Formed in 1978, in Southern California, The Plugz were the first latino punk band. They covered pop-songs like "La Bamba" at break neck speed and also wrote a pile of great original material. The PLUGZ created a meld of punk and Hispanic sounds far to the left of Los Lobos without trashing their heritage.

At the height of their popularity, the Plugz came close to recording with a major label, but singer/leader Tito Larriva had taken the punk DIY aesthetic to heart when it came time to putting out a record. He recalls, "I looked in the yellow pages ... and found the Alberti pressing plant. Manufacturing each single cost 29 cents, and sleeves cost a penny. It was a mom and pop organization, with two Latinos in the back pressing records by hand in what looked like a tortilla press. We ordered 500 right off." This was the start of Fatima Records in 1979, a joint venture between Larriva, Yolanda Ferrer (who came through with the money) and Richard Duardo. Together, the three produced the Plugz's " Electrify Me ", and " Better Luck ", as well as The Brat's first and only self-titled album. Self-producing an album was just about the only way Larriva and bandmates Chalo Quintana and Tony Marsico were going to see their music in record stores. Later, in 1983, Ruben Guevara (of Ruben and the Jets and Con Safos) put out a rock compilation on the Rhino/Zyanya label called Los Angelinos. It featured The Brat, the Odd Squad and the Plugz as well.

Larriva's involvement in punk began around 1977 when he was introduced to the burgeoning scene in his backyard in Hollywood, and bands such as the Germs and Alice Bag inspired him to form his own. With rough, sardonic tunes, including a punk version of Chicano cover favorite " La Bamba ", the Plugz earned a seminal spot in the annals of punk, sharing the stage with groups such as X and the Circle Jerks at clubs like Madame Wong's and the Masque. Commenting on the scene's appeal for the many Latinos involved, Larriva says, "I think the 'f--- you' attitude of punk was great for Latinos. You could assimilate into a new culture that was evolving without compromising who you were, or having to be segregated."

Although Larriva's stint with the Plugz was short -- the band broke up in the mid-80s -- he has been busy producing original and creative work in a variety of genres since then. Through the 1980s, he earned some success with the band the Cruzados, and contributed to the soundtracks of films such as Cheech Marin's "Born in East L.A.", Jonathan Demme's "Short Stories" and Robert Rodriguez's "Desperado" and "From Dusk Till Dawn". He has complemented his involvement in movies with small acting jobs, from cameos in Rodriguez's films, to a memorable turn as Pee Wee Herman's nosy neighbor Hammy in the prototype for the cult kiddie show. More recently, Larriva led the house band for Culture Clash's belated Fox TV series and scored last year's Bay Area production of Octavio Solis' play, "Santos & Santos" (produced by Campo Santo).

With his new band, Tito and the Psychotic Aztecs -- in which he is joined by a former bandmate from the Plugz and by members of Oingo Boingo -- Larriva comes full circle, proving that his musical vision remains fresh enough to fit right in with rising rock en espanol bands.

 

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