MALAS is a raging Death / Thrash Metal three-piece act from Chicago. The band has already released two full length albums so far ("Conquest" in 2005 and "Path To Holocaust" in 2013) and should easily appeal to any fan of relentless aggression, great riffing and brutal, deathly vocals. Jesus Claros of the mighty BELLS OF ACHERON zine hooked up with the whole band and came up with the following in-depth interview…
Mighty Hails… Alex, you speak Spanish fluently; I suppose your family has Hispanic / Spanish roots? Which country are they from?
Alex: "Yes I do. Jesús you get to translate: Un gran Saludo a todos en Sur América y a todos los metaleros! Gracias por su apoyo. En mi familia, mi Papa es escoces/gringo convertido por mi Mama a Mexicano. Mi Mama es Mexicana del estado de Chihuahua . De chico aprendí a leer y escribir español porque eso era lo normal en nuestra casa. Estoy muy agradecido que mi Mama y Papa apoyaron nuestra cultura Latina de la que me da un orgullo ser parte."
Is Chicago still a city as “rough” as it’s used to be known for in the past?
Erik: "It doesn’t seem as rough as it used to be. A lot of areas have been gentrified. With that said, there are plenty of assholes, psychos, and reckless drivers to keep you on your toes."
Alex: "I would say so, but it depends on what part of Chicago. Chicago has everything you could want and not want in a big city. Very diversified and untamed in some parts. I love living here. I live and work in the heart of the city so I see all that it has to offer. You get the homeless, drug addicts, poverty stricken living together with posh, upscale, business types. The classes are divided. Lots of bands say they are from Chicago, but are really from the suburbs or outskirts. Cookie cutter community’s with a lame suburban life. That’s no fun. MALAS is from the dirty grimy streets of Chicago!"
Before addressing the new album, let’s talk a bit about “Conquest”, your first album. How do you see it nowadays?
Erik: "It’s been a long time since I’ve listened to it. I was always satisfied with how the recording turned out. It definitely represents MALAS from 2004 / 2005."
Alex: "It makes me proud. “Conquest” was our catalyst. It’s the point where we all decided to give MALAS an outlet to show the world its signature style, sound and music. I’ve listened back to it once and awhile and like Erik said, it’s a good representation of what we had going on at the time. “Conquest” was recorded at Maldito Studios and was Maldito Records’ first release in collaboration with Utterly Somber Records and Sempiternal Productions."
Why were there 8 years until the release of your new album “Path To Holocaust”? Did you have a period of time in which the band went on hiatus? What other changes or difficulties did you face over the last years?
Alex: "We encountered a lot of difficulties and struggles but because of them, MALAS has survived and stayed true and strong. A couple of years after “Conquest” was recorded, Maldito Studios got flooded and I lost tons of recording gear and personal stuff. It took a lot of time and money to recover from that. I had to start from scratch completely! We couldn’t rehearse because of the smell and residue left after the flood. That really sucked because not only was it recording and band gear, I had compositions that were lost in the computer that got fried. That was a hard time but we slowly built it back. Dedicating your life to music is not an easy task. You have to support yourself somehow. It’s hard to keep three people on a continuous schedule when you have to work and have a family to support. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t love it. It all takes time and money and neither are free. We also took time to work on outside projects and bands. This was all mutual between us. MALAS is my priority, but I still played in other bands like DEN OF VIPERS (Doom / Stoner Metal) and ASININE (Hardcore Punk). And so did Erik and Dan (our first drummer) with their other bands. There were personal matters that we were going through that held the band back from continuing at one point. There was tension in the band between us that escalated into a total break up. With Erik’s and my continued commitment to MALAS, we decided to move forward into 2011 with a new formation. We recruited Jim as the new drummer for MALAS and since then, we’ve never looked back. He was the perfect choice and we locked musically from the start. I feel MALAS is unstoppable at this point."
What’s behind a name like “Path To Holocaust”? Is this one more vision about the last days? How much influence the current world affair has on the music you write?
