Interview with Hugo Zombie
Hugo Zombie is a guy who moves around a lot. Guitarist in bands and in his own projects, he has been building a musical story based on different dark styles, from Naughty Zombies to Then Comes Silence.
Personally, I started talking to Hugo the day he came to one of our Adoración Nocturna (“Night Worship”) sessions we were holding in Valencia (Spain). Afterwards we met a couple of times at concerts during Wave Gotik Treffen… And after seeing Then Comes Silence at the last SGM Fest (Madrid – Spain, 2018), everything ends up connecting. Here’s the interview!
Hi Hugo, how are you doing? How is life in Stockholm, is it very different from Spain? How do they treat the musicians? Out of curiosity, have you managed to live in Sweden from music, or is your professional life going differently?
Hello! Well, here we are, trying to move forward in these strange times. I think life in Stockholm is not so different from life in the north of Spain, but before coming here I spent almost 3 years living in Benidorm, and in this case the contrast was really brutal.
There is a lot of musical culture here, music is more present in the media than in Spain, and at school they learn to play more instruments than the flute. And there are a lot of musicians and groups, who curiously, play more outside Sweden than here. This is what happens with Then Comes Silence too, since I joined the band we have only played twice in Sweden, which are the same times I played here with Los Carniceros.
I can say that “fortunately” my main source of income does not come from music, because with the current scenario I should be living under a bridge. Not only because of not earning from the tours that have been cancelled / postponed / we’ll-see-whatever- happens, but also because of losing the investments that had been made for travel, infrastructure… a disaster.
For years I have combined music with working as a freelance from home with my computer, so I have enough to getting by and the freedom to go on tour when necessary.
OK, let’s talk a little about your beginnings. What was it that made you decide to play? Why did you choose the guitar? What was the biggest obstacle in moving from the apprentice level to something more serious?
I’ve loved music ever since I discovered The Beatles as a kid, and what drove me to play, I guess, was to start going to concerts by local groups as a teenager, freaking out and thinking, “wow, I want to do that too”. One of these concerts I remember was Nopresion at the Herriko Taberna in Miranda de Ebro (Spain), which is the city where I was born.
The first group I set up with my school friends, nobody knew how to play anything and everyone chose the instrument they liked. I wanted to play the guitar because, as everyone knows, guitarists are the coolest, hahaha. We did punk rock and played covers of Bad Religion, NOFX, Ramones…
About moving on to something more serious… I don’t know to what extent it depends on you, but I guess it’s a matter of setting priorities and being willing to sacrifice certain things for the benefit of others. In my case, since I was a child I had always done a little “what I had to do”. I went to school, then if you were a good student you went to high school (I wasn’t a nerd but I had a good head), then to university… and so I ended up almost by inertia with the Psychology degree obtained without having really thought about what I really wanted to do. And then, of course, it was time for the Master’s degree, which I skipped because at the beginning of the 2000’s, when I was about 20, I was diagnosed with leukaemia and “normal” life went to hell.
And in those months from hospital to hospital, with chemo, spending hours and hours listening to music in a bed connected to an drip… that’s when I decided: “If I get out of this, fuck off my career, my master’s degree, normal life and everything else, what I want is to dedicate myself to what I’m really passionate about, which is music”. And that’s how it was. On the 30th of April 2002 I had the bone marrow transplant that saved my life. While I was recovering I was learning how to use music production software, and in 2004 I was already on the road with Naughty Zombies.
The first news we had about you was in 2004 with the first album of Naughty Zombies, a dark and at the same time punk project, very focused on live. Reviewing your concert flyers, I see that you shared the stage with a good handful of dark Spanish bands: Eyaculación Post Mortem, Cromosoma 3, Quidam, The Eternal Fall, Paralitikos, Redentoras Humilladas and a long etc.
For me it’s the time of the New Dark Age compilations, which brought to light many new groups at an international level, including Naughty Zombies. We tend to mythicize the past, but it seems that this era was a never-ending party and an explosion of groups and styles… Tell us how you experienced it!
