Hey Jim, so good of you to give me this opportunity, to speak, finally after all these years. I believe I will bring some new insights into Malo etc. I really appreciate it and thanks so much in advance.
Where were you born and when did you start to play the drums or any other instruments?
I was born in San Francisco, California on July 12, 1951 in the Hunter Point projects. I was raised in the Mission District SF and went to Mission High School in the Mission in SF. I was born in San Francisco California in We moved to the Mission District in San Francisco when I was 10 years old. My older brother Bill was the first drummer in our family and when he joined the Junior High band I was 12. So, I started playing drums at the age of 12 because my brother started playing drums and I took to drums like a fish to water. I could play right off the bat. I joined the junior high band in the Mission District in San Francisco at age 13. There I met Bob Olivera who played clarinet at the time. Bob’s family were all musical and they had a little Dixieland jazz combo that also played old standards of the 30’s and 40’s. Bobs dad was a great jazz guitar player from the “big band” era who also had played drums at one time. He met me, heard me play a little and must have seen something in me and he paid to put a old funky drum kit together with a “hand- made” top tom, tom for me to play. And, I took to it right away. Playing swing music, no rock, let alone Latin at the time. He HATED ROCK AND ROLL.
He taught and I learned real quick and within six months we were playing gigs. Bob on Clarinet, his dad on guitar and mom on upright bass. To play my first paying gig I was paid $20.00 back in the day that was big time money. So, we played, practiced. Played more casuals practiced. While doing so: Bob’s dad introduced me into the music of big band drummers. Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Jack Spierling etc. Then one night we were playing and the crowd did not respond to our music. We played a song call Caravan that had a tom-tom beat opening. And Art who became like a father to me (mine abandoned the family) said. “Ricky, start playing by yourself. I said no because I never done a solo before and everyone was looking at me as he was talking over the microphone. And he said “ You can do it”. So I started playing a “drum solo” and wow, people really responded and it made the audience be more receptive to the whole band… So from then on I got play solos, which I still do today. That was with all the influences of Buddy Rick, Gene Krupa, etc. I learned how to really build a drum solo’s work with the groove and explode at the end. That way the average drummer or person can follow what I am doing. Not just the five drummers in the house. I have always brought the music listener and drum lover along for the ride. I think I have been successful even to this day. I love to express myself for 5 to 10 minutes…just being creative….playing what comes to my spirit.. God and I playing as one! The Creator and His creation! No drug in the world makes me feel like I do when I am playing for the Lord. And, in 2006 I started playing timbales and playing timbale solo’s. Which I really enjoy to do also, I was told by Chepito Areas, Armando Peraza and Coke Escovedo that it’s like popping grease and question and answering. So, that’s how I approach it and I have moved this concept onto the drums when appropriate.
What was your first musical break or recording??
My first musical break was with a band called “Naked Lunch” with Abel Zarate and Roy Murray. We later merged with the Malibu’s Arcelio Garcia, Pablo Tellez, Rich Bean and Jorge Santana and called ourselves MALO. At a mere 18 years old (Abel was 17) we played on bills and sometimes headlined with and for: Boz Scaggs, Tower of Power etc. Our break out concert was playing before 1500 people in a sold out high school auditorium. I took a drum solo and got a standing ovation. One of the biggest top 40 radio stations picked us and man we were kids but more popular than all the other local bands.
What were your music influences then, what turned you on to music and excited you??
My musical influences of the day were for soloing. They were big band drummers like Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Louie Bellson etc. could play and keep my interest rhythmically. It was not just fast they could play but they always told a story. I really liked Mike Shrieve of Santana, Danny Seraphine of Chicago, Greg Ericco of Sly and the Family Stone and most of all David Garibaldi of Tower of Power. He is one of the nicest guys and he taught me my first funk vibes and you can hear his influence in my song “Jesus in the House” the hi-hat is the meter for the 7/8. Percussionists: I loved Chepito (played with him for a while). Coke Escovedo, Armado Perazza, Michael Carabello, Carmelo Garcia. and Richard Kermode was really responsible for teaching me the Latin round.. I was the Rock of the Latin rock sound with Malo. I did not understand Latin side and I did not want to. Pablo Tellez and I did not get along back then (we are brothers in the Lord now and I love him). So one night in Miami, Richard Kermode and I were smoking pot and he put on Eddie Palmeiri and Airto with Flora Purim.. And I can see him know with a “cigarette” in his mouth, music turned up and playing the cowbell……Saying come on man you can do it… So, not in my right mind I will call it. I started playing with Richard on a wood block. All off a sudden I could feel it and my head was going in a circular motion. Out and round as I grooved to the music. From that day on I love it and it is a big part of my over all style.
