November 25, 2020

The story of ‘El Drogas’, or how Barricada’s combative rock became an emblem of the Spanish working-class neighborhoods


“Who am I? Maybe I’m just a misshapen guy, walking crooked so he can see what’s on the other side.” These are the first words of Enrique Villarreal, better known as ‘El Drogas’ (Pamplona, ​​1959), in the documentary film that reviews his life and that is in theaters after his time at the San Sebastian Festival.

Villarreal was born with a nerve in his eye that did not develop well. He could have had surgery at age 7, but he had a 50% chance of remaining one-eyed. It was too risky, so her mother played it safe. “He preferred to have a stupid child than a stupid one-eyed one,” he jokes. “There begins the story of my characteristic walk: I have to go crooked to see balanced life.”

The documentary of El Drogas It is the intimate approach to one of the great emblems of rock music in our country, to someone who has been slapping the system in chords for almost four decades and still today, as it was said. in an interview with elDiario.es, considers that he continues to go through “a learning path.” But the feature film shows the opposite: someone who already has a name written in capital letters in the history of Spanish music along with other great figures such as Rosendo Mercado, who in 2018 he said goodbye to the stage after 45 years of career. But where does it all begin?


To talk about the origins of El Drogas, we must go back to the early 1960s, to the Pamplona neighborhood of Txantrea, where the musician arrived at the age of two. That place, and precisely during the last years of the dictatorship, would mark a before and after for the singer. When he was very young, he verified the power of the workers’ mobilizations and the consequences that, on more than one occasion, they ended up having to manifest themselves. “You are sucking these kinds of things and they lead you to a way of thinking,” confesses Villareal shortly before telling how more than once he saw his father come home with his pants torn and full of blood.

From there drink the lyrics of songs like Troubled neighborhood, where the singer directly appeals to the fights between the gangs and the police of his place of origin: “The torture in the interrogations, aggressions, anguish and pain. La Txantrea, sinister nightmare, you are guilty of wanting to live in peace. your streets there is no place for them. Let them go, we don’t want to see them. ”


But, although El Drogas had already taken some steps as a singer, in 1980 this advance would be stopped by an event: the military. It was there that he came up with the idea for a group called Barricada. It arose in the context of Franco’s death, the social and political revolts, the barricades of Txantrea, the record Ace of spades of Motorhead … Those were some of the ingredients that would give rise to the group that years later would be filling auditoriums throughout Spain

Before, you had to recruit its members, including Javier Hernández (Boni). Enrique discovered him one Sunday on the Txantrea trail, up on a stage playing the guitar while his hair fell down his face. El Drogas didn’t even need to see his face: he knew right away that he had to recruit him for his new training. “I had a relationship with him as brothers, we were together every day of the year rehearsing, putting in hours, composing … It’s something that has always been there: his music and my lyrics,” says Villareal.

Barricada was born in 1982. Just two years later, they went from giving small bowls in Txantrea to filling auditoriums almost anywhere. “It has always given me the feeling that the waves could carry them ahead”, observes Marino Goñi, producer of Barricada’s first album.

Mikel Astrain’s coup

But the documentary does not stop only in the moments of success: it also reviews those hard times for the singer. The first of these was the death of the group’s drummer, Mikel Astrain, who died at the age of 24 as a result of a stroke. “We had a relationship as brothers. That person is part of me, and it will be forever,” laments Villareal.

El Drogas cannot be understood without his family, especially without Mamen Irujo, his “partner”, as he calls her. For this reason, after the singer, she is the figure that appears the most in the documentary: she is the co-star of Enrique’s life, and also the one responsible for putting his feet on the ground when he played. “There was a season when they were very high. I understand, because you are out and you are the center of attention. You are going to light a cigarette and you have four or five. Everyone praises you. And it is difficult to get home and that they tell you: look, nice guy. I’m sorry, but the washing machine is waiting to be laid “, Irujo mentions.

But what was the key to Barricada’s success? According to Marino Goñi, the ability to lead young people. “The good thing about El Drogas is that it connected with all the teenagers in the neighborhoods of all the cities. What it said in Txantrea was valid for Vallecas,” says the producer.

Goodbye to Barricada

Another of the hardest stages of El Drogas, as is well known, is the end of Barricada. “I was on a wheel that was very good for the first 10 years, but then I saw myself dragging too much from the car,” explains the musician, who in October 2010 learned from an acquaintance that his own group was looking for a replacement for him. “That was how I found out. That moment was devastating for me and my family,” laments Villareal. “I would have liked to have been so brave as to have made the decision. I would say that I had a couple of balls to say ‘I’m leaving’, but it was not like that. They threw me out,” he adds.

The relationship with Boni was cut short. However, the guitarist received devastating news: he had laryngeal cancer and lost his voice after undergoing an operation to remove it. “We could have had our pluses and minuses within the final theme in Barricada, but this went much further,” considers El Drogas.

After eight years without speaking, they met again in Pamplona in the dressing room of Rosendo’s final tour. “I hope you can realize that he is a great songwriter (…) and that when it comes to giving voice there are many people who can do it”, encourages Villareal to his former partner, the same as in the 80s shared the stage to the rhythm of Welcome.

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