Words: Richard Robledo Images: Daniel Rojas (@Fog.Again)
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Leafar Seyer before going on stage at The Mayan in downtown Los Angeles to discuss the continued success of Prayers, Leafar's upbringing, the message of "Mexica" and what the future has in store. This is part 1 of 2 of our conversation. Check back next week for the conclusion.
Q: With all of your continued success, how has it been transitioning from an underground movement to almost a mainstream cult following?
Well, I’m kind of from the outside looking in myself to be honest with you. We have been so busy, that I haven’t really had the opportunity to reflect on all of the growth you know. Because we’ve still been so hands on and we’re still D.I.Y. its not like we jumped into a label, even though we’ve had a lot of people who have helped us with that growth. They’ve kind of taught us the ropes and we’ve been able to continue to stay D.I.Y. because we have people like Travis, and other homies like William Control who’ve been in the game for so long, that they know the business from inside and out. So, it’s great. At the same time, it’s cool to be recognized for music, instead of being recognized for a past reputation in San Diego.
In my home town a lot of people know who I am but they know me for the wrong reasons. They know me for fighting or for gang banging. So it’s kind of cool to be recognized for something else, something artistic, something creative. I like that a lot, I enjoy that people recognize me for the music that David and I are creating, instead of for getting in trouble. So from that perspective, I guess it’s been good.
Q: Alright so, speaking a little bit about your past, how’d you end up writing a book, especially while being incarcerated?
I was actually trying to reconnect with myself. When I was in jail I was kind of reflecting on my life and trying to put the pieces together and trying to really just understand why I even ended up in jail. Like what happened to get me to a point where I was so chaotic in my life and the way that I was living? I realized that it was because of my father’s death, and I hadn’t really mourned correctly or hadn’t let go of his death so I went on this destructive path.
As a child, I spent a lot of time in therapy. I was extremely violent as a kid and at one point I ended up beating up this kid with a baseball bat in front of my mother. When that happened, my mother immediately was like- “Ok. There’s something wrong with my son. This isn’t natural, children shouldn’t be doing this.”… We were really poor, but she was really resourceful and she would ask around at school and she was able to get me a free therapist through the school. I spent like…I want to say a good 4 years of my life in and out of therapy. I got to the point where I...actually started progressing and learning how to control my emotions through the therapy. I also fell in love with hypnosis because of it. They were hypnotizing me a lot, in order for me to... they’re called triggers, which are things that set you off… they were helping me control these emotions with these triggers and I fell in love with hypnosis. One of the practices of it was really just self awareness and self exploration.
So when I was in jail I kind of remembered everything that I learned in therapy as a kid and the process was really just to write down everything you are feeling, and what you’re going through. So I started putting all of my feelings and emotions on paper and I wrote this huge auto-biography I guess you could say. And that’s really what it was. It was kind of just self-therapy, trying to figure out all that had happened to me. So when I got out, I realized that I had this huge massive work that I had done. But I didn’t want to get so personal so I actually just took some of the stories and made it into almost like a comic strip. I wanted the process to be more of like all kill and no fill. So I wanted the exciting parts of what I was going through in this little book. I wanted it also to be accessible to people in my community and I realized a lot of the people I hung out with don’t read or wouldn’t even pick up a book. So I wanted to make it friendlier in a sense, even though the content isn’t so friendly.
This all goes back to me spending a lot of time in therapy, so I kind of think like a therapist. I analyze everything I do. I analyze when I’m speaking, I analyze the way I dress, the way I communicate with people, the people that I surround myself with, I’m always constantly inside my head, kind of observing myself and my surroundings. So even when I was putting this book together, I was also analyzing in a third-person perspective, like outside of me and this being my life, let’s put it in an outsiders perspective in your environment, and what would they think of this… Maybe I might have to make it a little bit more digestible for people so I started adding illustrations and I started adding photographs…I thought it would be cool if I made it almost like a comic book type of thing. So like your reading, there’s a picture that helps you digest what your reading or there’s an illustration and vice versa. So I went along and put all these different pieces together and that’s how I came up with the book. It was just getting different pieces of my life. In the book it’s a straight line, but in reality those are different moments that happened throughout my life and I put the pieces together. Really, the book, and everything I do even to the music, is just about self awareness and self exploration, and basically me trying to understand my life, and my role in life, and trying to be active, and involved in the life that I’m living instead of just letting the current take me where ever it chooses to. Even though I do that too, allow the current to take me where it wants to, but I’m also very very involved mentally in my life. When I speak, I also kind of speak like a labyrinth, so sometimes its hard for me to give people a straight answer. I have to go through this whole maze of language, before I get to the point.
Q: You released 2 singles off your new EP, Black Leather, with Kat Von D and "Mexica". Can you tell us how you first linked up with Kat?
