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INTERVIEW: LAZ PINA of Ill Nino, May 2014

It’s is often tougher than you think to interview a friend – you already know what’s going on with an artist and his group, but you also know the more personal side.  Having to separate the two can be tricky, but not when you get someone like Laz Pina on the phone.  Instantly, it’s just like you are discussing some things for the first time, because he loves what he does and wants everyone to know what is next for Ill Nino…


Toddstar: How you doing man?

Laz: I’m doing good. It’s a beautiful day here today. I was trying to beat the clock but … I was trying to eat a slice of pizza before I talked to you today, but you caught me right in the middle of it, I didn’t catch up to it. Hold on I’m putting my headphones on so I can talk.  I’m in my Jeep right now. I’m over here on the side in Hoboken by a park.  Enjoying this beautiful weather on my way to the studio.

Toddstar: Let’s talk about that, man. You guys got a new album getting ready to drop. I know you guys are doing a lot of tracking at all the different studios across the country. What can you tell us about the disc?

Laz: This is going to be… We’ve never done a record this fast. At this point, by the time that someone probably reads this, the record will be completely done. We just had really little time to put a record together so it just became crunch time. We all divided kind of like we do and started writing then we just started throwing songs into the pool. As we moved along, we figured out which songs we were going do. Those were the ones we started focusing on.  We kind of broke off into pairs. I ended up going out to Denver to spend some time with Ahrue there. I actually tracked my bass for him. Oscar and Dave, and then you had Cristian and the producer and Diego out in the West Coast. Kind of unusual record to make considering we were all… none of us is really in the same room together all at once.

Toddstar: Yeah. With the last album, I know a lot of the album had been tracked with you and Cris over at your studio at Sound Wars.

Laz: That’s correct.  We still did a lot of writing and samples in my studio. We’ve been having Ahrue come here all the time. It kind of was my turn to say hey, let me get out of my place and head over to my guitar player’s. What came of it was extraordinary because I feel like I got to kind of have the strongest bond Ahrue and I ever had on a record, making a record and writing a record.  From the experience – Ahrue was sending tracks and I was trying to counter his tracks. We’re trying to outdo each other. We got together and we just made every track as best as can be. We had a great creative and band mate moment together. It was actually something I really- I’ve never felt that before. I’ve never felt that connection. I usually write with Cristian or with Dave and then Ahrue would come in and dress it up or vice versa. Ahrue writes the stuff and I throw on some bass lines.  On this record we really sat down and dissected every song and really dug into it. What came of it was a beautiful partnership. I’m very happy. I’m happy that… This record I think it’s going to show that. It’s going to show that bond, that connection that Ahrue and I kind of made on this record.

Toddstar: Okay. Going back through the discography of the band, going back to Revolution, Revolucion, for me, you guys really turned it up and turned a corner at Dead New World. You threw a lot more of the Latin beat in there and really hit the metal with the Latin. You increase that on Epidemia, which is a great album. Are you guys… is that kind of the path you guys are continuing on with the new disc which had a working title, Till Death, La Familia.

Laz: Yeah. That is the official title, Till Death La Familia.  Listen, we try to do something different every record. I can tell you for sure that this one is going to demonstrate a whole new Ill Nino style. At first it took a lot of courage but I’m feeling so much better about it now that the vocal tracks are beginning to come in. It’s turning out to be everything I think most of us envisioned it and kind of wanted in a new record.  We’re definitely taking Ill Nino to a new… an additional style. We’re definitely bringing it up to 2014 and kind of creating our own thing. Hearing Cristian singing like he’s never sung before and even innovating a new heavy style of singing and a new melodic style of singing. It’s going to be interesting. I think that the fans’ll appreciate it and hopefully some new ones will come on board and say, “Hey. I really dig this band; I like what they’ve been doing throughout the years.”  It is… I think it’s a courageous record. It definitely does not sound like any other previous record. It’s definitely Ill Nino demonstrating an additional style. You got to keep innovating yourself and if you don’t innovate yourself you’re playing the same thing. We’ve been doing this for a long time, we’re entitled to get a little crazy and experiment with different ideas.

Toddstar: I know you guys better than some journalists and I know you guys don’t take getting crazy lightly.

