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INTERVIEW: MADINA LAKE

One of the first major interviews I conducted, this was an insight into the lives of a rising rock n roll band living the life of stardom. Madina Lake were holed up in the K West Hotel in Kensington, London – which as far as I’m concerned is upmarket. I think the concierge even offered my a white wine in the morning while I waited for the band to appear. Although this memory could actually be a fabrication…

Either way, the whole band greeted me in the lobby but appeared a little let down when I only interviewed Mateo. I think they respected my haircut, and possibly thought I was in the support band.

Previously published in TOTAL GUITAR magazine in 2007:

Mateo Camargo on the far left.

MADINA LAKE

LOOKING LIKE THEY’VE JUST STEPPED OUT OF TONI & GUY’S HEAD OFFICE. THESE SPRUCED GENTLEMEN ARE UNLEASHING A PLATEAU OF SOPHISTICATED ROCK N ROLL.

Rising out of a 1950s fictitious town with fictional characters? They might sound a little crazy, but meet a band who actually have their feet firmly based in reality. Flinging themselves through the early sounds of nu-metal, and landing safely with a knock-out punch into pop punk territory, Chicago’s Madina Lake are making huge waves. Playing bills alongside bands Linkin Park, Muse and The Audition, writing for Hollywood starlets, and spewing out an increasingly large fanbase known as the Madina Army. We catch up with Mateo Camargo in his Kensington hotel room…

Unlike most other bands at the moment, you guys have worked on a concept and named yourselves after a fictional town. Talk us through the album idea a little bit…
“We always thought the CD format in itself is so empty. You just put a collection of songs together and that’s it, but we always wanted to do more. Matthew had this really awesome porch which overlooked the whole city of Chicago. So we’d just sit there talking politics and just working out all the ideas that we had in common – mainly that we hate celebrities, and the fact we’re just so disgusted with attention whores like Paris Hilton! So the more we talked about it, the more we thought about how we could convey this into an album.
Instead of going the political route and doing straight up punk rock, somehow the twins figured out a way in which Matthew could write a story and then Nathan would write the lyrics for the record, telling the story of all these characters – spread over three albums.”

But what happens when you finish the final chapter?
“We’d probably have to change our name! It wouldn’t be about a fictional town anymore. Who knows? Maybe we’ll get dropped after this album!

So where does the Mateo sound come from, who have you been listening to?
“My biggest influence would be three dudes in particular: Tom Morello, Dimebag Darrell, and believe it or not Wes Borland from Limp Bizkit. When I saw him live, he was just doing the craziest shit I’ve ever seen in my life, all this tapping and his use of delay. He totally inspired me to take a different approach and just try to find my own sound and do something a little different.
And you know who else? Andy Summers from The Police. The most underrated guitar player in the world. Everyone thinks it’s all about Sting, but it was Andy that gave them that flavour they had. He added the main riffs, but I think Sting gets all the money for songwriting. Don’t get me wrong, I love Sting, but you know – share the wealth!”

Madina Lake has some vastly layered music, how do you get started in the songwriting?
“The way I start is usually with a loop created in Reason on my laptop, and then I grab the guitar and just start playing against the loop in a stream of consciousness. The next day I’ll come in and review it, and I’ll be like this is awful! But then you might find one little bit, and just grab it and work with that. I barely write without a computer, I can’t just sit there and play the guitar because it just kinda… bores me! [TG’s jaw drops in shock] I’ve just done it so many times that I can’t come up with something original.”

TG hears you’ve dabbled in pop and recorded a song for Hollywood’s Hilary Duff. What the hell were you thinking?!
“Before I signed the record deal with Madina Lake, I managed to sign onto a publishing company away from Roadrunner, and one day I get this call telling me about this Hilary Duff album, asking if I want to write something for her. I was like ‘No way. I have no idea how to write!’ I can barely write for my band, so I wasn’t gonna write for somebody like that. I was pretty terrified about it because I’m coming from a heavy band, and to do something like that is a huge departure. But he just said ‘Sit down, write a song and think about Madonna, the 80s and dancefloors’. When I finished it I thought it was hilarious, but actually they loved it and it went on the album!”

With your popularity growing on each tour, have you got any stories of excess to share with us yet?
“Well, I’ve been married for four years, so I’m the good guy. But you do see some crazy shit. In life you have to make an effort to do things, whereas on the road you have to make an effort not to do things, in a rock n roll band it’s all there on a plate if you know what I mean. Nathan and Dan are single right now, so they’re out having fun with the girls. I do remember once though some girl came up to us once and asked us to sign her prosthetic leg, so she unscrewed it and we were like ‘Errr…okay”

So this is the fourth time in the UK, have you American boys got used to our food yet?
“That’s such a stupid thing, cos I think it’s great! Every BP garage we go it’s always packed with gourmet sandwiches and smoothies that we never have in the states. Everywhere you go here there are always these Indian or Italian joints that are just unbelievable, even the traditional English food is pretty awesome. I think it’s because I’m not American, and I have more of a global scope than everybody else. I grew up in Columbia and used to live on a little farm full of cows!”

 

MATEO TELLS TG ABOUT THE GROWING MADINA ARMY

“The crowds are unbelievable. Everytime we come here, it just grows. Last time we came here we were absolutely shocked, Nathan was walking in the street one day and all you could hear was screams of ‘MADINA LAKE!’ and we were thinking ‘Holy shit!’
We first came here as openers for Paramore, which was the first big tour we ever got actually. Before that we were playing at pizza places and coffee houses to like 20 people. From what I gather there’s large number of kids down with us now though, so it’s pretty rad!”

 

Interview: Gary Sutherland © 2007.