Alex "El Animal" Gonzalez, Andres Gimenez, Andreas Kisser, and Sr. Flavio compose De La Tierra, a new Latin metal band. (Courtesy of Martin DarkSoul)
Imagine a fresh take on rock and heavy metal. Imagine 4 friends uniting to deliver such relative new look of this particular Latin music scene.
That’s where De La Tierra come in. The quartet is comprised of Alex “El Animal” Gonzalez (of Mana), Andres Gimenez (of A.N.I.M.A.L and D-Mente), Andreas Kisser (of Sepultura), and Sr. Flavio (of Los Fabulosos Cadillacs).
De La Tierra’s self-titled debut album is slated for release on November 12. Gonzalez managed to speak with Living Out Loud to discuss the band’s beginnings, chemistry, first single titled “Maldita Historia” and album, among other things.
Living Out Loud: How is it that the De La Tierra project came to be, and where did the idea come from?
Alex Gonzalez: It all started because I’ve known Andres Jimenes from A.N.I.M.A.L for many years. We ran into each other all of the sudden when I was headed to Argentina or he was headed to Mexico. So sometime in 2008 after a Mana concert he came to my trailer and said, ‘Hey Alex, it would be awesome if you and I got together someday and worked on something’ and I said, ‘Wow, that would be incredible!’. But really, I thought about it and saw it as a very complicated idea, not only because of my scheduling with Mana but also the distance. But so it was, and we stayed in touch, yet that idea never left my head. So around November 2011, when I was on tour with Mana in Argentina, I saw him in Buenos Aires and I said, ‘You know what brother, let’s put a band together, let’s do something…’. I had already been wanting to play metal music for a long time. I’ve always loved heavy metal and hard rock. But also I wanted to do it as an independent project from Mana, to give myself that luxury. Andres thought it was a brilliant idea and we started talking. I asked him who he had in mind as the bassist, and he suggested Flavio from the Cadillacas. I agreed, and got excited just thinking about how electric he is on stage, and then with me on drums. On top of it all, he’s a great bassist who can do everything: reggae, ska, hardcore or metal. In other words, he’s a complete bassist. We got in touch with him and he thought it was a great idea and so we had a trio. Afterwards, I was still on tour in Argentina and just as I was finishing the tour, the three of us got together and agreed it would be great to have a quartet, so we got to thinking and Andres suggested Andreas Eisner from Sepultura. I said it wasn’t a problem, that we were super tight and that I would discuss it with him. I knew Andreas because when Mana went to Brazil, he would always show up at the concerts. I also played with him when Esccorpions went to Guadalajara, and in another occasion he came up on stage with Mana at Rock en Rio. So I sent him an email, and he was on tour in Italy with Sepultura and just before he went onstage, he saw the email and as soon as he was off he told me, ‘Don’t look for anyone else, you have your guitarist.’ I called Andres and he was happy because it meant we had our band.
LOL: What’s the concept of the band and how far do you want to go?
AG: There is no concept. It’s the coming together of 4 friends who just want to play. It’s a band focused in the long run. It’s not about just making one album, going on one tour, and then disappearing. Besides getting along well, the band has a great dynamic and a synergy that’s always on display in every show we play. But mostly it’s about just being friends, who want to get together and share the music and play rock that’s heavy and fun. No record label was involved in the band coming together; it’s just about wanting to play the music and the four of us share that.
LOL: Where does the name, De La Tierra come from, and what’s its significance?
AG: Andreas came up with De La Tierra because we’re all from Latin America. He’s from Brazil, Andres and Flavio are from Argentina, and I’m Mexican. But aside from us, the continent unites us, and our people and all the history. This is something very cool and meaningful. It’s a name that gives us a lot of freedom to do whatever we want with our music. We are not attached to any one type of metal; we just play whatever the fuck we want and share it all so everyone can enjoy it.
LOL: How does this project take form?
AG: As soon as we had our name, the 4 of us worked all through 2012 and by midyear we began to make demos individually and sent each other what we were all working on. Around mid-February 2013, we went to Argentina and got together at Flavio’s rehearsal room in his house. Andreas and I slept over and shared a room, like 16-yr olds and it was all good. In those 5 days, we listened to 16 demos from the 4 of us. We recorded 8 that caught our attention and wanted to develop. And so we began to record them all live and it was awesome. That’s when we realized that we really were a band, that we were something special. The way we worked together and how we sounded was just awesome. So we continue to work on our demos and by the beginning of May, we had left for Argentina to begin recording what would become De La Tierra’s debut album. It will be out by the second week of November.
LOL: In what way did each of you participate in the production process and who else did you all collaborate with?
AG: We all participated, but the majority of the songs are from Andreas and Andres. I wrote the music for 2 of the songs, including the first single,’Maldita Historia’. The music is mine and the lyrics are from Andres. We arranged and produced the album ourselves. Stalin Suarez, a great engineer who recorded and mixed the album, had already worked with Sepultura and we were all able to mix a very potent metal with lots of energy, with lyrics that talk about everything from fiction to realities of Latin American society. This is an album in which every song is different from the other. You’ll see a great mix of different metal styles, from very potent to very fast and hardcore.
