Ill Niño

author PP date 11/04/08

Ill Niño are one of the last remaining nu-metal titans who (barely) survived nu-metal\'s wipe out from existence. I had a chance to sit down with Laz, the band\'s bassist who has been with the band since the start, and you could tell he was a seasoned veteran in the music industry from how relaxed and used he was to interviews. He had a lot of things to say, and I actually had to cross out a bunch of my questions cause he answered them in the process of answering other questions, so prepare for a long in-depth interview. What struck me most about Laz was his genuine thankfulness for the support of their fans, and his will to play on despite the falling record sales and significantly smaller venues that the band is playing this time around. But I shall keep you no longer, enjoy the interview! Hi and thanks for doing this interview!
Laz: Thank you. I\'ll give you a little background myself. I\'m Laz, the bass player of Ill Niño, been with the band since \'99 when the band came together. Still here, doing our shit, man [laughs] So what\'s new in Ill Niño at the moment?
Laz: Well, we got a new record, \"Enigma\", which took forever to release. It wasn\'t our fault, the record company had it tied up for a little while there and it almost looked like it was just gonna be an internet type of release, but luckily for us, things became to move and the record finally came out, and it\'s out now. We worked really hard on this record, we did something very unique that we\'ve never done before. Which was we went away to do a record. We didn\'t do it at home, so when we went home, we all went home together, and we all lived together. So it was music for four months, between arrangements and writing, producing and recording. It was probably the best time of my life, making a record, because it just didn\'t stop. It felt like being a little kid, all I had to do was play music. And we live for that, so it was playing music all day in the studio, then you get home late night and then you bust out the acoustic guitars, and a lot of the special writing kind of developed there, and all the ideas.. we managed to really, because we were all in one place, we managed to stay focused and really put down the ideas that we wanted. So where did you guys go to?

Laz: We went to Los Angeles, to Hollywood, which was nice, you know, to be in the environment. Even though we were not distracted, because we were just totally focused on the music. It can be really distracting out there, but we chose the music, and it was really what kept us from anything else. There was some hanging out, but very little, it was more about the music. And it was cool and interesting, right next door to us, koRn was doing their record, at their studio next door. So it was nice to be in company of other musicians who are still very active and very strong in this industry. You know, you felt good, you felt like you were making a real record. You\'re on European tour right now and you\'ve got about three and a half weeks left or so. How has it been so far..,is today the first night, or?
Laz: No, tonight\'s not the first night. We had the first night last week in Germany in Cologne, then we went to the Netherlands and did three shows, and then from the Netherlands to Luxembourg, and then two more shows in Germany before we came here. How\'s it been so far?

Laz: It\'s been great, it\'s been wonderful that the fans have been treating us so warm. We\'ve already had a couple of sold out shows, they\'ve all been packed houses. It\'s nice to be received with such warmth, to be able to rock out, and that energy just gets more intense, when there\'s more people in the crowd. What do you expect from the rest of the tour, more sold out shows?

Laz: Yeah, I mean the ticket sales have been pretty high, the advance sales, so it\'s definitely a good run for us. A lot of people are coming out to see us play. And it feels good, you know, it really does feel good that you don\'t have to worry about whether this may be your last time for a while before you come back, you know. The demand is still there for us, and we\'ve been very fortunate to be doing this at this state of the game. Trends come and go, but we went against all the odds and overcame it, and just stuck through to what we do, try to be an original band, try to deliver it our way, don\'t wanna imitate anyone. Just, you know, it\'s about being yourself, and expressing yourself as an individual, not copying or following a trend to fit into a genre to just get your rocks off and have a good time. I think music is a little bit more personal to us than following trends. If we look at what the media labels you guys, most of the time you see you guys labeled as a nu-metal band with Latin influences - do you feel that\'s an accurate label?
Laz: I think that depending where in the world you are at, you get a different label. I know we came out during the nu-metal era, so people associate us with that. But the only thing that\'s nu-metal about us is that we do not do it in a traditional fashion. We have to incorporate our cultural elements into it. We\'re not trying to re-invent the wheel, but we\'re trying to do it original. A big inspiration for us these days are bands like Led Zeppelin, you know, and Pink Floyd, who had very diverse records. There was edge, but there was also emotions and melodies, and a very melancholy sadness to it, which we truly enjoy, and we kind of modeled our new record after that, to have a record with that dynamic, that\'ll take you on a journey from aggression to sadness to the feeling of being alone but filling up your soul with the sounds. Yeah, I noticed that you had a couple of ballads towards the end of the record as well.

