LOS ANGELES, April 14, 2013 — Union 13 was formed in East L.A. in 1992 and signed a contract with Epitaph five years later. In the 20 years since they started out, the band has gone through a lot of changes. Recently, bass player Balti Rodriguez and original singer Edward Escoto took some time to sit down and discuss the band’s past, their influences, and the formation of the current lineup.
THIS IS PART ONE OF A THREE PART INTERVIEW
Kevin Wells: What does the name Union 13 mean? Where does it come from?
Edward Escoto: It means friendship, unity, you know? That’s how we came up with the name. Me, Jerry [Navarro] and Louie [Villareal] grew up in East L.A. We went to the same high school. And same with Ben [Sandoval], our old guitar player, or actually our original guitar player. So we were just sitting one day and we said, “What name should we pick?” We just said, “Union” because of the friendship, unity, all of us together. The “13” came after and the reason why was legal reasons. There was another band in Florida that had the same name. We had been playing with the same name for four years already and we had already established a fan base and we were already getting signed to Epitaph. So it was hard for us to part with the name. So we decided to put a number. We talked to Brett [Gurewitz] and the legal department [at Epitaph] and they said, yeah you can add something after the “Union.” So we said, why not Union 13? Cause that’s a number everyone associates with, either bad luck, good luck or just some mysterious number. We just decided to say, “Union 13.”
Balti Rodriguez: And I think the “13” eventually started identifying the fact that we were Latino kids.
Edward: Yeah, actually it identifies with both, you know, because a lot of greasers use that, a lot of people use the “13.” It means something to someone.
KW: What bands inspired you to want to start your own band?
Balti: For me, I grew up listening to all the good punk rock bands like Dead Kennedys, Subhumans, all the older stuff, Bad Religion, for sure. I just remember being a kid, at first, it was just the fact that the music was fast and aggressive and that’s the way I was feeling. And then later those bands really started standing out because of their lyrical content.
Edward: For me, it was Bad Religion. I grew up listening to Bad Religion. The first Bad Religion CD that I got was Against the Grain. That was like, it blew my mind. I never heard anything besides that and then I went to see them in concert and it was just amazing, it was just amazing. I was like, maybe 15 or 16 years old, my first Bad Religion concert, it was a killer. Now, you know, I listen to a lot of new stuff too because when you’re a musician, you got to listen to different types of music. You can’t just be centered on one style. So I listen to everything, Social Distortion to AFI to Rage Against the Machine, you know just a lot of different types of music, even hip hop, everything that’s good, you know?
Balti: When I first heard Bad Religion, I got one of the tapes and I remember looking at the logo and being like, “F**k, that’s a strong logo,” you know, a strong image. And then when I started listening to it, I think the first record for me was How Can Hell Be Any Worse? And when I took the bus to school, I had a tape, well, I had a Walkman back in the Walkman days. I made a tape and it was How Can Hell Be Any Worse? on one side and Rage on the other and it got stuck. So those are the two albums I listened for two years going to school.
Edward: Same with me, I had Bad Religion on one side and Dead Kennedys on the other. That was it, you know?
KW: Edward, why did you leave the band?
Edward: Well, I left the band because we were touring too much, you know? When we got signed to Epitaph, they demanded you to tour to promote the new records, right? So, we were touring constantly, like nine months out of the year, 10 months out of the year. I was always on the road and after nine years, you just get burned out. You just don’t want to do it anymore. You see your family a lot less. Plus, you know, I didn’t feel like it was fair for our fans to see. My performance was lacking energy. I thought I was being fake. I just decided I need some time off. The good thing is that Jose [Merado] took charge of the band and started singing and playing guitar. So, that kind of saved Union for a while.
KW: And what made you come back?
Edward: The reason I came back, come on, man. If you’re a musician, you miss it. You just can’t stay away from music. Those four years for me, it was trying to get my energy back. After four years it happened and I decided to come back.
KW: How did this version of Union 13 come about?
Edward: I’ve known Balti for more than 10 years. He used to play in a different band called Schizm and we used to play together, you know? After our bass player left, I hit him up. He wasn’t doing anything and I liked his style. He was a really cool guy and I like his energy on stage. And plus, he’s another singer. That’s what I needed. I needed someone to help me do backups. So I asked him to come in the band and he just brings that other type of energy into the stage. Eddie [Carrasco], he was already in the band when I got [back] in the band. Eddie was in the band. So he was already there. And Cassie, it was just by luck the way we got Cassie [Jalilie]. We were actually on tour playing Gilman St. and she was just a fan. She came up to us and we were talking. I don’t know who brought up that we needed a drummer. At the time, the drummer we had was just a filler. And she goes, “I play drums.”
Balti: And we said, “Yeah, right!” And she was like, “No, listen to the recordings.” It wasn’t until, I think a month later we were at band practice and we had a bunch of dates and the guy that was filling for us said, “I can’t. I have to work.”
Edward: Yeah, he had to go to Comic-Con.
Balti: I was like, “I’m tired of this s**t. Who got that girl’s number?” And I called her on the spot.
Edward: She sent us actual video of her playing “Never Connected” and she was dead on, you know?
Balti: She was from The Bay, so I said, “Look, instead of you driving down here and trying out, why don’t you record some songs on Youtube and send ‘em to me?” So the next day, she sent us “Never Connected,” “First Day of Promise,” which will be on the new EP, and I don’t remember what the other one was. It was three songs immediately. So two weeks later, she came down. I sent her a list of songs we normally play. And she came down and knocked out 28 songs.
Edward: We had a show a week later and she played with us. It was just amazing, you know? And that’s the good thing. When you get members that are fans of the band, they bring that level of energy you’re looking for. You just can’t get just anyone to come in or to try and make ‘em like your band, you know? So I think, Balti, Cassie, and Eddie have always been fans of the band. That’s what I like about them, you know? They’re not there just to get something out of the band, they bring something to the band.
THIS IS PART ONE OF A THREE PART INTERVIEW
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.