Alex: "I think it says it all! I don’t believe in the biblical “last days” but it needs to happen. Humans are pests and we shit were we eat. Mankind is not kind at all. This is what I like to write about. Look around what is happening in the world and what we are doing to the Earth. I’ve seen so much greed, hate, corruption, wars, nature disasters, religious radicals, Empirical governments… fucking everything up. Not that it wasn’t screwed up before, but making things worse or doing nothing. It’s crazy! I don’t think I could ever run out of things to write about. We just keep pushing the limits of our existence. It’s all at a price we will all eventually pay. I accept it and will gladly embrace the end. Until then, I will continue writing enraged ripping Metal music."
In the 8 years since “Conquest” I imagine that there are more compositions besides the 8 tracks recorded for “Path To Holocaust”? Will we eventually have a new recording quite soon?
Jim: "Now that “Path…" is out, we are concentrating on playing live and working on new material."
Alex: "We have tons of material to work with. Some compositions are more complete than others. It’s a constant working progress. There are new tunes for the next record that are as ripping as the ones on “Path To Holocaust” or “Conquest”. So prepare yourselves for more MALAS sonic assaults in the near future."
Most tracks have the speed and structure of a very fast, classic Death Metal, but one of my favorite songs is ‘Violent Executioner’, which starts mid-paced with certain CELTIC FROST like influences. What can you tell me about this track and why do you think CELTIC FROST has always been a great influence for Chicago’s scene?
Erik: "CELTIC FROST is one of the greatest bands that ever were. They were primal and heavy with a bold sense of creativity. Before MALAS became MALAS, we just got together to play CELTIC FROST songs. When we decided to make our own tunes, their music served as a template for our sound getting started."
Jim: "CELTIC FROST is a killer band and I guess Chicago has good taste!"
Alex: "Thanks so much for the comparison. The music rules! In a big city like Chicago, a band like CELTIC FROST cannot be unknown. Tom G. Warrior just turned 50 years old. Hails and Happy Birthday Tom G. Warrior. Thank you for the music. ‘Violent Executioner’ does have a FROST feel about it but it is totally MALAS driven. That’s part of our signature sound."
How was it like to be in charge of the recording and mixing of the new album? Is it hard to assume the role of musical producer? If you had the chance, would you rather have a musical producer not familiar with MALAS?
Alex: "I don’t want to sound crass but I don’t like people telling me what to play or how I should sound. I know exactly what I want and how to get it sonically and musically so why waste time and money or involve someone else that doesn’t have your vision to begin with. I believe that is the reason why we play and sound like we do on our records and live. An outside musical producer would just be in the way. We don’t need help writing songs or recording them or mixing or producing our records. I fill those roles completely and I love doing it. I’ve been recording and producing for as long as I’ve been in bands and playing music which is 25 years. I really enjoy it and its part of my process. Maldito Studios is my vehicle for my approach. Its a blast to mold a song concept, go thru a creative process to eventually record the composition with the results you intended. On your own time, on your own dime! We are do it yourself from start to finish because we can do it in house. Not a lot of people or bands have that option. If you don’t know what you’re doing, then you need a music producer and an engineer right? For example, Daniel from THE CHASM, he knows what’s he wants and he has the tools to achieve his vision. He records and releases everything himself. I have great respect for songwriters / musicians / engineers / producers that are not afraid of doing their own thing and staying true to their art form."
Another great song is ‘Bitch’s Sabbath’. I perceive influences from bands such as the first DEATH and MASSACRE. Do most bands that influence you hail from the USA? How close are you to the classic South American Metal?
Jim: "We have influences from bands all over the US, Europe, South America and Japan. If it’s good Metal, we like it!"
Erik: "My influences are diverse. I like stuff from all genres of music, from all over the planet. I’m mostly just familiar with the more popular / classic South American bands like: SARCOFAGO, KRISIUN, SEPULTURA."
