Ill Niño : Lazaro Pina
New Jersey bruisers confess

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Ill Niño have weathered a good many storms in their short career. It's not many new bands who could survive losing two key members while putting that 'difficult' second album together - especially while still working hard to establish themselves as prime purveyors of a new kind of fusion.
    Although the New Jersey band's debut album Revolution . . . Revolucion achieved respectable sales, guitarist Marc Rizzo and percussionist Roger Vasquez left in early 2003 to collaborate on a new project, Coretez.

Meanwhile, Ill Niño's attempts to combine dark nu-metal riffing with fiery Latin rhythms were proving difficult to categorise. The recipe could easily have alienated both metalheads and Latinos at a stroke. Instead, the signs are that a whole new audience is being attracted by Ill Niño's wild melody, dark bilingual poetry and strong live presence. The band were a huge hit at Ozzfest 2002 and recent single How Can I Live got an extra boost from its inclusion on the soundtrack for genre movie Freddy Vs. Jason. But it's the music's emotional honesty and sonic experimentation that's gaining most attention in Europe.
    I spoke to bassist Lazaro Pina about the transition to phase two, the making of new album Confession, and the band's hopes and plans for the future.

counterculture: You've been really successful throughout these two albums at putting together a synthesis of a kind of nu-metal with Latin rhythms, stylings and instrumentation. Is that something that happened naturally or did you sit down and plan to mix those two things?

Ill Niño - Click to enlargeLazaro Pina: It was just something that happened naturally. At the time we were all in different bands and it was just getting together to do a project with no barriers and we just ran with it, expressing our own cultures. We all come from different Latino backgrounds, such as Peru, Brazil, Venezuela, Dominican Republic and so we were just having fun with it. We were all just friends; it was friends getting together to do something really strong without any real expectation of anything in return. And when you do it that way there's a certain magic that really attracts people to it, and we were one of the lucky ones that got noticed.

cc: No preconceptions then?

LP: No. I wanna also thank some of the bands that have opened up doors . . . such as Santana. In many ways, the way they incorporated the cultures, they set it up perfectly for us.

cc: In many ways you're kind of like an updated Santana.

LP: I always consider us that way - I really do.

cc: Did the whole band start off with Latin music - is that where you learned your musicianship, or did rock come first for you?

LP: Rock came first for us; rock is the reason we all play music. And then if you dig deep, you realise that you develop these natural rhythms from the music that you heard in your house or from your neighbourhood that was very much part of shaping all our lives. Like I said, it was just like having fun with it, that's why we all came together and that's the reason our music will always have that element.

cc: Do you find the different musical styles are good for putting over different songs, different moods or emotions? Does the mix give you a broader emotional range to work with, a broader palette?

LP: Yeah, but we really don't try to be anyone else, we're not trying to be the heaviest band, we're not trying to be a commercial band, we're just trying to be ourselves and therefore, with that in mind, we're not really trying to be anything but who we are. It makes it that much easier, more fun and that much more sincere. You know, when you're faking it people can tell and . . . not to dare to fake the funk, you know?

cc: I wanted to ask about the personnel changes you had between the first and second albums.

LP: It almost all happened prior to going into the studio. Roger decided to leave two days prior and Marc wouldn't find out he was going to be leaving until the middle of the recording process. But it was a smooth transition for us, you know, we just called up our friends. We knew Ahrue [guitarist Ahrue Luster] from Machine Head, and Danny [Danny Couto, percussionist] used to play in a band with our guitar player Jardel. We just gave him a ring and said hello and explained the situation and he came down ready to play. We knew he was an incredible player, and we knew we wanted someone who would progress with the way we've been progressing. And he was just the right guy, he took it took another level. It was extremely easy. It was almost like the changing of the guards, you know!

cc: Do you think it's strengthened the lineup?

LP: Oh absolutely, we're all tighter and far more dedicated . . . we're a lot more united. There is nothing that is gonna stop us from being Ill Niño.

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