Well, imagine… I was leaving a small town, I was just coming back to life… a wonderful world opened up in front of me. Both Monica and I had a passion for The Cramps, which for me were a rock n’ roll band, dark, cavernous or whatever you want to call it, but we didn’t expect the goth/sinister scene to welcome us that way. It wasn’t premeditated, but it was definitely cool!
The New Dark Age thing came up thanks to Jorge Rara Avis, I took him some demos to Vitoria, when he still had the shop there, and he said: “Hey, there’s this label, Strobelight Records, bringing out cool stuff as your style… I think you could fit in”. I sent them a demo and they put Give me your Soul on the next compilation. That helped us to put ourselves in the international scene, and if you go back to those compilations now, you see that there are a lot of bands that were starting then and now they are mythical, they did a great job.
At a national level, well, it was great to meet and play with all those bands that you mention, and La Casa Usher, Putilatex, Baby Horror… there was a great scene and everybody wanted to have a good time. I remember with special affection the Existence Festival in Valencia, which I think was the second or third Naughty Zombies concert, my first goth festival, and I freaked out.
Also the Mad Monster Party in Madrid, which was a huge success and where I met one of my best colleagues on the scene, Jordi from Eyaculación Post Mortem, a genius. And above all there was an audience, which is the most important thing.
I don’t like to mythicize the past, I think the present is always the best because it’s the only thing we have (carpe diem), but without a doubt they were very funny years, which I lived with a lot of illusion and with the beautiful feeling that everything was possible.
With Los Carniceros del Norte you achieved important recognition both nationally and internationally. RNE (Spain’s National Radio) played your songs and your albums reached the big stores, as well as participating in international festivals such as the Wave Gotik Treffen or Drop Dead. What memories do you have of that period? Is there any chance that Carniceros del Norte will return?
For a while I was at the same time with Naughty Zombies and Los Carniceros (del Norte). In fact, at the first Drop Dead held in Europe, in Prague in 2007, I played with both groups. It was my first international goth festival, I was also crazy about it, hahaha.
We, Los Carniceros, were like a family, it was 10 years in which we laughed, cried and bled together, and as in every family there are good and bad moments, but I prefer to stay with the good ones because they were more and better. I think that the magic of Los Carniceros is that everything was spontaneous, we started with the premise of making an album of 13 songs, 13 concerts and then disappear, and we remained 10 years, so…
The same thing in the concerts… we didn’t rehearse and in the live shows anything could happen: if Txarly could climb up the stage, he did it even at the risk of bumping into something, if Nando rested on a monitor and fell off the stage… bad luck… One day Txarly started to do the helicopter with his microphone stand on the stage, he hit me on the head and opened an eyebrow. He hadn’t even noticed it and he thought that the blood that was falling on my face was make-up…
Another time I was playing hard the guitar and I don’t remember if it was with my fist or my elbow, but I hit him on the head and almost knocked him over. Another time we were stopped at a concert because it smelled of burning in the hall and they thought that the equipment was on fire. In fact it was Nando’s hair because he had gone out of hand when he lit the cigarette, and with all the hair spray that he was wearing that was highly inflammable material. I have many memories, yes, but above all that whenever we got together it was unpredictable and “Lynchian”.
As for trying to get back together… I don’t know, we never really announced a separation or anything, the feeling I had at that time was that we needed to take a break and give ourselves some time. Then the circumstances of life have brought me to Stockholm and currently the conditions are not the most suitable.
I used to like being in several projects at once, but now I think it’s better to focus on one project to be able to give the best of yourself, and I’m 100% with Then Comes Silence. Anyway, you never know what might happen, as Joe Strummer said, “the future is unwritten”.
Let’s make an aside… I have a couple of questions from a colleague! Guille, from the group AM (Adaptative Manipulator), previously had a group called Mierda Enferma, with whom Carniceros del Norte played at Sala Flow in Valencia in 2007. This was the time when Tarantula organised concerts and parties for El Acto in the city. Any notes or memories about this? On the other hand, Guille would like to know which science-fiction and horror authors you like.
