—Interview by Sandra Trevino @enchufate
There was a time when Chicago’s rock en español movement was in full swing, with weekly events dedicated to the genre and plenty of smaller festivals to showcase the growing community of Latin rock musicians. Places like The Black Hole, La Justicia and Los Cazos were great DIY venues that would host local and touring bands and would fill to the brim with rock enthusiasts of all ages. I was one of those in attendance, capturing images and videos for our then cable television program E>N>E: Chicago Rocks as well as the first Chicago blog covering all things Latin alternative - Enchufate.
Among that passionate core of bands was Maladicto, a self-described “no nonsense, in your face band representing their own creativity and cultural backgrounds.” They created a unique take on metal and psychedelia highlighted with an affinity for Latin roots rhythms like salsa and cumbia and developed a massive sound which allowed them to stand out among the rest. They quickly grew a broad and loyal fan base that remains to this day.
In 2008 Maladicto released their first recording, Salsatanico: Bailando la Danza de la Venganza, an 11-track album featuring songs like Pata de Rana, Cumbiatron, Lamento Latino and Maten Al Cabron.
Alas, as is much too common with bands that begin in their youth, as life moved on and the music community began to expand and change, so did the band’s priorities and after the release of that successful first recording the band was not playing as often. As different band members began to take on different roles in life, as well as in other music projects, the band went on a long but unintentional hiatus.
So, it was with great excitement that Maladicto fans reacted to recent news that the band will be performing a free show on Saturday, March 26 at The Mutiny. They’ve received a lot of noise about the upcoming performance so there’s no doubt it’s going to be jam packed. We decided to refresh your memories, and ours, and ask the band’s vocalist and songwriter, Manuel Nieves, to tell us a little bit about himself, his take on the music community in Chicago, as well as updates on the band.
Where were you born and what neighborhood did you grow up in?
I was born in Utuado, Puerto Rico, in a barrio called La Granja in the center of the Island.
Where did your love for music begin?
My family is very musical. Since I was little I have been surrounded by music. We're Puerto Ricans, full of music and life.
As a vocalist, who are you influenced by?
I was influenced by singers like Felipe Rodriguez (La Voz) and Ismael Rivera. Later on by Mike Patton (FNM and Tomahawk) and Chet Baker.
How is your culture reflected in your music?
My culture is everything, that is one of the reason why I sing in Spanish. I am culture.
Tell me more about your music writing process?
With Maladicto it’s all about the rhythm and intensity, kinda free form. First we jam with some riffs and then words start flowing, like in Salsa "Soneo" - improvisation and play with words. Thankfully the guys are such amazing musicians so it's very easy to create with them. We got a great chemistry.
Do current events/politics play a part in the music you create?
Not recently. I am more interested in the human factor and emotions. I don't have time for politicians ‘cause they do not have time for me.
Besides being a vocalist/musician - how else do you express yourself creatively?
I have always loved to write and create art. I like to play with words. There is nothing more pure than the virginity of a sheet of paper.
Tell us a little history about Maladicto - how did it get started, where does the name come from and who is currently in the band?
Maladicto started in Chicago. The name came up as joke about someone who stole from the band gigs to consume drugs. The current lineup includes Rick on drums, Jr. on guitars, Chabelo on bass, James on percussions and me on vocals.
Maladicto hasn't played in public in a while - why is that?
We just got busy with life itself; family, projects, school and art.
How did it feel to reunite with the other band members recently?
We have always been in contact, no matter if we play gigs or not. We are family.
How has Maladicto's music changed since it started?
We are constantly changing. We love to hear all kind of music so we are always evolving.
Are you currently recording? If so, when are you expecting to release new music? Will it be an EP or a full album and are you considering producing something on vinyl?
We are not recording yet but we will soon. It will be an EP or a full album based on the amount of material we have. So far we have a lot of material and ideas to work on. We would love to release it on vinyl so we'll see how things work out.
Speaking of albums, what are your favorite vinyl records in your personal collection?
Frank Zappa (Hot Rats); Kyuss (Wretch); Willie Colon & LaVoe (Deja Vu); and Bad Brains (Rock for Light), just to mention a few.
What are your favorite Chicago venues to listen to live music?
Double Door, Cobra Lounge and The Green Mill.
What is the best thing about Chicago for musicians?
The diversity of cultures throughout the city. I love that about Chicago and that music historically helped shape this city.
What is the worst thing about Chicago for musicians?
Everything is sugar & spice.
What are plans for Maladicto for the remainder of 2016?
Record, play venues and have fun artistically and creatively.
What has been your favorite experience on stage?
All of them have something special. LAMC in New York was amazing!!!
What do you recommend for younger bands just starting out?
Practice and dedication. Don't give up on music 'cause music is what makes the world a beautiful place.
Tell us about the gig at The Mutiny on March 26?
We just want to shake the dust off. We were offered the gig by South Arsenal. We'll see how it goes. We are ready!
Maladicto performs at The Mutiny on Saturday, March 26 with South Arsenal and When We Was Kids. The Mutiny is located at 2428 N. Western. 8pm, 21+, no cover.