I had planned on releasing this article with a video featuring some Nu Folk songs Christian Aguila takes to composing lately. But after waiting on him for a year and losing touch, I decided to proceed regardless.
Feb. 20, 2010
I finally got a chance to interview Christian Aguila (better known as “El Lana”). He’s a busy family man, who balances his life between long work hours and not enough time spent with family –when not looking after his MINI. Before becoming a family man, he sang in an influential local band called Señor Insecto (literally, Mr. Insect) prior to it becoming La Oveja Electrika (in Chillán, Chile).
The following three part interview details a little bit of background on the name Señor Insecto and explains the appearance of La Oveja Electrika. In doing so, he shines some light onto why he left his band-mates. In the second part, he offers his observations and opinions on the local artistic scene and government support in Chillán. Lastly, with the right wing party winning the Chilean elections (2009/10) in the background, he talks about his involvement with the left wing socialist party (of his youth), his disillusionment in the left (since his participation), and how Chile has improved and where it still needs to do so.
I find Christian speaks in a direct and simple Spanish that hints of honesty, which is refreshing, although a bit broken and in incomplete sentences. Thus, my editorial “” and “()” interjections.
Maurice: What’s your full name?
Christian: Christian Manuel Aguila Pérez
Maurice: You were known as the lead singer to Señor Insecto. How did this band name come about? Who is Señor Insecto?
Christian: It was [from] a dream. I dreamed that the city was in an uproar because everyone was talking about Señor Insecto. And everyone mentioned and repeated this name. It seemed (by all the commotion) that he was attacking the city. I found would repeat this, until someone told me, “There he is!”. While coming across a dark alley, I took a sword in hand. I saw it was more like an Octopus. I took the sword in hand and cut its tentacles. I awoke immediately … wrote down the name of the creature, which I killed in my attempt to save the city.
[On various occasions Christian has referred to himself as being Señor Insecto by the statement, “I am Señor Insecto!“]
Maurice: Describe your prime role, and in what year was that?
Christian: We talking about the 1990’s till 1999, it was the entire 1990’s till 2005 [when the band transformed into Oveja Electrika]. I always composed songs, would sing and compose them. [As to my role during live gigs …] Sometimes I would only sing, but on other occasions I would play guitar and keyboards.
Maurice: In the band, did you have the opportunity or the creative control to create art (ie., posters)? Was this related to the reason you left?
Christian: No, that had nothing to do with it, and there was no melodrama about it. I didn’t leave the band, but it transformed into something different … an insect transformed itself into a sheep –which is something different.
Maurice: Why did the band’s existence end? And how did La Oveja Electrika form?
Christian: I don’t know. It never really ended, but I believe we stopped playing when Chupete [he means Mauricio Contreras] arrived. One day I found myself downtown when I received a call from a friend asking me to listen to radio Isadora. I recognized my voice on the track while the radio DJ interviewed my bassist Luis Toledo [known as Viti/Bambach]. All of a sudden, he says, “We’re here with the bassist to La Oveja Electrika, Luis Toledo”. I didn’t know my band’s name was La Oveja Electrika! There was a sort of dictatorship. It was from this point onwards that I never went over to see the other band members.
[At a later time, Christian admitted to calling Luis Toledo once after the radio interview. “The truth is that I don’t recall the details, but I do remember that it was a back stabbing sort of deal.”]
Maurice: Was the change (in name) a marketing gimmick, or was it a way to take away your artistic control?
Christian: It was entirely behind my back. I didn’t have a clue. I think Señor Insecto was something very personal [a personal project] and the change in artistic control started with the change of the band name.
Maurice: Do you maintain a relationship with your ex-band members?
Christian: No, not at all.
Maurice: What’s your opinion about them using your lyrics and the odd song?
Christian: It doesn’t bother me. Look, what is bothersome is that the songs are presented as Oveja Electrika songs when they were composed during the Señor Insecto period and only a couple were –specifically, “Sr. Androide” y “Lo que Hay” for which I composed the lyrics, while Wii [Cazanova] composed the music. There’s a complementary work between us both there, so I believe half of those songs are mine.
Maurice: Do you have any present projects/interests at the moment?
Christian: I would like to record all my songs, even if done so in with simple arrangements to take advantage of the resurgence of Nu Folk in Chile [Nu Folk, not referring to the East Sussex band but a category of music where modern technologies are used to interpret folk]. I describe my music as … I don’t know how to define it, but I think Nu Folk is along the lines of what I do –because I was once compared to Bob Dylan during an acoustic gig. I’ve never heard Bob Dylan. I’ve also been told that my music is similar to the Argentine Espineta. I’d never heard of him, but when I later researched and found his music I found that there are some similarities, but this is entirely coincidental.
Maurice: What were your musical and graphic art influences? In terms of music, what are you presently interested in?
Christian: I like everything, Syd Barrett, Nirvana, classics such as Jimi Hendrix, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, The Stone Roses … I like that too … Siouxsie and the Banshees. I like many things –progressive rock and lots of Stravinsky. I like music in general.
Maurice: What did you study? Degree? When?
Christian: I’m a graphic designer; I studied graphic design (commercial art/design). I graduated in 1997 from the Universidad del Bío-Bío.
Maurice: What do you do now?
