Good timing or bad timing? I am not really sure, but the fact is that the day after I put the finishing touches to this interview, the news that Cobra had secured a deal with the quality label Ván Records, reached me. Of course I am happy for the band, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to discuss what must be a big triumph and maybe also a huge surprise for the Peruvian quintet.
Anyway, with about two months to go until the album is available here in Europe, “To Hell” is out since a few weeks through Austral Holocaust in the band’s home country. I got in contact with one of Cobra’s guitarists, Nito, to learn a bit more about this very interesting heavy metal act. There have been a lot of lineup changes in Cobra since the band was formed back in 2005, and it seems there have been changes on all instruments. My conclusion is that there really can’t be more than one or two original members left?
– The band was formed in 2005 by Pochuck (drums) and me. The lineup became stable in 2006. In the beginning there were lots of lineup changes, but in those days the band had no clear direction. All the foundations of what is now Cobra were set throughout 2006, so we could say that the current members are also original. I would add Haziel, singer on “Demo I”, who left the band shortly after that and O’Corvo, drummer throughout 2006 as past members.
I guess you found the direction back in 2006 then. How did it happen? Did you find the right members and then the right direction, or was it the other way around?
– I guess that with Haziel we started to think that we had to do aggressive heavy metal. Shortly after that, Harry (the current vocalist) came and we maturated that idea working together.
If I am correct, the lineup on “To Hell” is the same that plays on “Lethal Strike”. For how long have this lineup performed together? With so many changes in the past, how have the five of you managed to stay together for such a long time?
– Since 2007 the same people have been playing in Cobra and we are still making plans for the future. We have a good and close friendship within the band, and between the members, and we all share the same musical ambitions, so it’s normal that there are not a lot of problems after such a long time. Or, there are problems eventually, but we find ways to overcome them.
Your first full length included songs from quite a long period of time. Did songs like “Rockmetal” and “Blessed By Beer”, which I believe were written back in 2005, change a lot from when you first made them till they ended up on “Lethal Strike”?
– I think these are the same songs played by different persons, that’s the only difference. There was no further intention to change the old songs.
Did you feel that the fact that the material on “Lethal Strike” was made during a period of many years was a strength as it gave you time to work on the songs till they were perfect, or did you feel that the material ended up sounding a little different and that perhaps not all the songs were on the same level?
– All the songs on “Lethal Strike” were completed in 2008, so we had enough time to sharpen them, but we didn´t do any major changes. I don´t think time should be a problem at all. Some songs are finished in years and others in days, but once they are finished, we don´t do any major changes. For example if I had to re-record that album again, I would make only minor changes in the lyrics.
What about the lyrics would you like to change, and why?
– We are now more demanding in that sense, and we give more importance to the lyrics. It is an aspect that we now work almost as much on as the music unlike on the first album.
You recently did a video for the “Denim Attack”? As the video shows a live appearance, why did you choose this particular track for a video? The song includes the line “Warriors Of The Underground/Real Heavy Metal Is Back”. What is “real” heavy metal to you, and has do you think it ever went away?
– When we thought about a song to make a video to, we realized that “Denim Attack” was the one which synthesized the whole “Lethal Strike” album. This is a very low fi, low budget production but we are satisfied with the result. The phrase “Warriors…” does not make reference to Cobra, it describes the phenomenon in these days to revalorize traditional heavy metal, in the nineties there were very few bands that continued this legacy. Nowadays names like Tank or Angel Witch inspire respect.
Some time ago you were “Band of the Week”, chosen by Fenriz. As I wonder how much his voice counts, did you get more attention than usual in form of press enquiries and likes on Facebook right after this happened?
– Maybe just a little more, but it didn´t represent a groundbreaking change for the band. It was more like a big honor for us.
On “Lethal Strike”, the artwork had references to most of the song titles on the album, and with “Dead End” even a song that wasn’t on the album. Who came up with this idea, and were you satisfied with the end result?
– The references were in the back of the booklet. I think that I had the idea and everyone was fine with that. The end result could be better but I can live with that.
– The music is not just about the sound, it´s about what you want to transmit. “To Hell” is a record that shows our commitment with rock and roll and heavy metal. We try to do it in the music, the lyrics and the interpretation. We wanted to sound savage, like if a rock and roll demon possesses you. The commitment of metal being raw is what we wanted to illustrate with a banger having a pact with a demon. But Alan took the idea to another level; we are more than satisfied with his work.
The lyrics to the song “Scene Of Our End” was very different to the rest of the lyrics on your debut, as it seemed to be about war and religion and not the usual play metal, drink and drive fast-stuff. On the new album the lyrics seem to be more mature and better written. Not so many about playing metal and drinking, but a few about war this time as well. Comment?
– We don´t usually talk about war, we don’t write specifically about something. I think that the lyrics are better written now, but the themes are the same. For example “To Hell” is about heavy metal, but it´s not just “I like metal and I play my guitar”, it´s another approach to the same thing.
Was there something specific about “Lethal Strike” that you weren’t satisfied with and wanted to improve on this new album?
– Everything but the songs. I mean: the production, the artwork, the distribution…
What about the production on the debut would you like to change?
– Is basically the sound. It does not sound bad, but due to the nature of the songs I think the mix should sound more like Oz’s “Fire in the Brain”, with the guitars sounding sharper, and a brighter snare. Not so compact.
On your debut, I think all band members were credited for writing one or more songs. Have all members been involved this time too? Do you write on your own and bring the stuff to the band, or how does the songwriting in Cobra work? Do you feel the different members have different styles of writing?
