Ahrue Luster, lead guitarist with Ill Niño took some time out of his busy schedule to speak with me about the band’s newest disc, Dead New World. This is their 5th full length disc and it showcases the band at the top of their game. While the signature Ill Niño sound is present and accounted for, Dead New World seems much tighter and beefier than their previous releases. This is a solid metal album that is sure to satisfy metal heads across the board. Here is what Luster had to say about the band and the new record.
Now that your brand new CD, Dead New World, is complete how do you feel about it? Are you satisfied with the outcome?
Ahrue: We’re very happy with the outcome of the new album. I’m very pleased that this record is high energy from start to finish like Revolution was, but with way more intricate guitar riffs and drum stuff. It is one of the albums that I’ve recorded in my career that I’m most proud of. Actually, I’m proud of everyone, we all stepped it up in a big way on this one!
What was the writing process like for this CD? Did you guys all write together? How long did it take?
Ahrue: The majority of the songs’ original conceptual ideas were written by Cris and I, but then we re-worked all of the music with Dave’s vision to make the songs undeniably Ill Niño. Laz had some great ideas and contributions as well! Diego and Danny added their flavor in the mix, like the spices that are so important in creating a great dish!
What is the significance behind the title Dead New World?
Ahrue: The concept of the record is about the struggles, trials and tribulations of an immigrant coming to a “New World.” You’ve heard the expression “the grass is always greener on the other side”, well sometimes someone may try desperately to leave a bad situation or environment only to find the new environment is equally as bad, hence the title “Dead New World.”
Are there any tracks on, Dead New World that are personal favorites or that have good stories behind them?
Ahrue: Some of my favorites are “God Is Only For The Dead,” “Mi Revolucion,” “Bleed Like You,” “Serve The Grave,” “How Could I Believe” “Scarred.”… that’s half the record. I guess I’m really just excited about this record. The ideas for all these songs came up in all kinds of places, some of them we’re thought up on the train on the way to the Sound Wars Studio, in bedrooms, bathrooms, hallways, living rooms, etc. You can’t tell inspiration to happen, it just happens and you have to allow yourself to be open to it, no matter where it happens, although, massive amount of coffee does seem to help.
Can you talk about some of the subjects you tackle on this record?
Ahrue: A lot of the lyrics were inspired by things that are going on in present times. The illegal immigration issue that is going on in the U.S. was a major inspiration for lyrical content, as we are a band of immigrants, whether we are first, second or third generation. Also, the oil disaster in the gulf inspired some thoughts… and religion too.
Are there any contemporary or classic bands that you guys admire?
Ahrue: As a band, our influences are as deep as the ocean. It would probably be easier to say what we’re not influenced by, but I think the one common thread that ties us all together is Metal.
The artwork is quite amazing. How is it tied to the album’s title?
Ahrue: Well I would lie if I were to say there is some huge concept that interlinks the title, lyrics, music and art. We just thought it looked really cool, it had death in it, for “Dead New World,” but most of all, it really tied in with what the band as all about… “Latin Metal.”
When you are on the road for a while I am sure you see and experience many different things you might not even have known existed. Are there any stories that stand out in your mind as being exceptionally strange or odd?
Ahrue: It always seems to be an adventure when we play in South America. We played a show in Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela is stunningly beautiful with lush tropical mountains and valleys, but also is one of the poorest and most volatile countries in South America. Venezuela is where Christian grew up before moving to the States in his early teens. It was a special show for him since it was the first time Ill Niño was to play Venezuela. The show started out great, the fans were amazing but there was one element that didn’t sit right with me during the entire show. And that was the fact that on either side of the stage, there was a military guard holding a shotgun.
