Photograph by Javier Revuelta Leon
Javier Escovedo: “It’s go time. This is not a drill. The Zeros documentary is in production.”
“It’s go time. This is not a drill. The Zeros documentary is in production,” says Javier Escovedo, who is working with filmmakers Anthony Ladesich and Michael Webber on a movie about his influential 1970s punk band. “Interviews with Baba Chenelle are in the can, and Robert Lopez will be interviewed in Seattle in April.”
Escovedo lived in Huntington Beach before moving to Chula Vista in his teens and forming the Zeros, aka “the Mexican Ramones,” in 1976. After debuting at a dance in Rosarito, Mexico, their first major gig was the following year in Los Angeles at the Orpheum Theater, with the Germs and the Weirdos. Their debut vinyl single, “Wimp” b/w “Don’t Push Me Around,” released by Bomp Records in 1977, is now a highly collectible punk rarity. They went on to play storied venues such as CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City in New York City, the Masque and the Whisky in L.A., and San Francisco’s Mabuhay Gardens and Deaf Club.
The band’s songs have been covered by Hoodoo Gurus (who took on the first Zeros release “Wimp,” which was also once covered by Swedish band Nomads), Spain’s La Secta (who tackled the sophomore Zeros single “Wild Weekend”), Wednesday Week (“They Say That Everything’s Alright”), the Muffs (“Beat Your Heart Out”), Mudhoney (whose singer Mark Arm once sang on the Zeros track “No Fun”), and Sator, whose cover of “Black and White” reached number two on the Swedish charts.
The Zeros were known for their own offbeat covers, including a B-side featuring the Righteous Brothers’ “Little Latin Lupe Lu.” In 2007, Squiddo frontwoman Maren Parusel formed an all-girl Zeros tribute band Wild Weekend, with singer Kelly Alvarez and Kaitlin (bassist for the Atoms). The group was later male-infiltrated, and then broke up as Parusel launched a solo career.
When the Zeros initially split in the early 80s, Escovedo played alongside his brother Alejandro with Austin-based True Believers, and then founded the band City Lights. After spending 12 years in Hollywood, 2 in New York, 5 in Austin, and 3 in San Francisco, he moved back to Chula Vista in 2007.
Guitarist/singer Robert Lopez would later gain fame as El Vez, the Mexican Elvis. Many El Vez bios, as well as several online articles and bios about the Zeros, claim he and the Zeros are from L.A. When they broke up, Lopez had already quit to join the band Catholic Discipline. Various partial reunions have taken place, including 1992 recording sessions.
Until 2009, Zeros bassist/singer Hector Penalosa (Squiddo) declined to take part in most Zeros’ reunions. In a Reader interview, he accused Javier Escovedo of “stepping over people... just because he can get money out of it, because some people will pay good money for the Zeros.” Penalosa said he took part in some of the 1999 Zeros recordings, but that only Escovedo got paid. “[Other band members] didn’t get diddly-squat,” according to Penalosa at the time. Escovedo responded that “It’s a set of circumstances that I can’t talk about...a certain amount of money that was expected was not earned, didn’t come into the band.” They subsequently settled those differences.
In summer 2009, four Zeros reunited for several west coast concerts; Penalosa, Baba Chenelle, Escovedo, and Lopez. European dates were subsequently booked. That September, the band picked up a Lifetime Achievement nod at the San Diego Music Awards. When the Zeros played the September 2014 San Diego Music Thing, the lineup featured Escovedo, Chenelle, Hector Penalosa on bass, and Victor Penalosa on guitar (Robert Lopez, aka El Vez, was MIA).
A new Zeros single was released in late 2019 on Munster Records in Madrid, “In the Spotlight,” with a video filmed and edited by Kelly Paige Standard and David Robles. Documentary filmmakers are seeking any photos of the Zeros, together or individually, as well as cassettes, Polaroids, flyers, and especially any film or video footage.