Nine Questions

Punk rock legends from Heroica Nogales, Sonora, La Merma, started playing its own particular style of "Desierto Sonorense Punk Rock" more than 20 years ago. Ivan Merma, guitarist and vocalist, and the other band members, Jairo, Luis and Claudio, have managed to be outspoken about border issues with their music reflecting what it means to have a band separated by the national scar of the "wall," plus they have the Border Patrol rap sheet to prove it. It takes a special kind of persistence in maintaining a band that has to navigate gunfights, documentation requests and their words, "mucho tequila." Merma is also a published poet ("Rafaga/Sun," published by Guadalajara, Jalisco's Salto Morta) and he says he's working on his second poetry compilation. He and his fellow Nogales desert punkers will be in Tucson performing Saturday, Dec. 6, from 6 to 11 p.m. at Studio One, 197 E. Toole Ave., for Heroica Nogales artist Gabriel Ruiz Villegas' art show "Illegal Aliens." Lenguas Largas and Swing Ding Amigos are also on the bill.

—Mari Herreras,

What was the first concert you attended?

J. Geils Band with my brother and father when I was like six years old, I remember the red carpet and the lights and dancing with my brother who was five. Before I could wipe my butt, I could put on my dad's "Bloodshot" album carefully on the turntable.  I loved that red vinyl and I loved that band!

What are you listening to these days?

Future Islands, RIP, Paralysis Permanente, Silvio Rodriguez, Corcobados, Arturo Meza, Jose Alfredo Jimenez (with the tequila and a wobbly heart), The Reigning Sound, Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, James Hunter, The Temptations, Suciedad Discriminada, Lopo Drido, La Perra Vida and "Los Demenciales Chicos Accelerados" era ESKORBUTO.

What was the first album you owned?

The Clash's "London Calling" cassette back when I was eight or nine years old.  My baby brother Mario used to mimic Joe Strummer in the "Rock the Casbah," video in his diapers and I loved that song. I grew to love the second side of that album and got to know Ginsberg by it.  My first vinyl album was Men at Work's "Business as Usual." I loved the song "Be Good Johnny," and I would sing along to it quite obnoxiously loud!

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone seem to love, but you just don't get?

The Mexican polkas that glorify the narco way of life.  I remember being in the Valley of the Yaqui Mexico and having very talented young people say to me that even though they compose love songs and happy songs, they are committed to that genre because that is where the money is ... I remember feeling sad for the kids and for radio. I also don't get hipster hating hipsters. 

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Jimi Hendrix in his all night Electric Lady Studio sessions where he would pull people off the streets to jam. I get goose bumps just imagining him go wild on his effects and strat, chilling out then going on to the wee hours of the morning with space age frenzy on the guitar ... all smiles and a good gypsy vibe.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

Dancing to early '80s new wave pop hits like New Order's "Blue Monday," Bow Wow Wow's "I Love Candy" (mamacita!) and Duran Duran's "Planet Earth" and "Girls on Film."

What song would you like to have played at your funeral?

"Suite Judy Blue Eyes," from Crosby, Stills and Nash. I would probably piss off my punk rock brethren but that is tough noogies for them!

What artist changed your life and how?

Silvio Rodriguez in High School.  It was the perfect blend of musicianship, poetry and activism.  I remember the long discussions with the artist Carlos Ibarra Michel about the metaphors and what the singer was conveying and what it meant and who he was talking about.  It opened up a whole world of art and radicalism that was at another level than what I was listening to at the time.  It also introduced me to the infinite ways you can play a song, all the different types and styles and brushstrokes you can use and fall in love with. It was a union of visuals for my ear and heart.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Silvio Rodriguez's "Mujeres." It runs the gamut of emotions and feelings for me and I hold it in high esteem as a very powerful work of art.  I seem to turn to it at different times throughout my life and I consider it a very good friend at this point.

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