Interview by Alex & Michel Sanchez
Pics: Band’s courtesy
ESCAPE is one of those Cuban metal acts that you can’t miss from that red island. From the very beginning, they put out a demo called “Face your Fears” and started an ascending career in Cuba. There were many live shows, festival performances, demos, and album releases until 2013 when they embarked on a tour to the United States in which SXSW Fest in Austin was the main destination. After the festival and some other shows, they relocated to Miami, defecting the atrocious Cuban dictatorship to pursue freedom as one of the main and basic human rights. Adapting to a new country is always tough, Scriptorium also went through it, but ESCAPE’s strong determination kept rehearsing and performing shows despite the new circumstances. The change was hard to assimilate, but here they are, still playing the music once brought them together and put them on a stage. They keep facing their fears, but I look at them as winners. They remained loyal to what they love, and I thank them for it, many Cubans thank them for it. “Cuba Rebelion” is the Hymn of the uprising and it’s an ode in search of freedom. This interview coming out on the 4th of July is our tribute to Independence, liberty, and Justice for all.
Without further introduction, here I leave you with Yando Coy’s answers, ESCAPE vocalist and I confess that he has given one of the best interviews I have read in years. Enjoy!
Let's imagine that we are two metalheads who enter an ESCAPE show in Miami, how would you introduce the band to an unknown crowd? “…First of all, thank you for having us once again in SCRIPTORIUM. We are very happy to be part of these glorious pages again. We always introduce ourselves in the same way, as a metal band that comes from Cuba but managed to "escape" and now lives in Miami. We always keep the pure and clear energy that has characterized us, regardless of the place where we are performing, whether be small or large, our ultimate goal is and will always be to cause joy, attitude, and at the same time, connect with our music…”
In 2013, you guys managed to leave Cuba on a tour that reached the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. How did that tour happen? Was it difficult to escape from Cuba? “…The history of this tour is a bit long in terms of procedures and paperwork. But if it is possible to say that it was something unexpected when thinking that it could happen. It was a bunch of letters, papers, permits, and calls between both shores, which made this dream real at the end. As we already know, the "metal" sector in Cuba is not the most economically developed, so to speak, not even the bands came from a wealthy scene with good productions. Having said that, it is easy to imagine that the first thing to worry about would be the expenses of a trip and festival like this one. The difficult thing was the communication with the festival organizers in terms of emails, websites, etc. Can you imagine putting all our information together in order to go out? Cuba’s first steps with Internet was less than ten years ago, and all of the above is because of the murderous dictatorship that has ruled Cuba for more than sixty years. Well, it was difficult to escape because everything is difficult in Cuba. Everything is difficult to achieve in a country with a totalitarian regime for more than six decades. We were on the verge of thinking that we would not make it, but our desire to experience freedom was considerably greater and here we are…”
Let's talk about the last album you recorded in Cuba. “La hora de la Verdad” is the name of the album and it has a brave design produced inside the island. What happened to this record? Were you able to release it once in the United States? "..."La hora de la Verdad” is an album that was made in Cuba, with the same idea that all of ESCAPE's music. It has good social theme, we were trying to protest in our own way while still in Cuba, we protested for those who have been deceived by the government, and for those oppressed by the communist doctrine that have been imposed to follow for more than sixty years. The title of the album comes from the second song on that album. It’s a song that I wrote about my father’s life, who was a rebel army combatant, he fought in the mountains, and ended up as a soul captivated by lies and the revolutionary ideal led by the murderer and mobster Fidel Castro and his hitmen. My father was one another soul who died just six months ago, sunk in the most extreme poverty without ever seeing that dream come true.
The album cover and almost the entire recording was made by our bass player at that time, Alejandro de la Torre (El Dela), with whom I got very involved in trying to achieve a new product in terms of sound, without going against our energy and identity. I confess that there was a lot of conversations among all of us, trying to approve the new music without compromising the Hardcore and industrial Nu-metal energy that always defined us. As for the brave design, I think that the communists who check this kind of artwork, are also kind of jerks, so to speak, because they thought that our cover was an ode of honor to the highest "uninformative" media of the security of the state and the Cuban government: The Granma newspaper.
