"Punk is life" was seemingly the main point Manoz Zuziaz lead singer Jamie Laguna tried to get across during an interview with his band at Laguna's home in Mesa. Based on his wardrobe, which consists entirely of studded denim vests and band T-shirts (except for his work Dickies), Laguna and his band are trying to live as punk as possible.
Another clear point that Laguna conveyed was that his English isn't so good ("My English very suck"). But that one statement was, in a way, a testament to Laguna himself. The words he uses may not be easy to discern in conversation or while Manoz Zuziaz is playing, but the meaning comes through loud and clear.
"Punk means freedom for me. It's my life. The punk is no rules. Do whatever you want without caring what the people think and trying to be on their good side," says Laguna, assisted through translation by bass player Mayra Hernandez. "Punk means to have strong ideas and stand up for them."
Manoz Zuziaz (an intentional mispelling of the Spanish "manos sucias") means "dirty hands," in this case signifying that everyone's hands are dirty in some sense. Laguna, who is the only remaining original band member, said he started Manoz Zuziaz in 2010 to "change the world," but after realizing that might be difficult, he decided he could at least try to "change somebody."
Something else Manoz Zuziaz is hoping to change is the generally accepted model for live music in Phoenix, which is mostly based around the bar scene.
"Me hate the bars," says Laguna. He accused bars of abusing bands and says "they want everything for themselves. They don't even give you a cup of water or beer, minors can't enter, and beer is too expensive," along with a laundry list of other issues with the bar scene.
Manoz Zuziaz instead does the majority of its performing at house shows and benefit concerts, even opting to bring Little Caesar's pizzas and beers with them to share with the other bands and audience.
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"The house show is more cool, more party, more everything. . . . I need to change the system," Laguna says. "I like more attitude in shows, or shows for somebody, or a concert for something, not only for a party. It can be for both, the concerts I play are for drink or funny times. But I will never go to commercial show again. Maybe I go play to express my ideas."
In the past, Manoz Zuziaz has played benefit concerts for causes ranging from anti-police and Joe Arpaio to SB1070 to the March Against Monsanto, as well as playing shows to help friends pay medical bills, pet expenses, and all other manner of financial help.
Moving forward, the three-piece Spanish-language punk band will release its debut album, Ugly Punk, with a raucous California house show on June 19, before coming back to Arizona for a round of benefit concerts.
"English in Mexico was the worst class I ever took, so I never thought I'd come back here," says Laguna, a U.S. citizen born in Minnesota but raised in Guadalajara, Mexico. "I didn't expect to come to here, and being a part of the music scene is definitely something I didn't expect."