Attentive readers of doommantia already know about monumental sludge doom band Cultura Tres (Venezuela), my colleague of Sleeping Shaman provided a good interview with the band (HERE) and Mari Moroni wrote detailed review of band’s last release “El Mal Del Bien” (HERE). But listen – there’s always something that you can discuss with such grand men as ones who stand behind Cultura Tres, they’ve just returned from Desert Fest and have a lot to tell. In such times I’m glad and satisfied with things which I do here because if it helps to spread a word of such bands, then I do my work not in vain. Salute to Alejandro Londono (guitars, vocal), he’s on-line today.
-Cultura Tres is a band from Maracay, Venezuela. Alejandro (vocals, guitar), Juan (guitar, backing vocals) and Alonso (bass) know each other since childhood, and David (drums) was met later on. We absolutely love performing on stage, cooking, good company, traveling and making music, so we quickly hit it off together with Cultura Tres! Some more info about the individual members besides Cultura Tres: Alejandro works as an audio engineer, Juanma as a light engineer and video editor, Alonso has a company in light and sound, and David works as a scientist and teacher at a university. So together we have a wide variety of skills to make our band grow the way we like it: DIY!
You know it would be deadly boring if every band all over the globe would play only Black Sabbath covers, your band’s name is “Third Culture” that display band’s otherness and uniqueness. But the name is not enough, what musical or conceptual features approve these aspects?
-The band name relates to the Culture of the so-called ‘Third World’. The political and religious selfish interests that have kept our continent small for long periods in history are the main inspiration for our music and video art. They are actually still present in our part of the world and many other parts as well, which has to make you wonder and start digging beyond what is said in the media.
Man, “El Mal Del Bien” is DIY album, Cultura Tres isn’t signed on any label, but you have vinyl edition of the release, you have professional video clip of two of your new songs, you played in Uk and Netherlands! How did you manage to do all of this?! Do you have oil refinery to pay for band’s releases and tours?!! Though you may not reveal your secret about oil – for it’s American site, and maybe mrs.Clinton checks our blog time to time.
-Haha I wish we could’ve kept our oil refinery a secret! Nah but seriously, we are in our thirties, and where many around our age invest in houses, properties or pension funds, we prefer to invest our time, energy and money to make our band and musical abilities grow. It definitely helps that we have – between the four members – many of the skills to do many steps a band needs to take. We are very DIY, recording, mixing and mastering our albums, making our own clips, websites, etc… Also, we have had help from some amazing people (for example our press agent Vania from Leave Something Witchy). That and the independent media, has made it possible for us to achieve the goals you mentioned.
Okay, so as we see Cultura Tres isn’t a band of youngsters who just want to play only cover-versions. Did you gather the band absolutely knowing that you want to get or musical and lyrical conception were formed step by step?
-We gathered in the first place trying to defeat the will to stop making heavy music… This must sound familiar or strange to some of you, but as we grew older we had it more and more difficult liking new heavy bands, I guess it is simply a natural process. However, we decided that instead of moving on to different music styles (as many of our friends did), we made our mission to turn heavy music fun again for us… A new journey to discover ways in which the music we play would become interesting again, a way to make it fill our hearts with adrenaline as it used to be the case when we were 16 years old. And remember the days when we were sweating every metal riff at a basement somewhere in Maracay.
During these years of searching we came across a few good coincidences. We developed new ‘riff’ habits and slowly (at least for ourselves) started to bring the lost adrenaline back into our system, exploring further what fascinated us in the first place - “dark eerie music”. Nowadays it feels strange getting out of these developed “riff” habits and it feels so natural, as if it has always been this way. It is only till we watch footage or listen to old demos from our previous bands that we hear how different the composition goals are now compared to those we pursued in 1996.
-In which conditions did you record the album? What’s about situation with professional studios and sound engineers in your country?
-Venezuela has a great tradition in recording studios and great engineers, our country has a regular export of salsa bands as well as Latin ska, however as mentioned before, we recorded it ourselves, at our own studio, our guitarist Alejandro, is a sound engineer himself and he produced both of the records of the band, even mastered "El Mal Del Bien" himself.
Your lyrics are into Spanish, so I would like to ask you about main lyrical themes. True to say it would be cool if you could comment songs from “El Mal Del Bien” if you have enough time and don’t think that it’s too boring.
-That’s a great question! The lyrics are half in Spanish, half in English. They are not ‘written’ in the traditional sense, but they simply come forth at once, when the song is finished. This subconscious lyrics-writing is being evoked by the mood of the song, and is usually quite dark.
-‘Propiedad de Dios’ is about the effect of religion on someone’s life path
-‘Purified’ is something of a revenge story, from the point of view of someone who has long-lost the common social conventions of our society due to religious obsession.
-‘Los Muertos de mi color’ is instrumental, however the song tittle literally means "the dead of my skin-colour " it is inspired in the atrocities, (rape invasions killings) taken place in the so-called "discovery" of the america's, so then again the good in the bad.
-‘El Sur de la Fe’ is about the church of finances.
-‘No es mi verdad’ is about what some people base their truths on, mostly the consequences of following blindly the bible.
