Metal kings Ill Niño returned to Birmingham recently on their Epidemia tour. Paul Castles of Midlands Rocks was there to catch up with Christian Machado, latino icon and flamboyant frontman of the mighty New Jersey based band. Picture by Helen Moss, ABSTRACT photo
Christian, welcome back to Birmingham. How has the tour been going and how has the new material been received live?
CM: I’m having a blast playing the new songs. I really enjoy our new record a lot and I haven’t really been able to enjoy our records for about 10 years.
That’s both surprising and disappointing to hear.
Yeah that’s right but I’m just thankful that I’ve been able to find myself as a music fan once again.
When you were recording the latest album Epidemia were you hopeful the fans would respond well to it?
Our fans love us because of the intuitive musical choices we make so I was always hopeful that they would take to the new record. I think we just wanted to do something we felt great about first and foremost. We obviously have our fans in mind when making it but we wanted to put something out that we felt good about. Our fans love the album, they’ve embraced it as though it’s one of best.
To me it’s a really bright uplifting, positive sound with some really outstanding melodies within.
Thanks very much man. I think heavy music fans can be very intelligent in the sense that they can tap into something that is not just a tone or a word but an actual feeling that’s installed in the music. Our tour manager Brandon calls it magic, like back in the day some of those bands had that magic but they were allowed to have time to develop it. Nowadays it’s a little bit tougher because a lot of labels impose deadlines, it can be very disenchanting. On this record we had a deadline but we fought it off as long as possible because we really wanted to put our heart and soul into it. When we listen back we want to know our heart is in this.
With six members in the band that’s a lot of people wanting to inject their own ideas and attitude, yet it seems to have come together harmoniously.
We always try to do this but then it can become hard when guys in the band aren’t getting along or if we’re disagreeing with each other on a lot of things. On this record we came together as friends and I think you get that feel when you listen to it, one people together for one common goal and perhaps that’s something we lost in the past.
The actual songwriting is now spread around more than in the early days of Ill Niño.
That’s true. We write together a lot more than we used to. On our second, third and fourth record we grew apart, and the writing was really done individually. Our common thread on this record was rhythm, joining us together. It gives you back the feel of being a music fan, it touches your soul and that’s the gift of music.
Ill Niño have always stuck to their own sound and not jumped on any bandwagons, whether it’s grindcore, black, death or anything else.
We could have changed styles during our career to get on the radio or because it’s cool but we simply do what we enjoy.
As someone born in Brazil what are your hopes that staging the Olympic Games and football World Cup can tackle some of the social problems and poverty that the country has always been associated with.
Brazil is a country with a huge growing economy but also still millions of homeless people who basically live in shacks that they’ve made on their own by the edge of mountains, it’s the same in Venezula and other South American countries. We try to grow as people together but politics draws us further apart. It’s the ugliness of mankind. The mind is a very easy thing to program if you allow it to be programmed. If you are a conscious person and aware of what your mind is then you can unite people and people can make a change. I don’t know that the changes in Brazil right now are for the people, it feels it might be for the politic of things but I really do hope the nation comes together and gets out of it what they need to. Some people say Africa’s poor, and it is, but there are people just the same in South America.
Christian, I know growing up you lived in Venezuela. What did you make of the emotional scenes in that country following the recent death of its leader Hugo Chavez?
I know he was a hero to the nation but how do you take care of a country of 35 million people in which 20 million of them live in poverty? I just hope the country can crawl out of this hole of poverty.
I’d be interested to hear what bands are pressing your buttons at the moment, Christian. What have you been into lately?
The Karnivool Sound Awake record I really enjoy; Animals as Leaders, and a couple of tracks off new Meshuggah album I really enjoy. The last show I went to was in New York City, Drowning Pool. They’re great friends of ours and it was good to hang out with them.
When you’re not on the road how do you relax away from music.
I’m never away from music! When I’m home I‘m usually working with our bass player Laz. We have a studio called Soundwars Studios in Hoboken, New Jersey. It’s where we recorded our last album Epidemia. There are rooms for bands to rent and rehearse in. It’s our business but we try to make it as progressive as possible and it’s a way of trying to get back with local scene.
That’s a great project to be involved with. I wish you every success with that and hope the rest of the tour goes well.
Pleasure man, thanks for talking.