Other Features:

- Email Talia
Soghomonian


- Join our mailing list
- Send this page to
a friend

- City Guide
- NYC Gig Listings
- Gallery
- Contact Us
 
  Ill Nino 

Interview with Dave Chavarri of Ill Nino, by Talia Soghomonian

Rockers Ill Nino are here to show the world that there's more to Latin music than just Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, and Enrique Iglesias. Infusing heavy angst-ridden metal with Calypso rhythms, Ill Nino's music is hardcore rock gone melodious.

Before their concert in Paris with opening acts Flaw and Mushroomhead, Ill Nino drummer extraordinaire Dave Chavarri – all dreadlocked and pierced – spoke with NY Rock about his band that's taking the rock world by storm.

NYROCK:

Tell me about your first gig....

DAVE:

We did our first gig [in front of] 700 people at home [in New Jersey].

NYROCK:

That's not bad for a first gig.

DAVE:

Yeah, it was really cool. We had a song out on college radio. And then we started doing a bunch of festivals and bigger shows. A month later we got signed to Roadrunner... 14 months later and we're touring this record. We've done [tours with] Soulfly, Spineshank, Fear Factory, Machinehead, Kittie, Drowning Pool, Coal Chamber.

NYROCK:

You're also doing Ozzfest this summer?

DAVE:

We're doing Ozzfest [in France]. We did the German Ozzfest. We did the U.K. We just broke a record at Rock Am Ring [the German festival]. The outside part held only 5,000 people, we broke a record for 9,000 people viewing the band in Rock Am Ring. Then at U.K. Ozzfest, the tent only held 8,000 people and they turned away 3,000 people. We broke the record there also for most people viewing the band during an Ozzfest.

We've been touring our asses off... But we love what we do and we're not stopping until November.

NYROCK:

What are you doing after November?

DAVE:

Recording a new record.

NYROCK:

Do you know what direction that'll go in?

DAVE:

It's going to be more of everything. More heavy parts, more commercial parts, more singing, more screaming, more acoustic guitars, more samples.

NYROCK:

All of that along with your Latin elements?

DAVE:

Always. We're all Latin.

NYROCK:

When you tour with other bands, when you do festivals, does the fact that you're playing and touring with so many other creative people inspire you and your own creative output?

DAVE:

I think that music in general does, 'cause we listen to the Commodores, Earth Wind & Fire, Barry White. We listen to a lot of different bands... Michael Jackson, Sade. And then we want to listen to the heavy shit. We listen to System of a Down, Drowning Pool.

NYROCK:

How did you come to work with Soulfly?

DAVE:

I saw Mike [Doling, Soulfly drum tech] and he said, "Roy [Soulfly drummer] and Max [Cavalera, Soulfly lead singer] didn't get along about something, so he left the band today.... What are you doing tomorrow?" I said, "I'm working in El Nino right now. What's up?" He's like, "We're going out with Iron Maiden next week. We're touring with Iron Maiden on an arena tour. You think you could learn some songs for tomorrow?" "Yeah, let me learn some songs." I went home and learned five songs. I came the next day; I showed up and jammed. And I played in the show that night. And from then on, I stayed on the bus. It was cool. I was really happy to play with them, but I needed to do my own thing. I've been playing for other people with their bands, and you know, I'm 34 years old and I went from Pro-Pain to M.O.D. to Soufly. I needed to do my own thing.

NYROCK:

When did you start playing drums?

DAVE:

I was 16 years old and I put my first record out when I was 17. I started a band and basically sent a couple of demos out. I got signed three weeks later, and I was in the studio two months later. So I played drums for 11 months before I did my first record. It was in my cards, I think. It was in my destiny.

NYROCK:

Might it have more to do with talent?

DAVE:

I don't think it was talent. I wasn't that good of a drummer when I was playing in those 11 months. I think I was in the right place at the right time. Now I've worked on my career and worked on my skills. I've been playing drums for 17 years now.

NYROCK:

But you said earlier that you learned five songs in one night. That requires some talent.

DAVE:

I have a good memory. I have a photographic memory when it comes to remembering shit, and I think that's something that's helped me. It's funny when my career was happening, every band that I've opened up for, I became their drummer. I was in Gothic Slam, Laaz Rockit, M.O.D., Pro-pain.

NYROCK:

All the members of Ill Nino are from the New York/New Jersey area?

DAVE:

Yes. I was born in Lima, Peru. Cris is born in Brazil. Roger was born in uptown New York, but he's half-Dominican, half-Ecuadorian. Lazaro was born in New York. He's Dominican. My other guitar player is Brazilian born. Marc was born in Jersey, but he's Italian. So... United Nations!

NYROCK:

What was it like growing up in such a deeply rooted community? Latin music has obviously affected your music.

