Cristian Machado on ‘Hollywood Y Sycamore’ and Branching Out Musically

2020-09-16

Cristian Machado is gearing up to release his debut solo album, "Hollywood Y Sycamore."

Cristian Machado – Story by Anne Erickson, courtesy photo

Cristian Machado, former frontman of Ill Niño, discusses his debut solo album, “Hollywood Y Sycamore,” and the stripped-down nature of his new music

The heavy music world came to embrace Cristian Machado as the frontman of Ill Niño, who became known for their unique “Latin metal” sound and style.

Now, Machado is gearing up to release his first-ever solo album, “Hollywood Y Sycamore,” out Sept. 25, which shows off his strong songwriting chops and penchant for experimentation and trying something new.

“I’ve always been interested in doing thing a little bit more stripped-down, as like a project or something like that,” Machado told Audio Ink Radio. “I’ve experiment with these little things in the band I was in before, but I never fluidly put energy into making a group of songs in this fashion.”

The music on “Hollywood Y Sycamore” is different from the super-heavy sounds he used to crank out in Ill Niño, and he credits his family and friends for encouraging him to go outside of what’s comfortable. Machado spoke with Anne Erickson of Audio Ink about the new album, what it feels like to branch out musically and more. Read the full interview below, and watch the video interview via the YouTube player.

On how it feels to go in a different musical direction and experiment on his new solo album, “Hollywood Y Sycamore”

One of the things I can attribute to having the courage to do something this different at this point in my career, is having friends and family that encourage me to do things differently, and also curiosity. I’ve always loved all kinds of music and had an app for more stripped-down songwriter versions of things. So, it was really just curiosity and the drive to do diff things and to try to creatively not feel like i’m stuck in a place and not able to do other things. As musicians, sometimes we’re a little selfish and want to make things that feel good to us and we hope people will connect to it. So, that’s kind of what I did.

I did something that I feel is very genuine to what I feel now and the things I’ve been through the last couple of years, and hopefully the album is just a phase that explains things that occurred in my life for a moment, and then maybe the next album, I can move forward and let go of any theme I may have had for this album. The theme on this album is mainly a lot of personal obstacles and accepting things you can’t control and personal growth and learning going through challenges and having personal suffering. There can be a lot growth and things that will grow your soul.

On how going bare-bones on “Hollywood Y Sycamore” was a “complete turnaround” from what he’s done with his previous band, Ill Nino

The band I was in, we experimented with songs that had a little bit of this vibe, but we never put this kind of vibe on more than one song on one album. It was really just a pass through. I think in my old bad, the reason we experimented with some stripped-down things is because I wrote on acoustic guitar, the whole time, other than a few songs I’ve written for my old band, but the first couple of albums, I did most of the songwriting, and I wrote mostly on acoustic guitar. A few songs we decided to keep stripped-down, but it was something that wasn’t foreign to me, writing on acoustic guitar. It’s how I’ve written songs most of my career.

On getting personal and introspective with the songs on “Hollywood Y Sycamore”

This time around, I think the songs got more personal and deeper into the emotion and feelings rather than situation. I think with this kind of vibe, I felt I needed to put most of the focus on feelings, what I felt, and what these feeling were putting me through. Rather than explaining things and telling the story of someone else, what they might have done to me, I felt that I’m at a time where situation and details don’t matter. We all have to start looking inward an accepting the things we can change within ourselves and accepting the things we can’t change on the exterior and hope that will be a learning process. Music, to me, has always been some kind of a therapeutic thing, and hopefully it will be something that some of my fans can connect to, and it will help them, guide them through some obstacles in their life.

On if he has ever felt racism in the metal music world from other musicians or fans

Me, personally, I was very blessed that I came up in the New York city music scene. The melting pot in New York city is massive. I mean, if you live in New York city and you are an acquainted friends with people of other cultures, people of color, then you’re probably secluded, not coming out of your house. New York city is very, very vast with cultures. I was blessed in that aspect of having come up in a music scene that’s very inclusive to Latinos and blacks and Asians. The New York hardcore scene is full of Latinos and Asians and blacks. I mean, it’s something that was very unique, and especially the post hardcore scene in New York, which was founded on anti-Nazi sentiment– which was founded on neo-punk feelings of what things occurred in the past and not accepting those things and wanting change and things like that.