Alex: "Thank you again, great bands you compare us too. I would say YES to all of it. My influences stem from diverse genres all over the globe. The early US and European Metal was a huge influence on me. SLAYER, METALLICA, EXODUS, POSSESSED, OBITUARY, DEATH, etc. VENOM, CELTIC FROST, SODOM, DESTRUCTION, KREATOR, etc. From South America, I’m a fan of SEPULTURA, MORTUARY, CRIMINAL, DISGORGE, RATOS DE PORAO, VIOLATOR, BRUJERIA, HORCAS, ANGELES DEL INFIERNO, BLASPHEMY, THE CHASM, MASACRE, BESTIAL HOLOCAUST, CENOTAPH, SHUB NIGGURATH, WITCHTRAP… The list goes on and on."
One of the things I like the most from the album is that even though MALAS performs a classic Death Metal style, it also has a very unique personality. Do you think this is achieved with time? When you write music, do you try to stay away from your musical preferences, or how does this work?
Alex: "Thanks for that distinction. Most newer bands sound all alike or are copycats. No originality, style and completely disingenuous. First and foremost, we are all seasoned musicians. MALAS has a strong chemistry that is immense. The three of us start playing together and its instant skull thrashing Metal! I’m very lucky to have the pleasure of playing with Erik and Jim. They are the greatest guys and musicians I have ever played with. The inspiration for our music is the force that this trio emits is pure instinct and passion. If we like what we hear, it stays!"
Erik: "All three of us have been into Metal and playing in bands for decades now. We do what we do. Whatever comes to mind and works out. We like heavy and powerful riffs!"
Jim: "Personality is achieved from the bond of the three of us playing together. It’s like we are meant to play together and it happened right away!"
The solos on this album are another. Since you are in charge of the production, is there a limit between primitive solos and the ones more elaborated and melodic?
Alex: "It’s about feel for me and what works for the song. It’s not my intent on limiting anything in production mode although I am very critical about my solos. Having a thought-out concept of what I would like to do helps. I’m not going to show off and go ape shit because it’s not all about my solos. I do improvise a lot and stray from my original ideas to explore others but it really depends on how it sits in the song."
Since we are on the subject, which ones are your favorite guitar solos?
Alex: "Man that’s a tough one! I’m content with all of them to be honest with you. Some I play different now and I like it better. It’s already stamped in time so I can’t change it now on the record. Our fans will have to tell me if they like the record version or the “live” version."
A very interesting thing is that I recently got three albums of very different genres, yet they all have the same atmosphere. BODE PETRO’s “Inverted Blood” (Brazil), “Hail To Fire” from SLAUGHTBBATH (Chile) and “Path To Holocaust”. Have you listened to those two bands? What would you think if I tell you that all three albums have the same atmosphere found in “The Awakening” by the mighty MERCILESS?
Erik: "To be honest, I never got around to checking out MERCILESS. Haven’t heard the other bands either. With so many bands in the Metal scene, there’s bound to be several bands that capture a similar atmosphere. That’s how it goes."
Alex: "I haven’t heard of BODE PETRO so I can’t comment on them. I picked up the SLAUGHTBBATH and its ripping Black Metal. MERCILESS is bad ass too! Maybe the atmosphere your are referring to is the fact that these albums are fucking killer! They are passionate, genuine and full of rage. Good combination!"
How’s the day-to-day activity of MALAS’ members? What do they do in their life? How often do you rehearse? Rehearsals for me the most boring part of having a band, what do you think?
Erik: "Day to day I work on freelance art / design / sculpture projects. Rehearsing is fun and necessary!"
Jim: "I’m a professional flooring installer. Once a week for rehearsals… I love band practice. It gives me a chance to be with my band mates and THRASH!!!"
Alex: "I am a freelance professional audio / recording technician that has been in the business for the last 25 years. I go on tour with a variety of bands and do their live sound all over the world. I also work locally in Chicago at Millennium Park doing live sound for their concert season. Maldito Studios is my recording studio where I do recording / mixing / mastering / producing for different various clients and projects. MALAS rehearses once a week at Maldito Studios and I usually can’t wait to practice with MALAS. It’s a great hang with my band mates and we get shit done! I don’t think its boring at all and I look forward to it. We work on our material so we can rip peoples face off live."
