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Interviews   

CRISTIAN MACHADO (ILL NIÑO) CONFIDES


Cristian Machado provides great interview material. When asked a question, he takes a deep breath, thinks for a while, then he spills everything out like a brainstorming, and does his best to have it make sense. We’re far from the pre-arranged answers you get from other musicians. Even better, he’s glad to illustrate his answers with personal anecdotes, and he isn’t afraid to speak from the heart.

Here, at Radio Metal, we love these interviews that take us somewhere else entirely, just like our chat with Arjen Lucassen. So right in the middle of this interview, we went off course for a while, as Cristian touchingly told us about his childhood. Growing up overseas, with no ties, and oblivious to his father’s identity, young Cristian was in awe when he discovered an Iron Maiden album. The memory is still crystal-clear, and he tells us all about it. The story allowed us to debate about what brought us towards heavy metal, which, in the end, doesn’t have that much to do with Ill Niño, but turns out to be by far the most interesting part of this interview.

[NDLR : about Against The Wall video]« the wood represent this place where you can’t be judge, this place where people’s opinion doesn’t matter, no matter what you did, no matter what you lived. Acceptance and desolation are what wood represent. »

You left Roadrunner in 2006. More recently, it is also what Daath and Cradle Of Filth did to go with more modest record companies. Paul Allender from Cradle Of Filth told us a couple of weeks ago that they prefer to be a big fish in a small pond rather than a small fish in a big pond. Do you agree with this sentence?

That’s funny he said that. I think that I both agree and disagree with it. You don’t want to be a shark in a pond or else you would not be able to survive. It is not 100 % true but I can agree a little with that.

Is it a bad move to go with Roadrunner when you are still not a « big fish »? Can’t we rely on Roadrunner to make a band getting bigger and consequently, is it necessary to wait until being successful enough to plan to work with them?

For us, leaving Roadrunner was a way to spread ourselves a little more. But Roadrunner is a good label. They are very professional. As Cradle Of Filth guitar player says they have lots of bands who sell millions of albums each year. It is not really a musical competition but rather a business one. You’ve got constantly levels to reach: to go over the million mark then the two millions mark, five millions mark of selling albums. It is a very professional label which just try to reach a wide audience. And business speaking they are taking the right decisions.

I think that what he meant was that Roadrunner takes good care of these big bands such as Slipknot, Dream Theater, etc. but that they don’t really care about the other ones. That’s the reason why Cradle Of Filth left this label to go with Peaceville Records to get more attention, more promotion for their albums and so on.

Yeah, it was almost the same kind of thing when Chimaira left Roadrunner. They felt that the label did not look enough after them and we had quite the same feeling. The only difference was that Chimaira left for personal reasons. I think that they wanted to be with a really independent label. When we left Roadrunner we had just played for the Roadrunner United Record and they were totally focused on that. Our album came out a couple of weeks after and we did not really get the support that we were looking for. So I see what he means yeah…

Let’s speak about your new album. Does its title, Dead New World, symbolise a certain kind of rejection to modernity from yourself?

No ! For me, it is more a rejection to what we lived during those past fifty years. It represents the death of that old way of thinking and the birth of a new way of thinking through which we can progress and get our mind out of our ass!Dead New World is a representation of today’s world, of our recent new way of life. We’ve got the feeling that human beings went mad! If you’re looking from the outside at things we do, at the ways we are behaving with people in other countries, at the ways by which we let us get divided…

The subject of death is often coming back on the new album Dead New World first in its title but also on several songs such as « God Is Only For the Dead », « Killing You, Killing Me ». What’s the reason for this pre-eminence?

Well, it’s because I think that people can see death in a very negative way. You will say that I’m a psychopath death obsessed. It is not that I’m going to look after it, of course not, but in some aspects, death can be noble for example when a forest is burnt down, this death leads to the birth of something new. Fighting, getting rid of the past, being able to move on… the album concept is this struggle to move on. When a man is going to travel far away he must accept to leave his family and everything he knows behind him to be able to adapt to this new world. A man has to come to terms with his thoughts and to accept the fact that he will eventually be seen as someone abnormal for society.

« God Is Only For The Dead », that’s an interesting name for a song. Do you feel it’s useless to wonder about God’s existence and that we would have better to enjoy our lives now?

Yes, that’s what the title means, yes. It’s clearly one of my favourite songs on this album and it really implies what you’ve just said. Instead of spending our entire life wondering how we are going to be judged, maybe we have better to live it fully. No matter if we’re going to be judged or not!Some people think they will be judged, other don’t, it is very personal. But my questioning is: shouldn’t we care about God only as death approaches? It’s hard to make people swallow this idea.

What is the meaning of this artwork where we can see these three faces with masked eyes and blocked noses?

They represent the faces of change. They are the past, the present, and the future.

So it is the same face from the left to the right.

Absolutely.

It is going to sound stupid but it seems that they have dreadlocks coming out of their noses!

(Laughs) Yeah that could be so… I don’t really know what kind of rituals were popular at the time, but I’m sure that some people in the world have dreadlocks in their noses.

