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Exclusive! Interview With Ill Nino Drummer Dave Chavarri

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Friday, November 21, 2003 @ 11:53 AM

Confessions of a Drumme

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Dave, the drummer from Ill Nino, was signing autographs and talking to fans outside of Irving Plaza when his publicist asked him if he had time to do an interview. He was surrounded by fans -- young fans of his band, people who were coming down for the show, (which they were headlining with fellow RoadRunner metallers Spineshank, 40 Below Summer, and RCA recording artists, Skrape). They crowded around and listened in on his conversations with the fans. It was quite the mob scene and Dave and his cohorts were at the center of it all. With sound-check coming up, and fans all around, it was evident that any time I could get with this busy, yet generous and affable drummer was going to be brief. I went through the usual, “Where are we going to do this?” with his publicist. After she introduced me to Dave, we made our way back into Irving Plaza, and down the hall past the Men’s Room, to an alcove with a pay-phone. As we walked down the hall, a young kid, maybe 14 or 15, exited the bathroom, and caught a glimpse of Dave, shouting, “”Hey, it’s the Ill Nino guy!”

KNAC.COM: I know you guys are busy…
CHAVARRI: No, no, no-- it’s okay… it’s all good, man.

KNAC.COM: It’s sold-out tonight… you must be excited.
CHAVARRI: Oh, yeah! We have a lot of people here tonight. I’m from Jersey, so, you know…

KNAC.COM: You must be a little tired -- will you get to rest before the show?
CHAVARRI: Probably not, but we’re ready -- ready to rock -- so, you just go with it…

KNAC.COM: Okay, then, let’s talk about the new record! It’s heavy and there’s a lot of personal stuff on there…
CHAVARRI: Yeah… well, you mean with Chris [singer, Cristian Machado]? Basically, he comes in when -- he’s been jotting a lot of his ideas down -- he starts writing lyrics, you know, he does al the lyrics in the band, so, while we were doing this last record, Confession, when we were writing, he just really poured his heart out on this record and come clean with himself, as well as anyone who’s with him, you know? He didn’t want to hold back or make people feel like he was trying to be fake, and he wanted to let people know how he felt. He has a lot of issues about his dad -- not even having his dad around -- and more or less having issues with his family. And, in doing the writing process of the record, Bob Marlette produced the record--

KNAC.COM: Bob Marlette -- Sabbath?
CHAVARRI: Yeah, Sabbath, Saliva… and I co-produced the record…

CHAVARRI: Yeah, I produced on the first record… and, just basically, you know, Cris, really was pushed by Bob Marlette to just be himself, be “musical,” be a person and be human. He wanted him to let people know how he feels, and, you know, he did… and he ended up coming up with some heavy personal lyrics.

KNAC.COM: Working as a co-producer, and being in the band, was this different from earlier approaches -- to getting to “the lyrics” -- as well as the “music?”
CHAVARRI: Cris is a really hard-working guy. We’ve been friends, and business partners, for about six years now… we’ve been really close, and Cris can be really really serious, you know? He takes it really seriously, the music. I can go deep with him and he can get deep with me… that’s friendship. But, having Bob Marlette really, really pushed us both, to get to what we can do… that made the difference, having him there.

KNAC.COM: How did you get Bob Marlette?
CHAVARRI: Uh, through the label. They had used him for other people, and we said we were looking for producer like him -- we actually met with a couple of different producers, you know? But we really loved what did, what he had done and what he was saying when he came in.

KNAC.COM: Was there someone you had wanted to work with -- someone else?
CHAVARRI: No, we actually were very lucky and very blessed that the label was very open-minded and willing to help us do our thing. We couldn’t really afford it -- almost anybody would want him though -- and when we got him, it was just this amazing experience working and recording with him. He’s just cool as hell -- he’s a great guy!

KNAC.COM: What about you -- working as a producer… is this somewhere you want to go… another direction or goal?
CHAVARRI: I’ve been working at producing for about six and a half years, on and off. I’ve done a lot of local bands, I produced the first Ill Nino record, co-produced the second one and I did a band called, “Violent Delight,” signed to Warner Bros. I just did that -- it should be coming out in a few months… yeah, I’m really into the position, I’m really intrigued with producing and have been very into it for more than a little while!

KNAC.COM: The new record comes out September 30th, I think, and the song “How Can I Live” is already being added to radio play-lists… I just got the advance…
CHAVARRI: Do you like it? What do you think? What do you like?

KNAC.COM: Well, obviously- I’m familiar with the single, but after a few spins… to me, the things I like are at the end of the record. The stuff that appears early on, it sounds like they’re meant to be “hits,” but the really cool stuff -- and this is just me, one person -- the stuff that I like, “When It Cuts,” “Letting Go”… “Re-Birth” is really cool… What about you? You produced it… what stands out for you?
CHAVARRI: It’s a little heavier toward the end, yeah… I like the whole record, of course. One song that really sticks out for me is, “Have You Ever Felt?” You know, it really speaks to me, personally. I think the whole record – each song is different from the other. One thing about us is that we really work hard to be original and not sound like everybody else, you know? One thing that works in our favor is that we really can’t be compared to a lot of other bands. I like that each song is different, which is very important. A lot of times you put on a record, and every song sounds the same. That’s something we try to stay away from. And we wrote about 30 songs for this record--

KNAC.COM: Jesus… and you cut it down to, like, what -- fifteen? Thirteen?
CHAVARRI: Yeah, about that, thirteen… it’s a lot of work, you know?

