Hi Anton, I’m Keyser from Thrashocore webzine. What’s up?
Not much really, just getting ready for the release of “Sicario”.
Criminal is unfortunately not very famous in France. Could you introduce your band to our readers so they can be more familiar with you guys?
Well the band started about a decade ago in Chile. We’ve done five albums so far and we relocated to Europe in 2001/2002. We play a style of aggressive, extreme thrash metal.
Your new album, “Sicario”, is going to be released on September 5. How does it differ from the previous one, “No Gods No Masters”? Is there some evolution or do we have to expect the regular, brutal, straightforward music that Criminal accustomed us to?
Well, it’s a pretty typical Criminal album in that all our trademarks are present on it. It’s very riff based as opposed to our previous album though. On that one we experimented a bit with different sound textures and sound structures, whereas this one is just brutal and in your face, but it has enough time changes and solos to make it interesting.
Sicario” is a spanish term which refers to mafia-related mercenaries from South America, if I’m not wrong. Could you tell us more about that? What the lyrics are about?
Well, yeah, the lyrics to the title track deal with hired assassins, like what happens in Colombia. There’s 10 to 12 year old kids there that get into killing people for money. It’s a pretty tough and extreme subject, but I think we tackled it with enough distance and respect. The lyrics in general are partly about politics, you know, the fucked up stuff that we see on the news everyday, plus some more personal stuff about how I see the world and the people around me. But there is always a different side to it, because we come from South America and have a bit of a different take on things.
“No Gods No Masters” had a very personal sound, easily recognizable among all those bands which sound exactly the same. “Sicario” is produced by Andy Classen, who is one of the busiest producers around here. Aren’t you afraid that Criminal may lose a part of its personality by working with him? Maybe it’s your label (Metal Blade) that imposed him on you. Anyway, how did it go in the studio? Do you think Andy Classen really brought something to your music?
No, Metal Blade didn’t impose anything. We wanted to work with a producer like Andy because we wanted to make sure every aspect of the sound was right. I agree with you in the fact that “No Gods” had a more personal sound, but it also had its weak spots, like the drum sound, and we didn’t want that to happen again. Andy is a class producer and didn’t interfere with our way of doing things at all, he just made sure we got the best possible sound. And I don’t think we lost any of our personality in the process.
You’ve been through line-up changes since the release of “No Gods, No Masters”. Mark Royce, your keyboardist, left. Why? Did you think that Criminal didn’t need synthesizers anymore? If it’s the point I think it’s too bad because they fitted very well to the songs on “No Gods No Masters”.
Well that’s two different pairs of shoes. Mark was ousted from the band because he didn’t show up for a tour and didn’t even bother to give us an explanation. As for the keyboard thing, I think they were partly a good thing, and I would personally still use them here and there, but not everyone in the band was in agreement about that. And there’s also a problem with having someone in the band who will only participate “here and there”, you know what I mean? With such a diminished role, a keyboardist will easily get frustrated and cause problems within the band. And we can’t afford to pay a session player either.
The other line-up change is the comeback of your original bass player, Juan “Kato” Cueto. Could you explain us this comeback?
Well, when Rodrigo and I first came to Europe we asked him if he wanted to come along, but he declined because he didn’t feel sure about it. When we returned to Chile for a tour we asked him to fill in because we didn’t have a bassist at the time, and everybody seemed to click perfectly from the very first practice. So eventually he decided to give it a shot and come to Europe, and it was great to have him play on the album. Unfortunately he couldn’t really make his mind up so he’s returned to Chile now. So now we’re on the lookout for the definitive Criminal bassist again!
How does the writing process go? Who’s the main composer?
Almost all of the riffs come either from Rodrigo or myself. We usually write on our own for some time before we get together with the rest of the band and start arranging, trying different suggestions or even discarding whole songs. That’s the way it’s always been and it seems to work for us.
Let’s go back to what is surely the turning point in Criminal’s history. In 2002, you moved from Chile to the UK. What were the reasons for the move at that time? I’m sure it’s not for the English food...
Well, if it was for food, I would have moved to France or Italy certainly. Yeah we moved to the UK, basically because I knew some people there who could give us a hand with a fresh start, and I was lucky enough to meet Zac (O’Neil, batteur du groupe et de Extreme Noise Terror, Ndlr) pretty much right away. He was immediately into Criminal when I played him some CDs and he offered his services for the band.
