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Activist Rockers "Outernational" Talk About Their New Political Album "We Are All Illegals"

As Supreme Court Debates SB-1070, Brooklyn-based activist punkers discuss new album, "Todos Somos Ilegales," and not boycotting Arizona.

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For us, everyone's like, juiced. Everyone is like, Fuck yeah. People can smell a rat from a mile away, so there’s a sincerity, I think to our project and our record. I think people are really welcoming. When we’re talking to people, they really want to know a lot of the depth of, How did this start? What are you guys doing? What are you saying? For me, it’s real refreshing. We run in good company as a rock n roll band. We’re largely unknown, it’s a good thing, but a lot of place it’s like, “Oh, you guys are the Tom Morello band.” Which is totally cool because those are good friends of ours and they’re totally helpful, but this is really cool because it’s kind of putting focus on who we are and what we’re about. And that’s not an identity thing, that focuses more on what we have to say. I’m excited about that.

When you were conceiving the album, it has such an arc and a narrative and it touches on all these issues that are really important and not a lot of musicians even have one song about them, outside of Latino musicians. When you were approaching writing the album, what was your concept for it and were you thinking you would make it a narrative?

The development and the arc of it we conceived halfway through the album. What I mean by that, so the last song on the record is a song called “Que Queremos” by and large it’s kind of the centerpiece of an Outernational live set, with the chorus to that song, “Que queremos nada, que queremos todos mundo.” I’m really excited that’s the last song on the record because there’s a lot of, the theme of the record is temporal in terms of this issue, but it’s also much larger than that. In a lot of ways, that’s the take home message of the record. But that’s the first song we wrote before we even conceived this record. Then when SB1070 went down, I started talking to Tom Morello, who is a good friend of mine, like, “Yo man, you guys, Rage Against the Machine, let’s go to Arizona now, let’s go to Arizona.” He came to me with Zack (dela Rocha, of Rage Against the Machine), who I knew when I was much younger, I was talking to Zack and he was like, “Cool, man. People should go to Arizona but we’re gonna do a boycott of Arizona with all the big artists. Make it sort of a cultural wasteland.” At that time, two years ago, we went over, we drove through Arizona and we went to Tom Morello’s house and we recorded “Deportees” which is a Woody Guthrie song that’s also on the record... We connected with Rene Perez, the singer for Calle 13. We wanted to make it a really expansive thing [conceptually]: "What’s it like to go from Guatemala up through Mexico and then all the way up to [the US]: what’s that journey like? We tried to make this a springboard for our vision of how a whole other world could be. The planet could be. I think the way the way human beings are treated, immigrants, not just here, but all around the world, it’s kind of an entry point for our vision and our mission.

I know that you all have talked about the importance of having borderless nations, at least in imagination. I wonder, particularly in a place like Mexico City where it is so, Indios and Spanish-descendants and cosmopolitans from all around the world live in this one place. I wonder how much that influenced the idea of borderlessness, and how you interpret the idea of "borderless nations."