How did you develop as a musician, what teachers etc or were you self-taught?
Yes; I was self taught until I left Malo. Then I studied with George Marsh. A Tony Williams type drummer .He is really the only live teacher I had besides David Garibaldi. But, I bought a lot of records and listened and, listened, slowed them down and learned, absorbed then applied to my style. I still do that to this day.
Tell us about your involvement with Malo, how did you get to join them, what were the other bands you were involved in that San Francisco Scene?
To tell about my involvement with Malo we have to go back to when Bob Olivera started playing in a band with Abel Zarate. They had a drummer but he was not that good. Bob recommended me to the band and I met Abel. From that band came Naked Lunch which Abel and Roy Murray (original horns and arranger for Malo number 1. It was not Luis Gasca; as I know he takes most of the credit on his web site). Naked Lunch was playing bills with Boz Scaggs, Tower of Power. BB King even came down to one of our rehearsals in the Height Ashbury and man that was 1970 or so. We were all young but already could bring it on with our instruments. We played at a high school fund-raiser sponsored by local top 40 radio station KFRC (which loved Naked Lunch). Anyway, we were the only band that got a standing ovation (We released very raw tapes on CD of this live concert). I played a long drum solo at the end and man I got a standing ovation.
Little did we know that Bill Graham had his eye on us and there was a Warner Brothers Record executive in the audience? They had come to town to hear the “Malibus” with Jorge Santana and KFRC radio told them about us. So they came and listened. Thus the idea came to take our band and merge with theirs. From this came MALO. Bill Graham would introduce us as “some of the bad ones” Malo!!
What are your memories of Malo, Abel, Jorge, Arcelio, Pablo, what did you feel about the Malo split after the first record etc?
My memories of the band: Is that we went from rehearsing at the Heli-port in Marin to playing at Carnegie Hall overnight. When we played at Carnegie Hall. They introduced the band. Pablo Tellez, Abel Zarate, Jorge Santana….Rich Spremich. I think I got booed. But, I got a standing ovation for my drum solo that night. When I finished I remember looking up the balconies that go 5 levels up and everyone was standing, clapping and cheering. I remember when we played American Bandstand. Jorge got so nervous and stiff talking to Dick Clark. He asked Jorge a question and Jorge answered. Something like. All the people in the world and went on and it did make sense. We were all “out of our minds” on hashish (but not Jorge). We just laughed. I wish someone had a You Tube of that. But, I have not been able to find out. It was pretty funny or in our state of mind it was. We were laughing out loud.
In the beginning it was fun. We were all kids from the original band. Rich Bean, Jorge Santana, Abel Zarate, Rich Spremich were in our teens and I believe Roy Murray and Arcelio Garcia were in the early twenties. Learning the songs. Going down the San Joaquin valley and having girls want to kiss us. Being asked for autographs, seeing our album cover on Tower Records big wall in Fisherman’s Wharf. Jorge took me for a sandwich one day to a Mexican deli and I have for the first time “caritas” with Jalapeños. I still get that to this day.
I remember when we were in Buffalo, New York. This was Richard Kermode’s hometown I believe. We were playing at a club. We were “high” on smoke and jamming at a club. I was on the drums; Rich K. was jamming on the piano (he loved to play anywhere anytime) Pablo on bass, Jorge on guitar and Arcelio singing. Well I was playing with my eyes closed and I felt this tremendous on my head.. I looked up and nothing was there. Then bam it happened again. I look and there was no one around me. Then I closed my eyes and opened them real fast and Arcelio was hitting me with the drumstick he was playing the cow bell with. He was not trying to be funny he was a mad that someone was getting more attention than he did.
Abel was always talented but hard to get along with. He was told he was “the star” of any band he was in from age 14 and that it really hurt him with developing on how to get along with others. But, Abel was the driving “musical” force behind Malo. He re-arranged Suavecito, Café, Just Say Goodbye, Peace (Abel wrote all the middle jazz vibe in the middle). But he was already at a point (because he was so young) that you could not tell him anything. I guess you would say, people who did not care for him were telling him “You’re the man” and he started to believe it. I believe it has affected him in relationships to this day.