DAVE:

 Ill Nino
L to R: Marc Rizzo (acoustic/lead guitar), Roger
Vasquez (drums), Jardel Paisante (rhythm guitar),
Cristian Machado (vocals), Dave Chavarri (drums),
Lazaro Pina (bass).

I think when you're growing up, you don't make the rules to the radio in the house. In fact, your parents do. Ask everybody. You listen to the music your parents have been listening to. Our mom listened to a lot of salsa, meringue, stuff like that. And everybody in this band, they grew up listening to that. I think we had a chance to incorporate some of our roots and some of our upbringing into the band that we're in. We took that chance. It was a natural transition. It wasn't trying to fit something where it didn't fit. It felt right. And I don't think we overdo the Latin thing. We try not to overdo it, because we play in a rock band. And you could bring the elements to the table, but we don't exploit the elements.

NYROCK:

What do you think of the current popularity of the Latin music scene?

DAVE:

People think that it's brand new. It's not new. It's been there since... 15-20 years. Julio Iglesias was doing it before his son did. It's like every style of music. Once it breaks, oh my God, all the focus is on it. All the stations are spinning it, and all the record labels are looking for that kind of artist. MTV is supporting the shit out of it. That's the way it is. It's always been there. It just hadn't broken like now.

NYROCK:

Do you think there's a lack of Latin rock as opposed to pop?

DAVE:

I don't think there's a lack. I don't really have much of an opinion on what is out there. I don't care how [music] comes or what form it comes in; I can appreciate any form. Except country, I don't like country (mischievous smile). But I really like everything else – from hip-hop to mel to hardcore to rock to old disco. We listen to everything on the bus. You would not believe some of our collections.

NYROCK:

Was it difficult to set that acoustic/Latin guitar sound to heavy metal?

DAVE:

It was very natural.

NYROCK:

What is this "Latin angst and supremely pissed-off soul" that your bio mentions? What are you angry about?

DAVE:

There's a lot of things to be angry about. Look at the world. A lot of unfairness, a lot of fucked-up shit goin' on; a lot of people pulling the wool over people's eyes. But we express ourselves to Cris; Cris writes all the lyrics. We express how we feel about certain topics. We'll talk about it on the bus; we'll talk about it at home.

We're pissed off about personal situations that have happened to all of us. And that's what the record says – Revolution. Revolution has nothing to do with anything political. Revolution is about your own personal revolution: Don't let somebody steer you the wrong way; don't let somebody grab you, somebody move you.

NYROCK:

How do you feel about Fear Factory breaking up?

DAVE:

I think it fuckin' sucks 'cause Dino [Cazares, guitars] is a good friend of mine, and we became very tight with those guys. We did a tour with them and they're fuckin' great guys. They are the pioneers of screaming and singing. They really are, and nobody gives them that credit. Who did it before them? You tell me. They did it before anybody. And they started a bigger thing than they thought they started. But they had a good run; they had a 12-year run and they did their thing. And to each, I respect that they think it's better to do their own thing. I think the singer wanted to do a different style of music. He wanted to do a little more rock-n-roll type of stuff, Pink Floyd type of stuff, that's what I heard. If that's what he wants to do then more power to him. I wish him the best of luck, all of them. And I'm sure that we'll be playing with a new band or new bands that reincarnate from what they do.

NYROCK:

Coming back to Ill Nino, are you a storm?

DAVE:

That was the original idea. The idea was given to us by Billy Melano from S.O.D. He's actually my old singer. I used to be in M.O.D. with him. One day he called my bass player Laz and said, "tell Dave I'm hearing a lot of news about El Nino and that's the name of a storm. They come somewhere and fuck shit up and then leave." And he called me afterwards and said, "You should call your band El Nino." I'm like, "El Nino? Wow, that's a cool name."

Then we decided to change the name [to Ill Nino] to not give it too much of an El Nino reference. There's a band in England called El Nino; there was Elnino.com, El Nino restaurant... everything El Nino. We needed to get away from them a little bit to become a little more original, so we just used the term "ill," which has a double meaning. Ill is like crazy, fuckin' nuts, but ill was also a term used years ago in hip-hop in which it was fly; it was dope. That's what ill also meant, like that's ill.

NYROCK:

Like that's phat.

DAVE:

Exactly. Exactly the same term, so Ill Nino had a double term. We really loved it. It was Latin; it was English.

NYROCK:

Anyone in particular you'd like to record or collaborate with? For example, Marc [Ill Nino guitarist] said he'd like to tour with Destiny's Child.

DAVE:

I'd like to tour with Linkin Park. I'd like to record with P.O.D. We're talking right now with a couple of producers. We're talking to Terry Date, who's done Pantera, Staind... everybody... Deftones. He's an amazing producer.

NYROCK:

Well, according to a couple of journalists in Ireland, Linkin Park is a boy band which calls itself a rock band.