– What has worked fine until now, is to write stuff on our own and then give it shape in the rehearsals. Definitely each one of us has their particular way of writing music. However, this album is the first time that the five of us have worked together in this sense because we decided to make modifications to some songs and we are satisfied with the result. It’s a fact that five heads can bring more ideas than only one, but sometimes inspiration may come even if you are taking a shit. I hope that we can find a balance between both ways to work.
Many people talk about the “difficult second album”. You have already said you have worked really hard on all aspects about “To Hell”. Was this because it was a difficult one to make, or because you really want to take the band to the next level?
– It´s maybe the second point, but the next level for us is to develop a better way to make our music. We have goals like travelling to more places to perform, record more albums and build a life with Cobra in it, that´s the next level for us.
Of the eight tracks on the new album, “Inner Demon” is an older song, which also featured on the promo from 2008. “Fallen Soldier” is another older song as it also featured on the split with Skull from 2009”. What about the rest? When were they written? What’s the oldest and the newest song on the album?
– The oldest is definitely “Inner Demon”, there are videos of us playing that song from 2007. I think that in 2010, before the release of our first album, we had a close idea of which songs to include on the second album, like seven of the eight tracks. The last song to complete the record was “Rough Riders”, which we finished it in 2012, just before we started to rehearse seriously for the recording sessions.
Your last album, as well as the new one, is out through Austral Holocaust, a label based in your hometown Lima. Since “Lethal Strike” gained some positive response in Europe, I guess there must have been some interest in the band from European labels? Do Austral Holocaust have enough contacts to make everyone that wants a copy of the new album happy?
– There was some interest built in Europe due to “Lethal Strike”, but there were no offers from any label yet. We are very comfortable in Austral Holocaust, we feel free to make all the decisions over our music, that’s the most important thing for us. Austral Holocaust is a label that is growing, just like Cobra, so I think that this time we will have a better distribution over the globe.
The recently announced deal with Ván should certainly take care of that.
Your debut was produced by Erick Neyra who is the owner of your label and also the singer of Goat Semen. Has he also produced the new album? What is he like to work with?
– He is a man who has believed in Cobra since the beginning and has made a very strong effort to give us all the necessary facilities to record under good conditions. We have also built a strong friendship along these years, so it would be strange if his name is not related to the band in the the time to come, even if he is the producer or not.
Looking at the t-shirts you are wearing in promo pictures, there is a lot of NWOBHM in there, I recognize bands like Venom, Avenger, Jaguar, Saxon to name a few. I guess this music is of great importance for the sound of Cobra? In March you are performing at the Evil Confrontation II festival along with headliners Satan. What are your thoughts on the comeback album they did and also their classic “Court In The Act”?
– Definitely there are a lot of bands from the NWOBHM that are an influence for us, especially the wildest ones. But we like heavy metal music, real heavy metal music from all around the world, we don’t mind the country.One release which blew out our heads was Satan’s “Court In The Act”, this is one of the greatest masterpieces of heavy metal. Personally, this record made me to get into underground heavy metal, so the Evil Confrontation Festival II is a very special date for us. You don’t have the opportunity to share stage with your heroes every day. About “Life Sentenced”, I think it’s an album done with a lot of hard work, with some purpose to be the continuation of “Court In The Act”. I like it a lot, it’s a good album. I enjoy it, but it isn’t as brilliant as their first album.
How would you describe the heavy metal-underground in Peru these days? Traditional heavy metal bands seem to be popping up everywhere at the moment. Which Peruvian bands can you recommend?
– Peru is better known in the extreme metal scene for bands like Mortem, Hadez, Goat Semen and Anal Vomit. Heavy metal was seen here as “light music”. So, there is not a heavy metal movement here, but there are a few bands that are working proudly with the traditional metal flag like Mandrágora, Lightning (https://metalsquadron.com/demo-reviews/) and the almighty Stonehead, which is maybe the best band from Peru.
How important is the Cobra for you? How often do you rehearse, and how many gigs do you play during a year? What do the band members do for a living? I guess there aren’t money to be earned from playing in Cobra?
– You cannot live of music in our country, and especially not music that doesn’t intend to be commercial, so each of us have regular jobs. Each of us works to make money, and also works hard on Cobra, because having a band is not only about composing or rehearsing, which we usually do a few times a week, there are many small extra things that add up, and if we don’t do it by ourselves, no one else will do it. However, even though we spend much of our free time on Cobra, the band is not an obstacle to achieve our goals in life. On the contrary, our goals are in the band, our regular jobs are just a way to keep alive Cobra, so you can imagine the importance it has in our lives.
What is the biggest dream for the band? Realistically you won’t sell ten thousands of records or play sold out tours, but what would be a dream come true for Cobra?
-In fact, I would like to go on tours all over the world, live off the band and release albums every year, but I think my principal dream is that, while the band is alive, and I hope this is for the rest of my life, we always want to make things better like we do now and don’t lose what we call “the eye of the tiger”. Something that happens to almost all bands.
You are looking to tour Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile as part of the “From Hell”-tour. What is the biggest challenge trying to set up gigs or tours in these countries?
– I think there are two main factors: The transport system is very deficient and there aren’t a lot of cities where you can get gig dates. This makes you cover longs distances by earth transport in the shortest time possible, with little budget, as none of us earns money during these travels. It’s a big challenge, but we feel it’s worth it when we meet headbangers from other places with other life realities who talk the same language of metal.
Have you experienced any big problems while touring in your own countries or in the countries mentioned?
– I think the biggest problem was when we were on tour in Ecuador and Colombia. We had a date in Bogotá in Colombia on a Saturday, and the next was in Loja in Ecuador on a Tuesday. After the show in Bogota, we traveled 56 hours by bus and arrived in Loja when the show was starting, but the organization left us outside the show because we arrived “late” and were not paid as agreed.