Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Interview: Weslie J. Negrón Pagán of Zafakon

You all know it because I just said it yesterday, but here we go again. Guys, Zafakon rules. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with the rafter-rumbling bassist of the band for a little chat.

And by sitting down with, I mean sitting down.

At two different computers.

3000 kilometers apart (that's about 1900 miles for our American friends).

Over Facebook.

Yup, I'm cool.

The interview is after the jump. Be sure to grab a drink, cause this one is a long one!

Heh. Long one.

David Gupta: So let's get started with something pretty standard: Tell me a bit about yourself and about how Zafakon all started.

Weslie J. Negrón Pagán: Well basically I started playing when I was 12, I started with guitar, then moved to bass because I felt more attached to it somehow, love the deepness of the sound. At age 14 is when I started playing metal per se, but still couldn't find a metal band so I started playing in a couple of cover bands, that's how I met the guys.

Zafakon started out as a joke, as a band that just got together because we were all friends and we knew how to play. As time kept on going, we just kept getting more serious about it, until it got to the point that we are right now.

DG: I know what you mean about the bass, I'm a guitar player, but I love the rumbling low end of bass guitars, too!

WJNP: Well, I guess I was lazy too, using 3, 4 fingers at the same time was too much for me! hahah!

DG: Hahaha. Your bass tone on War as a Drug was really awesome and defined, what kind of set up did you use to get that sound?

WJNP: Well the core of the sound comes from my Orange OBC 4x10 bass cab and my Orange Tiny Terror 500. We got the pure signal from there and using a couple of plugins we got to manage and balance the sound we get on the album. I also used 2 basses: my Thunderbird and a Tobias Growler.

DG: What are some of your influences for bass playing? How do you think they come out both in your style of playing and your tones?

WJNP: It is weird because as far as my playing goes, most of the bass players I'm really into are not thrash metal bassist. I'm really into progressive music, especially progressive death metal (Opeth, for instance, is one of my favorite bands). I would say, in no order in specific, my main influences are Martin Mendez, from Opeth, Robert Trujillo, mostly on his work with Suicidal Tendencies and Infectious Grooves, and Troy Sanders from Mastodon.

The type of bass playing these guys do is great, not only because is fitting to the music they're doing, but because they're not showing off, trying to impress people. For me, as a bass player, my job is to give that punch line, that solid bass to the music, not to compete with the guitars or be completely behind them, just do my work to make the whole music sound like a whole, like one. So, basically that's how the influence my style of playing too.

DG: Awesome list of influences! I love Opeth, Suicidal, and Mastodon.

WJNP: I've seen Opeth 5 times already, all of them out of Puerto Rico. I even have their logo tattooed on my arm.

DG: I've only caught them twice, I'm mad jealous.

WJNP: I saw them with Steven Wilson in April. A. Ma. Zing! If you go to my profile, watch my cover picture haha!

Wesley with the gods of prog.
DG: Holy shit. That's awesome! So how about the other guys in the band? Are they more straightforward thrashers?

WJNP: Not really hahah, I mean, for instance, Nicko (the drummer) he's a HUGE prog fan, but when I mean prog I mean stuff like Pain of Salvation, Symphony X, etc. Rafa likes more death metal, Cannibal Corpse is probably he's favorite band. Marcus is the most thrasher of all of us, he's favorite band is Testament, but we just mix all together and we get what we have now.

DG: I can definitely see all those influences in Zafakon's music, when you point 'em out. What was it like starting out as a metal band in Puerto Rico?

WJNP: Well, believe it or not, we have a HUGE underground metal scene over here. Like I said earlier, we started as a joke, so most people saw us as a joke too, as we were posting stuff on Facebook and all that. When we did our first show, people were surprised of the seriousness of the music and people reacted really well to the whole gimmick. So that's basically it how it started.

DG: I'm definitely going to have to get more into the scene there, because so far I've only heard you guys and Severe Mutilation, who also kick major ass! What are some local bands that you think people should check out?

WJNP: Yeah man, we have plenty of bands over here, and the good thing is that we have for all types of genres for instance: If you're looking for death metal you can look up for Severe Mutilation, Organic, Bastard Chain. Thrash: Dementium, D.O.D., Back in the Day, Cabal. Heavy metal/ doom: Sacred GuardianDantesco, Doomlord, Iternia. Metalcore/ djent: Protocols, The Mirage Theory, Tavu. There are just so many bands that is hard to mention them all, but those can get you a good lead of how things are going over here.

DG: Damn, that seems like a thriving scene!

WJNP: And we just keep having more and more bands everyday!