DAVE:

I don't hate all these bands like 'NSync. They're not selling 50 million records because they're not talented. No matter what it takes for them to be talented – if it's formed together by an A&R guy, by somebody else, by a management company – whatever it takes, whatever it does, you have to respect their art form. We know [Linkin Park] too... wonderful guys. You know Chester? Chester's really cool.

NYROCK:

Your influences include Queen, Old Metallica, Slipknot...

DAVE:

Slipknot, I think they're a great band. They have a lot of energy, a lot of anger. Queen is one of my favorite bands, because it's just amazing... the singer... all of them. "Bohemian Rhapsody"... four-part harmonies... they're so hard to replicate. I love that band. I think they were great writers, and I think Freddie Mercury was amazing. I liked Old Metallica when I was growing up. I just thought it was a great outlet. It was heavy, raw, rebellious. It said, "fuck you."

NYROCK:

You don't like new Metallica?

DAVE:

I think it's good. I wouldn't go out and buy a new Metallica record, but I totally respect them and I think they're great at what they do. They write great songs, but it's not my cup of tea.

NYROCK:

Metal is a good anger-release music. Is music therapeutic for you?

DAVE:

Music is therapeutic, but more than music being therapeutic, being on tour is therapeutic. You think a lot about what you don't have. You think about being alone in your house. You think about being with your loved ones, being able to break bread with your family. And you miss a lot of that shit and you appreciate the shit out of it when you're home. And then when you're home, you miss being on the road. You appreciate things more.

I do miss my family greatly. I miss my mom, my brothers, my dogs. But this is what I do. This is the kind of life I chose to lead, and I've been leading this lifestyle for 17 years now. I'm not complaining. I have about ten CDs out, six or seven on major labels, four on independent. I've been on tour since I was 18. I'm at 1900 shows right now. By the end of this year, I'll be at 2000 shows, personally.

NYROCK:

Are you planning to celebrate?

DAVE:

I don't do drugs at all. I never liked it. I never wanted to. I never smoked cigarettes either, but I definitely will have one or two drinks after my 2000th show. It'll be a couple of friends and we'll have a couple of drinks.

NYROCK:

You have these South American figures, artwork on your album and website. Who designed it?

DAVE:

They're Peruvian. We all went to the library together in New York. The whole band was just looking around to have an idea of mummies, South American mummies and South American stuff. And we found this one little girl that was mummified at eight years old. She was mummified with her hands around her legs. We were like, "This is fucked up." We had the title of the album Revolution Revolucion, and we were talking about being restricted, so it was perfect. This little girl was restricted and mummified like that, tied like that. That's fuckin' wrong. It was going to be very, very expensive to get the rights to use the photographs. So we found somebody else who makes art out of clay. Our cover's made out of clay. He made it out of clay. We told him what we wanted, so we made our own art.

NYROCK:

And you saved a whole lot in royalties.

DAVE:

It would've been thousands of dollars. For every record, it was going to be 20 cents a record.

NYROCK:

And you have something original now.

DAVE:

Exactly, that's what we want. I wanted it to look evil; I wanted it to look restricted. That's why it's Revolution. The mummy's restricted. It's mean.

NYROCK:

Did you ever feel restricted when you were growing up?

DAVE:

No, I've been lucky. I've been blessed with amazing parents and an amazing family. My mother's my best friend still. I tell her everything. I feel really blessed with this family. They haven't restricted me. I was lucky enough to be able to have some insight on not letting someone push you around and tell you what to do. Let your mind breathe. Let your brain be productive in life and make something of yourself. I don't care whether you want to be a cook or a doctor. You have to be happy with your life. You're not living your life for anybody else. Fuck what the next person wants you to do. It's what you want to do. You have to wake up to your job every fuckin' day.

NYROCK:

What would you be doing if Ill Nino hadn't broken through?

DAVE:

Probably managing. When I get to the level where I don't want to tour anymore and start a family and have kids, that's what's happening.

July 2002


More Ill Nino

Send this page to a friendMailing listCurrent storiesClassifieds


NY Rock Home Page

 
    
The latest NY Rock banter:

Today's News:
Music
Movies
Entertainment

NY Rock
Confidential:
Cyndi Lauper,
  Joan Jett, Paybacks,
  Dollyrots,

Patti Smith,
  Johnette Napolitano
  (Concrete Blonde),
  Joey Ramone
  Birthday Bash
  with NY Dolls, etc.

Henry Rollins,
  Janeane Garofalo,
  Marc Maron, Gojira,
  Machine Head,
  Debbie Harry,
  Miss Guy, Pretty
  Boys, Theo and
  the Skyscrapers,
  Glass Hand

Didi's Back:
Miss Lez 2007
Zombies Attack

Dear Dr. Dot:
Sex advice

Jeanne's & Otto's
(Incredibly Awesome)
Blog

Soft Porn Central

TRUE! Cartoons


   

Indie Bible

NY Rock Advertising