Damn, Mierda Enferma! They were great! I remember that we were shocked when we saw that for the musical bases, instead of carrying a laptop like everyone else… they had planted a desktop PC on the stage, with its tower, its monitor and everything! And also… if I remember correctly, they took it on a bike! Amongst that, McNamara’s covers, titles like Feto Heroinómano… we thought, “wow, these guys are really mad”, hahaha. We really enjoyed their concert and their CD accompanied us on a few trips. Break a leg with the new group, Guille!
That concert was organised by Tarántula, yes, and another anecdote happened in another of her festivals, “El Baile de San Vito”, year 2005, Mogambo hall in Calle de la Sangre (a street located in Valencia), where my path crossed for the first time with Txarly, as he was playing with La Casa Usher and I was with Naughty Zombies.
About science fiction and horror authors… I think that my tastes are quite “mainstream” in terms of authors. I would say for example Stephen King for the IT book, I devoured his 1,000 pages with delight when I was a teenager, and I think that’s where my obsession with clowns comes from.
Then there is The Shining, but I knew it before from Kubrick’s film and for me it is almost more associated with its name. I like everything about him, especially A Clockwork Orange and its adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ book, which is almost literal. And of course David Lynch. About science-fiction, I would say for example Isaac Asimov for some of his comics that fell in my hands as a child and I loved them.
Simultaneously to these projects you have also been publishing up to 3 EPs under the name of H. Zombie, in which you show all your repertoire of deathrock, psychobilly, garage, darkwave and even electrodark/aggrotech… Is there any other style that you would like to develop, or one that you would like to deepen in?
In these EPs I have been doing things that I wanted to do, but for one reason or another, they didn’t fit in my other projects. The first one, From Heaven to Hell, was recorded shortly after the separation of Naughty Zombies. Although I was already playing with Los Carniceros, I had a bit of a musical vacuum and that was the way to experiment with new styles and see where I could go in the future.
The second one, Mutation, is aggrotech, and I got into that style because I saw Combichrist live, and I went crazy about the energy they had, especially the drummer, it was an outrage. And then I said, “Well, I’m going to do something like this to kill some time,” hahaha. And the truth is that it got some good reviews in the press from the scene. I had also been struck by the “enmity” between the “electronic goths” and the “guitar goths”, and the message I was looking for was to show that three renowned afterpunks (the voices are played by Txarly from Los Carniceros and Jordi from Eyaculación Post Mortem) could make a dark electro album without being afraid. The important thing is the spirit.
The third and last album to date, Deathrock is Dead, was recorded shortly after Los Carniceros released their 2013 Maniakos (“2013 Maniacs”), and the reason is that I didn’t feel at ease with that album. We were going to tour in Mexico, and less than a month before going there, Bambam (our record label and promoter in Mexico) tells us that they have rented a studio and that we have to record an album. We had to write the songs and record a demo at full speed, bing-bing, one song, bing-bing, another song… Then there in Mexico we recorded the album in 3 days… So it was a simple, direct, punk album, which is also the only one recorded with “real” drums. And then, as I had left with desire to work a little more with the guitars and compositions, I did the Deathrock is Dead to expand a little bit.
Any style that I would like to develop? I really like ska/punk. I suppose that it’s because of The Clash, and consequently from 2 Tone bands like The Specials, The Selecter, Madness… and also more “current” like Rancid. Maybe now I feel it fresher because it’s what I listen to most in summer, but yes, I want to do something of this style someday. Although it will probably end up sounding more like Lords of the New Church’s Sorry for the Man than the original by Black Uhuru.
Let’s move on to Then Comes Silence… Your debut in the band has coincided with their fifth album, Machine. In the credits of the album you appear as an arranger on the guitar, how has that collaboration been on a compositional level? Have you let yourself be carried away by the style of the group, or is there some genuine contribution from you?
My role in Then Comes Silence is different from the groups I’ve been in until now. Here I have joined as a guitar player a consolidated group, with 4 albums published, a very defined style and a composer who is Alex Svenson.
I started as a substitute guitarist in 2018, and as well as rehearsing the songs we were going to play on the tour, they were already working on the new album and wanted to play the new songs in the rehearsal room. I learned them during the rehearsals, and by the time I joined the band as a member, the album was practically finished and I went directly to the studio to record.
