Cenobita is processor and thinker, Cenobita is contemplator and algorythmic, Cenobita is a wise anchorite, Cenobita is wire and artery, Cenobita is cyberpunk, Cenobita is sublime noise, Cenobita is the truth, Cenobita is blood and oil, Cenobita is cartilage and welding, Cenobita is evolution and renewal, Cenobita is neo millenium… is neo millenium…
C.B. – Cenobita’s history and background are extensively dealt with in the band’s website. However, one question remains, why the name ‘Cenobita’?
Cenobita means in english cenobite (obviously). An anchorite. A person who is dedicated to find the meaning of life, through analysis of reality. Like a monk, or so. I consider each of my songs as reality studies, and I also consider that each and every one of us is a cenobite at some point in life, because we always deal with the same old questions, who, where, how, when… etc. With my songs I expose my point of view of reality, sometimes transposed to future tense and sometimes abstracted for human perception.
C.B. – William Gibson, “Neuromancer” and the cyberpunk movement are mentioned as some of the main inspirations for Cenobita. What other personalities, works and philosophies were crucial in shaping Cenobita as a creative entity, both in the past and nowadays?
I consider William Gibson as my father, ideologically speaking. A true visionary of modern days. He exposed through out his novels, basically on the cyberpunk trilogy, a new meaning of life, and his visions have been happening from time to time. The other great agent influencing my work is my home town, Mexico City. It is terrible to live in such a crowded and polluted place. Imagine 20 million people congregated here. You can find a big cauldron of inspiration, just on a daily basis. Not going too far, last night I got robbed and assaulted by policemen, they pointed me a gun to my throat, and stole all my money, watch, credit card, cellphone, etc. It was a fortune I was not killed. And this kind of things happen every day. People living in the gutters, children selling blow jobs to buy some dope, angry and desperate suicides along the subway, pollution making people sick from breathing carbon monoxide mixed with fecal particles, kidnappers that cut fingers off their victims for ransom, etc… it is a very cyberpunk scenery let me tell you… we even have the sky like a TV monitor tuned into a dead channel… No further influence or philosophy is needed.
C.B. – An interesting aspect in Cenobita’s history is La Corporación, the cooperative association of bands, the goal of which was to achieve bigger exposure of electronic-based music. Can you tell us a bit more about La Corporación and how it came to be? Does the association still exist?
La Corporacion was founded by the musicians ourselves. At that time, we had no exposure at all. We were a very underground scene. There were a few people involved, and not a very big crowd, since there was no exposure at all. We thought of bringing new people to the scene. Everybody was looking for something new, and alternative music back then, was so boring. Nothing fresh was coming out from anywhere, so we thought that the real alternative music, was into electronic music. But not associated with techno or trance, since they already had their boom. So we thought of an organization, capable of producing its own concerts, tapes, promotions, etc… We worked for the musicians by the musicians. The original line up were Cenobita, Deus Ex Machina, Hocico, Kristi Artefactum, Oxomaxoma and Soucerx. We worked together organizing concerts around the city, opening spaces. It was very hard to break with old schemes for live acts. Rock oriented bands, dominated the scene, so watching an electronic band perform in Mexico, was very odd for the crowd. But the crowd understood the concept, and they seemed to bring over more and more people because of this “new” sound. A few other bands joined La Corporacion later on, this projects were formed, inspired by the concerts given by the bands from Corporacion.
Everything was very good, but unfortunately it all went down the drain, when some members did not work on the same level as others. And again, a fight of interests caused a rupture. Selfishness and egocentric behaviour caused some bands to leave the association. The main idea behind La Corporacion, was to do something for unsigned bands, by the musicians themselves. It still a good concept, but it seems that nobody is willing to work as a team anymore. Still the remaining bands (a lot of them are dead now), still help each other with equipment, advice, colaboration, but everything is done on a more personal level, and not through a Union (Syndicate), like we wanted it to be. Corporacion will always be the mother of all organizations here in Mexico.
C.B. – Nowadays, what is the situation as far as creative interaction between mexican electro/industrial/cyberpunk bands? And within the South American continent?