I met Kat Von D through Travis Barker. We were at the studio, and I was playing him some new music that we were working on, and I was mentioning this idea that I had for a music video… and he was like “You know who would be great for that music video, Kat Von D.” So I was like, “Yo, can you make that happen?” And he was like, “Yeah, that’s my home girl. I’ll give her a call right now.” So he gave her a call, they talked, he sent her the music and she was stoked on it and said, “Yeah, I would like to meet this guy”. So he gave me her my number, I gave her a call and we set up a day that we could meet. I went over to her pad, we talked, I played her some music and she loved it and she’s like “Yo, I really love what you’re doing.” At the beginning Kat was just going to be in my music video. That’s all it was. She was just going to be in a music video. I already knew that she was classically trained to play the piano, and that she could sing. People know who Kat Von D is, and so do I obviously. I was working on “Black Leather”, and I had played her “Black Leather”, and I was like, you know, I feel like its missing something, like, this song is missing something, and I was like “Would you sing on this track?” and she was like, “Yeah, why not.” So she came over to our studio and in one day, man she just went in the studio, and I told her do your thing, like feel the song out let it speak to you and whatever you feel let it just come out and we’ll run with that. She went in and started harmonizing and doing her thing and the song came out, and she did it in one take immediately, and we were like “Yo, this is it. This is what we want.”
But, yeah, I met Kat Von D through Travis Barker. I mean, Travis, you know, not because this is a Famous Stars and Straps thing, but you know, Travis has been very supportive. He’s opened up a lot of doors for us and he’s been one of those persons who’s been flying Prayers, flying as high as he can. He wears the shirts when he’s playing, when he’s on the road, he’s always talking about us. So, I mean, you know like, I mean I’ll say it. A lot of our success is due to the big homie, you know. Having our back.
Q: What message is “Mexica” delivering? Can you tell us a little bit about the lyrics, and the meaning of the song?
Well for me it was about decolonizing. I realized I was so disconnected. I’ve always been kind of an outsider, kind of an outcast. I really didn’t connect with my own culture because I came here at such a young age, and because of the way schools are in America, they don’t really teach you about your history. They just teach you about American history, and that’s all you learn, is American history, you don’t learn about the history of different cultures. There are so many, you know. America is a melting pot of different people. So you gotta kind of, find your roots on your own, and our culture, you know normally it’s on the walls, it’s on murals right, that’s how we deal with it. Now growing up, I would see murals, but my family grew up catholic, so that’s what we learned, was Catholicism. It wasn’t until I got into gangs that I started getting decolonized, and started learning more about the indigenous people of this continent, and finding out that I’m part of that lineage, that I’m an indigenous person.
For a long time, I went to a “white” school, but I grew up in a Mexican neighborhood, so I never really connected that much with my culture and didn’t know much about it. Really this song / video is about me reconnecting with my roots and where I come from. And this song is really about decolonization. Decolonizing myself, decolonizing my mind. That’s why in the video it opens up as I’m dead, you know, because the Mexica dancer finds me, he’s looking for me to decolonize myself. So it’s kind of a metaphor for me seeing the force for the trees, and being able to reconnect. And I realize it’s not just me. There’s a lot of Mexican people that really are unaware of their lineage and the genius behind it. Because in reality we’re taught that for so long, that we’re just these humble people that come here and we do the jobs that other people don’t want to do… basically come here illegally, and I realized that was wrong, that that language was incorrect, that we are not illegal, we are not immigrants. The thing is, we are indigenous to this continent, to this land. So we are not really the immigrants, the immigrants are everyone else. I realized we’re so disconnected as people because of this, because we’re told to go back to wherever, Mexico. And it’s funny because everyone outside of this culture has a home to go to. African Americans, they have Africa. So if you’re Black, you’re like..Ay, you have the mother land, right? And if you’re German you have the fatherland, which is Germany. Everybody has somewhere to go. The Japanese have Japan. The Chinese have China, right? So they have their own continent that still really belongs to them and to their culture that they have deep roots in. But we’ve been so colonized because things were taken from us, that we ourselves can’t connect in that way, we’re like, “oh, where we from?” And they say, ”Hey, get the fuck out of here”, and we’re like, “well where do we go? Can’t go to Africa, cus’ I’m not from there. Can’t go to Asia, cus’ I’m not from there. Can’t go to Europe, cus’ I’m not from there.” So you’re like, “do I not belong anywhere?” Then you realize, oh no, fuck, the language is wrong. I am home, this is my continent, and the deeper I got with it you know… I’m just in love again with self awareness and self exploration, right? I wanted to know more about myself, and my lineage, and because of that, I put together this message.
