Everything is a bad quality farce, but Ácido clears the path screaming, “Always Heavy Metal!” Ride Into Glory has the pleasure of interviewing one of the pioneer Metal bands from Uruguay, Ácido. The band may not be well known to those outside of the local scene or to those but the most die-hard Heavy Metal Hunters, but we hope this interview gives them more international attention.
Representing the band we have Juan Acuña “El Perro” (guitar and vocals). To begin with, please tell us how the band started and what have you been up to recently.
Perro – In 1981 I went to the Peñarol Palace in Montivideo to see the Argentinian band Riff – it was the mythical Pappo with his new band. The concert was called “Adiós Pappos Blues, Bienvenido Riff (Goodbye Pappo’s Blues, Welcome Riff).” It had such an impact on me that I decided to do a band of the same style. The name “Ácido” I got from the movie Woodstock. Mi cousin Guillermo “Bill” Rivas and my friend Gonzalo “Gozo” Gómez were the first that bought into my idea. Danny, my brother, acted as a sub musician. In the beginning we tried-out several drummers but none of them had what were looking for until in 1983 I met Varo and we had the same musical tastes. I invited him to play in Ácido, he accepted, and we debuted that same year as a band, in July 1983. Varo played drums and sang the choruses, Gonzo played bass, Danny played guitar and backing vocals, and I played guitar and lead vocals.
RiG: What happened with the recording of “Por Siempre Heavy Metal?”Is there another lost recording like that one? Would you like to see them re-issued along with your first EP?
Perro: “Por Siempre Heavy Metal” together with other recordings from the 80s were kept by Varo. They will actually be re-issued by our Brazilian label, Dies Irae, in a new album called “Oxidado.” In the future we will also re-issue the EP with new versions of the original songs.
RiG: Where there other Heavy Metal bands in Uruguay when you started? Are there any local bands you would recommend?
Perro: When we started there were no other Metal bands; we were the pioneers in making Heavy Metal in Uruguay. In those times there was an Uruguayan Punk Rock band we liked, they were called Los Estómagos. I would recommend The Shakers, who in my opinion were the first Rock&Roll band in the 60s; they had a style similar to The Beattles. Another band is Psiglo, from the 70s. They played good Rock like Deep Purple. There’s also Niquel, a late-80s-early-90s band that played pretty well.
RiG: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I hear a Punk influence in your early sound, almost like a UK ‘82 influence. Your first EP sounds raw and evil, almost like Venom. Was this intentional? Who were your influences? How has your sound changed today?
Perro: It could be. We were rawer in our first years. We had an accumulated rage which we released in other ways, such as music. In the first EP, it wasn’t our intention to sound like other bands. We didn’t know much about studios, etc, and things came out the way they did. In particular, I love those two first songs we did, but I’m not pleased with the final result; it wasn’t a reflection of the band at that time – we were better than how we sound in that EP. Our biggest influences are the classic Rock bands in all their manifestation. We were specially influenced by Riff, AC/DC, and Motörhead.
Our music hasn’t changed at all aside from the natural evolution that you gain with age. We play better, we sing better, we sound better, the composition is still the same, the strength is still the same. I’m the one who composes and arranges almost all of the music and I always composed the same way. My school is the “estribillos pegadizos,” with a music that bangs your head, races your heart beat, and makes you move your feet. Out of the original line-up we’re my brother Danny and Varo. In 2010 when we reunited, we welcomed two new excellent musicians: Gabriel ‘Hell’Barbieri playing bass and Juan Pablo Riñón “JP” playing guitar. Without the shadow of a doubt, we sound way better than before.
RiG: It’s a common trope: Heavy Metal fans and musicians tend to be ostracized from society. While bands from affluent countries were criticized by the media, Latin American bands were treading on way more dangerous waters. Did you ever suffer any social repercussions or persecution at the hand of the State for being Metalheads back in the 80s?
