An Interview with KRANIUM (Peru)
Musicngear had the honor of talking with Mito Espíritu of Lima's folk metal band KRANIUM, about their upcoming album "UMA TULLU", the challenges a metal band faces in the local scene, the gear that makes their sound and other fine Peruvian and Latinoamerican bands such as TARKUS, MAZO, ARMAGEDON, MORTEM, ALTURAS, QUILLAPAS, ILLAPU and more.
Musicngear: Let’s dive right in! How would you describe your sound to someone listening for the first time?
Hello, Eugenia. KRANIUM’s sound could be described as a blend, also called fusion or hybridism, between Heavy Metal, including its roots and its derivatives such as Heavy Rock and Progressive like for example Black Sabbath and 70s bands, with Folklore National Music from Perú, our country, but also from Latinoamérica; moreover, our folkloric music developed many regional variants since our land has the Coast, the Andes and the Amazonia, each place owns its unique musical and artistic expression, which, in some cases, through rhythms and instruments they can evoque sublime emotions such as “Yaraví” and, in other cases, a telluric sound like the winds in a band of “Sikuris”.
To sum up, KRANIUM music can be called, generally speaking, SOUTHAMERICAN FOLK METAL.
What are you working on right now that we can look forward to?
KRANIUM is polishing the last details of our new album which will be called "UMA TULLU" (quechua compound word: Uma = head, Tullu = bone, Head Bone =Skull/Cranium). It’d contain 10 songs in the same style of our debut album “Testimonios” (1999), more Heavy Rock Metal and more Peruvian and Latinoamerican Folklore, but the lyrics will cover the context of colonial and viceroyalty periods in our country (which extended from XVI to XIX century).
What music gear do you use when recording and what gear when playing live? What’s your dream music gear?
Actually, the gear I use is not very complicated, it’s also not so expensive, since we can’t afford it. To record the new album we have used the following: Mixer 12x4x2, microphones: Shure Beta 52A, Shure Beta 57 A, Shure SM57 LC, Shure SM58 LC, Shure 565 SD, Sennheiser MD421-II, Behringer B2 Pro, Behringer c-4, interface Mbox pro, processors: Alesis dm5 (kick,) compressor Alesis 3630, BBE Sonic Maximizer 882i, pc Intel I7 9th 12gb ram hard disk 1 te, software Avid pro tools, Native Instruments kontakt, Reason Studios reason, plug in Aax, Rtas wave, keyboard Yamaha psr and synthesizer Korg pro MS-20 mini, eleven rack, Ada mp1 preamp.
In concert I use an electric guitar from the brand BC Rich, model “Warlock”; the amplifier is provided by the organization who hire us, since nowadays there are really good brands such as Marshall, Laney, Mesa Boogie, etc, all of them are 100w. I have a 50w Fender, but to recordings, we have used a 100w Marshall, plus the Peruvian instruments we use which are known as Andean wind instruments or aerófonos: quenas, zampoñas (sikus); we also use string instruments like charango or andine harp, all of which are handmade (Peruvian luthiers) with medium quality, but the sound fits our music.
The gear of my dream would be the one Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi and Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister use.
What are the biggest problems you had to overcome as an artist and what is your advice for artists facing similar problems?
One of the biggest predicaments could have been the lack of information to guide you to live a career as a professional musician, plus the prejudices from society which condemn being an artist, consequently, they can’t live a dignified life since the system in our country takes the cultural, and in this case its different manifestations, as a part of a super-structure, as the last thing, something which is not worth any investment.
In the past it was even worst, nowadays it’s a little better but it’s still extremely hard. You could say that being an artist, in our context, is like being a warrior, you have to blend office hours with your music career in order to live comfortably and to produce art.
KRANIUM is a band that doesn’t live from its art, but we live to the Art, and it’s precisely that my advice: to grow, to fight for your dreams, and to face courageously any obstacle.
What advice would you give to upcoming artists with regards to breaking through?
It’s simple: If you think art is your thing (any kind of art), you must be passionate and dedicated to it, you have to put all of you into it, you have to believe it, and, above all, not to neglect the feeling, since art should convey that true feeling.
Now, success is relative, I think it’s more important to feel ok with yourself and enjoy what you are doing, at the end things will come on their own.
