The self-titled debut CD by De La Tierra, the all-star Latin metal band featuring former A.N.I.M.A.L. singer/guitarist Andres Giménez, Sepultura guitarist Andreas Kisser, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs bassist Sr. Flavio, and Maná drummer Alex González, is available everywhere today. (Get your copy on iTunes!) Featuring 11 tracks of punishing metal, with lyrics in Spanish and Portuguese, the album is a testament to the bandmembers' love of metal, and the power of riffs to transcend language barriers. Latin American crowds have always been legendary among metal bands on tour, and now, for the first time in a long time, a band has emerged from there to make a run at the throne.
We spoke to Alex González by phone from his home in Guadalajara, Mexico to learn how the group came together, how the album was made, and what De La Tierra's vision is of metal and their place within it.
How long have you known the other guys in the band, and how did De La Tierra form?
OK, Andres Giménez, who was the singer and guitar player for A.N.I.M.A.L., one of the biggest metal bands to come out of Argentina, I’ve known him for almost ten years, because he was on Warner Bros., the same label as [Maná]. So we would always cross paths, and I always admired his band and his singing and the way he really pushed Latin metal toward the mainstream. 'Cause Sepultura did that, but they were doing it in English, and A.N.I.M.A.L. did it in Spanish, and that was something very, very cool. So around 2008, after a Maná concert, we talked about my love of metal and bands I grew up playing to as a drummer, and he said, like friends, "We should get together and jam," and I thought that would be awesome, but it would be so difficult because of my obligations with Maná. I never thought that there was going to be any time to do it. But Dave Grohl, he’s someone I admire very much, because coming from Nirvana and then starting from zero again with Foo Fighters, then playing with Lemmy [in Probot] and Them Crooked Vultures and now he’s playing with Paul McCartney—at the end of the day, it’s about creating and it’s about playing music. So I said, if we can do it, I’ve always wanted to play metal, so if I have the time, and there’s a space between the last Maná record and the next one, I’m gonna do it, but I want to do it with people that have the credibility and the experience doing it. So I told Andres around November of 2011, when we were playing in Argentina, I said, "Let’s do this. Let’s put a band together, make some kick-ass metal, not limit ourselves to playing one style, let’s play a whole bunch of different styles that we like and have fun." So we called Flavio, the bass player from the Cadillacs, we told him about this idea we had; he’s an amazing bass player, he can play any style, especially more from the hardcore punk scene, but he can also play metal very easily. So we talked about the project and he said, "Man, I’m in." So we had the trio, but Andres said it would be great to have an extra guitar player, so the guitars are even more gnarly and more powerful. And he said, "I have the guy, but it’s gonna be almost impossible, because of his schedule and the band he’s in." I said, well, who is it? And he said, it’s Andreas Kisser from Sepultura. So I said, "Dude, he’s a really good friend of mine! I just finished playing Rock in Rio with him, he got up on stage and played with us, I played with him when Scorpions went down to Guadalajara..." We already had a good friendship. So I sent him an email—he was on tour with Sepultura in Italy, and after he got offstage and read the email, and immediately wrote back and said “Dude, don’t look for any more guitar players—I’m your guitar player!” So that’s basically how we started—no managers, no reality TV show, no sponsors; it was just four friends who’ve known each other so many years. Metal and playing together is what brought us together.
Was the album recorded by all of you together, or did you do it via file sharing?
No, no, no—this is the good thing about technology; once we had the lineup, we each started to write songs and demo them in our home studios, me in Guadalajara, Mexico, Andreas in São Paulo, and the other two guys in Buenos Aires. So we were always Skyping back and forth, talking about ideas and what we could bring to the table. But the important thing was, we got together first, to see if there was musical chemistry. Because as friends, there’s this great relationship and this great chemistry, but maybe that won’t happen when we all get together in a room and start playing. So mid-February of 2013, Andreas and I flew out to Buenos Aires and we all lived in Flavio’s house. He has a studio and rehearsal space in the back, and we got in there for a week, and the first day we started playing and vibing off each other, we knew right away that something special was being born there. It was a real band. And that was vital, for us to be together in that space playing those demos we’d been sending back and forth. So once we saw this was a real thing, we booked a studio in Buenos Aires in May and recorded everything there except for the guitars, which were in São Paulo, and I did a couple of percussion things in Guadalajara, but basically everything was done in Buenos Aires except for the mastering. That was done in L.A. with my good friend Tom Baker. And we financed everything, it was like an independent band. We were doing everything ourselves. We produced the record ourselves, we did the arrangements…Stanley Suarez, he’s the engineer, he did a couple of Sepultura albums and he’s also worked with Motörhead, he’ll probably be our front of house engineer once we start touring. The whole record took a month and a half to do. This is not a ProTools band. Everything you hear on the record is either the second or the third take. That’s it.