There are very few colaborations in Mexico, creatively speaking. But there are some. Have in mind, that mexican electronic music scene is not that big, and there are not as many bands as we would expect. But there is some production involved with some bands of the scene. Some compilations have been made in Mexico, joining in the mexican bands. Like the recent Electrocinetik, compiled by the local club Dada X, or maybe an older one called Paraiso Holocausto from Genital Productions, where they compiled songs not only from Mexico, but some artists from central and south America. I personally have good relationship with brazilian Aghast View, I remixed a song from them, which will be released sometime this year on a new album, and am working on another remix for brazilian act Reality. There are not many bands that have been internationally recognized, but there are definitively some bands around with good proposals. We would have to wait and see what happens.
C.B. – Do you feel that with the recent projection of mexican bands to foreign countries there is a danger that the “mexican sound” can serve as a bandwagon for copycat bands to jump in search of a quick buck?
I dont see this situation as a danger, but as an honour. Mexican sound, if there is something like that, is mainly influenced by european ebm, and more oftenly by old school electro. Even though new bands come out, and are working to get a better production, the old school influence is still noticeable….but I really dont think there would be quick bucks over this genre!!!!
C.B. – When listening to Cenobita, one cannot fail to notice, apart from rage and revolt, strong feelings of respect, reverence and dignity in every song, as well as very strong influences from Mexican culture and tradition. These, in my opinion, are especialy noticeable in the way religious references are treated, the most obvious example being the lyrics and emotional charge of the song “cristo 2000”. How do you handle this tapping into mexican spirit and folklore concepts? Is there an active effort in trying to merge spiritual tradition with more recent ‘western’-originated concepts?
Every Cenobita song is a detailed appreciation of reality, or a short cyberpunk story based on it. Religion is a deep issue into mexican people. Strong catholic beliefs are rooted into mexican souls. To say an example, devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe (local holy figure) is greatly spread out, through out all economic levels, mainly the poor ones. People often walk very long distances, and even bleed from going on their knees, just to see her holy image.
It is obvious that the goverment and corporations take advantage of this situation, feeding shit into people, while conforting them with religious embraces. While the people is entertained, either call it mass cult or soccer game, they can stand the poison in their minds, their jobs, and their economy. Spiritual and folklore concepts mark my music as for the influence that I go through everyday. Sometimes it is very irritating to deal with social formalities imposed to onto people. A big problem in Mexico is education level, and it is still part of our society, that poor education affects a big majority. I really do not agree about some traditions, that only take us way back. I think that we will always be walking backwards because of this.
C.B. – In view of this, how would you define Cenobita and its goals? One might even risk asking wether there is an ideological message of some sort… the lyrics are obviously not ‘filler’ material.
Lyrics for me are very important. The main goal with Cenobita is exposing reality to people, make them think about it, and let them make their own perspective. Sometimes the lyrics are not that obvious. I like to make people construct their own panorama for a song. All of my work, has a social message after all. In Neo Milenio the first CD release, for example. The album itself is a Millenium study, it was what I thought could be a representation of the millenium. Every song is an aspect of human condition and human scenery, just before the beginning of the new era. With my songs, I just want to make my point of view, and maybe on the road, some might join my own perspective, or maybe others might break the line. Cyberpunk vision, can make us visualize a better world in the future, and might help us understand our own way of thinking. There is an traditional phrase in Mexico, that says: “Think bad, and you will guess right…”
C.B. – Some time ago, Omar Flo left Cenobita. Were there any changes in Cenobita’s goals with Omar’s departure?
Not really. I am still the ideological feeder of the project :) Music-wise, I have always been 100% in charge of all writing. And lyrically about 50%. So as you can see, I have been involved in Cenobita more than anybody else, so no goals have changed at all.
C.B. – How do you feel the project will evolve now that it is a one-man project?
First of all let me tell you that to work alone makes me feel GREAT!!!!! It was the best thing for me as a project. I have all the responsability for all the decitions made, and now I am in charge of the direction of Cenobita completely. I feel totally in a state of freedom. Besides I think my vocal style suits better for the music. And I have experience from live performances, that audience dig my style very much. Omar will always be missed. But an evolution in sound is very obvious in this upcoming release. I think it would be appealing to all the fans. My music has been developing from Neo Milenio, it has been a couple of years since I wrote those songs. So expect an evolution of sound construction and structure.