KNAC.COM: So, what happens to the rest of that stuff?
CHAVARRI: It goes to “bye-bye land”… we dumped it all.

KNAC.COM: No B-sides, soundtrack stuff?
CHAVARRI: “How Can I Live” is going to the Freddy Vs. Jason soundtrack, but we have two B-sides going out that we used out of that session, but other than that, we don’t like to use stuff that is lesser than-- we want to give the best that we can give, and it’s not fair to our fans if we send that out…

KNAC.COM: You guys really interact with your fans…
CHAVARRI: We give ‘em the best that we can give ‘em. They pay a lot of money to go see the band live, they save their money, they’re paying their hard-earned money to come see us live… they’re going to get a live show out of it, and as far as the record goes, they pay a lot of money for CDs nowadays, especially nowadays, so we try to give them a cool package, with something great to listen to.

KNAC.COM: You mentioned the price of CDs… what about that? Everyone talks about the music downloading -- how do you feel about that?
CHAVARRI: I don’t really mind it, to be honest with you. If you believe in your record and you believe in your band -- and your band’s a good band -- you shouldn’t be afraid of it ‘cause it will only help to make people realize how good your band is, and most likely they’ll buy the record. Downloading actually previews the record before it comes out and that can help out a lot. But, there’s nothing you can do. It’s going to happen somehow. Some kid can buy a record and tape it for his friends, you know? It’s going to happen. There’s no stopping “the beast.” Most kids that really love the band will pick up the record…

KNAC.COM: You have some serious fans, too, I noticed, outside, before… what’s your relationship like with your fans?
CHAVARRI: That’s all we do. Talk to fans… [laughs] I want to hear what they’ve got to say, you know? What’s good, what’s bad- where did we go wrong, what do they like? Ask ‘em -- they’ll tell you [laughs]… they’re the ones in the crowd…

KNAC.COM: They’re honest with you…
CHAVARRI: Oh, yeah! I mean, that’s the way our fans are! They’ll say, “What’s wrong with you? You didn’t play that song!” And then when we have a band meeting, the next time, I’ll go, “You know what? About twenty kids at the last show wanted to hear this one song…” –and then we put it back in the set. We listen to what people have to say. Hey, they’re the ones…

KNAC.COM: So, you were out there before -- what do the kids say?
CHAVARRI: They love this record. The new song – they can’t seem to get enough of this band and that’s what you want! It’s great… I mean, they’re downloading [laughs] …but you know what they’re feeling… and they like what they’re hearing… all of them!

KNAC.COM: You have a huge Latin-American following…
CHAVARRI: We do. We did twenty-three months of touring on the last record. I was off for 80 days. I was home for 80 days out of two years. We did Japan, we did Europe three times, we did the US 11 times…

KNAC.COM: South America?
CHAVARRI: South America is next. That’s part of the whole plan for this year…Not with this line-up -- we might go out with someone else, we’re not sure, but we are going, oh yeah… South America, Australia, Japan…

KNAC.COM: So home is really the road for you, right now…
CHAVARRI: Well, Jersey is my home… I don’t see it too much…I’ll go back… The whole band is from Jersey, except our new guitar player -- he’s from California…

KNAC.COM: How did that come about?
CHAVARRI: He came out to try out about 3 1/2 months ago, and he was the guy, man. He was the one. He was the right one for the band, man, and he hasn’t left since. He’s got his girlfriend sending him stuff in the mail… [laughs] “Send me more socks!” [laughs] Good old UPS!

KNAC.COM: Let’s talk about your drumming…
CHAVARRI: I got a four-piece kit…

KNAC.COM: And you’re heavy…
CHAVARRI: I usually don’t think about it. That’s the only time -- the only thing that takes me away from whatever problems and issues that are basically on my mind. It’s all about when I start playing, my eyes roll back… and I forget about everything else, you know? That’s my getaway from everything else. I’ve been playing since I was 16 years old, and I’m 35 now…

KNAC.COM: You and me both… what took you to drums?
CHAVARRI: Uh… I used to be a bass player, and I sucked at it [laughs] – and then I tried drums -- and I was good at it… so I stuck with it.

KNAC.COM: (laughs) Have you ever admitted that to Laz [your bass player]?
CHAVARRI: Oh, yeah! He knows! [laughs] We’ve been together for about 18 years.

(At this point, the RoadRunner publicist peeks down the hallway, noticeably checking her watch -- our time is almost up…)

KNAC.COM: Okay, Dave, obviously we’re going to have to wrap this up so you can get some time before your set… anything you want to end on?
CHAVARRI: Well, I would just say thank-you to all our fans -- and to everyone at KNAC -- Bet you thought I didn’t know about them out here on the East Coast? [laughs] Well, I just look forward to seeing all the fans out at the shows and I hope you all get to check out the new record, Confession… you won’t be disappointed!

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