Mexican American contributions to heavy metal


In 2008, five brothers from Juarez, Mexico, formed a band called Metalachi to play traditional mariachi versions of popular heavy metal songs. Using stage names and wearing costumes to conceal their identities, the quintet’s genre fusion has caught on with mariachi and metal audiences alike. And it’s really not so strange. Mexican Americans and Hispanics have made significant contributions to the metal genre over the past 40 years. Here are 12 of the most significant.

1: Jose Mangin. Mangin helped launch the Liquid Metal and Octane heavy metal stations on Sirius XM satellite radio and continues to curate content for the stations as Sirius XM’s “metal ambassador.” Born in Phoenix and raised nine blocks from the border fence in Douglas, Arizona, Mangin takes pride in his heritage and frequently speaks Spanish on his stations. “My tattoos are Azteca, taken from the museum in Mexico City. My boots are made in Mexico, as well. I’m Mexicano,” Mangin told Phoenix New Times. “Having a Mexican in charge of the biggest rock channels in the world is pretty cool.” 

In addition to his metal ambassador duties for Sirius XM, Mangin is a successful businessman who co-owns the Riazul tequila brand and popular rock clothing line Affliction. His “energy and enthusiasm for hard rock and heavy metal is unmatched,” DED singer Joe Cotela told The Entertainer! magazine. “It’s always a good time and a good hang with him. Plus, he’s from our home state of Arizona. The heat breeds metalheads.”

2: Randy Castillo. Born Randolpho Francisco Castillo, the late drummer better known as Randy Castillo was called “the godfather of heavy metal drumming” by Kip Winger. In addition to playing with Ozzy Osbourne’s band for a decade and on five albums, Castillo also spent several years drumming for Lita Ford and Motley Crue. The percussionist, who was of Apache and Hispanic descent, also had a mariachi side project called Azul. After Castillo’s death from cancer at age 51, tributes came in from all over the music world. Many can be seen in the 2014 documentary “The Life, Blood, and Rhythm of Randy Castillo.” 

“Randy stuck out from other drummers,” said Lita Ford, who narrated the documentary. “He had his own style, his own personality, that was unique. It was so very much just Randy.” 

3: Robert Trujillo. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the bass player for Metallica, Trujillo has further heavy metal bona fides that include playing for Ozzy Osbourne and a long tenure with Suicidal Tendencies. He displays his Mexican and Native American roots on one of his basses, with a pyrography design of the Aztec calendar done by his wife, Chloe. “Trujillo is a master of rhythm,” music journalist Chuck Armstrong wrote. “Trujillo is a mad scientist when it comes to jamming on the bass guitar, primarily focusing on plucking the strings with his fingers.” 

4: Vince Neil. The Motley Crue singer has Mexican ancestry on his mother’s side (her maiden name was Ortiz) and owns a Mexican restaurant in Las Vegas called Vince Neil’s Tatuado Cantina. Raul Malo, lead singer of Latin-tinged country group The Mavericks, cites Neil as an influence. The Mavericks contributed a track to an album of country covers, “Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute to Motley Crue.”

5: Dino Cazares. Guitarist for L.A.-based Mexican extreme metal band Brujeria and co-founder of industrial metal band Fear Factory, Cazares pioneered and popularized the use of digital amp modeling processors for seven- and eight-string guitars. Hollywood Music magazine called Cazares “a master of his craft who has manifested his own signature sound … he is the riff master.” 

6: Carlos Cavazo. Considered by some to be one of the most underrated metal guitarists ever, Cavazo replaced Randy Rhoads in groundbreaking early ‘80s metal band Quiet Riot. He also played for a time with the band Ratt. 

7: Raymond Herrera. Drummer Raymond Herrera blazed a trail with Brujeria and Fear Factory. His style helped define the latter’s sound. “From the beginning of this band, the essence of Fear Factory was Raymond’s drumming,” Fear Factory singer Burton C. Bell told Modern Drummer magazine. “He’s a machine.”

8: Dave Navarro. Called “one of the last great guitarists” by Black Flag and Rollins Band singer Henry Rollins, Navarrowas reportedly Axl Rose’s first choice to replace Izzy Stradlin in Guns N’ Roses in 1991, but he never showed up to any of the four scheduled auditions with Slash. Navarro was already busy with seminal alternative rock band Jane’s Addiction. In 1993, he joined another pioneer of the genre, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Music critic Greg Prato deemed Navarro “one of alternative rock’s first true guitar heroes.”

9: Zack de la Rocha. The Rage Against the Machine singer infuses his music with influences from his Mexican ancestry (his paternal grandfather fought in the Mexican Revolution) and his experiences growing up in east Los Angeles, where his father, artist Robert “Beto” de la Rocha, was a member of Los Four, the first Chicano collective to have work exhibited in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 

10. Fieldy. Born Reginald Arvizu,Korn bass player Fieldy is known for his hip-hop inspired riffs and bass slapping. In 2017, he won the award for best bassist at the Alternative Press Music Awards. 

11. Chino Moreno. Deftones singerCamilo “Chino” Moreno’s mother is of Mexican and Chinese descent and his father is Mexican. He got his nickname “Chino” (shortened from chinito, Spanish for “little Chinese one”) as a child.  Moreno ranked 51 on Hit Parader’s list of the top 100 metal vocalists of all time.

12. Cedric Bixler-Zavala. The son of Mexican immigrants, vocalist Bixler-Zavala has sung for numerous projects but is best known for fronting Mars Volta and being the only constant member of At the Drive-In.


Mexico Daily Post