So you’re now living in the UK but you seem not to have forgotten where you come from. For example, a song in the new album, “Por La Fuerza De La Razon”, has spanish lyrics. Is it important to you? Is one song (or more?) with spanish lyrics something you will still want to do in the future?
Well it is in a way, we’ve been doing it for quite a while, although we stopped on “No Gods”, but we had songs in Spanish on the two previous albums, and the people in South America just love them, so I think I will go on with that tradition in the future. It is also good for me to talk about certain subjects in my mother tongue because I can express myself better.
I read you complained about more and more bands trying to sound like In Flames and you claimed Criminal would never do that because what you like to play is pure thrash metal like Slayer. You couldn’t make me happier, now I feel I have to write a very laudatory review of your new album haha! To be more serious, what do you think about that new metal scene, often described as “metalcore” by the media?
Well, as in every new style, there’s some good stuff and a lot of rubbish. When that style first came onto the scene I thought it was quite interesting, you know, something new, but now there’s so many bands doing the exact same thing that I just think it’s completely out of hand. On the other hand, if you are looking for a real thrash band, there’s not really much around, that’s why I think we have a good chance to succeed, because people have gotten tired of that trendy bullshit. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s really good stuff out there, but far too many imitators, too.
So what are you listening to these days? Any good bands to recommend?
I mostly listen to the favorites like “Heartwork”, “Slaughter Of The Soul”, you know, the classics, but I am also open for innovative bands. I’m a big fan of Strapping Young Lad and anything Devin Townsend does, and I also like bands like Mastodon. From the new breed of bands I like Lamb Of God and Unearth, because I think they have some killer riffs.
By the way, is metal music popular in Chile? How is the Chilean metal scene?
Oh yeah. Metal is VERY popular in Chile. Audiences for international acts are always in the thousands, and the people are really enthusiastic and genuine about what they like. And regarding local bands, there’s a healthy mix of styles, from death and black metal to power metal and doom.
Do you know some French bands and if you do, what do you think about them?
I don’t know too many French bands. The old heroes Trust, and Sortilege of course, they were really good, like a French Judas Priest. Then I remember Treponem Pal, this really harsh industrial band which was really good, too. Another name I remember is No Return, I think they’re still active, aren’t they? But unfortunately I don’t know many new bands.
A few months ago, you opened for Chimaira in London. How did it happen? I think it was a great opportunity for you...
Well, we were set to be local support at one of the shows, and the guy who was promoting the show, who’s a friend of ours, got the offer from Chimaira’s agency for us to play on all three dates. Of course we jumped at the chance, and it was really good for us, too. We had just come out of the studio and needed the adrenalin that you only feel on stage. And the audiences were great, too. It was mostly kids, and they had a great attitude towards our music. It was all a really cool experience.
Let’s go on with gigs. Is there a tour planned to promote the new album? Will we have the opportunity to see Criminal in France?
Oh man, I wish I could say yes, but at the moment we don’t have anything concrete planned. We have to wait until we get the chance to get on a tour first, and then see if Metal Blade will give us the necessary tour support.
This interview is made for a French webzine (www.thrashocore.com). What do you think about webzines and Internet more generally? What’s your opinion on downloading?
My honest opinion? Well, I think on the one hand webzines are a cool thing because basically anyone can do it. You know, real fans instead of self-important fucking journalists. The downside is, when you’re trying to promote your band, you might spend loads of time with interviews that might not get read by anybody (which I hope isn’t your case, hahaha). The internet is a great invention really, but people are mainly sad little fucks who like to do harm from where nobody can touch them. Which gets us to downloads. I know in a way they help bands because they make their music accessible for millions of people, but on the other hand, the whole ritual of getting out and buying an album has gone down the fucking drain. It’s like music has lost its value, it’s not something special anymore. Dunno, just my two cents.
Thank you for answering my stupid questions! Last words are yours.
Cheers for the interview. I honestly hope we’ll be able to play in France sooner rather than later. Everybody check out our new album “Sicario” because it will kick you in the nutsack! Drink red wine!