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Ill Niño possess and disposses themselves of their music


Ill Niño’s latest album, Epidemia, is the band’s second foray into self-production, which they see as a therapy. The band feared they’d relied too much on a producer’s exterior advice and wanted to put their faith in themselves again, in order to regain their musical instinct. Ill Niño also wanted to go back to what their fans originally liked, which singer Cristian Machado doesn’t deem incompatible with artistic freedom. A fan is somebody who buys into your vision of music and who must therefore have a few things in common with your band. In this respect, he or she can be a source of inspiration.

Even though the relationship between the band and their fans is strong, the singer would rather not reveal too much about the combo’s lyrics and visual identity. According to him, those things should remain secret, in order for it to strike a specific chord in each and every one of us. Beyond its selfish genesis, the beauty of art lies in the dispossession that will inevitably happen after a work of art has been revealed.

« I truly believe that the self-produced albums by the band have been the greatest therapy we could have had as fans, and as musical and business partners. »

Radio Metal: Your drummer Dave Chavarri said about Epidemia that « This time around, we wanted to explore Latin and tribal rhythms we have never explored in the past five releases, giving us no musical boundaries at all. » Does this mean that until now you’ve restrained yourselves creatively ?

Cristian Machado (vocals) : No. I think we’ve always tried to be a band which extends its boundaries and breaks down the walls of confinement within its musical style. I think what Dave was trying to get at is that he wanted to add a new fire and play a new level of tribal rhythms to the fans. I think he did an amazing job: him and Danny (note: Daniel Couto, Ill Nino’s percussionist) laid down what was really the foundation for the record. Without their new way of tribal percussive production, I don’t think the record would have come out as it did. I think this was what Dave was referring to: he wanted to be able to do things that perhaps in the past he wouldn’t have tried and continue to break down the boundaries. I can honestly say that we’ve never been a band that has hold itself back. There are been things in the past that we couldn’t have tried because it has taken time to get to this place. It takes time to creatively evolve: this kind of record wouldn’t have been possible for us three or four years ago. It has been possible now because of Dave’s and Danny’s evolution in their percussive element.

You said that Ill Nino needed a couple of self produced album in order to be fully back on track. How can you explain that ? Has the self production experience been some kind of therapy for the band, to help it to get back its own art?

Yes. I truly believe that the self-produced albums by the band have been the greatest therapy we could have had as fans, and as musical and business partners. In the past, not to discredit any of the producers we’ve ever worked with, because we’ve had some great producers who managed to always offer some kind of growth to the band, but many times a producer uses the wrong way to work with a band. For example, two members will want one thing, and two others will want the other. Usually, the producer will push for the thing he likes more. Sometimes, it’s not necessarily what is best for the band, if you know what I mean. Even though a couple of the members in the band might think it’s the right thing, sometimes it isn’t. In every situation, it might have a different outcome. Dead New World (2010) was the first album we self-produced: it took some time to define ourselves as musicians but also as friends. For a long time, we seemed to be split apart by producers: the band would have two different decisions to make and the producer would try to pull a decision towards one side rather than the other one. Once we let go the production stigma over, we were able to focus on the things that really make us alike and not on what makes us different, we started making good decisions again. It’s started with Dead New World, but with Epidemia, it definitely brought forth the element of what Ill Niño really is. It took a couple of self-produced albums to get to the level of Epidemia and I can assure you, for the next record, that we’re going to go further.

Does this mean that the band had to be in-phase again with its true nature ?

« True nature » is a great way of putting it, but true intuition also is, seeing it as musicians in this band. We possibly have lost some of our intuition working with so different producers during these years. Again, I don’t want to discredit any of the producers we’ve worked with, but honestly I think we had to find ourselves as musicians and be able to love our band again like fans in order to find the intuition we needed to make this kind of record.

« We possibly have lost some of our intuition working with so different producers during these years. […] I think we had to find ourselves as musicians and be able to love our band again like fans. »

You mentioned about a kind of identity crisis that the band went through: is this what you’ve just talked about?

I would definitively say that in the past, we had identity crisis as musicians. All this would come from the fact that we are different people having completely different tastes. In a band with so many people, a democracy trying to make as many choices together as we could, it’s really tough to focus on what is the best decision, if you know what I mean. As I’ve stated earlier, there were many times when we were trying to make decisions, and it was either one way or the other: that’s why I referred to it as “identity crisis”. Together as a group we weren’t sure of exactly which way we should take and we wanted the producers to help us in that way. I think we had to come back to our true intuition, to what our true fans were, who we are and the things that make us alike. I think we’ve managed to find the similarities amongst each other. We’ve also learned to love our band as fans once again: to me, it was very important.