With the album, the only thing that happened was a great satisfaction in the band and I know that many of our fans loved it too. We won the so-called Cuba-disco 2010 Award in the best Rock album category. I know our music was used in several audiovisual projects inside and outside the Island, but I have to research a little more, because I do not have much information about it right now. About releasing it in the USA, it wasn't possible, especially because of our new country adaptation process, in which we lost several lifelong members and it was very difficult to adapt ourselves to this new life. It was hard to keep up with the band as we did in Cuba, although shortly after we were able to continue performing shows…”
SXSW Fest in Austin, concerts in Miami and New York have given you the opportunity to interact with different audiences. What sensations do you get from the memories of having played in NY and sharing a song with Alex Skolnick and later opening for TESTAMENT in Fort Lauderdale? “…Having played and met Alex Skolnick was a very positive experience and one of great joy and satisfaction for everyone who travelled to NY. He not only played "Rebelion" with us, but we were able to interact with him in a very pleasant way, and also meet many very young metal musicians who enjoyed our extreme genre. We feel very pleased to have that great experience. After having created that bond and with the help of Tracey, our great friend, and Jennifer, our old keyboardist, who later played with us in Miami for several months, we were able to be part of the lineup of one of the TESTAMENT shows at the Culture Room (Fort Lauderdale, FL). We found out that TESTAMENT was coming to play close to us, we contacted Tracey and Jenny, and the rest is history. They gladly added us to the event’s lineup, and with less than two week notice, we opened for this legendary band. It was a very well-produced show and we learnt from it a lot. We could see what it is like to play in an important event like this, how time is strictly regulated, the importance of each band having its own equipment ready hours before the show starts and the discipline in loading and unloading. All those factors were a bit shocking since we came from Cuba, a country that works completely different to reality. This show was a dream come true, the audience response was incredible, you could feel the connection and the good energy, the metal audience responded to us, even without knowing us, we loved it that night…”
Two founding members returned to Cuba just before flying to New York. How did these changes affect the music? Are you still performing without a keyboardist? “…It was something very hard and shocking to have to separate. We all have our own interests and priorities in life and that is very respectable. That is what happened with Yanio (lead guitarist) and “El Dela” (bassist), they had their way of seeing things and worries at that time, things that made their ability to stay in the United States impossible. We never thought they leave so quickly, we had that trip to New York for the first time in our lives, with almost everything paid, and three more shows scheduled in very important places in the city. In addition to that, we had the opportunity to live that great experience all together, visiting and getting to know New York City. It would have been very fun to share with Yanio, one of his best smiles in the midst, and also it’d has been very positive to share that place with El Dela. The music changes not only came from the departure of Yanio and Dela to Cuba, but also Justo (rhythm guitarist) felt it necessary to stay in New Jersey, just leaving the active format as a three-piece with Alejandro (drums), Jezabel (keyboards ) and me on vocals. When we decided to continue after several adversities here in Miami, our eternal task of searching for musicians for the band began, this delayed us enormously. With musicians coming and going, it did not give us the possibility of increasing our repertoire and stimulating the creative process. That's one of the reasons why we don't play with keyboards anymore, but we don't rule out the idea completely, we still feel that ESCAPE has a keyboard in their compositions and we really like to implement it. ESCAPE currently has a four piece format with Alejandro Padrón on drums, Aldo Díaz (ex-BLINDER) on guitar, Miguel Suarez on bass and me, Yando Coy on vocals…”
I applaud that the band has remained active these nine years in the USA, but it is no less true that it has been difficult for you to keep a stable lineup and there have been no recordings. Has it been hard for you to balance the band’s activity with the tough life of an immigrant? “… Well, I think I had already told you that it was very difficult to adapt, especially coming from the disaster system where we grew up. Throughout these nine years, we have had different problems that have made it impossible for us to move beyond, among them, the constant change of musicians, individual financial problems, and the inability at times to be able to bring everyone together due to the hectic life of a whole new country. The change in the line-up has been one of the main problems, either because we did not fully agree on the decisions or because of the inability of some musicians to attend rehearsals and shows. Concerning recordings, we were almost able to complete one with Matt LaPlant, a great producer who has worked with many bands that we ourselves follow and listen to daily such as NONPOINT, SKINDRED, among many others. That recording was not finished due to financial problems, as you can imagine and also lack of communication between the parties involved.
