Greetings, fellow inhabitants of planet Hong Kong rock! Coming up this Sunday is a really unique show that we at the Underground are proud to bring you – all the way from the Basque country in Spain, Berri Txarrak, live for one night only in HK! Armed with their music, that could remind you of punk, hardcore and crossover thrash at the same time, they’re looking to spread their bug in Asia, for a second time. And they’ll have Shotgun Politics and Milkshake7 to help them! We thought it’d be interesting to get their thoughts on the time that’s passed since some major changes occurred within the band, and they released their last album, Payola, last year. So, read on to know more…
Q. It’s been a year since the release of Payola – what’s this time been like for the band, and how has the response been?
A. Payola was our 6th album, which came after 4 years without any other studio release, with a new line up and a new label (Roadrunner). I mean, it wasn’t an easy record for Berri Txarrak, we could feel kind of an extra expectation coming from our audience. But everything went alright: the album hit the official Spanish top 10 selling charts (it had never happened before to any band singing in Basque) and many of our gigs were sold out. Since then we’ve toured in several countries in Europe and we also performed at Austin’s South by Southwest (USA 美國), which was a really cool experience. We’re really happy about how people are reacting to the album.
Q. You’d worked with Steve Albini for the album, right? What was that experience like? Were there any feelings of having come full circle, since he was part of making some of the music that you’d liked when you were young? (Extra question (hehe): Do you like Albini’s band, Big Black?)
A. We love almost every record recorded by Albini. When we started writing the album we noticed that the sound needed to be really dirty yet pure. We didn’t want a “big”, clean production. So we thought about Albini and 6 months later we were in his studio in Chicago. That was a dream come true. We’ve learned a lot with the process, as it was the first time we recorded all together (not track by track) and strictly analogic, which makes post edition almost impossible. Maybe Shellac, Big Black, Rapeman… are not a big influence in our music, but definitely, Steve Albini is a musician we respect a lot.
A. Of course we do. Metal is a very important part of our musical education and we really like heavy riffs and all that stuff. I think mixing it with punk attitude makes it even more interesting.
Q. Your sound is a little like the music in California between 79-82, when punk was just moving into hardcore – have you any influences from that era?
A. I know what you mean and we do like that scene, but Berri Txarrak is mostly influenced by bands of the 90’s, when we were teenagers. That’s usual. But definitely, it’s true that “Payola” is our most “old-school-style” album. People also went further and told us it has some 70’s sounds like Black Sabbath. Our music is not easy to define, and that’s something we like, because nobody knows what our next album will be like.
Q. And, any rock en Español bands that you happen to like?
Q. Do you see punk music as having special significance in Spain, as it emerged just as the country was rebuilding itself after the dictatorship?
A. I can tell you that in the Basque Country there was a huge movement with all the DIY way of life, all that angst exploded and a few good bands were born. It was in the early 80’s, when punk came to town. You should check bands like: RIP, La Polla, Eskorbuto, Kortatu, Hertzainak… Nowadays punk seems to be more like a fashion dominated by skate/surfing clothing trademarks. Most of that attitude is gone, but I still believe in punk music as a way of singing against everything that sucks all around and a way of trying to spread a more critical message.
Q. Does the band have any musical philosophy? And, do your lyrics tend towards themes that are more personal/emotional, or more of social commentary?
A. We’re not a political band, but of course we’re worried about the world we live in and that’s a very important part of our lyrics. Our philosophy is more like: don’t be afraid to think by yourself, turn off the TV and try to make a better world, question everything that becomes official. There’s a lot of shit coming from the media about the political issue in the Basque Country for instance, and we try to show a little bit not the official statement, but what people really feel here.
Q. What would you say changed for the band, if anything, when you moved from being a quartet to a trio back in 2003?
A. It forced us to be more intelligent when it comes to make the arrangements of the songs. You have to transmit the most feelings as possible with only a few elements as a minimum drum-set, a bass guitar, a guitar and the vocals. I think becoming a trio helped us to be better musicians. I’d say we sound tighter now than when we were a four piece band. It’s all about attitude.
Q. The band’s just recently gotten a new drummer, right – has that been working out well?
A. Galder, our new drummer was already a very respected musician in the local scene, as he used to play in very good bands like Dut or Kuraia. He is a great artiste and for now he’s doing it really well. I can’t wait to make a new album with him in the band. Pretty sure we’ll be ready to record a new album in mid 2011.
Q. You guys had played the massive SXSW festival earlier this year – what was that experience like?
A. SXSW is huge for every music fan, whatever your favourite style is. There were more than 1000 gigs during five days, it was crazy! It was important to be performing there and we want to repeat again next year. We’ve been already invited to play in 2011 Canadian Music Week and it’s just before SXSW, so it’d be the perfect schedule for us.
Q. Finally, since this is the second time the band’ll be visiting Asia, what’s the feeling between the three of you about it?
A. Can’t wait to visit Asia again. It’ll be our first time in Macau, Hong Kong or Korea, so we’re really excited about it. We’ll be also in Japan, where we’ve been twice before (we played at Fujirock Festival in 2008 and it was unforgettable!). We’ll support a quite known Japanese band as Brahman, so I think there’ll be a pretty big crowd. Our booking agency -called Panda- recently opened an office in Asia and this tour is important for them as well.
Berri Txarrak play at Backstage from 7-10 pm on 24th October.
Interview questions by Shashwati Kala