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| 21 October 2020 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “Cristian Machado, former lead singer of Latin hard rock band Ill Niño, has premiered the video for his new single “Die Alone.” “Every video I’ve been in before, I’m headbanging and jumping around like a maniac,” says Machado. “‘Die Alone’ is unlike any video I’ve ever made. It features me as a songwriter and musician, it includes some very close friends, and it’s a dance of emotions. It’s likely a different side of me some may be surprised existed all along.” The singer/songwriter premiered the song at American Songwriter in the spring.” We were able to grab some phone time with Cristian to discuss new music and more…

Toddstar: Thank you so much for taking time out to discuss everything going on in the world of Cris Machado.

Cris: Everything going on in the world of Cris Machado, but also everything going on in the world of the world.

Toddstar: That’s so true. It’s funny to think back. I mean, just how much life has changed for you, how much life has changed for me, not only in the last few months, but just in the last few years that we’ve known each other. Everything’s really come full circle for a lot of people in a lot of ways.

Cris: For sure. The last two and a half years have been very personally challenging for me, nothing that I can talk down on or like, “Oh my life is a disaster,” nothing like that. Very challenging things but people have it much worse than I do. But this last year, 2020… if anybody was going through anything personally challenging, and then on top of that 2020, it’s you know. I’m doing okay getting by, but I see a lot of people in my town really almost at the end of their rope. No money, huge mortgages, no way to pay them. The government not helping people with, I guess some kind of relief and stuff like that. So it’s tough.

Toddstar: Yeah. It definitely is tough. It’s tough on guys, especially in your industry. You guys aren’t making money off of record sales and off of royalties and stuff like that. You guys need to be out on the road, you need that touring revenue, you need that merch revenue. You need to be touching those fans. That’s where you guys make your living.

Cris: Yeah. The touring industry has been devastated by COVID. Completely devastated. The musicians, we have ways of figuring it out. I guess being a musician in itself has its own survival instinct that comes with it. And a lot of the crew people have that also, but when your entire life in the last couple of decades has been going out on tour and working. There’s crew people, venues, bartenders, you name it. They’ve been in an industry for so long and they have really no way to… what are they going to do, work at Walmart? It’s a potential position for them, but that’s really where we’re at. Unless by early next year they start having shows and the touring community can come back.

Toddstar: Yeah. I was going to hit all this at the end, but let’s get it out of the way. A mutual friend of ours, Kevin Zink from the Machine Shop, like you said, he’s a venue guy. What the hell do you do now? This is your life’s blood. This is all your money. This is all your effort.

Cris: Yep. Kevin has been working for decades in that. He’s got everything, he’s put his entire life, all his investments into a venue. And exactly, for people like that, that have basically built their entire life around their profits from their business that is now affected like this, it’s devastating. I can’t even imagine what Kevin was having to go through with The Machine Shop having to be closed.

Toddstar: Yeah. From all the bad comes the good, I could say. I’ve been scaling my life back trying to figure out how do I come out of this on the other side? And guys like you who, like you said, you’ve had some stuff going on in the last couple of years. How do you twist that and how do you make it go to your advantage? Well, you hook up with people over at Coconut Bay and Chesky, and you put together the album, Hollywood y Sycamore.

Cris: Definitely, it was a time of personal review, shall we say. If I would have been an alone person, no friends, having to make a decision on my own, I probably would have been like, “Oh, I’ll just make a metal album”. That’s the easiest thing to do when the fans are expecting that, so I’ll do that. Life has caused so much change, that it felt natural to just have a change, to do something differently. To do something that I kind of admire, which is songwriters who can strip down songs and let the beauty and the simplicity of the song speak. Rather than the instrumentation or the approach in the instrumentation or the application of a genre into the song. So for me, it was something that I’ve always been very dear to, which is songwriting mainly. And it was also a way of not feeling creatively stuck in a hole. It’s also part musician curiosity, could attribute to some of that also. You sit around and you go, “Well, I’ve done this for so long. I don’t want to go to my grave saying I never wrote those acoustic songs, I wish I would have written.” That’s one of those musician things, that you don’t want to go to the grave saying you didn’t try something musically that you should have or something like that. Lucky for me, I had some good friends that were supporting me in that decision, that were very encouraging. I think without them, I wouldn’t have been able to make it, but my friends were very supportive. Anytime any discussion came up or when I showed them some demos of stuff I was doing, they’d always be like, “Dude, yeah! You should do something like this, you sound great. Go for it, you’re a good songwriter. Don’t be scared. You’ll get new fans, if you’re old fans don’t get it.” That was what led me down this road of, I’m just going to strip it all the way to an album that really focuses on my songwriting and my voice. And really that’s the more important thing I guess, in my ability as a musician, so we went for it without looking backwards too much. And just start running. And like Forrest Gump says, “one day I just started running.”

