Wednesday 3 January 2018

An Interview With Alejandro Sanhueza from Sótano

I’ve received Sotano’s debut CD “El Rey Máquina” (“The King Machine” or something like that) alongside the latest record of great Chilean fuzz rock band Demonauta. It’s always cool to receive something like that from the lands far away from grey swamps of Saint-Petersburg.

Well, Sotano aren’t just mates of Demonauta, Alejandro Sanhueza plays drums in both bands and both bands actually deliver pretty good fuzz-charged stoner (with different influences in each case) with Spanish lyrics, so it’s right to have these CDs together on my shelf.

But the band’s name and the horned demonic figure on “El Rey Máquina” artwork made me think that Sotano is just another stoner band with songs about weed and Satan and so on…

I was bloody wrong, we had a talk with Alejandro and I have to admit that this band has much more to offer!  Sotano play music which makes you not just band your head, this music makes people think.

Hi Alejandro! All information about Sotano is into Spanish, so please introduce the band for our readers – how old the band? How was it started?

Hi, we are Sotano, from Santiago, Chile. We are a power trio band with Iván Villanueva, guitar and vocals, Victor Silva, bass and vocals and Alejandro Sanhueza on drums. We have been playing together since 2009, the band started as a Black Sabbath tribute, just for the pleasure to play Sabbath songs. However, the need to create our own songs grew within us, that´s when Sotano was born.

Alejandro, I know that you also play drums in Demonauta, who are the other guys? What’s their background?

Iván (guitar and vocals) has played in some thrash metal bands here in Santiago, and Victor (bass, vocals) has played music since childhood, with his brother Anibal (who played guitar in Sotano for a while and composed several songs of the “El Rey Máquina” album). Victor and Ivan played together in a band called Mano Muerta too.

Why did you choose such name for the band? What meaning do you put into it? Are you really into satanic stuff or is it just some homage to rock traditions?

The word Sotano means “basement”, it comes from the days of our first rehearsals, they were in a basement were the heat and the smell were horrible, so we had to drink a lot of beer...we always remembered that place, those early days, so we decide to name our band that way.

We use some ideas related to Neo-paganism and Wicca more than Satanism, however we are not related to any creed at all, our intention is to highlight the poetry of the band more than a particular creed.

Ha-ha… Man, I was sure that “Sotano” is perceived as “Satan” : ) Indeed I’m surprised that you pay so much attention to the lyrics, what did influence on this approach?

There are several referents to rescue in the composition process, the most direct I think it is Álvaro Enríquez from the Chilean band Los Tres and Jorge Gonzáles from Los Prisioneros. Both have a musicality and rhythmic in their compositions that if we translate it into English would lose all its charm. Fito Páez is also a fundamental reference since his lyrics struggle to get rid of the clichés of rock and roll and nevertheless have a freedom of meaning that for us is paramount.

The artwork for Sotano debut “El Rey Máquina” is decorated with some satanic images (like that anthropomorphic figure with horned skull) and images of the cogs. OK, we know about the skulls and horns, but what does the cog personify from you?

The cog is the icon of the industrial age, which together with the skull and the ritual disposition of the characters represents the mystification of industrial processes. It is a quote from Marshall McLuhan who, throughout his work, criticizes and prophesies a society trapped in an electronic brain that seeks to return to be a tribe with pagan gods.

Sotano - Corre

It’s interesting idea, but do you really believe that we live in industrial age? Prejudices, religious conflicts, merciless bastards filled with fat and money – looks like we plunge back in time.

Although a paradigm can not be defined until it is abandoned, historio-graphically, a process does not close suddenly if it is not transformed by influencing the historical process that precedes it. McLuhan predicts the mythification of industrialism from that historical process in full awareness of its contemporaneity.

What are your main influences in Sotano – both musical and lyrical ones? What’s the main motive of Sotano?

