The music of this Chilean doom band resembles some parts of their Chilean countryside: it’s beautiful, harsh and overwhelming. Not only did they deliver a magnificent live-performance, the band members also turned out to be very pleasant guys who really enjoyed their short stay in Europe. This live interview with Marcelo Rodriguez, the friendly, charismatic and intelligent singer from Mar De Grises, was done on April 22nd 2005 by Boris Van Berlo, a day after their live show at the Belgian Doom Night’s warming up gig in Gent, Belgium.

I suppose that a lot of our readers do not really know Mar De Grises. I normally do not do this, but I would like to start with asking you to give us a small introduction of the band and tell us something about the history.
The band was formed between 2000 and 2001, we were all freshman at the University in Santiago. We started talking to each other, and soon afterwards we decided that we wanted to have a doom metal band. I took us some time to find the right members, guys who could actually play, and guys who could actually play slow and did not mind to play slow. That’s pretty much the beginning of everything. We recorded a demo, it was actually a rehearsal, and the sounding was alright, so we decided to make a demo out of it. We promoted the demo through the internet and send it to some labels, and a little less than a year after that we received an invitation from Firebox to join them. So we started recording our first full length album ‘The Tatterdemalion Express’, which was released in 2004.

Can you give us a little bit more insight in the band name and the album title?
About Mar De Grises: we spent more than a year and a half nameless. We called ourselves ‘Doom’ (laughter), and it was really a hard choice to find a name. We took a lot of time, everyone came with a different name but they really sucked. After a time we had to choose between three names. I actually cannot remember the other two, but I can remember that we felt strongly about all three, so we kind of threw it out to the luck, and so the name Mar De Grises came. It is supposed to be a metaphor for the city we live in, Santiago, which is a very polluted city. So if you would take an air picture of Santiago, it would be a see of grey, which is what the name means. The album title ‘The Tatterdemalion Express’, well tatterdemalion is a French/English word what supposed to mean ‘ragged’. The title aims for this sort of creature, an urban creature, we wanted to make it about were we live too. So it is like a subway that carries the people from the city and it goes with their lives… so it is like a distorted vision of an urban thing. We also made this, I do not know how to call it, this sort of monster for the album cover, which also has to do with people trying to escape from themselves, everybody trying to aim for something different and getting stuck while doing it. Well, this could be an explanation for the title.

So Santiago, the city were you all live in, has quite a big impact on you. Is this also interconnected with the way the lyrics are written?
Yes. Usually I write the lyrics, and they are mostly about me and my relations with the environment, the city and the social environments in it. One of the songs, the last song (Onirica - BVB) is about my life in Chuquicamata, which is my home town… it’s very personal. And the first lyric is about my life in Santiago. So it is pretty much about social environments and the city.

The rehearsal/demo you mentioned, is it still available?
No, it is not available anymore. The demo is the rehearsal for which we also made a cover layout. It has four songs, two of them are also on our first album. I think we printed no more that 250 copies, this was in 2002, and is now sold out.

Are you going to put it as mp3’s on the website?
Yeah, we were talking about doing something like this.

Back to ‘The Tatterdemalion Express’. I was really overwhelmed by your album and like it very much…
…thank you…

…but how did the rest of the press and metal community respond on the album?
Well, everything since we started the band was really good and better than we ever expected. When we released our demo, the response was good. Then we found a label with only one demo, and it turned out to be a very good label. Firebox is a very good label with hard working people! After that, with the album, we were totally shocked by the very good results in the media and the people’s response. We were recording the album for almost nine months, a few days every two weeks in the weekends and so. I do not think it is a very good way to work, because you start to hear all this little things that you should not be hearing. Afterwards when we finished recording, me and Rodrigo, the bass player, were the producers of the album. We were fighting every day with the sound engineer, because we were not happy with how it turned out. So when we got the responses from the media it was totally shocking. I was actually expecting to hear things like ‘Hey, what a piece of shit!’ or something like that. (laughter)

And what is your personal opinion about the album now?
Well, I actually did not listen to the album for 4 or 5 months after it was released, but now I can hear it and I think it is pretty much ok. (laughter) It’s pretty much ok after all the bad things… I like it now.

