I’ve been a fan of Nostalghia since Olvido came out in March 2022 (which is now half his discography ago). I had the pleasure of being able to interview Alex Becerra, the man behind the project, in anticipation of his upcoming eighth album.
How did you get into black metal or heavy metal in general?
First of all, thank you very much for the opportunity to have this interview with you. I got into black metal when I was in middle school. I was beginning to play the drums and I remember feeling fascinated by techniques such as the blast beat and those really fast double bass sections. I began listening to extreme metal more often as a way to study these techniques and get better at the drums, and later I started to appreciate other musical elements as well. Interestingly, black metal was the first metal subgenre I ever listened to, so I only got into other less heavy bands a few years later.
What is the metal scene like in Mexico? Where do you see it going? Are there any changes that you’re currently seeing? Are there any underground local (or local-ish) bands that you’d recommend?
It’s hard for me to describe the state of the metal scene in Mexico since I haven’t had time lately to get into new local bands or attend events. But the truth is I have noticed a lot of interest in metal in the last few years, and I’ve also received lots of support from the Mexican metal community. I think things are changing for the better regarding Mexican metal music, as I’ve been noticing a more ambitious and less traditional sound, which also means more room for creativity and experimentation. There have been very talented and prolific Mexican artists, such as the music of Victoria Camilla Hazemaze, also known as AIAA Music. She’s participated in several projects ranging from atmospheric black metal to shoegaze, and it’s totally worth having a listen.
You write, record, and mix all of the instruments yourself. What instrument was the hardest to learn? Which one is the hardest to record?
The most difficult instrument for me to learn was definitely vocals, especially clean vocals. I’ve never considered myself much of a singer, so I always have to record several takes until I get exactly what I want. I do think I’m getting better, but it’s still quite the struggle for me to get it right. Recording anything acoustic is difficult as well, mainly for the quiet sections. My biggest issue is I don’t live in a very quiet place, and I don’t have a soundproof studio or anything like that, so there’s always a chance a motorbike will pass by, a dog will start barking outside or someone will do loud construction work right next to my room. I’m not even kidding. I always have to do it at the right time, or else I’ll get unwanted noise in the recordings.
You’ve been extremely prolific since Nostalghia’s debut in 2020. Do you see music more as work or as a hobby?
I wouldn’t categorize my music as either work or hobby. It’s not just something I do to relax or have fun… it’s more of an unstoppable emotional force. That’s the main reason I release so many records in such a short time span: it’s a sort of itch that will drive me insane if I don’t do something about it. Even before Nostalghia, I was releasing three to four albums a year from different projects, but Nostalghia happened to appeal to more people than I ever imagined, which also helped me continue working on it. Money helps, of course, because it allows me to focus more on the music; but even if I went broke, I’d keep releasing albums. This is also why my music has always been “name your price” on Bandcamp.
How has your sound evolved since the beginning? How is it evolving with your new album?
Nostalghia’s music has evolved a lot since my first release. I think I have become a better composer, but mostly a better producer and sound engineer. The sound has become more nitid with every album, and the music has become richer with different genres, instruments and structures. I’ve always intended to make every Nostalghia album different from one another, and I plan to keep it that way. The upcoming album, Duelo, is probably the heaviest, darkest album in the whole discography, and there’s an unprecedented vocal style for the project which rings closer to my emotional state at the moment. Above all else, Duelo is my most honest and personal album.
How did you settle on black metal as your genre of choice for artistic expression? Are there any other genres or mediums (i.e. physical art, film, etc.) that you have an interest or experience in?
I chose black metal as the channel for a particular set of emotions I wanted to express: fear, anguish, anxiety, sadness, grief and, of course, nostalgia. Black metal seemed to be the right sound for such dark and conflicting emotions, especially when combined with other genres. Besides music, I’ve always been interested in cinema, which has actually been a major source of inspiration for Nostalghia. Even the name of the project comes from a movie by Andrei Tarkovsky. I have also included several references to different films in the lyrics. I hope to become a filmmaker one day, but it’s definitely less accessible than being a bedroom musician: you need more money and more people.
How do you choose your album covers?
The album covers I use are paintings that I already know and love. So I never choose the album covers for the music; on the contrary, I am writing an album for these paintings. I always try so that the music and visuals will be in harmony. The music I will create depends on my emotional state at the time, which in turn determines what pictures will speak to me in a more meaningful way.
I know from talking with you about a year ago that your album Lifeless followed the story of a father who lost his son. Does your upcoming album have a theme or a story to it?
Duelo is based on my own personal struggle with loss and depression. I went through a very dark time in my life and I lost my home in Mexico City, meaning I had to rebuild my life from scratch. I am moving back to the city again soon, and I am finally starting to overcome these darkest feelings, but Duelo was conceived out of pure emotional necessity. Every song is about my personal stages of grief, and I made this album as a means to get rid of my depression once for all. So while it’s not a grandiose concept album like The Last Path, it depicts my experience with depression in its purest, rawest form.
Obviously there would be some hoops to jump through by nature of being a one-man project, but do you ever see yourself going on tour?
I truly don’t see myself going on tour, first of all because I never intended Nostalghia to be a live band. I always meant this project to be experienced the same way I create it: mindfully and in solitude. Besides, I don’t feel too comfortable being on a stage in front of a lot of people. I don’t like crowded places, and I don’t even attend concerts very often myself… so that’d be awkward. Still, I’m not completely opposed to the idea and perhaps I’ll do some live performances in the future.
What’s next for you and/or for the project? Is there anything you’d like to plug?
I’ll keep working on Nostalghia for as long as I feel the need. I have never felt bored or out of ideas, and I’m always willing to keep pushing the project forward to new territories, so there will be many more albums for a while. Even for this year, I have two more full-length records planned for release: one for October and another one for December. Provided my plans go right and I am in a more peaceful state of mind, these two albums will see the light before 2024. And then more, and more. Like I said, this music is born out of sheer emotional force.