Perro: Obviously we suffered in the 80s and even today for playing music that is more “Gringa” [Latin American term for people from the USA] than Latin American pop music. Miserable politicized parties are enemies of bands that resemble the American and British founders of the music we make. These politicized parties want the youth to believe that Rock was created in the old Soviet Union and perfected in Cuba, and that Ché Guevara is a sort of Rock star. This is an accurate sign that we’re in the end of times. [Author’s note: As ridiculous as this sounds, such preposterous rhetoric is common from some Latin American right-wing circles. There’s a widespread belief that anything different to the norm stems from communism.]
RiG: How hard was it to get instruments and recording equipment back then?
Perro: It was very hard. Nobody had a good guitar or any good equipment: no Gibson, no Fender, no Marshall, no Ampeg, no Ludwing… they only appeared in magazines. In that time we played with second-class instruments. The equipment was made by my cousin Tony, Bill’s brother, our old bassist. We rehearsed with those make-shift amplifiers. The situation was so bad that we placed a speaker inside the bass drum of Varo’s drum set. The studios and sound engineers knew nothing about Rock. They were horrible.
RiG: Did you intend to start the Heavy Metal scene in Uruguay, or did you never think of that?
Perro: I formed the band in 1981, we debuted in 1983 and everything grew naturally. Riff blew my mind when I saw them live in 1981 with their music and attitude. I thought to myself, I want to make a band with this style. We were the first in playing Heavy Metal. Each of our shows was like a volcanic ritual; it seemed the world would end at the end of the show. Our attitude was one of boundless, rebel, daring, and fun teenagers. We were the first in dressing with black leather, the first in using spikes and rivets, and the first in being literally stoned by our enemies. We were stoned with all the stones that weren’t hurled at the Adulterous Woman from the Bible. And the Tragic-comedic thing about it, it’s that they’re still throwing “stones” at us.
RiG: Did you have contact with another Latin American band?
Perro: Yeah, I was always in touch with Riff. So much so that Pappo offered us to produce a release in the 80s. Sadly, this project didn’t go forward. As time went by he invited me to play with him in his travels to Punta del Este and Montevideo during the 90s. Varo excelled as a show producer and worked at some Riff shows in Uruguay. He also produced shows for La Renga (Argentinian band) in Uruguaya. They actually invited us to play these past few years as opening acts in Montevideo and Buenos Aires. It was big when we played to about 60,000 people in the city of Bragado (Province of Buenos Aires). Also, in 2016, we played in Montevideo with the mythical, pioneering Metal band from Spain: Barón Rojo. It was a privilege for us to share the stage with them.
RiG: How and why did you revive the band to record new music. How have your new albums been received compared to your first EP?
Perro: This just happened naturally. I was living in Sao Pablo, Brazil. Varo called me and invited me to play at a show he was organizing in honor of Norberto “Pappo” Napolitano (died in 2005). I was picking up the guitar, composition, and singing, so I said yes, but my intention was to reform Ácido. He said yes, and so did Danny, and ‘Hell’ joined us with bass. We began making covers of Riff and Pappo’s Blues at the Zitarrosa hall in Montevideo. After that we played at a festival with some other bands called Alternate 4, also in Montevideo. It was there that our new guitarist Juan Pablo Rinñón joined.
In 2011 we entered the studio to record our first album, ‘Al Ataque,’ in the InZen studios of Montevideo. The album was finished in 2012 and was released in 2013 by the label Perro Andaluz in Uruguay. With this album we won the Graffiti Award for music in Uruguay under the Heavy Metal category and Hard Rock category. We had good reception in terms of sound and composition.
Our second album is ‘Metalrock.’ We wrote it in 2015 in the same studio we recorded ‘Al Ataque.’ However, we mastered and produced it Sao Pablo, Brazil (my current address) in the studio Le Chats Audio, from my friend Claudio Erlam. This album was released in 2018 in Montevideo by the label Vlavular. That same year it was nominated to the top 5 best Metal and Hard Rock albums for the Graffiti Award in Uruguayan music. People have praised this album as more elaborate than ‘Al Ataque’ and as always, people like the intense rhythm and composition.
