By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Bilbao, North Spain-based band Kartzarot dropped their most recent release ‘L’ in 2019, but have proven that their music is still timeless.
Their original stint lasted from 1989 through 1999 before a 2013 reunion with some new members sparked a surprise concert and new self-produced album.
Influenced by a range of genres from British heavy metal to American hard rock, they had the opportunity to make sure ‘L’ sounded up to par with producer Pedro J. Monge, as they recorded it in Chromaticity Studios.
Lyrically focused on topics like unemployment, sexism and Alzheimer’s, it showcased Kartzarot’s ability to voice concern on relevant social matters.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with guitarist Rober Mellid and drummer Jorge Cobelo about what they’ve been up to lately and more.
Music Bugle – What inspired the band name?
Jorge Cobelo – The name “Kartzarot” is the basque misspelling of the name “Carcharoth,” the character from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion.” I know it actually sounds kind of cheesy, but you gotta admit that type of weird funny stuff happened a lot among non-English-speaking, late eighties’ Southern European metal bands. I’m afraid that’s the true story.
Rober Mellid – This character from the book is a terrifying wolf that is present in our albums’ front covers and we also make mention of the wolf in some lyrics.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your type of music?
Jorge Cobelo – Freedom. “Dad music,” such as metal, allows you to create and perform any arrangement you choose. As a band, we could start playing 280 BPM, blast beats with accordions and harmonicas and nobody would – style-wise – care a shit.
Rober Mellid – What excites me most is the fact of starting to compose a song from a simple guitar riff and several months later, you can see a really complex song after joining all the instruments. No one has limits in Kartzarot. Any idea is wecome.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Bilbao, North Spain to someone who has never been there before?
Jorge Cobelo – Bilbao is kind of a one million population, fake service industry small town. I mean “fake” because it somehow is just one big mall. Economics are indeed based upon shopping and tourism is declining due to local government conservative policies. The so-called “Guggenheim effect” is fading. Anyway, areas and landscapes close – or even in – the metropolitan area are freaking beautiful. Green and oceanic. On the other hand, Bilbao’s soccer-dependence pisses me off, even if we got a song about the local soccer team – “‘Gure Heroiak.” The reason why I’m sick of all that soccer stuff here is that it socially suffocates any other cultural activities.
Rober Mellid – One of my Norwegian clients at work told me Bilbao was the best city in the world and this guy has travelled a lot.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Jorge Cobelo – We’ve been pretty lucky due to our goals as a band. We usually play just a few, but well-paid and fun-to-perform gigs each season/year, so the pandemic hasn’t been such a huge pissoff in terms of schedule and the quarantine allowed us to start composing new stuff.
Rober Mellid – The way we used to work hasn’t been affected because in Kartzarot, we work the songs independently. Now, the two guitar players are starting to put in common ideas, after eight months with no rehearsal.
Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your last album?
Jorge Cobelo – It was very 2018-ish, which is somehow rare among 50-year-olds. All tracks’ riffs and main melodics were composed by guitarists Rober and Javier Gallego. Then, bassist Sergio Robredo and I arrange our parts. Then, vocalist Asier Vicario writes the lyrics and vocal lines. There has definitely not been any “garage” composing nor “beer time at the basement” moments.
Rober Mellid – Absolutely. Any idea comes from home. There is no room for arrangements while rehearsing, but for definition of structures for vocal parts.
Music Bugle – Are you working on any new music?
Jorge Cobelo – Yes. Indeed, we’ve already got six new tracks in process. Thanks, COVID-19.
Rober Mellid – When we finished ‘L,’ we said it probably would be our goodbye to the studios, but COVID has changed things because we’ve had plenty of time to work new songs. It would be a pity to leave that work not recorded somehow.
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
Jorge Cobelo – “In Europe, we eat a lot, we drink a little wine, we have espresso, we go back to the hotel, take a big shit and then we go play,” from Toni Kukoc, in Chicago, 1994.
Rober Mellid – After resuming the band in 2013, we realized the band played and sounded as never before. Thanks to our rhythmic base, things improved a lot and this is for me, the best motivation – to play in a band where every one has his space, but still looking after the song.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you feel the need to escape?
Jorge Cobelo – The fridge. I hope that answer feels nor foody hipster nor “Indiana Jones And The Crystal Skull”-ish. Sorry. As I said, we eat a lot.
Rober Mellid – I go to the swimming pool. Wink, wink.
Music Bugle – What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned through your time with the band?
Jorge Cobelo – Attitude and image/look are not only not equals, but opposites, actually.
Rober Mellid – We take this as a hobby and technicians usually are professional people, but you are no less important than them. We need to collaborate together and keep on well with other bands.
Music Bugle – What’s something you wish happened more in today’s music industry?
Jorge Cobelo – Bands and musicians should try to be more crazy on stage and forget about how appealing they are on pics, how their new tattoos look like, or how the lighting guy is making their spiked bracelet shine when making horns at the audience. There are plenty of overproduced and great-looking bands on media – both traditional and social – that can’t live up to the hype due to poor live performing and I’m not talking just about skills and technical prowess, but attitude and energy and sometimes – most times – poor-looking bands end up being the most energetic ones live.
Rober Mellid – From the point of view of the audience, in Spain festivals, promoters deal with us as a herd of sheeps. Prices, drinks, facilities, all are fully overrated. I hope things change from now on and reach the status of other European festivals.