I’d like to introduce you all the Javier Muñoz Tavolari, the bassist of an up-and coming Chilean band called Break.Down. I had the chance to sit down with him and talk about his life, music and inspiration in Chile!
Javier lives in Viña del Mar, Chile and was gracious enough to meet with me in a small café off of the Viña del Mar Plaza to tell me more about his musical vision. We sat down together at a small round table outside of the “Cinema Café” and both got settled, he with his cappuccino and I with what turned out to literally be a cup of melted, hot, semi-sweet chocolate. After catching up with one another we dived into a half Spanish half English talk about himself and his life in Chile.
What is your full name?
Javier Muñoz Tavolari
Where do you live? What is your house like?
I live here in Viña del Mar, maybe a ten minute walk away from the Viña Plaza. I live with a few friends too, not with my family, though they live pretty close by.
What is your family like?
My family is very sweet very supportive, they want me to follow my dreams and do what makes me happy. Except my father, when he calls, my expression changes. I go from smiling to frowning. He doesn’t like that I am in a metal band, he doesn’t understand what I’m doing. To him, it’s as though I’m rejecting a regular stable and, in his eyes, good life and doing something foolish. He never tries to stop me, but he also doesn’t support me in what I do. But I keep in touch with all of them, and visit and talk to them all the time.
How do you get around?
I have a car, but everything here is so close, and we have the micro [what they call the buses here], the metro, colectivos [essentially taxis]. It doesn’t make sense to me to drive everywhere when you can walk most places. Sure a car is useful when you’re going somewhere far like Santiago [Santiago is about two and a half hours away, you can’t walk there!] but in general it costs less and is more convenient to find your own way without a car. Javier wasn’t lying when he said he preferred to walk, in fact after the interview was over he walked me all the way back to my street, over an hour out of his own way! Chileans here are incredibly friendly and always willing to help if you just ask.
What types of clothing do you like to wear?
I don’t pay much attention to the clothes I wear. A t-shirt, hooded jacket, some jeans and tennis shoes are fine for me. My band, however, has several clothing sponsors. One is from “Sullen Clothing” and another from “La Marca del Diablo” [The mark of the devil]. But hey, I look at what kind of clothes they wear. It’s all kind of gangster and I think to myself, should I even be representing this band? I don’t have any tattoos, and piercings, nothing! I don’t really fit into that fashion, but they’re a part of the culture that likes our music and they help us gain publicity. So, hey, I figure it’s a good thing in the end.
What do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time I’m generally with the band or doing something for the band. I work with some friends of ours to help edit and create music videos for Break.Down. I also do website design, so I helped make Break.Down’s website and manage our YouTube channel. If I’m not doing that, I like to go out at night and go to some local concerts. It’s really hard to get started in the music business, especially in Chile. Here if you’re not a headliner people generally won’t listen to your music. There’s a culture here that people don’t go out until very late, three o’clock in the morning is just considered half of your night. So if you go on as a front-runner, a warm-up band earlier in the night, no one will be there. I like to go out and hear what people are doing. Show some support to other Chilean bands.
What language(s) do you speak? How do you say “Hello” in your language?
I speak a bit of English and Spanish is my first language. You say ‘hello’ as hola.
Do you have pets?
I don’t have any pets at my place.
Have you traveled? Where have you traveled to?
I’ve traveled a little bit, mainly around South America. I almost went to Brazil for their annual Rocking Río concert in 2012. But they whole thing shut down, something went wrong, people just weren’t interested. The concert came to Santiago. We were actually one of the bands that performed. But it was really sad to see such a huge event shut down. But I’ve been out to California, to Los Angeles once or twice and to Florida too. I’ve never really been inside the US, just to its coastlines.
What do you do for work?
Well, before now I did three years of web design with a company, but I really didn’t like it. The people weren’t passionate about what I did, or really involved. They just needed a functioning website. Their only enthusiasm was showed through their paycheck. Now I’m in a band, but I still do media projects like that every once in awhile. I’m not apart of any company. I just get referenced through my friends. I’m currently doing a project with Lollapolooza [a huge three day concert in Santiago]. I’m putting together some clips to make some pro-mo videos for their website. In exchange, I get V.I.P. tickets to the show in Santiago. I like my work like this, it gives me some flexibility for my schedule and since my own band has no definitive work hours it’s even more convenient.
