Interview: Cristian Machado / Ill Nino

09.08.2011

Interview conducted with Cristian Machado, lead singer of Ill Nino, before band’s performance at the With Full Force Festival in Germany (July 2011)

I bumped into Cristian in the festival’s “VIP room”. Given the organizational constraints of the press access to the bands I did the quick move (Hi I’m Chris / Hey, I’m Cristian) and after a moment the singer agreed to do the interview. In order to have proper environment for the talk we moved to the artists’ zone. The visit in the barred area was quite interesting, but first Cristian had to ask security to actually let me in there, because except the crews and musicians nobody had an access in there. Looking at him negotiating with the chief of security I felt a little awkward, because after all it was me who asked for the interview, but I admit that it was very nice of him to put in so much word for me, which finally paid off and we managed to get permission to go through the cordon of broad-shouldered fellows. Inside of the artist zone was a very cool sight. Over a dozen of containers adapted for dressing-room, canopies and sofas from sponsors, awesome catering tent. Before the interview Cristian fancied a coffee, so I also got the chance to see artists’ eatery, which interior, service and food provided in the form of buffet was not very different from fully blown hotel service. Cristian got his drink and we walked along the containers looking for band’s dressing room: Madball here, next to Your Demise, then its Parkway Drive until we finally saw a plate with the name of “Ill Nino”. We sat inside, I hit red button on my recorder and off we went:

RockOko: Hi Cristian, thank you for your time. Let me start with a question, which I think refers to who you are as a band, as well as people. Latin culture, how would you define or describe it in relation to metal/heavy music and in general as one of the cultures in the world?

Cristian: Well, for one thing young Latin teenagers really appreciate heavy music. They really love it in Southern and Central America.

RockOko: Why do you think is that?

Cristian: Perhaps because they get lots of oppression in their countries, so they feel liberated by the energy of the music. Also lyrics, in metal especially, relate to realistic themes and are very liberating, so they make you feel empowered. As for Latin culture in general I would describe it as a different way of thinking and lifestyle, to the one that we’re all used to in a capitalistic society.

RockOko: What’s the difference?

Cristian: I’d say that people don’t live to work, but they work to live. They appreciate things like family, spending time with the family. I’d also say, that the Latin population is very outspoken. As compared to the American community, where some people are outspoken too, but it’s very hard to get American people to unite for a cause or to unite to rebel against something. I think it’s in Latin blood to stand up and fight against things, that you may not like, even if it’s the people in your own country, that you disagree with. In places like Salvador you see it a lot, citizens are rebelling against the government, even if their mothers and fathers are in the military. They will go even against their families as long as they feel, that is something that will help them achieve their freedom or independence.

RockOko: Was there any particular moment, when you as a band felt, that you actually got “big”?

Cristian: I never really said to myself “oh, we’re famous”. If anything, we always strive to make more fans, continue the process of influencing younger bands or try get younger fans to appreciate what it is, that we do. Some people call us “Latin metal”, I call us “culture metal”, because we take culture and blend it into metal. On a real level we are not anywhere near where bands like Slayer or Metallica are. Even at the peak of our success we weren’t anywhere near as popular as those bands. So you know, we never really had a lot of rock stardom to take advantage of. We pretty much stayed grounded, we try to stay pretty realistic. Sometimes you go on the road and the situation isn’t the best. You may not make a lot of money, but we’re there for the fans and that’s the most important thing to us.

RockOko: This one relates to one of my private observation. When I was a teenager my parents always supported my involvement in music, but they also kept telling me that eventually I’d grow out of it. However with the age the way I see it is that the older I get the more involved in music and generally life I become. Would you be able to relate in any way to such kind of intensification of involvment in things important to you or is it completely different thing in your case?

Cristian: That’s an interesting question. Yeah, I think the older we get the more we understand each other as friends and band members. The more I work with the guys in my band the more I understand what it is, that they like. Possibly the more they understand the things, that I like. Amongst each other they start realizing the things, that make them the same and the things that make them different. Hopefully the things, that I would like us to focus on are the things that will make us alike as band members.

RockOko: Is it true that you used to play bass guitar? Can you play any other instrument?

Cristian: I’m not really good at any particular instrument, but I’m ok at a little bit of everything. I can play guitar ok, I can play bass ok, I can sing ok.