Laz: No, no we don’t. We don’t take that lightly. Listen, we love what we do, we stuck by our guns and it’s actually kept us around. We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve been able to kind of stick to our guns and do as we like to do. Music is not just for ourselves it’s for us and those we share it with. You can’t totally be selfish about it.  We’re always consciously trying to appease both, the listener and us who are creating it.  It’s art. It’s art no matter how you put it its art. It’s an art form.


Toddstar:  I am excited for you guys. Just before this album drops you guys are heading out on arguably the biggest tour of the year.

Laz: Yeah.

Toddstar: How excited are you for the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival this year?

Laz: Oh, man we’re super excited. We’re thrilled to be on this tour. It’s been awhile since we had that kind of a tour in America. We just came back from Australia on the Soundwave Festival. We did that for two weeks out there and that was extraordinary. The next tour to jump on is going to be here in America on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem tour. We’re just thrilled. We’re coming – we’ve been around a long time but we’re the type of band that always feels we have to continue to prove ourselves. It’s okay. It keeps us pushing.  We’re going to be pushing ourselves. We’re going to come out there to destroy that stage every single day. Let people know Ill Nino is still hitting it hard. We’re thrilled to have that opportunity to still- to be able to allow us to show our peers and the musical metal community what we do.  We’re super excited and it’s going to be a fun summer that’s for sure.

Toddstar: It’s definitely a testament to you guys and your music. A lot of your contemporaries have gone by the wayside in the last few years. What do you think has set Ill Nino aside from some of the other bands and given you guys that staying power?

Laz: I think we’ve always been the type of band that kept one foot in the underground and then the other foot somewhere in radio land or accessibility land. I don’t know if that’s for sure. Maybe we’re more persistent, maybe we’re just lucky or maybe we just worked harder than everyone else. Not worked harder than everyone else, obviously people must have worked harder than us who are much bigger than us. I’m talking about those unfortunate ones that are no longer around.  It’s hard to really say, it really is. You can’t really discredit other bands. People do it passionately and I feel if you’re doing it passionately, we’re all equally just as passionate. It’s just unfortunate. We’ve been – what kept us around is really kind of just separating ourselves. I’m going to guess this, that if we didn’t necessarily just follow the trend like a lot of our predecessors, or those who came out around the same time from the same genre, I think we just separated ourselves and decided to kind of walk our own path.  I think that that actually was what gave us survival. As opposed to trying to follow a trend or move on with- which you do have to move on with the times, but we decided to do it our way away from any genre so that we don’t get lump summed into a category that gets outdated or becomes unfashionable.

Toddstar: You’re getting ready for this big tour. Like you said you just got back. You’ve hardly unpacked and you’re getting ready to pack back up again. When you look around your place and you’re getting ready to go on this big tour, what are the things you think, I can’t leave home without this. What do you need to take with you on the road, Laz?

Laz: Wow. My wife for one. I can’t bring her out. It’s just impossible. You know what? There are certain things… It’s such a hard thing. It’s hard for me to leave every time. I’m not going to lie to you. The hardest thing for me to do to this day after – We’re going on 13 years plus of touring. It’s still very hard. I tend to always over pack because there’s just too many things that I want to have with me. I wish I can take some of my other instruments but there just no room. I wish I can bring the dog.  I wish I could bring my friends… It’s hard for me actually. I don’t even know. I’m one of those guys in the band that just over packs, that just brings way too much because I think that I’m going to need it for survival in the event that I run out of something, or clothes or socks. I always over pack all that stuff.  I try to pack enough socks and underwear every single day of the tour. It’s a little too much.

Toddstar: I’ve known you a long time and just the kind of character you are, I’ve seen you at different venues, different shows. You always seem to have a lot of friends around so I don’t think you have to worry about packing your friends up. I think your friends are all across the country waiting for you to hit the road this summer.

Laz: Oh absolutely man but I’d like to introduce some of my friends from home to some of the friends from the road. They should know each other. A lot of them do know each other through internet or through Facebook or through a common site where fans begin to gather. It’s true, I do have a lot of friends, we do have a lot of friends all over the world that we always look forward to catching up with that have stuck around us throughout the time and have entered friend zone.  This record is also kind of a tribute to them. When you hang around this long, fans turn into family. This record is really kind of like… the inspiration behind the title for me – which I just kind of wanted to call the record La Familia, but I have other band mates that have a lot of say and equal input. My inspiration for this album title was a dedication to the fans that have turned into family. You stick around with us long enough and now you are – now till death, you will be part of our family.  It’s a tribute to the friends and family on the road.


