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Ill Nino

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“It’s just gone, go, go, we’re gonna have to kick its ass!” laughed Cristian Machado, lead vocalist for Ill Niño, on their upcoming August tour of Australia which features five shows in five days.

Ill Niño will be performing their groundbreaking debut album Revolution Revolución in its entirety, celebrating its fifteen year anniversary, with Machado saying the album still resonates with fans as much today as when it came out.

“I think that album had an impact because it was definitely an album that felt inspired by a lot of the cool and a lot of the great culture metal bands that were trying to make their way at that time, but I think the most important thing was it had some identity and it really was from beginning to end its own thing. It didn’t sound like anybody else, you know? That’s the thing that’s allowed us to survive so many years later and is the catalyst to why our fans felt so attached to the album when it came out. I know that we weren’t expecting too much. We didn’t know what the world would bring when we released that first album, but happily, it made that impact and had an impact on so many people that it changed our lives.”

As well as hitting a chord with the fans, Machado says on a personal level the album still has great significance to not only himself but also the rest of the band.

“Definitely playing it and this anniversary has brought back so many memories,” he offered, “and also a lot of sad memories from back then. I think I’m just grateful to have been a part of something that can still be thought of as somewhat timeless 15, 16, 17 years later, so it’s… the more I think about it in my head, it’s just musical innocence. You go and do something cool and you hope that it’s cool and you hope that people connect with it and the thing that has stuck with me is purely those moments. The moments that people have really connected with and have had life changing experiences throughout their lives and how one of those songs or a couple of songs off that record are part of the soundtrack of people’s lives.”

When Ill Niño formed in 1998 in New Jersey, they were entering a musical culture that had almost lost its way at a time when order needed to be restored to the equation.

“The vision for the band back then was just to be a Latin metal band,” Machado recalled. “It was nothing more than that. We got categorized into a nu-metal thing, but the vision was always from the beginning to be a Latin metal band. We were metal heads but we wanted to be a culture and we wanted to have a culture in our music. You could say we wanted to be a culture metal band, that was the main focus.”

Coming up with a unique sound blending flamenco guitar tones, Latino passion, and aggressive metal, Ill Niño not only were a new band on the growing metal scene, they were different. It was an untried sound for the times and was certainly a risk but Machado says the band was always confident it would succeed.

“I think it was simply… we were each individually influenced by different things and it naturally made us pull in different ways so the final shape that we wound up with is pretty much what we have today – something that’s got a lot of different points and a lot of different references and a lot of different angles. I suppose we were never just influenced by traditional metal. We loved traditional metal but we also loved British heavy metal. We loved classic rock and rock bands and we loved punk rock and hardcore. We were very influenced by the New York hardcore scene and at the end of the day you wind up with this thing after you put your culture in and your personal stamp on things and that’s really what we got. Obviously having influences like Quicksand and the Bad Brains, along with Fear Factory and death metal, that’s how the band ended up being what it is.”

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Ill Niño was as much a product of their environment as they were of their sound and Machado feels the band entered the musical landscape just when it was crying out for something new.

“At those times in music, everything was an open field,” he recounted. “You could do cool things, you could experiment, but when it was genuinely done, and it was done with intent, and with concept and identity, the sounds always worked and we were blessed to be one of those bands. Our album came out with a lot of other Roadrunner Records releases on the same day. It was originally supposed to be released on September 11, 2001, but it got moved back a week later because of what happened, and on that level, we didn’t receive a lot of promotion. There wasn’t a ton of money behind our marketing. Our album got released with a lot of other great albums on the same label and the fans gravitated to it. We started to get some college radio support and then eventually a little bit of radio, but it was really just the fans and word of mouth and people sharing the music with each other that allowed us to be something that kind of stuck from the moment it got released.”

To coincide with the release of Revolution RevoluciónIll Niño embarked on a nineteen-month tour through America, Europe, the U.K., and Japan: a massive tour for a young band on the back of their debut album. Despite such a hectic schedule, Machado says in retrospect, it was the perfect introduction to what was to become a successful career.

“It taught us everything man,” he enthused. “I knew it all when we went on those initial tours but you don’t know anything before you go on the road (laughs). You train as a musician and get yourself ready but if you don’t spend the time in your rehearsal place and home making sure you can depend on yourself and your own musicianship when you get on the road it’s gonna be a disaster! It may not be like that for everyone but for 95% of the people it will be, and to me, it was no different. I was a great local musician but I had to go out there and learn. I wasn’t a singer, I was always a guitar player and bass player in bands who would sing once in a while and when I did it was in a death metal band and I had nothing to do with what we were doing at that moment so I had to go out there and learn a lot man, so to be honest with you, it taught me everything. How to vocalize properly, how to have relationships with friends properly, how to be respectful to someone’s personal space: everything.”

Over the course of their career, while many things about the music industry have changed, Machado feels that Ill Niño has remained true to themselves, letting their music run its own course and dictate terms.

“I think at the root of everything what I like now and what I liked when we started are still the same thing,” he mused. “It has to be pushing the boundary in some way or another and it has to be real and it has to say something other than nonsense. Perhaps it’s the punk rocker in me that feels music is here to teach people in one way or another. To me, it has to say something – it has to be emotionally tied to something. There are some bands that are very progressive and very technical that can still do that – a band like Animals As Leaders, which I think is an amazing band – and there are bands that can be simplistic and don’t need to do anything technical to really hear the heart of that music and I think in everything I’ve always liked it’s always been like that. It hasn’t really changed too much. Even though I may not be listening to Obituary as much as I was when I was 18, I think that the reason why I was such a big Obituary fan when I was 20, 21 years old was at the root of what they do it is so intense. It’s as fucken real as fuck.”

Written by Kris Peters

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