I love Abel but the truth is the truth.
Jorge, was the kindest person you could meet. Unfortunately when we got interviews about Malo one. Most of the interviewers thought Abel’s guitar solo’s were Jorge’s. I think it was hard for Jorge even to this day, since he was Carlos Santana’s brother.
Arcelio was crazy back then. He used to fight with his wife from the stage. He would get drunk and pick fights like this. He would walk by someone coming out of the club and say “What did you say about my mother or wife”? I saw him clock a guy so bad they called the police. I think he had the “biggest” ego back then. Seems like a real nice guy now and he did not realize he needed “the supporting cast”.. aka the rest of the band.
Pablo: He and I did not get along. I don’t think he like my style of “Latin Rock” he wanted a more traditional drummer more like the guy who came after me. I don’t remember his name. He did not like me and I did not like him at the time. I think he to was told he was the “man” that made the sound. So much so by “hanger” on’s that he started to believe the press. We get along great now. He is born again like I am. Loves Jesus like I do and I believe he does not play any more (or did not at the Malo reunion) but heads up his churches music outreach into Latin America.
I know you did not ask about Rich Bean but without Suavecito, which without him there would not have been a song called Suavecito. Abel helped arrange, Roy Murray put on the horns, Pablo the bass line. Richard came up with the song and lyrics. He still does not get the credit he is due. Even to this day. If he were more of a businessman (and who was at 18) than he was. He would have not have given away so much of the song to the others. Rich is a good man, raised by a great father (some of us did not have dads). I wanted him to sing of Yeshua and Jorge to play guitar. But, the management did not think it would be a “good” career move. Yeah right, Yeshua is a cross over hit. A lot of radio is saying it’s “my bands “Suavecito”. I think it’s because I talk about Jesus. Rich was let go out of Jealousy. He was good looking, did the lead vocals, Girls loved him.. Then he was gone for a better “timbale” player. This was the beginning of the end of Malo that I will talk about later.
Roy Murray: Roy Wrote all the horn lines but Pana. Not Luis Gasca as Luis claims on his web site. One of the reasons we have not seen a reunion is after the break up, Malo just did not give credit where credit was due.And “lets see”, with me the “Latin rock” drummer”. Roy Murray was not traditional enough and Rich Bean who was not a “timbalero”. We sold more records in the first two years than Malo or Jorge has in the next 30 plus. So, I think we were just a little important to the original sound of the band Malo. More on this later.
Here is an interesting story: On Nena, during the solo’s where Rich is play a short solo spot and he just play’s a piano rhythm. Even to this day its “genius” how simple he kept it.. It was just that; a rythym part. That Roy was supposed to play another trombone blast. But after many takes they left the trombone off.
Another: Before we recorded “Just Say Goodbye” it was an instrumental. Then Luis Gasca broke up with his girl friend and wrote the lyrics. There was a universe for us to build together etc. and Luis brought the H into the band, Then Rich Kermode started using and then Pablo. I topped out with smoke and cocaine. Which I kicked the cocaine habit in 1992 when I accepted Christ into my life.
I did not like the split: first Rich Bean, then Abel. Then they incorporated the name Malo. I remember that Leo Rosales came in with Raul Rekow. Then Dave Rubinson and Chris Wong suggested making us “side men” paying us a meagre salary. I remember even as a young cocky drummer, I was telling Jorge don’t mess with the rhythm section, you will mess with the sound of Malo and our fans won’t like it. If you make me a side man I will quit. We Pablo wanted another drummer. Abel was kicked out of the group, Roy Murray was “let go”. So the rock side brought in by “Naked Lunch” was now gone. Warner Brothers was furious they had invested 75K in the band and we were just getting started. Well hardly anyone knows this story of Naked lLunch. You, if I am going to be real did find out or chose not to tell the Naked Lunch contribution. Let me ask you this. After we left…..What happened to Malo. They became a glorified salsa band and that has been done already. What happened to the sound, to the original music? I rest my case. I believe we had more to do with the sound than the Malibu’s. All they had was Jorge’s name and Richard Bean’s song Suavecito. Just keeping it real. Also, I have attached an mp3 of some raw live material of Naked Lunch recorded two years before Malo. You tell me where the sound came from?
What do you remember about Dave Rubinson and Fred Catero? The production styles etc?