-‘The Grace’ is about power, leading and following inside the Christian and Jewish political economical rulers of our world.
-‘El Mal del Bien’ is only the repetitive scream about what is the evil in the good
-‘Voices’ is a song about the downward spiral of your decisions, and how they will haunt you till the end of your days.
Oh, I’m glad that you’re serious with songs’ conception, I really appreciate it! What are your aims during composing process? How natural do the songs born in Cultura Tres?
-The songs in the beginning originate a bit more from “free will” than later on. I guess when we start recording a new album we are just experimenting with new and old ideas until we bump into a mood… This process could take a while but once the mood is found the songs to come sort of fall in it and from there on the process is less experimental and more specific. The goal is then to let the initial mood reach new stages of intensity. It is like writing a song the whole length of an album but later separating it in segments. This might sound monotonous, but the schizophrenic factor in our music creates enough variety in how we try to tell the same story over and over through out a record.
Right now “Los Muertos De Mi Color” sounds in my loudspeakers so this question comes naturally: are you going to develop your sound working with such tribal or harsh industrial motives? Do you see a certain musical line to follow?
-We have always been fascinated with the dark element in our folk music. Personally I find it a blessing, especially when I compare with other traditional music of the world. We are so lucky that our folk has that eeriness we enjoy so much… Of course we are aware of the fact that our traditional music has a wide range, and that we are mostly known for the most “happy” and “danceable” expressions of our folklore. I bet people think: how can those latino’s write such dark music with such sunny weather? Let them write reggae, salsa or merengue he he he.
Well there is quite a lot more to discover in the dark alleys of Latin music. Our continent’s culture was the product of an invasion, a massacre, a holocaust and even our race and the colour of our skin is the product of mass rapes that took place in the colonial times (did I just write colonial? Nah, ‘colonizing’ is the same as how media is trying to soften to our ears Israeli invasion to the Palestinian territory, so let’s go back to the real word: INVASION). So well, when the Europeans invaded the Americas and did what they wanted with the aboriginals and the slaves they brought with them… there was enough pain injustice and cruelty to write endless literature and music about. Yet the irony is: if that horrifying episode in our history wouldn’t have taken place, latin folk music wouldn’t exist. Moreover, I wouldn’t be here typing this interview for you guys… We are the product and survivors of that chapter. “Los Muertos De Mi Color” means something like “The Deaths Behind My (Skin) Colour” and is not only an attempt to show the darkest corners of our traditional music, but also a moment in the album to reflect of our origins as South Americans and remember that there is nothing to celebrate on that October 12, 1492 and its so called national holiday “day of the discovery”, “day of the Americas”, “Columbus day” etc, etc. In our eyes it’s almost the same as celebrating Hitler’s uprising and his first invasion.
How does “psychedelic aspect” reveal itself in “El Mal Del Bien”? You said about need to find new exciting ways to express heaviness and darkness, so do you think that finally you’ve got right methods for that?
-The psychedelic aspect comes from the repetitive, evocative parts in the music, where the song slowly takes you through different moods. Our song-writing takes long, but is very satisfying, and we try to renew our approach continuously. We feel we are getting closer and closer to finding our voice, in finding a way to express our emotions through our compositions. We often let the mood be the song ruler and give space for it to talk to us. Afterwards, we will follow with arrangements.
I’ve read that you think that it would be strange for you to use lyrics about “getting high or evoking goat-headed dudes” due to political common situation in Venezuela. But do you want to use such topics in your songs? Would it be suitable for you indeed?
-We do not feel obstructed in our choice of lyrical topics by the political situation in Venezuela, although it inspires us in many ways. However, our lyrical content is not a direct reflection of the news in Venezuela. It is more the reflection of a mind exposed to the situation, so then again subjectivity is the real artist in creating our lyrics. And indeed we would feel ridiculous talking about “getting high or evoking goat-headed dudes” in our lyrics it certainly does not fit us he he.
So you do not feel that songs ‘bout devil would be right form of opposition to religion for example? What do you think about such “dark” and “demonic” trends of heavy (doom) music?
-No. Putting your faith in another non-existing higher power to oppose religion doesn’t make much sense. We believe we are responsible for our own part in this world: both good and evil comes from our own behavior, and we can choose ourselves –within our limitations- how to respond to what life offers us. Don’t say: it wasn’t me, the devil made me do it!
Of course, the devil has been traditionally used to oppose religion, in music, but also in esotery (Aleister Crowley) or philosophy. Interestingly, a Polish philosopher called Kolakowski argued in favour of believing in the devil. He felt the Western culture of almost religious optimism ( “you can do everything if you just want it!”, “technology will solve all our problems!”, “we will liberate Iraq and spread democracy!”) needed a counterbalance, which might be helped by a serious belief in a force of evil, that can also make our good intentions turn out wrongly. I don’t know if we should call that the devil, it’s too Christian for me. But those Christian symbols of demons and angels are strongly ingrained in our culture, perhaps that’s why many bands use them.
