn more about his passion for the genre, the early recordings, the importance of winning the Wacken Metal Battle to establishing themselves globally, and insights into what the future may hold for the group.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your earliest memories surrounding music growing up – and at what point did you discover heavy metal and then want to pick up an instrument and perform in bands?
Jorge Ramirez: I remember when I was a little kid my dad had some records from bands like The Beatles and Pink Floyd. That was my first approach to music. Then I got into heavy metal thanks to the video game Guitar Hero when I was 13 years old. That inspired me to pick up the bass when I was 14. And well then I got into more heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, very 80’s-based. I started played in some local bars in Cancun, here in Mexico and then I became friends with the guys in Jet Jaguar, we made a band and that was pretty much it.
Dead Rhetoric: Jet Jaguar started in 2014, and you quickly recorded and released the Call of the Wild demo in the spring of that same year. Tell us about that first recording – what memories do you have about the studio sessions, songwriting, and how did you feel about the final product?
Ramirez: It was very in the early days. We were around 16-17 years old, so we started when we were kids. It was very different from what it is now. A lot of memories from those days, it was a great time. The beginning of everything, we weren’t really thinking about things too much, we just wanted to play good heavy metal. We were inspired by Accept, Judas Priest, and more recent bands like Skull Fist and Enforcer, this new wave of traditional heavy metal. Also Steelwing from Sweden was a great inspiration for us. We decided to record a couple of songs, people enjoyed them and we got the chance to open a couple of shows here in Mexico with Skull Fist. From there we were just making new songs.
Dead Rhetoric: The Zero Hour EP came out next in 2016 – where you moved on from vocals and had Maxx Mendoza on vocals. Outside of that difference, how did you view the EP versus your demo in terms of progression for Jet Jaguar?
Ramirez: I think it has better quality in terms of the songwriting, as well as the recording. It was more professional, the demo was recorded at some friend’s house and we made it for fun. When we started to taking things more seriously, I told the guys that we should get a real front man. I knew it was fun singing and playing, but we wanted to have a real front man in the band so I could focus more on the bass playing. We got Maxx for the vocals on this EP, and that was the final touch we needed to be a more professional band. It really helped us improve as a band, having someone that could focus on the singing while I played the bass.
Dead Rhetoric: You went on a big European tour in 2017 – winning the Wacken Metal Battle that same year. Discuss the importance of playing at one of the premiere metal festivals in the world, the response of the crowd to your music – and how did it feel to play shows outside of Mexico at that point in your career?
Ramirez: Playing Wacken was a dream come true for us. This festival, when we were younger, to get the opportunity to showcase our music there is a dream come true. We won the competition, and that was important for us. That was the moment that we started to get invited to play more festivals here in Mexico. We started doing more tours, and the response from the European crowds was amazing. We have some Spanish songs, and even in some countries like Romania they knew the lyrics and were singing along to the songs in Spanish, which was mind-blowing for us. We had a great time and we are looking forward to going back to Europe to promote this new album that we are releasing.
Dead Rhetoric: Did you find the tour you did after the battle an eye-opening experience? Did it strengthen the band as far as playing ability, and how was the response from those crowds compared to playing in Mexico?
Ramirez: We started really touring in early 2017, because we knew we had the competition. We said that we need to be more experienced, so we did a tour here in Mexico in early 2017. We started to really know each other on the stage. You really get to know your bandmates as musicians, and as live musicians. The crowd, it’s different in Mexico than in Europe, but there were both very positive responses from the crowds. It’s a little bit different. Latin people in general, they tend to be more energetic in the live shows, but the Europeans are very supportive and they tend to buy a lot of merchandise from you. That kind of stuff doesn’t happen as much in Mexico.
Dead Rhetoric: Your debut album Endless Nights will finally hit the streets. Tell us about the writing and recording sessions for this material – were there any surprises, obstacles, or challenges to overcome, and where do you see this sitting in the career of Jet Jaguar?
Ramirez: We started writing new songs when we got back from the European tour after Wacken. We rented a house, the five of us lived there for a few months and we started creating new ideas. Those songs that we created back then became the new album. It was a long process, as you can tell there is a four-year gap between the EP and the album. That is because we wanted everything to sound and be in the right place. We thought, here in Mexico I don’t want to sound pretentious but we are the only band that won this competition at Wacken, and we wanted to give a good impression with our first professional album.
We got signed by a German label, so we knew we had to do the right thing. We took a lot of time to produce everything to be perfect. We are happy with the results – it’s kind of like a tribute to the bands we like from the 80’s. As you can tell by the artwork, that’s very 80’s-oriented. It’s a tribute to everything we like. We are really happy with the results, and we can’t wait for people to hear the material.
Dead Rhetoric: Speaking of the artwork, it definitely had a lot of throwback 80’s qualities in terms of the look and design. How did this idea come about?
Ramirez: The idea came about thanks to the Netflix series Stranger Things. They are also paying tribute to the 80’s films from that era, so we wanted to do that but with the music, you know? From the very start we were influenced by the bands from the 80’s, but we also enjoy the films from that decade. We wanted to take it to the next level, not only paying tribute to the music but to the pop culture that was going on at that moment and in those years. We visually pay tribute to all of those films, such as the song on the album “No Surrender” that was inspired by the Rocky saga, and “Jet Ranger” was inspired by films like Blade Runner and RoboCop.
