Interview: De La Tierra, Latin American Metal's Reawakening

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“Don’t call it a super group!” That’s Andrés Giménez, on the phone, from his home in Buenos Aires. And he’s serious about it. The idea of forming a transnational heavy metal band, with four members from four internationally successful bands, including the oddball of a drummer from a band mainly known for bland pop ballads, sounds like the premise of a bad reality show. But it’s not. There was no manager, or producer, or major record label executive or beer brand’s marketing genius behind this project either. “We’re just four friends, who love music and got together to play.”

It all started with Maná drummer Alex González‘s frustration. Besides being a skilled drummer, he’s a heavy metal connoisseur and he barely gets to show his metal influences at his day job. For years he had been yearning for a side project where he could explore this and he tried to convince others to join him. “We used to always meet backstage during the tours since the times I was still playing with A.N.I.M.A.L.,” remembers Giménez, “and we would always end up talking about heavy metal. About eight years ago he suggested we should meet and jam together and I said yes. But it didn’t happen until two years ago when he came with Maná to play in Argentina and he insisted, ‘Let’s do this, let’s make this dream come true.’ So we finally did it and I suggested Flavio, from Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, would be a great bass player for this because of his versatility, he can play virtually any style.”

Soon after that the Mexican drummer called his friend Andreas Kisser, guitar player for the most iconic heavy metal band ever to emerge from Latin America: Sepultura. And just like that, over the phone and via Skype, the band was formed. Kisser suggested the name.

“Once we had the name, we had a concept that united us and we started writing songs in a different way,” says A.N.I.M.A.L.’s former leader, who naturally took the position of main songwriter for this new project, but insisted that all four members sing and that there should be lyrics in both Spanish and Portuguese.

De La Tierra’s debut album is scheduled to drop world wide in early 2014. So far there’s only one single out and Andrés warns me that it’s “the softest song in the album, the most radio-friendly one. The rest is hardcore heavy metal.” So don’t expect any unorthodox Latinized fusions here.

A.N.I.M.A.L. was the main export of Argentina’s metal scene during the ‘90s. At the same time Sepultura was huge, on a global scale. However, since the 2000s, there hasn’t been any new metal act coming out of Latin America that managed to cross over to international recognition. Do you think De La Tierra’s mission is to fix this and bring metal back to the forefront?

We definitely noticed that after 2000 there was a decline. But that didn’t happen because of lack of music or lack of interest from the fans. It happened because of the media. In the ‘90s we had specialized TV shows, like MTV’s Headbangers that played all over Latin America. There were more radio shows, more magazines, the music media in general paid more attention to heavy metal. But the fans are still there, whenever Ozzy or Maiden come to play in Latin America, they pack stadiums. We really hope that De La Tierra helps open a door. We are not trying to reinvent the wheel. We’re here to make the music that we genuinely love, confront the prejudices, and open new spaces for the Latin American metal to reemerge.

Speaking of prejudices, the obvious and most controversial one, I’m sure, has to derive from the inclusion of Maná’s drummer in a heavy metal band. Among hardcore rockeros, especially in Mexico, to despise Maná is like the first commandment. Part of the definition of being a rockero in Mexico is to openly despise Maná. To what extent do you think this will play against De La Tierra? And can the potential success of De La Tierra help diminish the anti-Maná stigma and gain them some respect?

I wouldn’t use those words. I wouldn’t despise my worst enemy. I honestly don’t think that anybody could despise De La Tierra simply because the drummer comes from one of the biggest pop bands in all Latin America. Quite [the] contrary, I think people are going to be surprised, they are going to finally realize that [just] because one plays in a pop band [doesn’t mean they have] to be narrow minded. That person listens to more heavy metal than the most orthodox heavy metal fan out there. I’m sorry for those who will miss it. If they see Alex as rock’s antichrist, I don’t know, I think that’s silly. Do you know how many internationally famous heavy metal artists I’ve met who are way more fresa than Alex? I’d tell people not to focus on Maná, focus on the music De La Tierra [makes]. What we do comes from our souls. There will always be people who don’t like it and that’s fine. But we are here to add not to subtract. They should be happy about that.

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