What are your plans as far as taking De La Tierra on the road?
Well, the idea is to do our first round of touring in March and April. We’re looking to play the most important festivals in Latin America and Europe. The thing is, we have to find holes where we can go and play because we all have our commitments—you know, Andreas is touring with Sepultura, I’ll be doing my stuff with Maná, starting a new album in May, but the good thing is we have support from our bands. Once they found out we were gonna do this project, they were like, that’s awesome, but if you’re gonna do it, give it 100 percent. So it’s just about figuring out how we’re gonna find those holes to tour and make it happen. Because this is a long-term project; this is not something where we just want to do one album and one tour and disappear. It’s not a supergroup, it’s a new band we’re starting from zero. Even though we come from four important bands from Latin America that have left their fingerprints on pop and rock and metal, I think the important thing is we want to continue to do things and grow.
Do you think some Maná fans will be surprised by this side of you?
Honestly, I think some metal people that might be a little narrow-minded are gonna be surprised by this side of me. [Laughs]
Who are some of your favorite metal drummers? Who did you grow up listening to?
I first started to play the drums because of the Beatles, I saw them on TV when I was like four years old and said, that’s it, that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. But at the same time, I got introduced to Kiss when I was six years old, so that whole period of my life, between 1974 and 1979, I was a huge Kiss fan. My whole room was covered in posters and magazine covers and everything I could find; my mom was afraid of walking into the room because she was saying, this kid is out of his mind. I was also listening to a lot of Led Zeppelin; John Bonham is one of my biggest influences on the drums. And then I started getting into other music, like Van Halen came around and I heard “Eruption” and “You Really Got Me” and was like, oh my God, what is this? So I became a huge fan of Van Halen; Alex Van Halen was another big influence on me. That’s why I started customizing my kits, because Alex Van Halen was always coming with a new kit, with a different look every time Van Halen would come out with a new album. Then starting in about 1984, the whole Sunset Strip scene with Quiet Riot, Mötley Crüe, Guns N’ Roses, amazing bands like that. And then you had the Big Four—I would listen to Anthrax, Metallica, Slayer…I have some good friends in the metal industry because of the endorsements I have, so I’ve been able to have a good relationship with Charlie [Benante] from Anthrax, Dave Lombardo from Slayer, Danny Carey from Tool…I’ve met a lot of great people. Deftones is one of my favorite bands, a group I really respect and admire a lot. I’m listening to Gojira, too. There’s just so much music out there. I think what we need to do is, because of the notoriety we have, we can attract a lot of media attention, and we can say, don’t ignore this. There’s millions of Latino fans that love metal music and you can’t ignore that they want to hear it. We’ve been given opportunities on radio and with our videos, so they can’t ignore this genre that’s been alive forever. The fans are there. Even if you look at the history of metal, how many Latino musicians have been in bands, from Rudy Sarzo to Robert Trujillo, Randy Castillo, Roy Mayorga from Stone Sour—there’s a lot of Latinos that play metal music. So I don’t think it’s a no-brainer, I think it’s just a matter of people not being prejudiced and having an open mind. Music is music. One of the things De La Tierra wants to do is unify people. I think the world is full already and sick of so much negative stuff, of racism and prejudice. Metal has one of the most loyal crowds in the world; they’ve been subjected to so much criticism from people who think they know how metal people think, but I think we’re in a very positive moment right now where music, especially metal, can unite people instead of divide people. It’s one of the few times when people can go to a concert and for an hour and a half or two, nobody’s thinking about politics, nobody’s thinking about your sexual orientation, nobody’s thinking about anything but enjoying the music, enjoying that band.