What is the link between the video of the song “Against the Wall”, which takes place in the wood and the lyrics of the song?

Well…. (he stops) but actually how do you know that the video takes place in the wood?

There is an extract on Myspace [note : the interview was made before the release of the video].

Then It is fine. I thought that the video came out and that nobody told me so. Well, it is about love between two people, you see. The wood represents this place where you can’t be judge, this place where people’s opinion doesn’t matter, no matter what you did, no matter what you lived. Acceptance and desolation, are what wood represent. In this video you can see this couple who lives a very conceited and egocentric life. Then these two people go to the wood to get rid of their vanity.

[NDLR : about Iron Maiden] “I was feeling really good just reading the lyrics and I became a fan even before having listening to the music! I had one of their albums but no CD player so I read the lyrics for two or three days. […] Iron Maiden speaks a lot about myths and history in their words. And finally you say to yourself “man, some stuff that you are studying at school are cool because Iron Maiden talks about them in their songs.”

Since you are coming from a Latino culture, how did you get into rock and metal music?

I was born in Brazil but I grew up in Venezuela. And even when I lived there, I was already listening to some bands on the radio. Not to real metal bands, I was still a kid and I knew nothing about metal music. But I listened to bands such as Van Halen and Kiss, it has had an important influence in my life. There were albums of Kiss and Van Halen in supermarkets because there were no music stores and from time to time they were broadcast on the radio. I was very young when I got into hard rock. My father was playing in a rock band and my mother used to play their albums… Later on I learnt that my step-father was not my father and that my real father was still living in Brazil. I was already into hard rock when I came to the United-States. One of the member of my family in Europe came to meet us and he told me about Iron Maiden. He was a huge fan of Iron Maiden and me, I had never heard about them. I remember my first impression while reading the lyrics: I was feeling really good just reading the lyrics and I became a fan even before having listening to the music! I had one of their albums but no CD player so I read the lyrics for two or three days. It must have been Killers album. I finally succeed in laying a hand on a CD player, I went to the store and bought my first albums: Killers and a Scorpions album.

What you are saying about Iron Maiden is interesting. We can hear a lot of stories from people who became Iron Maiden’s fans just thanks to the imagery and the art covers for example.

Yes. I think that when you are young you take a lot of different things because you are seeking for yourself. And that’s what I was also doing. I must have been around twelve. I was intriguing by everything that was going on around that band. The lyrics, the visual aspect… Iron Maiden speaks a lot about myths and history in their words. And finally you say to yourself “man, some stuff that you are studying at school are cool because Iron Maiden talks about them in their songs.” For example, when you are a kid and that you are studying the World War II, American Air Force against Japan Air Force, etc., and then you listen to songs like « Aces High » or « Rime Of The Ancient Mariner » you think « waaow !»

Some metal fans, before becoming so, are usually young people who lack of self-confidence. And it seems that it would be to feel alive that they would need this counter-culture. Was it the same for you?

I would just say that a metal fan is always rebellious against society. Listening to metal or making metal your music, was not something which was accepted when I was a kid. It was around ten or fifteen years ago. I think that today it is quite different, if you can find Motörhead T-shirts at Wallmart is that it’s relatively accepted. At the time you would have never seen an Iron Maiden T-shirt in a store. At the time I was really seeking for my own identity. I didn’t know who was my father, I only discovered it later on. I was dragged around from one country to another, I only had my mother and my sister. Living in three countries, without really knowing who was my family, all of these make you vulnerable. I felt that I was not like the others. I felt I was not connected with the rest of the world. I needed to find myself back and metal music helped me to do so. Nowadays I don’t really know how it is going on. Many young people get into metal because it seems to be cool. But when I got into it, it was not cool.

Recently, Matt Kleiber wrote for us a review in which he put forward that most of metal fans are young losers who don’t succeed in being attractive and who need metal to distinguish themselves and to be different. What do you think about it?

(Laughs) Yes, that could be true. Was I myself this kid? Yes. I was someone isolated, I didn’t like talking to people. I must confess that when I found metal, I was the only Hispanic in a school full of people who were spoken another language. As I said, I was really feeling isolated. Metal music helped me to consider that situation in a positive way. But I can understand that desolation leads to extreme music because it comforts you in your situation. I think it’s a good thing that it is better accepted nowadays and I hope that all of the metal music fans aren’t those solitary poor guys who can’t appeal to girls.

“At the time I was really seeking for my own identity. I didn’t know who was my father, I only discovered it later on. I was dragged around from one country to another, I only had my mother and my sister. Living in three countries, without really knowing who was my family, all of these make you vulnerable. I felt that I was not like the others. I felt I was not connected with the rest of the world. I needed to find myself back and metal music helped me to do so.”

Is it possible to see you one day releasing an album or at least to participate to a Latino musical project which would only be acoustic?

Yes, I don’t see any reason why it would not be possible. When we were releasing the album, we talked about it. Since we are self-producting we have a free hand. I said to Ahrue: “man, we have produced this album by ourselves it is selling well, it opens many doors so that we can record when we want. As far as we’ve got a sufficient budget, we can come in the studio and record.” This is something which gives us a bigger potential than before.

