ZAFAKON: Embracing Evolution

Interview with Zafakon

We do not cross paths with bands from Puerto Rico so often, but we are glad to know Zafakon. The band that released two studio albums so far, ‘War as a Drug‘ in 2013 and ‘Release‘ in 2015, got a great chance to open for Metallica in San Juan, when the biggest metal band on planet played there recently. About the band’s work, experience from the mentioned show, and more, Zafakon tell us in the interview below.

Define the mission of Zafakon.

Marcus Veit: We want to bring something new, yet familiar to the table. We have always strived to break out of our own borders, geographically and otherwise. Ultimately we want to bring our sound to every pair of ears that will listen.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your latest album Release and the themes it captures.

MV: There are a few songs on the record that were basically created “on the spot”. For example the track “The Optimist” came from a riff Yhann played there for us as we were composing. It just flowed right there and as we started adding ideas. The song was basically finished in an hour. Release is a bit different to its predecessor War as a Drug when it comes to the themes involved in the lyrics. That album was more politically charged than this one. Even though Release also has some political songs, for example “Prevaricator”, it also has more of a personal and introspective touch to it. Also for this one we did a sort of trilogy with the songs “I. Conveyor of Shame,” “II. Sirens” and “III. Release.” Those three songs each tell part of a story and also relate musically.

What is the message you are trying to give with Release?

With Release we wanted to show a more melodic and technical side of our sound. We believe that one shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with different sounds and styles. The message is that evolution is something to be embraced.

Zafakon - Release

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

Weslie Negrón: We all recorded our ideas in our respective laptops and then we would send it to each other so we could practice our parts by ourselves, so we could be ready to jam it when we got together. I still have most of those draft files in my computer. The best part is the “draft” names that we would put to all of the ideas, pretty funny stuff in there.

MV: Also I would sometimes “hum” the song idea in my head into my phone’s voice recorder and then translate that into the guitar at home. And no, nobody will ever get to hear those voice recordings. Ever.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Yhann Ortiz: Don’t know about carefully architected, but we did consider the album as a whole during songwriting and other stuff, such as track order. An album should flow nicely, not just be a random selection of songs.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

YO: It was my first time recording in a professional setting and there was a lot at stake (we were short on time and cash). To top things off my guitar was giving out some signal difficulties that hindered the recording process. There are still a few things that I wish I could go back and fix but what’s done is done.

How long Release was in the making?

MV: Well if you take into consideration that the first song we wrote for that album, which is “II. Sirens”, was written more than a year before we went into the studio, then I’d say about a year and a half. But the bulk of the work for the album was just about five to six months.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

YO: I was influenced by Revocation, Megadeth, Soundgarden, Acid Bath, Racer X, Cynic, Allan Holdsworth and An Endless Sporadic, to name a few.

WN: In my case, I wanted to portray more of my progressive influences, so bands like Opeth, Porcupine Tree, The Contortionist, etc. were (and still are) constantly on my playlist. Based on that, I started studying the different approaches from each of the bass players and incorporate what worked more with the song into my playing.

Zafakon with Metallica

Zafakon with Metallica

Speaking of influences, you were a direct support for Metallica in Puerto Rico when they played last time. What is your experience from the show? How was it meeting one of the largest, if not the largest, metal band on the planet?

WN: It was a surreal week, really. Based that we got the spot by winning the “Hit the Stage” voting for the Puerto Rico show, watching the amazing support from everyone, of both from Puerto Rico and from outside the Island, it was a very special moment for us. The show itself was as great as we thought it was going to be, and having the chance to meet them it’s a milestone that I can gladly say that was possible, but we couldn’t do it with the amazing support of all of our followers, friends, and family.

What is your view on technology in music?

WN: I think that in these times it’s impossible to resist technology. As artists we must converge with the different changes in the business aspect of the industry, the constant changes in technology, etc. Streaming services are the number one source so people can listen to the music that we create, we cannot fight that and it’s going to keep on growing.

MV: In my case, technology is one of my passions. I think it’s definitely something to be embraced. Be it in the recording studio or live gigs. It’s been proven before that the fight against the times is a fight sure to be lost.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

MV: I sure would like to believe so. I know that a lot of people need this music just to get through their day. And I know that someone, somewhere might just listen to what I have to say, and find meaning to them behind it. That would probably be the complete realization of what music is about.

What are your plans for the future?

MV: We are currently considering the idea of getting back in the studio very soon. There are already some new song concepts floating around so we might just start getting something concrete very soon. Aside from that we are currently planning to get on the road again this year, so everybody stay tuned so you know the when and where!

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