(Provided by Billie / Metal Music Magazine)
Hi, this is Anton from CRIMINAL.
Hi, Anton. Are you calling from Chily?
Oh, that's really great. I've never heard from anyone from Chily.
This is, actually, one of the most interesting facts for our magazine and, I think, for main magazines in Europe, because it's rather difficult to find a band from Chily.
Yeah, probably. We are actually the first to get a worldwide release.
Well, if you don't mind, let's start from the early beginning when you just formed the band.
Sure. During the late 80s I was in a band called PENTAGRAM. That band didn't last very long and after we disbanded in '88 I started looking for people to form a new project. I kept playing here and there but it was nothing serious really. Finally I got a call from Rodrigo who was a lead guitar player and he came to my house and we set around and talked.Then we started writing riffs and it really started to happen so we brought in the other two guys and that's when we started. It was in 1991.
So, in a way, you were the leader and the founder of the band...
Yeah, you can say so. I write almost all the lyrics and like half the music so I'm kind of the band leader.
What music did you play back in'91, what influence did you receive from the world music scene?
Well, actually, when we started we were much more fixed on the speed side of things like SLAYER or VIOLENCE or EXODUS. But as we developed through the years we were incorporating more of other stuff, too. So nowadays you can hear a lot of different stuff in our music, from the very fast hardcore to very slow shit and in-between.
Excuse my ignorance, I don't really know much about Chily, so could you tell me a few words about the underground movements in Chily in the beginning of the 90s?
Well, it was still very underground then, there were a few fanzines and not many bands and there were really not many places to play so it was very difficult. Now it has developed through the years and it's much better. You can easily find places to play, you can put out your stuff and everything. We got a couple of very good magazines and even a radio station that plays some metal.
But still even then there were some people dedicated to that sort of music and some places where the bands could play, eh?
Yeah, there still were some places but they were always the worst pieces of shit that you could imagine. The bands didn't have good eqipment and stuff like that. That's just gotten better lately.
And what about music shops?
Actually, I do work in one myself. They are usually very small but totally dedicatd to metal and the heavy side of music. There must be 5 or 6 such shops in Santiago only. You get everyting you need. For example, if you read something in a magazine that you are interested in you just go to one of the stores and they import it for you.
In the former USSR where the totalitarian government presented its ideology, in the beginning of the 90s rock-music was not very popular and sometimes even suppressed by the government. Were there similar problems in Chily?
When we started CRIMINAL, we had already gotten back to democracy here in Chily, but when I was in my old band, in PENTAGRAM - that was before Pinochet left the government - well, it wasn't an official repression against that sort of music but you always got into problems with cops and everything. So you could still feel the hand of the authoritarism on the music.
And do you think that Pinochet regime mad any influence on your lyrics?
Not really. O'K, maybe in a subconscional way. But I really don't try to fix my lyrics on very concrete things because I want everybody from here to Russia, whatever, to Japan to be able to relate to them. So I don't call things by their names, I prefer to use metaphors. My lyrics are centered on the personal things, felings or fears of people - fear of dying, you know, or problems people might have with drugs or stuff like that. I don't write political or fantasy lyrics, I deal with the individual.
Could you explain the title of CRIMINAL? It is rather interesting a name.
When we were looking for a name we wanted something that sounded real vicious, aggressive and violent but not some cliche that thousands of groups already have. And I think, CRIMINAL is the perfect word for it. Further than that, we wanted a name that is spelled and pronounced the same in English and Spanish, our native tongue.So it's O'K with CRIMINAL.
By the way, even in Russian there are words beginning with 'criminal' so even in Russia people can understand the name.
Criminal is someone who is out of laws, who confronts the government and oter people. Does it coincide with the ideology of the band?
I think, we just wanted to provoke,you know, because when on a big sign you see'CRIMINAL' it is something that's a little bit shocking to people, to ordinary people.Criminal is totally against everything that is established and in that sense, I think, it has something to do with our ideology.
O'K, and now let's talk about the development of the band 'cause there are about 10 years of the band's existence and only now you have released your album worldwide for Metal Blade.
Well,we formed the band very late in '91, so this year doesn't count. During '92 we did a couple of demos and played a few shows, we actually played our first big show as a support-act of KREATOR...
Yeah, and it was a very big and violent show. At that time noone really knew in Chily how to put on a show like that. And it was very good for us because a lot of people got to know CRIMINAL very quickly. We kept all of '93 playing local gigs and trying to get a record deal. We tried big labels outside like Century Media or Roadrunner. But all of them said that they liked the stuff but they are not ready to sign a band from South America.
I guess they think it's too expensive to promote a band like this or maybe they think they have good enough bands at home and they don't have to go that far to look for a band, I really don't know. So we finally decided to record our first album on our own, we produced it ourselves and paid for it ourselves and that album finally got picked up by BMG which is a major label down here and they helped us to promote this. In '94 we did a very big show with SEPULTURA here in Chily. After releasing the album we did a couple of videos which had a very good airplay on Latin MTV. That helped us a lot to become known in South America and we spent all these years touring the continent. The album Dead Soul was released in Chily in '97 but it took us a year and something to get a proper distribution or the proper company to distribute it worldwide.