Where does the name MALAS come from? And I think there was a demo CD-R, what can you tell us about it?
Alex: "We were playing together for a while and we needed a name. I named the band from a intoxicated state eating the most kick as Arabic food and it stuck. Everyone agreed. It’s meaning in Spanish is what I liked most. MALAS: from Latin malus (feminine mala, masculine plural malos, feminine plural malas) 1.bad, 2.evil, 3.sick. This is funny! Some of our Malaysian friends and fans that tell us MALAS is their language means ”lazy”. And I keep telling them that we could only do one record every eight years. Our very first demo in 2004 was a CD-R and it had three songs on it : ‘Salvation’, ‘In Terror’ and ‘Hussein’. This CD-R gave you a taste of “Conquest” and what MALAS was about. It also was recorded at Maldito Studios. The CD-Rs were gone as fast as we could make them. I believe you can get the recordings from our website www.malas.biz."
Also, four tracks included in “Path To Holocaust” were released on a 2009 demo. What was the format in which you released this demo? Was it an actual demo? I mean, with cover artwork and everything it envolves?
Alex: "The 2009 demo was a CD-R entitled “King Of Thieves”. It did have our design and we made 500 of them. It featured ‘Ascension’, ‘King Of Thieves’, ‘Violent Executioner’ and ‘Hellfire’. It was a simple demo release so we could attract more fans and pasify the ones that wanted to hear more MALAS. The songs are different recordings and versions with our first drummer."
Looking for bands from Chicago among my albums, I just realized that Erik Pertl (voice / bass) was the main man in LORD BLASPHEMER, a total raw, wild, Death Metal abomination. How did he get to MALAS? Is LORD BLASPHEMER still active? Will a MALAS / LORD BLASPHEMER split be possible?
Alex: "Dan and I were from a band we had in the 90s called MALDICION here in Chicago. I met Jaime Welton at work in 1998 and we all started jaming. It was Jaime Welton that brought the Blasphemer – Erik. MALAS was born! Jaime left shortly after and we decided to stay a trio."
Erik: "I got into the MALAS situation as a side project from LORD BLASPHEMER. I was in a band called XVOIDANCE back in the late 80s / early 90s with MALAS’ original second guitarist Jaime Welton. He was a big influence on me wanting to learn an instrument and to play in bands in the first place; so, it was an opportunity to jam with him again. He eventually moved to China in 2002. I seemed to hit it off with Alex and original drummer Dan Chairez, and MALAS continued on as a three-piece. I stopped doing LORD BLASPHEMER in 2010 because I needed a break from it, leaving me to focus more on MALAS. Hopefully by the end of the year, LORD BLASPHEMER will be back playing shows. It will be 25 years since the first rehearsals in November of 1988. Jim Kerley is also involved with LORD BLASPHEMER! I don’t think there would ever be a split release with LORD BLASPHEMER and MALAS. Though both bands have played shows together early on in the past, and we both appeared on the "Blackened Hordes of Darkness" compilation CD, I would kind of prefer that they remain separate entities as much as possible."
Since we’re talking about Chicago bands, there have always been killer bands from your city. Just think about BONES, MALAS, legends such as CIANIDE, THE CHASM and a ton more… How do you see everything happening with the extreme Metal scene in your city? Is there an unknown band, you consider important to mention?
Jim: "Chicago has a great scene for music. Any given weekend you can find a killer show to check out. THE EVERSCATHED, DIETHEST, MORGUE SUPPLIER, CARDIAC ARREST are great Chicago bands!"
Erik: "There are plenty of killer bands in the Chicago area. And there’s plenty of variety. As divided as the community seems to think it is, we have a pretty tight knit group of people in the area that all basically know each other and go to the shows. All of the bands that we played with at our last show were awesome! NUCLEUS, SABLE BELDAM, LA ARMADA!"