Laz: Yeah we put some rock ballads in there, particularly the latin rock ballads. On our first record, we had a... you know, the acoustic ballad song \"With You\", and we never really got back to that sound, so we wanted... we still have a lot of fans who really wanna hear us do that kind of style, so you know, you\'re trying to please everyone when you do a record. It\'s tough to please everyone, because no two songs are gonna be alike. But at the same time it\'s also very challenging, there\'s a little bit of everything. I think it\'s a big record in the sense that it\'s big in style. It takes you through various different styles. And when you have the ability and desire to do that, you know, and you do it from the heart, I think that the fans really appreciate it. Which is probably why we\'re still around today, because that\'s the way we approach music. You were on Roadrunner for loads of years and now you are on Cement Shoes Records. I have to different questions, first of all, how are the two labels different?
Laz: Well, for one, this record \"Enigma\" is probably the only record of all our records we\'ve had complete one hundred percent freedom, you know, with no outside sources influencing the direction. We had to make compromises in the past, and we made them so that they work within ourselves, while maintaining the integrity of the band. But we weren\'t able to be 100% Ill Niño all the time when we were on Roadrunner. So would you say that Roadrunner pressured you to write certain kind of songs, or?

Laz: Yes. Yes, they did. They pressured us to write certain kind.. they wanted singles. To me, I don\'t see any beauty in just writing songs to be singles to benefit radio, the listener. I think that we should just write music and if anything sounds like a single, then go with it. If it doesn\'t, then what can I tell you? But shit happens, we\'ve come along.. it\'s tough, because I\'m also very grateful for the career that Roadrunner jump started us with. Because of Roadrunner we have an international career, and we\'re able to play all over the world from Australia to Japan, to Eastern Europe, South America and Mexico and the US. So for that I\'m very grateful that they managed to get the music out there and touch and appeal to different cultures all over the world. But I\'m very happy that we have complete creative control. It\'s probably the only thing I\'m happy about Cement Shoes [laughs]. The best thing they could\'ve done was just leave us the fuck alone, let us do the record we wanted to make. You mentioned this already, you released your new album \"Enigma\" just before, in March.. what are your thoughts on it overall or just in general?
Laz: I\'m very happy and very proud of this record. I can tell you this much, our best playing is on this record. We played so hard and we practiced so much, we don\'t wanna pro tools edit, we wanted real takes, real time, and a real feel. We took a lot of pride in trying to show our growth. Because if you don\'t grow.. when you go through life, you go through changes, and there is a growth period in your life, even though I haven\'t grown up since I was eighteen years old [laughs] but life has grown with me, and you gotta go with it, and our fans grow too. So it\'s kind of like growing together, we can all grow together, we can all share our souls, you know, as we go along through life, through our journey through life. How do you see it standing musically against the other albums you guys have written? Is it better, is it worse, is it the same?
Laz: You\'ll always get people that are more fans of one record than the other. I think the record has been well-received by the fans, probably the most well-received. I don\'t know if it\'s better or not, you know, because when you think of the last records, there\'s a certain subconscious thing that\'s involved as well. All I can say is that on this one we really took a lot of pride into trying to write great material that really touched us, and we explored and kind of grew, and showed different styles on us. Christian finally caught the blues, and finally you hear him singing with the blues, and to me that was big. He always refused to sing the blues in the past, but I guess he got to the point in his life, where he was like \"you know what? The blues is cool man, and it\'s a way of being able to express a certain emotion\", and he did a fantastic job. Everybody did. Everybody stepped up and really wanted to make a special record. Every time you do a record, you always do it like it might be your last, you know. And how do I wanna be remembered? Well, \"Enigma\" is how I wanna be remembered. [laughs] I\'ve noticed on the net actually that it seems like the fan consensus is that it is your best album so far!

Laz: Yeah, yeah! I feel the same way, you know. But then again, every time we put out a new record, that was my favorite one [laughs]. But this is definitely by far my favorite one. It just makes me feel so alive when I listen to this record. I don\'t even listen to it like it\'s me, I listen to it for the emotion and the feelings that it gives me when I listen to it. This record really touches me, every time I hear it, there\'s just something special about it. I think that a lot had to do with how involved we all were working together on this record. It was nice to be able to get together and live together and not have any outside distractions, you know. People didn\'t go home. We all went home together. It was nothing but music 24/4. And that, you know, is amazing, and I would love to continue making records that way. So if we keep that in mind that your fans say that this is your best album to date, and at the same time we compare it to the album sales. I mean your debut album sold over 300,000 copies, the next one 500,000, and then another 100,000 copies for the third one as well, but as far as I know, \"Enigma\" only sold about 5,000 copies on its first week in the US. But at the same time on Myspace you guys have hundreds of thousands of plays on your new songs. What do you think is happening here?
Laz: Well the music business is changing, and you can\'t really judge it on album sales anymore because music is being downloaded, you know. When we play shows, the album that sells the least, lets say \"One Nation Underground\", every time we play a song from \"One Nation Underground\", everyone goes completely insane [laughs], so you know, maybe they didn\'t buy the record, but they downloaded it, because they are very familiar with the songs. And this goes when we do festivals as well, you know, when you are playing to 30,000 to 65,000 people. It\'s just the music business that\'s changing, and you kind of have to go with it. So how does that affect you as a band, I mean you must see the figures and go like \"hmm, well, a few years ago it was much bigger\"