Toddstar: How different was it to approach the writing for this, when you know at the end of the day it is only your name on this. It’s not a band name. It’s not the same guys that you’re writing with day in and day out. How different was the writing, knowing it was you that was going to be in the limelight for better or for worse?

Cris: To be honest with you, it was a relief. It was a relief after years and years of being in a group and feeling like the creative ball was being stabbed. And not just me, but just it felt like as a group, we couldn’t even come to an agreement creatively. People wanted different things and that’s where I kind of, years ago, gave up and just said, “Well all right. You guys figure out where it should be going then.” I felt disconnected creatively at that point, when you got so many people disagreeing on creative things. So when it came time to actually just go back, because in the beginning of the band, I was mainly the only songwriter. I had help with arrangement and Marc Rizzo would come in and help me make the riffs guitar player friendly, since I was just a songwriter, not really a guitar player. I kind of had to go back to, “Okay, I guess I got to just write some songs that I think will work.” And it was a relief. I didn’t have to second guess things. I’m the most critical of myself, I think, of my abilities, than most people. Usually when I work with producers, I’m the one asking for more takes and I’m the one asking to punch me in again. I’m the one saying, “I don’t think that line is right. Let’s redo it. I could sing that better. Let’s redo it.” So it felt like somewhat of a relief. I can go back to writing songs the way I think people want to hear them, but definitely the way I would want to hear them, if this is the thing that I’m doing. I just had some good idols to look up to, their cover songs that other artists have done, that were really done genius. Like Tori Amos, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” cover, I thought it was a genius cover. It kind of just takes everything back to how the song really is the most important thing. I just walked that path until I had several songs. By the time Jeff Lanier and Chesky records had heard some of the demos, they were excited. By then it just seemed like the natural decision. I would have been an idiot to walk away from it, probably.

Toddstar: Sure. Going through the song list, I’ve got my own favorites. Going through, what song or two, while they’re still real fresh to you Cris and mean the most to you?

Cris: Definitely the next single, “Better You Know,” is probably one of the strongest personal songs I’ve ever written. It really is me speaking to my family. As you know, I went through a separation which led to a custody debate, which is probably one of the most debilitating and heart wrenching things a parent could go through. If you’re a parent and you have to go through a custody debate and there’s a kid in the middle, and the other parent’s trying to tug them the other way. All you’re trying to do is have custody of your kids so you could see them. It is heart wrenching. So to me, it’s a song that personally speaks to my family. It starts speaking to my daughter, then it goes on speaking to my father who passed away late last year. And then it just moves forward in talking to my mother and being grateful for everything she’s done. And perhaps I might be talking to myself in the choruses, and reminding myself to not forget that, no matter how challenging life gets, your family’s always counting on you. It really is the one thing that I think when people go through traumatic debilitating experiences, and they don’t have family, I think that’s when they start to lose hope and lose faith. “Better You Know” is just simply a song about that. It just explains the challenges of life. I won’t let go of that memory of that true familia love.

Toddstar: It was always the thing. I mean texts, phone calls, running into each other at shows. That’s the thing with you, once you’re in, you’re always familia. You and I have had that conversation, once you’re there, you’re there. So I know how much family means to you just in the conversations we’ve had. You made references in some of the press releases and some of the other interviews, into shedding your skin, but you’ve done that in more than one way. You went through a lot of things. You started doing some workouts, you just started taking care of yourself physically, you cleaned yourself up as far as your mental stability and your health. You dropped weight, things like that. How important was that in helping you also change your mindset as far as moving, not only forward, at the end of Ill Niño, but moving forward with what you’ve got going on now. How important was that physical aspect to you?