We all loved Fred Catero, but had a hate – love relationship with Dave Rubinson. I remember playing on Cafe and Just Say Goodbye. Dave did not like the raw energy the rhythm section was giving him. So, he would come in and say anything to make you mad. Like cap on your mother (put her down). He actually would get me so mad that during the double time at the end of the song. I was thinking about how much I couldn’t stand him. Those fast fills from the middle to the end. I never would have played so hard and fast, if I was not so mad. He came in and said “That’s what I was looking for Rich. Great job.” Over the years I have grown to respect the fact that he was dealing with a core group of teenagers and an older group of session players that used hard drugs and had brought them into the band.
Then I started a band called Visions and met Frank Martin, Dave Dunnaway, Richard Healy, Bob Olivera and Tom Poole who turned my musical world around by teaching me odd meter beats like 7/8. We actually were ready to record in 1974 or so. But, the oil embargo back then hit and because vinyl was made from oil. They stopped signing new bands. That influence is in my music today.. More later
How did the massive drugs/party scene back then affect you personally/if at all?
The massive drug and party scene: I was a pot smoker and was all of the younger guys. But, one day I was going all day and then hopped a jet after a concert at Winterland. I was tired and one of the roadies said try this is will wake you up. I took my first hit of cocaine and loved it. We were traveling with Tower of Power a little at the time. And, I remember on a plane to LA. One of their members was breaking out a whole gram of coke and just starting sharing. He said “We learned this from Santana” we have a budget for drugs, book it as an expense and it pays for itself as a business expense. Then Luis Gasca brought in the heroin and next thing you know Rich Kermode is trying it, Pablo, etc. That was the beginning of the end for Malo.
It wrecked the whole experience and I went into a 22 year what I thought was casual use. Now I know was a habit. It wrecked my first marriage. I lost my wife and children; two of whom still don’t talk to me today. Once I got married the first time, I built a business and I was making over 120K a year and growing back in 1993. I was living in what now is an 800k home. And what does a drug addict do when he has “too much money”. I started using big time again.
When did you start to make Christian based music and for how long have you been involved?
When did I start to make Christian based music: I had been in three car accidents involving drugs but not “high” on drugs at the time. The third one caused me to blow two disks out in my neck and I could not play for 12 years. Every time I tried my neck and the nerve damage in my arm (caused numbness) was taking it’s toll and I could feel my skill level going away. So; more alcohol and more cocaine.
No one put the straw to my nose of the bottle to my lips. But, I was so fearful. Well one night after I got separated before my divorce was final. I had a lost week end. I bought a quarter ounce and had some high end vodka coupled with some prescription drugs I was taking for a neck injury. Something happened with all the drugs and I just knew I was going to die. I managed to get on top of my bed. My heart was racing, slowing down to nothing, then racing and I was hallucinating. I would see blackness, then as if some one hit a black mirror with a hammer. It would creak in red spider web like cracks.. I looked up and I saw my self looking back at me connected by what looked like a silver or white cord the spirit hooked up to my body.. I CRIED OUT. GOD IF YOUR OUT THERE DON’T LET ME DIE. I WANT TO LIVE AND SEE MY CHILDREN GROW UP. Believe it or not, the person I saw looking at me” came back into my body “me”. Then I started looking for a church to attend. I accepted Jesus into my heart and kicked cocaine that day and have never done it again. That was in 1991.
I asked Jesus into my heart. He healed my neck and shoulder and I started playing in a church band. I called my brother and told him after 12 years God had healed me and I was playing as good if not BETTER than I was before. He did not believe it until he came to hear me play. He was like ‘that does not happen you don’t stop playing for years, get healed “what’s up with that” and not only start playing again but be better than before in such a short time”. Thank you Jesus!!
I did not write another song until after the Malo reunion. When I got reunited with Abel and Tom Poole we tried putting a band together. With Oscar Tabalta, a keyboard player both whom I met playing with Chepito Areas before I left California.
During that time I have my own company; I’m making 150k to 200k a year. I had a freak accident and hurt my foot. The injury was misdiagnosed and I have two surgeries which I later found out I did not need. On top of that I caught a rare bone disease that I can’t remember the name of it than it was real long and rare. The doctor said, I not only was not going to get better but I would eventually be in a wheel chair. And, I was (go to www.youtube.com /rich spremich and see a drum solo I put up calling it Drum Praise) because it’s my testimony on how I got saved). The state of California even bought me a motorized wheel chair. After 2 years of living on disability of $900.00 a month and using all of our savings we had to sell our house and our family of 5 live in a trailer. We moved to Gilroy Calif. This went on for two more years.