Did the conception of Epidemia help the band to see clearer about which way it has to take?

Yes. I think that Epidemia is a great representation of what the band is at and where we’re heading to definitively. Like I’ve said, it took a couple of self-produced records to get to the point where we’re naturally starting to find our intuition as musicians again, without having to ask anybody for creative decisions. We definitively got back to our musical decision making process. It was something really important for us and I think we’re now on the right path to giving our fans and also our musical intuition the songs and music that are needed.

From a certain perspective, the artwork seems to represent a kind of tribal representation of the crucified Christ. Is Christianity, or possibly religion in general, the epidemic you’re referencing, at least partly, in the album title?

Let’s say that the album cover or its title are not a political, social and in no way a religious statement at all. Epidemia is actually a knick name for the crisis that I’d call the human search for the answers to death and love. It seems that the more we evolve as psychological beings, the more we seek answers to our death and we attract ourselves to the darkest topics in life. To me, the album title is just a way to describe the feelings that bring us to these dark topics, like the end of the world, war and the answers to death especially. Actually, the record’s supposed to be ten completely different characters and how they would be when meeting the end of the world: so each song is one character. But I don’t want to define too much what each song is about, because I don’t want to give away their meanings: each fan should be allowed to come to their own conclusions, as to what the song is for them. Also, I don’t want to be the selfish kind of musician who says: “Well, this song is about this, this one about that”. I’d like to be a musician who gives the fans the ability, the chance of having the songs related to them. I think we’ve always been like that: our fans always have related themselves to our lyrics. Even though the concept comes from a very particular place, the fans own the songs after we finish to record them: the songs no longer belong to us, but to them. So taking away this by saying what’s the meaning of such song, it would be selfish.

« Once the music comes out, and the fans have it, it no longer belongs to the band. […] To me, music is an art form, and an art form is supposed to be interpreted by the person looking at it. »

Don’t you think that nonetheless, art is a selfish thing? When you create an artwork, it’s the artist’s self which expresses itself, don’t you agree?

I would agree that with art, you have to look inside, know who you are and what you’re searching for. But like I’ve stated, I would agree that with art, you have to look inside, know who you are and what you’re searching for. But like I’ve stated, once the music comes out, and the fans have it, it no longer belongs to the band. Each song has a personal attachment to the fans. The personal attachment that we have to the songs as a band doesn’t really matter, really. It makes no difference, no matter what the song is about, to us. Each song has a personal attachment to the fans. The personal attachment that we have to the songs as a band doesn’t really matter, really. It makes no difference, no matter what the song is about, to us.

Why would it be “selfish” to give an explanation to the songs ?

I only speak from personal experience. As a fan, many times in the past, I had very close relations to songs that I loved, and when I heard the artist’s explanation of it, I lost the sense of relation to the song: I knew that the song wasn’t about what I had thought. This is the selfishness that I was describing: it’s not that, as an artist, I would be completely selfish by giving away the meaning of a song, but honestly, it removes some of the personality that each fan can see in a song that relates to him. To me, music is an art form, and an art form is supposed to be interpreted by the person looking at it: in some way, music is like painting. I have to write from the artist’s point of view, of course, but ultimately, the music is for our fans. Sure, during the writing process, you write for yourself and you can only hope that the fans will buy your music, because they like your choices. It all comes back to musical philosophy, but honestly, I think that the fans like to come to their own conclusions to what the music is all about.

In many Ill Nino albums, religion is often mentioned. Is this because religion is strongly established in latin cultures? Are you influenced by that?

I wouldn’t say that there are religious connotations on the albums because we’re latin and that religion comes from a latin background. I’d say that religion is part of everyday life and is definitively some of the reasons why we’re brought to the darkest topics in life. Epidemia is not a religious statement, and neither is the cover, which is simply the manifestation of the crucifixion of the feelings that bring us to the lighter side of life.

Just like Dead New World, your previous album, songs on Epidemia sounds very pessimistic like, for example, « The Depression », « Death Wants More », or « Time Won’t Save You ». Last time we spoke you sounded very pessimistic about the world and human behaviour. Don’t you really see any light at the end of the tunnel?

That’s a very interesting question. I can honestly say that I don’t optimistically evaluate the world. I actually lost faith in a lot of things: in politics, in every aspect of religion, in human reactions for empathy. Yes, I lost faith in human beings.

