INTERVIEW Etxegiña: “Stop being extreme for the sake of it!”

Little after their first EP titled “Herederos de Silencio”, Waldo, the founder of Etxegina, a band self-characterised as “RABM” (Red and Anarchist Black Metal) was kind enough to give an interview to Play This Loud! He spoke to us about his music and social influences since his childhood, each track of the album, his plans for the future but most importantly the powerful messages that can be communicated through the music that we love!

Hello Waldo! Very nice to meet you and thanks for the interview!

W: Hello! It’s nice meeting you as well. It’s not often that I have the opportunity to talk with a Greek media and I’m happy to know the band’s audience is growing in Greece. We’ve recently signed to True Cvlt Records for the vinyl edition of “Herederos del Silencio” and we’re glad to gain more friends from the hellenic scene. We’re grateful for your time and support!

Talk to us a bit about Etxegina, the idea behind the band and its concept.

W: Etxegiña is a Basque word meaning “house builder”. It was the nickname of my great-grandfather Ciriaco Urigüen Aranzabal who fought against the fascists during the Spanish Civil War. For that he was arrested and tortured. Luckily, he lived a long life. I chose his nickname to honor his fight but also because of its strong meaning.

  Its possible most people will think I’m stupid. But in a scene so rotten and obsessed with destroying stuff I think it’s important and urgent to build. I want to build musically and I want to build politically. Because I’m sick of how the tropes of destruction & rage are always portrayed in the same toxic masculine ways; how most bands are unwilling to acknowledge the hatred and harsh experiences of women, LGBTQIA+ & POC musicians.

  While our lyrics focus on past events, we can’t claim to be a political band and not address contemporary issues. It’s a problem a lot of antifascists face. They are seduced by a romantic fantasy or cannot resist the urge to create new icons for themselves. But if we don’t look around, we might hurt those around us like our predecessors did. One of the messages I want to spread with Etxegiña is that militant circles must do a real deconstruction work around problematic behaviors. Claiming to be a “leftist” doesn’t mean shit if you don’t constantly work on yourself as a person.

Etxegina are from a province with autonomist tendencies. Did this play any role in the conception of the band?

W: I guess it does impact me in some way, yes. I live in France but spend considerable time in Euskadi each year to be with my family. And growing up seeing demonstrations to free political prisoners is something you fon’t forget easily. That being said no member of my family is involved with autonomous groups. At least that I know of. I have been reading a bit about the Basque punk scene of the 80’s and 90’s and the history of anti-state experiments and actions of that era lately and I can say it is inspiring. It’s quite fun because my mother’s cousin used to play bass in the iconic punk band “Cicatriz”. I’d say my biggest political inspiration growing up was my historian and anarchist aunt. As far as music goes, the song “Los Cadáveres Insepultos de Albatera” is largely inspired by the antifascist popular Basque song Eusko Gudariak but I’d say my influences might feel more “Spanish” than purely “Basque”.

We see that the main topic that the band deals with is politics and mainly the Spanish Civil War. Why?

W: Talking about the Spanish Civil War wasn’t my first choice. To be completely honest, at first, I just wanted to write something that would have a rural feel to it and that might piss off right-wingers, as they love anything with a medieval or regional touch. But I just wanted to start my own band, you know? When you’re a bassist you end up in a lot of projects but rarely are the main composer.

  I always knew my family was on the wrong side of the Spanish Civil War but it was a pretty taboo subject. I guess eventually some stars align and it just so happens that I learned a few things about my heritage during the winter of 2018. In Valentine’s Day 2019 my girlfriend took me to see “The Silence of Others”, a documentary directed by Almuneda Carracedo & Robert Bahar. It deals with Franco’s dictatorship by focusing on the 1977 amnesty law. Basically, after Franco’s death & during the democratic transition, a law was voted to pardon and release political prisoners. The downside of that law is that every executioner was pardoned as well. The cops, the people that tortured incarcerated militants, they didn’t lose their positions. So, people often ended up living three blocks away from someone that had tortured them years before. It really showed how contemporary the problem was. How the Ghost of the dictatorship still haunted Spain.

  That documentary was a big shock. All the people in the small theater venue cried. I guess at least half the audience was partially of Spanish descent. I left the theater thinking I couldn’t just take this information and go back to my regular life. Then one of my aunts, that has two masters’ degrees in History, recommended me to read the books of anarchist journalist Eduardo de Guzmán. I started with “El Año de la Victoria” (The year of Victory). The least I can say is that it was a traumatic reading. From then on, I’ve continued to read books about the Spanish Civil War. But I often take breaks from it and try to read other political books. And when I can’t be around a political book because life’s shit, I just read The Hobbit, each time in a different language. Because you know, I have no idea how to relax, basically.

Why did you choose black metal and what were your main musical influences?

W:  It might seem basic but I chose Black Metal because it’s the genre that I’ve been listening to non-stop for nearly half of my life now. It’s hard for me to talk about references because I love a lot of bands that don’t sound anything like Etxegiña. We’re often described as “second wave” Black Metal. Maybe with a little extra modern touch to it. But as far as musical influences go, I’d say I write music basically singing. So, anything that can be sung inspires me. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of impressionists like Ravel, which makes me sound super snob, I’m aware of it.

