By Carl Begai
Québec is known for offering up top tier metal talent to the world and having a forward thinking European-bent metal fanbase. Montréal’s Hasta La Muerte is one of the province’s latest spawn, having stomped into the spotlight earlier this year with a tongue-in-cheek / bum drum rap metal debut single, ‘Pour Anotha Shot’. The song, and particularly the video, garnered them instant attention both positive and “WTF?!” negative. A few months later they followed up with a darker, meaner, uglier tune ‘Step Up’, which has at the very least cemented them as not being flash in the pan. Beyond the music, however, almost nothing has been published about their roots and plans for world domination. Having tagged them as “Van Halen getting Ugly Kid Stuck Mojo-ed” when ‘Pour Anotha Shot’ first surfaced, I decided to dig up any available dirt for Hasta La Muerte’s growing fanbase.
“The band started out with myself, Manuel (Iradian / guitars) and Kev (Alexander / drums),” says guitarist David Evangelista, “all being friends in different bands and wanting to make something different together as a new band. Even though we grew up on old school heavy metal, we listen to all kinds of music, including hip-hop, rock, blues, or whatever in our free time. When we decided to work together, we worked off some demos that I had that were sort-of groovy and hip-hop-sounding, electronic, but also metal and really low-tuned on guitar. These were basic riffs and templates that would turn into ‘Pour Anotha Shot’ and ‘Step Up’. We wanted to be open to other genres of music as influences. So we collaborated to finish these ideas and making them into full instrumental songs, the three of us.”
“We put up a demo to recruit a vocalist, and we welcomed Robby (J. Fonts) who was primarily a rapper at the time. He did a great job mixing rap and heavy vocals on the demo which would eventually turn into our first single, ‘Pour Anotha Shot’. He had a similar open-minded vision too, so it worked out really well with the other material as well. But originally, before he appeared, it wasn’t necessarily set out to be rap-metal, it just sort of happened that way and we didn’t question it.”
“We actually all come from different backgrounds and styles of metal bands. I grew up playing thrash metal and Pantera songs on guitar before also getting into Meshuggah and pushing the limits of low guitar tunings. Manuel and Kev play in a great progressive metal band called Demise Of The Crown, and Kev also plays in Death Lullaby, one of the best deathcore bands in Montreal. And lastly, Kev and I also play some shows on the side in a Pantera tribute band called Goddamn Electric. We’re all inter-connected through different bands. Manuel also has played guitar for Vinny and Carmine Appice on tour.”
The cliché question-answer about Hasta La Muerte’s influences is required reading, as Evangelista reveals the band feeds on more than the rather obvious Stuck Mojo vibe.
“All songs are low in guitar tunings, lower than an 8-string guitar in fact, but played on a 7-string, and that’s a direct Meshuggah influence. Other than that, every song really goes into its own direction in an unpredictable way and it keeps it fresh and interesting for us. I’d say ‘Pour Anotha Shot’ had influences from ’90s metal, but with club party type of lyrics, and ’80s shred guitar like Yngwie Malmsteen and Extreme influences in the guitar solos. Maybe even a bit of funk music on some parts. ‘Step Up’ has more of a nu-metal bouncy vibe to it reminiscent of Limp Bizkit, with still a bit of Meshuggah-type riffs and a bluesier rock guitar solo.”
“The songwriting is usually all part of a spontaneous process,” Evangelista continues. “I personally enjoy mixing genres with metal, and we’ve written other songs that go further into specific directions, from old school gangsta rap, to club music, to heavy hip-hop, you name it. If you’re not supposed to mix it with metal, then that is fucking metal to me, at least, attitude-wise, in terms of not giving a fuck. I just checked out Author & Punisher coming through Montreal and it was some of the most mind-blowing shit I’ve ever seen someone do onstage. So heavy. We all love straight-up metal too, of course, everything has its time and place. I love Pantera, and Decapitated is one of my favourite bands.”
The band has been suspiciously quiet about their plans for a full length album, letting on to absolutely nothing via social media beyond pre and post promotion for the two singles they have in the bank. It makes some people wonder just how serious of a band Hasta La Muerte actually is.
“We’ve been testing the waters releasing singles,” Evangelista explains. “An album has to have something cohesive about it in terms of song flow and style. Releasing singles gave us the freedom as a new band to try different approaches to songs and seeing what people enjoy about us and what we enjoy most as well. Even though I think doing albums ultimately has a lot of advantages, it can be good for a new band who is looking for a sound to use the internet to experiment with releases and find what sounds and works best for them. You can have people’s reactions almost instantly nowadays online, and that is amazing. As far as a next release date, there is nothing locked in right now, but if you stay updated on our social media you’ll be sure to find out.”
As mentioned, Hasta La Muerte managed to rub a solid portion of the metal world the wrong way with ‘Pour Anotha Shot’, resulting in some entertaining potshots via YouTube and a hilarious beatdown via MetalSucks, who featured the band as “A Shitstain On The Ass Of The Universe” upon seeing the video. Evangelista and his crew took the jabs in stride.
“(Laughs) Man, at first we had no idea what that was about when it first popped up,” he says, referring to the MetalSucks pounding. “It was pretty funny, though, and creatively written in an over-the-top funny way. We loved that it got an intense reaction. But, if you want to talk seriously about our reasoning behind our video, besides just having fun, then I’d say that metal music, back in the day, like you said, started off as a musical rebellion against mainstream music. It was about being in a place where you don’t have to fit in. Now that there are unspoken rules about what is accepted as metal or not, especially on the internet, it sort of becomes predictable sometimes, or boring, and it goes against that freedom. A lot of bands end up sounding the same. So, this was our way of going against the usual way of doing a video clip for a metal band and trying something different. Maybe because metal is often dark and serious, some people took aspects of our video for ‘Pour Anotha Shot’ very seriously and sort of freaked out. There are a million bands that I love that would never do that, and they’re still there for all of us to listen to. The more styles of metal there are, the better.”
With regards to people – metal fans and not – who view rap metal as dated, Evangelista suggests they think outside the box at a very basic level.
“I’d say that maybe they shouldn’t listen to music based on whether it’s considered dated or current, but rather whether they simply enjoy listening to it. If it were music aimed at radio, I’d get that concern about what’s current a bit more, but metal is out of the mainstream anyway, so why should it matter? The truth is it really doesn’t, because some of the oldest bands are still the greatest. So, the dated argument doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me. There are tons of new bands out there to pick and choose from. A lot of people still respect the old school stuff the most. For me, I usually either enjoy the music or I don’t, and I try to keep it simple.”
“I’d like to encourage people to support the music that they love in any way that they can. The audience really has power to sort of steer the ship when it comes to what stays in the limelight, more than ever. It was solely the record labels not too long ago, and we have to realize it’s shifted a lot more into our hands now. And as they say, with greater power comes greater responsibility.”
Dave Evangelista live photo by Mihaela Petrescu Photography
For information and updates on Hasta La Muerte go to this location.