Dead Rhetoric: What qualities do you believe are essential to making a Jet Jaguar song distinct and unique? And do you enjoy mixing in the occasional Spanish sung song within the English driven material to hopefully boost your appeal?
Ramirez: Yeah, the idea of writing songs in Spanish came to us during the EP. There is a song “Rompiendo el Acero” and was very well-received by our fans here in Mexico, because there are still some people asking us why we are still singing in English if we are a Mexican band. We obviously are singing in English because we want all of the people to enjoy Jet Jaguar’s music, bands like The Scorpions and Accept sing in English even though they are from Germany as examples.
We also think it’s important that people in Mexico and Latin America can enjoy music from us. We figure that we want to throw in some songs in Spanish, and a lot of people are going to love that. The essential Jet Jaguar song must contain energy, power, but also a lot of melody. We tend to make sure that our songs have some catchy melodies, not only in the singing but also in the guitar playing. We love to have some catchy melodies in the guitar playing and vocals- we are not an extreme band so that’s why we throw them in.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Jet Jaguar when playing live compared to your studio work? What do you hope to get across to the audience, and what have been some of your more memorable performances/ shows to date?
Ramirez: A lot of people have told us in the past it’s different to see us live than to hear our studio recordings. When we play live, they get a lot of energy from us. They say we are (much) wilder when playing live. With the new album, we tried to have a little more power in the mix. We worked with Henrik Udd, a Swedish engineer who has worked with bands like Powerwolf, At the Gates, Hammerfall. We wanted this album to be a little bit more powerful so we can capture the live essence in this record.
One of the most memorable performances I think would be when we played at the Hell & Heaven festival in Mexico City. There were bands such as Megadeth, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Gojira also performing there. There were a lot of people there and it was one of the most important performances for our career so far.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider three of the best heavy metal albums of all-time personally – and what is the best concert that you can remember taking in, just from a fan perspective, and what made it so special to you?
Ramirez: I think that my top three heavy metal albums would be Holy Diver by Dio, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son by Iron Maiden, and Defenders of the Faith by Judas Priest. So as you can tell, it’s totally 80’s. I think the best concert I’ve attended as a fan, I haven’t been to many but watching Ozzy Osbourne at the Hell & Heaven festival where we performed was something incredible. Considering I don’t think he will be doing much touring in the future due to his age, it was awesome to at least have the chance to see him perform once in my life.
Dead Rhetoric: At this point in the band’s career, are you able to make a living solely off the music or are you supplementing your income with outside jobs/careers – and if so, how do you balance things to get the most out of pushing your music, as I would imagine the ultimate dream is to build this to be your primary jobs?
Ramirez: Totally, that’s our goal. We are working really hard to make that come true. At the moment we have side jobs so we try to balance everything. The most important thing that we say to ourselves is that our top priority must be the band, always. Actually, we are planning to move to Europe maybe next year. We really would like to move there to grow and develop as a band. We have this vision of always improving and getting better. And we know in Mexico, it’s very hard for heavy metal bands to really stand out and be a household name. It’s much easier for bands to have these opportunities in the United States or Europe. We want to live off our music, and we believe in order to make that happen we would have more opportunity living in some European country.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the metal scene in Mexico? Do you have the proper support from clubs, promoters, festivals, and the fans – and what bands/ styles seem to be very popular in your country currently?
Ramirez: Fortunately in recent years there’s been more support for metal bands. This past decade there have been a lot of metal festivals that weren’t happening twenty years ago. There has always been a fanbase of metal fans here in Mexico – they are very passionate and supportive. There was never like support from the mainstream community or mainstream media – so what keeps metal going in Mexico are the fans and the promoters who give bands opportunities. In other genres, Mexico gives more support than in heavy metal. It’s hard to live off the music here, everyone does something else to pay the bills.
I think that thrash metal is very popular, especially in Mexico City. There are also a lot of hard rock fans. Those genres are quite popular here in Mexico.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your hobbies and interests that you like to pursue away from music when you have the free time and energy to do so?
Ramirez: I really like cinema and writing. I haven’t really thought about pursuing those hobbies in a more professional way. My top priority is to keep growing Jet Jaguar as a band and growing as a musician, but maybe years from now, who knows? Maybe I can start writing more. I don’t really think about it much.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the bass, and who are some of your mentors and influences at the instrument?
Ramirez: Geddy Lee from Rush, Steve Harris from Iron Maiden, and I love Paul McCartney. I love his bass lines. It’s a very important instrument and sometimes overlooked. It’s the base of everything, of the band. I also like the drums a lot. If I wouldn’t play bass, I would be playing the drums.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next year or so shaping up for Jet Jaguar in terms of activities and promotion for this record? Has work already begun on writing material for the follow-up, especially considering the pandemic where live show work is at a standstill?
Ramirez: Yes, we were already talking about touring for the support of the album Endless Nights. We have a Mexican tour in November, but it will have to be postponed. We also have a European tour postponed until the spring of 2021. We have been writing material. Everyone is still quarantined at their homes, we have been sharing new ideas for our new record. We have a couple of ideas and riffs going on there. At the moment, nothing is happening, but we have to make sure that we at least write some new songs. If we make a second album, I think it will be much darker and much heavier than this first one due to everything that’s going on. It’s hard for a lot of people – a lot of people lost their jobs here, the economy isn’t going well, so that’s where the heaviness and darkness is coming from.