Cover from Etxegiña’s first single “Nosotros los Extegiña”

The first track (nosotros los Etxegina) was an introduction to the band. You have now released your first EP titled “Herederos de Silencio”. What is the idea behind the EP and each of the other three tracks?

W: The record deals with the beginning and the end of the Spanish Civil War. “Herederos del Silencio” doesn’t follow a chronological order in terms of historical events but a general feeling. The first half is more martial and combative while the second half feels more depressing. I never start a song by writing the lyrics. So, I look out for musical coherence first and torture myself with writing something later.

  “El Roble que Brota Indemne” (“The Oak that grows unharmed”) is a reference to the Guernica Bombings and to a Basque tradition. You see, since the 14th century the Basque people take care of a sacred Oak that symbolises their freedom. Each time the Oak dies it is replaced by one of its sprouts. In the early 20th century, the tree that stood in Guernica was the third Oak, also known as the “Son Tree”. This tree survived the explosive and incendiary bombs of the German and Italian aviation in 1937. “El Roble que Brota Indemne” focuses on that Oak as a witness to the Bombings and a Keeper of the Basque people’s memory.

  “La Montaña” was a military barrack in Madrid. In the first days of the Civil War, the people of Madrid feared that the military would join the fascist coup. That is why hundreds of badly armed civilians gathered near “La Montaña” with a few cannons – a gift of some artillery officials – to ask for their cooperation or surrender. The army didn’t agree to the people’s terms and the bloodshed began. Despite the artillery’s cannons, the people had few weapons, lacked training and the government wasn’t exactly helping. Eduardo de Guzmán’s testimony of the siege of the barracks is breathtaking. I’ll always remember reading how inside the barracks some of the troops showed their party cards to prove they didn’t want to fight.

  Last but not least “Los Cadáveres Insepultos de Albatera” is a song about the Albatera concentration camp. Under the second Republic Albatera was a labor camp that held no more than 1049 prisoners. When the fascists took over, they transformed it in a concentration camp that held between 12.000 and 30.000 antifascist prisoners that were famished, tortured and executed. Rudolf Hess, appointed deputy to the Fuhrer visited Albatera. The Nazi regime was inspired by Franco’s death camps.

Despite Etxegina being a relatively new band, they have received quite a lot of support from both Spain, France and abroad. What do you think are the main reasons for that?

W: Well first of all I’m very surprised by the amazing feedback we’ve had so far. I had never shipped so many merch abroad since I started playing in Metal bands! It’s always difficult to answer a question like this. I guess there is always a bit of luck in cases like these. However, I have a few leads. First of all, the Spanish Civil War is a very popular theme amongst leftist circles and I haven’t heard of BM bands focusing on it. So even if you haven’t heard about it, you might find it interesting as bands usually focus on WWI and WWII. Then there’s the fact the RABM scene has not a lot of Epic & Melodic Black Metal bands. Atmospheric BM, Blackened Crust, Raw BM… there’s quite a few names that might come to mind. Epic & Melodic? Not so much. So, we might have filled an empty seat within the scene. Finally, the fact that we have a political message that isn’t anchored in the past is an important factor for our audience. And it enables us to speak and meet other people outside of the promotional time that follows a release.

Cover from Etxegiña’s most recent EP “Herederos de Silencio”

Are there any plans to release a full album? If so, when should we expect that?

W: Yes of course! I do have plans to release a full album! I’ve already started to write it and nearly two thirds of it are written. But that release will have to wait to 2023 I’m afraid. Because my plan is to unveil two 15 to 25-minute records in 2022. And there might be some surprises for the audience! The great news is that no one will have to wait two long years for new Etxegiña material to come out!

Would you like to send a message to the heavy metal fans worldwide and to the readers of Play This Loud?

W: To metal fans worldwide I’d say we need to start thinking more about the kind of scene we evolve in. The Metal scene has been a safe haven for toxic masculinity and problematic behaviors, be it racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, LGBTQIA+phobia, etc. I think it’s time to stop playing the childish game of being “extreme” for the sake of it and start thinking about why we create artistic pieces. For years now, a gargantuan number of bands have been participating in a degrading race whose goal is to be as problematic or shocking as possible. But they’ve done it without purpose. They’ve done it from the comfort of their own privilege without questioning why they were pushing some boundaries. “Shock” value with no regard for your surroundings and no political thought is garbage to me. You’re not edgy for being a misogynistic prick to women artists. You’re not superior for mis-gendering someone at a show. You’re not “cool” because the artwork of your CD has a flying dick on it. I get that people don’t want to hear this. Because music is seen as a way to escape your problems. But we can’t escape the harsh reality we live in by reproducing the same shit through music. I’m not saying every band should have political lyrics. But things need to change. From the rehearsal room to the local venue.

  To the Play this Loud team I’d say I’m grateful for you to give me this platform to talk about music and politics and I hope you’ll continue to promote antifascist bands on your site!

Thanks a lot for your time!

W: Thanks to you for your kindness and interest in our music and political message. Keep up the good work. I wish all your team lots of health and wisdom!

Etxegiña’s releases and merch are also available on bandcamp: https://etxegina.bandcamp.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/etxegina_rabm/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Etxegina/

Contact: etxegina.colectivo@gmail.com

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