To me it’s not really a song in any way, shape, or form, and I realize that we’re still repeating history over and over, like the things that are happening in North Dakota with the pipe line, you know… Obviously it started with Donald Trump, you know? When he came in and started using the language that he uses to communicate, and it’s a language that’s derogatory towards Mexicans. He didn’t say Latinos, he didn’t say Hispanics, he said Mexicans, right? I love that he said that in a way, “Mexicans”, because in reality, “Latino” is a term that’s used for Italians. Italians are the original Latinos, right? So we’re not “Latinos”.
And “Hispanics” are from Spain, they’re Spaniards. So, it’s again incorrect language, right? And that language is so incorrect it continues to rob us of our language, and it continues to rob us of our minds, and you continue to think Latinos, or Hispanics, so we start using terms that we didn’t come up with for ourselves. The terms that really came up from the colonizers. So I realized that I myself had a lot of work to do, and the more that I did, that’s how “Mexica” developed. “Mexica” was really something that was a gift. It was a gift that I wanted to do for our people. And it wasn’t anything to divide. It wasn’t like, “Yo, I want to divide Mexicans with Blacks, Mexicans with Whites.” I just said, everyone has such a rich heritage and history, right? We had one too. We had one too, why not celebrate it? This isn’t about me, you know… putting a fucking thick line on the ground and say, “hey you over there, you over here.” It’s just like, I’m going to celebrate what we’re doing, and where we come from, and we have this rich history too. Like, we’re pyramid builders, and its funny because a lot of times, everything gets taken from us. Like, we can’t even say, Hey, we build pyramids, because oh no, the fucking aliens built pyramids. Because what? We’re not smart enough and genius enough as people to build our own shit? That has to be taken away from us to? And it has to be aliens or this other outside source, maybe… But I like to think, I feel it in my core, my essence, that we’re a part of that rich history, and that’s who we are. So “Mexica” is more of a message to my people, so they can start seeing themselves in a different light. So they don’t have to feel like their only worth is fucking, you know, the backbone of American labor. It was more of that to say, hey man you know there’s something else going on, you’re not just fucking washing dishes, you’re not just doing landscaping, we have a genius too, we are creatives.
That’s what it is, that’s why I put that song out just for free. It’s not going out on any album or nothing. I had to do a ceremony to even do that music video with those dancers. They are a part of a lineage of Mexica dancers. It wasn’t something that even had to do with money. I had to actually do a 2 hour sweat lodge, and I had to do a 24 hour dance and fast. I fasted and danced for 24 hours to summon the spirits of our forefathers to allow me to even do this video. I came up with the concept, and the more involved I got with this concept and with this music video, the more involved it got. Also, the guys were like, “great idea, we’ll help you with it, but you have to pretty much be initiated into this world.” In that, I learned about me and my culture. And then I realized again damn, I really have been disconnected because of religion. Because of religion, again I’ve been so disconnected from the roots. And I realized that’s when I started with the whole “Lucifer rising” thing. I realized that was the beginning of everything for me. Decolonizing my mind when I started falling in love with Lucifarienism, and what it means. The whole wisdom behind it, the whole knowledge behind it. I realized that in a way, I was already setting myself up for this because I was already using that language to communicate what I was doing.
This is another example; so fear right? We’ll throw fear in the mix. So we use emblems right, we’ll use the cross to say well this is Christianity, right? And then the nazi’s will use like the swastika right? Which is actually a symbol of peace. So when people see the swastika, its strikes fear, right? It strikes fear because of what it’s been made to be. So I realized that the cross is kind of the same. At some point when the crusades were happening the indigenous people, as soon as they saw the cross it was instant fear, right? Instant fear. Because they knew if they saw that symbol, they were about to be murdered or burned. That’s the thing, I realized that there are so many things we don’t know about our history, or who we are as people. There were 95% of the indigenous people of this continent that got murdered. There’s only 5% of the indigenous people that survived. And those 5% that survived had to become Catholic or Christian. So we are a mix of this, right? We are a mix of this. It’s really the biggest, biggest genocide that’s ever happened. Bigger than the Jewish genocide, was what happened to the western hemisphere, which is this continent that we’re on which is called turtle island, which has many many names. But I realized like, wow man, you know, my mind has been so colonized that I totally lost this whole wealth of heritage and information that really allows us to think for ourselves and to have pride in what we do. Because if we don’t have an identity, how are we going to identify who we are, and how are we going to hold our heads up high if we are people that have been conquered? And everything that we no longer have due to the suppression, oppression of our history, right?
So I figured since I’m on this platform where people are paying attention to what I’m doing, to what I’m saying, wouldn’t it be just for me to do something that’s gonna actually help somebody who is struggling with identity? Again which is one of the things that we do a lot, we play a lot with, we play with identity, we play with vulnerability but there are so many layers and levels to it. But you know, in a long, long, long way, “Mexica” was just another part of me trying to connect with myself.
(Concluded in Part 2 next week)