Of the classic bands from your city, which one is your favorite: TROUBLE, DEVASTATION, MASTER (or any band of Paul Speckman), USUPER, SCEPTER?
Erik: "As far as a favorite classic Chicago band goes, it’s a toss up between ABOMINATION and SINDROME."
It was very pleasant to receive the “Path To Holocaust” promo CD you sent, this indicates that you totally prefer to do things in the traditional way. How many promos did you send? Did you have the idea of sending, say, a download link to promote the album?
Jim: "We only send out promos to people interested in MALAS. We want to get our music out to the people that want it. Many internet radio stations have contacted us for a copy of “Path…” and we gladly send them out."
Alex: "I hate the internet and all that social networking bullshit. In this day and age you can’t escape it and I realize that. You get bombarded with all this shit, it’s hard to separate the good from the bad. I totally miss personal correspondence that everyone used to do back in the day. A personal written note or letter, swapping or trading cassettes… etc. was awesome. To me, doing things traditionally makes sense but it’s a lost art. I personally have sent out about 80 promo CDs with personal notes that were requested from all over the world. I also sent out download links of music and pictures to those that have requested that medium. We do everything DIY (Do It Yourself) and prefer it because it’s on a personal level. MALAS has no inclination to send out mass promos everywhere because it’s a waste. If people are interested in our music, you know where to go. Contact us. You deal with us."
If you had a printed fanzine or magazine, would you do reviews from bands or record labels that expect you to review their material and they only send you a download link?
Alex: "That’s the new thing and it sucks. Yeah, I don’t see the point of just sending only a download link and expect to be taking seriously. It’s superficial. Physical material engages you more. It shows an effort and dedication to your art form. It brings you the whole “picture”. If you are to review a band that’s important. I think the CD medium will live on."
Jim: "Physical material is nice to have so you can look at the pictures, read the lyrics and get the vibe of the band from there artwork."
I imagine that, at some point in your life, especially when you started the band, you had dreams of being a “big” band, achieving a record deal with a label with worldwide distribution, touring and that sort of things. How do you see it nowadays? MALAS is a highly regarded band in underground circles, but still is for a minority? Do you care about this? Or achieving personal satisfaction is enough?
Jim: "Well of course we wanted to make it big, play music for a career, tour the world and all that. Sometimes life takes you in different directions. The music business is tough and there’s a lot of ass kissing to others. Everyone wants a piece of you until there’s nothing of you left. We don’t answer to anyone. Now we do it for ourselves and if other people like it, that’s fucking awesome. It is what it is, but you can’t deny the might of MALAS."
Erik: "I think it’s an achievement to have 40 or 50 people come out to one of our shows. So whatever. We do what we do for ourselves and for whomever wants to check it out!"
Do you still keep updated with the underground scene, buy and trade material constantly or do you think your personal album collection at home is enough?
Alex: "I have a constant growing collection. I get music all the time and I get rid of the stuff that sucks constantly."
Erik: "I’m not as rabid as I used to be; but, I do like to check out bands and buy / trade stuff from time to time. My personal collection has gotten pretty massive over the years."
Well, the end is near. Final words, does MALAS have t-shirts or merchandising available? Can you recommend us any beer brand?
Jim: "Yes beer we like. 3 Floyd’s, Revolution brewing and 312 are local crafted beers that are delicious!"
Alex: "Thanks so much for the interview Jesus Claros. We appreciate your support of MALAS and the underground Metal scene. This interview has been a pleasure and an honor! To all the Metal maniacs out there – get our new record “Path To Holocaust”. You won’t be disappointed! THRASH!!!! We do have merchandise available. Shirts, patches, posters, stickers, 7” comp (Chicago Metal Hell – CIANIDE, MALAS, HELLREALM and TERROR THRONE) all designed and approved by MALAS. Contact us if you’re interested. email@example.com or write us: MALAS c/o Alex McIntire, 1950 W. 21st Street, Chicago , IL 60608, USA."
Interview: Jesus Claros