Could human beings be considered as an epidemic for planet earth ? Could this be one of the interpretations of this title?

I would say human thinking, not human beings. I wouldn’t say that the physical being is relevant to the record’s title at all: the album is entirely written from the feelings of a human being. Some people may think that our feelings are connected to our physical form, but I disagree with that.

« I think it is important not to be constantly aware of what our fans are, but to not forget about whom our fans are and the reasons why they like us. »

According to the original press release, Epidemia was supposed to be recorded in several part in several studios, but in the end most of the album was recorded at Soundwar Studios. Why? Was it important for the band not to scatter in several places?

Yes. I think it was important for the band to go to one studio for at least a large part of the record. Ill Niño is a conscience: it’s not one or two of us, it’s us all together, to be honest with you. Even though one person writes a song, it’s done together as a band and everybody puts down their personality in the song. Then, things start to change and the song starts to become its own thing. Before, we entirely did records with producers in one studio and with Dead New World, we recorded it separately. With Epidemia, it was very important to us to record it under one roof to be able to bring back our natural intuition and conscience together. Soundwar Studios was the place where we were able to do this.

When we read some of your interviews, it sounds like you are very careful about what the fans expect from the band. Is it true ?

We are extremely thankful to our fan base. I don’t like using religious words like “blessed”, but we feel, as beings, blessed to still have our fans and to have people loving the band so much. I think it is important not to be constantly aware of what our fans are, but to not forget about whom our fans are and the reasons why they like us. When the fans buy our records, they buy our decision making process, you know. At the end of the day, the fans are just an extension of who we are. If they buy our music, it means they like the same things we like. We like to focus on that.

Doesn’t that imply nonetheless a compromise from the band’s own creative desires?

No. Nobody writes the music other than us. Like I’ve stated, we wanted to extend the boundaries we had on this record, and I think that was what our fans would want. That’s the way I feel: our fans want us to be a creative monster and to have no boundaries. If you asked me personally the state of the music’s industry right now, it is one where bands imitate each other and where they die copying things that are successful. We are the opposite: who are our fans ? Who are we as musicians? We want to bring the true art form of music, like it was made in the sixties or the seventies. There wasn’t any radio: there were just people writing good songs. To me, it is the true sense of art form. You don’t focus on the outside, but on the conscience that is the music of the band. The fans have a lot to do with that.

« Ill Niño is a conscience: it’s not one or two of us, it’s us all together, to be honest with you. Even though one person writes a song, it’s done together as a band and everybody puts down their personality in the song. »

Do you think that the medias today, in a way, killed music?

I wouldn’t say that they have killed music, but they definitely have watered it down. Music is there, and will always be there for the entertainment of man but honestly, has this saturation and this constant feed of information watered down music? Yes, it has, absolutely. It’s what we want, as a band, to focus away from. The medias, the radios: none of those things are important. At the end of the day, it’s the music and the feeling in the song that fans buy. They don’t buy a chord progression, a poem, musical arrangements: only a feeling. That is true art.

Frankie Palmeri from Emmure appears on the song « La Epidemia » : this happened surely because of the tour you did with Emmure and Static X. Did you also ask Wayne Static to appear on the album ?

No. We’ve never asked Wayne Static to be on the record. The idea of Frankie Palmeri being on the record is something that actually came from Victory Records and was expressed by Dave, our drummer and also manager. I think that Frankie was fan of the band for many years. Emmure is an extremely talented band that manages to do its own thing without copying everybody else. We were absolutely flattered and honoured to have a young new artist and talent like Frankie on our record, who has got so much fire. He’s not interested in the things that are media-based, like us, but in those which are true art forms: how does he feel? What does he want to say with his feelings? He’s the kind of artist who I want to relate myself to.

We often hear you speaking about your first album. Do you see it as a reference?

I think the reason why we relate to our first album is that it was a completely intuitive one. It was us as artists making decisions as a band mostly and not as a reference to any particular form of music. We wrote it with a really open heart and mind. Our first record is extremely intuitive, and that’s why the fans love it so much. The new record relates to who we were in the beginning, to what we were able to come up with on the music scene. It’s all about writing music first and foremost and we hope that it’ll connect with our true fans.

Interview conducted by phone on December, 6th, 2012 by Spaceman et Metal’O Phil
Questions: Spaceman
Transcription: Jean Martinez – Traduction(s) Net

Ill Niño’s official Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Officialillnino

Album Epidemia, out since October 22nd 2012 via AFM Records



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