RiG: Is Ácido recognized as one of the first and finest Heavy Metal bands from Latin America?
Perro: Yeah. Pappo from Riff once said that Ácido is like as important as is Riff in Argentina or Barón Rojo in Spain. Nowadays we’re recognized in the world as the pioneering Heavy Metal band from Uruguay and one of the first of Latin America.
RiG: Anything else you would like to add?
Perro: I would like to leave a message for the newer generations: Rock is a style of music. Dedicate yourselves to learn how to play it, practice it, study it, believe in your dreams and work for them. Be very careful, I don’t recommend the use of drugs. The music business is about hard work, work, work, and it’s not like Hollywood movies. For the human race in general, I say we are a speck of dust in space and if we want to continue as a species we have to stop with our divisions created by dogmas so that we can all be ONE.
We find ourselves trapped in the Devil’s Claws. Ride Into Glory has the pleasure of interviewing a pioneering Heavy Metal band not only from their native Honduras, but from Central America and the Caribbean as a whole: Khaos. Perhaps they’re not well known to those but the most die-hard of Heavy Metal Hunters, but we hope that after this interview the readers are inspired to appreciate their work and context. Max Urso (guitar) is here to answer our questions.
Max: First of all, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity and medium to talk about Khaos; much appreciated!
RiG: Our pleasure! What were your musical influences? Were they all international bands or did you also take inspiration from local music?
Max: I would say our main influences were the influential NWOBHM bands. Those were the biggest references we had. I’ve read somewhere online that some people say we took inspiration from Spanish bands like Barón Rojo, but the truth is we didn’t hear about them until we had already written the songs for our album. I must say that personally, Barón Rojo is one of my favorite Metal bands of all time but they didn’t influence us directly; we heard them quite lately into our careers. As for local influences, we didn’t have any. In those days, I mean in the early 80s, it was hard to know if anything concrete had actually preceded us in terms of music. Most Honduran bands back then were simple cover bands that played at parties or dance halls when there was some type of “Rock Festival.” They played a repertoire of “hit rock” songs – hits of radio-friendly rock from the 70s – but they didn’t have any original music within Rock, let alone Metal. Nowadays we know that back in the 60s there was actually a movement of “electrified” bands that wrote original music here in the country, but it wasn’t so close to Rock. We don’t mean to brag, but we didn’t know of anyone doing anything similar to what we did back then, at least here in Honduras. Surely at a Central American level, Alux Nahual was a reference for us, but more for what they achieved in general than for their music style since they had been influenced by Progressive Rock in their first albums. However, they were a clear sign that you didn’t have to play openly commercial/tropical music and achieve something concrete in the region. [Author’s note: Alux Nahual, of Guatemalan origin, is probably the most successful Rock group from Central America.]
RiG: Did you consider yourselves Hard Rock or was it always your intention to play Heavy Metal?
Max: By the time we had the line-up which recorded our album, yes. This was in mid 1983, when Issa Molina joined our group, by then we already considered ourselves a Heavy Metal band entirely and we screamed about it at full volume everywhere we went. But when we first started we were more like Garage Rock/Punk, mostly because of our low technical capacity as musicians rather than anything else.
RiG: Would you say there is a certain “Central American brotherhood” among fans and musicians from the region? How were you received in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and/or Costa Rica?
Max: In today’s Metal scene surely there is one, and one way or another its reflected unto us as precursors, at least when it comes to respecting us. Sadly, back then we didn’t play concerts outside of our country. We traveled to El Salvador to record our album but we never played outside of Honduras. Just right before we split up, when our album had already crossed borders, we received various outside offers but none of them were formalized. It’s a shame, because in that moment what came to be called “Rock in your language” movement started to spread and we would’ve been at the front row of that movement in Central America. With time, our work has spread and I think that Metal followers in the region do know about us. At least they know we existed when the movement started.
