Besides knowing that Argentina was a big producer of wine and steak, I was completely ignorant of what was going on in the country before visiting it. It’s kind of embarrassing, but the only band I knew from the country was the primitive but evil demo band Retrosatan. However, I quickly found out that the country historically had some of South America’s best heavy rock and traditional metal bands, and discovered some amazing gems (notably ‘Pappos’ Blues Volumen 3‘ and V8’s ‘Luchando Por el Metal’) that have became some of my favourite albums ever. I also was shocked at the diversity of the landscapes encountered during the trip – especially the insanely beautiful multi-coloured mountains in the north of the country and its large canyons! I was not able to find many gigs to go to, or even too many albums to purchase, but I did catch the Argentinian stoner-doom band Dragonauta play a gig in Buenos Aires… at 3 in the morning, which seemed like a normal hour to play over there. Anyway, one key person I connected with while traveling in Argentina was Eric (Nocturnal Profaner of the bands Infernal Curse/Xenotaph and the editor of Baphometal fanzine). He not only introduced me to tons of killer bands, but also inspired me greatly with his particular traveling techniques…
Greetings Eric! Introduce yourself to the readers of Iron Fist. How did you get into heavy metal?
“I’m 29 and I was born and raised in the capital city of Buenos Aires. I can say my first show was Metallica at the end of the ’90s, but my real first show was when I was five years old and my father played in a heavy metal band called Transilvania. Of course I knew nothing about music back then but I have some images in my mind of that 1989 show, it seems the brutality of the shows of those years is still burning in my mind now! The Argentinian scene and underground music in general was bigger until a large venue called República Cromañón was burned during a (shitty) rock event. After that incident, politics regarding artistic movements changed. A lot of pubs were closed, more rules were made for artists and producers and economic support was made available to more commercial artists. In a way, this changed the underground scene, discouraging artists and the public too, because it all became more expensive, difficult, far away, with a need to have to deal with permits and stupid government rules. So before the incident, shows were more crowded, more underground, in better places (caves!), and we had many more choices.”
Argentina had a very strong metal (and heavy rock!) scene back in the ’70s-’80s, with such bands as the bluesy heavy rock band Pappo’s Blues, heavy metal bands Riff, Bloke, Thor, speed metal band V8 and proto-black metal band Retrosatan. It seems like nowadays, besides your bands and a handful of others, it has been lacking quite heavily — especially if you compare it to your Chilean neighbors. Is there some sort of hidden scene that outsiders are completely unaware of? Any bands to recommend us?
“Nothing, nothing…nothing you do not already know about. However, this is not a top 10 of essentials, but some of the stuff I couldn’t be without because of its history or obscurity:
1. Miguel Abuelo: One of my favourite ’70s rock bands with great poetry in their lyrics
2. El Reloj: A 1970s hardrock band
3. Riff and Pappo: Classics! One of the first metal projects in South-America
4. Lulu: A 1979’ pre-metal gem. Released only a single (Satanic lyrics by the way!)
5. Belcebu: Killer old metal that released a super rare live LP
6. V8: Pioneers in South-America together with Resistencia from Venezuela
7. Retrosatan: As you say before ‘primitive and evil HM’
8. Bloke: Another great pioneering HM band, their ‘Demolicion’ LP is a classic here
9. Necrophiliac: Death/trash demo band. Their demo ‘Dark Life’ is really great
Which places, shops and markets in Argentina are the best for record hunting? Are old ’70s and ’80s classic Argetinian LP’s hard to come by? I’m a maniac for South-American presses where they translate the titles of each song into Spanish and would love to get my hands on more!
“There are some expensive record shops in the centre of the city. You also have Internet shops like local ebays, which are expensive too. The best is word of mouth, knowing people, searching in the markets and so on. Those records are hard to find and expensive to purchase here but some are must-haves!”
Argentina is the first country in the Americas which birthed a pope. How do you feel about that? How is religion portrayed in your country? Were you raised in a strictly religious family yourself?
“This is a Christian country but even if the church have some relation with politicians, the real problem here is political oppression, projects of (un)culture of the masses, the old, archaic and useless law book we have, and the brainwashing mass media with their greedy voracity. With all these evil creatures I must say religion is the softest of them now. My family is atheist and even if Argentina is a Catholic country, I think other areas in South-America are more fanatical, like Peru or Colombia.”
In the ’70s, there were political tensions including wars, terrorism and disappearances in Argentina. This most likley had a great influence on the pioneering proto-metal bands, have you and your family been affected by these events?
“Yes. the ’70s dictatorship had an influence in the culture and arts in general. You couldn’t do what you wanted because your life was constantly at risk. My family told me that you had to be careful of what you do and say. Repression and breach of freedom was the common thing. I personally think that the dictators in South-America were just puppets commanded by powerful economic potencies (locals and overseas) and by imperial states. Well not much different to what happens today in some parts of the world.”
