Ill Niño’s Cristian Machado Talks ‘Till Death, La Familia’ Album, Mayhem Festival + More
Ill Niño are set to unleash their new album, ‘Till Death, La Familia,’ on July 22, and we recently had a chance to talk with the band’s frontman, Cristian Machado. He discussed the group’s desire to continually push the boundaries and keep things fresh, as well as their run on the recently launched Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Tour. Check out our chat with Ill Niño’s Cristian Machado below.
Did you have an idea of what you wanted to do going into this album? How close was the resulting disc to what that original idea may have been?
I think going into the album, we were trying to challenge ourselves into not being stuck in our own sound so much and perhaps trying to find a good way to not put out the same album twice. At this point in our career, it’s becoming a bit difficult because we put out a lot of music and it’s very definitive thing or style that we play. So, we really just wanted to put out something refreshing and modern. We wanted to give it our best. We had a very strict deadline lingering over our shoulders. So, we didn’t have a lot of time to think things over. Everything was very much from the gut.
I think the main objective is to do something refreshing, to do something that’s a little different than our other albums and to do something a little bit modern. We didn’t want to be stuck in our old ways or feel too comfortable. We wanted to challenge ourselves creatively, and also as friends and musicians in the same band. We wanted to challenge ourselves as best as we could.
I heard that you started with the beats first and then built around that, which may have been different than past processes. Talk about the decision to write in that manner. Did it make it more challenging?
I would say Ahrue [Luster] and Laz [Pina] wrote the majority of all the music. This was definitely one of the first albums where I was able to just focus on vocal patterns, melodies and lyrics. I wasn’t too involved with things like recording the album or editing anything on the album or writing music with the guys. I think Ahrue and Laz did a great job of trying to begin what would be a rhythmic essence and a feel for what tempo they wanted to write in. There were certain things thrown around, percussive elements before we actually got to writing any music.
For the most part, Ahrue and Laz were really just trying to challenge themselves and write music that had a little bit more energy perhaps than our older stuff, but still contained that Ill Niño identity. I know that some of the songs, the BPM’s were a little faster so that would have something to do with the outcome of the record. I think that in trying to search for that newer, more refreshing style, having some of those faster rhythms available before we started writing was very much of an advantage.
‘Live LIke There’s No Tomorrow’ is the lead track. That song definitely surprised me, with more of an electronic feel to it than I’m use to hearing, but it’s definitely still heavy. How did that become the lead song off the disc?
That’s a song Ahrue put together. From early on, it felt like a really cool song. Most of the material that Ahrue and Laz put together is really strong — I’d say some of the strongest instrumentals I’ve ever heard from anyone in the band in many years. From the moment that I listened to it, I knew it had something cool about it. The verses are in 4/4 timing but it’s got an added two-bar measure, so it gives it a little bit of syncopation feel to it, like a push and pull between the vocals and the music. What allows the chorus to be simple and down to earth and more fun than anything else is that the complexity is left in the verses. Most of the words in the storyline are explained in the verses.
It allows a chorus to be simple, very humble and also a little bit fun, which is something i’m not too used to lyrically doing on any of the albums. I usually try to be a very serious songwriter, whether it’s in first person or third and I’m describing a character. That said, there isn’t a lot of times in my career where I’ve been able to write a fun lyric — a lyric that’s a full description of freedom but also allow you to feel good about the things that you do in life. To live in the moment is the most important thing to take away from that song. I think it will connect with a lot of people, and we hope it does. It’s a very simple lyric and the complexity lies in the verses, therefore allowing the chorus to be simple and hopefully connect a little bit more directly with people.
The album title ‘Till Death, La Familia’ evokes a certain image. Can you talk about the title and what inspired it, and what it means to you personally?
It started out as an idea that Laz had. He was very early on throwing around “la familia” and how it would be somewhat of a testimony to the fans that have stuck by us and that have believed in us. Also to the industry that have believed in us and stood behind us this entire, almost two decade career. I think we were trying to search for something that described how we felt about how grateful we are for the people that have stuck by us and they allow us to have a career. In the end ultimately I think I felt it was something lacking that we needed to really describe it, ‘La Familia’ perhaps is a bit too big for me. I was 100% sure. So, I started throwing around some ideas, ‘Til Death La Familia’ was one of them. The guys in the band really liked it. I think it further pushed the envelope on what that statement is.
It describes it a little more in detail. It is ironic that we ended up with that title. Some of us have family, not just fans we consider family but family. Kids, married and we’re very close to our families. Our fathers and mothers. I think it was ironic it ended up being that. It was a time in our career, we’re getting older and we’re starting to realize that family is a very important thing. As much as youth and rebellion is cool, it’s also very important to not forget about the things that are the most important in life. As the title suggests, to stick by your loved ones and hopefully they will reciprocate in that manner. We hope that it can, that it’s clear enough. We hope that the message on the album is clear and that people understand what it’s about and also that our fans appreciate that we’re trying to do something special for them, our families, everyone. And that they buy the record!
The message is clear. You mentioned you’re doing it for the people that have supported you over the years. You guys are around and still doing it. What are some of the biggest changes for you, from what it was like when you were first starting out as a band to where you are now?