Christian: I work as a designer, and I’ve been doing it for twelve years.
Maurice: In terms of graphic art, in what are you presently interested?
Christian: I like (works of art from) painters that draw –painting with drawing. For example, the work by the Ecuadorian artist Guayasamin that I saw in Valparaíso, I know his work and I find it of good quality. They were only drawings, but they’re really good and I liked them [when I saw them].
Maurice: Why haven’t we seen your work in graphic art? And what of your music as of late?
Christian: That’s because of my job. My job takes a lot of my time. I work all day and I arrive at home very tired, only to rest to do it all over again [the next day]. In terms of music, I haven’t run into people who have my vision, neither have I searched.
Maurice: Have we seen the last of Señor Insecto in you? Do have any plans, musically?
Christian: The first thing to I’d like to do is to record. Once that’s done, I could review, explore and do other things. Recording could also keep me from doing other things musically.
The local scene in Chillán, Chile
Maurice: Your opinion of the music and art scene in Chillán. Quality-wise? Numbers? Is there a good ecosystem?
Maurice: Do you feel local artists have to leave Chillán to become successful?
Christian: I think more expose and interest are needed. The general theme in Chillán is … well, a movement is lacking. Chillán applied to be artistic capital of Chile against Valparaíso. Chillán doesn’t isn’t even compare (to Valparaíso). There are museums everywhere in Valparaíso. You lift up a rock and you’ll find an artist or work of art underneath. Valparaíso won [the bid], but it was obvious it would. Chillán has given birth to many artists, but they’ve developed [professionally] in other parts, and not in Chillán.
Maurice: How could this improve?
Christian: By taking advantage of summer, say square festivals. For example, there’s only one in Chillán, the Victor Jara festival. Because folks are not accustomed, it’s a gathering ground for delinquents and public drinking. This year, there was a huge commotion/fight –because people are not used to cultural performances.
Maurice: Do you feel there is government support?
Christian: No, I don’t think it’ll improve. By the way, there’s something today at the municipal theater … up and coming rock bands. It’ll probably be free (to get in).
Maurice: How could this support be improved?
Christian: Putting the right people into key positions would help. Chillán has a lot of people who haven’t moved on, that have been locked in their positions for too long. Art is always flowing and never stagnates, but people in Chillán are too traditionalist. That is, they’ve become stuck in the past. … [What is needed is] younger people who are open-minded so as to allow (necessary) change. Art [also] needs to be taken to the masses; that’s what I saw in Valparaíso. There’s no point to having exhibitions that no one attends, as what happens in Chillán.
Maurice: Previously, you mentioned you were involved in left-wing politics about the time Chile transitioned to democracy. Was this right before Pinochet left power?
Christian: Yes, in the last few years of Pinochet’s reign –in about 87 and 88.
Maurice: What did you do?
Christian: I participated in a muralist brigade. We used our murals to campaign against Pinochet, in favour of the plebiscite “no” vote.
Maurice: Any disappointments? Professionally and macro-wise?
Christian: Indeed, at seeing that all my socialist youth associates have professional positions –some without having a university education, without contributing much [in their present positions], and with their bad public service. They seem to have made use of politics to further their own interests. And with this, everything in which we believed went out the door. In the end, everyone fought for their career positions [towards their own ends] and not for the benefit of the people and the poor –which was the entire point of the socialist party. This has been my main disappointment.
Maurice: Is Chile what you expected it would be now that democracy has arrived?
Christian: No, I thought it was going to be different.
Maurice: Has Chile changed since the fall of Pinochet’s power?
Christian: I do believe so, but more change is still needed … the rich don’t need to have so much money and there needs to be a more egalitarian distribution of wealth. I think the constitution needs amending [too]. It needs to examined because it was done up [“modified”] during Pinochet to benefit big business interests, so that they could continue to exploit the country’s wealth.
Maurice: Has Chile changed for the better?
Christian: One can now speak one’s one mind. Suspicion isn’t grounds [for the police] to detain one [arrest without cause]. Chile has improved in regards to human rights.
Maurice: How has it changed for worse?
Christian: I thought things were going to change even more than they have. Despite greater access to goods and services, class differences are greater.
Maurice: Has your disappointment changed your political allegiances?
Christian: Yes … I don’t believe much in what politicians have to say.
Maurice: Did you know that the right wing party was going to win the elections?
Christian: I suspected as much.
Maurice: What effect do you think the political change is going to have on those that used the left wing party to cash in on cushy jobs? Do you think they’ll lose their jobs?
Christian: On the one hand, I’m interested in what’s to come. I hope the new government servants do their jobs well. In regards to those that previously cashed in on political favors, I think those are going to improve their own performances, for fear of losing their jobs.
Maurice: How could Chile improve still (other than already mentioned)?
Christian: It could improve along the lines of the environment and the handling of natural resources. I don’t like plans to build damns everywhere.
Maurice: In regards to your disillusionment, are you referring to the distribution of the wealth of the country.
Christian: Well, yes I do and I also talk about the exploitation of our natural resources.
Maurice: Do you have clear opinion about nationalization of the mineral industry in northern Chile?
Christian: No, I’ve never gotten into that. These types of questions are too detailed.
Maurice: Any last words?
Christian: Let me see. I would like to live off of music and painting.
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