An Interview With Brian Ortiz from Xibalba
Recently I spoke to Brian Ortiz who is the guitarist from California based Death Metal band Xibalba.
Xibalba have hardcore roots due to members being in hardcore bands in the past in which you can still hear the elements within Xibalba's music.
They blend death/doom and hardcore together and pull it off extremely well a long with English and Spanish lyrics to honour the Spanish culture.
Below I have attached a link to Xibalba's bandcamp for those who want to listen and show some support.
First of all thank you for taking the time to talk with me.
As the years have gone by you can spot a change within the sound of Xibalba, a noticeable one being on the entirety of Tierra Y Libertad in which you can sense a more death metal sound, was this a direction you wanted to take later on with Xibalba or would you say it's always been there?
I’d say it’s always been there. Ever since we started we wanted to fuse death metal doom and hardcore together, but early on we just weren’t as good at our instruments to execute it. We started to find that style we were going for when we wrote “Obituary” on the Madre Mia LP. Then we released a split with “Cold” on it and wrote slowed down death metal/doom riffs and then Hasta and the Suburban Scum split where we tried to up that. We get to the Tierra record and we basically found exactly what we’ve been trying to execute all these years.
You can hear the doom elements quite a lot on Hasta which fits in well with the death metal/hardcore riffs that follow.
The track No Serenity is one that sticks out a lot when it comes to doom elements, where would you label yourselves amongst genres? you're well known within the hardcore scene but the music itself aims towards a different direction.
When people ask me I just try to keep it simple and tell them we’re death metal. But realistically we are tied to hardcore and have influences there. When we started we all had hardcore bands before so the only shows we could get back in the day were hardcore shows. We’d play these weird metalcore/deathcore gigs but we didn’t fit into a look and our live sound was more ugly sounding. But anyways, I’d say we’re a death metal/doom/hardcore band or just heavy music or whatever folks wanna call it.
I guess it does all depend on your background, the hardcore sound will always be with you deep due to the past but experimenting with something new is always good especially if you can pull it off as well as you do.
Back to the subject of the doom sound, I have to ask out of curiosity, the guitar tone sounds brilliant what tuning do you play in? It seems to capture the doom sound perfectly.
Thank you! I appreciate that. I am in drop A standard tuning. We’ve used a few different amps to get that record tone; Marshall jcm, peavey 5150, sunn model t, mesa duels. On the next record we were able to get an even more death/doom tone with great sustain in the doom riffs! I hope you’re ready!
No problem, by the sounds of it the tone can only get heavier if you've managed to capture death/doom even more.
Has this been an on going experiment with each record would you say? In my eyes the aim to find a heavier tone each time is never wrong because it only gets better from there.
Oh yes, definitely. We usually take our previous tones and add to it to chunk it up. With this new record we’re recording we basically tried to combine the weight and sustain from Hasta and at the brightness of Tierra and mixed it.
I look forward to hearing the new record, if the sound combination is as you say then I can only imagine great things.
Onto the subject of artwork, what attracted you to Dan Seagrave when it came to decisions for Hasta? Apart from the obvious brilliant artwork he's produced in his time.
Well he’s done artwork for some of the most iconic records that are our favorites, Altar’s of Madness, Effigies of the Forgotten, etc etc! And our friend Taylor said that his band was getting artwork from him and gave us his contact. When it came time for Tierra to be released we figured let’s keep the theme so we went to him again. And again for our EP we did a few years ago. We’re hoping to get him again for this release as well. He’s kept the theme going and has done a killer job for us.
He's worked with some amazing bands in the past so it must feel great to be a part of that list.
In various Xibalba songs Nate sings in Spanish, in my opinion it makes the songs sound a lot more aggressive, does he have any specific reason behind singing in Spanish at all?
I agree. With Nate, his first language is Spanish and we’re all Latino, Mexican and Salvadoran so it’s part of our heritage and culture. So he’ll switch back and forth depending on how’s he’s feeling with what he’s trying to say. Sometimes words in Spanish can sound more deeper too.
Would you say it flows better in Spanish as well in certain songs?
Going back to when you mentioned about being tied in with hardcore, you mentioned about you all previously being in hardcore bands, can you give some insight on your experiences with these bands?
Sometimes it flows better for sure. I know with Nate It just depends on his mood really and if he thinks it’ll fit better with a certain song. As far as our older bands go I was in a band called Time For Change with our original bassist. It was a straightedge 90s victory record era hardcore band. Nate and Jason played in a melodic hardcore band called Out of Heart. Our bands used to play together a lot back in the day.
It's Interesting having a different background from the music you play now, we all grow with different tastes in music which eventually develop.
This question is two in one, first of all I'm curious about your influences when it comes to death metal, can you list me your top 5?
Secondly this new record you mentioned is this being recorded at The Pit by any chance?
1. Morbid Angel
4. Bolt Thrower
The new record was recorded at the Platinum Underground in Mesa, AZ with our good homie Arthur Rizik as the engineer/producer. We wanted to try something new with this record to see if we could expand on our sound. He’s been a friend for a while and has done some great records that’s we love. Power Trip, Cavalera Conspiracy, Sacred Reich as well as his bands Eternal Champion and Sumerlands. We got some great sounds out of it. It sounds HUGE.
That's quite the selection of good bands there so it sounds even more promising as he's produced some brilliant releases.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me Brian I appreciate it.
Do you have anything else you would like to add at all?
Thank you! It was my pleasure! Keep an eye out for our new record “Años en Infierno” out on Southern Lord, hopefully by early 2020. Peace and Stay up!