When visiting your city Buenos Aires, I was surprised to see families picking up garbage every night in the streets. Although ecologically fruitful, it just shows how much poverty ridden the city was. Has it changed since? Or perhaps gotten worse?
“You are right, that work is called cartonero, it literally means ‘people that hunt cartons’ and it is true: they are a low economic class searching for cartons, iron or items that they can sell to industrial markets. They’ve got just the basic to survive and many of these families were victims of unemployment and crisis during ’90s neoliberal governments. Nowadays the situation is a little bit better for cartoneros, there are less of them and much more organised and recognised by the state.”
Argentina has one of the biggest diversities of ecosystems in the world, it shares a part of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls with Brazil, has breathtakingly gorgeous mountainous regions, jungles, ice lands, endless vineyards… I travelled the country for a month by bus and couldn’t believe how many diverse landscapes spanned through the windows. Have you travelled a lot in your own country? Which cities and regions would you recommend to fellow travellers, and why?
“You are right, the country is diverse, from an extreme cold weather, snow, white mountains, flora, fauna and culture in the south to the big city of Buenos Aires and the ecosystem of the north, which is like another country to the south. I would recommend the two extremes: Tierra del Fuego (the southern city in the planet) and Jujuy with the township of La Quiaca (the highest part of Argentina and border with Bolivia). Anyway, I think any part can be nice depending on how you plan your travel.”
Everybody knows that the food specialty of Argentina is steak, which you generously made for me when visiting your place. Which cuts are the best, and where in Buenos Aires can we eat the most delicious steaks?
“I personally think the best way to eat barbecue in Argentina is buying the meat yourself in the butcher shop and cooking at home. It will be cheaper too and you can make as you want, adding potatoes and salads and other parts of the cow if you want!”
Which other culinary specialties from your country do you love and recommend? I’ve had some of the tastiest empanadas (salty pastries stuffed with meat and veggies) and Locro (Andean soup) in Salta, killer waffle hot-dogs in Tucuman and refreshing Cabarnet Sauvignon ice cream in Cafayate. Food heaven!
“Locro is great, I love it too. I also recommend local pizza, pasta (similar to italian ones) and choripan, If you like sweets I would recommend ice cream, alfajores or local biscuits at the bakery with a coffee.”
You’ve toured Southeast Asia and Africa (!!!) with your band Infernal Curse in 2012, which is a very rare thing for a South American band. I remember you told us you were living on $1 per day. How did you achieve that? What are your tips for headbangers that want to travel for cheap? Which countries did you visit and how was the whole experience? And how especially were the African metal scenes?
“Annick, to reply to that question we will need some beers, coffee and a two-hour chat, but I will do my best! I survived with $1 a day or so in some countries, like India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Philippines. First of all, because I knew a lot of local people in those areas, had many friends that hosted me and with whom I shared things. And secondly, because I am able to live and travel without luxury. I travelled a lot by hitchhiking in the past; we used to camp in some remote sites and eat from the local markets (super cheap and tasty). I know this is not for everybody but worked for me. On the other side I can tell you when I went to Japan I spent like $300 on records for myself and I would do again! I know most of the countries in South-America, Central America, Southeast Asia, some countries in the Middle East and some of Africa (the south of it). We of course did not play in all the countries I personally visited because playing in for example Pakistan is not possible, but we did gigs in Sri Lanka, Philippines, Malaysia (in six cities), Singapore, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Peru, and many more.
“African metal is no big deal, especially in South Africa with their boring death metal bands. In Botswana it was better, the bands we played with were good and the public acts like a metal public should act!”
Tell us about your zine, Baphometal. How long have you been the editor? Are you working on a new issue – and if yes, which bands will it feature? It is one of my favourite zines out there, because you mix traditional and extreme metal. I also love your questions, they always seem to yield killer and refreshing answers!
“Thank Annick, I’m sure, from the first to last issue, the zine has become better and better. I would love to do a new issue this year, but I will see is time is on my side. I started it in 2003-2004 and the last issue is from 2011 if I’m correct. It is quite out-dated but this is not a fucking compromise, it is metal from fans to fans.”
You have been extremely active in the underground for a long time, and have many bands, your main projects being the two-piece black metal band Infernal Curse and most recently, the female fronted heavy metal band Xenotaph, with whom you’ve recently released an excellent first full-length. Can you tell us about these bands and other projects you are involved with? Are you planning any more tours or new albums in the upcoming year?
“Infernal Curse is a three-piece now and we did a tour last year in Latin America with our new line-up, which was totally killer. Yes, we plan a second album and a big tour. Lets see what happens. My other projects like Xenotaph, Nocturnal Evil are always active; it is just a matter of time and state of mind. Thanks for this magnificent interview! Come back soon with Cauchemar and let’s do a show with Xenotaph before the universe explode!”
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