INTERVIEW: Benjamin Machin Serna from the band CRYSTAL GATES

Some people come abroad for work. Some for fun. But some come there for work, while keeping music in their hearts. Being thousands of miles from home they don’t lose there dream that dwells deep in their hearts. Is it possible to forget it? For some – may be. But not for all. For some it is in their genetics, and they just can’t forget it. May be forget is not a good word. They never thought about forgetting. They never even thought that there is such a possiblity to forget. They live with that. They breathe that.

Janis Kronbergs: Tell me, Benjamin, how did you start with all that music? How it all started?

Benjamin Machin Serna: Well. What a question! I can answer it in three seconds or in three hours. But I will try to be short. I always liked music, since I was a little kid. When I was a teenager, I started playing the guitar. Mostly, I was listening to punk rock music, I really liked that. I still listen to that. I have some side projects of it, actually. But at some point, I discovered power metal, through different bands, and I really liked it. I didn’t know that kind of metal existed, so I was blown away by that. Actually, our current bass player Guillermo also was crazy about this, and he said that we need to make a band like this. But I thought that know way I can play that because that stuff is too hard, too fast, too technical, so I doubted. But anyway to make a long story short, we did it. We started a band, but at that time we had a male voice, a little bit heavier one. At some point you realise that that’s what you love. You come from work, from very long hours, and you want to play, you want to practice, to write music. It’s not something you decide. You realise, you can’t live without doing so. I won’t be able to survive otherwise. It’s more like that.

J: How did you come to the current band with a beatiful woman’s voice and metal riffs underneath? How did that happen?

B: That basicaly has to do a lot with origins of Crystal Gates. There was this moment in my life when I was very depressed, and at that moment I met Carolina, our singer. We went out for a walk, we were just walking, talking about life and whatever. We went to the coastline, we were eating some pastries, we were talking about Disney movies, and she started singing some song, and I thought: – What a nice voice! – I was also doing some cover songs to have fun, and I thought: “Why don’t we?… I can make some metal versions of some pop songs, and you can sing. You can show your voice this way. And we can have some fun.” And then, when we started doing things, I understood that I really liked her voice, and that she pronounced English very well. And I said: -Oh, that’s very nice. I’d like to do more things with you. Let’s do more things together.- And I started writing and working for a few years, and we put out our firsr EP. Yes, but firstly I was very amazed by her voice. Beautiful and powefull voice. It’s very nice.

J: How are you looking forward at your gigging? How about your future concer life in those hard times?

B: It’s very uncertain. I think, it is for everone right now. But there are two main things we are thinking about. And what is true, that now I am here in Riga, and the rest of the guys are in Montevideo, that’s more than 10 000 kilometres away. Still, we are rehearsing, from the distance, and that’s going well and we are happy about that. So, whenever the chance again to play live comes, we will do that. So, there are basicaly two main things – one is to go back to Uruguay, and do some shows there, may be in Buenos Aires, and play there. But mainly, Uruguay. So that’s the basic thing. And I will probably go back to my family. So, that’s one thing. But then, our main goal, or objective, whatever it is, is to start playing here. What does it look like? I don’t know. I am very new here. I’ve been here for three months. I don’t know, may be it’s some shows here in Riga, may be Lithuania, Tallin, Helsinki. I don’t really know, so that’s why we have our brand new manager Agrita, and she is helping us with that and to be honest, I don’t know. We are on an adventure, we are very much willing to jump on, but we don’t really know what it will look like.

J: How long, Benjamin, is your one concert? Describe your average show.

B: Our typical show lasts between 45 minutes and an hour. At some point, we didn’t have more songs than that, but now we do. We could play now for, I don’t know, two hours. But I think that, depends on a kind of show. And we are new ones here, noone knows us here – 45 minutes is a ideal, good play. Just a little bit of everything – some of the faster songs, ballads, one or two of them, just to give a taste. It’s better to leave the audience wanting for more than to bore them. So may be they will be hungry for more, and they will come to see us again.

J: What is that audience that usually comes to your concerts? What kind of people they are?

B: It’s a hard question. I don’t really know what our audience is. Our main (I wouldn’t say the fan base), but people who like us, they are in Uruguay, and they are not many. There are not many ones like us in Uruguay, so, I think, it’s a little bit of everyone. Different kind of people. One thing that I get is, that we get a lot of interaction from the audience, but they don’t shake their heads, and stuff. They are more like just looking at us, and may be clapping, singing along sometimes, and things like that, but they are not shaking their heads and that kind of thing. It’s more like a contemplative kind of audience.

J: How do you look at your music pushing it into the radio stations, social sites, etc.? To promote it.

B: Well, here is the thing. May be we are wrong about this, but, we don’t spend a lot of time doing and thinking how to get big. Or something like that. We just try to make music, we like listening to. And that’s it. I mean, hopefully someone else will like it. It looks like, that I am in someone else’s line, but it really is like that. You have to like it. For me to work on a song, and we work on songs for months… if we don’t like it, there is no sense, why do that? It’s like torturing yourself, you need to work on something you like, so you need to make sure that actually you make something you like or at least to the best of your capabilities. And that’s it. Then about internet radio. I think it provides a lot of opportunities, and it is full of talents, good bands and things, so it’s very hard to get noticed there, as well. That’s something we’ ve noticed, as well. If we do play together with another band, supporting it, which is already well-known it’s a bit easier, but otherwise it’s very hard to get noticed. May be somewhere in Russia, in Japan, in very far away, may be someone is listening to us, but someone who lives very next door to us, doesn’t know I exist. I don’t know. It’s tricky.

J: From your internet downloads, Youtube, have you had any feedback on your songs? Have people said something good?

B: We have had a lot of that, and that’s beautiful. I mean, l sometimes do that, just go in Youtube statistics, and watch the countries. There are all sorts of things. The place where we’ve sent the most amount of physical albums of our first EP, is Japan. We’ve sent close to a hundred albums there. And those were the ones that we sent, because, the first edition was done by ourselves. And then we were edited by tha label in Brazil, and they told us that they have sent even more albums there. So there are some people in Japan that listen to us and that’s very nice. That’s beautiful. Yes, some more places, as well. But that’s the one that strikes the most, because it’s very different culture, very different language, and they like it. I heard that they actually like buying physical albums. I do, as well.

J: Name your band members, and how long you’ve been playing together? For how long time?

B: In the beginning, until we released our first EP,  there was just Carolina and me. And then when we needed to go and start playing live, we had Gaston, the drummer. The keyboard player has been with us since the first show – Juan Jose. Now the bass is played by Guillermo, we had a nice bass player Nico, but we had to change him. This is the only change, that we changed these players, otherwise it’s been the same lineup since we started playing. Kind of since 2015. So it’s already seven years.


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