They were posted there for crowd control reasons. It’s a little different when you see these guys in Venezuela holding guns, than it is seeing military personnel in the States holding guns. When these guys are holding guns and you see the look in their eyes, you get the feeling that they’ve used them, that they’ve probably taken human lives. The crowds at shows like this are usually pretty excitable and wild. During the show, my main worry was that some over-excited fan would try to climb up on the stage, to stage dive; the security would mistake his enthusiasm as a possible threat to the band and take the fan down with his shotgun. Our tour manager, Benjie, already had a meeting with the guards, and explained to them that the crowd was probably going to get pretty rowdy, climb on stage and stage dive, but that the band is okay with that.
Even though the guards were briefed, I still couldn’t get the thought of what could happen out of my head. I knew that if the unlikely scenario actually played out, and a fan were to be killed by a military guard, a massive riot would have ensued, injuring and possibly killing more fans, guards and possibly band and crew members. I knew that the odds of that happening were very slim, but I was thinking of the possibility, nonetheless. The show ended up being a great one, with little problems. The only thing that went wrong was a stage power issue due to faulty Third-World wiring, and that some of our belongings were stolen out of our dressing room while we were on stage.
When you are out on the road anything can happen and often does. Can you think of any disastrous events that happened while out on tour? How did you solve the problem?
Ahrue: This is actually what happened to us in Santiago, Chile. The show was at a venue that holds about 2,500 people. It was sold out in advance and stuffed to the gills. We were sure it was packed well over capacity but of course the promoter was trying to tell us that he didn’t go over capacity so he wouldn’t have to share the extra money with us. The promoter was telling us that the rest of our guarantee would be in our account shortly; he had been saying this all day long. About half an hour before we were supposed to go on stage, the promoter said he had confirmation that the money had been transferred into our bank account. He thought that because we had our minds on the show at that point, we wouldn’t be as concerned about the money and we would play the show without getting paid.
Dave called our bank. Our bank said that there had been no such transaction. So Dave told the promoter, in Spanish, that we were not going to set one foot on that stage until all of the money was in our account, and if we don’t go on stage, he will have a major riot on his hands. Some of these people saved their salary for months to be able to see this show, so they wouldn’t have been too happy if for some reason the show didn’t happen. It’s not like it is in America where the fans can just get a refund – the promoter would have taken the money and skipped town.
Five minutes before we were supposed to go on stage we finally received confirmation that the wire transfer went through. It was a little weird to go from a situation like that into entertainer mode within five minutes, but this was the first show of Ill Niño’s first-ever South American tour. The fans had been eagerly awaiting this day, this moment for years… and so had we. I actually think the situation only added to our already heightened adrenalin levels. This would end up being one of the most memorable shows Ill Niño has ever played.
What kind of touring plans do you have in support of the disc?
Ahrue: We plan on doing extensive touring for Dead New World. We are very happy to be back with a record label that is committed to promoting Ill Nino, so this time around things should be a lot better than they were when we were with Cement Shoes.
Any closing words?
Ahrue: We would like to give out respect to all the great fans that have been with us for years. Dead New World is for you! We love you all and hope to see you when we’re playing in your town!
This next set of questions are designed for quick short answers, a sort of rapid fire kind of thing. Just tell me the first thing that comes to mind. What artist would fans be surprised to find on your iPod?
Ahrue: I’ve been listening to the new Forbidden record Omega Wave. The record is amazing. Forbidden is probably the least publicized of the great Bay Area Thrash bands, but one of the best. Check it out!
Tell me about a book or two that you’ve read that you think other people should read?
Ahrue: ‘The Power of Now,’ by Eckhart Tolle is one of the best books I’ve read in the past decade. I would recommend it to anyone. It will change your life.
If you had not become a musician what other career path would you have liked to attempt?
Ahrue: I also enjoy expressing myself through visual art and writing. I would have been some sort of artist, or something creative. I’m a right-brain guy.
What three words best describe your band?
Ahrue: Latin Fucking Metal!
If you were a superhero, who would it be and why?
Ahrue: Aquaman, cause I love the ocean.
What is the one thing you absolutely insist upon in your rider?
Ahrue: Water, you need to stay hydrated on the road. My new item for this touring cycle is going to be Greek yogurt. My wife started eating it, so I tried it and love it!