Photo by Alan Snodgrass
Interview with vocalist Cristian Machado | By Ridge Briel
Til Death, La Familia seems to be a more personal and aggressive record than your previous albums. What led to that transformation?
It is a very personal album for everyone in the band. It is an aggressive album, but I feel within the aggression resides a lot of heartfelt topics and life changing passion not previously captured on our past albums. We didn’t intend for it to be this way. Truthfully, we had a very strict deadline and there was not much double thinking. That might have allowed for unfiltered inspiration to come forward. I really give credit to all the guys in the band for putting together such great music under such strict deadlines. Personally, it was truly a pleasure to focus solely on vocal patterns, melodies, and lyrics. I didn’t force any ideas onto the album, and most of the ideas that made it to the record were simply complementing the awesome instrumental tracks [guitarist] Ahrue [Luster], [bassist] Laz [Pina], and [drummer] Dave [Chavarri] threw my way. Being able to become a fan of the music and write the vocals as a fan was a huge shift from our previous three recordings, and I genuinely thank the guys in the band, and also our producer Eddie Wohl, for allowing me to do my thing. I was sincerely blown away and extremely surprised at the modern approach being molded into our style. I’m really looking forward to future albums following in the footsteps of this new approach.
How has moving to Victory Records affected your development?
Victory Records has been nothing short of amazing to Ill Niño. They truly allow us to do our thing, and even though this time around a very unrealistic deadline was placed upon us, we did all we could to turn over one of our most creative albums yet. I wouldn’t call the new album a change in style; perhaps a change in approach would be a better word. I also wouldn’t attribute the change in musical and lyrical approach to shifts in record labels. It’s simply a part of being a musician while believing in the never-ending search for original stylistic musical creativity. We’ve never been the kind of band to release the same album twice, and after almost two decades in the industry, it is challenging. Still, our main goal is to always offer refreshing music to our fans.
How has your vocal style evolved?
I can’t really say it’s a 180 degree turn for me. Pretty much all the vocals on the record came very naturally to me. Aside from a couple of parts that were requested changes by the guys in the band or Eddie Wohl, everything was beyond intuitive vocally and as close to second nature as I can get. A lot has to be said about staying outside the music songwriting box, it was a real gift for me. It allowed me to purely focus on vocals. Writing all my vocal parts and lyrics as a fan of Ill Niño’s music is something that I haven’t had the chance to do in more than a decade. Being deeply involved in recording details while writing vocals is not something I want to go back to. I prefer this new “outside the box” perspective much more, it might have added a great production quality to my voice and also my writing. Eddie Wohl definitely played a crucial role in capturing my best performances, and I look forward to working with him in the future again. Till Death, La Familia is a very special album, and I am very grateful for the work put in by all the guys in the band and Eddie.
Your grandmother brought you to New Jersey when you were 12. Tell us a bit about her and where she came from before she fled Poland.
My grandmother, Alexandra Gubik, rest her soul, was the most kind-hearted person I’ve ever met in my life. She was a dedicated family woman who prayed every day in search of a happy and prosperous future for all people around her. She was born in Poland and found her way to Uruguay after fleeing the country as a World War II escapee. Her sister had fallen in love with a Jewish man and did not want to forfeit her heart to the Nazi regime. She told my grandmother about her and her lover’s planned escape from Poland. She asked my grandmother to go with her. I believe they escaped by train. My grandmother’s sister sought refuge in Italy, then eventually continued on to Israel. My grandmother wanted to travel and was given an opportunity to embark a ship leaving Italy for Uruguay. That is where she met my grandfather, an Italian man en route to a Uruguayan vacation. They fell in love and had a baby in Uruguay, which was my mother. My mother’s side of the family is very much European, my father’s side is strictly Brazilian/ Portuguese. I was born in South America and everything good that has happened in my life I attribute to my grandmother’s search for love and freedom. She passed away in my hands last year after a long battle with age. She was 91, and I will never forget holding her until her last breath. The song “Blood is Thicker Than Water” certainly touches on some feelings I carry from that experience.
How did you prepare for this year’s Mayhem Fest?
It’s probably accurate to say that each individual band member has his own way of preparing for tour. A lot of us have family and try to spend as much time with them as possible. The Mayhem Festival is an amazing tour for us to be featured on, especially anticipating the release of our new album Till Death, La Familia. We have a lot to be grateful for and many people who we want to make proud, including our label Victory Records who have believed in us, and our families who support us, encourage us, and give us much-needed guidance and inspiration to continue on in this dog eat dog music industry. Obviously, our fans are the main reason why we’re still going and we wanted to prepare a killer set for them! I think most of the preparation may be mental preparation, and for most of the guys in the band, touring is second nature. Some of us will be taking Pro Tools rigs along. I’m currently working with several American bands like Serosia, Brothers of Alien Rock, and Black Oil, and will be finishing up remotely. Some of us are also business owners and that presents many obstacles. [Guitarist] Diego [Verduzco], who owns a tattoo shop in California called Artifact Tattoo, will take a lot of paperwork on the road with him. Laz and myself – who own a big monthly/ hourly rehearsal/ recording studio in New Jersey called Soundwars Studios – will have many bookings to attend to virtually. Dave manages bands through CIA Management and is currently the band manager for Ill Niño. Having our manager with us on the road is a big advantage, and he does all he can to seek great future opportunities for us. Ahrue also had a recording rig as he too produces bands in the Denver area out of Illustrious Productions. Ironically, the one thing Ahrue and I always take on the road is Unisom. We are the sleepless ones in the band. Diego is the siesta king. Laz has always slept like a baby, same with [percussionist] Oscar [Santiago]. Dave just never sleeps.
Any last words for the fans?
Go check out our website illnino.com. Look for us on Facebook @officialillnino and on Instagram @illninoofficial. To all those who have ever enjoyed our band, please go pick up the new album Till Death, La Familia at Victoryrecords.com. Every sale makes a huge difference.