DG: You said earlier that you were heading up to the U.S. in July for a mini tour, whereabouts are you guys going to play? And will this be your first time playing out of Puerto Rico?

WJNP: Yes, it'll be our first time playing outside of Puerto Rico, which I consider is going to be completely interesting hahaha. We're going to concentrate on the north/east part of the U.S., we're playing in NY, MAS, PA, MD and NJ. from the 5th to the 17th of July.

DG: Whether music related or not, is there anything specific you guys want to do in the states while you're there?

WJNP: Well, we just want to have fun, since is the first time we travel altogether and we're definitely catching the Mayhem Fest. So, I guess we're going to do some tourist work too, but we're also going to work on some side promo for the album.

DG: Sounds like fun! I'm guessing you're excited to catch Mastodon at Mayhem this year?

WJNP: Oh yes! That's the band I'm more looking forward to see.. I was excited for Behemoth, but the whole Inferno thing happened, and you know...

DG: Yeah, that's a major bummer. Hopefully he recovers quickly.

WJNP: Me too man, I can't die without having seen Behemoth live haha.

DG: Haha I know what you mean. So what kind of side promo stuff did you have planned for when you guys hit the US?

WJNP: We want to get some interviews, it can be written or through online radio or a radio station. We just want to try to expand our music reach as much as we can, and we're realistic that not all of the people from all the areas are going to be able to go to all the shows, so we just want to let them know that we exist and so for them to look forward for us to come back.

DG: Makes sense, and good luck with all that.

WJNP: Thanks!

DG: You guys are hitting up a pretty northern part of the U.S., do you guys have any plans to cross the border into Canada?

WJNP: We would love to! I bet that's definitely going to happen in the future. I'm a huge huge fan of Canadian metal, especially Into Eternity and Protest the Hero (even though they don't have anything to do with each other haha) but I  just love the way Canadian bands make music, plus the country per se is very interesting, so is definitely going to be on our plans.

DG: Glad to hear you guys are interested in coming up!

WJNP: I personally would love to live in Canada someday haha!

DG: I don't think you'd regret it! Canada has got a ton to offer. I think I've got just a couple more questions, then we can wrap this up if that's cool with you?

WJNP: As many as you want!

DG: Cool! Other than music, what other hobbies are you and the rest of the guys into?

WJNP: Well, I can say that we love to hang out together, go out to drink, catch a movie, play video games, normal stuff friends do. It is hard to say because music is basically our lives, if its not doing our music, we love to review other bands music, or have ideas involving the band, stuff like that.

DG: Sounds like a sweet gig. Do any of the members of Zafakon work outside of the band?

WJNP: We all do work outside from the band, except for Nicko that recently got out of high school, but yes, we do have old boring jobs haha.

DG: Hey, you gotta make a living somehow!

WJNP: Yeah!

DG: So, Nicko is right out of high school? Is there a big age difference between him and the other members of the band?

WJNP: Well, I'm 3 years older than him, the biggest gap is between him and Marcus. That's an 8 year difference.

DG: That's not the biggest gap I've heard of, I mean in ANb, Scott Hull is over 40 and Kat is probably somewhere around 22 nowadays. But how does the age difference between Nicko and the rest of you play into the band dynamic?

WJNP: Yeah, it is pretty close. It plays perfect. You see, Nicko is 18 but he has been very mature always, since the first day we met him and he has always hung out with older people too, so yeah. He's the clown of the band haha!

DG: Well, sounds awesome that you guys all get along so great!

WJNP: That's the main key about it, we are more than a band, we're brothers.

DG: I hear you, that's definitely the most important part about being in a band, along side making sure everyone has fun. So, last question: any advice for up and coming metal bands out there?

WJNP: Main advice is be constant, be patient, and just keep going for what you aim for. This is a very fun thing to do, is a passion and if you have your goals set and you're ready for it, why not? For us it is the beginning, we just have to keep on focusing on what we want to get as a band and hopefully we will, that's basically the biggest advice I can give.

DG: Awesome! Anything else to say before we wrap up?

WJNP: First, thank you for the opportunity to help spread the word out and to all the people that have supported us from day one. If you want to know more about what's going on with Zafakon, you can go to www.facebook.com/zafakon! Cheers!

DG: Thanks so much for your time dude!

WJNP: Sure thing, thank you so much!

There you go, folks! I had a ton of fun chatting with Weslie, and I hope you guys liked reading through our little conversation. I wish Weslie and the rest of Zafakon the best on their upcoming tour, and I really hope we can get some Canadian shows happening!

The band's debut album is out now. Buy Zafakon merch and music at their BigCartel page, and check them out on Facebook and MySpace!

That's all for now, folks!


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