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- Posted on Mar 6th 2010 11:32AM by Laura Huchzermeyer
As children growing up in Chile during Pinochet's military regime, members of the band the Ganjas dreamed of becoming rock stars. But under the dictatorship, music and culture in Chile were effectively wiped clean, and a live music scene was practically non-existent. However, the band never gave up on their dreams of becoming musicians. After Pinochet was ousted in the 1990s, they were there waiting to breathe new life into Chile's rock scene with their brand of neo-psychedelic rock. Now one of the most well-known rock groups in the country, the Ganjas will kick off their first US tour at SXSW 2010. Frontman Sam Maquiera and drummer Aldo Benincasa recently spoke to Spinner about the rock scene in Chile and the Ganjas' upcoming trip to the States.
Describe your sound.
Sam Maquiera: It's like a psychedelic heavy wave, grooving in a big room.
How did your band form?
SM: We started to play at 1999 in Santiago[, Chile]. We just started to play for joy. We were just all bored as hell that summer. We were basically jamming as a trio for hours and recording [those jams]. I never thought we would be a successful band in Chile, especially playing 15-minute songs and singing in English.
Have you always performed in English? Are you fluent?
Aldo Benincasa: Most of us are "English singers." We can read it easily, but speaking and listening is an exercise that needs more practice. I think we speak "music English" or "movie English," because we watch movies with subtitles and listen to music. We chose English because it is the language used in the kind of music we like and have listened to since we were kids. My first cassette was Iron Maiden's 'The Number of the Beast.' The second one was Ozzy's 'Bark at the Moon.'
What are your musical influences?
SM: There's a lot, from the blues and classic rock to psychedelia, metal, '90s rock, shoegaze and dub.
How did you come up with your band name?
SM: The next-door band at our rehearsal studio gave us the name. It just fits right with our slow-motion tempo.
Have you performed in US before? What are you looking forward to?
SM: This will be our first time. We've just been touring around South America, and it's very exciting for us.
What is the music scene like in Chile and South America? How is it different than in the US?
SM: Well, in Santiago there's a strong rock scene that is growing very fast and with very good bands. The big difference, of course, is the number of years that the US music scene has been rockin'. In Chile there was cultural void during the dictatorship here during the '70s and the '80s.
Tell us more about life and music under the dictatorship. How has that influenced your music?
AB: We really hate that period of our history. That really affected all of us deeply. It is really difficult for me to explain how serious the dictatorship was and the incredible damage that it had on my generation. I was born the same year that it began, 1973. I grew up with everything wrong. There was no local rock music, just a couple of [bands] that didn't [last very long].
It really was a lost generation. I refused to give up on my desire to play music and I began to play in the band when I was much older than the rest. But we're not a political group, at least not in our lyrics. Maybe just in the way we live.
Laura Huchzermeyer is a contributor from Seed.com. Learn how you can contribute here.