Well yes, it has been quite a challenge to learn how to balance both things, our emigrant life and the desire to continue playing metal, but believe me, it does not mean that we are going to stop, it just that it can be hard at times and even stressful, but stopping is not a choice. We enjoy what we do, it brought us here, and we will do everything we can because it is one of our greatest satisfactions in life…”
In Cuba you performed at almost all festivals, you played at Maxim Rock every month and earned much more money per shows. However, all that is smaller now in the US. Do you regret, at the band level, having come to live in this country? “… Regrets regarding the decision to be here, as a band and on a personal level, we do not have any at all. On the contrary, we feel very grateful to have opened our eyes to the world and to be able to face it as it is. What I achieved with ESCAPE before, we enjoyed it to the fullest, and as I told you, it brought us to where we are right now. It's just another stage in life, which we are reluctant to look at in a derogatory way. We enjoy every show, every club, every rehearsal, this satisfaction of feeling together and playing our music, the fun of seeing ourselves surrounded by friends who hum our songs letting us know that ESCAPE is just that, energy that connects us and keeps us alive without failing. This country opened the doors of freedom for us, the doors of education, work and discipline to go ahead. It showed us that the battle has never stopped, that we must always look forward, feeling good about what we do. Everything depends on us, our future, but we have this great country on our side and that fills us with pride…”
Do you long to play in Cuba? You would like to return and give a show in any province of Cuba. The only thing you would have to do is pay for the entire trip and play for free, hahaha. “…Of course we long to play in Cuba, we miss our audience in rebellion very much, and it never gets out of our minds. Now, in order to return to Cuba to play, which we would love to do, as I told you, there has to be another prevailing political system in our land. We do not want to play again under that communist and murderous regime, we do not want to be part of their circus or fill the pockets of the owners of the mafia that governs and manages our nation. We do not want them to use our name again to promote their shitty spaces, constantly manipulated to enrich a few and keep many others in extreme poverty and silence. To play in Cuba has to be a truly free country, where there are free elections and greater possibilities for its citizens, both in business and expression. We do not want to go and be governed by their obsolete and ridiculous book, we do not want to go and lend ourselves to their dirty game to spread crumbs on our behalf. We wouldn't mind playing for free as long as everything said above was already a fact. As I told you, we really miss our audience from Parque G, from Maxim, from La Tropical, from Metal HG, from Ciudad Metal, and from every corner of the island where we had the opportunity to bring our noise, and being able to see them again in front of us is something inexplicable that causes great emotion when just thinking about it. The feeling of seeing all the freaks singing “Cuba Rebelión” and “Back to the Pain” is a dream that we still have…”
What keeps you united and wanting to continue playing? Are you guys satisfied with just playing in bars and clubs or do you have other goals in mind? “…Our commitment is what makes us feel good and keeps us united. We stick together because we believe that it is not worth separating such good energy that flows when we get together and play our songs. That must be done without thinking about it, not doing it, would be to condemn ourselves against our own will. It would be rejecting something that we love to do regardless if the future will be good or bad. Satisfied would not be the term, we are not satisfied because we remain open to each new opportunity, and if the positive and great change comes, we will certainly embrace it. Meanwhile, we work without losing our hope, the rest is up to our work, dedication, and effort for the band. The future is still there, and we are moving towards it, the more connected and happy we do it, the better the result will be…”
Is the art of escaping a way to break the silence? Please, provide some other plans you have in mind and final comments for ESCAPE fans and SCRIPTORIUM readers. “…Our plans are very simple, keep playing and active, at least to achieve a monthly show in different locations and we are already doing it. We have a demo recording underway, which will include two songs. “Amenaza”, which is a song that we started in Cuba but here it has had a more modern redesign and has been very popular in our shows. The other one is almost finished but it still doesn't have a name, so it's a surprise, hehehehe.
Tell all our friends who listen to us, whether here at our shows, on online recordings, on old records from Cuba, on their PC's, etc., that we feel very grateful for having them, for having given us the strength to feel ESCAPE. We are very proud of always having a crowd in rebellion, an audience that has been so critical, friendly, and faithful to our idea and that fills us with happiness. To all the readers of this wonderful Fanzine, I would like to say that all the work done by the Cuban metal scene has been hard and painful. It has been very hard trying to make ourselves known a little beyond the communist walls of our imprisoned country, and when I say metal scene I am referring to everyone, the bands, the event or festival organizers, to those who bet on the most radical musical genre, to you twins for your tireless work, trying to bring to each Cuban freak our updates inside and now outside the island. To those who now read us, I thank you infinitely for being here and I ask you to put a fist always up high so that the metal never falls. The art of breaking the silence is the true way to escape from what has been killing us from within…”
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