Cris: Oh, man, it’s incredibly important to be honest with you. And the COVID quarantines have made it terrible because in the beginning when they closed everything, I think I personally went into shock. I was like, “I guess we’re all going to die, so just live life however.” I recently started working out again, but I had stopped for like two and a half months and I felt terrible. But once I started realizing we’re not going to die, this thing is going to come and probably go away and it’ll affect a lot of people, but we should be okay. Then I started realizing I better get back into a routine, because I really was falling into some depression. I really was going into a deep depression simply because I wasn’t jogging every day. I wasn’t getting sun every day. I think it’s important to not forget that. It’s too easy to forget that. You do need exercise in life. Ultimately it was getting the back surgery that helped me get back to some kind of physical activity. Because in 2018 I had to get a pretty big thoracic back surgery. Without having gotten that, I wouldn’t have been able to get back to decent exercising, lifting weights and things like that. So for me, the neuro surgeon that did my surgery really was the beginning of that drastic change. My body was really starting, especially my spinal cord, was really starting to be compressed a lot. So taking the compression off my spinal cord was what led me into realizing I have to be healthier. I have to try to take care of myself. I’m getting older. The damage is starting to show. You’re alive, you got to enjoy life somehow. But for sure, it’s challenging man.

Photo credit: Todd Jolicoeur – Toddstar Photography

Toddstar: Sure. Going on to another song on the disc and it always cracks me up because I dig the song, but don’t speak or understand a lick of Spanish. Yet, there’s a song that rings true with me, and I’ll screw up the Spanish, so I won’t use it. There’s a track on there and the translation is, “Whatever Happens.”

Cris: Oh yeah, “Pase lo Que Pase.”

Toddstar: What happened in your life, what was the turning point for you Cris, where a song title like that, and a vibe and a groove like that, stick with you to where you actually put it down on paper – “Whatever Happens”…

Cris: Well, actually that was the first song I wrote for the album was, “Pase lo Que Pase.” I guess what I wanted to say, what I felt maybe I needed to get off my chest. The song is basically a realization of someone that perhaps you thought you knew, and an extreme change occurred in a person. I’m not going to use names, but it led me down the path of realizing that whatever words are spoken and whatever sentiment may be thrown around, that is negative, really doesn’t impact how I should live my life. Like I explained earlier, I went through several very challenging experiences and I think a lot of people in my position would have shut down. A lot of people might have seen it as, it’s time to just call it quits. Oh man, family again, led me down that path of whatever happens, this is life. And as challenging as it gets, I have nothing to really complain about. My kids are alive, my mother is healthy. My nieces are healthy. God forbid something happens to them, then it’d be a different story. But I guess in life, as long as things keep happening to me, not to the people that I love, I’ll be okay. Just like the song says, what happens, happens. As long as it’s not occurring to someone I love, I’m okay with that.

Toddstar: When people are listening to this, what’s the one or two songs you really want people to dive into, and hope that they embrace, the way that you have?

Cris: “Weeds,” the Life Of Agony cover, I thought was a very special song. Mostly I guess would be “Welcome To The Machine.” The Pink Floyd cover. Also, original songs “Better You Know” and “Bring You Home.” “Better You Know” is a single that was released and “Bring You Home” because it speaks personally. The response to “Die Alone” has been pretty awesome.

Toddstar: I like that you switched it up and said, “Here I am, this is me. Take it or leave it.”

Cris: Yeah, pretty much. Metal will always be there and I could always do metal again. I didn’t dump being a metal head, it’s just, I made an album that is different from something I’ve made in the past. For sure. It’s an album that I think people can share with their families, without a doubt. The other day I was thinking about it, what kind of album did I make? Under what situations will people be listening to these songs? And I think that you pretty much hit the nail on the head. It’s a great album to share with your family. If you’re going through a rough time in life, it’s a great album to listen to and self-reflect. And if you’re having a picnic day with your family at the park, or by yourself, or however it may be. It’s a great album to use under those situations. It’s definitely not the kind of album you put on, if you want to mosh or something.

Toddstar: I know you have other stuff  going on and I just wanted to be able to talk to my friend once again, but make it somewhat professional as well.

Cris: I always have a blast talking to you. You’ve always been an amazing friend and a really good dude. The industry needs more down to earth, just cool people like you.

Toddstar: I appreciate that, man. It’s always a fine line trying to walk that, the guy who’s carrying the camera and does the interviews and is a business guy, and does the friend thing too. It’s always a fine line. And when you do it right, and you do it with the right people, it just works out and you’re just friends forever. And you end up getting those random texts all the time. So I think we’ve done this right, man.

Cris: Yeah, absolutely. We’re homies for life, and I’m very grateful to call you a friend Todd.

Toddstar: Me too, Cris. And I wish you well with anything you got going on until this hits. And hopefully this thing will blow up and the world will open up soon and we can get you out on the road, get you up to The Machine Shop or somewhere up here in Detroit, and we’ll do this all over again.

Cris: Absolutely, I’m looking forward to it. I can’t wait to play some shows to be honest with you. Have a great day Todd. Great talking to you.





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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