RiG: When we consider the historical context of Central America, it’s no surprise that we had such little Metal output back in the 80s. How did Khaos manage to be the first in recording such a professional album?
Max: Mostly because we were stubborn, ha ha. Since the first meetings we had as a group we were all in agreement that the main objective of our band was to create original music and record it. That was our main goal more than anything, and we never lost sight of it. But it sure wasn’t easy. We were rejected by Central American labels for being “very little commercially.” We were advised to make “softer” music to record and edit an album, but we obviously didn’t accept. The only option we had left was to self produce an album when we reached an agreement with Dicesa, a label from El Salvador. They were the only ones who didn’t reject us straight away. In the end, they offered to record our album in their studio. They would produce it and sell us the copies. It wasn’t cheap, even less so for young people who were still students like ourselves who didn’t have economic opportunities. Fortunately, our drummer and singer Juan “Junior” Mejías’ mother, believed in what we were doing. She noticed we were receiving some sort of response in the country, and she risked her savings to cover a large part of the budget. I somehow came up with the rest of the money selling stuff and well, we somehow made it by the end of March in 1985. It was a very intense experience since back in those days El Salvador was in the middle of its civil war. They had a curfew, bombings, and power-outages constantly. We recorded the entire album in a few hours, let’s say 40 work hours, including the mixing.
On the other hand we saw the group as serious business. It was a priority for all of us, even if didn’t really generate income for us. We tried to approach everything professionally. We had a strong discipline with rehearsal schedules and attention to our live shows. We were very intent on following the international Metal scene, or at least the little bit of the scene of the scene we were aware through MTV and some magazines. The four of us were and still are passionate about music more than anything. We were determined to carry out any sacrifice to make our goal possible: to release an LP. I think that’s what made the difference for us.
RiG: Somehow, Honduras avoided a civil war unlike each and every single one of its neighbors. However, the situation in Honduras was still brutal and dangerous [e.g., the infamous US-backed Battalion 3-16]. Did you ever suffer any social repercussion or repression from the State for being Metal musicians?
After we released our album and the radio play of a couple of successful tunes, specially our song “Roleando,” our fame grew quickly to stratosphere levels, mainly in our native city but also in the rest of the country. So much so that we couldn’t play in smaller venues anymore. We were now playing in stadiums and soccer fields, to audiences upwards of 5,000 people. We did this often, at least monthly. This was a time in which radio channels aimed at young people were playing stuff like Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister, Motley Crue… Hard Rock/Heavy Metal had surprisingly turned into a popular genre among the youth even in Honduras. More so in our city, San Pedro Sula, located in the northern coast, pop music had always been “tropical” or whatever Mexico was producing commercially. But for a variety of reasons we became a sort of phenomena that attracted people who didn’t even like Metal. Before all this, we hadn’t had any problems. Back then Honduras had a democratically elected government but the military elite was still the real power behind the curtain. When we started having a strong support from the youth, things got more complicated. We noticed we were being watched; we were constantly followed, not at all conspicuously, a military patrol known back then as “DIN.” This was the “Dirección de Investigación Nacional.” Personally, I went through a couple of unpleasant experiences which contributed in me leaving the country from one day to the other and dissolving the group. [Author’s note: While some bands and fans complain about “censorship” and “witch-hunts” because they’re denied venues, a lot of these Latin American bands faced actual, life-threatening danger for playing Metal.]
RiG: Latin American societies are very segregated by class. Was music in Honduras subject to this as well?
Max: Back in those days – not really. Khaos had a following of every type of youth, from the marginalized classes to the better-off, without having confrontations at concerts. Things changed with the rise of other youth movements and other social problems, but back then, it wasn’t like this. We are of course talking about a time in which there were no street gangs. This tragedy which affects our society today hadn’t happened.