When we went to Gilroy I had my second surgery that I later found out I did not need and the Doctors told me what to expect for the future. While I was unable to work for 4 years I started watching Satellite television with Christian Programming, stuff like Daystar, TBN etc. I also had so much time on my hands I started by Instruction DVD’s of most of the great drummers and percussionist of the day. I still
While watching Pastor John Hagge, Joyce Meyers, Pastor Jesse Duplantis, Pastor Perry Stone (and Fred His father), Pastor Creflo Dollaro, Kenneth Hagin. Now Pastor Bill Winston, Pastor Joseph Prince, Andrew Womack, Pastor Theo Wolmarans and Sid Roth
Tell us about you latest recording and the group you have now?
During this time the Lord spoke to me and said this. I heard Him say it.
“I want you to write music that glorifies Jesus. I want you to go into Christian music and break down the barriers of not playing music with a Global Cultural sound aka rhythm instruments. And, bring back worshiping on Instruments AKA: Soloing. Testifying to keep Jesus in the forefront of my music and let the music industry know that He see’s they are taking the name of Jesus out of the music. Jesus
To write music that will bring people in to our concerts that normally would not go to a “Christian” event. But, the music will be so strong that they will come to hear it. And, when they do! The will be open to the power of God and the movement of the Holy Spirit. And then find Jesus and accept Him in their heart if they don’t know Him
Breath, Spirit & Life band is a evangelistic, soul winning, new wine and signs and wonders ministry.
So, I went into radio. My first project “Conversion” got played on 120 radio stations. I did all the tracking and stumbling and bumbling. I would spend time to locate a “decision” maker and find out it was news talk radio. The second “Sword of the Spirit” got a lot of attention got played on over 400 radio stations.
During this time God called me to go to San Antonio Texas. Where He said the final chapter of building my ministry would take place. That I would put an actual band together to support my music and I would record a “breakthough” CD. That has happened. I am just releasing “Flame On” by Breath, Spirit & Life band. With the new single Yeshua and I have a world-class 11 piece band to support it.
So, in closing here are a few more stories that might interest your readers and feel free to insert if you want.
One time we were playing Texas before 15,000 people and Malo was headlining. We were in the dressing room relaxing getting “right”-. I was getting a massage then they said hurry up your going on stage in 5. I got up and went down the hall and a couple of nice looking girls and they started giggling at me. I thought man, I am hot tonight and I have not even played yet. When I got up on stage the crowd went wild. But, laughing not applauding. Evidently someone had pinned a “feminine” napkin on my backside. It was Jorge and Leo Rosales…pinned it on my backside.
I was smoking a joint with Carlos Santana at Winterland one night. And, as I took a hit I looked at Carlos as I passed it on. He said it’s Angel Dust bro. This is in the early 70’s when Carlos had his long curly hair and a goatee. After I took the hit I had an immediate effort on me. I found out later ‘angel” dust is animal tranquilizers. He started morphing into a wolf it really scared me and I never smoked angel dust again.
I was at Carlos Santana’s house with Abel Zarate. Carlos came in with a Gabor Sabo album. He put on a track and said man this sounds like it would fell like if someone took a hit of heroin. Heroin was the beginning of the end for Malo.
It’s interesting to me how hundreds of musicians came after the original band and bill themselves as the…. Of the original Malo band.. Kind of dishonest, like Luis Gasca taking credit for anything other than playing on the album. He was just a sideman.
I would like to close with this. Listen to the original recordings of Naked Lunch and tell me who brought the sound with them into Malo..
The Malibu’s with Jorge, Arcelio and Pablo
Naked Lunch. Abel Zarate, Roy Murray and Rich Spremich.
(Jim note: I hear ALL those influences personally of ALL those musicians- but I wasn’t there but I have listened to that record hundreds of times.)
I would hope that the fans could see Malo for one last reunion tour with the original band.
God bless you and yours. My brother in the Lord.
Founding member of Malo
Son of Jesus
Leader of Breath Spirit & Life band
President: Prince of Peace Records
Latino rock lovers, please note that Richard is selling this new CD via his website www.breathspiritlife.com
Following soon; A review of Rich Spremich’s new CD project and new pictures.