RoD header


Interview with

Ahrue Lustre (guitar) of Ill Nino

ILL NINO continues to use their voices for political and cultural justice! Many know ILL NINO best for their huge emphasis on Spanish culture, using a mix of tribal percussion and Spanish / English lyrics while painting a picture full of hard rock and nu-metal sound. Ever since their debut album ‘Revolucion Revolution,’ they’ve captivated audiences with album after album, each getting progressively better and better. Each album - unlike so many in the music world - has really had something to say, be it political, cultural, or relationship based so everyone who listens to it can feel some sort of connection to the message. On their latest album, ‘Dead New World’, ILL NINO try something a little different, and with a new perspective and new label home, have their strongest lyrical material with a full arsenal of hard rock to deliver to date. I got a chance to discuss the album with Ahrue Luster, who has been with the band as a guitarist since their second album.

Reflections Of Darkness (RoD): Hello guys. First off, congratulations for making it album number five after ten years of sticking together. The fans must be very excited.
Ahrue Luster (Ahrue): Thank you very much. Yeah… the 10 year milestone is an important one, it kinda say’s you’re never going away. Lol.

RoD: So what is the main concept around ‘Dead New World’? It seems a bit more historically cultural-based than the other albums, which were either politically or relationship-based.
Ahrue: A lot of the record writing was fuelled be events going on in the world at the time we were writing. One of the biggest current issues going on right now in the U.S. is the debates about illegal immigrants. They have even passed a law in the state of Arizona the gives police the right to pull someone over because the “look like” an illegal immigrant. So, in other words, if someone has dark skin.  This sort of things is happening all over the world. People are trying to move to a new country to have a chance at a better life. But, a lot of times, the just find more problems, like racism, alienation, discrimination, and even violence. So, that kind of thinking is what inspired the title. The concept of’ Dead New World’ is seeing a new “dead” world through the eyes of an immigrant, and the struggles, trials and problems that he or she may face.

RoD: What can fans expect to hear that will separate ‘Dead New World’ from the rest of ILL NINO’s work? There has always been something on each to distinguish it… ‘Revolution’ was raw, emotional power… ‘Confessions’ was more mainstream and had a great balance of metal and rock… ‘One Nation’ had a different sound to it, especially in vocals, and your last album, ‘Enigma,’ was a varied, progressive album that seemed to have a bit more of that ‘raw’ sound from ‘Revolution.’
Ahrue: We wanted to get back to the roots of what drew people into the band in the first place. We didn’t want to RECREATE ‘Revolution,’ but we did want to bring back that rawness and intensity. We wanted to write a heavy record that was non-stop action from start to finish. Obviously some there are things that are different than ‘Revolution,’ like for instance, the guitar playing and drumming is a lot more brutal, intricate and interesting, but I think the energy and rawness is there.

RoD: One of the most significant things about ILL NINO’s work is their drumming. Why choose that particular tribal percussion sound as opposed to the traditional drum sound or even snare drums?
Ahrue: The drum and percussion section of ILL NINO has many, many influences from different cultures, countries, different styles of music as well as the personal flavour of the tag team, Dave Chavarri, our drummer and Danny Couto, our percussionist. Of course there is a strong Metal element, and a strong Latin element, but it definitely doesn’t stop there. These guys go nuts every time we do a record. They bring in instruments from all over South America, the Caribbean, as well as Asia, Africa, India and the Middle East. It’s like a world music festival almost, but they combine all of these elements in a way that makes it distinctly ILL NINO.

RoD: I’ve followed your music from the beginning. You guys started out as a nu-metal band with ‘Revolution Revolucion’ and since then have stepped more and more towards a more had rock/ modern metal sound. Any reason why you were pushed, or pushed yourselves, in that direction?
Ahrue: It’s just the evolution of the band. Not many bands sound just like there first record when they’re on their fifth record. Maybe the Ramones, but I can’t think of any others. It’s just the way these 6 personalities have musically co-evolved of the past decade, nothing more, nothing less.

RoD: Did you expect that ILL NINO would make it this far after ten years? What has kept the group together for so long?
Ahrue: When I joined the band on the 2nd record, I envisioned a long career with the band. I think ILL NINO has something special and original to offer the world and people still seem to like it. I think we just all like what we do and we want to keep doing it.

RoD: What would you consider is the easiest and hardest part, of being a metal band here in the States, as opposed to maybe elsewhere?
Ahrue: The easiest thing is that Metal is once again big, but this time it’s bigger than it ever has been. So there are a lot of people involves in its resurgence, from labels, to fans, to media, etc… but, that also makes it hard because there are a lot of people trying to be successful at it. There’s probably thousands and thousands of new Metal bands forming all the time, each one wants to “make it”.