RiG: How hard was it to get equipment to play and record music?
Max: Very hard. There was only one recording studio in our city. It had a four track tape where we recorded several demos and our first single in 1984 when we still sang in English. We didn’t release this single until last year in vinyl format (45 rpm). We limited it to 500 copies, just like we did with our LP “Forjado en Rocka.”
We couldn’t get any recording equipment in the instrument stores either. We were very behind in terms of technology.
RiG: Did you intend to start the Heavy Metal scene in Honduras, or did you never think about that?
Max: It wasn’t a fully conscious decision, but we did know we wanted to make something special and in tune with the international Rock scene. Back then in Honduras at concerts and festivals everything was about “Hippie Rock” straight out from Woodstock in 1969, even aesthetically. In retrospect, this was nothing bad, but for four young people like us who were fresh out of adolescence, everything reeked of being antiquated and stagnant.
RiG: Did you have contact with any other Central American or Mexican bands when you started?
Max: Not a lot. There wasn’t really a place for that. We were the opening act for Alux Nahual when they toured Honduras in 1985 and we once alternated with Crisis from El Salvador in Tegucigalpa back in 1984. [Editor’s note: Along with Broncco, Crisis was the first Hard Rock/Heavy Metal band from El Salvador.] We then visited Crisis when we recorded our LP in El Salvador. They were a great band, with a powerful sound and an excellent single that they released in 1983. We only heard this single in 1985 though, when we visited them during our recording session. It was also during this time that we met Broncco. We even used their guitar amplifier to record our album and Gerardo Sibrian, member of Broncco, played a small part in one of our songs as a guest pianist.
Considering the time, the Metal movement was barely beginning in the region. When it comes to Mexico, we didn’t have any contacts there. Their bands didn’t move around these zones back then.
RiG: How is Khaos viewed today? Do people recognize that you the first band in the region to release a Heavy Metal album?
Max: The Internet has helped a lot with all of this. We speak of almost 35 years passed since we released our LP. The people who saw us back then obviously remember us and have probably helped in maintaining the myth that’s been created bit by bit around us, ha ha. The truth is we never expected to be remembered after so many years and that our legacy as a band lasts longer than our lives. I don’t think there’s a bigger reward for an artist than that.
I don’t know how many people know particular details like about us. There aren’t many documented writings on the topic.
But surely we’re surprised by the the prizes that our LP is going for nowadays among collectors. It’s incredible!
RiG: Anything else you want to add?
Max: Our local success was also due to, however weird it sounds, the media, radio, TV, and written press supported us a lot in spite our image and everything that could be perceived as “diabolical” around us, considering our conservative country, maybe it was out of naivety from their part. Back then there weren’t all these economic and political interests that run the world today. Surely we couldn’t have done something like this back then.
Likewise, we had already begun to record a second album and we were halfway through with it. Sadly, the group disbanded and we couldn’t finish it. I’ve recorded with a couple other bands a few of those songs and there’s still some unreleased Khaos material that might one day come to light.
Speaking of music, “Forjado en Rocka”, although not a conceptual album, is supposed to tell a story and the songs are related. They intend to relate a concept about the eternal struggle of good and evil. The cover art, a drawing from a renowned local painter, Allan Caicedo, contributed to this concept and gives a lot of clues for interpretation. I mention this because if you extrapolate each song and listen to them separately everything can be interpreted very differently from what we intended. All of this is very naive, we could use the excuse that we were very young back then ha ha.
I mention this because a lot of times I’ve seen us interpreted incorrectly on the internet. People try to classify us as something we weren’t.
In 2015 we succeeded in reuniting one third of the line-up that recorded the album. Our old bassist Marcelo Alvarado didn’t participate because he’s retired. Maybe one day we’ll succeed in a complete reunion but it’s hard because I’m currently the only one residing in Honduras. But it’s definitely something we want to try because it was great to experience the public’s appreciation for our group considering many of them weren’t born when we started.