C.B. – “Neo Milenio” was published in 1999. By now one can guess that you probably have been working on a new Cenobita album (and even that it may be released soon…). Can you tell us something about the next album and what can we expect from it?
The new album will be called “Metamorfosis” and I think will be around by May or June. It will come out in Europe through Trisol/Matrix Cube. It will definitively be a surprise for the ones familiarized with my old sound, but I know that will appeal to the fans. It will be as the title says, a complete metamorphosis of Cenobita. I can tell you that it is oriented for the hard floor. You will know about it soon.
C.B. – Apart from Cenobita, do you have any other musical projects running at the moment? And what about future plans?
I have a cover songs project. I only play live with it, and it is called just Claus Bita. I play eighties songs, with EBM style. It has been very well accepted among the people. And it is making other audiences, that know the classic eighties toons, to watch over to EBM or electro music as a source for new music. Maybe in the future I will do some colaborations, but that would have to be later on this year or maybe next one. I also want to do a noise project, but don’t know yet. I would also like to do some music for a sountrack. I worked for a french movie to be released this year, I can’t tell you which one, but you will find updates at my website.
C.B. – Quite a few bands from the industrial and cyberpunk music scenes are moving away from experimentation an settling for more accessible sound schemes, wether danceable or synthpop. How do you view this current trend?
I dont have anything agaist trends. I suppose that whatever satisfies an artist should be ok. Call it art, style or money. Dancier stuff gets to more people eventually, so commercialization is not bad at all. The only thing is that trends constantly disapear, so today’s ebm is dangerously getting somewhere around there. Cenobita’s new album, is more dancier than Neo Milenio, and I use newer synths, which enrich the sound of Cenobita. I even have some “sing-along” parts on a few songs, which I think would have a better effect on people. In a way my sound is cleaner, because of the concept of the new album, but instead of saying it is “commercial” I would say that it is just an evolution of my music, since I have evolved as a person too.
C.B. – And what about the majority of the people in an audience that care more about the beat and the ‘dance potential’ of a song rather than the craft that goes into it and the significance that it may carry?
Well that sucks major ass, because the kids at the clubs are usually just interested in having a good time dancing and enjoying themselves. I am not saying is not good to have fun, what I want to make a point is that Industrial scene, used to be very powerful, with political ideas and resistance messages. It was movement with a real background, and industrial artists had something to say. I think that lately much of this essence is gone, and true meaningful lyrics have been partially lost. Maybe nowadays, it is just a matter of writing a catchy tune, and say whatever you come up with, and that is about it.
C.B. – Which pretty much makes me ask: what is the receptivity of the general mexican public to electronic music, in particular the industrial and cyberpunk genres?
It has been hard as I told you before, to open the minds of the people used to rock oriented bands. Even radical rock bands, like hardcore punk, would be more popular than electronic acts back then. Things have been changing over the years, and now an electronic culture is being cultivated. We have a regular club every weekend, playing ebm, we have had international acts playing Mexico City, like VNV Nation, In Strict Confidence, Assemblage 23, E-Craft, etc. Very little radio and no TV, but we are all working hard for the scene to grow, and to keep it. There are a lot of things to be done, and we are just starting off.
C.B. – Do you think that audiences abroad are more open-minded?
Yeah, definitiviely are more open minded. The only problems I see about international or specialized markets, like Germany, is that there are a lot of bands coming out. So it is practically impossible to have all the releases from each and every band coming out. On the counterpart, in places where no electronic act has never been heard or seen, people tend to pay more attention to you. I have seen this in Mexico. Some places would just consume everything that comes in, so they would listen to you, because they see electronic acts as a new proposal.
C.B. – What about ‘specialized’ public? What is the mexican ‘scene’ like and would you say it is different from other countries (like in European countries or the U.S.)?
For me mexican audience has been the best people to perform to. Fans are very loyal. My people are very friendly, and very easy going. They get close to you, they want to know your opinion on anything, and they never let you down on a show. Very enthusiastic, they dance, scream and get wild. One of the big problems is that in Mexico, gothic and electro are two completely different scenes. No mixture, so goths don’t go to ebm events and vice-versa. The scene drastically falls to fewer numbers in regards of members. People are more radical, so it is hard to get to other scene memebers.