LOL: Tell us about the single you’re promoting and where did you film the music video?
AG: The single is called, ‘Maldita Historia’, lyrics by Andres Jimenez, and it’s been on sale for weeks on iTunes now. The song talks about the dammed history that Latin America suffers from, years and centuries have passed and yet we still have the same problems with corruption and inequality, and how we have yet to learn from this history. But it also talks about how there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and how there’s a new generation of young people who keep pushing, demanding changes and justice, demanding better things like education and infrastructure. We shed light on all these problems but it’s sung in a very poetic manner. The video was produced by Alex Perez, and we did it in Miami, in a deserted structure. There’s no story, we simply play at full throttle, and show just how we will be performing live.
LOL: Any labels or attempts at pigeonholing?
AG: We want to make a couple of things very clear: 1) we don’t like to be labeled as a super band, because we are not one. We’re a new band starting at 0. We’re still creating our own identity and we’re still waiting to be known. On the flip side, it’s also important that people know that they should not try to label us; they shouldn’t assume we belong to any particular type of metal. We went in it to create with unbound freedom, without trying to impersonate anyone, except ourselves, and to enjoy what we’re all doing. The problem is that we like so many styles and bands that it’s impossible to musically close ourselves off to just one genre. For me to have the opportunity to play with musicians like Andreas and Flavio, who are amongst the best in the world, and Andres, who is also a singer/songwriter. That’s the cool thing about Andres, just like I can spit out dense material, he can sing. He’s one of the most tuned singers who can provide the melody needed in certain songs. Some metal singers who can yell very loudly and strongly but when it comes to making melodies, they can’t. It’s an advantage for us.
LOL: Are you guys still with your respective bands? What did those band mates have to say when they found out about De La Tierra?
AG: None of us have left their respective bands. I’m glad you brought this up because people are quick to start rumors that just aren’t so. All our other band mates supported us; it was all good vibes. They all thought it was a mind-boggling idea for the 4 of us to create a band. But we are all aware of our responsibilities to our respective bands.
LOL: How will you all compartmentalize your responsibilities to your respective bands and your work as De La Tierra?
AG: Well, Mana will begin recording an album this coming year and the idea is to go on tour to promote it. Andres is about to unveil his new album with Sepultura at the end of October. So for now, we’ll be promoting the single. But when the album is released, we’ll have to find the holes in our schedule so we can go on tour. We’re aching to go out and perform. We’re going to try to perform at as many festivals as we can, in Latin America as well as Europe. Obviously, we’ve made it very clear that the release for De La Tierra has to be in Los Angeles. From there, we’ll depart for the rest of the U.S. We’re very happy to see our fans’ comments, and we know that millions of Latinos want to hear our music, not just in our own countries but in Brazil and the U.S as well. We’re all very excited because the album was created very quickly. The whole process took place in about a month and a half; we never second-guessed ourselves. When you have that type of communication between musicians, everything flows more easily and we all have years of experience.
LOL: How have you guys agreed to deal with all the egos so as to not affect the future of the band?
AG: First of all, there is an incredible chemistry between all of us. We spend most of our time laughing our asses off. Between the 4 of us, we have between 20-25 years in the industry. Let’s just say that communication between us is easier than for others. To this date, we have never had a manager. All our discussions with the record company have been made by us. We pay for our recordings. As well as all our videos and album art. This has been a very organic art, without anyone telling us what we can or cannot do. It’s important to talk about how we will share in the goods; it all has to be clear from the beginning and with complete transparency. There are no egos in this band. In this band, you will find 4 friends who will give it their all. We’re very explosive, so if you can visualize how it will be when all 4 of us come together onstage with De La Tierra.
LOL: How do you see the rock scene at this time, and do you think it’s as alive as it was in its golden age?
AG: The rock scene has never died, and lives on all over Latin America. The problem is that there is not enough air time on the radio for this type of music, but there are millions of fans in Latin America who love heavy metal. The radio stations are very closed off; there are very few. I know there are some in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Mexico. Just in Mexico DF, with 24 million people, imagine how many bands are out there. At the same time, social media, the internet and magazines have kept this scene alive. At the same time, I feel the record companies have to be more open, open to all the bands playing at small bars. The U.S. means another type of rock, but the bottom line is that there are people born in America who speak both languages and who love metal.
LOL: What’s your stance regarding rock bands doing fusion projects or duets with completely different genres?
AG: Everyone has the right to do what they wish as long as it’s honest. I don’t see why we can’t do fusions. I love the idea that musicians can exchange ideas. I feel music connects people; it is a need for the people. How cool is it that a band like De La Tierra can get together without prejudice and enjoy itself to the max?