So, for us, we were very lucky. Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t see racism occur. It wasn’t directed at me. But, I’ve seen racism occur in the metal and rock industry. It wasn’t directed at me, but I’ve seen it occur at a far. Heard it. These people have thought that I wasn’t listening perhaps sometimes. So, that’s occurred. I’ve seen racism thrown directly out a very huge act that everybody knows about. I’m not going to say names because I don’t know if they want to share it, but it was a very known act, directing racism very directly and clearly — racist remarks — at another known act. This happened in Europe, in the U.K. at Download. The one time that it happened, it was eye-opening. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard.

But, the couple of times that that occurred in that particular situation, the act that the racism was being directed at, the band member, I thought that the smart thing, which was to ignore it and act like it never even occurred. And there were a lot of people there at present, and a lot of people heard it. But, this other band was extremely drunk and they were under the influence of something. Most of the acts there shrugged it off as, this person’s just wasted, and he’s probably saying something he doesn’t want him to say. Had the whole backstage wanted to, everybody could have jumped on him and completely beat the s*** out of him, and that would have been that. But, I think he was so wasted, everybody kind of shrugged it off.

I’ve seen things like that occur, not directed at me, but maybe directed at somebody in the backstage. I’ve heard it directed at somebody in the venue before, like off the stage, far away from what we were sound checking. But, I’ve never felt any kind of racism from the music industry, from people that work in the music industry. I’ve always felt very included, if anything, welcomed. I’m very grateful for not having to have experienced those kinds of things. I imagine maybe if a Latin metal band like we were had come up in the middle of Alabama or something like that, or Oklahoma, we probably would have experienced some direct racism. I would have. But, New York city sheltered us from that a lot, and I’m really grateful for that. I don’t like to be a kind of person that looks negatively at the world, and perhaps not having had to experience a lot of those things kind of allows me to slightly live in my naive bubble where I can still feel human without feeling like the world is completely falling apart.

On the state of rock and metal music in 2020

I think it’s in a better place than it was five, six years ago, perhaps. This whole not being able to play shows makes it extremely challenging for rock and metal, because we’re in the niche and scene that thrives on shows. Shows are how bands get to be known. Shows are how musicians make money. I think it’s in a good place if we could get back to some type of performances and tours and stuff like that. It’ll be really the only thing that keeps the metal scene live. But, I think the rock scene could– it could be interesting to watch some growth in the rock scene in the next couple of years. I mean, you’ve got artists like Post Malone who really through a 180 on everyone, you know? He came in as a hip hop artist, completely urban culture, with the sound from the streets. It might have been all a facade for all we know, because he’s really just a rocker and really just wants to play guitar and s*** like that. If he really takes his creative element and crosses it over the right way, he could be turning on kids to rock music in the hip-hop world. Who knows? I don’t know. It could be interesting hoping he turns the tides a little bit on the youth and gets the youth into some rock music or more artists like him that are rock-influenced going to hip-hop and kind of like start, I don’t want to call it a coo, but let’s say brainwashing hip-hop fans to be rock fans (laughs). I wouldn’t be upset if that started happening!

He’s a rock kid. He came up in like the metal scenes and tried out for bands and tried out for Crown the Empire, and they didn’t put him in the band, so then he tried out other things, and he eventually wound up in hip-hop, but he’s a rock kid at heart. I think he grew up listening to rock music and was smart enough to see that maybe rock music wasn’t going to give them the platform– as big a platform as he might’ve wanted, or rock music was a more band kind of platform and he wanted to do things himself. I really don’t know. But, I think he was smart enough to be able to break into hip-hop and now is doing whatever the hell he wants, which is pretty interesting. It’s kind of what all artists look up to– is being able to be as big as possible, but do whatever it is you want. I don’t know how it’ll work with him in the future, but I think it’s a good thing. Some hip-hop kids seem to be getting turned on to rock music and seeing the dark side of music as a positive thing to take in.

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