RockOko: How about drums?

Cristian: Drums? No, not really. I can program drums really good though. So I’m not great at anything, I’m just ok at a lot of things (laughs).

RockOko: So would you say that having the ability to play any musical instrument influences or helps you when you are working on your vocal lines?

Cristian: Sure, absolutely. Whether it’s from me or whether it’s from the guys. Like when Ahrue is playing a melody and I go “oh, some of those notes are really good, we could use some of that for the melody”. Instruments definitely influence where the vocals go. That goes without saying. A singer, who doesn’t sing to the song is not really doing the band justice. You have to vocalize what the song demands.

RockOko: Do you have any other passions outside of music, that your fans might not know of? Things, that get you involved in beside the band.

Cristian: That’s also interesting. To be honest with you, I feel very grateful to live my life throughout the music. Even when we’re not touring or writing with Ill Nino, we have a little studio where we produce bands and also bands rehearse at our place. Ahrue works with bands in Denver, I work with bands in New York. Dave, our drummer, manages the bands all over the world. We’re very lucky in a sense, that we were able to have a very cool career and transcend that into a off-stage career. I’m very grateful for that and I hope that it works out great, because ultimately music is the thing, that I want to do for the rest of my life, even if I’m not on the stage. I would like to be still involved in other bands and other artists and try to help them be creative and most importantly – be original.

RockOko: Let’s talk about Poland now. Your grandmother comes from Poland, right?

Cristian: Yes, my gradmom is from Poland.

RockOko: She was born here and moved to America? What’s the story?

Cristian: Her story is very interesting, it could almost be a movie. My grandmom lived in Poland untill she was about 18, maybe 20 years old. Then the second world war came and the German occupancy of Poland started, but she was able to flee the country with her sister. Her sister had fallen in love with a Jewish man. They were very scared what would happen at that time, so the Jewish man escaped to Israel.  My grandmom and her sister followed him to Israel, all in the name of love, you know. From Israel they took a ship to South America and there my grandmom met my grandfather. So luckily she was able to escape the war. If she wasn’t able to escape, probably I wouldn’t be here.

RockOko: So both of your grandparents then moved from South America to States?

Cristian: No, they lived there for a while, my mother was born, but then my gradmom got divorced and moved to US. My grandmother loved travelling. I get the idea that Polish people love to travel.

RockOko: Yes, especially now, after the fall of communism, when the gates of the world opened for us.

Cristian: She also appreciates travelling. She was also the reason how I got to US. I lived with my mother in Venezuela at that time and my grandmother wrote a letter to the Venezuelan government basically lying to them, saying that her health was not that good and that she wanted to see her daughter and grandchild and they gave a visa to go to the US. We were illegal immigrants there for about 4 years until the government realized what was going on, but I was already going to school, so they gave my family residency in the United States. So without the letter of my grandmother we wouldn’t be able to get a visa to go the US.

RockOko: Very interesting story. So you actually remember her directly, not only from the stories.

Cristian: Yes, she lives ten blocks from where we live.

RockOko: Oh, really? How old is she now?

Cristian: 87.

RockOko: Wow. What is her name?

Cristian:

RockOko: Can we expect your return to Poland in the near future?

Cristian: I would love to go back. For now we have like a week and half here [doing summer festivals]. Then we have couple of shows in China, then South America. We might come back around January and maybe play some shows in Eastern Europe as well.

Rock:Oko: It would be awsome to see you with your full set, because last year even with the short, festival-bound set [Ill Nino played at Open Mind Festival in Warsaw] you totally ripped it and from the reactions after your show seems you won over many new fans.

Cristian: Thank you. I’d really love to go back. It was first time we’ve been there and it was very very cool. I was very excited to go there knowing that my grandmother is from there. I was actally hoping, that some of her family was gonna get come to the show, but they’re living further out so they weren’t able to make it.

Rock:Oko: Did you manage to see anything of Warsaw at that time?

Cristian: Unfortunately not. We got there on the day of the show and the next morning we had a flight at 6AM to get to Russia. So it was like get there, play the show, try to get some sleep, go to the airport. The life of a musician, you know.

RockOko: Yeah, I understand. Maybe next time. Thank you for your time.

Cristian: Thanx.

Interviewer: Krzysztof (Chris) Bienkiewicz

Ill Nino – Against The Wall

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