Your label Firebox Records is quite a new/young label with a very good ‘ear’ for quality music. How did the two of you come in contact? You already mentioned they contacted you, so your demo somehow ended up there?
We have sent a lot of demos to different labels in the USA, in Europe and some in South America. Maybe something like 60 or 70, but we did not hear anything back. Firebox did not exist as a label back then. Somehow our demo ended up in the hands of Rami Hippi, the head manager, and he contacted us. He wrote us a mail saying “ok, I like this, why don’t we make a deal?”, and we were like “ooh yeah!”. (laughter)

Today is the last day you are in Europe, yesterday was your last live performance. How has it been going so far and how do you look back on these hectic two weeks?
It’s been… I actually do not have words to describe it… it has changed my life. This is a totally different world. There is nothing and everything at the same time. I like everything, it is very new, the people are very warm, even our sound is very good live. Everything has been great although you have to go through being tired all the time and falling asleep in every corner. I think it is totally worth it!

And were these for the band the first gigs outside Chile or South America?
These were actually our first real gigs. We have only played two gigs in one weekend in Chile before, and of course nothing outside Chile. This is our first tour and for four of us it is also the first visit to Europe too.

So even at home you did not play so many gigs until now?
We have played 8 gigs or something like that, not in a row but spread over several months and in different towns.

You told me that you all met each others at the university, so what are you doing besides the band?
Most of us are finishing our studies. Me and Sergio are studying the same thing which is sound and acoustic engineering. Rodrigo Morris our guitarist is studying music now and is about to finish too next year. Alejandro, our drummer, is studying at the same university for filmmaker and our bass player Rodrigo Galvez is doing economics or something like that. So we are all still students, but this is my last year, and for most of the guys this will be next year, so we will have to deal with things like getting a job and so.

How is the music scene, or more in particular the extreme music scene in Santiago or other parts of Chile?
I think it’s pretty good. There are a lot of bands, but they do not have the means to record good albums nor promos, and they do not have the chance to come and do gigs in Europe, so they are not really known, but they are good bands.

Are there a few you could recommend? Bands that have potential and hopefully some people will try to check them out?
I would recall Kintral, it’s a weird hybrid…

…I actually have their ‘Catrala’ album, a bit older Dimmu Borgir style.
Yeah. They have a new album now, and I like that one better than the one before, it has a lot more of their own personality and you can actually recognise many influences now, so it’s a must if you want to search for Chilean things. Of course there is Poema Arcanus, we have Melektaus, they play raw death metal. We have Psicosis which is like neo-thrash and it’s also really good.

And there is also Uaral…
…Yeah! They are quite new, they exist like two years and are actually making a big name in Chile, in the underground of course. There is also Claire De Lune Morte, they play a mix between My Dying Bride and Tristania and are actually really good.

So there is quite a healthy scene.
Yeah there is a healthy scene.

And how is the understanding and atmosphere between the bands? Is it good?
Yes, normally, but in the different styles. We do not get along well with many death metal bands, maybe because of obvious reasons? But in the doom metal scene we are quite close. We get along very well with Poema Arcanus, Claire De Lune Morte and Bitterdusk. Sometimes when we can we organise gigs… yeah I would say it’s a healthy scene.

I would like to come back to something we already discussed: inspiration and were you get it from. When I visited Chile I was really overwhelmed by nature, especially in Patagonia. So I was wondering if this also inspires you or other members of the band?
You could say so yes, but the thing is that we do not live so much South. The South of Chile is beautiful. Maybe it would influence us more if we lived there. I’ve only been in Santiago and Chuquicamata, which is actually a copper-mine town, so it is very polluted and not really a nice town. I have drawn some inspiration from the wind. It’s really windy in the North, really windy. When I was a little kid I used to throw myself against the wind, not really hard but just let go, and the wind would not made me fall, I would stay on the earth for a couple of moments. And I usually remember that, I do not know why, in some of my dreams.

To finish up, could you tell us something about the future plans of the band?
Ok, first we have to go back and finish our studies. We talked to our professors and they said “ok, it’s cool, you just have to take everything when you come back”. So we have to do a lot of tests and exams and all other things. So we are going to take a break, maybe a month and a half. We have been working on songs for the new album. We have plenty of ideas but it is coming slow, what is kind of usual. When we do things right we might be recording at the end of this year. And we do not want to make it another 8 months of recording, so I think we are going to go for two months recording in the summer (Southern Hemisphere summer – BVB) so that we can release something in the first semester next year… probably. We also have some ideas on the lyrical topics too. Some of us are suffering from a slighter form of insomnia, it’s not as bad but still a discomforting unpleasant insomnia. So the new album will deal about that, like it usually deals about what we are feeling at the moment.

Any final words?
…shine on! (laughter)

Thank you for the interview, and hopefully we will see you back in Europe soon.
Hopefully, I would really love to come back.

Links of interest:

Mar De Grises
Firebox Records