So my contribution, apart from my expertise on the 6 strings, are some arrangements, some solos and little more. Always taking into account the context and style of the band. I had to work a lot to learn the songs of the previous albums and adapt to a new way of playing, so when I had to record I had already assimilated the style of Then Comes Silence and it was all very natural.
Any follower can see the involvement of the band and the enthusiasm that you put into it. Both the video versions of All Tomorrow’s Party (Lou Reed) and Christine (Siouxie and the Banshees) and the online concert you gave in May are good examples. How did these ideas come about and has it been difficult to carry them out given the current limitations?
The truth is that we have a lot of desire and it’s very frustrating to have to stand still. We recorded the album Machine in December 2018, then a few months to mix and master, and arrange the deals with the labels, which in the end have been Oblivion/SPV in Europe and Metropolis in the USA.
A tour of about 30 dates was organized, including a tour of venues in Europe, the UK, and some festivals such as M’era Luna or Darkmad. Months of work to get everything ready for March 13th, which later turned out to be more or less the day the world was paralyzed by the coronavirus.
Well, something had to be done so that the machine wouldn’t rust, and so the “quarantine versions” and the live stream came about. Adapt or die. Here in Sweden we have not had compulsory confinement, but when we recorded those versions, each from our home, I was really in quarantine because I had been caught by the fucking bug.
You recently had a funny anecdote where William Faith (The Bellweather Syndicate, Faith & The Muse) told that you appeared in a dream of his, and that inspired him to compose a song. Where does your friendship with William come from? Have you come to collaborate together, or is there a plan about it?
William is a living legend, and a great influence and inspiration to me. I met him at the WGT, after a concert in Täubchenthal. I saw him in the courtyard and jumped on him, groupie style, hahaha. The fact that he knew Los Carniceros, that he spoke Spanish and that we had very similar musical views, made for good harmony.
We have never collaborated together but I would love the opportunity to do so one day. We were also discussing the possibility of touring the USA and Europe with his band The Bellwether Syndicate and Then Comes Silence, but of course, that was before the pandemic.
About the dream, for me it’s an honour to know that I live in his subconscious, hahaha. I can’t wait to hear the song he wrote, and I’m waiting to see if he appears another night in my dreams and inspires another song to me, hahaha.
In November Then Comes Silence will begin a European tour that will take you to perform on March, 26th at the Dark Mad Festival in Madrid. You will also perform in Stockholm on the 3rd and 4th of September. With the pandemic situation, how is the mood in the band? How will you approach the live shows? Will you focus on the concerts with the audience, or will you continue with the online ones?
It’s very complicated. If you look at the evolution of the tours and festivals in general, the spring dates were changed to autumn. Now the autumn dates are being changed for next spring. I don’t know if it will be possible to do the dates at the end of this year or next year. Personally I have been quite fucked up and completely demoralized. Now I’ve got my mind set on the worst, and anything that can be done is welcome.
At the moment, what you can do is online concerts, so we’re working on that. On the 3rd and 4th of September we will do two concerts from our new studio, which we have taken advantage of to build it up during these months of hiatus. There will be a very limited audience, so that there is an atmosphere and that it is safe for everyone, and we will try to have a good time and show people a good time in the studio and in their homes. I think it’s better to think short-term, and then we’ll see what happens.
Right now everything is uncertain, it’s not new that information is manipulated, but now the news are completely partial, opportunist, contradictory or false. Propaganda. Then there is the WHO which doubts everything and nobody believes it anymore. There is a general atmosphere of tension growing without stopping… It’s all too strange and twisted, and I think it’s more important than ever that we at the bottom are united, have empathy and think of others, be critical of what they tell us, try to see beyond it and draw our own conclusions.
Thank you very much for answering this extensive interview, Hugo! A hug, and I hope we meet again at some concert or festival.
Thank you very much to you, extensive answers for extensive interview, I hope that someone has come this far, hahaha. I also hope that we meet again as soon as possible in a real concert, even if it’s in astronaut suits.
In the meantime we will keep trying to adapt to survive. Culture and everything related to it is being one of the main victims of all this mess, which also gives a lot of food for thought… but in spite of everything I have the hope that we will soon dance together again!