What would greatly benefit your music career right now?
To continue my Art studies (in music) through not only academic training but also by exploring folkloric music from my country and from Latinoamérica, which are so vast; but this time exploring them through traveling and compiling every piece of information I can about traditional music (folklore) and contemporary music (fusión, world music, etc). Knowledge is endless, and one can never know everything, but it’s good to enjoy and to learn. I feel blessed to be able to be doing that.
Got any funny or weird music stories to share?
Mmmm. The weirdest thing that happened to us was during a concert, in the middle of the second song of our presentation the scenery collapsed, we were in there! That happened in 1992, in Lima. At the moment, it was pretty weird, but now, when we watch it on YouTube, it’s hilarious. It could have been tragic, though.
Artists you would love to collaborate with if any? Also any recommendations for artists we should be checking out?
I’ve done collaborations with several artists, especially with Friends from other Peruvian Metal bands. I’m always willing to do so, and I’ll do it as long as we have the means to do it. It’s really great to be able to collaborate with the right people and to feel good chemistry with them.
Among Peruvian Heavy Rock Metal I can recommend TARKUS (Heavy Rock, 1972), MAZO (Heavy Rock), ARMAGEDON (Heavy Doom, 1988), MORTEM (Death Metal), CHASKA (Folk Metal). Among Latinoamerican Folklore: ALTURAS, QUILLAPAS (Perú), ILLAPU, INTI ILLIMANI, ARAK PACHA (Chile), KALAMARCA, SAVIA ANDINA (Bolivia). About Folk-Rock Fuxion: EL POLEN (Perú) and LOS JAIVAS (Chile).
Last but not least, any closing messages for your fans and our readers?
First of all, I want to thank you, Eugenia, for kindly reaching for us, for honestly appreciate our work, our art. Second of all, to the people who follow KRANIUM and to the reader of your hardworking and honest work, feel free to get in contact with us; we know that sometimes it can be tedious to communicate because of the language barrier, but with patience and through the help of good friends we can be able to get in contact, and share messages, that way we would share our experiences and we also could learn from yours, through the expanse of this journey called life.
Rimac, 1984. The idea of making heavy rock with Andean instruments came from Eloy Arturo (guitar/composer) since the beginning of Kranium, but his bandmates at that time did not have enough knowledge to execute it. Surrounded by skulls in an abandoned and haunted house, the first chords only exuded darkness and heaviness, a virtue of their main influence: Black Sabbath.
They started out as a trio under the name “Murder”, but a few months later they switched to Kranium.
Over time, they hardened and radicalized their style to a street death thrashcore, always with social, direct, and realistic lyrics, and were, along with Hadez, the forgers of the extreme metal scene in Peru. They played in many emblematic concerts with different line-ups and that stage was reflected in three demos: “Sociedad o Suciedad?” (1992), “Mundo Interior” (1992) and “Kranium en vivo (93-94)”.
In 1992, the entry of Mito Espiritu was the precise piece that was missing to be able to specify the mixture of the Andean roots with the foreign ones. This is how their first folk metal songs were born: “Ayacucho: Rincón de Muertos” and “El Obraje”. Initially, the change in their music style provoked resistance on the local scene, but with the release of the EP “Dos Sonrisas, Una Lágrima”, in 1996, the magic and mysticism of Kranium ended up imposing itself on the ‘purists’. The group was consolidated with Eloy Arturo (guitar), Fernando Sánchez (drums), Daniel Roncagliolo (voices), Javier Alvarez Gil (Electric bass, Andean instruments), Mito Espiritu (guitar, Andean instruments) and Georg Espiritu (keyboards and synthesizers). Finally, in 1999, the sextet recorded their first album: “Testimonios”, by Plasmatica Records of Sweden, thus marking a milestone not only in the local metal scene but in the South American one. Now, in 2020, several years later, “Testimonios” has become an emblematic album of the South American folk metal scene.
The band's current line-up consists of Eloy Arturo - lead guitar, rhythmic guitar, acoustic guitar, rain stick, stones, Christian Meléndez - vocals, keyboards, Mito Espíritu - lead guitar, rhythmic guitar, acoustic guitar, quena, zampoña, charango, Ian Chang - electric bass, Dennis Yamazato - drums, percussion.
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