Is there anything else you would like to say to students in the United States?
I’d just say that the Internet is just a tool. People now a day, especially the youth, just upload their lives to places like Facebook and YouTube. Don’t get me wrong, those are both great tools, but people have become mixed up with what these places are meant for. You can accomplish things on the Internet, but you can do so much more in the real world. Take a moment and find a dream, find something you love, and do it without using the Internet. It’s a good place for research and contacts and stuff. But your real life, and your real contacts are what are going to make you happy in the end. It’s what’s going to help you do something you love. My band has gotten places because we did have all this free media, but the live shows, what you do in real life are what matter.
Keep reading for more information about my conversation with the band!
The guitarist Johnny and vocalist Eddie founded the band. Eddie had gone overseas to Switzerland to promote his band and make connections, like with Mike Wead, a guitarist for bands like Merciful Fate and King’s Diamond. I [Javier] joined up in 2008. I was given one of their tracks and was asked to score a bass line onto it. When I showed them what I had done, and they ended up liking it and adding me to the band. In 2010 we joined up with a producer in Chile named Pablo Stipicic who helped us record and distribute our songs.
It’s really hard to get started in the music business, especially in Chile. Here if you’re not a headliner people generally won’t listen to your music. The night culture here is that people don’t go out until very late, three o’clock in the morning is just considered half of your night. So if you go on as a warm-up band earlier in the night, no one will be there. It’s also about connections in the music business. Here you need connections to get your voice and your bands sound out. We have a lot of producers here in Chile, but they’re expensive, you have to pay for everything, you even have to play to perform.
Our sound is something…it’s something that doesn’t sound like anything else. We are a mix of rock, heavy metal, black metal, a little death metal and some electronic music thrown in. We have to be careful about who we pick to play with because some audiences might not like our music. We’re a little more upbeat than some bands. For example, our band was asked to play with Cannibal Corpse in June and we turned it down. Canibal Corpse is a hugely popular band but we thought our images wouldn’t mix and the crowd would not like us. Besides that, we don’t sound like any other band in Chile. I’ve never heard anyone try to compare us to any other sound here. We’re unique.
We try to be apart of the people here too, a part of Chile. A lot of our videos are filmed in Viña del Mar or Valparaíso or at our live shows. Someone here [Chile] can look up our videos and say, “Hey I know that place” or “Hey that’s me!” and feel like they’re a part of our band. Our music can be very intense, very negative. I’m hoping that negative message will be a way to show that, hey you can do all this stuff, all this bad stuff for you, but it doesn’t make you cool. A lot of the reason why kids do these things is because they’re forbidden. It’s like bait. So even while our videos show a lot of that its meant to be sort of a message, to show them that in the end whether or not you’re allowed to do it doesn’t mean it makes you any cooler or any better. I want our music to send that sort of message. Even if you only come because your girlfriend or boyfriend drags you to a show and you hate it, I still want them to leave with our message in their minds.
To insert my own voice into the story, I’d like to say that this view has always been surprising to me. When I met Javier he struck me as and incredibly laid back person. He doesn’t have any tattoos or piercings and what’s he’s also a very thoughtful and passionate man, not what I imagined a death metal bassist to be like. When he told me he was in a metal band I didn’t even believe him at first. But as I got to know Javier I realized he has a very unique view of his music and how he wants it to impact others. As he went on to explain his bands message and how important it is to him to include his fans he would become animated and excited and sketch out his ideas with his fingertips on the glass tabletop. I rarely had to ask him a question but rather let him unfold his own narrative about him and his bands place in Chile.
Now Javier and his band are trying to go international, they not only want to represent themselves abroad, but also their unique sound which Javier describes as ‘breaking through’ the more stereotypical Latin sound in the U.S. The band founder, Eddie, is working in both Los Angeles and Switzerland to demo their music and hopefully make some important connections. On that hopeful note, our interview drew to an end. The café was closing down and the sun had set a long time before. We stood up and let the impatient waitress finally clear our table and said our goodbyes. Javier actually thanked me for the interview, he thinks any interest in his band is a good thing and hopes you all like his sound too.
Here I’ve provided a link to a YouTube video of one of Break.Down’s live performances!
Break.Down publicity shots!
Break.Down’s biggest gig!
Javier and the band!
Horse-drawn carriages outside of where Javier and I met!