Laz: Well you know, in America, the promotion hasn\'t even really begun for the record. It\'s just beginning now. We had to put the record out because it was being delayed so much, but it\'s a late start with promotion in America, it still came in the top 200 charts, which tells you what album sales have been up these days. It\'s a late start. In Germany we came in #65 in the Top 100 German charts, which is pretty damn good to be on the charts. Any charts is damn good to be on. I really don\'t even look to it, because it seems like more people are downloading music every day, it\'s so much easier than just going out and buying it. Hopefully people will eventually, when they get enough money together, and they really dig the band, they should go out and buy the record. Because if they don\'t, then there won\'t be any money to make another record. [laughs] It\'s really how it goes, you know, if you don\'t support your band and buy their records, you\'re gonna kill the band off, because there won\'t be any money to record, to tour, or to promote. So if you wanna keep the band alive, which our fans have been great to us, keeping us alive, so I can\'t really ask for anything more, not just for my band, but for any band, if you truly love that band, show the support. Because if you don\'t, man that band is not gonna come up with a new record. People aren\'t going to be able to sustain themselves on the road. Then they go back to their regular lives and their regular jobs, and you know, it\'s kind of bad news for musicians. A lot of musicians go back to regular jobs already. And now with the increase in downloading and decrease in sales, it\'s getting harder and harder every day for our favorite bands. As you mentioned the album was delayed a lot, and that probably could\'ve hurt the sales a bit, and I noticed the record leaked online quite a bit before. So I\'m sure a lot of fans really wanna know, what were the actual reasons for the delay?
Laz: The record company ran out of money [laughs], that\'s really what happened, there wasn\'t any money to promote, so they couldn\'t put it out. Eventually when the license went out for the European labels, they\'ve been really great and working so hard for it, they\'ve been doing their part, but it was still being delayed from America. But eventually when it was released to the rest of the world, the respected companies got the record and started promotion. So far it\'s moving.. we\'re open for business is more like it [laughs], you know we\'re just trying to get the grand opening ready, but you\'re not ready but you gotta open up the store [laughs], you know, alright fuck it, let everyone in, let everyone pick whatever they want. So in other words, the record was actually ready for a very long time?

Laz: Oh yeah, the record has been ready for a long time. The record should\'ve technically come out in September. It hurt us to even look, and how do we tell the fans, because no band ever wants to delay their record. Every band wants their record to come out on time, and they want their music for their fans as soon as possible. You don\'t wanna wait to play the record for someone. So yeah, the delays are just not our fault. Unfortunately we had to do all the explaining, which sucks, because if it\'s someone else\'s fuck up, but we have to take the heat and do the explanation for it. But what are you gonna do, the record is out now, thank god people aren\'t too angry. If the record would\'ve sucked they would\'ve been super pissed. But we\'ve been getting a lot of \'worth the wait\', so it makes you feel good that they feel happy to finally have it, and that they still choose to be with you. So one more question left, how does the future look like for Ill Niño?
Laz: Shit, the future is a mystery. We love making music together, as long as the fans keep us alive, we will continued to make music. In the meantime we will do other things, Christian and I have a production team called Sound Wars, we\'ve been producing bands back home, and we\'ve been working with this band called With Daggers Drawn, which are absolutely fucking amazing, and I know that you will hear of them at some point or another, because it\'s a great band. It\'s a lot of fun, I really enjoy helping bands find their identity, and helping them with their sound and their direction. It\'s something that we really enjoy, and it\'s kind of like giving back, giving back to the scene, particularly where we\'re from in New Jersey, kind of developing and trying to create the scene for New Jersey to be a lot stronger with more bands. Thanks for doing this interview, any comments to your fans and the readers?
Laz: I just wanna thank all our fans for sticking with us and keeping us alive. \"Enigma\" is your record as much as it is ours. It\'s for you and us. We love sharing it, and I\'m very very deeply touched, thank you very much, I can\'t thank you enough.

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