Do you think that Ill Nino’s music can be enjoyed by Latino music listeners, outside metal?

I think it depends on the song. There are quite Latino songs with a lot of acoustic guitars which Latino people enjoy. Yesterday evening a friend of the band with who we share our local came and the only thing that she wanted to listen to was the acoustic songs. There are also Latino metal fans who want heavier songs! In Latino culture, it is interesting to see how much mainstream music is extremely separated from darker sides of music. There are Latino metal fans who are only listening to Suffocation, Obituary and Ill Nino. We’ve got more “mainstream” fans who love our acoustic songs. This album is very aggressive and we couldn’t find a place for an acoustic song. Fans will have to wait!

Have you ever heard that your music pushed some metal heads to start and listen to Latino music?

Maybe some of them have learnt a little of Spanish listening to us. But that’s no reason to start listening to Latino music, I am seriously doubting it. Maybe some people have started to listen to other stuff but I don’t think that we orientate the American metal-head to Latino music. It has never been our goal. By the way, we have never wanted it. We just want to have our own musical personality. Today, many bands copy others. It was important for us to have a kind of individuality, and originality. That’s a thing you can offer to the world being a musician. Either you get into musical world copying others and offering nothing new or you really get into music asking to yourself who you are and where you come from. Of course, you love music and you want to play this music. But how can you put your mind, you feelings and your experiences into your music? I think that a lot of band don’t understand that and just copy. Even if we have been influenced by great bands, we have always put, or at least always tried to put , our personality into our music and that’s maybe the reason why we are still here ten years later. If we have done the same way as many other bands in our genre, we wouldn’t even release an album today.

Are there Latino people who have started to listen to metal music after discovering Ill Nino?

Yes, there are! And a lot of them, actually!we wanted Latino culture to feel at ease with metal music. There are Latino metal-heads who became metal fans thanks to Ill Nino.

So who are the most closed-minded? Metal-heads or Latino people?

If you are a Latino death metal fan, you are as closed-minded as…. I don’t know what. But it is not your mother culture which influences your open-mindedness.

It seems that Soulfly played an important part in your career. The tribal touches that we can hear on your albums are an allusion to this band. Do you think that Ill Nino would not exist without Soulfly?

Je dirais qu’Ill Nino n’existerait pas sous cette forme. On existait déjà quand Soulfly a sorti son premier album. Ce n’est pas tant Soufly que Max. A 100%. Il m’a beaucoup influencé comme chanteur au cours de ma carrière.

“How can we create nuclear energy? And those radioactive waste, why do we put them into bombs? You are using uranium, radioactive materials and you dare say there is nothing bad to a soldier of nineteen years old? We have really gone mad.”

I’ve read in an interview that you played your very first concert in front of seven hundred people. Is that true?

Yeah, yeah.

Nevertheless it’s big for a first show!

That’s right, it’s quite big. We had a good advertising and we have been lucky enough that Dave had previously played with professional bands. We made a demo before our first show and there was also a radio at the secondary school which broadcast our songs and so on. We can say that we’ve been lucky but we could also say that we’ve been blessed. Or in the right place at the right time. People enjoyed the music and we had an amazing first show for a band!

In the band biography, you are described as an anxious Latino person with an angry soul. You seem to be angry with a lot of things!

Well, there are not a lot of things from which we can be happy with! We say a lot of positive things in our lyrics you just have to look for them.

Is it this anger which musically gives you the inspiration?

No. I wouldn’t call that anger, actually. We could call that the disconnection or rejection of what we can see in our daily life. I travelled a lot with Ill Nino and I have seen many things which make me wonder if, as human beings, we have not gone mad. What are we doing and how can we do that? How can we create nuclear energy? And those radioactive waste, why do we put them into bombs? You are using uranium, radioactive materials and you dare say there is nothing bad to a soldier of nineteen years old? We have really gone mad. The meaning of our lyrics is always to try and find something positive and to keep a positive vision of the future. All of our albums have this somewhere, in innuendo. But I think that the last album is more refined and more advanced.

Last question: the name Ill Nino refers to a hurricane so to danger, but it also means “ill kid” . Do you see yourself as a group of dangerously mad kids?

Probably. I think you are right. We are probably dangerously mad kids! At first, the name of the band referred to the ill kid, to us, us as the ill mankind. We have this illness. I don’t know what its name is, personally I would call it madness. I try not to be as mad as I really am.

Well, thank you very much for the interview.

Your questions were really good! We are coming in Europe in a couple of months, see you in France! Thank you my friend!

Interview conducted in novembre, 2010 by phone.

Transcription : Mark & Isabelle

Myspace Ill Nino : myspace.com/illnino



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  • Hey guys loved the Interview. Convinced that it’s time for more promo pics though. The guys have changed so much, blossoming into men of integrity and sheer will. We have been fortunate here in Denver to get to know Ahrue Luster a bit as a community and he has shown us some of the changes. Ahrue himself is very down to earth, built from very organic roots and kind, very good people. The fact that such intensive guitar comes from such a centered sole makes me smile at the thought of it. Happy they have done so well on tour.

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