C.B. – You will be playing at Wave-Gotik Treffen in Leipzig soon. Will you be playing alone or will you have additional musicians along with you for the live performance?
I will have someone helping me out on stage with live keyboards.
C.B. – What should the audience expect from the concert? Will there be a special performance?
I am not a lot into dramatic performance a lot, but it will be a good show. It will be the first time for me to play in Europe. Production would not be a lot, since costs are too high to do something bigger, but you will not be disapointed. I will try to do something special for Leipzig, but time and schedules are the ones determing the posibilty.
C.B. – This is almost a chronic question… Internet and the issue of music copying. What is your view on the subject?
I think downloading music is a big promoter of music, but on the other hand is really affecting the industry. I might have to say, that it is endangering labels, and as a direct consequence is affecting artists. Some labels will definitively disappear, and we would have to look at music on a very different way. I also think that live music and concerts would increase in price, and maybe music recording would become a minority. So the only posibility to listen to new music would be concerts. My final point of view is that people enjoying music, can download music for free, but only as a taster, and if they really appreciate the artist’s work, they should buy the album and support the artists, so we can keep on with music production.
C.B. – Going a bit back to Cenobita’s view of the world… we are all constantly exposed to brilliant new hyped concepts that herald a Brave New World but more and more it seems that we’re heading to something else. “1984” mayhaps?
Mmmm, I am not sure if we are going to “1984”, or maybe towards “Brazil”, or “Blade Runner”, or any other futurescape we have been told before. I think that we just have to learn from the past. The past is our future, and whatever we see back in time, it is defintively what we would see exponentially in the future. We, human beings love to conceptualize the world, and find explanation to everything. We want to conquer worlds, we want to conquer absolute knowledge, but in the end we should find out, that we are still in a complete state of stupidity, and we are to naive to understand things. For me it is ridiculous to try to find out an explanation of a life form in a distant galaxy, if we can not understand a simple aspect in our life, here on earth. Simple human characteristics, like feelings, thoughts, dreams, etc… are still a mistery, and we try to find Alpha Centauri aliens?? It sucks how scientists have become modern priests and science is the ultimate religion.
C.B. – How do you feel about the concept of ‘globalization’ and way it allows corporations to conduct their businesses in a state of almost total impunity?
Well globalization is affecting a lot Third World countries. It is making a big abyss between the rich and the poor, and middle class people are suffering for that, because you have to get on one of the sides of the balance, and it usually goes to the poor one. Monopolies are taking over, and imperialism is getting right to the top of the stairway. The question is how long would this keep on going? Maybe it is just the beginning of the end for economic empires to breakdown. A song in the new album deals about a globalization problem, the song is called “Destino Final” (Final Destiny).
C.B. – What are your feelings on the current “war on terrorism”, the events that led to it, the media hype that surrounded the whole affair and the consequences that developed from it?
The media were the true terrorists. Giving all kinds of irresponsible information to the people, on a 24/7 basis. It just made me sick (…and a lot of people too). The terrorists acts on the WTC in NY were deffinitively the biggest act of terror all over in human history. It was just so precise, and it hit just where it hurts, and it was terrible that thousands of lives were lost. But in the end, who were the real terrorists? How deep is the shit we are drowning in, and more specifically the shit drowning USA? It is just so stupid watching xenophobic comments all over against Islam. I think that the U.S. goverment has fallen into the same thing they hate most. This patriot spirit is just a nonsense self-pity position. USA, is not the world!!! What makes them think, that they can possess whatever they want, and just make war on anybody? Sure, god money is protecting the holy troops against evil, but it is just so stupid, how things have been developing, and as I said before, maybe this is just the begining of the end of an empire, built on lies and vacuity interests.
C.B. – In closing this interview, we’d like to thank you for your time. Do you have any final words or requests?
Thank you for the interesting questions, and to the readers for getting all the way down here. I would just like to add, that the New Millenium started last year with global events. Now it is time for a defintive Metamorphosis. Analogies of the cenobite would be exposed soon. Hope to see you at Leipzig, and other shows around. I would most likely play England, Denmark, Holland, Poland and Spain, besides Germany. So I hope to make some new friends over there. Thanks for your support, check the website for furthere information: www.cenobita.com
— interview by Miguel de Sousa (March 2002)