Toddstar: I definitely pick up on that because you guys are definitely a family when you guys are out and about. Even if you guys aren’t getting along, if you’re arguing about this or that, in 10 minutes it’s just forgotten.

Laz: Oh yeah.  There’s no one in this band that holds grudges against each other. If there’s a fight, as always, there are little fights here and there on tour or in the studio. Never, no one ever goes home with that. No one ever goes to sleep made against one of the other band members. At the end of the day we love each other, we give ourselves a hug and we let each other know that we’re always there for each other.

Toddstar: Talking about you for a second, who made you want to pick up a bass and do this?

Laz: When I was a kid, what took it over the top – when I was a little kid, me and two brothers, we went to go see a concert. My brother Roland – my oldest brother – was the one that got us into heavy metal as a child. We went to see Ozzy Osbourne and Motley Crue at Madison Square Garden. When I came out of there, I was devastated. Devastated. It touched, not just me but my two brothers in such a profound way that we went back to our neighborhood in 146th street and Broadway in the hood of Manhattan, upper Manhattan, and decided we were going to put a rock band together.  Since my brother was the oldest one, he chose guitar, the other one chose drums. I couldn’t sing so the only instrument was left was bass. Nikki Sixx made it that much easier for me to play bass.  Nikki Sixx, even prior to that show, Rock N Roll High School, the Ramones, later on became a huge Ramones fan at a very early age. Dee Dee Ramone was also kind of an influence. He’s the reason why I like to play white basses. I guess what I would say is the bass player; they were the coolest ones in the band.

Toddstar: Every bass player I know would agree with you.

Laz: Yeah. I would say they agree too. Not every bass player I know is cool.

Toddstar: I think we know some of the same guys.

Laz: Yes. Some of those guys need to go back to guitar which is what they truly want to be.

Toddstar: So true brother. So true. Listen man, you got this album coming out, you guys are celebrating 13 years on the road together, you’re jumping on Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival which is just huge for you guys and on your own stage, your own Victory Record stage. You have so much positive going on man. You got your wife at home, you got your own studio, and you got all these things going in the right direction for you. At this point in your life Laz, what’s the meaning of life?

Laz: You know what? It’s to make it as beautiful as possible. As an individual, we’re all in charge of our own lives and we should really live – we should not be selfish people. We should be compassionate and caring towards each other and learn to live and love each other. The meaning of life I think is just to live happy and do as you wish as long as you’re not harming or getting in the way of other human beings or any other living thing.  It’s just be happy and do the things that you love. Because if you don’t, you’ll have a miserable life.

Toddstar: Very cool. Listen man, I’m going to let you get back to enjoying your beautiful weather there in Jersey and I’ll get back to the studio.

Laz: I’m going to finish my slice of pizza over here that I thought I could beat the time, beat the clock for this interview, but I didn’t quite make it.

Toddstar: I’ll get back to playing accountant and we’ll be in touch soon.

Laz: Sounds great. Absolutely. Speaking of which, we used to talk about the accounting part when we were on the road.

Toddstar: Yes we do brother, yes we do. I’ll be in touch waiting for you guys in Detroit.

Laz: You got it my man. Looking forward to seeing you brother.

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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  1. LeftCoastLady says:

    Laz has a wife?! Wow, he conveniently must have “forgotten” to tell me that every time we’ve hung out. He’s always been a really nice guy (and has insanely soft skin), but my perception of him completely changed reading this. C’mon, Laz. Practice what you preach. –

  2. LilMsCuntcake says:

    In reply to commenter above:
    Did you think you where special? That he doesnt charm girls in every city with the same lines and game. He’s a guy… In a band..with soft skin hahaha Get over it, enjoy it for what its worth. Being bitter and calling the man out via internet is petty and ignorant on your part. He is always sweet,respectful and alot fun.
    I doubt if you knew he was married would have stopped you from “hanging out”.

    To the author of the article:
    Nice interview on the man.

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