Emilio Morales began producing his magazine, La Banda Elastica, in his Long Beach bedroom in 1992 as a photocopied, four-page newsletter with a circulation of 500.
Four years later, it reaches 20,000 readers throughout the United States and in several Latin American countries, and is widely regarded as the leading publication in the world of rock en espan~ol, the Spanish-language rock movement that has become an increasingly strong force in contemporary pop. The magazine also paved the way for the outpouring of fanzines that has become one of the most fascinating byproducts of rock en espan~ol.
La Banda Elastica celebrates its fourth anniversary on Friday as the honoree at the "Revolucion '96" concert, a massive gathering of rock en espan~ol acts at the Universal Amphitheatre.
"All I wanted to do was provide a source of information for die-hard fans, but it ended up bigger than I thought," says Morales, who distributed the first issue at a rock en espan~ol contest in Huntington Park.
Thanks to a few advertisers and a steadily increasing list of subscribers, La Banda Elastica (which translates as "the rubber band") gradually improved its look and added more pages. The turning point came two years ago when then-BMG Records executive Jorge Erinwald, impressed by Morales' striking graphic designs, offered to buy some space to assure the magazine's stability and the regularity of its publication.
Despite concerns expressed by some critics that this alliance compromises his editorial independence, Morales, 32, says he has maintained the magazine's credibility and influence.
"We have nothing to do with either journalism or entertainment," Morales says. "All we're doing is exposing something that's happening, not pontificating. It is the task of future generations to deal with any journalistic considerations. Rock en espan~ol can't afford not to take advantage of [every] opportunity."
Morales cites the success of his magazine and the presence of the only radio station in the country to air a considerable amount of rock en espan~ol 24 hours a day--KRTO-FM (98.3)--as two indicators of Southern California's importance in the world of Spanish-language rock.
"Our own growth is proof that something is going on with the Latino youth here," Morales says. "We're not as fully developed as the Mexico or Argentina scenes, but our growth rate is much faster."
Friday's "Revolucion" concert, the third staging of the annual event, is a rock en espan~ol rarity in that most of the bands come from countries other than Mexico and Argentina, the music's two leading centers.
Besides major forces such as Maldita Vecindad, Fobia and La Lupita, all of Mexico, the festival marks the long-awaited Los Angeles debut of Colombia's Aterciopelados, one of the movement's hottest acts. Aterciopelados' singer, Andrea Echeverri, who grew up listening to Mexican rancheras, and the punk-influenced bassist Hector Buitrago rank among the best songwriters of rock en espan~ol. Other acts playing L.A. for the first time include Puerto Rico's Puya and Sol D' Menta and Panama's Rabanes.
"Rock en espan~ol is no longer the property of Mexico, Argentina or Spain," Morales says. "It is a global movement, and Los Angeles is one of its main centers. And this is just the beginning."
* "Revolucion '96," featuring Maldita Vecindad, Fobia, La Lupita, Sol D' Menta, Aterciopelados and others, Friday at the Universal Amphitheatre, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, 4:30 p.m. $15-$75. (818) 622-4440.