Black Sabbath is our main influence, without a doubt, we also could name bands like Pentagram, Alice in Chains, Tool, Sepultura, Pantera, Dio…we really listen to a lot of music. The main motivation in Sotano is to play loud rock’n’roll and try to convey the passion we feel for music to the people who listen to us. The lyrics are inspired in personal experiences and our own critical vision of the world. However, there are some writers who served as inspiration like Marshall McLuhan, Carl Gustav Jung and Joseph Campbell.

Your lyrics are into Spanish, so can you tell what are your songs about?

We try to catch the spirit of the times, without falling into political or partisan manifestos, and for this we create different characters that are repeated throughout the lyrics, and interact with each other under the different titles of each song, and spontaneously fell in the account that the machine king (El Rey Máquina) was present in the majority, literally, as in the song of the same title, and other times an entity as in "the unborn"(El Mal Nacido).

Do you want your listeners not just enjoy your music but also to make them think? I appreciate the bands who use mother tongue in their lyrics, but isn’t the situation when English would work better? Or at least you could print lyrics’ translation in the album’s booklet…

Yes, it could be a good option, if we put the lyrics of the songs translated to English on the disc or in the band's Bandcamp, it could be a possibility to reach other countries that speak that language, so they could understand the message we want to deliver with our songs.

The band’s sound is overloaded with fuzz and distortion, how do you work out that sound? Why do you feel what this formula works? And how does it work actually?

We use fuzz on bass and distortion on guitar, we also use C tuning, we fell it sounds really powerful. The main idea when we started the recording of the album was to reflect the live sound of our shows into the album, without too many production or “make up” in the final edition.

El Rey Máquina” is well produced, and despite your love to fuzz I would say that the sound is clear and crisp. What kind of equipment did you use in studio? In which conditions did you record the album?

We recorded the album in our rehearsal room, with all of the equipment we always use in our live shows, Marshall for guitar and Ampeg for bass. The drum set we used has big measures, because we wanted a more classical rock sound, like the 70´s recordings. The recording process was really fast, because we were playing those songs for a long time.

And how did you mix and master the record? Who’s in the band know how to deal with that?

The recording mix and mastering of the album was in charge of David Véliz (Demonauta voice and guitar) we trusted him as a band, for the works he recorded with other local bands and because he quickly understood what we wanted to record on the album, in the sound scope, power etc ... At the time of the final decision of how we were going to leave the record loudly speaking, the three of us participated, as well as in the composition of the songs, everything we do in the band happens for the three of us.

It seems that there is a bunch of few strong stoner / rock bands in Chile: Demonauta, Kayros, Sotano… how often (and with which bands) do you play?

We try to play live as often as we can, because we really love live shows, it´s were all the energy flows. Some of the bands we always play with are Salamanca, Amelia and our longtime partners Deltoner, they released a really good album this year called Abismal.

Chile’s territory stretches alongside the whole continent seaside and borders by mountains, so are there some parts of the country where it’s really hard to get and play?

We haven’t got the chance to play that much in other cities outside Santiago, but not long ago we played in a beautiful place called Lo Barnechea, the stage was placed in a hill, between some mountains, and you could see the city really far away. Like this place there are a lot of beautiful places in Chile, we hope we can play in some of them soon. Our country has a wide variety of different landscapes, like desert or forests.

How do you deal with promotion? Is it OK for you to deal with such questions in DIY manner? How are you ambiguous?

The promotion of the band and our material, we do it basically through social networks and in our shows, selling our records and sharing material of the band. Sotano has always been characterized by delivering a special energy live, that people know our music, as well as the essence of the band, watching us play live. Our band has basically always been looking for aggressiveness and power, musically speaking and we believe that the people who attend our shows and have listened to our record, can give an account of that.

I’d like to thank you for the interview, but let’s sum up – what are Sotano’s plans for 2018? How far is your next full-length?

Thank you very much for the space and dissemination to our band, we are, as a band, always willing to support the media to spread our music, especially if it is from such a distant place. We are working hard on the new songs that will be part of our new album, we hope we can enter the studio the first quarter of 2018, we are really anxious as a band to start that process.


Words by Aleks Evdokimov and Alejandro Sanhueza