So one day you decided to send a copy of your album to different labels once more and Metal Blade turned out to be the right label to sign here?
No, it was not like that, at all. When we put out Dead Soul we were pressing the company to release it worldwide. But BMG weren't really doing a lot so we started to look for ourselves. It was a very lucky thing to get a letter from a guy who worked at Metal Blade in America, in California. He was interested in getting some stuff from South American bands. We sent him a package and he showed it to his boss. They liked it very much and decided to get a license to put it out. That's when they contacted Metal Blade and started negotiating on everything.
The album is being distributed worldwide but has the contract with Metal Blade improved the situation of your band right now? Do you have an opportunity to get more money or to tour more?
Well, we're just getting started, 'cause the album is gonna be out in April and we just started all this promotion and stuff. And we certainly hope that the situation will improve because we want to tour worldwide and I think Metal Blade can come up with enough financial support to tours.
Are there any underground contacts between Chily and other countries and, on the whole, tell me a few words about the metal scene in South America.
Well, every scene from every country was always very separated even from the ones in neighbour countries. There wasn't much exchange so it was really good when MTV came in 'cause they put on a 2-hour (metal) show seen all over the country. They showed our videos and we gradually got to realise what was going on in other countries. That was the first thing to unite the scenes more or less. Now this show's been cut down to one hour and showed in a very bad time of a day but it really helped us a lot.
How many shows are there going on in Chily, for example, per month?
It's very different. During the summer months, for example, there's not much going on but now we have a good share of shows. Let's say, on Sunday BAD RELIGION played down here and tonight STRATOVARIUS are playing. On April,3rd there's a festival with DEICIDE, ARCH ENEMY and HAMMERFALL. And there's always gigs from local bands going on so you get a lot of shows. Most people don't have enough money to go to all these shows but you get the band you wanna see.
So Chily nowadays opened its gates to musicians from all over the world?
That actually started when the military left the government. Now bands usually tour Brazil, Argentina and Chily, it's like a circle within South America. Though a lot of countries don't get to see any band, like Peru or Columbia. But as to Chily you can sae that almost every big band has come here already or is gonna come, Like this year we are expecting to see KISS with RAMMSTEIN and METALLICA with SEPULTURA.
Can you call your band the major band from Chily nowadays?
I think so, we are by far the band that sells the most records in this country. We sold 10,000 copies from Dead Soul here which is very much. 15,000 is already gold so we're pretty close to that. Our videos have been on TV, our music has been on the radio. I think, there's no other band which is as successful as we are right now.
What extreme musical styles are more popular among Chilian bands?
You get almost everything. There's good doom bands, we have a long tradition of death metal here in Chily. Now you get also heavy metal bands, punk and hardcore bands, you get pretty much everything.
What about black metal?
There's not much of it. I know one group which, I believe, is gonna even put out a record in Europe through a small label, but it isn't typical..
Let's get back to the album itself. Some people tend to compare you with SEPULTURA sounding. My personal thinking is that you're by all means unique but there is something from SEPULTURA actually.
There's definitely a certain vibe. People are not able to differentiate between a certain influence or a certain vibe and plain copying. We probably have a similar vibe because we started a lot of years ago and we've been developing through the years in a parallel way to them We have the same roots and it don't bother me really when people say that one of the elements of our sounding is SEPULTURA sound.I think there's much more to it than that.
What are the main things that bother and trouble you and you would like to share your opinion about?
Ugh, that's a tough question... I think it is mostly power abuse when a few are using their power to influence and to try to take control of other people's lives.
Does it happen to be the influence of Pinochet regime on your subconsciosness?
Yes, it has something to do with that, but it's not only that. For example, we have a very strong Catholic church in Chily and they are also trying to impose their views upon the rest all the time. One time IRON MAIDEN were supposed to play here and one bishop went to the papers and said they were satanic and they shouldn't play here as they were a bad influence on the youth.And suddenly IRON MAIDEN didn't have a place to play any more and they couldn't come down here.
So Chily freed itself of the army men and got into the arms of the clergymen?
The curch has always been here. It has been a very strong force in all of Latin America since it was taken over by the Spanish in the 15-16th centuries. The warriors came along with the clergymen then.
But nowadays Chily is developing fast and it seems to me, it is trying to become part of the world economy. The industry is advancing...
Yeah, I definitely have to agree with you on that. The economy of Chily is by far one of the strongest in South America. At the moment we are going through a crisis but I think it is almost worldwide. The unemployment rate is rather high but we are pretty lucky here in Chily to have a good economic system.
You are a group from the developing country with an undeveloped scene for that sort of music. But you managed to get a contract with one of the major metal labels in the world. Could you give a piece of advice to a group, for example, from the ex-USSR or from some other developing country?
My advice would be that you just believe in what you do and try to be the best at what you do. Try to become a better musician, a better performer and if you hold on, then sooner or later you're gonna get a reward for it. We had to work and struggle for like 7 or 8 years but we finally got what we wanted to get. So if we could, why shouldn't other people from other countries be able to do the same?