I think the things that have changed the most, definitely technology has changed the music industry in a big way. From the media point of view, trends as they always will in America. They come and go. The thing that was cool five months ago is not the thing that’s cool today. I think in the entertainment industry in general, we’re used to a very revolving door type of attention, here in America. It’s not a bad thing. It keeps music refreshing. It keeps artists pushing to be creative. I think the biggest things that have changed are trends, technology. We’re lucky to still be able to thrive the way things are now a days. I’m hoping in the future, there’s a continual change that will eventually make music listeners comfortable with buying music again. I’m pretty sure it’s going to eventually come back to the proud aspect of owning music, and really supporting the artist that you believe in.
It may have to come from a format change, or from the fans psychological point of view. As far as trends, it’s ironic that we’re in this never-ending change of reality into fantasy. It seems every 10 years theres this big theme change in lyrics, and in overall content lyrically in music. I think now we’re going back to wanting music to take us away from reality. Whereas perhaps 7-8 years ago we wanted to hear reality in music. That said, I think that there’s a little bit of both on the new Ill Niño album. There’s nothing wrong with speaking about fantasy as long as it’s true to your heart and it’s something that really connects with who you are as an artist. I can’t really see myself completely going over the deep end and talking about horror and absolute violence. Even the songs that are somewhat violent on the album, they have to do with topics that are the opposite of that. Things like videogames, and violence in video games. It’s not necessarily that it’s a violence within me, but a violence that I’m observing in society. A lot of questions are raised and I think they come from being a father and, a lot of anger at the world that my daughter is going to be forced to be raised in.
‘Blood Is Thicker Than Water,’ ‘Pray I Don’t Find You,’ ‘I’m Not The Enemy’ are among my favorite tracks on the album, but I’ll turn it over to you. What are some of your favorite tracks? Why?
‘Blood Is Thicker Than Water’ is definitely a standout track on the album. I’d say it’s the heart of the album. The album from the human body point of view, definitely ‘Blood Is Thicker Than Water’ is the heart of the album. I think a song like “Live Like There’s No Tomorrow’ is perhaps a little more the soul — that freedom that we’re constantly trying to seek. Another great song is ‘Not Alive in My Nightmare,’ which deals with a little more fantasy like I was explaining it’s a violent song. But it has mostly to do with my observation of the world and a lot of the violence that we see in the media. Those are some of my favorite songs.
Also ‘Breaking the Rules’ is a great song. That’s empowering. Also, it allows the mind to break down the walls that are constructed around the way we’re supposed to live. The way we’re supposed to feel. The things we’re supposed to do in society. There’s a lot of cool tracks on the album, but those are some of my favorites.
You’re playing Mayhem Festival this summer. Talk a little bit about the chance to play that and your label Victory Records is sponsoring one of the stages. What does it mean to be representing and having the record label fully behind you on this?
We’re absolutely flattered and honored to be on the festival. To be honest, we haven’t done anything this cool in America in 10-12 years. We’re really looking forward to it. We hope our fans can make it out. We’re hoping to make some new fans, perhaps turn some people into Ill Niño fans that have never heard us before. We know there’s a chance of that to happen. We may not be the youngest band on the bill but we’re definitely going to be one of the more energetic bands. We’re absolutely going to go out there and impress every day. That’s going to be our main goal.
Being on the festival is something that couldn’t have been accomplished without Victory Records, who stood behind us for several albums now. For them to sponsor one of the stages and have us be one of the few bands that are on that stage that are on Victory. I think that’s an honor for us. We really want to show our appreciation to them and to our fans who have stuck by us by going out there every single day and putting on an amazing show. We want to give them, Victory Records and our fans, the reason. I guess it’s the definition of why they believe in us.
The great thing about festivals is there’s a wide variety of bands that get to play. You get to see some of your friends you’ve toured with over the years or bands you’ve always wanted to see. Talk about some of the acts that you’re looking forward to spending the summer with.
We have a lot of great friends in the industry. We’re very lucky to have been around for a long time. Looking forward to spending time with my great friends from Emmure. Also, the guys in Suicide Silence whom we just got to tour with in Australia. We hit it off very well, right away. Also, we’re friends with the guys in Korn and that’s a band that’s been able to stick it out with through many trend changes, and obviously we’re at a much lower level than they are but the friendship is still admired. We still admire them as friends, and musicians. The guys from Trivium, we’re going to have a great time seeing them every single day.
I’m interested to see what Body Count is going to be like, honestly. I’m usually a person who is not a trend hopper, I don’t constantly change the trends I’m into. I was never a huge Body Count fan but I like the fact that they’re on the bill because they’re the odd band out. They’re the very different band on the bill. Similar to what we are, with bands like Emmure, Suicide Silence, Cannibal Corpse, Asking Alexandria. I think bands like Ill Niño and Body Count are the [laughs] sore thumbs sticking out. I think it gives us an opportunity to take advantage of that. To really show the crowds that music is diverse and that genres don’t have to be so confined to four walls. That’s the beauty in music, is to test yourself. To continuously look for something that’s original and different. Those are the bands I’m looking forward to seeing on the bill, spending time with. There are some others, but for the most part those are the friends of ours. I’m just honored to be sharing the stage with some of them.
Before we go, anything else you’d like to throw in or make sure we talk about?
Just letting people know that our record comes out on July 22 is the most important thing. I just want to thank all our fans that stood by us and want to ask them to give us a hand in keeping Ill Niño alive by actually purchasing the record the day it comes out, or pre-ordering it.
Our thanks to Ill Niño’s Cristian Machado for the interview. As he stated, the band’s ‘Till Death, La Familia’ album arrives July 22. You can pre-order the disc via Amazon and iTunes. And look for the band this summer on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. Click the button below to see the tour dates.