RoD: How has expectations from the music industry, and fans changed in 2010 since you started the band in 1998?
Ahrue: Economically speaking, the music industry as nowhere near where it was in ‘98, In ‘98 selling 100,000 records was considered a failure, now that’s a success.  So, the pie is smaller now, and the business side is getting greedier since the still want a piece of the pie like they had in ‘98. Labels now offer bands 360 deals where the label takes a percentage of the bands merchandise and touring revenue. Young band are signing these deals blinded by stars in their eyes, ignoring the fact that they’re signing their lives away. It’s pretty pathetic. Fans haven’t changed much except for styles of clothes they wear. There is a magic that happens between bands and fans. That will always stay the same. The 3rd wheel seems to be the business man who is now digging deeper into the artist’s pockets to satisfy his greed. It will stop someday.

RoD: Did you know you that you wanted to perform metal, or something assorted with that genre, from the start? What has inspired ILL NINO’s love for metal over the years?
Ahrue: I think most of ILL NINO where Metal Heads at early ages. For me, I had it hard as a teenager. My mother wasn’t very stable, we would move all of the time, sometimes because we would get evicted out of an apartment because she lost the rent money gambling. The only thing that carried me through those times was learning how to play guitar and listening to bands like Metallica, Exodus, Iron Maiden, Judas Preist, Venom, Merciful Fate, Slayer, etc…

RoD: Going back to ‘Dead New World…’ one thing that has puzzled me personally as a fan of ILL NINO is that there is a severe lack of the mix of Spanish / English lyrics on this particular album. That style has become a significant staple with the band’s work; on almost every one of your previous albums you had at least one full song in Spanish, or a good balance of Spanish and English lyrics together. Why the sudden change this time?
Arhue: A lot of our fans that don’t speak Spanish complained that ‘Enigma’ had too much Spanish and it was hard for them to understand. Also, we’ve tried playing Spanish versions of some of our songs in Spanish speaking countries only to come to find out that they would rather hear the English version. We just want people to understand our lyrics.

RoD: Speaking of fans, the ability to interact with fans and music artists has changed dramatically with the invention of MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube where videos, comments, and other things can be posted instantly. Have you found it easier to reach out to fans as compared to when these social Medias didn’t exist? At the same time, do you find that the technical wonders of the world have somewhat desensitized and deadened the appreciation for music… Almost anyone can now download music for free or watch a band live for free on YouTube without paying a cent to support the artist…
Ahrue: Yes, and yes. Both are true as is the case with technology. We’ve advanced to the point where we can save more and more people’s lives, people are living longer than ever but we’ve also invented ways to kill more people, faster, with greater efficiency and lower cost. The fact is that more people are killed by technological advances than are saved by them. Sorry, just got a little carried away. Yes, I think it’s great that bands can be in closer contact with fans on the other hand, music has lost it’s mystique. There are hardly any more “Rock stars”. When I was a kid I thought of Ozzy as a mysterious Rock star who may or may not worship the Devil, but he was as cool as fuck. Now he’s this funny guy who used to be on a successful reality show.

RoD: Even though the music industry might have changed, the fans are still the heart of the band, whether they support you through MySpace comments, song hits, or going to a show. What is the nicest / craziest thing a fan has done for ILL NINO that has really made an impression… good or bad?
Ahrue: Our fans have been too nice to us over the years. There’s way too many nice things that fans have done for us to even mention a particular occasion.

RoD: Now that ‘Dead New World’ is ready to hit the streets, any promotional tours coming up?
Ahrue: We will be touring extensively- like as in old school ILL NINO touring style- starting in January. If there are ILL NINO fans there, we will probably be there sometime soon. Lol.

RoD: In your time of touring, where would you say is the best place you have visited so far and why?
Ahrue: We have a few favourite places. The Netherlands, Germany, Russia, Austria, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Czech, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Basque Country, Australia, Texas, Los Angeles, Chicago, and of course New York/New Jersey. Sorry if we missed any of you! We love you too!

RoD: Do you find touring exciting, or is it a bit of a hassle having to being on the road all the time away from family and friends, especially when you have already spent a lot of time in the studio with a new album?
Ahrue: It’s exciting, but it is a lot more difficult now that I have a wife and a little girl. When I was just starting out and single, I had no ties. I could be out forever, it’s definitely harder now.

RoD: If you could have the ultimate dream tour, which bands would you tour with and why?
Ahrue: I would probably chose bands that we get along very well with and have had great times with. Like Disturbed, Static-X, Sevendust,  God Forbid, Walls of Jericho, hey, that would be a great tour!

RoD: There are always new acts coming out with each year. Are there any that have made their debut in the last two years or so that you really appreciate and think have changed metal for the better?
Ahrue: First band that comes to mind is Suicide Silence, although they’ve been around for longer. Me and Cris really dig them. They’re bringing back a lot of elements from the late 90’s, early 2000’s and people don’t even realize it. They’re very rhythmic and groove oriented but they also mix it in well with blast beats.

RoD: Are there any last words of advice to our readers and the future musicians of tomorrow?
Ahrue: What’s up people, to all the fans of Metal, thanks for keeping this great music alive for decades. To all aspiring musicians, you only have one chance at life, make it count...and be YOURSELF, everyone else is already taken.

RoD: Again, ILL NINO, thank you so much for the background information and musical opinions. I look forward to seeing the next show!


Comments powered by CComment