You play western music; it’s obvious that such music as rock is product of western civilization or even of capitalistic civilization (as they told us in USSR). How did your band become so popular in Venezuela? How did you popularity bring Cultura Tres to other countries?
-Music in itself (as all art in itself) has no colour, no flag, no ideology. It can be (mis)used to support or fight many things, of course. But we do not feel ‘western’ because of our music choice, even though we see its origins just as you. Perhaps similarly: are we Spanish, Italian, African, or Natives from our own continent? We are the result of a mixing process which obscures our origins. The same goes for music: we can try to dissect its origins, but we prefer to focus on adding our bit to the melting pot.
Just looking at how underground heavy music is available everywhere already shows it goes beyond race, religion or nation. The fact that there are heavy music fans all over the world is what makes it possible for us to grow and travel and discover more. It is one of the most beautiful things of being in a band, to see how our music allows us to communicate to people whose language we do not understand.
You told about South American Sludge festival which was organized last summer. Are there any news about it’s second edition? And who are organizers of that festival?
-Yes we played at the kick-off party in Buenos Aires, Argentina during our release tour in spring 2011. It was great! A few months later the 1st official edition of South American Sludge festival was held in Buenos Aires, with great bands from South America, such as Los Natas, Banda de la Muerte, Hielo Negro. A new festival is being organized right now, and similar movements are rising in other Latin American countries. It is great to see that!
What are good and bad sides of living in Venezuela?
-The amazing nature, the music and the general lust for life, are among the best things in Venezuela. Corruption and the influence of mass consumption (greed, pollution, beauty contests and plastic tits) are among its worst sides.
Man, I’m from Russia and here we see Hugo Chavez as last revolutionary, he’s like a modern hero and most of our citizens value and respect his character, his deeds and speeches more that those which our politics do. I do not force you tell it, but is mr. Chavez so good in real life for his own folk?
-He is a controversial leader, and many western (i.e. US influenced) media demonize him, as somewhat of a dictator / crazy ruler, who’s in love with power. Others glorify him for standing up against the imperialists, and of a leader who supports the poor, and the Latin American people. Well, the world is not simple, and there are more sides to the same story. One thing is clear: it is stupendous how incredible rich our country is in oil and other resources, and how a small amount of people control most of this wealth, leaving millions in poverty. Big multinationals do not benefit from attempting to change that, and so different action is needed if we want to gain more equality. And everybody knows that this inequality is not limited to our country… We try to stay critical of black-and-white media stories. And try to stay open for seeing the bad in the good (= El mal del bien) and the other way around.
You played in Europe about a year ago and now you’ve just returned from Desert Fest. Can you tell us about your trip in Europe? Did you rent a bus or did you travel in some another way? How was it to play there? Are there many differences between European and South American venues and public?
-It is great to play in Europe. We toured partly by van, partly by train, partly by plane. It’s very different than back home, different faces, customs, food, nature... And in general Europe is a bit more strictly organized, but the passion for music is strong in most places we visited. I think the main differences is that South American audiences are hungrier for heavy music at the moment, I mean, I do think that Europeans live the shows intensively, but in a way they are more used to having bands touring their countries as for us it is still something that developed the last decades, shows are still something we don’t take for granted easily. We live it to the fullest!
I’ve heard a lot of some problems which touring bands have in Europe because public is really fed-up with all sorts of music. Which common problems with gigs organization did you face there? Was it difficult to find right venues and bands playing there similar slow and heavy riffs in same time?
-Our experience in many countries in Western Europe is similar to what you describe: there is not much enthusiasm to check out new bands. It’s hard to convince venue owners to give new bands a chance, since it’s hard to get people into the venues. It seems the underground scene is sleeping. However, in the UK we have found the opposite: a very strong underground exists, where bands help each other to book shows, where media is interested and active in checking out new music and where people show up to shows and are very open-minded.
What are your general impressions of Desert fest 2012 in London?
-We just came back from the DesertFest in London, and the first impression can be put in two words: “growing – family”. It was great to see so much good energy willingness and effort put together in one place, the vibe was awesome, felt like meeting old friends you haven’t met yet!
I have the feeling this festival will become one of the cornerstones of the scene. I really hope the second edition will have as much success as the first and that soon it will be fixed on the music lovers agenda.
We combined DesertFest with other shows in UK and mainland Europe, and toured there with our friends from Banda de la Muerte (Argentina), Undersmile (UK) and Pendejo (Netherlands). It was a big traveling family crossing air, land and water: with lots of good experiences, hospitality and amazing music. You can see a live registration from the DesertFest that captures the mood of the tour here:
We are now preparing to continue the tour in Venezuela, Chile, Peru and Argentina this summer, so you can imagine how much we look forward to that! After that we will hit the studio to record our third album, we can’t wait to show the world our new songs…
Thank you very much for the interview, Alejandro! I wish all the best to you and Cultura Tres crew, hope to hear you soon. But now it’s time to say goodbye and few last words for our readers. Good luck comrade!
-Thank YOU for your support, and thanks to all your readers for keeping the underground scene alive and kicking. Hope to see you on the road!
Words: Aleks Evdokimov
Cultura Tres Official Website